Maharashtra Congress News

‘Chunavi Hindu’ says BJP, but Rahul Gandhi is climbing steps one temple at a time in his Yatra
The Indian Express | 3 hours ago | |
The Indian Express
3 hours ago | |

Visit one temple and they may question your religious credentials, visit several, and it might cease being an issue. As part of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been making high-visibility halts at shrines, particularly temples, appearing with vermillion on his forehead often, putting out pictures bowing to deities, posting videos of interactions with priests and, in an icing on the cake, sharing a photo that shows him prone in sashtang pranam at the Mahakaleshwar Temple in Ujjain.The Ujjain temple incidentally is one of the prominent shrines developed, and celebrated, under the BJP rule in the state and Centre. Just over a month ago, a Mahakal Temple Corridor was unveiled with much fanfare in a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.आज उज्जैन में, शिप्रा नदी के तट पर बसे ज्योतिर्लिंग, भगवान महाकालेश्वर की आराधना करने का सौभाग्य प्राप्त हुआ।जय महाकाल। pic.twitter.com/DMtKRyjFkS— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) November 29, 2022The BJP has kept up its attacks on Rahul for the temple run. On Thursday, Madhya Pradesh Culture Minister Usha Thakur said: “My humble prayer is that no spiritual activity should be made a medium for political gains. These activities are an integral part of our life. You go to temples, it is welcome, but you should also understand the importance of offering prayers and darshan of the deity.”Campaigning in Ahmedabad’s Vasna for the Gujarat polls, Union Minister Smriti Irani said: “They (the Congress) are now reminded of the Hindu dharma because they are losing elections and understand that if they humiliate dharma and Hindus, they will not get a single vote from (people of) this religion.”Unlike this election, when Rahul has made just one visit so far to campaign for the Gujarat elections – in a break from his Bharat Jodo Yatra – the Congress leader had canvassed extensively in the 2017 polls, including making a series of temple visits in the state. The BJP had mocked Rahul then too, though that election saw the Congress give the ruling party a scare.Accusing Rahul of “putting up a pretence to prove his Hindu lineage”, BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya tweeted: “Rahul Gandhi is as much a Hindu as Arvind Kejriwal is honest… Make no mistake, this is just a tactical retreat, with electoral compulsions in mind, nothing else.”Sharing a video of Rahul performing aarti at Omkareshwar temple in MP, Malviya said: “If only ‘chunavi Hindu’ Rahul Gandhi knew that aarti is done clockwise and there is a scientific reason for it (earth moves in a clockwise direction and hence environmental frequencies are in sync with movement), he would not be making a spectacle of himself in public like this.”(Viewed from the North Pole, the Earth actually moves in a counterclockwise direction; from the South Pole, it appears to rotate clockwise.)Rahul Gandhi, son of a Catholic mother and a Parsi father, should stop this fancy dress drama in Hindi heartland.When in Kerala or TN, he never bothered to visit a single Hindu temple. Visited minority religious places though.His beliefs change depending on electoral maths… pic.twitter.com/zj0Gh2PZkW— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) December 2, 2022After his visit to the Mahakaleshwar Temple in Ujjain Tuesday, Rahul accused the BJP government of disrespecting “workers, farmers and small businessmen — the real ‘tapasvis’ akin to Hindu gods Shiva, Rama and Krishna”.Vermillion on his forehead, Rahul peppered his speech with references about Hindu gods and the Bhagawad Gita. “The Hindu religion teaches us to worship ‘tapasvis’… so why are they not worshipped?… The government does not give them anything, it gives everything to those who do puja of Narendra Modi,” he said. “Those who worship Modi, they get everything they want, railways, ports, airports, roads, power, water… everything.”The Omkareshwar and Mahakaleshwar temples are among the 12 Jyotirlinga sites in India, associated with Lord Shiva.हिंदुस्तान हमेशा से तपस्वियों का देश रहा है। आज, प्रधानमंत्री करोड़ों हिंदुस्तानियों की तपस्या का अपमान कर रहे हैं। pic.twitter.com/urn3poFciu— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) November 29, 2022In October, during the Bharat Jodo Yatra’s Karnataka leg, Rahul reached out to members of all three main faiths — Hindu, Muslim and Christian — in Mysuru by visiting the Chamundeshwari Temple atop the Chamundi Hills, the Masjid-e-Azam and the St Philomena’s Cathedral on the same day.Sharing pictures of the temple on Twitter, Rahul said: “Religious harmony is the foundation of India’s peaceful and progressive future.” The Bharat Jodo Yatra’s stated aim is to unite the country against “hate” and “discord”.A day later, he visited a prominent mutt of the Lingayat community, the most powerful voting group in Karnataka.Entering Maharashtra on November 9 from Telangana, Rahul paid a visit to the Nanded Sahib gurdwara, one of Sikhism’s holiest shrines, on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti. On its official Twitter page, the Congress shared a video of Rahul praying wearing a headscarf with the Khanda symbol and someone wrapping a Dastar around his head. He prayed for harmony and equality, the party said.In September, soon after he had taken off from Tamil Nadu, Rahul met controversial Tamil pastor George Ponnaiah. After videos of their meeting emerged, the BJP attacked Rahul.

‘Chunavi Hindu’ says BJP, but Rahul Gandhi is climbing steps one temple at a time in his Yatra
‘AAP a one-man party… cannot become BJP alternative,’ says Baijayant Jay Panda
The Indian Express | 6 hours ago | |
The Indian Express
6 hours ago | |

