Saturday, December 15, 2018

Guest Column::: Corruption in Nagaland worries Catholic leaders

Rhythmic cheering echoed around the streets of Chechema village as hundreds of Naga people, most of them Christians, began pulling a huge rectangular stone.
Nagas are mostly Christians. The state of Nagaland cradled in the wilds of northeast corner of India is also regarded as one of the ‘most Baptist states’ as over 75 per cent of it is dominated by Baptist Christians.

Yet Nagas have remained traditional to the core cherishing good old traditional values and virtues of onetime animism, -- says Guest columnist Swati Deb

The traditional stone-pulling ceremony performed by the Angami Naga tribal people in Nagaland in northeast India was the highlight of the Dec. 1-10 Hornbill Festival sponsored by the Christian-majority state.The function was graced by state Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, a practicing Christian, and federal Tourism Minister K.J. Alphons, a Catholic projected as the Christian face of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Despite Christians forming 90 percent of Nagaland's 2 million people, the BJP gained political prominence and became part of the state government following an election in February, which many say was the result of alarming levels of corruption among the political leadership."Nagas were animists worshipping every bit of nature" before Christianity arrived in 1871, said Father John Kavas of Kohima Diocese as the men in their traditional costumes pulled the stone 3.5 kilometers to Chipobozou village in the northern Angami Hills in Kohima district."Stones were revered and at times pulled from one corner to the other in the spirit of merrymaking, teamwork and a display of valor.

"Nagas change their political affiliation with as much ease and fun as they pull the stone because "they care not much about political parties. Elections are won or lost by candidates," said Kouley Angami of Chechema village.He believes that was the reason why the BJP won 12 of the 20 seats it contested in the 60-seat legislature and became part of the government in the Baptist-majority state.For most of Nagaland's history, the Congress Party dominated. It was once led by the country's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and is now being led by his great-grandson, Rahul Gandhi. Even Rio, the incumbent chief minister, was formerly a Congress politician.

Rio quit Congress in 2002 and joined the anti-Congress brigade in the state. Just before state elections in February, Rio floated a regional outfit, the Nagaland Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), and formed an alliance with the pro-Hindu BJP.The NDPP, BJP and their allies together won 34 seats, helping them capture power.Angami told that money also played a role in the elections to engineer defections and withdrawals from candidates and lure voters. Politicians also sponsored community events to garner votes, he said.

"In fact, elections in Nagaland are one of the most expensive affairs in northeast India," Angami said. Many in political circles admit the BJP's "resourceful politics" helped to win seats, reducing the effect of the powerful Nagaland Baptist Church Council's appeal for voters to stay away from the BJP.

"Corruption is eating into the inherent virtues of simple Naga people," said Father Kavas, principal of Don Bosco School in Kohima.

The church understands that corruption is a major vice that needs to be addressed in Nagaland, he added."Apparently many Nagas voted for the BJP [because of money]. We are not taking up political matters, but people do raise these questions," the priest said.The Catholic Church in Nagaland has "started educating the people, especially students, about the ills of corruption and how it affects society. In fact, it has already affected them," Father Kavas said.Some Naga people argue that corruption came to their society from urban India. But others among them ask back: Can anyone be made corrupt unless one wants to be?The Naga people wanted to remain independent and outside the Indian federation when the British finalized terms for ending colonial rule in 1947. They rebelled against being part of India, but the Indian army suppressed the protest and in 1963 declared the area an Indian state.But agreements were also signed giving it special autonomy with special constitutional provisions including funds. 

Many Naga people appreciated the funding and chose leaders who were close to the ruling dispensation in New Delhi.Over the last seven decades, most states in the northeast, especially Nagaland, have received billions in funds from the federal government. But very often the money spent has not been accounted for properly because of corruption and infighting between politicians."What is our [Naga] economy? ... Our economy is essentially a salary economy," Chief Minister Rio said.
"It depends on the government for everything, be it salary, be it support for welfare measures and benefits for the poor, so we have become a consumer society. It has reached saturation point."In the run-up to the polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised corruption-free governance and development in Nagaland.
Guest Blogger

The promises were dismissed outright by the state unit of Congress president K. Therie. Modi's promises "will not fool the people of Nagaland, for the people have not forgotten the empty promises he has been making since 2014," he said, adding that perhaps the BJP coalition will "loot the state for another five years and leave a legacy of debt."

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Will Anandiben make a 'Vajubhai Vala' in Madhya Pradesh?

As the vote count for 230 member Madhya Pradesh assembly- so far - has thrown a mixed picture with Congress leading in 110 falling short of six to touch the magic number and BJP surging ahead with 111- speculation is rife whether Congress party will be again at the receiving end of the 'imperial character' of governance.

The apprehension has started at some quarters as earlier this year in Karnataka state Governor Vajubhai Vala had denied the opportunity to Congress and had invited the BJP to form government headed by BS Yeddyurappa.
The Congress protested across the country calling it 'murder of democracy' and said they had already given letter of support of requisite members of Congress and JD(S) to form the government.
The Congress party had moved the Supreme Court in a high drama litigation and got a favourable verdict from the apex court.

Incidentally, in Madhya Pradesh the custodian of the Constitution - like Mr Vala, the Governor  is also a former Gujarat politician, Anandiben Patel.

