Maharashtra Election News

NCP-led dairy to be probed by Maharashtra Cooperation and Dairy development depts
The Indian Express | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month ago | |

The state Cooperation and Dairy Development departments are set to probe the Pune District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Association, also known as Katraj Dairy, over alleged irregularities. The dairy is controlled by leaders linked to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar. According to an order issued by the state Animal Husbandry and Dairy Development department on Tuesday, the inquiry has been set up on a complaint by Bharatiya Janata Party’s Pune district secretary Dharmendra Khandare.The order, a copy of which is with the The Indian Express, stated that Khandare had submitted a complaint about alleged irregularities in Katraj dairy with state Cooperation Minister Atul Save. “Based on the complaint, the minister for Dairy Development department (Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil) has ordered an inquiry by a five-member committee,” stated the order. The complaint, however, does not mention the nature of irregularities in the dairy. The committee, which will include officials from these two departments, will have to submit a report within one month. It will be headed by Regional Dairy Development Officer, Nashik, Shrikant Shipurkar, while District Dairy Development officer S K Doiphode will be the member-secretary of the committee. The other three members will be from the Cooperation department.The election for the director’s board for Katraj dairy was held in March this year and it was won by a panel comprising leaders of NCP and Congress. Leaders linked to then deputy CM Ajit Pawar were part of the panel that won the election.The inquiry has been ordered a week before the beginning of the winter session of the state legislature.

NCP-led dairy to be probed by Maharashtra Cooperation and Dairy development depts
Sharad Pawar questions PM Modi’s wisdom of attacking Opposition at govt programme
The Indian Express | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month ago | |

TAKING PRIME Minister Narendra Modi head-on, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Monday questioned the wisdom behind his attack on opposition through the podium of a government programme. Pawar said that opposition is an important institution in a democracy and contrary to the previous Prime Ministers, this norm is repeatedly violated at present.“Yesterday, he (PM Modi) was in Nagpur where he targeted the opposition. One can understand attacks on an opposition during election rallies. But how wise it is to attack the opposition in a government programme organised to inaugurate roads, railways and hospital?” asked Pawar. He was speaking at the programme organised by his party on the occasion of his 82nd birthday.Pawar said that he has witnessed several PMs even from the times of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. “But Nehru did not attack the opposition even during an election rally, he used to present his side only. Opposition parties, leaders of opposition are also part of democratic institutions. All those need to be respected. All PMs, post-Independence, followed it but not now,” he said.On Sunday, at the inauguration of first phase of Nagpur-Shirdi Samruddhi Expressway, PM Modi had said: “I also want to caution the people of Maharashtra and the people of the country about a distortion coming in the politics of India. This is the deformity of shortcut politics. This is the deformity of looting the country’s money for political interests. This is the deformity of looting the hard-earned money of taxpayers. These political parties who are adopting shortcuts, these political leaders are the biggest enemies of every taxpayer of the country. Those whose aim is only to come to power, whose aim is only to grab the government by making false promises, they can never build the country. Today, at a time when India is working on goals for the next 25 years, some political parties, in their personal interest, want to destroy India’s economy.”

Sharad Pawar questions PM Modi’s wisdom of attacking Opposition at govt programme
Who will make it to the new Gujarat ministry? Bhupendra Patel’s real challenge
The Indian Express | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month ago | |