How is the BJP placed ahead of MCD elections, especially considering that you have been in power for 15 years? How big of a challenge is anti-incumbency?We are winning very comfortably and this argument about anti-incumbency is something that the Aam Aadmi Party is desperately trying to claim about us. The fact is that we benefit at multiple levels. First of all, we benefit from the Prime Minister’s immense popularity and that’s not just what he’s done for the nation or the international acclaim. 73 lakh people in Delhi got the benefit of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana.We also benefit from the party led by Nadda ji all the way down to the last worker. During the pandemic throughout the country, party workers helped well over a quarter of a billion people with community kitchens, oxygen help with hospitalisations etc.And then there’s a lot of work that has happened. For example, several large biodiversity eco parks have come up.AAP itself has immense anti-incumbency. They’ve been in government eight years and there’s an old saying that you can fool some of the people all the time, all the people, some of the time, but not all the people all the time. So, in recent months, especially in the last one year, a lot of their fakery has been exposed. Their claims about being a different kind of party are completely in shambles with the many corruption scandals. Their two most prominent promises were to clean up the Yamuna and to reduce pollution and every Delhiite will tell you that just the reverse has happened. Despite thousands of crores of funding from the Modi government, the Yamuna has got even more polluted and Delhi’s pollution is such that every family, irrespective of economic status, has one or more members suffering from various ailments. The evidence for what I’m saying is two-fold. You saw the immense enthusiasm and rush for tickets for BJP.On the other hand, you’ve had huge scandals in AAP where tickets have been sold. Their own workers are coming out with sting videos. People of Delhi are convinced that AAP is a party willing to swindle its own workers and certainly, it has no compunction swindling the people of Delhi. I don’t go into numbers.AAP itself has immense anti-incumbency. They’ve been in government for 8 years and there’s an old saying that you can fool some of the people all the time, but not all the people all the timeAAP and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal have shared some numbers, like 225 seats…I will comment on some of Mr. Kejriwal’s numbers like the fact that with just a couple of exceptions, his party lost its deposits in Uttarakhand, despite his party making huge claims about how they are going to sweep. Now they’re making claims about winning a huge number of seats in Gujarat. They are in a desperate shape in Gujarat. AAP’s seat projections are about as credible as the promises of cleaning the Yamuna.Talking about Gujarat, how do you see AAP’s attempts to replace the Congress in some states?AAP’s claims and promises and attempts at inspiring their workers are based on falsehoods. As long as it was limited to Delhi, they were able to fool some of the people all the time, but now within just a few months, Punjab has exposed them. Yesterday, you saw riots in Punjab by the same farmers activists with whom they were supposedly collaborating just a year ago. Till last year, they used to blame Punjab for the stubble burning for the Delhi pollution. Now, there’s no excuse. They’re trying to obfuscate by saying that other states burn stubble but well over 90% of the stubble burning in North India happens in Punjab. Stubble burning in other states, like Haryana, has dropped dramatically in the last few years. And also because of their fiscal irresponsibility today, Punjab government employees are not getting paid. They took a bad situation and made it much worse. So, what’s happening is they have to keep seeking new pastures, to try to fool a new set of people.But Punjab’s fiscal situation is not their making…They’ve taken a bad situation and made it far worse because of their fiscal profligacy. Punjab is heading the Sri Lankan way. Just look at what they have done in the last few months. You see front page advertisements all over the country. You see the Punjab dummy CM and the AAP leader all over the country based on the money from Punjab and Delhi. That is fiscal profligacy. That is worsening the situation. In Gujarat you’ve talked about their hard-working workers. I gave you the example of how their workers in Delhi are turning against them.You are aware that in Himachal and Delhi, senior people are quitting and joining us. You’ll see the same situation in Gujarat soon when many of the people and their workers who had been working in the false belief that AAP represents something new and better, are going to get equally disappointed.Evidence from studies shows that the contribution of farm fires in Delhi’s pollution has dipped this year for a variety of reasons. AAP says it has done a lot to curb fires. How do you counter that?AAP, just a couple of weeks ago, apologised in public for not being able to curb pollution emanating from Punjab. You’ve cited one study, I can cite to you a couple of other properly, authenticated studies. A central government compilation of studies has been released by the Delhi L-G’s office which shows that Punjab accounts for, by far, the lion’s share of stubble burning. And they had promised that they would immediately curtail it. Now, the other states have curtailed. Not only Haryana, but other bordering states have had very dramatic reductions, but AAP which had committed to curtailing it this season itself has publicly apologised.A large number of MPs, union ministers and CMs have been campaigning in Delhi for BJP, and AAP has cited this to imply it’s because the BJP-led MCD doesn’t have much to show for its work.This is the same old argument and obfuscation that they try on many fronts. If you look at the BJP’s elections, in every election we roll out all the available armoury. And we have a lot of armoury to roll out. Since the last time, we have more Chief Ministers, we have more prominent faces in the union cabinet, and we have more regional leaders that are attracting attention. There is a demand because in Delhi today, demographics have transformed in the last 10 years. You have lots of people living in Delhi today, who come from Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Odisha and Bengal. They want to see their own leaders come here and enthuse them because they have a connect with them because of language and culture. Let me reiterate, BJP does not take any election lightly. First of all, we don’t just turn up at elections. Every week of the year, virtually every day of the year, we have some or other public activity interfacing with the public, either in social work, helping them during crises, or in political rallies and outreach. And at election time, we always take every election seriously and we turn out all our big guns. The reality is that AAP, like almost all other parties, is a one-man party. They don’t allow any leadership to come up. It’s a personality cult. Whatever leadership they have tried to build up are mostly in jail or about to go to jail. So, they have serious problems. We are a party that nurtures talent. The Prime Minister himself came from a humble background and is today repeatedly acknowledged as the world’s most popular leader.AAP, obviously, feels the pressure of not being able to counter our campaign with similar personalities. So, this is a way of trying to obfuscate.Allegations of BJP being a one-man party have also been made in the past…In the first question, you asked how come we are rolling out so many big guns. How come Himanta Biswa Sarma, Pushkar Dhami, Jairam Thakur and other leaders like Nadda ji, Sambit Patra are doing so many roadshows and meetings. Then you are asking about BJP being a one-man party. The reality is that the BJP is not only the world’s largest party, it is also the world’s most democratic party. I know, because as the in-charge for Delhi, I’ve been involved very intricately. Let me tell you how the candidate selection process has worked. We were working virtually 24/7 for several weeks. We had extensive exercises at the mandal level, where our mandal workers gave their opinions. Then we had an exercise at the district level. Then we had an exercise at the state level. We took feedback from everybody from the lowest level at the karyakarta level, the mandal level, and the district. And then at the MLA level and the MP level. And we also did extensive surveys in deciding who are the popular leaders. We have done a very extensive survey which shows us that there is immense satisfaction among the workers about the candidate selection. On the other hand, you have seen no such process in AAP. You have seen sting videos by their own workers… There is absolutely nothing wrong with the party benefiting from the Prime Minister’s popularity. The Prime Minister himself, let me repeat, came from a very humble background. The same allegation was made when Atal ji was at the peak of his popularity, that we take advantage of his popularity, what about others? Modi ji came up from the ranks and he has this global popularity today. Why should we not take advantage of it? And yes, of course, at the local level issues are being discussed and debated. Yesterday, in my campaign, I talked about the Delhi Jal Board scandal. The Delhi Jal Board finances were not audited for many years run by AAP. And there is a huge scandal of many thousands of crores. A large number of homes in Delhi get very polluted water and people are reacting very severely against that. I’ve also mentioned several other local issues, which our candidates and district leaders are taking up. But to say that somehow, we should shield the people of Delhi from Modi ji’s popularity is not rational. Every election has a mix of national, regional and local issues. The people of Delhi are very cognisant that when it comes to national interest, even when it comes to Delhi’s own interest, the central government has done a lot.When a senior leader of the Aam Aadmi Party is in jail for 5 months, the courts are not giving him bail because of, prima facie, evidence of money laundering. And he’s getting five-star treatment and he’s getting a massage from a child rapist. And they’re trying to fob it off as some kind of physiotherapy until it is caught that the guy’s not a physiotherapist but a child rapist and they’re not dropping him from the party. This is a local issue. This is a self goal which they have created in a very big way. Modi ji is not talking about this. We are talking about this. We are talking about this, the Delhi leadership is talking about it. Delhi candidates are talking about it. AAP says that the guy should be given a Bharat Ratna.How much traction are these issues gaining on the ground?There is enormous traction. AAP candidates and workers are quitting and joining us. Who do you think is giving us these sting operation videos? They are sourcing it because of their bitterness with their party. When the Satyendar Jain massage video came out, AAP stopped doing press conferences. They didn’t have a response to it. The liquor scam which has been going on where the personal assistants of very senior leaders have turned approver have been caught with hundreds of crores. They’re not able to respond, they’ve not given a single answer. They’re trying to obfuscate, but they’re not giving a single answer, why they gave liquor contracts to blacklisted companies. Why they allowed the contravention of rules to allow liquor vends near schools and temples and in prohibited zones.How do you see AAP as an opposition party?My view is that their gig is up. They have been trying to portray themselves exactly like this for the last three or four years, they’ve been badly battered. In Uttarakhand you saw. In Himachal their top leadership has quit and joined us, in Gujarat, despite what they are saying, you will see the results very shortly. They represent something very different.BJP is nationalistic. It is fiscally responsible. It has brought immense development to India. In the global perspective, India is the shining light among all economies which have been battered by the pandemic, everybody’s talking about it. The IMF is talking about it. The world is looking to India and to Modi ji’s leadership as a sign of hope. We have transformed from a country that always sought help from others to a country that has been giving help to others. During the pandemic, we have given 200 million vaccines to other countries. We have helped them with many other things, like medicines and ventilators.AAP is like the 1970s version of Congress. Congress spent many decades talking about garibi hatao and only increased garibi. It is under BJP that hundreds of millions of people are getting out of poverty. People have seen what has happened to Sri Lanka. People have seen how India has had to step in and help neighbouring countries. Not just Sri Lanka, but others. In the last eight years, they have not added a single hospital. In eight years, they did not add a single bus to Delhi’s fleet until under severe pressure they tried to add some electric buses, and that too has been caught up in a scandal of corruption. Old buses are breaking down. So, a 1970s version of Congress cannot become the BJP’s alternative or opposition. Their gig is up because of what has happened in the other states where they have tried to take the same message. Punjab’s voters were because of the mismanagement of Congress rule and they grabbed at whatever they thought was a different alternative. But it’s turning out to be a much worse version of that.If Punjab voters were desperate for change, why did they not vote for BJP?The BJP had alliances with people that themselves got unpopular and the BJP has a track record of never having dumped an ally and perhaps we should have been more pragmatic about that earlier. Now the BJP is building on its own. Wherever we have been betrayed by allies, whether it is Maharashtra, whether it is Punjab, or Bihar, we are building up on our own and you will see the results. Punjab is already seeing the chaos. People regret going for AAP.Some people try to portray that it is the middle classes who are weary of AAP’s profligacy and fiscal irresponsibility. I can tell you that even people of weaker economic category are also getting very wary because today, even if you go to the remotest corner of the country or you go to economically weaker sections of society here in Delhi, they know what’s happening around the world. They may have been initially excited about some free water but today you can see the water that they’re getting is grossly polluted. The BJP works on addressing the economic needs of people. We do understand that there are people of the weaker economic sections that need housing and support. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Prime Minister released about 3,500 flats under the Jahan Jhuggi, Wahin Makaan scheme. In the last few days, many hundreds of buses of people who reside in jhuggis have gone to see these flats and the enthusiasm is enormous. A lot of people have the misperception that people from the weaker economic strata have a preference for AAP. You are going to see a very big difference this time.You have not spoken about AAP’s Hindutva, the way they are trying to take up the cause of the majority.I think the public understands the difference between genuine conviction and fakery. AAP tries to be different things to different people at different times. When you have JNU students who openly shout anti-national slogans, who openly support convicted terrorists, AAP is with them. When you have riots in Delhi, where people are getting convicted for killing government officers, of organising riots, of arson, AAP’s own representatives are among them. They realised this is costing them very badly and in the last few months, they have been going around claiming to be nationalists and holding the Tricolour. People are not fooled. Today if you go around the temples in Delhi, you’ll see immense anger against AAP because they have been facilitating funding for one group of religious institutions but not temples. It is very much like Rahul Gandhi. As I said, they are trying to be the B team of the Congress.Rahul Gandhi has done the same thing. He goes around berating any nationalistic stand that Modi ji takes and goes around questioning the Indian Army about surgical strikes. He goes around having meetings with the Chinese Embassy when there is a border conflict and then at election time he wears the tilapia, he becomes a Shiv Bhakt, he starts taking a pretend nationalistic stand. People have punished that repeatedly and reduced the Congress to nothing and the Aam Aadmi Party is basically following in that same path of trying to be a chameleon and changing colours at election time and they’re getting caught very badly with their pants down.Till. A few months ago, there was a debate about AAP promoting the revdi culture but it now seems to have completely disappeared from the discourse. BJP doesn’t mention it in its MCD rallies even. AAP too has stopped defending itself over it.It is there in our pamphlets and in some of our literature and you are right. It is because the people of Delhi have started accepting that the revdi culture is going to lead them towards becoming like Sri Lanka. The people of Delhi have understood that revdi equals free water, equals really dirty polluted water equals making children sick. Yes, we took it up and it has had immense impact and it has been accepted by the people of Delhi. Now, since this is a goal we have already scored, it is time for us to score more goals. That is why we are now emphasising on other aspects. AAP has stopped countering that because we have registered a goal. You can’t keep protesting a goal after the goal has been registered by the referee. You can protest as long as we are dribbling that you are offside or something like that. Once the goal has been scored, and the referee adjudicates it as a valid goal, there’s no point protesting it. They should be highlighting it.They are. CM Kejriwal listed out free water and power schemes in his speech yesterday. AAP doesn’t seem to have backed down on that front.The BJP has taken a very strong stand on this. That the free water, free electricity etc has led to people getting very very upset. They are very clear that their children are having to breathe polluted air. Their children are having to drink extremely polluted water. We have highlighted the fact that when AAP does some events allegedly tacking pollution, the vast majority of the expense has gone to advertising. The actual expense on whatever they have tried to do is just a very miniscule part of it. So it is just a show. They showcase their schools but it’s just one or two schools which they have prettied up and painted and are trying to show now. They managed to get some international media like The New York Times to give them some credit for this. The same New York Times has now criticised them very severely for the pollution, where they have failed. People are realising this. If you go around, you’ll see two things about schools, and this is relating to the revdi culture. You will see that the Delhi state government schools have reduced in number in the last eight years. The municipal schools have increased in number. If you look at the schools that AAP is highlighting, it is the same one or two schools. I can take you around various parts and show dozens of MCD schools that are of a very high standard and are getting a great deal of praise. MCD schools are the ones that a majority of Delhi’s population go to. The revdi politics has reached a level of diminishing returns for them. But we are focusing on pollution, we are focusing on corruption. This is something we have known for a while but the people of Delhi have just begun to understand this in the last one year.For MCD elections, the main issues for people are that of garbage, sewer lines etc and not larger issues like corruption. In the BJP manifesto, most promises are old.I dispute your comment that people don’t care about corruption. We have highlighted the issue of corruption regarding Satyendar Jain and Manish Sisodia. They are not answering questions about that. Because of corruption, there is no cleaning up of the pollution or the Yamuna. I’ll reiterate that local issues matter and of course we are addressing them. One issue is that the AAP government sat on Rs 42 thousand crores of Central funding and deliberately refused to disburse despite court proceedings.Talking about Delhi BJP, you have been out of power in the state government since 1998 and infighting has been a big issue within the party. Do you think there is a lack of a credible face in the state unit that is hurting you?At the Lok Sabha level, we have a clean sweep, all seven out of seven seats. At the local election level, we have won three times in a row and by every indication, we are comfortably coming to a fourth victory. About the state government situation, I won’t go into the distant past, but just the last eight years, which has seen the current dispensation. I think the Aam Aadmi Party got a huge boost from many people who thought he represented something different and he got a lot of free publicity about alleged good work, which positioned him as some kind of an alternative.But like I said, you can’t fool all the people all the time. And that one-trick pony has served its purpose of making fake promises, moving on to new sets of promises without delivering and thinking that people won’t notice. In terms of not having a face, that is exactly what used to be said when Atal ji was Prime Minister. How did Modi ji come? Because we have 18 crore members and we encourage talent to rise to the top. In Delhi, we have the luxury of several prominent faces. We have very senior faces. We have young faces, we have popular faces that have come from outside of politics. We have women’s faces, we have very homegrown, earthy faces representing different sections of the demographic. To somehow consider this a weakness is very odd because at the right time, we will choose the right person. We have plenty of options to choose from and this is a strength. It’s not a weakness.