Both these leaders Mr Vala and Ms Patel share one common virtue of working under Narendra Modi as Ministers during his stint as Gujarat Chief Minister.

Besides Karnataka in 2017 also, the BJP had 'violated' the the unwritten code in Manipur and Goa and had applied different yardsticks to deny Congress the chance to government formation even as the numbers initially were in favour of the grand old party.

According to political observers, however, the misuse of Governor's office by the Modi government was only a throwback to the good old 'Congress culture' as number of times the provisions of the Article 356 - which give sweeping powers to the Centre vis-a-vis - were misused number of times in 1980s and 1990s.

BJP sources in Delhi did not rule out making last minute effort to form Government in Madhya Pradesh where the mandate was clearly against the saffron party as its tally is likely to fall from 165 (in 2013) to 111 in the new assembly.

According to sources in the Congress and regional outfits like Trinamool Congress, BJP will be doing a "blunder" if they repeat the mistakes of Karnataka or for that matter in Uttarakhand as the Governor's actions in both these states failed the judicial scrutiny.
However, an analyst known for the right wing inclination says in terms of use and abuse of Governor's office, Congress should not apply 'holier than thou' approach as even under Manmohan Singh, the then Governor SC Jamir had dismissed Manohar Parrikar in Goa in 2005.
Incidentally, like Mr Parrikar, the then Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat in 2016 had demanded trial of strength on the floor of the assembly, which was denied by the Modi government.
The refrain from this school of thought is that in a much paradoxical turn of events the Modi government is only following the footsteps of the erstwhile Congress dispensations, when he had promised a different kind of polity in 2014.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Can Sikh corridor build India-Pakistan relations? But PM Modi gave a twist saying Kartarpur should have remained in India

In the modern history of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh emerged largely because of considerations of religion. First, Muslims decided to part ways to form Pakistan by carving out areas where Muslims dominated. However, Islam as a unifying factor was found wanting when East Pakistan ceded and emerged as Bangladesh. 

But, in South Asia, religion has often been a tool and catalyst that influences diplomatic relations between countries. But, yet again, can Sikh corridor build India-Pakistan relations?

Everything that occurs now has some reference to the past, prejudice and politics. Despite having a negative connotation of being the opium of the people, religion has been a diplomatic tool in South Asia since the beginning of political history in the region.

‘Religion’ has apparently again emerged a tool between India and Pakistan – two traditional rivals and of course neighbours. This time Sikhism is apparently helping both the countries to come forward for peaceful talks.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal, a Sikh woman Indian Minister in Narendra Modi cabinet, has rightly described the ‘Kartarpur Corridor’ between India and Pakistan as a ‘corridor of peace’. But can it deliver?

Hinduism and Islam continue to play vital roles in guiding the emotions of the masses and the policies of the governments of India and Pakistan, now nuclear-wielding archrivals. Their arms race and political chest thumping continue to create tension and remain a major reason for the abysmal poverty of millions of their people.
Religion again, this time Sikhism, gained prominence in relations between India and Pakistan when the countries agreed to build a visa-free corridor for Sikhs from India to visit their pilgrim center in Pakistan.
On Nov. 28, Pakistan's iconic cricketer-turned-politician and prime minister, Imran Khan, laid the foundation stone for a four-kilometer corridor connecting Indian Sikhs with their holy place Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur village, where Sikhism's founder Guru Nanak died in 1539.

The corridor connects Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak, a Sikh holy city in India's Gurdaspur district, helping Sikhs travel between these holy places without restrictions. Indian Federal Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who attended the Kartarpur function, brought a handful of clay from the place where Guru Nanak spent the latter years of his life.  Religious sentiments apart, a bigger question remains: Will this help peace between India and Pakistan?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his pro-Hindu party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are viewed warily in Pakistan because of their hard-line Hindu nationalist position. It is generally believed that Pakistan's military was not keen on previous efforts by civilian leaders like Nawaz Sharif to improve ties with India.

However, at the Kartarpur function, Pakistan premier Khan sought to claim that even the army is on the same page as him regarding friendly ties with India. But that claim is easier to say than to prove. There is much skepticism in India too. In 1999, the then BJP prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee travelled to Lahore in Pakistan by bus to try to achieve greater peace, but Pakistan's army staged the Kargil conflict when over 1,000 soldiers from the two countries died. That actually revived the rivalry more strongly.

Indian and Pakistan hardly ever grant visas to each other's citizens easily.

Lately of course, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given altogether new twist to the Kartarpur debate. On two occasions, he has suggested the famous Gurudwara in effect should belong to India. Firstly, he compared Kartarpur initiatives from both sides as downfall of Berlin Wall.

But on December 4, addressing an election rally, he said Kartarpur – where the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak Devji breathed his last in 1539 – could have remained (should have remained ??) in India; but is in Pakistan today because of the Congress party's “lack of vision”.

These statements would not go down well with Pakistanis - especially those who are in hurry to claim that Kartarpur Corridor is a 'googly' by Imran Khan that 'trapped' India !

BJP sources in Delhi say India does not yet see the Kartarpur Corridor development as a "diplomatic turnaround episode" in India-Pakistan relations. They want Pakistan to stop supporting terrorists who act against India.

