Maharashtra Election News

‘Chunavi Hindu’ says BJP, but Rahul Gandhi is climbing steps one temple at a time in his Yatra
The Indian Express | 2 hours ago | |
The Indian Express
2 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 | 5 hours ago | |
The Indian Express
5 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
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
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 | 3 days ago | |
The Indian Express
3 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
Medha Patkar saga: From Narmada anti-dam movement face to fighter for many causes
The Indian Express | 4 days ago | |
The Indian Express
4 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 | 4 days ago | |
The Indian Express
4 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
Has Shinde taken all his Sena leaders to pray to Goddess Kamakhya, or is it a team building exercise before civic polls?
The Indian Express | 5 days ago | |
The Indian Express
5 days ago | |

Almost 150 days after he led a group of Shiv Sena MLAs to Guwahati by launching a rebellion against the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena that resulted in the collapse of the Thackeray led MVA government, Eknath Shinde, now Chief Minister of Maharashtra, along with 45 MLAs, 12 MPs, several corporators, office bearers and other leaders of his faction of the Sena, reached Guwahati, the capital of Assam, on Saturday, officially to pay a visit to the renowned Kamakhya Devi temple and “thank the goddess for her blessings”.The Kamakhya Devi temple in Guwahati is one of the oldest temples in the country. It is also one of 51 Shakti Peethas of Goddess Durga, and is home to ten Mahavidyas. The Kamakhya goddess is considered the goddess of desire. It’s also said to celebrate the tantrik sect of Hinduism, which attracts many faithful to the temple.Shinde had earlier visited the temple in June-end, during his stay at a five star hotel in Guwahati along with rebel Sena MLAs and independent legislators who had pledged to support him. At that time, he had vowed to return to the temple to “express gratitude to the goddess for blessing them and fulfilling their vow of forming the government”.A lot has changed between then and now. From leading a rebellion to becoming the Maharashtra CM and launching the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena by engineering a vertical split in the party, and finally, staking a claim over Sena-founder Balasaheb Thackeray’s legacy, Eknath Shinde has come a long way.When he was leaving Guwahati in June, he had the support of 37 rebel Sena MLAs. With two thirds of the total Sena MLAs, he had more than the numbers required to buck the anti-defection law, but was unsure of getting the support of grassroots Sena workers and other leaders, and of their fate, once they had returned to Mumbai for the mandatory floor test.But between then and now, Shinde has successfully formed a government with the support of the 110 MLAs of the BJP, and has managed to strengthen his faction of the Shiv Sena by structuring his party, opening shakhas and party offices in the state and forming the national executive of his party.He is now fighting with the Uddhav-led Sena on even footing at every platform, be it in the courts, at the Election Commision and in the state by claiming his faction to be the real Shiv Sena that is following the path of Bal Thackeray and his idea of Hindutva.In fact, it’s the Uddhav-led Sena that’s now faced with an existential challenge.Apart from 40 out of the undivided Sena’s 55 MLAs, Shinde has now garnered support of 13 out of 19 Sena MPs, and has been recognised as the authentic Sena in the state legislature and the Parliament.Since the rebellion, not only have party MPs and MLAs switched sides, but so also have hundreds of sitting and former Sena corporators in over a dozen corporations/civic bodies across the state, along with their supporters.Apart from the elected representatives of the Sena, several senior party leaders, former MPs and MLAs, and even current office-bearers — from district presidents to Shakha Pramukhs of several districts and talukas across Maharashtra — have now joined Shinde.Out of the 42 Shiv Sena district presidents, 13 have pledged support to the Shinde camp, along with the taluka pramukhs and other office bearers, which shows that Shinde has managed to gather the support of not only elected representatives of the party, but also of it’s office bearers and cadre, which is crucial, considering electoral politics in the state.The large numbers of office bearers and cadre who joined Shinde have made his party stronger and has put the Uddhav-led Sena in trouble, at a time when Shinde has also staked its claim over the control of the entire party and its “bow and arrow” symbol before the Election Commision of India, citing the recognition granted to his faction in the Lok Sabha as well as the Maharashtra Assembly.Following Shinde’s claim, the question of who controls the real Shiv Sena has reached to the doors of the EC. As a result, the EC froze the “Shiv Sena” name symbol in October, which is why Uddhav’s faction is back to the Sena’s three-decades old symbol of bow and arrow now.In the interim, the EC has allotted a fresh symbol, a torchlight, and the name Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) to Uddhav’s faction, and two swords and a shield as symbol for the Shinde Sena, with party name Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena.While the Shinde faction is claiming the Guwahati visit is to thank the goddess and fulfill the vow they had made while leaving Guwahati to form the government in the state, it does come at a time when there are speculations of unrest between Shinde’s MLAs and the BJP, with predictions of a midterm election being made by the Opposition MVA parties.“The visit to Guwahati also comes at a time when the civic body elections in the state and BMC polls in Mumbai are around the corner. Shinde is trying to unite his leaders to win the forthcoming polls, to ensure that there’s no friction in the party,” a political analyst said, adding that though Shinde has been successful in keeping all the MLAs and MPs together so far, their real test would be during the civic body elections in Mumbai and other districts.

