Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Statesmanship should easily come to the judges, but not the rebellion. The
Is our judiciary – a saving grace among all institutions in world’s
Is it true some senior journalists and a prominent lawyer actually anchored the entire media extravaganza? If so
As a preliminary to any discussion on the ailments of the Indian judiciary, I
In other words, the executive – that is the government, the ministers
To analyse these issues in respect of January 12 developments also means we
To start with the role of Bar Council of India and Supreme Court Bar
There is also thus a need to examine why we have overdose of politics into
Reflecting about media coverage, one has a legitimate right to point out that in
True, yet again, there has been intent, cold and undeclared war between
The idea being even parliament has the right to prevail upon the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. I do not subscribe to this view, however.
But there are issues which MPs rightly suggested and these ought to be looked
Friday, January 12, 2018
“The myth about Modi’s invincibility has been broken in Gujarat," said R. Lyngdoh, leader of the opposition Congress party in the Christian-dominated Meghalaya state, where elections are due in February.
A series of provincial elections due this year in India, including some in Christian strongholds, are expected to set the ball rolling for next year’s general election that will decide the fate of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his pro-Hindu party. These days every political move in the nation raises the same basic question in the media: Could Modi, known for theatrically blending economic development with his zealot Hindu nationalism, win another term in 2019?
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) narrowly managed to win just 99 seats to retain power in the 182-member Gujarat house. In fact, it lost 16 sitting seats while Congress gained 16 seats from the last election to improve its number to 77.
“It showed the fault lines in BJP’s election strategy, however good they may be. And they can be humbled,” Lyngdoh said.
The Gujarat polls have changed impressions and given renewed impetus to Congress, which could be reflected in the provincial elections this year, according to political observer G V Anshuman Rao of GV Sudhakar Rao Foundation.
The Gujarat election “actually gives an impression that Congress under its new president Rahul Gandhi is showing purpose in its actions and could challenge Modi. Rahul’s arrival also means that the 2019 battle will not be one-sided,” he said.
The issues that put Modi and BJP on the defensive in Gujarat are also “relevant for all the states” that go to the polls this year, said K. T. Chuba, Congress leader in Nagaland state. The Christian-majority states of Nagaland and Meghalaya along with Tripura must get a new government by March. While Karnataka is to elect a government in May, elections must be conducted by the end of this year in four other states — Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
Gujarat elections showed that “people are angry” with the BJP and Modi because of issues like “farmers’ distress, unemployment, a sloppy tax system and ill-advised economic decisions,” said Chuba. “The same yardstick and issues will apply to the elections in other states,” particularly in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where the BJP has been winning elections since 2003, he said.
But the BJP has a better chance in the Christian-majority states of Nagaland and Meghalaya.
J. A. Lyngdoh, a BJP leader in Catholic-majority Meghalaya, said the BJP’s only promise is to provide a corruption-free government focused on people’s socioeconomic development in the state. The hilly state state’s 2.9 million people, of whom 75 percent are Christians, will accept the BJP to end the 15-year rule of Congress, Lyngdoh said.
In Baptist-majority Nagaland, the BJP already shares power in a coalition led by the state-based Nagaland People’s Front.
Christians, who make up 90 percent of Nagaland’s 1.9 million people, cannot be bothered with the pro-Hindu nationalism of the BJP, said a Christian leader who asked not to be named.
Ethnic Naga people, who form the majority in the state, look toward supporting a federal government that will support their regional government to help accelerate their development, the Christian leader said.
In Nagaland, a good number of Nagas – who are mostly Baptist Christians – are still largely with Modi – politically. In fact, Nagaland People’s Front (a state based party) is an ally of BJP and has the potential to bounce back to power yet again along with BJP. In Meghalaya, certain social complicity offers opportunities to the BJP. The poll managers in the saffron party are interacting aggressively with ‘non-Christian local tribal groups’ and try to draw political mileage of the extreme swings between modernity and antiquity. BJP leader J A Lyngdoh says only agenda of BJP is development and a ‘corruption-free government’ in Meghalaya.