‘AAP a one-man party… cannot become BJP alternative,’ says Baijayant Jay Panda
Congress Seeks Maharashtra BJP MLAs, MPs Resignation Over Shivaji's Insult
Ndtv | 20 hours ago | |
Ndtv
20 hours ago | |

Nana Patole was addressing a press conference in Mumbai.Mumbai: Accusing the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) of "insulting" Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole on Thursday demanded the resignation of the saffron party's MLAs and MPs.Addressing a press conference, Mr Patole also said the farmers whose crops have been damaged due to unseasonal rains are not getting compensation even as they paid a premium to insurance companies.Mr Patole said Congress has been asking farmers who have paid premium to submit their papers in every taluka/ tehsil. He said the Congress party will seek answers from these crop insurance companies."State Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari ji, BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi passed remarks against Shivaji Maharaj. Yesterday (BJP minister Mangal Prabhat) Lodha, went a step further in this. My appeal is that the MLAs and MPs of the BJP, which has been inspired by the ideals of Chhatrapati Shivaji, should resign if they have any respect for Shivaji Maharaj," Mr Patole said."On the one hand, you praise Shivaji Maharaj, while on the other you insult him. You do not have the right to stay in the government," he said.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comThe politics in Maharashtra has been on the boil since the governor last month termed Shivaji Maharaj as the symbol of the "olden days".(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)Featured Video Of The DaySouth Korean YouTuber Harassed In Mumbai While Livestreaming, 2 Arrested

Congress Seeks Maharashtra BJP MLAs, MPs Resignation Over Shivaji's Insult
Why actors Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia’s firm is facing probe
The Indian Express | 22 hours ago | |
The Indian Express
22 hours ago | |

Maharashtra minister Atul Save on Wednesday (November 30) said a probe has been ordered after alleged irregularities were found in how an agro-processing company, owned by actors Riteish Deshmukh and his wife actor Genelia Deshmukh, availed land and loans.What is the controversy about? We explain.In October this year, the BJP claimed it obtained information about land allocation under the Right to Information (RTI), which showed that the Deshmukhs were accorded special favours by the state government.At the centre of the controversy is the plot for an agro-processing unit in the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) area in the town of Latur.The MIDC is an investment promotion agency of the Maharashtra government. It set up industrial areas in the state and has procedures for bidding on plots in the state that it makes available to entrepreneurs.It allotted the land to a company called Desh Agro Pvt Ltd, in which Riteish and Genelia Deshmukh are partners with equal shares, allegedly at a concessional rate of Rs 605 per square metre within three weeks of its formation. The application for land was processed within 10 days.The company, with a share capital of Rs 7.50 crore, was set up for processing soybean.According to the ruling BJP, the company also applied for a loan on October 4, 2021, with the Pandharpur Urban Cooperative Bank and the bank approved it on October 27. It then applied for a loan with the Latur District Central Cooperative Bank and a loan of Rs 61 crore was approved on October 27. It took a loan of another Rs 55 crore from the bank on July 25, 2022.Desh Agro Pvt Ltd has denied the allegations as “baseless and factually wrong”.BJP leaders in Latur claim that the land allotment was out of turn, during the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government of which the Congress was a member.Riteish Deshmukh is the son of former Maharashtra chief minister and Congress leader late Vilasrao Deshmukh. His elder brother Amit was a minister in the MVA government and his younger brother Dhiraj is an MLA from the Latur rural constituency.“Our (BJP’s) Latur district president (Gurunath) Mage had written a letter (raising the issue). I don’t know anything about the MIDC, but I have ordered an inquiry to check if there was any irregularity on the part of the banks,” Save, the state Cooperative Minister, told PTI.

Why actors Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia’s firm is facing probe
Gujarat Phase 1 vote today: BJP faces Saurashtra test; AAP, Congress stand in way of bid to regain lost ground
The Indian Express | 1 day ago | |
The Indian Express
1 day ago | |

A little over a year after it changed the entire Gujarat Cabinet, the BJP will go to polls in the first phase of the Assembly elections on Thursday as it attempts to return to power for the sixth straight term.Around 2.39 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise to elect MLAs in 89 constituencies in Saurashtra, Kutch, and south Gujarat, with the BJP looking to regain the ground it lost in Saurashtra in the 2017 Assembly elections. For the ruling party, the main competition will come from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress. The electoral contest between the BJP and the Arvind Kejriwal-led outfit will be especially intense in Surat. Both camps aggressively campaigned against each other in an attempt to bag the 12 seats in the city.In 2017, of the 89 constituencies, the BJP won 48 and the Congress bagged 38 seats. Two seats went to the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), which was in alliance with the Congress at the time, and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) won one.In Saurashtra, the agrarian region with 48 seats, the challenge for the BJP is to increase its tally from the 19 constituencies it managed to win last time, while the Congress will look to hold on to the gains it made five years ago and build on their success. The Congress’s seat count of 28 in Saurashtra in 2017 was a gain of 13 seats, while the BJP’s tally came down by 11 seats. It was the ruling party’s worst performance in Saurashtra since 1995 when it formed the government in Gujarat for the first time.But in the last five years, 10 Congress MLAs from Saurashtra defected to the BJP or extended support to the ruling party. They are Kunvarji Bavaliya (Jasdan), Parsottam Sabariya (Dhrangadhra), Jawahar Chavda (Manavadar), Vallabh Dharaviya (Jamnagar Rural), Pravin Maru (Gadhada), JV Kakadiya (Dhari), Soma Ganda Patel (Limbdi), Brijesh Merja (Morbi), Bhagwan Barad (Talala), and Harshad Ribadiya (Visavadar). Save Sabariya, Dharaviya, Maru, Patel, and Merja, the others are BJP candidates this time from their respective seats.The Congress’s Saurashtra performance in 2017 was propelled by support from the Patidar community, which had been traditional BJP supporters since the mid-1980s. But the community drifted towards the Congress five years ago following protests against the BJP-led government over demands for Other Backward Class (OBC) status. The quota agitation stir’s leader Hardik Patel is the BJP candidate from Viramgam in Ahmedabad district this time. Pointing out that the quota agitation has long fizzled out, BJP leaders have claimed that Patidars will back the ruling party this time around.The first phase covers several Patidar and tribal-dominated seats and will be crucial for the ruling party’s stated objective of breaking all Assembly election records. Among the BJP’s objectives is winning most of the 27 constituencies reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs). In Phase 1, seven of the constituencies at stake are reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) communities and 17 are ST seats.For the BJP, a stumbling block in the run-up to the elections was ticket distribution. In the first phase, seven BJP members filed nominations against the party’s candidates, most of them as Independents and one each as Congress and AAP nominees.Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leading the BJP’s campaign and has addressed 25 public meetings since November 3, when the Elections Commission notified the poll schedule. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has been the second-most prominent face to campaign for the party. The party has also deployed a battery of national leaders such as chief ministers Yogi Adityanath, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and Pramod Sawant, Maharashtra Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and its national president JP Nadda.The BJP aggressively played up the Hindutva card by raking up issues such as the 2002 riots, terrorism, “love jihad”, and the Shraddha Walkar murder case. In its poll manifesto, the ruling party promised an anti-radicalisation cell and the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code.The AAP ran an aggressive campaign, especially in Saurashtra and south Gujarat. The electoral plank of the Kejriwal-led party is based on its guarantees such as free education, free electricity, employment, and free religious pilgrimages for the elderly.On Wednesday, Kejriwal issued a video message requesting the people of Gujarat to opt for change. Speaking in Gujarati Kejriwal, who began with the common greeting in Gujarat, “Jai Shri Krishna”, said, “Twenty-seven years are a lot, no? This time try to change. Change is the rule of life. Even trees change their leaves every year. Give AAP one chance. I will never break your trust. Now, the atmosphere is also changing, cold is also increasing. Take care of everyone in the family. Jai Shree Krishna!”The Congress too has promised voters things such as free electricity, implementation of the old pension scheme, and jobs. Its campaign, however, was low-key, with some of its top national leaders largely staying away from the campaign.In six assembly constituencies, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) led by Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi has fielded candidates. These seats are Mangrol, Khambhalia, Bhuj, Mandvi, Surat East, and Limbayat.Notable names in the frayThere are a total of 788 candidates in the fray in Phase 1, including 718 men and 70 women. Some of the notable BJP candidates who will be battling it out on Thursday are Kanti Amrutiya (Morbi), Kunvarji Bavaliya (Jasdan), Jayesh Radadiya (Jetpur), Rivaba Jadeja (Jamnagar North), Pabubha Manek (Dwarka), Babu Bokhiriya (Porbandar), Parshottam Solanki, Mukesh Patel (Olpad), Harsh Sanghavi (Majura), Jitu Vaghani (Bhavnagar West), and Raghavji Patel (Jamnagar Rural).The first phase will also see the fate of some top AAP leaders being decided. Among them are its CM face Isudan Gadhvi (Khambhalia), state president Gopal Italia (Katargam), and former Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leaders Alpesh Kathiriya (Varachha) and Dharmik Malaviya (Olpad).From the Congress, leaders such as Naushad Solanki (Dasada), Lalit Kagathara (Tankara), Indranil Rajyaguru (Rajkot East), Vikram Madam (Khambhalia), Arjun Modhwadiya (Porbandar), Punja Vansh (Una), Paresh Dhanani, Virji Thummar (Lathi), Ambarish Der (Rajula), Kanu Kalsariya (Mahuva), and Anant Patel (Vansda) will be contesting in the first phase.New initiativesThis is the first election where a section of the electorate will have a chance to vote from home. This facility has been made available to 9.87 lakh voters above the age of 80 years and 4.03 lakh voters with disabilities. The Election Commission (EC) distributed around eight lakh forms for voters to avail of this facility but only over two per cent of voters have opted for it.The other initiative is monitoring workers in industries if they have cast their votes or not. The EC has already signed MoUs with various industrial associations for this and asked them to give a holiday or a break to workers on polling day.“We have already conveyed the message to our sister associations for giving workers a break or holiday for polling. Though we cannot force workers to vote, all industrial units have also been asked to monitor the number of workers and share whatever figures possible with us so that we have at least an estimate,” said Pathik Patwari, president of the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).This is also the first election in the state where details of criminal cases faced by candidates needed to be published in newspapers.With inputs from Avinash Nair and Rashi Mishra in Ahmedabad

Gujarat Phase 1 vote today: BJP faces Saurashtra test; AAP, Congress stand in way of bid to regain lost ground
‘Shiv Shakti, Bhim Shakti tie-up’: New worry for BJP in Maharashtra as Thackeray, Ambedkar join hands
The Indian Express | 2 days ago | |
The Indian Express
2 days ago | |