Has Shinde taken all his Sena leaders to pray to Goddess Kamakhya, or is it a team building exercise before civic polls?
UPSC Weekly Quiz— November 20 to 26, 2022
The Indian Express | 5 days ago | |
The Indian Express
5 days ago | |

UPSC Weekly Quiz is a current affairs-based quiz on some relevant topics from the past week curated for the benefit of aspirants of UPSC and other competitive examinations. Attempt weekly quiz every Saturday and find answers to the MCQs with explanation at the end of the article.With reference to the Constitution of India, consider the following statements1. Since 1950, Nov 26 is observed as Constitution Day, or ‘Samvidhan Diwas’.2. The Constitution of India was adopted on January 26, 1950.Which of the statements is/are incorrect?a) Only 1b) Only 2c) Both 1 and 2d) Neither 1 nor 2With reference to the Election Commission of India, consider the following statements1. From the beginning, the Election Commission of India was a multi-member body.2. Article 324(2) of the Constitution fixes the size of the Election Commission.3. The Chief Election Commissioners and other Election Comissioners enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as judges of the Supreme Court of India.How many statements mentioned above are correct?a) Only one statement is correctb) Only two statements are correctc) All three statements are correctd) None of the statements are correctWith reference to ‘Writing off a loan’, consider the following statements1. Writing off a loan essentially means it will no longer be counted as an asset.2. The bank writes off a loan after the borrower has defaulted on the loan repayment and there is a very low chance of recovery.3. By writing off loans, a bank can reduce the level of non-performing assets (NPAs) on its books.4. An additional benefit is that the amount so written off reduces the bank’s tax liability.How many statements mentioned above are correct?a) Only two statements are correctb) Only three statements are correctc) None of the statements are correctd) All the statements are correctRecently seen in the news, Purnima Devi Barman isa) a Guinness world record holding mountaineerb) a classical dancerc) a wildlife biologistd) a world renowned economistWith reference to the CITES, consider the following statements1. India joined Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES)  in 1976.2. The ivory trade was banned in 1989 in African continent only when all African elephant populations were put in CITES Appendix I.3. No trade is allowed in species listed in CITES Appendix I while trade is strictly regulated in those under Appendix II.Which of the statements given above is/are correct ?a) 1 and 2 onlyb) 1 and 3 onlyc) 2 onlyd) 1,2 and 3With reference to Tipu Sultan, consider the following statements1. Tipu patronised various temples and Hindu shrines, including the Sri Ranganatha temple at Srirangapatna and the Math in Sringeri.2. He introduced new coins, started a new land revenue system in Mysore, as well as introduced sericulture, which continues to employ many Kannadigas to date. Which of the statements given above is/are correct ?a) Only 1b) Only 2c) Neither 1 nor 2d) Both 1 and 2With reference to the Great Nicobar, consider the following statements1. Great Nicobar is the southernmost of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.2. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a cluster of about 836 islands in the eastern Bay of Bengal, the two groups of which are separated by the 150-km wide 11 Degree Channel. 3. Great Nicobar islands are home to 2 mongoloid tribes – Shompen and Nicobarese.4. Galathea National Park and Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park are the national parks situated in Nicobar islands.Which of the statements given above is/are correct ?a) 1 and 2 onlyb) 1 and 3 onlyc) 1 and 4d) 1,2,3 and 4Consider the following statements regarding the planet Venus1. Presently, large fields of solidified volcanic rock cover most of the planet’s total surface area. 2. The discovery of Phosphine gas on Venus is a potential sign of life on the glittering planet Which of the following statements are correct?a) Both 1 and 2b) 1 onlyc) 2 onlyd) Neither 1 nor 21 (c)Both statements are incorrect.Make sure you have paid attention to the word ‘incorrect’. Know the difference ‘adopted’ and ‘came to effect’.FYI:On November 26, 73 years ago, the Constitution of India was adopted, coming into effect on January 26, 1950. Since 2015, the day has been observed as Constitution Day, or ‘Samvidhan Diwas’.The Constituent Assembly took two years, 11 months and 17 days to draft the Constitution for Independent India. During this period, it held 11 sessions covering 165 days, and its members submitted around 7,600 amendments to the draft Constitution.2 (a)Only one (statement 3) is correct.FYI:Appointment of Chief Election Commissioner, Election CommissionersThe CEC and ECs are appointed by the President to a tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as judges of the Supreme Court of India.The Election Commission of India draws its authority from the Constitution itself. Under Article 324, the powers of “superintendence, direction and control of elections” is to be vested in an Election Commission.Size of the Election CommissionThe Constitution does not fix the size of the Election Commission. Article 324(2) says that “the Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix”.From the beginning, the Election Commission of India consisted of just the Chief Election Commissioner. However, on October 16, 1989, the Congress government of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi appointed two more Election Commissioners, making the Election Commission a multi-member body.The appointments were done just before the commencement of the Ninth General Election, and were criticized as being an attempt to compromise the independence of the Election Commission and of CEC RVS Peri Sastri.On January 2, 1990, the National Front government of Prime Minister VP Singh amended the rules, making the EC a single-member body again.However, on October 1, 1993, the government of Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao promulgated an Ordinance to provide for the appointment of two more Election Commissioners.The EC has had three members ever since. The Ordinance was subsequently replaced by The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service) Amendment Act, 1993, which came into effect on January 4, 1994.All three ECs have equal say in the decision making of the Commission.3 (d)All three statements are correct.FYI:Banks wrote off more than Rs 10 lakh crore in loans over the last five years, according to RBI data obtained by The Indian Express under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. They have been able to recover only 13% (Rs 1,32,036 crore) of the Rs 10,09,510 crore ($123.86 billion) they wrote off, according to the reply.While public sector banks reported the lion’s share of write-offs at Rs 734,738 crore, private sector banks were not far behind in bringing down their non-performing assets (NPAs). Private banks accounted for 27.28 per cent of the total banking sector write-offs over the last five years, the RBI’s reply shows.What is a loan write-off?Writing off a loan essentially means it will no longer be counted as an asset. By writing off loans, a bank can reduce the level of non-performing assets (NPAs) on its books. An additional benefit is that the amount so written off reduces the bank’s tax liability.Why do banks resort to write-offs?The bank writes off a loan after the borrower has defaulted on the loan repayment and there is a very low chance of recovery. The lender then moves the defaulted loan, or NPA, out of the assets side and reports the amount as a loss.After the write-off, banks are supposed to continue their efforts to recover the loan using various options. They have to make provisioning as well. The tax liability will also come down as the written-off amount is reduced from the profit.However, the chances of recovery from written-off loans are very low — as the RTI reply shows — which raises questions about the assets or collateral against which the banks lent funds to these defaulters.4 (c)FYI:Indian wildlife biologist Dr Purnima Devi Barman was recently awarded with Champions of the Earth award in the Entrepreneurial vision category , UN’s highest environmental honour. She is the founder of the Hargila Army and senior project manager of the Avifauna Research and Conservation Division, Aaranyak.The Champions of the Earth is an appreciation for innovative ways implemented by the awardees across the world to support nature’s extraordinary capacity for renewal.5 (b)Read the second statement carefully. It just requires your presence of mind.FYI:For the first time since joining the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) in 1976, India did not vote against a proposal seeking to re-open the ivory trade.The ivory trade was globally banned in 1989 when all African elephant populations were put in CITES Appendix I.No trade is allowed in species listed in CITES Appendix I while trade is strictly regulated in those under Appendix II.6 (d)FYI:Tipu was adept in the art of warfare, having been involved in his first battle at the age of 15.Tipu also patronised various temples and Hindu shrines, including the Sri Ranganatha temple at Srirangapatna and the Math in Sringeri.He introduced new coins, started a new land revenue system in Mysore, as well as introduced sericulture, which continues to employ many Kannadigas to date.7 (b)Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park is a national park of India on the Andaman Islands.FYI:Great Nicobar, the southernmost of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, has an area of 910 sq km.The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a cluster of about 836 islands in the eastern Bay of Bengal, the two groups of which are separated by the 150-km wide Ten Degree Channel.Great Nicobar is home to two national parks, a biosphere reserve, and the Shompen and Nicobarese tribal peoples, along with ex-servicemen from Punjab, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh who were settled on the island in the 1970s.The project site is outside the eco-sensitive zones of Campbell Bay and Galathea National Park.8 (a)Both statements are correct.FYI:Volcanism may be responsible for changing ancient Venus’ wet and temperate climate to the acidic planet that we know today, according to a research paper by NASA. The paper notes that large-scale volcanism usually lasts tens or hundreds of thousands of years. Over time, they spew somewhere around 100,000 cubic miles of volcanic rock on the surface. For a quick reference, this amount of molten rock is enough to cover the whole of Texas half a mile deep. Presently, large fields of solidified volcanic rock cover more than 80 per cent of the planet’s total surface area.The discovery of Phosphine gas on Venus as a potential sign of life on the glittering planet has made many scientists and astronomers ecstatic, but on the contrary to it, a significant question arises whether we are alone in this solar system or is there any form of life substantially existing elsewhere.Phosphine gas is generally toxic with a garlic-like smell and is found in the bodies of living beings on earth. It is quite impossible to produce artificially. Its hazardous ramifications are such that, it’s used by terrorists as a chemical agent in warfare.