This issue is making serious impact even in communist rule Tripura, another northeastern state where polls are due in February-March. On a trip to Tripura, BJP chief Amit Shah told party rallies that several communist leaders – known for their alleged corruption – may be put behind bars once BJP captures power in the state. CPI-Marxists are in power in Tripura since 1995 and there are numerous instances where ‘power and absolute powers’ have spoiled the comrades!
Recently, a court order indicted the Marxist regime for faulty appointment of as many as 10,023 primary school teachers – seen as a test case of nepotism and favouritism under the communists. This is why a huge number of youths are coming out of parties like Congress and decided to join BJP in Tripura.
Corruption-free administration attracts ordinary voters, said political observer Anshuman Rao.
However, he had a warning for Congress well-wishers. “In electoral politics, the last-minute delivery — booth management — is important. It means there is no replacement for good organisation. This is lacking in Congress.”
Elsewhere too, Modi is trying to deliver on corruption front and a former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, a bitter Modi critic, has been jailed for fodder scam in 1990s. Delivering on corruption front and picking up issues like Triple Talaq of Muslim women to ban the practice seek to address the core BJP voters.
However, in Meghalaya in particular say local Christian leaders the controversy pertaining to beef ban is harming BJP. Local BJP leaders privately admit that beef ban remains a matter of concern even as in last two months over a dozen Congress legislators and former ministers have joined BJP.
The ‘desertion’ in Congress party is actually an indication that the electoral mood is in favour of ‘change’ both in Meghalaya and Tripura. In both the states – BJP seems to be in striking distance to power – either alone or in alliance with smaller regional parties like National People’s Party – which was once founded by a prominent Christian leader Late P A Sangma.
Thus, many analysts wonder perhaps with a better ‘organisational strength’ Congress could have actually come to power in Gujarat. Among the lapses, a former police officer in Gujarat – who is against BJP – says, at one stage, Congress poll managers gave up the micro planning. They never understood the importance of vote-cutter parties and Independents. When the result came, Independents could eventually polled 4.5 percent of the anti-BJP vote. This made difference in several seats. In some constituencies again, BSP candidates and especially Muslims also eat into vote share of the Congress candidates. Who will then bell the cat?
Wednesday, January 3, 2018
A sense of chill runs through the spine as one encounters the 'bullet marks' at House No. 10 in Dhanmondi locality of Bangladesh capital. This is the place where Sheikh Mujibar Rahman, Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, and his 18 family members including three sons and a young grandson were assassinated in a ruthless exercise by 'right-wing' military officers -- of course in cold blood.
"This house has been a witness to the history of the making of Bangladesh, its struggle, language movement....It was the witness to hours of deliberations among Mujib's close associates. Today, sadly though - this house has become an enduring symbol of love and admiration people feel for Bangabandhu (Mujib)," says one of the staffs at the Museum. Today, this is a place where hundreds of Bangladeshis - young and old - feel they can renew their commitment to the nation building, he says.
The military dictator Major General Ziaur Rahman had then assumed power after the 1975 massacre. Bloodstains on the walls and on the peeling green plaster brings to fore the story of one of the most horrific killings of political stars and the family members in the sub-continent.
Among those killed were Mujib himself, his wife Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib, their three sons Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and minor Sheikh Russel; the newly married brides of Kamal and Jamal - Sulatana and Rosy and Bangabandhu's brother Sheikh Abu Naser.
So much was the 'hatred' and influence of diabolic motivation, that a number of Mujib's household staff and personal aides were also gunned down. The massacre had taken place in the early hours of August 15, 1975, when a group of Bangladesh Army personnel went to
his residence and carried out their mission - resulting in a military coup. As one tried to interact briefly with a set of young visitors at the museum, most could not conceal their
emotion and struggled hard to hold their tears. But the moist eyes would tell what has been going on in their hearts.
"The master bedroom forces any visitor to halt for a while in homage to the Bangabandhu," says Abdul Habib, a civil engineering student staring above at the ceiling as if he is lost.