In a significant political development, the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) headed by Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of B R Ambedkar, has decided to forge a pre-poll alliance with the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. Their tie-up being dubbed an “alliance of Shiv Shakti and Bhim Shakti” in a section of state political circles is likely to have an impact on state politics in coming days.Apart from having a bearing on various coming elections, including the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls in 2023 and the Lok Sabha and the Maharashtra Assembly polls in 2024, the Thackeray-Ambedkar alliance, if sustained, may go beyond electoral politics to revive the social reforms agenda which has been at the core of progressive Maharashtra politics.“Uddhav Thackeray raised the subject of alliance a few days back,” Prakash Ambedkar said. “After careful deliberations within our VBA we have decided to strike a partnership with Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray).”Ambedkar however said the nitty-gritty of their alliance will have to be hammered out by Thackeray. “Thackeray will have to work out whether it will continue alliance with Congress and NCP. And then take VBA as fourth alliance partner. Or whether Shiv Sena (UBT) and VBA will be alliance partners,” he said, indicating that complex alliance matters like seat-sharing arrangements will be thrashed out later.Sena (UBT) sources revealed that Thackeray has decided to get new partners on board without affecting its Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance involving the Congress and the NCP.The Sena(UBT)-VBA tie-up may come as a fresh cause of worry for the ruling BJP, whose existing alliance includes the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and the Republican Party of India (A) led by Union minister Ramdas Athavale.The consolidation of secular votes from the OBC, Marathas and Dalits in favour of the MVA would pose a formidable challenge for the BJP-led alliance in Maharashtra. In the past the BJP has exploited the Maratha versus OBC polarisation to its advantage. While a majority of Marathas have always gravitated towards the established Congress-NCP leaders, the BJP has had gone all out to woo the OBCs in the state. In 2014, the Narendra Modi factor gave the BJP a new plank to maximise its appeal to the masses. The BJP, which was in alliance with the united Sena, could then still win 23 out of the total 48 seats in the Lok Sabha polls and 133 of 288 seats in the state Assembly elections.After the 2019 Assembly polls, the Sena joined hands with the Congress and the NCP to form the Thackeray-led MVA government, with the BJP forced to sit in the Opposition benches despite having emerged as the single largest party with 105 MLAs.In June this year, however, the BJP engineered a split in the Thackeray-led Sena and succeeded in forming a government with the breakaway Sena rebel faction led by Shinde. As both Senas slug it out while claiming their respective factions as the “real Sena”, the big question remains whether the Thackeray-led Sena’s support base among people or Shiv Sainiks on the ground remains intact or it has shrunk.Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Subash Desai claims, “The people have become more sympathetic to Shiv Sena (UBT) after the rebellion. They have not liked the politics of defection,” indicating that there has been a growing sense among people that Thackeray has been “wronged” by his own party members such as Shinde and that such an operation was the BJP’s handiwork.Although the VBA currently does not have any MPs or even MLAs, the party is considered to have some base among the OBCs. Although its candidates could not win any seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, they affected the Congress-NCP’s prospects in 8-10 seats by splitting the Opposition votes as they polled more than one lakh votes in each of these constituencies. The BJP and the Sena, then alliance partners, won 23 and 18 seats, respectively. Similarly, in the 2019 Assembly polls too, the BJP is considered to have won in at least 32 Assembly seats due to a division of the “secular votes” between Congress-NCP and VBA.Ambedkar says, “My party is a voice for all oppressed and backwards amongst all castes, communities and religions. We represent poor.” While stating that whenever it has an alliance the VBA manages to get its votes transferred to its ally, he indicates it would be tested in the upcoming BMC polls.Recently, at the relaunch of a website on Prabodhankar Thackeray, Uddhav’s grandfather, both Ambedkar and Uddhav had come together, where the latter urged the VBA chief to form an alliance with his Sena to take on the saffron party. Their bonhomie was also a throwback to the 1950s, when the Maharashtra stalwarts, B R Ambedkar and Prabodhankar Thackeray, had joined hands to fight against social evils such as untouchability, dowry and casteism. Prakash and Uddhav declared that their common goal was to fight the BJP as it allegedly posed a threat to the ideals of Constitution – framed by Bhimrao Ambedkar — and democracy.

‘Shiv Shakti, Bhim Shakti tie-up’: New worry for BJP in Maharashtra as Thackeray, Ambedkar join hands
Held talks with Subhash Desai, ready to ally with Uddhav-led Sena: Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi
The Indian Express | 2 days ago | |
The Indian Express
2 days ago | |

Hinting at the formation of a new political axis in Maharashtra, Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) on Tuesday said that it is willing to form an alliance with the Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray.VBA state president Rekha Thakur, addressing mediapersons at the party headquarter, said, “We have held two rounds of talks with senior Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai and conveyed our acceptance to ally with Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.” The VBA, which was formed in the run-up to the 2019 Maharashtra Lok Sabha elections, had a tie-up with Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM. The alliance, however, did not last long.Thakur said that whether VBA will be the fourth party in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) has not yet been decided, as it awaits Thackeray’s response.Tripartite MVA comprises Shiv Sena (UBT), Congress and NCP. “We are ready to ally with the Sena. The other two parties in the MVA can discuss the matter among themselves and let us know the decision,” Thakur said.The original Shiv Sena, under its founder late Balasaheb Thackeray, has always had a tumultuous history with Dalit organisations, especially at the times of Dalit Panther, and later during the name change movement of Marathwada University.However, in the last years of his life, Balasaheb Thackeray took the initiative by joining hands with RPI (Athawale) leader Ramdas Athawale, giving rise to the term “Shivshakti-Bhimshakti”. It, however, did not sustain for long.Prakash Ambedkar, a grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, had formed VBA prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. VBA candidates polled considerable votes in both general and Assembly elections, harming the prospects of Congress and NCP candidates in many seats, leading to many accusing the VBA of splitting anti-BJP votes.Last week, Ambedkar and Uddhav had shared a stage at the relaunch of a website on the works of Prabodhankar Thackeray, Uddhav’s grandfather. Since then, talks about both joining hands have been doing the rounds.Earlier, NCP leader Ajit Pawar had said whether MVA will ally with VBA will be discussed when such a proposal is presented in front of his party. He had added that the priority is to not split anti-BJP votes. NCP chief Sharad Pawar had also said that the state party unit will take a call on this matter.Sources in the Congress, however, had said that the party will go solo in the upcoming local body polls and any decision on alliance with the VBA is unlikely.

Held talks with Subhash Desai, ready to ally with Uddhav-led Sena: Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi
Congress provided such an eco-system where love jihad was easy: Himanta Biswa Sarma
The Indian Express | 3 days ago | |
The Indian Express
3 days ago | |

Assam Chief Minister and one of the star campaigners of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat elections, Himanta Biswa Sarma, on Monday launched an attack on opposition Congress for providing such an eco-system to the country where issues likes love jihad became very easy, and called for a law against love jihad that is possible “only in the BJP government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.On his second visit to Gujarat for campaigning, Sarma raised the infamous Delhi murder case involving Aftab Poonawala and Shraddha Walkar from Mumbai, which he had raised during his earlier visit also.The Assam CM said that before her murder, Shraddha had lodged a complaint with Maharashtra police against Aftab but an FIR was not registered. “At that time, the government in Maharashtra was that of Shiv Sena, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party… because of Congress’s politics of appeasement, a special class has got freedom to do whatever they want… ‘you do anything and law will not touch you’. It is because of Congress’s appeasement that the country has started seeing incidents like that of Aftab-Shradhha.”Sarma mentioned that Shraddha was cut into 34 pieces and such gruesome murder is possible only if some other agenda was attached to it. “Else, you will never cut a person, with whom you have lived for some time, into 34 pieces,” he said.“Therefore, I believe that the country needs a law against love jihad. And it can be possible only in the BJP government under the leadership of Narendra Modi,” Sarma said.Defending his statement that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has started looking like Saddam Hussain (former chief of Iraq), Sarma said, “Some people from Congress got unhappy (with my comment). What is there to be unhappy about? I did not call him Bahadur Shah Zafar (the last emperor of the Mughal dynasty). I only said that your face looks like Saddam (Hussain). Remove the beard and again you will look like Rahul (Gandhi). What is the problem? That is my assessment. You are giving it publicity by trolling me,” Sarma said.Mentioning about the BJP manifesto for the Gujarat elections, Sarma said that the issues like checking love jihad, commitment for Uniform Civil Code, work against radicalisation, increasing medical insurance for poor from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh, resolve against terrorism, announcement to express readiness to hold Olympics, etc., have come up during the Gujarat elections.“The country has started feeling the agenda of 2024 (Lok Sabha elections) on which issues the 2024 elections will be fought,” he said, adding that Congress did not control terrorism in the country, but it was done by PM Modi after 2014.Sarma said that the BJP is set to win more than 150 seats in the current state assembly elections and more than 400 in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.In reply to a question whether he was trying to polarise Hindu voters in Gujarat, Sarma said, “What is the problem in it? Don’t Hindus have a right to talk like a political force? Is it only the right of (Asaduddin) Owaisi to polarise? ”“We too have a right to talk about Sanatan Sanskruti in India, to talk about Hindu asmita (pride) and also talk against the exploitation of women in Muslim community. Why do you think that by talking about Hindu pride, the country will be polarised?”Replying to a question on radicalisation, Sarma said that nobody is saying that an entire community is radicalised. “There are patriots in that community as well. But unfortunately, Popular Front of India (PFI) and Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) also come from that community. So, we have to accompany the patriots from that class and destroy the radicals.”In its manifesto, the BJP has promised to have a cell against radicalisation. Sarma said that we need to have a “vaccine” against radicalisation.Sarma also campaigned for BJP candidates Hardik Patel in Viramgam and Alpesh Thakor in Gandhinagar South constituencies later in the day. In Motera area of Ahmedabad, which falls under Gandhinagar South constituency, Sarma participated in a programme organised by the local Assamese population.

Congress provided such an eco-system where love jihad was easy: Himanta Biswa Sarma
Bharat Jodo Yatra to enter Ujjain today
Times of India | 3 days ago | |
Times of India
3 days ago | |

Indore: Rahul Gandhi-led ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, which received overwhelming response in Indore, is set to enter Ujjain on Tuesday where the Congress leader will offer prayers at Shri Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga Mandir before holding a public meeting.The Yatra on Monday resumed from Bada Ganpati Square of Indore at 5.50am and walked around 13 kilometers to reach Baroli village in the district before taking a halt for lunch break.During the morning walk, Gandhi met many people and also peddled a bicycle a few distances. On the second day of the march’s Indore stretch, the Yatra received similar support as people were seen lining up either side of the roads, chanting “Rahul Gandhi Jindabad” and even running along to get a glimpse of the senior Congress leader.“When I left Kerala (with the Yatra), I thought, no state can compete with it. But, Maharashtra ‘defeated’ it (Kerala, in terms of support the Yatra received in the Marathi-speaking state). However, after what happened in Indore (the kind of response the Yatra received) yesterday, I never noticed in Maharashtra. I think the public response of Madhya Pradesh is ahead of all the states. This yatra has entered in depth in the minds of people of Madhya Pradesh,” Gandhi said on Monday.The Yatra, in the second half of the day, walked around 13.5 kilometers and took a night halt in Sanwer.