UPSC Weekly Quiz— November 20 to 26, 2022
‘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
AAP like Siberian birds that migrate when election comes, says Fadnavis
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday called Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) “Siberian birds” that “migrate when election comes and return when its over” and termed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra a “Modi Virodhiyon Jodo Yatra”. Speaking at a political rally in Sabarkantha’s Bayad, Fadnavis said, “Do you know all these people of AAP are like Siberian birds? In Siberia, during extreme cold weather, the birds when they do not find anyting to eat, they fly to Mumbai and Surat, stay there for 2-3 months and when then cold weather ends fly back from Surat and Mumbai. AAP are like these Siberian birds that migrate when election comes and return when its over”.He further called them “liars” and as someone who would “dance in anyone”s marriage”. “Also, as you know there are some people in each village who start dancing in anybody’s marriage the moment band starts playing. Such are these people. Their habit is lying. After lying throughout the day they sit at night to evaluate their lies of the day and plan lies for the next day,” the BJP leader added.Accusing AAP to have deteriorated the law and order situation in Punjab, he said, “In Punjab, people are innocent, they believed in their revdi promises and elected them. But they are regretting it now. People are murdered in broad daylight, looted, such a bad law and order system that Punjab never witnessed.”Seeking support and vote for BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Fadnavis said that when the “son of Gujarat is taking care of the entire country then the entire Gujarat should back him” as today “national and world forces are dreaming on how to defeat Modi”. “Yuvraj came here, you know who is Yuvraj, I don’t call him Pappu but Yuvraj and what he speake I don’t understand that. At a time when there is election in Gujarat he is carrying out Bharat Jodo Yatra, he is roaming somehwere else. He comes for a day because he knows there is no point in coming to Gujarat. The seat where he addresses that seat is lost. The Bharat Jodo Yatra what Yuvraj ji started is not Bharat Jodo Yatra but Opposition Jodo Yatra,” he added referring to Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra.“Through Modi Virodhiyon Jodo Yatra they try to create an identity by coming together but no matter they try…,” Fadnavis added. Meanwhile, speaking at a rally in Ahmedabad’s Maninagar constituency, Fadnavis added, “This time such would be an immersion (visarjan) for Congress that it must not have ever thought. Rahul Gandhi is well aware about that and that is the reason he has vanished from Gujarat after one rally.”Fadnavis also reacted to Rahul’s remarks about Hindutva ideologue V D Savarkar. “He is abusing Savarkarji. He is saying that he is not Savarkar but mafiveer. He is not a freedom fighter but mafiveer… You should be ashamed. The person who took all the suffering in Andaman’s prison, Rahul Gandhi you will not understand his sacrifice.” Last week, Rahul questioned Savarkar’s nationalism by citing from a letter in which he had sought mercy from the British.Fadnavis added that the Congress has always humiliated Subhash Chandra Bose and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