The record mandate of 156 seats might give the BJP room to experiment in the new BJP government under CM Bhupendra Patel but it might also have to do the delicate balancing act between regions, castes, age and competence as it forms the seventh government ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. Here are some who could make it to the new ministry.Harsh Sanghavi: An MLA from Majura seat that falls in state president CR Paatil’s Lok Sabha constituency, Sanghavi not only held the important portfolio of home as MoS in the Bhupendra Patel government, he was also given charge of revenue when cabinet minister Rajendra Trivedi was stripped of it. That he is a rising star in the BJP was visible when he was sent by the party to make peace with the dissidents, and might get a cabinet rank. Son of a diamond merchant, Sanghavi has been winning from Majura since 2012.Shankar Chaudhary: Chairman of Banas Dairy and former minister in the Anandiben Patel government, Chaudhary who was defeated in the 2017 election by Congress’s Geniben Thakor on the Vav seat, has won this time from Tharad. From the powerful Chaudhary community of the OBCs, Chaudhary had helped set up a milk producing plant of the Banas Dairy, one of the richest dairies, at PM’s constituency of Varanasi. While campaigning for him, Union Minister Amit Shah had said, “You give your votes to Shankarbhai and make him an MLA; this party will do the work of making him an important person,”Rushikesh Patel: He held the important health portfolio in the outgoing government, even as the Covid pandemic was on. A Patidar from Visnagar of Mehsana, Rushikesh’s office was vandalised by protesters during the Hardik Patel-led quota agitation in 2015. He has defeated Congress’s Kirit Patel from Visnagar constituency.Amit Thaker: A Brahmin face of Gujarat BJP, Thaker rose from ranks. He is also the former national president of the party’s youth wing. Thaker has been elected from Vejalpur constituency, which also covers parts of Juhapura, the largest Muslim ghetto of Gujarat. Thaker was among those facing charges of allegedly assaulting activist Medha Patkar during a peace meeting after the riots in 2002.Alpesh Thakor: A youth leader from the OBC Thakor community, Alpesh came to limelight while opposing the Patidar quota agitation by Hardik Patel. He got elected from Gandhinagar South constituency, winning it inspite of it not being a familiar terrain. This will be Alpesh’s second term as MLA in Gujarat, after his earlier win from the Radhanpur seat on a Congress ticket. Alpesh may get a junior minister charge.Kanu Patel: Kanu Patel has been elected from Sanand constituency of Ahmedabad district for the second time. Coming from Koli-Patel community, Kanu is considered to be one of the ministers of state in the next Gujarat government. He enjoys the confidence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Sanand falling in the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency, Shah had accompanied him to file his nomination.Jagdish Panchal: Another BJP MLA considered close to Amit Shah, Panchal was minister of industries in the outgoing government, and was handed charge of roads and buildings when the incumbent cabinet minister Purnesh Modi was relieved of it. An OBC, he got re-elected from Nikol constituency of Ahmedabad city, winning by a margin of over 55,000 votes, against Congress’s Ranjitsinh Barad.Ramanlal Vora: One of the senior most BJP candidates in the latest assembly, Vora is a prominent Dalit leader. He has held important portfolios such as education and social justice and empowerment in the past and was also the Assembly Speaker. He may get appointed either as Speaker again or as a senior cabinet rank minister. He has been elected from the reserved seat of Idar in Sabarkantha.Manisha Vakil: Minister of state for women and child development (independent charge) and minister of state for social justice and empowerment in the outgoing cabinet, Vakil is a three-term MLA from the reserved Scheduled Caste constituency of Vadodara city. Considered a close aide of Anandiben Patel, Vakil worked as a teacher before being fielded from the reserved seat of Vadodara city in 2012. She is among those who pushed for inclusion of areas in her seat of a mixed neighbourhood under the Disturbed Areas Act.Ketan Inamdar: An OBC candidate who won his third term from Savli constituency, Inamdar is frontrunner for a cabinet post. He made his aspirations clear when he addressed a press conference along with other MLAs, expressing disappointment that leaders of Vadodara and Central Gujarat were left out of the Cabinet. Inamdar resigned from the party in 2020 but withdrew his resignation after a meeting with then party president Jitu Vaghani. He is also a board director of Baroda Dairy.Purnesh Modi: Made a state cabinet minister in Bhupendra Patel government for the first time, Modi held the