Bharat Jodo Yatra to enter Ujjain today
  • Bharat Jodo Yatra heads for Ujjain in MP; Rahul Gandhi seen riding bicycle briefly
  • The Economic Times

    The Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi headed for Ujjain from Indore on Monday, the sixth day of its Madhya Pradesh leg. The foot march started in the morning from Indore's Bada Ganpati square. A cyclist joined the yatra and Gandhi was seen riding his bicycle briefly. Famous Urdu poet Rahat Indori's son Satlaj Rahat also joined the yatra and said he presented to Rahul Gandhi two books dedicated to his late father, including the latter's autobiography. The yatra, a mass contact initiative of the Congress, will cover a distance of 380 km in the Malwa-Nimar region of western Madhya Pradesh in 12 days before entering Rajasthan on December 4, as per the schedule announced by the party. The foot march entered Madhya Pradesh on November 23 at Bodarli village in Burhanpur district from neighbouring Maharashtra. In the last six days, the yatra has completed more than half of its journey in Madhya Pradesh. The march led by Gandhi has so far covered Burhanpur, Khandwa, Khargone and Indore districts in MP.

‘Both Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot are Congress assets’: Rahul Gandhi’s balancing act as Yatra nears Rajasthan
The Indian Express | 3 days ago | |
The Indian Express
3 days ago | |

As the tussle over leadership between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and rival Sachin Pilot kept the Rajasthan Congress pot simmering, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday tried to strike a balance, calling both leaders “assets” to the party.His remarks came a day after the party said Gehlot should not have used “certain words” against Pilot.“I don’t want to get into who said what. Both these leaders are assets to the Congress. But I can say one thing with guarantee that this (feud) will have no impact on the Bharat Jodo Yatra,” Rahul said at a press conference in Indore.With just days left for the Bharat Jodo Yatra to enter Rajasthan, AICC general secretary in charge of organisation, K C Venugopal, on Saturday reached Jaipur to review the preparations and ensure that the warring leaders remain on the same page so that their tussle does not overshadow or derail the yatra.One senior leader considered close to Rahul said that replacing Gehlot is easier said than done given his heft and the number of MLAs backing him. He asserted that Pilot had joined the yatra on November 24 on his own and that Rahul had not called him.The mixed signals indicate the party is keen to keep both Rajasthan leaders in good humour until the yatra leaves the state.The party leadership does not want differences between Gehlot and Pilot to play out in the open, when the yatra is in the state. Rahul’s balancing act is seen in that context. He refrained from commenting on the war of words between the Rajasthan CM and his former deputy.His remarks came days after Gehlot said that Pilot cannot be made the chief minister, as party MLAs will not accept a “gaddar” (traitor) who had colluded with the BJP to topple the government in 2020. Gehlot had also alleged that the BJP had given Rs 10 crore to bring down his government.On Sunday, party general secretary in charge of communication, Jairam Ramesh, had said that “some words used by the chief minister were unexpected” and that he “should not have certain words.”To a separate question on whether the doors are open for those who had left the party in Madhya Pradesh, thereby bringing down the Kamal Nath government, Rahul indicated that he is not in favour of re-inducting those who had taken money to join the BJP.“This question should be asked to the Congress president and the party leadership in Madhya Pradesh. My opinion is that if they were bought over with money, then they should not be trusted,” Rahul said.Jyotiraditya Scindia, who was once close to Rahul, and over two dozen MLAs had left the Congress and joined the BJP in 2020, bringing down the Congress government in MP.

‘Both Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot are Congress assets’: Rahul Gandhi’s balancing act as Yatra nears Rajasthan
  • Sachin Pilot is a ‘kaddawar’: No let-up in Rajasthan Congress strife
  • The Indian Express

    Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tried to defuse the tension in the party’s Rajasthan unit on Monday, saying that Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Tonk MLA Sachin Pilot were assets for the party. The comments came even as the protracted war of words between the two rival factions showed no signs of stopping.Speaking to reporters in Indore during the Bharat Jodo Yatra’s Madhya Pradesh leg, Gandhi called both the leaders “assets to the party”. The statement came on the heels of the explosive NDTV interview last week where Gehlot called Pilot a “gaddar (traitor)”, claiming that “he had proof that Pilot colluded with the BJP” during the 2020 political crisis in the state.Following disagreements between the two leaders at the time, Pilot and a group of rebel MLAs camped in Manesar in Haryana. They were accused of trying to topple the Gehlot government. After a month of political uncertainty — it included MLAs loyal to the CM also huddling together — the Gandhi family stepped in and the rebels returned to the Congress fold. Gehlot won the subsequent trust vote in the Assembly. Pilot has denied the allegations surrounding the 2020 crisis and termed them “baseless”.“Whatever Ashok ji has said must be right,” state Health Minister Parsadi Lal Meena told reporters recently. “Had these 102 MLAs (Gehlot loyalists) not been there, our government would have sunk just like Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. There are ministers and a CM because of those 102 MLAs. Pilot sahab should clarify and tell the public why he and his loyalist MLAs stayed at Manesar for 35 days and why we had to stay at hotels during this period. If this was the party’s internal matter, it should have been sorted within the party itself.”The health minister added, “Gehlot has said whatever he has said on the basis of information and evidence.”Hitting back at him, state minister Murari Lal Meena, a Pilot loyalist and one of the 18 MLAs who were in Manesar, dared the Gehlot faction to arrest the MLAs from the Pilot faction.“We had told the Congress high command, Rahul Gandhi ji, Sonia Gandhi ji, Priyanka Gandhi ji, why we went to Manesar. If you have evidence, then arrest us. Sachin Pilot is a kaddawar (heavyweight) leader. He is young and hard-working and the party is at an advantage because of him,” Murari said on Sunday.He called on the high command to take a decision soon to allay the confusion among Congress workers. “We went to Manesar and went on to abide by what the high command said. We returned. Who didn’t follow what the high command said? There is a need to self-introspect as to who is a gaddar. The high command had convened a meeting in Jaipur, you know who didn’t attend it.”Murari was referring to the events on September 25 when MLAs loyal to Gehlot skipped a meeting called by the party’s central leadership and submitted their resignations to stop any attempt to make Pilot the Chief Minister. Gehlot was in the running for the post of the Congress president at the time and the party, which has a one-member one-post rule, wanted to announce Pilot as the CM.

Gujaratis saw through Congress’s ‘divide and rule’ trick 20 years ago, says PM Modi in Bhavnagar
The Indian Express | 3 days ago | |
The Indian Express
3 days ago | |

Alleging that Gujarat suffered a lot due to the “divide and rule game” played by the Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Monday that the people of the state saw through the Congress’s trick and united against “divisive forces” 20 years ago.“Our mantra is peace, unity and harmony. The root cause of Gujarat’s progress is unity here. On the other hand, Congress’ core ideology is to divide and rule — make people fight among themselves anyhow so that its interests are protected… This was the Congress’s trick and due to that, there was a time when Gujarat was not a separate state, it made Marathas and Gujaratis fight against one another. After Gujarat was formed, it made Gujarat fight with Kathiawar region, Kutch with Gujarat, A community with B and C with D, A sect with B and B sect with C. It committed all these sins and Gujarat had to suffer a great deal,” PM Modi said.The Prime Minister was addressing a public meeting organised by the BJP at Palitana in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district as part of the party’s campaign for the Assembly election. This is Modi’s second visit to Bhavnagar in less than two months. On September 29 this year, he addressed a public meeting in the city after laying the foundation stone of a CNG terminal and launching other projects cumulatively worth Rs 5,200 crore.At the time of Independence, parts of present-day south and central Gujarat regions were included in the then Bombay state, while Saurashtra and Kutch regions were made separate states despite people in all these regions speaking a common language, Gujarati. Later, Saurashtra and Kutch were merged with Bombay. However, after the 1956 Mahagujarat movement which demanded a separate state comprising areas speaking the Gujarati language, Bombay was divided into Gujarat and Maharashtra in 1960.PM Modi said people saw through the tricks of the Congress. “Thanks to walking the path of unity, compared to the times when bombs used to explode in markets, temples and when an atmosphere of insecurity prevailed all around, today Gujarat has been progressing constantly for the past 20 years,” he said, adding, “The situation changed after the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power.”The BJP formed a government in Gujarat for the first time in 1995. Narendra Modi became the chief minister in 2001 and served till 2014 before he was elected the Prime Minister. “After BJP took its place, people’s faith in it started increasing and BJP’s faith in people also kept growing.”PM Modi said safety, harmony and unity define Gujarat today. “And when Gujarat united, divisive forces didn’t have the strength to intrude. Therefore Congress had to bid adieu.”“While leaving (India), the Britishers had predicted doom, saying the princely states will get divided and that states will fight on linguistic grounds. But when the question of unity and unifying the country popped up, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel undertook the task of uniting the country and merging princely states. Why did he succeed? It was because even though many kings and Nawabs were dithering, my Bhavnagar, my maharaja Krushnakumarsinh, my Gohilvad thought about the country and for the unity of the country, dedicated the kingdom to maa Bharti. Once Bhavnagar took the initiative, all of Hindustan had to follow suit.”Palitana is also the native place of Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, who was present along with other local BJP leaders at the public meeting on Monday.PM Modi said the Assembly election in Gujarat will set the trajectory of the state and India as a whole for the next 25 years. “This election is to resolve to make our Gujarat developed, prosperous and touch new heights,” he said, adding, “Now, we cannot afford to tread. We have completed 75 years of Independence and whatever capital we have formed, strength that we have gained, whatever difficulties we have overcome, we cannot afford to walk for another 75 years. Whatever we want to do, has to be done in 25 years. This election is to resolve that we want to take Hindustan and Gujarat to that height, come what may.”Gujarat will vote in two phases on December 1 and 5, while the results will be declared on December 8.

Gujaratis saw through Congress’s ‘divide and rule’ trick 20 years ago, says PM Modi in Bhavnagar
‘Why are they using our name?’: Medha Patkar counters PM Modi, BJP leaders over Bharat Jodo Yatra participation
The Indian Express | 4 days ago | |
The Indian Express
4 days ago | |

Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar Monday called out Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior BJP leaders for dragging her name during their campaign speeches for the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections. Senior BJP leaders, including Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, have been criticising Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for marching with Patkar on his Bharat Jodo Yatra.While addressing the media in Mumbai, Patkar said it has become a matter of urgency that the truth must come out, and to clarify “we are being used, and to counter the false campaigning using our name.” “Why are they appealing [for votes] with our name? Why are they, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, talking about us? From North to South, from Kutch to Saurashtra? Why are they using our name when they say don’t vote for Congress or Aam Aadmi Party (AAP),” she added.On Sunday, while addressing an election rally in the Dhoraji town of the Rajkot district prime minister had lashed out at the Congress party over Patkar joining Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in Maharashtra. He had said this was an indication of how much damage the party intends to cause to Gujarat in the coming days.Patkar said, “We are not in politics, and not in electoral politics. A false narrative is being created for the vote bank. Some media is also involved in this. There is now a conspiracy to fool not only voters but the entire country.” “This is a fight between them and they are dragging us into it for the only reason that in the name of the Narmada, promises that were made to the people of Gujarat and they have not been fulfilled. They are scared the public will not vote for them. Now, they are asking for votes in my name.”“We are those people who will have agitations even between two elections. Meanwhile, our work continues. For 38 years, the Narmada Bachao Andolan, Enron in Maharashtra, in Odisha, for farmers, for Adivasis, for Dalits, for women, we have been standing up for them. We take our positions after studying and understanding the issue,” Patkar said.However, Congress’s Gujarat unit countered Modi’s criticism of the party and Rahul Gandhi for being seen with activist Medha Patkar and claimed the prime minister’s comments were part of the BJP’s “diversionary tactic”. The Opposition party’s leaders said Modi’s comments would have “no impact” on the outcome of the election.The Gujarat Assembly elections will be held on December 1 and December 5. Votes will be counted on December 8.