AAP like Siberian birds that migrate when election comes, says Fadnavis
No action against ‘real culprits’ of bridge crash as they are linked to BJP: Rahul
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday said no action has been taken against the “real culprits” behind the last month’s collapse of a suspension bridge in Gujarat’s Morbi town, where 135 people were killed, because they share a “good relationship” with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).Addressing an election rally in Rajkot, his second in the day, he said while watchmen (posted at the accident site) were arrested and jailed, no action was taken against the real culprits.“When journalists asked me what I think about the Morbi tragedy… I said around 150 people died and this is not a political issue and so I would say nothing on this. But the question arises today as to why no action was taken against those who were behind this (tragedy), why no FIR (has been filed against them)?” he asked.“Will nothing happen to them because they share a good relationship with the BJP? They arrested chowkidars (watchmen) and put them behind bars, but no action has been taken against the real culprits,” the Congress MP alleged.Gandhi said he is feeling sad the Bharat Jodo Yatra of the Congress is not passing through Gujarat, where Assembly polls will be held on December 1 and 5.The Congress MP took a break from the 3,570km cross-country foot-march, which started from Tamil Nadu on September 7 and is currently passing through adjoining Maharashtra, and addressed two election rallies in support of his party candidates in Gujarat.

No action against ‘real culprits’ of bridge crash as they are linked to BJP: Rahul
Modi again hits out at Congress over Medha Patkar joining Rahul rally, says ‘punish Narmada protesters’
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Addressing a public rally in Surendranagar, which votes on December 1 in the two-phase Gujarat Assembly polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday lashed out at the Congress again over Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar joining Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in Maharashtra and asked voters to punish “Narmada protesters”.“This time too, neither Modi nor Bhupendra (CM Bhupendrabhai Patel) are contesting the elections but it is Gujarat’s people, Gujarat’s mothers and sisters. Today in Surendranagar district, it is natural to remember Maa Narmada. I would visit Surendranagar for the Narmada Yojana several times as Surendranagar district would benefit the most. But think about those who have been removed from pad (position) by Indians. Such people are doing a yatra for pad (position) now,” the PM said.“In democracy they can do a yatra for pad, but those who kept Gujarat thirsty, those who stopped Maa Narmada from entering Gujarat, stalled the project for 40 years with court cases, with such Narmada protesters, walking with their hand on their shoulders and doing a padyatra, Gujarat people will punish you,” Modi said at Dhrangadhra in Surendranagar district.On November 20 too, speaking at Dhoraji in Rajkot district, Modi targeted the Opposition party and hit out at its MP Rahul Gandhi for marching with Patkar in the Yatra.Modi said that for Surendranagar, the district that had longed for water, where tanker mafias were flourishing in collusion with the government, where photos of Surendranagar people in dire need of water would be published in newspapers, this election “should be to punish Narmada protesters”.The ruling BJP has been critical of Patkar’s campaign against the Sardar Sarovar Dam, which was inaugurated in 2017 even as she spearheaded the Narmada Bachao Aandolan.Modi accused the Congress of calling him names instead of talking about development.“Shouldn’t development be talked about in the elections? Who did how much work? Did water and electricity reach or not? We are ready to give hisab but the Congress knows that if it raises this issue, the BJP will counter as the party has a tremendous record of work completed. So they do not talk about development. The Congress says Modi ko uski aukat dikha denge. Look at their ahankar (ego). You all are from royal families but I am from a normal family. I have no aukat. I am a sevak and sevadaar; sevak and sevadaar have no aukat. You called me neechi jati, neechpan. You called me maut ka saudagar, gandi nali ka keeda. You called me all and now you have come to show me my aukat. I have no aukat and please talk about development and come in the contest to make Gujarat a developed Gujarat and leave ‘showing aukat’ games,” the prime minister tore into the Congress.Modi said he had another wish to be fulfilled in this election: every polling booth should record 100 per cent voting and the BJP should not be left behind even in a single booth.The votes will be counted on December 8.