The bloodstains and bullet marks on the walls, stairs and floor are easily distinguishable as these have been carefully 'preserved' under glass panels.
One can see the three vintage model telephone sets, outfits of Mujib and his family members preserved.
On the table lies a book, playing guitar, with a gaping bullet hole through the middle and in the family dining-room - a bottle of Coke, two jars of pickle, and a Raleigh cycle that belonged to Mujib's youngest son, Russel -- lying as it was.
In 1981 - the house was formally handed over to Sheikh Hasina - who not without good reason is rightfully called 'Daughter of Democracy'.
The house is now maintained as a museum by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum, a trust headed by Hasina herself. About 70 staffers including tourist guides, maintenance staff and others work here. Some of them often Prime Minister Hasina
herself clears the names of those who would work or get associated with the living memory of her family.
"Our courageous Prime Minister often breaks down after coming here. Hasina often cries as she looks on portraits of Mujib sahab feeding pigeons or the family belongings, her mother dress.....we have seen," says one female worker.
Insiders say overall plan of the museum involved stage by stage development. There is also an annexed building - an upcoming six-storied structure housing a library and a museum office.
The third or the entry floor focuses on Bangabandhu's life and political career, the brave revolt against injustice and of course the turbulent events during the Pakistani rule.
Monday, January 1, 2018
Religious minorities in India - especially Muslims and Christians - continue to reel under love-hate relationship with the BJP-led Narendra Modi government even as the bygone year 2017 was marred by heated debate on issues like Triple Talaq, Love Jihad and conversion row.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Sunday, December 24, urged the Central government to withhold and withdraw its Bill to outlaw instant Triple Talaq, stating that it was against the principles of Shariah and an interference in Muslim personal law.
On December 15, the Union Cabinet approved the much talked about Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 that seeks to provide punishment for instant Triple Talaq and gives victims the right to seek maintenance from their former spouses. The Supreme Court in a 3:2 judgement in August had banned Triple Talaq, saying it violated the fundamental rights of Muslim women.
'Triple Talaq' is oral divorce given in one go, a practice which has been much in public debate for quite sometime. The draft law is understood to have provided punishment including jail term for violators. The proposed law would be applicable only in case on instant triple talaq or 'talaq-e-biddat. While in many quarters, the anxiety of the religious minorities saw increase because of alleged "lack of confidence" in the administration in BJP-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand, in some Christian-dominated northeastern states - BJP sprang surprise by making deeper penetration electorally during the calendar year 2017.
In northeastern state of Manipur, the Naga Christians voted overwhelmingly in assembly elections early this year and BJP nominees could register victories in typical constituencies with sizeable Christians like Thanlon, Henglep and Churachandpur. BJP's ally Nagaland People's Front could also win important seats in constituencies with considerable Christians.
On one hand, while such electoral victories have encouraged BJP to make determined efforts to wrest power in another Christian-stronghold Meghalaya in next year's polls, the overall impression of Christians against BJP in rest of India were lost in controversies during the year.
Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, told journalists on December 20 in Delhi that Hindu activists lately attacked two Catholic priests and 30 seminarians in Madhya Pradesh accusing them of attempting religious conversion.
The Christians were allegedly attacked when they were singing Christmas carols. Instead of acting against the perpetrators of crime, it has been alleged that police in Madhya Pradesh only acted under pressure from Hindu groups.
Issues of conversion row and attacks on Christians during the year came from Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh as well. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP or BJP-led NDA at present run government(s) in 19 of 29 Indian states, including Madhya Pradesh, where Christian leaders say their trust in administration or the rule of law has become "shaky" in the wake of increased attacks.
However, there are other versions too. A newly inducted Christian Union Minister K J Alphons recently blamed media for often highlighting some of the events in wrong light. Because of the "breaking news" culture of television channels, he said, "We live in post-truth". "After being in power for three-and-half years (for BJP), tell me whether a stone has been thrown at a church? Has a Christian been attacked anywhere?" he asked at a television programme.