‘Why are they using our name?’: Medha Patkar counters PM Modi, BJP leaders over Bharat Jodo Yatra participation
Both leaders assets to Congress: Rahul Gandhi on Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot power tussle
The Indian Express | 4 days ago | |
The Indian Express
4 days ago | |

Amid the tussle in Rajasthan between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, at a press conference near Indore, said Monday that both the leaders are assets to the party.“The ongoing row between the two will not affect the Maharashtra leg of Bharat Jodo Yatra,” the Congress leader added.On Thursday, Gehlot made the Congress high command upset with his sharp offensive against Pilot, calling him a “traitor (gaddar)” who colluded with the BJP. Saying Pilot doesn’t have the support of even 10 MLAs, Gehlot said he could never be named the CM of Rajasthan.The chief minister’s attack came on a day when Pilot joined Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Madhya Pradesh.Responding to Gehlot’s statement on Pilot, the Congress said on Sunday that the veteran leader should not have used “certain words” against the young leader. While saying that the party needs both Gehlot and Pilot, the Congress also made it clear that it would not shy away from taking “tough decisions” in the interest of the party.To a query on different statements being given by Rajasthan leaders Gehlot and Pilot amid their power tussle, Gandhi said in his press meet, “It will not affect the yatra and both the leaders are assets to the Congress party.”Gandhi, the Lok Sabha member from Wayanad in Kerala, also said the decision to contest again from Amethi would be taken after one or one-and-a-half years. “At present, my focus is on the Bharat Jodo Yatra,” he said.Union minister Smriti Irani had defeated Rahul Gandhi in his family’s bastion Amethi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.Asked about his plans for solving the country’s unemployment issue, Gandhi said the main problem at present is that the entire wealth of the nation is confined in the hands of three-four industrialists.The Congress will focus on creating small-scale enterprises to generate more employment opportunities in the country, he added.Gandhi also said his ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra, a mass contact initiative, was helping raise the voice of the nation.

Both leaders assets to Congress: Rahul Gandhi on Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot power tussle
Former BJP minister Jay Narayan Vyas joins Congress days ahead of Gujarat Assembly polls
The Indian Express | 4 days ago | |
The Indian Express
4 days ago | |

With just days left for the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections, former BJP minister and veteran leader Jay Narayan Vyas formally joined the Congress on Monday in a major boost to the morale of the party. Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot were formally present at the party headquarters in Ahmedabad to welcome Vyas and his son Sameer Vyas into the party.Vyas quit the BJP on November 5 saying he was tired of being in the role of a “complainant” in the saffron party despite his seniority. He was a minister in the Gujarat government between 2007 and 2012.On Monday morning, Vyas and his son arrived at the Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, the Congress headquarters in the city. Vyas’s induction into the team is expected to benefit the Congress in the Sidhpur seat in Patan district where sitting party MLA Chandanji Thakor is currently in the fray.Thanking Kharge and Gehlot for his inclusion in the Congress, Vyas said, “All the irrigation schemes in Gujarat, including that of Narmada, were planned before the 1960s.” He said the very narrative of the BJP that the foundation of the Narmada dam was laid by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in April 5, 1962 is flawed. “The foundation stone for which Panditji laid the foundation stone was for the Navagam dam which was 240 feet high. As it was a terminal dam, the Khosla committee was asked to study it and he suggested a dam 550 feet high. It was obvious that lands of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh would get submerged and so a dispute followed,” said Vyas, who is considered to be an expert on the Narmada dam.“I can say for sure that 75 per cent of the concrete work of the dam, including the foundation — there is more work done at foundation of the dam than on what you see above the ground — was done during Congress regimes. The work started during the reign of Amarsinh Chaudhary and was carried on during the regimes of Sanat Mehta and Chimanbhai Patel,” he added.Vyas also credited the construction of the first modern roads in Gujarat to two chief engineers who worked under Congress leader Dinsha Patel.Without naming any BJP leader, Jay Narayan Vyas said he was saddened to leave the party that was his home for 32 years, but said there were two “banyan trees” in the saffron party that did not allow any other leader to grow. Talking about the BJP, he said, “I was seeing that a banyan tree was getting bigger there and you know nothing grows under the banyan tree. One more banyan tree got added to the first one and so if you dismiss the entire Cabinet nothing happens. If Gujarat is being run by such leaders, then I think it is not in the interest of the state.”Vyas’son Sameer told The Indian Express that he was the chairman of APMC Siddhpur from 2011-2016.Describing the Gujarat Assembly elections as “important”, Congress president Kharge said the BJP was indulging in a misinformation campaign against the Congress. “The BJP has got a whiff that the people of Gujarat are siding with the Congress and so national leaders are roaming from one ward to another. The Prime Minister, (Union) Home Minister and several other ministers are giving inflammatory speeches while campaigning in Gujarat,” he added.Kharge also claimed that there were “invisible voters” in Gujarat who will vote for the party in the upcoming elections and make it victorious. The Assembly elections in Gujarat will take place in two phases, on December 1 and 5, while the results will be out on December 8.On October 29, Vyas had met Gehlot in Ahmedabad, creating a buzz in political circles. The 75-year-old leader, who has held portfolios of Narmada and water resources, told The Indian Express then that he sought an appointment with Gehlot “about a month ago” to discuss Rajasthan’s success with the harnessing of Narmada waters and Covid-19 management.Jay Narayan Vyas represented Sidhpur in 1998 and 2007. He lost polls from the same seat in 2002, 2012 and 2017. Having served alongside both Keshubhai Patel and Narendra Modi in Gujarat, he held the health portfolio and was also the chairman of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited.A minister from 2007 to 2012, Vyas was known to be unhappy in the BJP. In June 2021, when he was recuperating after a heart surgery, he tweeted saying he got a call from the BJP headquarters Kamalam to attend a meeting. Following this, he wrote, “…In past if u were slight unwell, senior most party bosses would ask about your health or drop in. I am in a hospital with by pass surgery the entire world knows except the Kamalam kid ! Party has definitely changed!!”

Former BJP minister Jay Narayan Vyas joins Congress days ahead of Gujarat Assembly polls
Baba Ramdev’s comment on women ‘indecent and condemnable’: DCW chairperson Maliwal
The Indian Express | 4 days ago | |
The Indian Express
4 days ago | |

Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chairperson, Swati Maliwal on Sunday condemned the objectionable statement by yoga guru and businessman, Baba Ramdev on women, calling his remarks “indecent.”Maliwal in a tweet said, “The remarks made by Swami Ramdev on women in front of the wife of the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra are indecent and condemnable. All women have been hurt by this statement, Baba Ramdev ji should apologize to the country for this statement!”महाराष्ट्र के उपमुख्यमंत्री जी की पत्नी के सामने स्वामी रामदेव द्वारा महिलाओं पर की गई टिप्पणी अमर्यादित और निंदनीय है। इस बयान से सभी महिलाएँ आहत हुई हैं, बाबा रामदेव जी को इस बयान पर देश से माफ़ी माँगनी चाहिए! pic.twitter.com/1jTvN1SnR7— Swati Maliwal (@SwatiJaiHind) November 26, 2022DCW Chair’s statement comes after Maharashtra State Women Commission on Saturday served a notice to Ramdev asking him to clarify his stand in three days.At a function in Thane on Friday, Ramdev said, “Women look good in sarees, women look good in salwar suits too, and in my eyes, they look good even if they wear nothing.”Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s wife Amruta and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s son and Lok Sabha MP Shrikant Shinde were present at the function.Opposition Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Saturday protested against the objectionable statement made against women by Ramdev. NCP’s women workers garlanded Ramdev’s photo with chappals.Slamming Baba Ramdev, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP, Mahua Moitra reacted sharply over his comments calling his “views lop-sided.”“Now I know why Patanjali baba ran away from Ramlila Maidan in women’s clothes. He says he likes sarees, salwars and …… Clearly got a strabismus in his brain that makes his views so lop-sided,” she said in a tweet.Now I know why Patanjali baba ran away from Ramlila Maidan in women’s clothes. He says he likes sarees, salwars and ……Clearly got a strabismus in his brain that makes his views so lop-sided.— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) November 26, 2022Ramdev hasn’t issued a statement yet, even after the comments have drawn flak from groups and individuals.

Baba Ramdev’s comment on women ‘indecent and condemnable’: DCW chairperson Maliwal
Medha Patkar saga: From Narmada anti-dam movement face to fighter for many causes
The Indian Express | 5 days ago | |
The Indian Express
5 days ago | |