The BJP's line on Kartarpur is clear. "This is a sociopolitical and religious issue. We do not see it as any diplomatic breakthrough," a BJP leader said. "By deputing Sikh ministers for the ceremony, the government of India has kept it informal and religious, and thus Islamabad's efforts to steal any diplomatic limelight have been exposed."

For its part, Islamabad has consistently denied housing terrorists. But India insists the insurgency in Muslim-dominated Kashmir has support from Pakistan. India, under the present dispensation, wants Pakistan to stop supporting terrorists before any peace talks can start.  

India wants Pakistan to address its ‘international obligation’ to act against terror elements allegedly getting ‘local support’ in Pakistan. For its part, Islamabad is generally in denial mood about existence of terror elements in Pakistan – but it has not able to convince the international community about the same.
Since 1947, when India and Pakistan were born out of British India, Kashmir has been contentious. Pakistan claimed it because of its Muslim population, but its then Hindu king joined the Indian union. The countries have had three wars over Kashmir and now administer parts of it. Insurgents want to free the region from India to join Pakistan or make it a free Islamic state.

Khan's government wants to revive peace talks with India on its own terms on the vexed Kashmir issue. At Kartarpur Khan said Kashmir was the only issue between India and Pakistan. "The human race has reached the moon. Tell me what is the issue that human beings cannot solve. Can't India and Pakistan resolve one issue [Kashmir]?" Khan asked.
This predictably left the Indian side anguished and the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi wasted no time in calling Khan's statement "unwarranted."
"It is deeply regrettable that the prime minister of Pakistan chose to politicize the pious occasion meant to realise the long-pending demand of the Sikh community to develop a Kartarpur corridor by making unwarranted reference to Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral and inalienable part of India," ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in reply to a question.

India's charge that Pakistan supports terrorism in India should not be seen as the BJP's pro-Hindu hyperbole. In fact, that has been the diplomatic stand for decades irrespective of governments and India has produced documented evidence to prove its version.
For example, Amarinder Singh, the Congress chief minister of Sikh-majority Punjab state and a former Indian army official, declined Pakistan's invitation to attend the Kartarpur function citing terrorism as a reason. "I will not go there for their ground-breaking ceremony unless Pakistan ends violence against India," he said.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. In terms of India-Pakistan ties, a lot depends on the delivery level. Khan may be Pakistan's PM but the diplomatic engine room regarding India is in the hands of army generals.

In fact, India too has a hangover from domestic politics. It believes no Pakistani general should be considered a moderate. To cap it all, on June 3, 2015, Raheel Sharif, the former Pakistan army chief, said: "Kashmir is an unfinished agenda of partition. Kashmir and Pakistan are inseparable."

For Indian PM Modi, the going has become tough in view of general elections next year. He needs to take a tough stance against Pakistan. Perceived bravado against Pakistan has helped Modi in the past to garner Hindu nationalist votes.

And that is because religious sentiments remain politically important in this part of the world.


Friday, November 23, 2018

Striking emotional chord with Mizos, PM refers to 'tribal dress outlandish' jibe of Tharoor

Striking emotional chord with Mizos, PM refers to 'tribal dress outlandish' jibe of Tharoor

Lunglei (Mizoram), Nov 23 On campaign trail in Mizoram, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said he felt with a great sense of 'anguish' when the Congress leaders 'abuse' the much cherished tradition and culture of the local tribal population in the north east and had once described the tribal attires as "outlandish". 

"You might remember how a few months back, Congress leaders insulted the traditional attire of north east. The attire given to me at different places in north east, was termed outlandish by them," Prime Minister said addressing an election rally here. "I feel a deep sense of anguish when I see the leaders of Congress party abuse the same tradition," he said in reference to certain remarks made on tribal attires by Congress MP and former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor. He said the Congress leaders speak a lot lauding tribal culture and lifestyle when they come to Mizoram for poll campaign, but the reality is different.

"Brothers and sisters (of Mizoram), the Congress rule in this region for decades show for them, the aspirations and sentiment of the local population make no sense," he said. "The cultures and attires of north east are rooted in nature. You find all the colours of mother nature in it. I believe, a rich tradition is that which is linked to own culture and tradition. This is my believe for the entire country," Mr Modi said.

"This is my vision, my thought not only for Mizoram but for the entire country. This is why in the last four years, the BJP government at the centre has worked for greater recognition and spread of Indian culture far and wide," Prime Minister said. Mr Modi's remarks on 'outlandish' tribal attire come in reference to Congress leader Shashi Tharoor making an observation in April this year mocking at Prime Minister for staying away from Muslim skull cap but readily wearing the tribal dress.

"I ask you why does our Prime Minister wear all sorts of outlandish headgear wherever he goes around the country or around the world? Why does he always refuse to wear a Muslim skull cap? You see him in Naga headgears with feathers," Mr Tharoor had said. Trying to strike an emotional chord with the electorate of Mizoram, the only northeastern state to be under Congress rule now, Prime Minister in his election rally speech repeatedly used the phrase 'sisters and brothers' while addressing the gathering.

"Today i come seeking your blessings for BJP," he remarked. Mizoram goes to the polls on November 28 to elect its 40-member state legislature. The Congress is in power in the state since 2008. The BJP, which had a miniscule presence in the state, is for the first time contesting 39 of the 40 assembly seats. 