It is also notable that former bureaucrat K J Alphons (64) is a Syro-Malabar Catholic from Kerala, where Christians play an important role in electoral politics as they form about 20 per cent of the state's 33 million population.
There have been also issues related to beef eating and in states like Kerala and Meghalaya, the saffron party seemed to be on back foot with BJP leaders often clarifying that the government has no intent to influence or regulate people's choice of eating.
The 'Love Jihad' and the virulent beef campaign also continue to polarise electoral politics in many places. In June this year towards the end of Ramadan, two young Muslim brothers on a visit to Delhi to buy new clothes for Eid were attacked in a train while returning home. They were allegedly taunted for being "beef eaters" and 15-year-old Junaid Khan was thrown out of the carriage and was declared dead.
The episode certainly left immense political fallout. Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge led the opposition charge in Lok Sabha during a debate saying that incidents of cow-related lynching were on constant rise. "Don't make Lynchistan out of Hindustan," Mr Kharge said.
However, as the year progressed politics with regard Muslims also saw a twist. On December 6, the 25th anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition, Opposition parties including Congress and even Muslims apparently decided to apply restrains in connection with any protest meetings or so.
Every year, opposition parties and Muslim groups in various parts of the country observe protest meetings. However, in the run up to the Gujarat elections this year - the Congress and even Muslim groups and residents in Ahmedabad sought to downplay the episode.
This year's Gujarat elections also saw Congress chief Rahul Gandhi hopping from temple to temple -- which was seen as a major departure and strategic change in Congress politics.
On December 6, one local Imam at Ahmedabad's Juhapura- which was affected by the riots during 2002 anti-Muslim mayhem,
has said that the "restrains" were deliberate as people did not want to play into the hands of "communal forces".
Sunday, December 31, 2017
The 'Moditva' as a brand must have survived in the year 2017 for the BJP but the outcome of just concluded Gujarat elections that saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi make blistering campaigns left a few crucial political lessons for Modi-Amit Shah duo.It is probably for the first time in last three and half years since BJP came to power in 2014, it has to reconcile to the fact that the 2019 parliamentary elections will not be a cakewalk as was perhaps presumed earlier.
The agrarian distress and winning support base in rural India remains BJP's formidable challenges.
Modi's pioneering 'slogan' in Ahmedabad
But Mr Modi's mass appeal seemed to make all the difference in electoral politics. While he saved BJP's prestige in Gujarat - making use of a seaplane flight on the ultimate day of campaign, in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere the success of the pro-Hindu party rested safely on the shoulders of its leader and Mr Modi as he packaged and presented his winning image of a Hindu leader who struggles hard for India’s development.
The BJP as a ruling dispensation and Narendra Modi's government had come under severe criticism for the GST and its demonetization move in 2016 and a reduced number of seats in Modi-Shah's home state were like spoilsport for the party which otherwise had enough reasons to ring out the circa 2017 on a celebratory note.
Experts interpreted verdict in his native state - a formerly Hindutva laboratory and a hub of 'Gujarat model' of development - as a "wake up" call. Sadly, for Mr Modi - his style of campaigning - often vitriolic especially against his predecessor Manmohan Singh was also seen as unbecoming of a Prime Minister.
But in the ultimate for the party, Mr Modi remains its star face and it was purely his 'mass appeal' that saw BJP successfully brave 22-year-old incumbency in Gujarat -- even as the number of seats declined by 16 from whatwas in 2012.
Speaking politically, BJP consolidated its hold across the country gaining power for itself and its allies across 19 states - a record by itself. Previous best haul of Congress party was 18 during the hey days of Indira Gandhi. The saffron party - often underestimated and slammed for its pro-Hindutva politics, wrested power in another northeastern state of Manipur.
As the stage is set to usher in a new year, the BJP and its chief vote-catcher Mr Modi has set the stage for their first face-to-face battle in the February-March 2018 assembly polls in Congress-ruled Meghalaya and Marxists-ruled Tripura.