portfolio of tourism and pilgrimage development, and civil aviation. A member of Modhvanik community, as PM Modi, he is a complainant in the defamation case against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi regarding an allegedly defamatory speech. He was stripped of the roads and buildings portfolio when the government faced flak for the dilapidated condition of roads during monsoon.Sangita Patil: A close confidant of Gujarat BJP president CR Paatil, she has been with him since he launched the vernacular newspaper, Navgujarat Times. Like Paatil, she is also a Maharashtra migrant. Limbayat, her constituency, is a part of the Navsari seat that Paatil won in the Lok Sabha. A constituency with mostly migrant votes, it saw a close fight with 44 candidates—a majority of them independents—in the fray.Vinodbhai Moradiya: State Minister for Urban Housing and Urban Development who defeated AAP state president Gopal Italia by a margin of 64,627 votes from Katargam seat, he was on the hotseat with the Prajapati community sending out messages that it would only support a candidate from its community. The minister was in a spot when his ministry drafted the stray cattle control bill that was passed only to be withdrawn after the maldhari community protested.Sandip Desai: An Anavil Brahmin, Desai was general secretary of the Surat district BJP unit. A major co-operative leader, Desai has clout in the Surat APMC, Surat District Co-operative Bank and SUMUL dairy.Naresh Patel: Outgoing minister of tribal development, he is from the Dodiya Patel tribe who retained the Gandevi reserved seat of Navsari district that falls in CR Paatil’s parliamentary constituency, Navsari Gandevi (ST). He played an active role in creating awareness among the tribals who were protesting the Par-Tapi-Narmada river linking project.Jitu Chaudhary: He won the Kaprada (ST) in Valsad district with the lowest margin in 2017 at 170, on a Congress ticket, before defecting to the BJP. Now he retained the seat by a margin of 32,968 votes. He is winning the seat for the seventh consecutive term. Chaudhary was holding the portfolio of fishery, water resources and water supply. During his non-controversial tenure, he grew closer to Paatil.Kunvarji Bavaliya: The Koli leader who switched over to the BJP in 2018 after quitting Congress and was water supply minister in the Vijay Rupani government is expected to find a berth in the new council of ministers. Bavaliya lost his cabinet berth after Rupani resigned September last year and was left out of the Bhupendra Patel government. Bavaliya won his seventh poll, handing BJP its first ever victory from Jasdan.Jayesh Radadiya: Winning his fourth election from Jetpur seat, Radadiya is likely to find a place in the new government. Jayesh and his father Vitthal Radadiya defected to the BJP in 2013 with the former finding place in governments of Narendra Modi, Anandiben Patel and Vijay Rupai before being dropped in September 2021. He is also chairman of Rajkot District Cooperative Bank and holds sway over cooperative bodies.Darshita Shah: A pathologist who won Rajkot West seat with a record margin hails from a family of RSS functionaries. She was elected to the Rajkot Municipal Corporation twice and is presently serving her second term as deputy mayor of Rajkot. Narendra Modi had contested from this seat to enter the Gujarat Assembly after being made CM in 2001. Before him, Vajubhai Vala, who holds the record of presenting most number of state budgets in Gujarat represented this seat. MLAs from this seat have always found a place in BJP governments.Bhanu Babariya: A sitting corporator in Rajkot Municipal Corporation, Babariya is said to be in the race for ministerial berth after she won Rajkot Rural (SC) seat for third time. She was elected from this seat in 2007 and 2012 before being dropped by the BJP. After spending four years on sidelines, the BJP gave her ticket to contest RMC election and she won. Her father-in-law Madhubhai Babariya too was elected MLA from this seat in 1998.Ramesh Tilala: An industrialist, who is also associated with Shree Khodaldham Trust, a powerful organisation of Leuva Patels, is the chairman of Shapar Veraval Industrial Association and might land a berth in the new council of ministers. The BJP has wrested back all five seats from Congress in Amreli district and name of Kaushik Vekariya, who defeated former Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani, is also believed to be under consideration for a ministerial berth.Sanjay Koradiya: The former chairman of standing committee of Junagadh Municipal Corporation who made a successful debut by defeating sitting Congress MLA Bhikha Joshi from Junagadh seat is also believed to be a contender. The BJP won all seven seats in Bhavnagar district and veteran Shiva Gohil who won Mahuva seat is also believed to be being discussed for a ministerial berth.