Modi again hits out at Congress over Medha Patkar joining Rahul rally, says ‘punish Narmada protesters’
Congress counters PM Modi: ‘Why is Medha Patkar poll issue?’
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Gujarat Congress leaders on Sunday shrugged off suggestions about a negative fallout of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s criticism of the party and its former president Rahul Gandhi for being seen along with activist Medha Patkar at the Bharat Jodo Yatra the day before in Maharashtra. The party claimed the PM’s comments were part of the BJP’s “diversionary tactic”.Modi hit out at Gandhi and Patkar at an election rally in the town of Dhoraji in Rajkot district on Sunday. For the BJP, Patkar is not just the face of the agitation against the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada — a pet project of Modi as chief minister and PM — but also one of the figures who led protests against the 2002 riots.“A Congress leader placed his arms around the shoulder of a ben (sister) who led the agitation (against the Sardar Sarovar Dam),” Modi said at the rally, asking the audience to question the Congress about this when they seek votes. Modi’s remarks came a day ahead of Rahul’s scheduled rally in Rajkot.On Saturday, tagging pictures showing Gandhi with Patkar at the Yatra, Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel said on Twitter, “Congress and Rahul Gandhi have time and again shown their animosity towards Gujarat and Gujaratis. By giving Medha Patkar a central place in his Yatra, Rahul Gandhi shows that he stands with those elements who denied water to Gujaratis for decades. Gujarat will not tolerate this.” In August, Patel attacked the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) over what it termed as the party’s continued association with Patkar and called the activist an “Urban Naxal”.But, Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee president Jagdish Thakor said the PM’s comments would have “no impact” on the outcome of the election. “(If they ask us about Patkar) we have a thousand questions to ask them (BJP). Did he (Rahul) join her yatra? Anybody is free to join the (Bharat Jodo) Yatra. People have seen through them … you make an issue of a non-issue. I tell you, if you make a mistake and say sorry, people will accept. This is not the Congress saying, people’s experience of the government has been such that they are now tired (of the BJP). For 27 years you have been saying the same thing. I don’t think this is going to have any impact.”“Who built the dam?” asked All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in charge of Gujarat Raghu Sharma, referring to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.He also said Modi’s criticism on the matter was not an election issue. “When she (Patkar) was doing the agitation, it was (former chief minister) Chimanbhai Patel and his wife (Urmila) who stopped her from entering Gujarat. Where was the BJP then? Before starting his Yatra, Rahulji talked to all NGOs … Mahatma Gandhi’s great-grandson also joined the Yatra. Why is Modi not talking about that?”Playing down any political impact of Modi’s attack, Sharma said, “It is his (Modi’s) habit to divert from the main issue. There is an atmosphere of fear … Why is he not talking about the three lakh people who died of Covid because of the unavailability of healthcare? Why is he not talking about drug trafficking? The fact that Gujarat is a dry state, but illegal liquor is available through home delivery. These are the issues that should come up. Let him (Modi) talk about unemployment, about the economy.”Asking why Gandhi walking with Patkar was an election issue for the BJP, Sharma went on to say, “Every time they deviate … they are in search of issues. People are tired of this bhashan (lecture). Where is the roadmap for education and health infrastructure? Is he even talking about implementing the old pension scheme as the Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh governments have done? This is for the social security of a person who gave 35 years to the government.”

Congress counters PM Modi: ‘Why is Medha Patkar poll issue?’
Inquiry ordered into alleged voter data theft after apprehension of impersonation: K’taka CEO
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

In the midst of Congress party’s allegations of voter data theft, Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka Manoj Kumar Meena said the inquiry was ordered following apprehension of impersonation by an NGO during the ‘voter awareness drive’.“The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) commissioner had some information. We have the apprehension that there is impersonation and it has to be inquired. Ultimately, after the police investigation and our Divisional Commissioner inquiry, we will come to know what is there in it,” Meena told PTI.The Congress in Karnataka has alleged that the Chilume Educational Cultural and Rural Development Institute (‘Chilume Trust’) hired many private people who were given fake identity cards impersonating Booth Level Officers (BLOs) of BBMP.The opposition party alleged that the private trust, which was assigned by the Bengaluru civic agency to spread awareness among voters, collected details of the voters such as name, mother tongue, gender, religion, caste, voter ID number and the Aadhaar number.Meena declined to comment on the complaint by the Congress with the State Election Commission regarding the voter data theft.He said the reason behind the suspected impersonation will come out only after the probe.“Let’s wait for the inquiry. If I comment anything, it will compromise the inquiry. We will not say about the merit of the complaint. The regional commissioner is entrusted with the inquiry. Let the truth come out. Then we will take action as per the recommendation,” the CEO said.The Congress alleged that the Chilume Trust also fed the information collected from voters into its private app.To a question whether his office would revisit the deletion of 6.73 lakh names from the electoral roll in Bengaluru following the “revelation”, he said addition and deletion are a regular process and there was no need to revisit it again.According to Meena, in the city 6.73 lakh names were deleted and about three lakh new names added to the electoral roll.He added that the Election Commission of India carried out a major exercise to find out “photo-similar” entries in the electoral roll using a software in the country.Using the software, 16 lakh entries were deleted from the electoral roll from across Karnataka including 6.73 lakh from Bengaluru after the verification by the BLOs.According to him, about one crore such entries were deleted including around 15 lakh in Tamil Nadu and 14 lakh in Maharashtra.On the Congress’ charge that the directors of the Chilume trust, which is in the middle of the controversy, have not been named in the FIR, Meena said the NGO has been mentioned in it, which itself means that those heading the organisations have been named.The BBMP had given permission to the Chilume Trust to conduct ‘Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP), a voter awareness drive by the Election Commission, in Karnataka, where Assembly elections are due next year.BBMP said last week that the Trust violated the conditions of the permission and asked the public not to share any voter details with representatives of the NGO.