In terms of political consolidation, BJP wrested power in the year in country's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh - besides Goa and Uttarakhand while the power slipped out of Akali Dal-BJP combine in Punjab. The pivotal Uttar Pradesh state elections show a swing to Hindu nationalism - a fact demonstrated by emergence of Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister and also at a later state Congress chief Rahul Gandhi forced to undertake temple hopping and play up 'soft Hindutva' in Gujarat polls.
In terms of political strategy, BJP played a mixed-policy with Muslims. In Uttar Pradesh, it did not field Muslim candidates and the number of Muslim legislators in the newly-elected House has dropped down to 25, an all-time low.
But the Triple Talaq Bill piloted by it in Parliament would be seen in times to come as one of the best known political googly of our time.
On December 28 as the Lok Sabha gave its nod to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 bringing the practice of Triple Talaq within the ambit of criminal offence, BJP lawmaker Meenakshi Lekhi said,
"When they have a brother like Narendra Modi, they do not need to be afraid of anyone".
Among other electoral battles, the BJP stormed back to power in Himachal Pradesh. In northeastern state
of Tripura, the saffron party officially entered the Tripura assembly after the Speaker on December 8 recognised
six former Trinamool Congress legislators who had defected to the party as BJP members.
"The isolation of Congress has brought the BJP to the centre stage of national politics. The sheer opportunism displayed by regional parties like Trinamool Congress in dealing with the CPI(M) has weakened Mamata Banerjee's party in Tripura. All these are helping BJP cause," said Gautam Biswas, a former Trinamool leader in Tripura.
It is not only states like Tripura, which is otherwise fund-staved and is vulnerable to political manipulation, even in Tamil Nadu, the BJP is serious about making its bid.
Post-Jayalalitha, eyeing the political vacuum, the BJP has tried to gain ground but the bypoll election at RK Nagar showed that things are still far off.
Now the BJP has set its eyes in Congress-ruled Karnataka that will see elections in May and also in Meghalaya - wherein it has decided to go soft on the beef ban row where Christian votes will be key to winning seats.
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
No one doubted victory of the BJP and Narendra Modi in Gujarat. But this time it is no cakewalk !
When the first phase of elections ended in the western state on December 9, predicting the final outcome became fraught. A second stage in the election is set for December 14, with the victors and the vanquished to be announced four days later. Lalit Thummar, president of the Amreli Diamond Merchants' Association, said this time it is no cakewalk for the BJP.”
His association represents enterprises that process and export most of India’s diamonds, which constitute a significant part of all international trade in the precious stones. Thummar believes that two key decisions of the government led by Modi undermined prosperity in the state. The first was a decision to withdraw high-value banknotes from circulation in November 2016, purportedly to fight black market operations. And he cited as second major factor the goods and services Tax (GST) introduced in July this year. The middle class, mid-level entrepreneurs, traders and small business people who were Modi supporters had been most adversely affected, Thummar explained. Observers say the result of the Gujarat election could affect the stability of the national Modi government, not least through exacerbating ongoing leadership struggles within the BJP.
This, in turn, threatened to impact on general elections scheduled for 2019.Social analyst Parthbhai Bhatt noted that the BJP, sensing trouble, had announced a relaxation of the tax regime. But it remained unclear as to how far that would mitigate against self-inflicted political damage already done.
Bhatt noted that the Prime Minister took the state electoral battle seriously as a defeat, or even a poor performance, could erode his support base across the nation.BJP poll strategists are promoting the message that economic growth and greater social justice have been achieved at a state level along with the tackling of corruption.
The BJP’s rival opposition Congress Party, which has been out of power in Gujarat for 22 years, sees an opportunity to revive its electoral fortunes nationally by exploiting anti-incumbency feeling within the state.Nationally, Congress suffered a shocking defeat to the BJP in 2014. Congress was reduced to 44 seats in the 543 seats national parliament. This was despite having run the government in New Delhi for most of the period since independence in 1947.