Who will make it to the new Gujarat ministry? Bhupendra Patel’s real challenge
UPSC Essentials| Weekly news express with MCQs : Inequality Report 2022, National Party and more
The Indian Express | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month ago | |

(The UPSC Essentials Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest updates.Note: Catch the UPSC Weekly Quiz every Saturday evening and brush up on your current affairs knowledge.)The Indian Express’ UPSC weekly news express covers some of the important and burning topics of current affairs news from this week to help you prepare for UPSC-CSE. Try out the MCQs and check your answers provided towards the end of the article.Syllabus:Preliminary Examination: Economic and Social Development and Current events of national and international importanceMains Examination: General Studies II: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.Why in news?— Women constitute only one third of internet users in India, said a study conducted by NGO Oxfam India. According to ‘India Inequality Report 2022: Digital Divide’ released by the NGO on Sunday, India fares the worst with the widest gender gap of 40.4 per cent in the Asia-Pacific.KEY TAKEAWAYS— Women constitute only one third of internet users in India, said a study conducted by NGO Oxfam India.— According to ‘India Inequality Report 2022: Digital Divide’ released by the NGO on Sunday, Indian women are 15 per cent less likely to own a mobile phone and 33 per cent less likely to use mobile internet services than men.— In Asia-Pacific, India fares the worst with the widest gender gap of 40.4 per cent, says the study. The report also points to rural-urban digital divide. “Despite registering a significant (digital) growth rate of 13 per cent in a year, only 31 per cent of the rural population uses Internet compared to 67 percent of their urban counterparts,” says the report.— The report analyses the primary data from Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s (CMIE) household survey held from Jan 2018 to Dec 2021.— Among states, Maharashtra has the highest internet penetration, followed by Goa and Kerala, while Bihar has the lowest, followed by Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, the report said.“As per the NSS (2017-18), only about 9 per cent of the students who were enrolled in any course had access to a computer with internet and 25 percent of enrolled students had access to the internet through any kind of devices,” says the report.— The digital push driven by the pandemic resulted in India experiencing the largest number of real-time digital transactions in 2021 at 48.6 billion.— However, the likelihood of a digital payment by the richest 60 per cent is four times more than the poorest 40 per cent in India.— In rural India, the tendency to use formal financial services is lowest for ST households, followed by SC households and OBC households.— According to UN’s e-participation index (2022), which is a composite measure of three important dimensions of e-government, namely provision of online services, telecommunication connectivity and human capacity, India ranks 105 out of 193 nations, it said.— The likelihood of access to a computer is more for the General and OBC groups than for the SC and ST populations. The difference between the general category and ST is as high as seven to eight per cent between 2018 and 2021.— The chances of having a computer are higher with higher levels of education as well as income. As much as 99 per cent rural population did not have a computer post the pandemic – an increase of two per cent— while the urban population witnessed an increase of seven per cent to 91 per cent.— Among all religions, Sikhs have highest likelihood of having a computer followed by Christians, Hindus and lastly Muslims.(Source: Women constitute one-third of Internet users in India by Esha Roy )Point to ponder: Empowering women economically is good for everyone. Discuss.1. MCQ‘ Global Gender Gap’ Index is released bya) World Economic Forumb) Oxfam c) WHO d) UN WomenSyllabus:Preliminary Examination: General issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate ChangeMains Examination: General Studies III: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.Why in news?— The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2022, which seeks to to strengthen the protection of endangered species and forest lands, better management of protected areas  and enhance punishment for illegal wildlife trade, was passed in the Rajya Sabha by a voice vote on Thursday. The Bill, which was cleared by the Lok Sabha on August 2 during the monsoon session, was introduced by Environment and Forest Minister Bhupender Yadav on Tuesday.KEY TAKEAWAYS— It implements the provisions of the CITES- CITES is an international agreement between governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species.— It gives more power to the Central Government: The central government can designate a Management Authority. This Management Authority may grant export or import permits for the trade of specimens. Central Government can regulate or prohibit the import, trade, possession or proliferation of invasive alien species. Invasive plant or animal species which are not native to India and whose introduction may adversely impact wildlife or its habitat— In addition to it, central government may also notify a conservation reserve which act as buffer zones to or connectors and migration corridors between established national parks, and wildlife sanctuaries.— It reduces the number of schedules from six to four. Note that currently, there are six schedules: protected plants (one), specially protected animals (four), and vermin species (one). The new bill removes the schedule for vermin species. Vermin are small animals that carry diseases and destroy food.— The Bill also enhances the penalties prescribed for violation of provisions of the Act.— It has invited scrutiny on two major issues: the exemption made to allow the transfer of captive elephants, and the sweeping powers given to the Centre to declare species as vermin.The Elephants—The legal dilemma over the elephant’s status — simultaneously an endangered wildlife species and a prized domestic animal — has persisted for long.In 1897, the Elephants’ Preservation Act prohibited the killing or capture of wild elephants unless in self-defence or to protect property and crops, or under a licence issued by the district collector.In 1927, the Indian Forest Act listed the elephant as ‘cattle’, prescribing the highest fine of Rs 10 for every impounded jumbo — in comparison, a cow attracted a fine of Re 1, and a camel of Rs 2.The Wildlife (Protection) Act (WLPA), 1972, identified the elephant, along with the bullock, camel, donkey, horse, and mule, as a “vehicle”. Given the highest legal protection in 1977, the elephant is the only animal in WLPA’s Schedule-I that can still be owned legally — by means of inheritance or gift.In 2003, Section 3 of the WLPA prohibited trade in all captive wildlife and any (non-commercial) transfer across state boundaries without permission from the concerned chief wildlife warden.The WLPA (Amendment) Bill 2021 proposed an exception to Section 43: “This section shall not apply to the transfer or transport of any