PM Modi urges Mizo voters to get rid of 'Congress culture'

Lunglei (Mizoram), Nov 23 Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday gave a clarion call to the people of Mizoram to get 'rid' of Congress culture in the northeastern state and said the BJP-led NDA dispensation in the centre has been working overtime to ensure developmental works in the region.
"People of Mizoram have golden opportunity to rid themselves of Congress culture," Mr Modi said addressing an election rally here.

He lashed out at the Congress party saying the grand old political outfit in the country has thrived only with its policy of corruption and divide and rule but hastened to add:  "The country has now understood Congress formula of ‘divide and rule’ pretty well".

"Congress is not a pro-development party. Its politics has been based on the policies of misleading people and create divisions among people and to create hurdles for developmental works," Prime Minister said in a state - which has since statehood in 1986 has been mostly governed by the Congress party. 

Prime Minister also slammed the 'lackadaisical working culture' of the Congress party and said this was responsible for poor infrastructure conditions in the state. Urging the voters of the northeastern state - which has overwhelming Christians and tribal population - to prefer his party BJP, Prime Minister said, "It is a firm commitment of our party and government that all constitutional rights given to Mizos will be protected".  He said his government has pursued a policy of 'Act East And Act Fast For India’s East’ and this has ensured development across the northeastern region - from Aizawl to Itanagar and Kohima to Kamrup.

In the wilds of Mizo Hills
"The BJP government works towards both - the pace and the development. The development work of the Railways has grown three times during our government....But due to the Congress government in Mizoram, people are not able to benefit from it," he said. "In fact, the Congress govt does not bother about Mizoram," he said.

Trying to strengthen his argument that the Congress government in Mizoram has had a lackadaisical approach towards development, Prime Minister said out of about 46 central government sponsored 
projects, nearly 50 per cent of them are showing delay in implementation.

"It is the Congress working culture which is responsible for poor infrastructure conditions in Mizoram," he said adding even developmental projects under North Eastern Council (NEC) funding are moving at a very slow pace. "The work culture of the Congress has caused many projects to be delayed, leading to crumbling infrastructure in the state," Prime Minister said.

The statehood for Mizoram came in 1986 and most period since then the state has been under Congress rule. In fact, the incumbent Congress Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla is in power for last 10 years since 2008. Previously too, Mr Lal Thanhawla has headed a Congress party run dispensation between 1988 to 1998.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Post ‘Me Too’: Can Wordsmith M J Akbar turn worries to smoke rings ??

Once a bitter critic of Narendra Modi and his post-Godhra handling of 2002 mayhem, M J Akbar announced his decision to join the saffron party ostensibly because he believed Modi was unjustifiably targeted since 2002 and in 12 long years "none could prove his complexity"  in the riots.

Born in 1951, 67-year-old Akbar later said he was influenced to redraw his opinion on Narendra Modi after the BJP's the then PM-nominee in a Patna rally had said that "Hindus and Muslims should not fight each other; both should instead fight poverty".


“Bengal is famous for the magic of its women and the sweet tooth of its men …. The Bihari tooth is different,” wrote M J Akbar – himself a Bihari - in one of his best selling non-fictions ‘Blood Brothers – A Family Saga’.

The highly acclaimed book is said to reflect about his family and especially his grandfather in more ways than one. It is only ironical twists of fate that ‘women’ are today responsible for what is being said as the ‘downfall’ of an iconic Editor – who actually had magical power with his words.
M J Akbar has quit the Modi ministry and will be fighting out the legal battles against numerous women – who have accused him of attacking their modesty from time to time in 1990s when he was the powerful Editor of ‘The Asian Age’.

Such was the power of his magical words that what he wrote years back in 1980s – about corruption in Nagaland – is often referred to even these days.

Corruption has been a way of life in insurgency-hit state and writing about the fungus of corruption in Naga hills so well Mr Akbar had written - “In Nagaland, government payment is made for works done (about contractors) in heaven (meaning previous life)”.

This was in reference to huge contracts being given out for no work done on ground – in a state where people are said to be religious.

The inclusion of Akbar, who was a Congress spokesperson and known to be close to former Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Chandrashekhar in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's council of ministers in 2016 was no surprise once he transformed into a bitter Congress critic.

Onetime a bitter critic of Mr Modi and especially for 2002 riots – Mr Akbar is said to have endeared himself to the BJP leadership when during the peak of ‘intolerance debate’ in 2015 – he had described Rahul Gandhi (then the Congress Vice President) as the "spoilt child of Indian democracy".
“Kucch toh sharam karo (Be ashamed little)," Mr Akbar had said reacting to Congress criticism of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and waxed eloquently: "On one hand, we have a Prime Minister, a person who is so affectionate of his mother....on the other hand, there is a mother whose blind love for son has already destroyed the party and the attempt is now even to finish the country" alluding to Sonia Gandhi's alleged pampering of Congress vice president.

The BJP leaders were delighted as the Congress party could not have it worse and that too from a former Congressman and a Muslim intellectual.
Mr Akbar’s politics has been surprising but not much impressive as in his first political avatar, Akbar had won the Kishanganj Lok Sabha seat in 1989 by defeating stalwart Syed Shahbuddin. He, however, lost the seat in 1991.
Akbar had backed Rajiv Gandhi during the Bofors controversy and became the official spokesman of the Congress party but had tough time under P V Narasimha Rao and was back in journalism launching the paper ‘The Asian Age’ – a name today that has perhaps grown synonymous with his crestfallen story. 