Congress winning the Gujarat election, or bettering its current position of 60 seats, would provide an impetus for the party and its new leader, Rahul Gandhi, to become a serious contender for power nationally in 2019, Bhatt said. And a victory in Gujarat would be made sweeter for Congress by the fact that the state is considered a stronghold of the BJP and Modi, who was its Chief Minister from 2001 to 2014.
Sensing an opportunity, the Congress Party has struck at BJP weak points such as the new tax policy.Congress leader, Randeep Singh Surjewala, told ucanews.com that the BJP had made the tax system complex and difficult to implement.Modi has thrown himself into the thick of campaigning, addressing a series of rallies ahead of the second phase of voting on December 14.Some pre-poll surveys indicated that there would be a close fight.
One survey predicted that the BJP would gain 91-99 seats in the 182-member house and the Congress Party 78-86.
The BJP is faced with a tight contest partly because Hindu political unity has frayed. And some leaders of Dalit groups, formerly known as untouchables, have disassociated themselves from the BJP.Hindu vigilante groups formed to protect cows, an animal they revere, have attacked Dalit people in recent years for transporting cattle or dealing in their hides.
And two groups of the Patel Hindu caste that make up the Patidar community have complained that the government has ignored their demand for more seats to be reserved for them. Agitation on the issue took a violent turn and some Patel youths were killed. A number of their leaders were jailed.
Rameshbhai Valia, a Gujarat bank employee, said after two decades of BJP rule it could be time for a change.
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Is Nervousness apparent in the ranks of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as it braces for a crucial state election in the Gujarat state in December?
The unease in the ranks of the BJP, which is seen as the party of choice for Hindu nationalists, stems from a feeling that its leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, may be losing his luster to rival Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi. Recent BJP campaigning is telling, said Congress general secretary Mohan Prakash.
In Gujarat, a state considered to be Modi's stronghold and from which his political career was launched, the star campaigner is not the prime minister but another younger leader Yogi Adityanath. Other BJP national heavyweights have also taken to the Gujarat campaign trail, such as the finance minister.
"Does it mean Modi is no longer the best vote catcher in Gujarat?" Prakash asked.
The December poll, although only a state election, is a litmus test for BJP who won the federal government in a national landslide in 2014.
A defeat, or even a poor performance, in Gujarat will be hard for BJP to swallow. The party has been in power in the state since 1995, winning three consecutive elections in 2002, 2007 and 2012. Ever since Modi took over the leadership in Gujarat in 2001, the party has never lost a state election.
In the 2012 election BJP won 116 of the 182 seats, limiting Gandhi's Congress to only 60. Three other parties and an independent candidate won the remaining six seats.
This time, one leading opinion poll predicts BJP will easily hold its advantage, winning 118-134 seats. Congress, which has been out of power in the state for 22 years, might secure 49-61 seats, according to The Times of India poll published Oct. 25.
The Gujarat election will help indicate how popular Modi's two major policies — the withdrawal of high-value bank notes and a new taxation system — have proved with voters, said G. V. Anshuman Rao, a socio-political analyst based in the southern city of Hyderabad.
Several factors are in favor of Congress, analysts have said. A backlash against the incumbents, popular anger over Modi's inability to deliver on his promises and growing discontent of lower-caste people with the high-caste dominated BJP, are all said to be working in favor of Gandhi's party.
However, Congress in Gujarat lacks BJP's political machinery and networking at the grassroots level.
Irrespective of the December result, the Gujarat election appears to have revived the Congress party. It has brought out leadership qualities in Gandhi, and the party's vice president has shown a new willingness to take on Modi and his pro-Hindu party at the national level.
Since his introduction into politics in 2003, Gandhi's political star has dimmed. He delivered confused speeches, mumbled in media interviews, sat shyly at political meetings and took a long leave from parliament in 2015 "for personal reasons" without telling his party leaders.
Even his detractors agree that Gandhi is now displaying proper leadership qualities.
"Three to four years ago, Rahul Gandhi was a pushover. Everybody could ignore him in the political arena. But now Congress seems to have discovered a genuine leader in him," said Sanjay Raut, a leader of the hard-line Hindu Shiv Sena party.