live elephant by a person having a certificate of ownership, where such person has obtained prior permission from the State Government on fulfillment of such conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government.”Along with conservation and animal welfare groups, the Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh objected to the blanket exemption, and recommended that it should be limited to temple elephants kept for religious purposes.Under pressure, the government modified the exemption but worded the amended clause vaguely to allow the “transfer or transport of a captive elephant for a religious or any other purpose by a person having a valid certificate of ownership…subject to such terms and conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government”. (emphasis added)Critics point out that the prohibition on commercial transfer only drove the live elephant trade underground as traders switched to dressing up commercial deals as gift deeds to bypass the 2003 amendment. The sweeping ambit of “any other purpose” in the present amendment, they say, will empower elephant traders, put wild populations at greater risk of capture, and defeat the very purpose of WLPA.A counter view is that the 2003 amendment did not benefit captive elephants who suffer when their owners fail to bear the expenses of their upkeep, particularly in the post-Covid scenario, and allowing such owners to transfer their elephants legally to those willing to and capable of looking after the animals is a welcome step.The vermin conflict The damage due to crop depredation by wild animals has never been computed. But for lakhs of farmers around the many protected forests, it is the biggest challenge to livelihood, not to mention the occasional threat to life.Since 1972, the WLPA has identified a few species — fruit bats, common crows and rats — as vermin or nuisance animals that spread diseases or destroy crops and are not protected under the Act. Killing animals outside this list was allowed under two circumstances:* Under Section 62 of WLPA, given sufficient reasons, any species other than those accorded the highest legal protection (such as tiger and elephant but not wild boar or nilgai) can be declared vermin at a certain place for a certain time.* Under Section 11 of WLPA, the chief wildlife warden can allow the killing of an animal irrespective of its status in the Schedules, if it becomes “dangerous to human life”.The state governments took the decisions under Section 62 until 1991 when an amendment handed these powers to the Centre. The purpose was apparently to restrict the possibility of eliminating a large number of animals at a species level as vermin. Under Section 11, states could issue culling permits only locally and for a few animals.(Source: Parliament passes Wildlife Bill: Questions remain on elephants, vermin by Jay Mazoomdaar)Point to ponder: Wildlife conservationists oppose amendment to Wildlife Protection Act. Do you know why?2. MCQ:In which one among the following categories of protected areas in India are local people not allowed to collect and use the biomass?(2012)(a) Biosphere Reserves(b) National Parks(c) Wetlands declared under Ramsar Convention(d) Wildlife SanctuariesPreliminary Examination: Indian Polity and Governance-Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.Mains Examination: General Studies II: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.Why in news?— The glimmer for AAP, its leaders said, is the 12.9-per cent vote share, five seats in the Gujarat Assembly — and that it had emerged as a national party (six per cent vote share in at least four states: Delhi, Punjab, Goa and now Gujarat).What is a national party?— The name suggests that a national party would be one that has a presence ‘nationally’, as opposed to a regional party whose presence is restricted to only a particular state or region.— National parties are usually India’s bigger parties, such as the Congress and BJP. However, some smaller parties, like the communist parties, are also recognised as national parties. A certain stature is sometimes associated with being a national party, but this does not necessarily translate into having a lot of national political clout.— Some parties, despite being dominant in a major state — such as the DMK in Tamil Nadu, BJD in Odisha, YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh, RJD in Bihar, or TRS in Telangana — and having a major say in national affairs, remain regional parties.So how is a national party defined?— The ECI has laid down the technical criterion for a party to be recognised as a national party. A party may gain or lose national party status from time to time, depending on the fulfilment of these laid-down conditions.— As per the ECI’s Political Parties and Election Symbols, 2019 handbook, a political party would be considered a national party if:i. it is ‘recognised’ in four or more states; orii. if its candidates polled at least 6% of total valid votes in any four or more states in the last Lok Sabha or Assembly elections and has at least four MPs in the last Lok Sabha polls; oriii. if it has won at least 2% of the total seats in the Lok Sabha from not less than three states.—To be recognised as a state party, a party needs:i. at least 6% vote-share in the last Assembly election and have at least 2 MLAs; orii. have 6% vote-share in the last Lok Sabha elections from that state and at least one MP from that state; oriii. at least 3% of the total number of seats or three seats, whichever is more, in the last Assembly elections; oriv. at least one MP for every 25 members or any fraction allotted to the state in the Lok Sabha; orv. have at least 8% of the total valid votes in the last Assembly election or Lok Sabha election from the state.What are the other national parties?— As of now, the ECI has recognised eight parties as national parties — the BJP, Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI(M), CPI, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and Conrad Sangma’s National People’s Party (NPP), which was recognised in 2019.(Source: After Gujarat results, AAP set for upgrade: What it takes to become a ‘national party’ in India by Damini Nath)Point to ponder: What does it mean for a candidate to lose an ‘election deposit’?3. MCQUnder the Constitution of India, which one of the following is not a fundamental duty?(2011)a) To vote in public electionsb) To develop the scientific temperc) To safeguard public propertyd) To abide by me Constitution and respect its idealsSyllabus:Preliminary Examination: Current events of national and international importance.Main Examination: General Studies II: India and its neighbourhood- relations and Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s InterestWhy in news?— National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval hosted a meeting of his counterparts from five Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan — in New Delhi on December 6. All countries except Turkmenistan sent their NSAs; Ashgabat was represented by its ambassador in New Delhi.KEY TAKEAWAYS— The meeting, which took place in the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the security situation in Afghanistan under the Taliban, flowed from the first India-Central Asia virtual summit of January 27 this year. The leaders of the Central Asian countries had been invited for the Republic Day celebrations, but their in-person participation was scuttled by the Omicron-led Covid surge in India.Engagement with Central Asia— The Silk Route connected India with Central Asia from the 3rd century BC to the 15th century AD. From the export of Buddhism to the lasting influence of Bollywood, India has shared old and deep cultural ties with the region.