A lucid writer Mr Akbar has to his credit celebrated works like "Nehru: The Making of India" and others like "Kashmir: Behind the Vale", "Riot After Riot" and "India: The Siege Within".
His book "Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan" published in 2012 was highly rated by the BJP leaders including L K Advani and Mr Modi himself.
As MP and Minister in the Modi government, he made a few powerful speeches including on December 29, 2017 in Lok Sabha while debating on the high profile Triple Talaq Bill.
Among other things he questioned the rationale behind making All India Muslim Personal Law Board such a powerful entity and said this body set up only in 1973 even does not any process of election.

In March 2016, speaking as an MP in Rajya Sabha, he articulated well trying to emphasise that poverty is the biggest violence against humankind.A good writer that he is – Mr Akbar has the ability to give spin to many things that would appear very ordinary to many onlookers. On Dev Anand’s films he once wrote – that the Bollywood star was a ‘liberator’ and “gave our generation its first beautiful essay on love and adultery”.

Mr Akbar had also written – “Main Zindagi ke saath nibhata ...(reference to the popular song) and added – “Jo mil gaya usko muqaddar samajh liya (What I got became my destinty....Could philosophy be more enchanting than this”.Well, time is ripe for the wordsmith to live up to his own statement of philosophy and fact.

Monday, October 8, 2018

"Thanks to Sachin Pilot ji, he is managing all the funds", say Congress leaders in Rajasthan

Hospitality in Jaipur Press Club: Ex PTI everywhere Sanjay Sharma & Mr Jaidev
Jaipur, Oct 4: It is no longer a hush-hush matter. Every body is talking about it. There is an immense fund crisis in Congress - out of power in Delhi since 2014 and also having lost several key states.
In fact, not long ago, the Congress party launched a nationwide door-to-door election campaign to raise funds. Rajasthan state unit president Sachin Pilot had tweeted: “I appeal to the people of Rajasthan to support the crowd funding initiative of @INCIndia for upcoming Rajasthan Elections to usher in an era of clean and transparent funding.”

But - creditably for Mr Pilot - talk to few Congress leaders at Pradesh Congress office and you realise that Junior Pilot - son of illustrious father Rajesh Pilot - is managing things displaying efficacy and without harbouring ill feelings towards anyone."This fund raising and fund management comes with my job as Pradesh Congress chief. Nothing very great about it," he reportedly told some of his trusted aides in the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Chief.    One close confidant endorsed the statement readily and said: "Thanks to Sachin Pilot ji, he is managing all the funds. There are no complaints so far...But today's poll management is directly linked to money management".    

There are others in Congress who say without Sachin's skills in getting would have been quite difficult as in state politics there are two primary sources of funds - one the chief minister office and the other party high command. In both, the Congress sources had dried up.  The moral of the story being without Sachin's skilful running the show - organising mega rallies - things could have been much difficult.
RPCC general secretary Giriraj Garg is in charge of administration but he categorically declined to talk about funding matters. " I am not authorised to speak on these. So I will not speak a single word, " Mr Garg said, adding that: "It is sheer hard work of Sachin pilot that today, Congress is revived. It is a virtual 'punar janam'- rebirth for Congress when we were reduced to 21 seats in 2013 and our vote nosedived like never before. The difference in vote share with BJP was 15 per cent".

"Now, we are fighting fit and set to capture power in Rajasthan," he said. Meanwhile, sources said despite the fund shortage there is much to be desired for voluntary contributions from Congress leaders, MLAs and others. The 'party fund' of the Rajasthan unit of Congress would be richer by Rs 40 lakh if the monthly salary (basic) from the party MPs, MLAs, former lawmakers and other elected representatives come in.

"Many of our leaders are yet to clear their contribution. We tried to raise it with Sachin Pilot so that he can write to all concerned to make their contribution at the earliest, but Sachinji said let the sleeping dog sleep...whatever that means".  In 1998 at the AICC Session presided over by the then Congress President Sonia Gandhi, the committee under the chairmanship of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had suggested at the Panchmari session and a resolution was passed that the elected members of the party in Parliament, legislative assemblies, legislative councils, chairmen of municipal corporations, Zila Pramukh, Panchayat Samiti Pradhan and nominated chairmen of corporation boards would voluntarily donate one month's basic salary/allowances to the party fund every year.

The resolution was aimed at raising party's fund. "If all contributions come, we will have a ready fund of Rs 40 lakh. Hope it comes," a party insider said. Rajasthan Congress leaders are aware of funding problems at the national level for the party as Nagaland unit of Congress in February polls earlier this year did not field candidates in all 60 assembly segments citing fund problems and the blame went to party's senior leader C P Joshi, a key man in Rajasthan politics.