It was in 1985 that Medha Patkar, then just 31, left her PhD midway to jump headlong into the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). Mumbai-born Patkar, the daughter of freedom fighter and labour union leader Vasant Khanolkar, had done her Masters in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and from her early years got involved in several causes involving generally the “oppressed” and poor.However, it was the Narmada agitation, which grew into a protest against big dams and the right of the displaced to rehabilitation, later spreading to other similar projects, that came to define the activist.It also brought her into direct conflict with the Gujarat government, particularly when it was led by Narendra Modi between 2001-14, with Modi staking the development image of his government on the ambitious Sardar Sarovar dam project.Patkar’s appearance at Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra recently, walking shoulder to shoulder with him, was enough for the BJP to drag the activist into the election slugfest.Modi, who remains the face of the BJP campaign, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, have all attacked Patkar during this election, as “anti-Gujarat”, a prime hurdle in the state’s development, and as “urban Naxal”.The Sardar Sarovar dam project on Narmada river for which Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation stone on April 5, 1961, had a full reservoir level (FRL) height of 49.08 metres for harnessing the river for irrigation and power generation in the Narmada basin. In 1965, a higher dam with an FRL of 152.45 metres was recommended by a committee. Madhya Pradesh did not agree to its recommendations, leading to the setting up of the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal in October 1969.This tribunal gave its final award in 1979, fixing the FRL at 138.68 metres, as well as the share of the water and hyrdo power between the riparian states — Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. This award was to neither be changed nor reviewed till 2025. The aim of this dam was to provide water for irrigation in at least 15 districts of Gujarat and some parts of Rajasthan and Maharashtra and to share the hydroelectric generated between Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.The construction of the dam began in 1987, backed by funds from the World Bank. By then, the NBA was already spearheading protests against it. Finally, under immense pressure from anti-dam activists, the World Bank withdrew from the project in 1993. The construction was later halted by the Supreme Court in May 1995.In February 1998, the work on the dam resumed, with its height then at 88 metres. In 2000, the apex court set a condition of supervised relief and rehabilitation for the dam oustees. By 2004, the FRL had reached 110.64 metres. In March 2006, when Modi was about to complete his first term as CM, clearance was given for raising the dam’s height to 121.92 metres. When the Centre sought a review, Modi sat on a hunger strike for 51 hours.In 2014, just 17 days after it took over at the Centre, the Modi government gave permission to raise the dam’s height to its maximum and install sluice gates. In July this year, its waters reached its final Kutch end.While the BJP has always blamed the Congress governments over the years for not releasing funds and hence delaying the Sardar Sarovar Project, under the Modi government, as per figures tabled in the Gujarat Assembly in March 2021, only 64% of the Rs 9,605 crore sought by the state has been released between 2015-16 and 2019-20 for it.Along with other activists, prominent leaders and academicians, the NBA relentlessly fought against the Gujarat government, starting with Congress CM Chimanbhai Patel, over the Sardar Sarovar Project. Its contention was that the tribals’ displacement from their native habitats caused by big dams and their resettlement elsewhere would leave them devastated.At its maximum FRL of 138.68 metres, the Sardar Sarovar dam submerged 37,690 hectares — 11,279 hectares of agricultural land, 13,542 hectares of forests and 12,869 hectares of river basin and wasteland. In all, 193 villages of Madhya Pradesh, 33 of Maharashtra and 19 of Gujarat were affected, with additionally 243 villages partly affected in Gujarat.The NBA demanded proper rehabilitation of 40,000 people who, it said, were displaced by the dam project, particularly tribals across Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.The Patkar-led movement held indefinite fasts, demonstrations and rallies, drawing hundreds of supporters to protests against the Sardar Sarovar dam and other big dams in the Narmada Valley. In the 1980s and 1990s, she also ran foul of the Congress governments in the affected states, with governments accusing her of hampering development.In the 1980s, as part of the movement, Patkar organised a 36-day solidarity march from Madhya Pradesh to the Sardar Sarovar Project site. Patkar’s agitation, along with protests by locals, forced the World Bank to set up Morse Commission, an independent review of the project, which is said to have concluded that it violated environmental and resettlement policies. The World Bank withdrew funding in 1993.Her agitation also saw clashes between the NBA members and the authorities, while drawing support from the late Baba Amte, Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy, film star Aamir Khan, and filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, among others. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, too, participated in a protest rally organised by the NBA in 2016.Patkar undertook many fasts to protest against major dams over the years and also periodically sat on Jal Satyagrahas in the villages that now stand submerged in the Narmada Basin, to oppose oustees’ evacuations.Noted Dalit writer of Maharashtra Arjun Dangle, who closely watched the NBA agitation, said: “Medhatai’s integrity and commitment to the cause of the tribals, oppressed and downtrodden cannot be doubted. She single-mindedly pursued a cause to get justice for the tribals and poor displaced by the dam projects.”Patkar has always maintained that it is wrong to call her or her organisation “anti-development”, asserting that she only fights for the rights of the tribals and people displaced by various projects and never properly rehabilitated.Political parties across divides have also often questioned the source of funds to her organisation. Patkar and 11 others were booked in a case of alleged misuse of funds in Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh, which was filed in July this year. They were accused of allegedly misusing around ₹ 13 crore collected in the name of education of tribal children. Patkar rejected the charges as baseless and “politically-motivated”.Apart from the dam-affected people, Patkar has taken up the cause of slum dwellers in Mumbai under the aegis of Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao, accusing land sharks and big developers of forcibly evicting them. She has also sued contractors by filing PILs against them.It was largely due to her protests that in 2006, the then Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra brought a new housing policy promising affordable houses and slum redevelopment.She was also one of the opponents to the hill station project Lavasa City near Pune for allegedly violating environment laws and taking away land of tribals.In 2007, Patkar for the first time ventured beyond Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, and joined the Nandigram agitation in Kolkata. With the Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee leading the stir, the Tatas eventually relocated the Nano plant for which land had been taken in Nandigram to Gujarat.Patkar was part of the agitation against land acquisition for the nuclear plant at Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh as well.In March 2022, she questioned the Silverline semi-high speed railway corridor project being built in Kerala by the Pinarayi Vijayan government-led LDF government.In her late 60s, Patkar is still fighting, raising her voice against the JSW Steel Project in Odisha as recently as June. However, this time, she did not get any support, with villagers driving her away. In July, an FIR was filed against her by one villager in Odisha alleging that the NBA trust had misused funds meant for education of tribals.Senior CPI leader Prakash Reddy said it was natural for the BJP to attack her. “The party has always sided with the capitalists. Anybody who fights for the poor gets treated badly.”Patkar has been at the centre of the BJP’s attack in its campaign for the upcoming Gujarat Assembly polls, first to target the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for having fielded Patkar in a Lok Sabha election(in 2014 from Mumbai North East seat, which she lost) and recently, to attack the Congress after she joined Rahul Gandhi’s Yatra during its Maharashtra leg. In his Gujarat poll rallies, PM Modi slammed the Congress over Patkar marching with Rahul, asking voters to punish “Narmada protesters”.

Medha Patkar saga: From Narmada anti-dam movement face to fighter for many causes
In BJP push to sweep Gujarat, UP lends a hand
The Indian Express | 5 days ago | |
The Indian Express
5 days ago | |

In December 2002, the Congress, which had governments in several states, had at least six state chief ministers and several national leaders flown into Gujarat to campaign for the Assembly polls.The elections were being held in the backdrop of the Godhra train burning and the riots, followed by the Akshardham terror attack which investigators had said was “revenge” for the riots. Narendra Modi, then the chief minister, had earned the sobriquet of “Hindu Hriday Samrat (ruler of Hindu hearts)”. He led a Gaurav Yatra across the length and breadth of the state, his speech largely targeting the minorities and the Congress’s president of “Italian origin”.The events of that election added up to a “Hindutva wave” leading the BJP to win 127 of 182 seats, its best performance so far. The Congress’s “carpet bombing” of netas — Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot, Maharashtra’s Vilasrao Deshmukh, Karnataka’s SM Krishna, Chhattisgarh’s Ajit Jogi, Madhya Pradesh’s Digvijaya Singh and Delhi’s Sheila Dikshit — created an atmosphere in the party’s favour, but did not help the party return to power. In the two-way contest, the Congress won 51 seats, two going to Independents, and two to the Janata Dal (United).While the BJP’s “carpet bombing” in Gujarat in the past two weeks may resemble the Congress’s 20 years ago, the former has many strategic layers. The new feature in 2022 being the huge number of campaigners brought in from Uttar Pradesh, a state that has had a deep link with Gujarat since the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, and where the BJP won the Assembly election in March riding on the slogan of “double-engine sarkar”.For the first time, an army of at least 160 BJP leaders and workers have landed from Uttar Pradesh to campaign in Gujarat, right from MPs to district-level leaders that UP leaders say is the biggest deployment so far. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath launched his campaign from Wankaner near Morbi on a stage flanked by JCB backhoes, banners describing him as “Hindu Hriday Samrat” and crowds hailing him as “bulldozer baba”. He has now conducted several rallies. While Adityanath aggressively argues in favour of the “Gujarat model” for the country in his speeches, on the ground in Gujarat, it is the UP model playing out. Apart from flower-bedecked backhoes being placed at Adityanath’s rally venues, and the campaign riding on the double-engine Sarkar slogan, the BJP manifesto now has also promised to enact the UP-like Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Properties Act that the state ratified last year.All-star campaigns have been carefully planned out. For instance, Adityanath has addressed rallies in constituencies that the BJP won or lost by narrow margins or seats with a sizable number of Muslim votes. He also did roadshows on seats such as the Patidar-dominated Varachha in Surat and Viramgam in support of candidate Hardik Patel. In Dwarka, where CM Bhupendra Patel and Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi have earned adulations from Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for the demolition of properties last month on Bet Dwarka island — mostly belonging to minorities and seen as a copy-paste of the UP model — Adityanath was almost deified by the BJP candidate Pabubha Manek during the rally. UP Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya has also been holding meetings in areas of Gujarat where migrants from the Hindi heartland have been residing.An MP from Sitapur district who was part of the campaign pointed out how the campaign also covered communities such as house painters. “There are at least 500 families doing colour kaam in Ahmedabad who are from Sitapur,” said the leader. “We don’t want a new front to rise,” said a BJP leader from UP, referring to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).According to Sitapur district president of the Bhajpa Pichhda Varg Morcha (BJP OBC cell), Ramjivan Jaiswal, “From UP, 162 BJP workers have been camping here since September and will be here till the election process concludes.”In 2014, the BJP sent a huge group from Gujarat to Varanasi, mostly Brahmin and Patidar leaders, to reach out to their respective communities and campaign for Modi who was the prime ministerial candidate at the time. Arvind Kejriwal, then having quit as Delhi chief minister after 49 days, contested from the seat but lost to Modi. Former Gujarat MoS (Home) Gordhan Zadaphia was made the party’s UP in-charge in 2018 for the Lok Sabha elections the following year.The MP from Uttar Pradesh recalled how the Gujaratis influenced the UP campaign. “It would be very difficult to cover women in door-to-door campaigns as the women would be in purdah and run indoors when our people came to their homes. But when Gujarati women came, they not only covered them in the campaign, but they also conducted a successful rally of women- which is unprecedented for UP.”Before the blitzkrieg of netas, Zadaphia, who is now the number two in the Gujarat BJP after its president CR Paatil, planned a Gujarat Gaurav Yatra across 144 constituencies across five routes. The one passing the tribal belt, which was also the longest, was called the “Adivasi Gaurav Yatra”. “This yatra was different from the others as it kept the city areas out and unlike the earlier yatra that was led by one leader, this had several national and state leaders,” said Zadaphia.Add to all this Modi’s back-to-back rallies, averaging three a day, with a roadshow weaved in. Modi’s rally on Sunday in Surat’s Patidar area of Varachha, where the AAP is giving a tough fight, will be preceded by a 15-km plus roadshow. Kejriwal is also pumping iron and will hold a townhall meeting in the diamond city the same day. The new fighter has also deployed every weapon in its armoury in Gujarat, as has the BJP its “Brahmastra” — a description Paatil used for Modi over a month ago in a media interaction.As a BJP minister said, “This election is a semi-final of 2024 even for the saamnewala (Opposition).”