— In 1955, during a 16-day visit to the erstwhile Soviet Union, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru travelled to Almaty, Tashkent, and Ashgabat, all of which became capitals of newly-independent countries after the 1991 collapse of the USSR.— Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao visited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in 1992, and Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan in 1995. In 2003, Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the first Prime Minister to visit Tajikistan; he had travelled to Kazakhstan in the previous year. Manmohan Singh visited Uzbekistan in 2006, and the Kazakh capital Astana in 2011.— Despite India’s focus on its other relationships — the US (nuclear deal), China (2003 border pact), and Pakistan (in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks — diplomatic parts continued to move on Central Asia. India also attended Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summits, which were attended by the Central Asian countries, and put in its request for membership.— Focussed engagement began with the “Connect Central Asia policy” in 2012, which received a fillip with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to all five Central Asian countries in July 2015 — the first by an Indian Prime Minister.Battle for strategic space— Central Asia has always been seen as Russia’s backyard — some 20-30% of the population is of Russian origin, and Russian is spoken widely.— Central Asia is extremely rich in mineral and natural resources. Kazakhstan has one of the biggest reserves of uranium, besides stores of coal, lead, zinc, gold, and iron ore. The Kyryz Republic is rich in gold and hydro-power, and Turkmenistan has one of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas. Tajikistan has huge hydro-power potential and Uzbekistan has gold, uranium, and natural gas.— In 2010, a former general in the People’s Liberation Army, Lt Gen Liu Yazhou, wrote: “By custom, people group Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan together with Xinjiang into the Central Asian region. This is a rich piece of cake given to today’s Chinese people by Heaven.”— That China’s President Xi Jinping chose to visit four Central Asian countries on his first overseas trip in September 2022 after two years of Covid-related disruption, underlines the strategic importance of this region.— For India, engagement with the Central Asian countries is important because of a range of reasons — security cooperation after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan; to counter China’s influence in the region; plans for connectivity with Europe including the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC); to meet its energy needs (Turkmenistan is part of the proposed TAPI gas pipeline); and for reasons of old cultural links and trade potential.— The recent engagement began with the India-Central Asia foreign ministers’ meeting on December 19, 2021. That meeting was held against the backdrop of the fall of Kabul in mid-August last year, and a little more than a month after the NSAs of Central Asian countries, along with the NSAs of Russia and Iran, attended the Afghanistan-focussed Regional Security Dialogue in New Delhi. Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan share borders with Afghanistan.— At the December 19 meeting, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar told his Central Asia counterparts that their “concerns and objectives” in Afghanistan were “similar”, and their goal was “a truly inclusive and representative government, the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking, ensuring unhindered humanitarian assistance and preserving the rights of women, children and the minorities”.— This was followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s January 27, 2022 virtual summit with the leaders of the Central Asian countries, in which he called for an integrated approach to regional cooperation and flagged Afghanistan as a common concern. Two days earlier, China had hosted these leaders at its own summit, which Beijing had swiftly organised after India’s announcement.— Modi and the five Central Asian leaders decided, among other things, to hold a leaders’ summit every two years; regular meetings among their foreign and trade ministers; a joint working group on Afghanistan; joint counter-terrorism exercises between India and interested Central Asian countries; and a group to operationalise the use of Chabahar port by all five countries.“We all have the same concerns and objectives for regional security. We are all concerned about the developments in Afghanistan… In this context also, our mutual cooperation has become even more important for regional security and stability,” Modi said.Imperatives now, for future— China, which has a direct border with the region, has a bilateral trade of $50 billion with Central Asia, and has made major investments in these countries with its Belt and Road Initiative. India’s trade with the region is a paltry $2 billion.— The lack of overland transport access — with Pakistan blocking the way — is a major challenge to India’s Central Asia plans. India wants to integrate the INSTC with Chabahar port in Iran to access the resource-rich region. The NSAs, who generally focus on security issues, discussed these connectivity corridors at the December 6 meeting.— From the security perspective, the NSAs discussed the challenges of extremism, terrorism, and radicalisation in the region. Central Asia is seen as the northern boundary of the Islamic world, and with the Taliban’s return in Afghanistan, the threat of radicalism and possible regrouping of the Islamic State poses a serious security challenge for the countries in the region. NSA Doval said financing is the “lifeblood” of terrorism, and countering it should be a priority.— India does not want the post-Soviet space to be captured by the Chinese, and the NSAs engagement is a key mechanism in Delhi’s toolkit. In June 2002, Vajpayee had said in Almaty that the new “Silk Route Initiative” of India’s foreign policy seeks to build a new Silk Road of Friendship and Cooperation between India and Central Asia. Twenty years later, New Delhi remains on the road, and on the job.(Source: India’s Central Asia outreach by Shubhajit Roy )Point to ponder: Is Central Asia the new battleground for US and China? Why is this region important for India?4. MCQWhat is the importance of developing Chabahar Port by India? (2017)a) India’s trade with African countries will enormously increase.b) India’s relations with oil-producing Arab countries will be strengthened.c) India will not depend on Pakistan for access to Afghanistan and Central Asia.d) Pakistan will facilitate and protect the installation of a gas pipeline between Iraq and India.