"I am an admirer of CP Joshi. The fund problem is genuine," one party leader said. Meanwhile on October 2, the party on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti launched a door-to-door election campaign as a part of which the party workers will visit each house in the state to raise funds and tap first-time voters. The campaign is likely to continue till November 19, birth anniversary of Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Keeping Ashok Gehlot away from Jats a master stroke social engineering, say analysts

After a series of electoral setback this is now a season of appreciation for political wisdom of the Congress leadership.
This is precisely the point – political analysts and long time observers of Rajasthan Congress suggest when it comes to party president Rahul Gandhi’s “well calculated game” to keep Ashok Gehlot away from the voters in the poll-bound state.  
“This is Rahul Gandhi’s time of efficient electoral management and social engineering. It can be a master stroke that while Sachin Pilot, a Gujjar, has been made the face of the party as the Pradesh Congress president and at the same time former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has been kept away from voters.

Gehlot had antagonised Jats – a politically hyper sensitive community which can influence at least 55 seats,” a key Congress strategist told UNI here.

Agreeing with him. a party insider says making Mr Pilot the new Pradesh Congress president was actually out of a political compulsion for Mr Gandhi "and not just love for Sachin" as there were clear suggestions and advise from ground zero – at least from 11 Jat dominated districts -- that Mr Gehlot should be kept away from the electorate.

These districts are Sikar, Jhunjhunu, Bikaner, Choru, Ganganagar, Nagor, Jodhpur, Pali, Barmer, Bharatpur and Jaisalmer.

Sources say during his tenure as Chief Minister Mr Gehlot - between 2008 and 2013 - had actually provoked Jats when he could not come to the rescue of a Jat leader in an incident involving a Jat woman. “The incident was said to have been stage managed or used to defame the Jat community and a young Jat leader. The Chief Minister Gehlot could have done his part. He looked the other way,” a source said.

In 1998 also, Congress leader and Jat strongman Paras Ram Maderna-a strong contender for the top job (Chief Minister) lost the race to Ashok Gehlot.

It was on this backdrop in 2013 too – the Jats overwhelmingly had deserted the Congress and shifted their alliance enmasse to the BJP. Jats have at least 35 legislators and altogether leave influence in 20 others, sources said.

“The BJP’s success in winning record 163 seats in 2013 and reducing Congress strength to all time low
21 in 200-member House has lot to do with the Jat anguish and Mr Gehlot is held responsible for the same,” the source said adding “Thank God, the Congress high command took the right message and has thus kept Mr Gehlot away from Rajasthan politics”.

In effect, Jats have harboured complaints that though they were the single largest population among the farming community, any leader from that community was never considered for the top slot.

However, there is no denying that Mr Gehlot is a stalwart among Congressmen in today’s politics and there are large number of pro-Congress voters who would prefer Mr Gehlot and not Mr Sachin Pilot.

Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot, son of Late dynamic leader Rajesh Pilot, is a Gujjar and especially in eastern Rajasthan, a large number of voters would have their own grudge against the Gujjar community.

However, there is a section even among Jats who say Sachin Pilot has over the years “well kept himself away from caste politics” and even a senior Jat leader from Bharatpur Vishvendra Singh told UNI: “Sachin is not a casteist”.

Moreover, there is a political and demographic peculiarity vis-a-vis population of Jats and Gujjars in Rajasthan. There are many constituencies – especially the Jat dominated ones where Gujjars do not matter much. “So, essentially the Gujjar-Jat confrontation cannot harm Congress electoral prospects per se,” said a key party leader.

Another analyst who understands Jat politics of Rajasthan pretty well tried to sum up the socio-political paradox very well.  

“There are three kinds of the political sense in Rajasthan. The one in eastern Rajasthan have different equations with groups like Gujjars while Jats in Jodhpur region and Mewar see things from different perspective. A good calculation has been done by Congress election managers this time and the decision to keep Mr Gehlot away from Jat voters should fetch in rich dividends,” the analyst said.


In April 2018, interestingly, former chief minister Gehlot has maintained that he can never be out of state politics. 
“People of Rajasthan have high expectations from me, they have given me so much love ....I will have to work for them," he has said. 
Projecting one particular face as the Chief Minister could be risky and thus Mr Sachin Pilot said that the party will be fighting elections under the leadership of none other than Rahul Gandhi - making it clear that the CLP leader will be elected only after the final results are out.  

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Upper Caste anguish threaten 'Tsunami like' mood against BJP in Rajasthan (+ Other Stories)

Kota (Rajasthan), Sep 30: Things are certainly turning difficult for the ruling BJP in Rajasthan by the day.The pro-change mood in favour of the Congress party is immense. This is largely due to anti-incumbency wave. For last many years, the voters here have been changing the regime every five years.But adding to the woes for Vasundhara Raje regime is the upper caste anguish.“The SC-ST law ordering immediate arrest of upper caste people just on the basis of a complaint is akin to mob-lynching. This black law should go,” thundered Dr Anil Sharma, Regional President of Samta Andolan Samity near BJP sitting legislator Prahlad Gunjal’s office near Agrasen Chowraha area here.