Inquiry ordered into alleged voter data theft after apprehension of impersonation: K’taka CEO
Gujarat polls: Rahul Gandhi to hold two rallies Monday, party hopes for wind in its sails
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

He had refrained from campaigning in Himachal Pradesh, leaving the task of leading the party’s election efforts to his sister and AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. But with a perception gaining ground that the Congress campaign is not taking off in Gujarat, and that the Aam Aadmi Party is far ahead in the optics and narrative game, Rahul Gandhi will address two rallies in Gujarat next week – his first such political engagement since the Bharat Jodo Yatra began on September 7.Rahul will address two rallies — one in Surat and the other in Rajkot — on November 21. The Bharat Jodo Yatra has a rest day on November 21 as well as November 22.Rahul was in Gujarat last in the first week of September — just two days before he began his cross-country march from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. Rahul has not campaigned in the state so far this election. This has been surprising for party supporters since he had led an energetic campaign in 2017, powering the Congress to 77 seats (its highest since 1985) and stopping the BJP from reaching the 100 mark..In Surat, an industrial hub in south Gujarat where the Congress could not make any inroads in 2017 despite the anti-GST protests, the expected impact of demonetisation and Rahul’s aggressive campaigning, the Congress will address a rally in the tribal seat of Mahuva.Although the BJP had won in Surat and adjoining areas in 2017, the Congress had performed well in the Scheduled Tribe belts in south Gujarat and elsewhere.Overall, the party had won 17 of the 27 constituencies reserved for STs in the last elections. Fourteen of these constituencies are in south Gujarat.The party hopes to better its tally this time, but the feedback from the ground is worrying. With Rahul addressing a rally in Mahuva, the party hopes that it will have an impact in nearby reserved constituencies like Vyara, Nizar, Valsad, Kaprada and Dangs. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the BJP’s campaign from Kaprada in Valsad on November 6.Party leaders claim the Gandhis still retain much goodwill among the tribals and it was important that a member of the family visit a reserved constituency to send a message to the tribals, who form 14% of the electorate.AAP too is eyeing the tribal vote and Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal has held three rallies in tribal districts.The Congress is said to be also keen that Priyanka campaign in the state and address a couple of rallies in the tribal region.Apart from Surat, Rahul will address a public meeting in Rajkot, a BJP bastion which is at the centre of the Saurashtra region. Although the party faced a rout in the Rajkot district in 2017, it had, yet again, performed better than expected in the Saurashtra region, winning 28 seats, up from 15 it held earlier.The BJP has been winning all the three Assembly seats in Rajkot for a long time. It was from Rajkot West that Modi had contested his maiden election in 2001, to enter the Gujarat Assembly. Vijay Rupani too had won a bypoll to Rajkot West in 2014 before becoming a minister and subsequently Chief Minister in 2016.AAP too had set its sights on Rajkot. But the departure of Indranil Rajyaguru, who had quit the Congress to join it earlier this year, is expected to dent its chances. Rajyaguru is back in the Congress now and is the party’s nominee from Rajkot East, a seat he has won before.Sources in the party said Rahul is likely to return to Gujarat towards the end of the month to campaign for seats which go to polls in the second phase of the elections. He is expected to address two rallies in North and Central Gujarat.

Gujarat polls: Rahul Gandhi to hold two rallies Monday, party hopes for wind in its sails
Youth Cong withdraws from hosting Shashi Tharoor in Kerala event
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

In a curious political development, the Youth Congress has withdrawn from hosting Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s talk on “Sangh Parivar and challenges to secularism”, slated to be held in Kozhikode on Sunday. Neither the state Congress nor the Youth Congress (YC) cited any reason for the unexpected move, but sources in the party claimed that YC leaders in Kozhikode withdrew from the event at the behest of a section of Congress leaders. The talk organised by YC’s Kozhikode district committee was one of the events slated to be attended by Tharoor during his four-day tour of north Kerala, which is seen as part of his strategy to get active in Congress-led UDF politics in Kerala. Tharoor had recently put up a fight against party veteran Mallikarjun Kharge in the election for Congress president, which had created jitters in a section of the party.Party sources said no reason, other than technical, has been cited for the YC’s decision to withdraw from hosting the talk. At the same time, the lecture would not be abandoned — it will now be held at the same venue in Kozhikode under the aegis of Jawahar Youth Foundation, a pro-Congress group.Kozhikode MP M K Raghavan, who had backed Tharoor in the election for party chief’s post, is also attending the event. Party’s Kozhikode district president Praveen Kumar, whose name had earlier figured in the YC list of the event, is, however, missing in the same event organised by Jawahar Youth Foundation.Youth Congress state unit vice-president and former legislator K S Sabarinadhan said in a post on Facebook, “Through this programme, Tharoor could have highlighted the Congress’s secular stand in North Kerala. But I came to know through the media that a direction was given from certain quarters to change this programme.”Sabarinadhan, another Congress leader from Kerala who had backed Tharoor in the election against Kharge, questioned the development in Kerala at a time party leader Rahul Gandhi’s statement against V D Savarkar during his Maharashtra leg of the Bharat Jodo Yatra has given a new energy to the party. “Tharoor also would have shared a similar thought in the Congress venue in Kozhikode. This controversy could have been avoided. At the same time, Tharoor is not short of venues,’’ Sabarinadhan wrote in the post.Sources close to Tharoor said he will attend another event hosted by pro-Congress Indian Lawyers Congress, a professional association of lawyers, in Kozhikode on Sunday. In the coming days, Tharoor is scheduled to attend various events associated with UDF ally Indian Union Muslim League, which has recently taken strong exception to state Congress president K Sudhakaran’s pro-RSS statements. Apart from that, he will meet various people from different walks of life.On Saturday evening, Tharoor met Thamarassery Catholic diocese bishop Remigiose Inchananiyil along with Kozhikode MP Raghavan. The bishop is known for raising farmers’ issues in public forums and Tharoor meeting the clergy is seen as an attempt to win the confidence of farmers from Christian community. The Thamarassery Bishop has a considerable stake in Thiruvambady Assembly constituency, which comes under Wayanad Lok Sabha seat, represented by Rahul Gandhi.