UPSC Essentials| Weekly news express with MCQs : Inequality Report 2022, National Party and more
As BJP clears a path to 2024, up ahead are these poll pit stops
The Indian Express | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month ago | |

Holding on to Gujarat with a landslide victory, winning 152 seats in the 182-member Assembly, the BJP has taken a giant step in consolidating its position ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections.The road to that goes through these nine state elections which are up next, over the coming year, till 2024:Nagaland, 60 seatsEnd of term: March 2023Elections to the 13th Legislative Assembly of the state in 2018 were fought together by the Nationalist Democratic People’s Party (NDPP) and the BJP, under a People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA). The NDPP’s Neiphiu Rio became the Chief Minister. The BJP won an unprecedented 12 seats in the state.Meghalaya, 60 seatsEnd of term: March 2023The state is ruled by the National People’s Party (NPP) under Chief Minister Conrad Sangma. In the 2018 election, the party was backed by the BJP and regional parties, but contested 53 of the 60 seats on its own. Sangma recently announced that the NPP will fight the elections scheduled for next year alone, and had finalised 58 candidates. He added: “However, we support the NDA and it will be continued.”Tripura, 60 seatsEnd of term: March 2023The BJP came to power in the state for the first time in 2018, ending a 25-year reign of the Left Front. On May 14 this year, in an abrupt change, the BJP dropped Biplab Deb and brought in the relatively low-key Manik Saha as CM. The Congress and CPI(M) are trying to put up a fight, and there is increasing talk of an alliance between the two, while the tribal TIPRA Motha party will take away tribal votes of BJP ally IPFT.Karnataka, 224 seatsEnd of term: May 2023The BJP had last time narrowly lost power to a post-poll coalition stitched together by the Congress and JD(S), with H D Kumaraswamy taking over as CM. Within 14 months, BJP old warhorse B S Yediyurappa had formed the government by engineering defections and toppling the JD(S)-Congress government. In July last year, the BJP took the risky gamble of replacing Yediyurappa with a relatively junior Basavaraj Bommai. The party remains riven with rifts, and last time, a sulking Yediyurappa had cost the BJP dear.Mizoram, 40 seatsEnd of term: December 2023Mizo National Front leader Zoramthanga became the Chief Minister of the state in December 2018 when his party swept the Assembly seats in the state and defeated the Congress, which had been in power in Mizoram for two terms under Lal Thanawala.Chhattisgarh, 90 seatsEnd of term: January 2024In one of its most decisive victories in recent years, the Congress had won the state under Bhupesh Baghel by securing 68 of the 90 seats. Baghel’s stature has only grown in the party since, with the BJP struggling to mount any real challenge. In the recent bypoll, the Congress retained its ST-reserved Bhanupratappur seat, marking the BJP’s fifth consecutive loss in a by-election.Madhya Pradesh, 230 seatsEnd of term: January 2024The Congress captured power here after a tough fight against the BJP’s three-time CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. But it was never a comfortable margin and, in March 2020, as Congress stalwart Jyotiraditya Scindia left with 22 MLAs, the Kamal Nath government fell and Chouhan returned to power. The Congress cannot be written off though in the state, with its many powerful leaders, including Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh.Rajasthan, 200 seatsEnd of term: January 2024In the state that has traditionally swung between the BJP and the Congress, the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government defeated then incumbent BJP government under Vasundhara Raje in 2018. The Congress secured a majority of 99 seats in the state. The BJP got 73 seats. However, the Congress term has been largely known for its constant sniping between CM Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot camps, with one rebellion almost costing the Congress this state too. Voters are unlikely to forget this picture of disarray as they head into booths.Telangana, 119 seatsEnd of term: January 2024K Chandrashekar Rao, popularly known as KCR, was sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state for the second time in December 2018 after winning a landslide victory in the state. While he remains powerful, the BJP is determined to make inroads in the state and having got a foot into the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, gave the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi, newly named Bharat Rashtra Samithi, a scare in a recent bypoll. Meanwhile, KCR has been looking to go national.UT of Jammu and Kashmir, 90 seatsNo govt since mid-2018The elections to Jammu and Kashmir are also expected to be held next year. These will be crucial as the first elections in the former state after the abrogation of Article 370 stripped its special status. Prior to abrogation, the BJP had parted ways with then alliance partner People’s Democratic Party (PDP), ending Mehbooba Mufti’s stint as the last Chief Minister of the former state. J&K has not had an elected government now since mid-2018, leaving political parties out in the cold. All mainstream parties of the Valley, barring the BJP and Congress, are together in an informal People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD).Besides, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Odisha and Sikkim go to polls in the months following the 2024 general elections, and could see an impact of the Lok Sabha results.