Hundreds of protestors including Brahmin leaders, Rajputs and Jains gathered near the party office raising anti-BJP and anti-Narendra Modi slogans.
“Narendra Modi hosh mein aao (Prime Minister Modi come to your senses. This is a warning),” screamed Geeta Parikh, a woman activist.
“I am a BJP supporter for last 10 years. But the Modi government has surrendered before the blackmailing politics of casteist leaders from Bihar and UP,” Ms Parikh told UNI referring to leaders like Ram Vilas Paswan.
Another activist of the upper castes organisation readily supported the contention of Ms Parikh.
“Modiji is walking into a trap. This reservation lobby finished VP Singh. He should come to senses and take back the kalankit kanoon (a black law),” said Amar Sharma.
"There will be Tsunami like anger," says Madanmohan Joshi, who says the Kota North legislator should immediately write letters to prime minister Narendra Modi and chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in the matter soon.
The delegation of Samta Andolan Samity submitted a memorandum to the North Kota MLA Mr Gunjal, who is likely to seek re-election from the constituency which has about 2.36 lakh voters and substantial number of them being Brahmins, upper caste Baniyas and Jains.
“This is a constituency, the upper caste voters cannot be ignored,” says a BJP worker Kamal Kishore Singh and admits there is a “pressure from the upper castes”.
But he is hopeful at the end of the day, the BJP workers and supporters will stick to the saffron party’s agenda of achieving ‘Congress mukt Bharat and Rajasthan”.
Besides the upper castes have always backed the right candidate and the party here. “Our MLA Mr Gunjal is a Gujjar, we do not have substantial Gujjar voters in North Kota, but he won by a margin of over 15,000 votes,” says Neel Purohit, a Brahmin BJP office bearer in the assembly segment.

However, the challenges before BJP in both Kota region and also at the state level across Rajasthan cannot be denied outright. The Congress leaders point out that a large section of government employees who may still pretend to be ‘foot soldiers’ of Vasundhara Raje administration may vote against the BJP on the voting day.

According to Congress leader Vishvendra Singh, the entire Panchayat Raj is in standstill.
“All 200 panchayat samities are today defunct. The Roadways staffs are on strike. So the common man is suffering...Old people are unable to draw their pension. Yet, the state government and especially the Chief Minister are indifferent,” he says.
The Congress leaders are working overtime to tap the potentials.
His views were endorsed by a shop owner Dhiraj Singh in Kota. “There will be Tsunami like anguish against Vasundhara this time. You may not believe over one lakh employees of various government departments including babus and junior engineers and panchayati raj workers are not attending to their work for last 12 days”.
In Jaipur, citizens say the Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and others are indifferent and not even trying to correct things.
Unmindful of what’s going around, the Chief Minister is continuing with her Gaurav Yatra – trying to sell the point that her government has delivered, they allege. Reportedly, the Chief Minister also shouted at the bureaucrats and party workers when told about media surveys showing dismal results for the saffron party.

Some of her lieutenants, however, say there is “dus-prachar (false propaganda) against her by vested interest and the people will give such prophets of doom a fitting reply.
State agriculture minister Prabhu Lal Saini recently said there is a conspiracy behind projecting Rajasthan as a ‘Hartalistan’.

Amid confidence of wresting power, Congress faces ally hurdles in Rajasthan

Bharatpur (Rajasthan), Sep 28: The worst fear in the season of confident march towards Rajasthan assembly elections for Congress is that the BSP going alone can ultimately harm Congress prospects and help the BJP instead.

But alliance making has its own pitfalls.

Confident of wresting power in Rajasthan, encashing the anti incumbency wave against Vasundhara Raje regime, the Opposition Congress party is, however, faced with a double whammy problem over opening channels for talks with Mayawati-led BSP for an alliance.

“We want alliance to defeat BJP and to consolidate anti-BJP votes. But there are intricacies. In the event of an alliance or seat adjustment – Congress has to forego 25-30 seats. In such constituencies, we will face immense rebellion and this will adversely hit party’s prospects in Lok Sabha polls,” says Satish Jati, a Congress worker here.

In Bharatpur assembly segment, in last three elections the seat was won by BJP’s Vijay Bansal but it was the BSP that finished second. “The Congress will have to surrender the seat to BSP and this will definitely not go down well,” says former district Congress president Rakesh Pathak.
According to Congress sources, such dilemma has surfaced in many other assembly segments in the state.

BSP’s presence cannot be underestimated on the face value. In 2013, in about 20 constituencies, BSP nominees had bagged more than 20,000 votes and moreover Mayawati’s candidates had come second in seats such as Tijara, Nadbai, Suratgarh and Khinwasar – besides Bharatpur.

Congress MLA, VP: Vishvendra Singh
There are other issues also. In long term perspective the fear is – in the event of an alliance with Mayawati’s outfit, the traditional SC-ST support base of Congress would shift to the BSP camp and thereby harm Congress interest from an organisation’s point of view.

“One is not sure, but even Muslims support base could shift to BSP. As of now, the BJP camp in Bharatpur region or at the state level is in disarray. Therefore, my vote is that Congress should go lone and oust BJP,” says Renu Chaudhary, also a Congress worker.

“Most importantly, depriving a dedicated Congress worker of five years just to make Mayawati happy may not be a wise decision”  says Ramesh Pathak.

Agreeing with them, Dr Suresh Jatav, Congress candidate for 2014 Lok Sabha polls for Bharatpur parliamentary seat, told UNI: "The way it stands today, there is a strong wave in favour of Congress and we do not need an ally. If at all, we opt for it, we also need to be assertive and the claims of genuine Congress workers should not be forgotten".