Youth Cong withdraws from hosting Shashi Tharoor in Kerala event
Flaming torch a free symbol, EC can allot it to any other party: Delhi HC dismisses Samata Party’s appeal
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Dismissing an appeal moved by Samata Party over its claim on the “flaming torch” symbol allotted by the Election Commission of India decision to Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena faction, the Delhi High Court recently held that post the derecognition of the party 18 years ago, the symbol had become free and ECI was within its domain to allot it to any other party.A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad were hearing an appeal moved by Samata Party against an order of the single judge of the HC which upheld the ECI’s decision to award the flaming torch symbol to Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena faction.The HC in its November 3 judgment observed that Samata Party was de-recognised as a State Party in 2004. The party had contended that since the candidates of the Party contested elections in the year 2014 under the symbol of ‘flaming torch’, the said symbol cannot be allotted to any other party. The HC referred to a 2008 judgment of the Supreme Court in Subramanian Swamy v ECI and reiterated that a symbol is not a tangible thing nor does it generate any wealth.“It is only the insignia which is associated with the particular political party so as to help the millions of illiterate voters to properly exercise their right to franchise in favour of the candidate of their choice belonging to a particular party. The parties concerned cannot consider the symbol as its exclusive property. The Election Symbols (Reservation And Allotment) Order, 1968 makes it very clear that the right to use the symbol can be lost with the dismal performance of the party,” the judgment states.The division bench thereafter observed that even though the members of Samata Party were permitted to use the symbol of ‘flaming torch’, due to the derecognition of the party in 2004, the symbol (flaming torch) had become a free symbol and it was within the domain of ECI to allot the same to any other Party.Dismissing the appeal the bench held, “No fault can be found with the communication-cum-order dated 10th October, 2022 issued by the Election Commission of India allotting the symbol of ‘flaming torch’ to ‘Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray)’ and the Order dated 19.10.2022, passed by the learned Single Judge…”The appeal states that the single judge dismissed its plea on the very first date of hearing and without issuing notice to the respondents — the Election Commission, Shiv Sena through Uddhav Thackeray) and Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.On October 19, the single judge had dismissed the party’s plea, observing that the affinity to a symbol cannot exist in a void and after the party had been derecognised in 2004, “there was no question of it being allowed to insist on a reserved symbol”.The single judge held that after the derecognition as per para 10-A of the Symbols Order, its right on the symbol in question, if any, lapsed with the expiry of six years therefrom.“In absence of any demonstrable right in law, the petitioner cannot seek mandamus for quashing the impugned communication,” the single judge had held. On the issue of notification by the EC declaring the “flaming torch” a free symbol, the single judge had held that the party was unable to point out any para to that effect under the Symbols Order on this issue.Samata Party was founded in 1994 by former Defence Minister late George Fernandes and Nitish Kumar (incumbent Bihar CM) as an offshoot of the Janata Dal. Uday Mandal is the current president of the party. Election Commission of India in October 1994 had granted registration of the party and allotted the “flaming torch” symbol to it.The party had argued before the single judge that since it had contested polls on the symbol in 2014, it was incumbent upon the EC to issue a notification before making “flaming torch” a free symbol and allotting it to any other party.The single judge had held that even if its candidates did contest the elections under the same symbol in 2014, it does not lend any semblance of a legal right in its favour in respect of the symbol in question, after lapse of six years. He further observed that the party had admitted that its candidates contested under a different symbol in the 2021 elections.On October 8, the EC had asked Shiv Sena’s warring Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde factions not to use the “bow and arrow” symbol till the dispute is resolved. On October 10, the EC allotted “flaming torch” as the poll symbol to the Thackeray camp. Samata Party had challenged this decision before the single judge.

Flaming torch a free symbol, EC can allot it to any other party: Delhi HC dismisses Samata Party’s appeal
Social media companies can make any party win election: Rahul Gandhi on Yatra Day 70
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

In an apparent jibe at the Maharashtra government led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said nobody has a clue which party the ruling side belongs to. Rahul also questioned social media companies, saying “systematic bias” is being applied by them, which can make any party win an election.“Even if the EVM is secure, Indian elections may be rigged through social media. If large social media companies want they can make any party win an election. Systematic bias is being applied there and my social media handles are a live example of it,” Rahul said, according to the statement issued by the Congress after his meeting with civil society activists on Wednesday afternoon. The meeting was attended by veteran Gandhian G G Parikh and social activist Medha Patkar, among others, on the 70th day of ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ in Maharashtra.Rahul alleged communal violence was being used as a strategic weapon to cause disharmony in society by one ideology and its leaders. “India at the moment is as per the vision of a powerful urban elite and it can only be smashed with the right way of thinking and it is our duty to refine that vision,” he said. Later in the day, Rahul addressed a meeting at Medshi in Washim district of Vidarbha region. “Our yatra seeks to take along everyone with us without hatred or violence. We don’t leave anyone behind but instead we pick up those who have fallen. On the contrary, there are those patriots sitting in power in Delhi and similarly there are a few in Maharashtra. (PM) Narendra Modi is in Delhi. I don’t know which party those in (power) in Maharashtra belong to or what I should refer to,” he said.Shinde, formerly number two in the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, rebelled against Thackeray, who was heading the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra, and formed a government with BJP’s help. Ever since, Shinde has been claiming that he is the real Sena and even claimed the right to party symbol ‘bow and arrow’. The Election Commission has now given the name ‘Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena’ to Shinde while Thackeray’s Sena is named as ‘Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray)’. The dispute between the two sides is yet to reach a final conclusion. The Congress was a part of the MVA government. Thackeray’s son Aaditya joined Rahul in the yatra in Nanded in a show of unity.Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh and Supriya Shrinate said the party will bring in the Old Pension Scheme in the same manner in which it was brought in Congress-ruled states such as Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. “…There are three lakh government employees in Himachal, all that they seek is OPS. So the governments… have to respond to the needs of people,” said Srinate. 