In BJP push to sweep Gujarat, UP lends a hand
Baba Ramdev faces heat over his remarks on women
The Indian Express | 5 days ago | |
The Indian Express
5 days ago | |

Taking note of yoga guru and businessman Baba Ramdev’s objectionable statement on women, the Maharashtra State Women Commission on Saturday served a notice to him asking him to clarify his stand in three days.At a function in Thane on Friday, Ramdev said, “Women look good in sarees, women look good in salwar suits too, and in my eyes, they look good even if they wear nothing.”Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s wife Amruta and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s son and Lok Sabha MP Shrikant Shinde were present at the function.“The commission has received a complaint against your comment which was indecent, damaging the honour and dignity of women. A complaint has been received in the commission’s office. Therefore as per Section 12 (2) and 12 (3) of the Maharashtra State Commission for Women, 1993, the commission directs Baba Ramdev to submit the clarification on his statement to the commission office within three days,’’ said state women commission chairperson Rupali Chakankar in her mail to Ramdev.Opposition Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Saturday protested against the objectionable statement made against women by Ramdev. NCP’s women workers garlanded Ramdev’s photo with chappals.Maharashtra Legislative Council Deputy Chairperson Neelam Gorhe condemned the remarks saying it shows his distorted mentality towards women. “While he tells society about moderation and health through yoga, he has such a contaminated attitude towards women, it is very wrong. Not all men look at women this way. A woman comes in contact with many men in her house like brothers, friends, and colleagues in her daily life. But it is a shame that so many men who call themselves gurus in our country have made such indecent comments,’’ she said.Gorhe said that Amruta and other women who were present there should have protested against the comment. Maharashtra Congress leader Sachin Sawant said Ramdev’s real mindset has been exposed by his statement.

Baba Ramdev faces heat over his remarks on women
‘High anti-incumbency in state’: Why PM, Shah making repeated trips to Gujarat, asks Gehlot
The Indian Express | 6 days ago | |
The Indian Express
6 days ago | |

Questioning the “repeated trips” made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to Gujarat, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said he had never seen such high anti-incumbency, as seen in the poll-bound state.Addressing an election meeting in Ahmedabad, the “Prime Minister has left all work in Delhi — which is his main job — and is here in Gujarat. What is the need for him to make repeated trips. Both Prime Minister and (home minister) Amit Shah are camping in the state.”Gehlot was speaking at Dariapur in Ahmedabad where sitting MLA Gyasuddin Sheikh is contesting.“You all are seeing what they are talking about in their speeches,” he said adding that unemployment and inflation were adversely affecting people in Gujarat. “I have never seen such high anti-incumbency, as I am seeing now in Gujarat. People are opposing them. They are not going to their meetings, because they have not done any work in the last five years,” the Rajasthan CM said adding that the BJP was forced to change its entire Cabinet last year.The Rajasthan CM said the anti-incumbency wave is bigger than 2017 elections, when congress fell a few seats short of forming the government in Gujarat. “If Congress wins this election, the Centre and Modji will get a shock. They will realise that they have lost due to high inflation and they will take steps to reduce prices. The entire country will benefit,” Gehlot said.“In Gujarat, Congress MLAs win. Thereafter horse trading happens and they are taken into BJP. This never used to happen earlier. After Modiji became the prime minister, a new model has come in the country, where elected governments are made to fall— Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka. These are dangers for democracy,” he said. Gehlot pointed out how sitting MLAs have rebelled within the BJP. “They blame the Congress, but they are not able to keep their own house in order.”Gehlot also remembered those who died of hooch tragedy in Ahmedabad and the recent bridge collapse tragedy in Morbi.

‘High anti-incumbency in state’: Why PM, Shah making repeated trips to Gujarat, asks Gehlot
Is Governor Koshyari turning into a liability for BJP? Party irked after yet another row
The Indian Express | 6 days ago | |
The Indian Express
6 days ago | |

Bhagat Singh Koshyari was appointed the governor of Maharashtra in September 2019 and since then he has frequently courted controversies, a trait that is turning into a major headache for the BJP.The latest controversy Koshyari finds himself embroiled in has seen even the top BJP leadership in the state distance itself from the governor. Koshyari on November 19 said at a function at Dr BR Ambedkar Marathwada University at Aurangabad that 17th-Century warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji was an icon of the “olden days” and drew parallels with Ambedkar and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, whom he referred to as “icons of modern times”. This sparked a political firestorm, with Opposition parties such as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Congress, and the Uddhav Thackeray-led faction of the Shiv Sena calling for his removal.Aware that any attempt to bail out Koshyari might backfire for the party, BJP leaders refused to get dragged into defending him and hailed Shivaji’s life and legacy. Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis — whose wife Amruta incidentally came out in the governor’s support on Friday — said after the controversy flared up, “As long as the sun and the moon are there, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj will live. If we have to talk in the present context, Shivaji Maharaj is our hero.”Many in the state BJP believe that the Centre should look into the governor’s conduct and worry that if he continues, Opposition parties will always have a stick to beat it with. It has left many in the party exasperated as the state is set to enter a crucial stretch of politicking beginning with the civic body elections and then the all-important Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in 2024.A senior BJP functionary said, “When a person holds a Constitutional post, it is best to avoid controversial remarks. Today, nobody doubts Koshyari’s intention. We are sure he holds Shivaji in the highest regard, or, his comment on Mumbai was not against Marathis. But where was the need to comment at all?”Koshyari and controversiesThis is not the first time Koshyari has found himself in the middle of a raging controversy.In July, he rubbed people the wrong way saying, “If Gujaratis and Rajasthanis had left Mumbai there would have been no money left.” Though he apologised for his comments later, the damage was done. Mumbai was the bone of contention during the creation of Maharashtra and Gujarat and to keep the city in Maharashtra, the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement was launched in the 1950s. Almost 105 people were martyred during the struggle.In March, Koshyari drew flak after commenting on the marriage of iconic social reformers Savtribai Phule and Jyotiba Phule. “Savitribai was married off when she was 10 years old. Her husband Jyotiba was 13 years age. Imagine what the boy and girl would have been doing after marriage. What would they have been thinking?”The month before, while trying to explain the significance of gurus in the lives of their disciples, Koshyari made another comment about Shivaji that infuriated people. He said that without philosopher-poet Samarth Ramdas no one would have known Shivaji. “Who would have known about Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had there not been for his guru Samarth (Ramdas)?”Following the latest controversy, former BJP MP Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje, who is a descendant of Shivaji, said, “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is a legend. He is the guiding force and inspiration for past, present and future.”The BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Udayanraje Bhosale from the royal clan of Satara said he had written to PM Narendra Modi and President Droupadi Murmu, asking them to recall Koshiyari. Bhosale, who is the 13th direct descendant of Shivaji, has threatened to “take action” if action is not taken against Koshyari by November 28.

Is Governor Koshyari turning into a liability for BJP? Party irked after yet another row
As Bommai and Fadnavis breathe fire-and-brimstone on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute, both know it’s all for the gallery
The Indian Express | 6 days ago | |
The Indian Express
6 days ago | |

IT IS an issue in which the BJP’s much-vaunted “Double Engine Sarkar” claim falls flat, spectacularly. The decades-old Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute that has turned into a battle of nerves between the Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj S Bommai and the Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, both of the BJP, is unlikely to be resolved soon. No wonder then, that the BJP government at the Centre has refrained from taking any position, leaving the leaders of two neighbouring states to address the problem within the legal framework in the Supreme Court.The bone of contention between the neighbouring states is rooted in their carving out along linguistic lines via the State Reorganisation Act, 1956. While the dispute recurs periodically, with political outfits on both sides of the border exploiting parochial sentiments for electoral gain, its impact on the people remains suspect. Both governments maintain a cordial relationship, despite the differences.This time, the border row hit the headlines quite unexpectedly. On Monday, Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde convened a meeting to discuss the topic, and appointed two senior ministers Chandrakant Patil of the BJP and Shambhuraj Desai of the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena to pursue it legally. He also announced pensions for freedom fighters living in areas claimed by Maharashtra on the Karnataka side of the border, and extended to them healthcare cover under the state’s Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya scheme.It seemed to be routine virtue-signalling, in response to the December 2019 decision by previous CM Uddhav Thackeray, who had deputed Chhagan Bhujbal and Eknath Shinde—then senior ministers in the MVA—to expedite a solution. But the very next day, the Karnataka CM said in Bengaluru that his government was seriously thinking of claiming Jatta taluka in Sangli district of Maharashtra as part of Karnataka, and announced grants to Kannada schools in Maharashtra. A day later, he laid claim to border villages in Solapur district of Maharashtra.Predictably, it reignited the festering issue. Fadnavis responded by pronouncing he will fight tooth-and-nail to safeguard the state’s territory. “We’ll not let a single village from Maharashtra to go to Karnataka,” he said, acting tough, and added, “We’ll legally fight to get back 865 Marathi-speaking villages along the border, including Carver, Nippani and Belgavi (earlier: Belgaum).”Such “tu tu main main” is not new. Irrespective of parties in power in the state and the Centre, both sides have often crossed swords on the topic. That has never stopped local opposition party units from taking advantage to stay in the headlines. Predictably, the Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), which constitute the Maharashtra opposition coalition Maha Vikas Aghadi, seized the opportunity, with the Centre, Maharashtra and Karnataka all being ruled by the BJP.A Congress-NCP coalition government in Maharashtra has, in the past, faced a similar dilemma, after the UPA government at the Centre refused to take Maharashtra’s side in court. In 2010, the Centre, in its affidavit to the Supreme Court, had stated, “The transfer of certain areas to then Mysore (now Karnataka) was neither arbitrary nor wrong,” adding, “Both Parliament and Union government had considered all relevant factors while considering the State Reorganisation Bill, 1956, and the Bombay Reorganisation Bill, 1960.” Calling the Centre’s position as injustice to Maharashtra, the Maharashtra government had then decided to challenge the decision.With the dispute back on centrestage, Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray has warned, “Anybody trying to claim Maharashtra villages will be dealt with an iron hand. The Marathi manoos will show its power.” Similar sentiments were echoed by leaders of its MVA coalition partners, the Congress and NCP. Maharashtra Pradesh Congress chief Nana Patole said, “The Centre is under BJP. It should intervene and give justice to Maharashtra. Those at the helm in the state should put pressure on the Centre to resolve the issue.”Each party is taking a hardline stand as part of their tactic of scoring brownie points. But they all know their limitations in the scheme of things. There is no easy solution to the problem, which even violent agitations since the creation of Maharashtra on May 1, 1960 have managed to resolve. But the periodic virtue-signalling continues. After Fadnavis said, “We won’t compromise on our stand of claiming 865 villages, along with Belgavi, Nippani and Carvar,” Bommai responded, “Karnataka has the right to claim Kannada-speaking villages in Solapur and Sangli districts of Maharashtra.”On October 25, 1966, the Centre constituted the Mahajan Commission, headed by the then Supreme Court Chief Justice Meher Chand Mahajan, at the insistence of Maharashtra. While rejecting Maharashtra’s claim over Belgavi, the Commission recommended 247 villages/places, including Jatt, Akkalkote and Solapur, to be made part of Karnataka. It also declared 264 villages/places, including Nippani, Khanapur and Nandagad, to be made part of Maharashtra. Several attempts were subsequently made to resolve the row, but in vain.On March 2006, the Maharashtra government filed a petition in the Supreme Court, staking claim over the Marathi-speaking villages in Karnataka, which vehemently contested the case in court, changed the name from the Marathi Belgaum to the Kannada Belgavi, and made it the state’s second capital.Thankfully, after six decades of intermittent disputes, people on both sides seem to have realised that these disputes will have to be resolved legally. Fadnavis later conceded as much, “There is no enmity between the states. We only want to solve the issue legally and reclaim our rights.”

As Bommai and Fadnavis breathe fire-and-brimstone on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute, both know it’s all for the gallery