Amit Shah ropes in RSS support to checkmate Raje, counter anti-BJP mood

Jaipur, Oct 6:  Self-created myth or even image often turns into a foe. BJP national president Amit Shah has created an aura about himself that when it comes to poll management, he is invincible.

Moreover, often he has given impression that single handed he has delivered it for the Lotus party.
But apparently strong anti-incumbency mood and an ‘indifferent’ Chief Minister (from his own party to handle), Mr Shah has been finding things tough to move up the ladder in Rajasthan.

In 2013 - BJP set a record win of 163 seats in 200-member assembly but things could be slipping out.

Who is to be blamed?
Hence, he tried to emulate a working formula of Late Pramod Mahajan – when in problem any BJP leader can seek the services of RSS.

This is exactly he has done in last one week or so.
Realising it well that subtle references to the 'cold war' between him and Chief Minister Raje, often wrong signals were being emanated, Mr Shah recently met top RSS guys in Rajasthan and sought their active cooperation.

“We need their advice, day to day feedback and counselling to draw the electoral strategy and even help zero down on candidates,” a party source said.
Accordingly the Sangh fountainhead leaders and their ‘preferred faces’ in Rajasthan BJP have been taken aboard for steering the election strategy.
Six people have been drafted into a special panel and the state of Rajasthan has been divided into three typical RSS-zones – Jaipur, Jodhpur and Chittoragarh.

Sources said: the leaders enlisted to work in this endeavour include two union ministers Gajendra Singh Shekawat (a Rajput) and Arjun Ram Meghawal (a Dalit) and four others from organisational background – V Satish, Avinash Rai Khanna, Satish Puniya and organisational secretary Chandrashekhar.

“This is a game changer we are hopeful of good results,” says BJP spokesman Jitendra  Shrimali, himself a product of ABVP politics.

Upper castes must not grudge what Scheduled Castes got: senior BJP leader

BJP's Dalit leader: O P Mahendra

Jaipur,  Oct 2: In the midst of heightened row over strong opposition from a large section of saffron party to the restoration of the Prevention of SC-ST Atrocities Act, a key BJP leader has said that “nothing unusual has happened” under Prime Minister Narendra Modi that upper castes should feel unhappy.
“Look, in this country for ages, the Scheduled Caste community people have been suppressed and undermined. Thus, we see it is the responsibility of the entire society to lead the country towards equity and effective balance,” senior BJP leader and president of Rajasthan unit SC Morcha Dr O P Mahendra told UNI in an interview here.

“Aisa koi karan nahi hae, jiske liye kisike mann mein koi rosh ho (I see no reason that one section of the people or the other should feel unhappy about it or harbour any major grievance),” Dr Mahendra said. What has been given to the Scheduled Castes has been in effect guaranteed under “constitutional provisions”.  "Moreover, the new law people are talking about is not a new law. The Modi government has only restored a status quo.

The decision was taken after April 2 agitation. It was a people-centric and sensitive decision of the Centre," he said. “These rights are constitutional rights,” he emphasised. “These were given to SC communities by historical fact at a particular time of history....Dr B R Ambedkar also wanted equity in the society and in the country so that this deprived section can also come up the ladder and join in nation building with all other sections of Indians”. Answering questions, he said the BJP is in favour of reservation – a phenomenon that is being opposed by upper castes social groups especially in Rajasthan. “This should continue as a very large section of Scheduled Caste Communities in Rajasthan and in the rest of India are to get the benefits of reservation and come up in the society”.

“Till there is equity and all sections of the society are at par with each other, this existing reservation should  continue,” he said. Reservation, thus, Dr Mahendra said is a necessary tool to help the deprived sections come up. To a question, he said the SC communities both in Rajasthan and in the rest of the country are well aware of the Congress ploy over the issue of welfare for these sections.
“People have now realised that the Congress ploy is only to use us purely as vote bank, so they are gradually and certainly and in large numbers are getting closer to the BJP. The Congress never worked hard to ensure real uplift of these deprived sections,” he alleged.

It is only under Prime Minister Narendra Modi that in order to appropriate the legacy of Dalit icon B R Ambedkar, the BJP-led NDA government has developed five places as “Panch-teerth” in Mhow, London, Nagpur, Delhi and Mumbai. “This was unique and unprecedented decision and work. The “Panch teerth” include Amedbkar’s birthplace in Mhow, the place in London where he stayed while studying, ‘Deeksha Bhoomi’ in Nagpur, where he took education and ‘Mahaparinirvan Sthal’ in Delhi, and ‘Chaitya Bhoomi’ in Mumbai,” he said.

“Our people (SC communities) are emotional and are thus highly impressed with Mr Modi,” he said adding the NDA regime has also ensured that someone from the deprived section has also become President of India – Ram Nath Kovind,” Mr Mahendra  pointed out. “These sections are thankful to Prime Minister Modi,” he said adding thus they will stick to BJP. Similarly, he said the Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan has also worked tirelessly for the SC communities during the past five years.

Dr B R Ambedkar Shodh Peeth was established in 2015 with initial funding of Rs 1 crore.
It is aimed to provide varieties of services to teachers, scholars, students  and public by regularly organising Lecture series, Seminars, Conferences, Exchange of thoughts etc and ensure social emancipation, economic  empowerment, educational excellence and participation of Scheduled Castes in nation building, the BJP leader added.

On field: Jaipur