Social media companies can make any party win election: Rahul Gandhi on Yatra Day 70
Ajay Maken quits as AICC’s Rajasthan in-charge, Kharge faces first organisational challenge
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

Just a fortnight left for the Bharat Jodo Yatra to enter Rajasthan, there is trouble in the Congress. Upset over no action being taken against the three loyalists of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot who were given show-cause notices for holding a parallel Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting in Jaipur on September 25, All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge of the state Ajay Maken has resigned.Sources said Maken wrote a letter to Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on November 8 expressing his unwillingness to continue in the position given that no action had been taken against Rajasthan Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal, party chief whip Mahesh Joshi and Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) chairman Dharmendra Rathore despite the disciplinary committee serving them show-cause notices.It is learnt Maken has told Kharge that he does not have any “moral authority” to continue as AICC general secretary in charge of the state when there is no resolution to the issue over MLAs’ boycott of the CLP meeting that the high command had convened. Moreover, the three senior leaders who Maken believes indulged in “grave indiscipline” are being given responsibilities for coordinating the yatra in the state.“I don’t have any moral authority left. With what authority I will interact with the MLAs or discharge my duties as in-charge. There was grave indiscipline but there was no action. Not even an apology,” he is learnt to have conveyed to the leadership. Kharge, however, did not accept his resignation and asked him to continue. Having waited for a week, Maken has now resigned.Maken, sources said, also stayed away from a meeting earlier this week of a task force set up by the party to coordinate the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The committee took stock of the preparations for the yatra as it prepares to enter the Hindi heartland in a few days. From Maharashtra, the yatra will enter Madhya Pradesh next week and Rajasthan in the first week of December. Moreover, a by-election to the Sardarshahar Assembly seat in Churu district is slated to take place on December 5.Maken has told Kharge that it is imperative to have a new person In charge of the Rajasthan unit as soon as possible given the Yatra and the by-election. Interestingly, Kharge was the AICC observer and was witness to the drama that unfolded in Jaipur on September 25. Kharge and Maken were in Jaipur to hold the CLP meeting that was to pass a resolution authorising the Congress president to appoint a new leader.The CLP meeting was called after Gehlot announced his decision to contest the high-stakes Congress presidential election. But the chief minister was keen to continue for some more time, at least his election as the Congress president. But the high command was keen that he step down and make way for a new leader before filing his nomination papers.But Gehlot supporters sprang a huge surprise. They not just boycotted the CLP meeting but held a parallel meeting at Dhariwal’s residence and then symbolically submitted their resignations to Speaker CP Joshi, leaving the high command red-faced. Gehlot wanted the views of the MLAs to be heard on the issue of selecting his successor. He was also keen that a leader close to him be appointed the successor if he had to step down. He was against former Deputy CM and Tonk MLA Sachin Pilot taking over as CM.The unprecedented rebellion was a huge embarrassment to the leadership, which issued show-cause notices to Dhariwal, Joshi, and Rathore after two days based on a report by Maken. The notices made it clear that they had committed “grave indiscipline” by boycotting the CLP meeting and holding the parallel meeting.In the eye of the storm over the defiance of MLAs loyal to him, Gehlot, after a meeting with the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi four days later, declared he would not contest for the post of Congress president and publicly revealed that he had apologised to Gandhi for the turn of events in Jaipur.Maken’s decision to resign despite prodding from Kharge to continue is the first organisational challenge the new Congress president has encountered. “Wedded to the ideology of Congress for the last three generations and being in active Congress politics for over 40 years, I will always remain an ardent follower of Rahul Ji, whom I trust and have faith in beyond words,” Maken said, concluding his one-page letter.

Ajay Maken quits as AICC’s Rajasthan in-charge, Kharge faces first organisational challenge
Eknath Shinde hails High Court decision; conspiracy, pressure politics: Uddhav Sena
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Tuesday hailed the decision of the Delhi High Court to dismiss former Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray’s plea against the interim order of the Election Commission of India (ECI) freezing any claim to the “Shiv Sena” party name and the “bow and arrow” symbol.While dismissing the plea, the Delhi HC said that the EC has a right to decide on the matter as it directed the poll panel to do so in “expeditious manner”.“We welcome the decision of the court and thank them. We have presented all the necessary documents that we were supposed to (before the court) as per the democratic system. We welcome the decision,” Shinde said.The Sena led by Thackeray, however, called it a “conspiracy” to keep the party engaged in the court battle and alleged that a kind of “pressure politics” was being played out in the country.Stating that the EC should take the decision in an unbiased manner, Uddhav Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut, who was released on bail last week, said: “It is our right to approach the HC and Supreme Court and plead for justice. So, we are trying. But we know what kind of pressure politics is being played out in our country. But, we will again approach the EC. The HC has only said that the EC has the right to take decision on it. The Supreme Court had also said the same thing.”Raut further said, “The point is, our party symbol and name was frozen on the ground that the breakaway faction (Shinde) wants to contest Andheri east bypoll, but they did not contest the election. Still our bow and arrow (symbol) has been frozen. We had approached the court against this.”Meanwhile, the EC on Tuesday wrote a letter to both the sides of Sena, instructing them to submit the documents in prescribed format before November 23.

Eknath Shinde hails High Court decision; conspiracy, pressure politics: Uddhav Sena