As BJP clears a path to 2024, up ahead are these poll pit stops
Lobbying begins in CM Eknath Shinde camp and BJP as six Maharashtra legislative council seats fall vacant
Times of India | 1 month ago | |
Times of India
1 month ago | |

MUMBAI: Lobbying has begun in CM Eknath Shinde's faction and BJP with six seats falling vacant in the state legislative council this week. While new members are supposed to be nominated soon, officials said this will be done after the elections to local bodies whose terms have ended. Of the six vacant seats, two each were with Congress and BJP and one each with NCP and Shiv Sena (UBT). Political observers said with a cabinet expansion unlikely and the Shinde-Fadnavis government also not making appointments on state-run boards, there is hectic lobbying in the Shinde faction for a berth in the legislative council. The last round of polls in the legislative council were held in June, in which BJP won five seats, Shiv Sena (UBT) and NCP each won two seats, and Congress one seat. "There are many senior functionaries who joined the Shinde faction as they were eying an MLC berth or at least a top place in one of the state-run corporations. But now since appointments on the corporations have not been made, they are all lobbying for an MLC seat. There are at least three to four leaders who have been appointed as spokespersons in the Shinde faction and are now eyeing an MLC berth," said a political observer. "Lobbying has begun, but it is not yet clear how many seats will be given to the Shinde faction as all local bodies are not necessarily controlled by Shinde-BJP." The terms of MLCs Anil Bhonsale of NCP (Pune), Congress's Mohan Kadam (Sangli-Satara) and Amarnath Rajurkar (Nanded), Sena's (UBT) Dushyant Chaturvedi (Yavatmal), and BJP's Chandubhai Patel (Jalgaon) and Parinay Fuke (Bhandara-Gondia) ended on December 5. Three more seats from the local bodies of Thane-Palghar, Ahmednagar and Solapur are also vacant. In September, in a setback for Shinde, the Supreme Court had directed that no further steps be taken in respect of 12 vacancies on the legislative council from the governor's quota. For the Shinde-Fadnavis government, the 12 nominations and the six new vacancies is significant, particularly in view of the election of the chairperson of legislative council. The post has been lying vacant after Ramraje Nimbalkar's tenure ended earlier this year. Currently, the Shinde-Fadnavis alliance is in a minority in the council, and if the 12 governor nominees and six new members are added, its nominee for the chairperson's post could bag a co-mfortable win. Election for the council chairperson is scheduled in the winter session of state legislature, which will begin on December 19.

Lobbying begins in CM Eknath Shinde camp and BJP as six Maharashtra legislative council seats fall vacant
Sangitaben Patil registers third win in Gujarat’s Limbayat, kin in Maharashtra hope she becomes minister
The Indian Express | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month ago | |

Sangita Rajendra Patil (46), who hails from Maharashtra’s Pachora tehsil, registered an impressive win from Surat’s Limbayat Assembly constituency on Thursday. Sangita, or Sangitaben as she is now called, married into a Maharashtrian family in Surat about 30 years ago and is now a third-time BJP MLA.“I am proud of my Maharashtrian roots,” Sangita told The Indian Express over phone from Surat. “Yesterday, in my celebratory rally I deliberately wore Maharashtrian clothes and jewellery,” she added.Sangita won her first election in 2012. On Thursday, she defeated her closest rival, Aam Aadmi Party’s Pankajbhai Tayade by over 57,000 votes while Congress’s Gopal Patil stood a distant third.Sangita hails from Sarve village in Pachora tehsil of Jalgaon district. Her father served as a policeman and had six children, four daughters and two sons. In 1995, Sangita married Rajendra Patil, whose family hailed from Maharashtra’s Dhule. Her in-laws stayed in Limbayat area of Surat, which is known to house migrants from Maharashtra’s Khandesh area.“After marriage, while her husband was involved in a business pertaining to saris, Sangita found employment as an anchor with a local Marathi news channel,” Sandip Patil, husband of Sangita’s younger sister Yojana, said.“Later, her enthusiasm for social service made her part of a women’s collective. She joined BJP sometime in the 2000s. In 2012, the party gave her a ticket to contest the Assembly election from the Limbayat constituency. She won the seat for the party with a margin of 30,000 votes. She repeated her victory in 2017 for a second time. Yesterday’s win is a hattrick for her,” Sandip said.Her family members who stay in Jalgaon and Pune have expressed confidence that being a third-time MLA she might get an opportunity to work as a minister. “We are proud of our sister and are confident that if she gets an opportunity to work as a minister, she will do justice to that responsibility,” Sandip said.

Sangitaben Patil registers third win in Gujarat’s Limbayat, kin in Maharashtra hope she becomes minister
‘Polarisation’ to ‘misuse of agencies’ to ‘BJP-AAP collusion’: How Opp sees the Gujarat results
The Indian Express | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month ago | |

The Opposition reacted sharply to the BJP’s win in Gujarat, saying the “victory was a confirmation of the deep communal polarisation that has been engineered by the BJP-RSS” and that the saffron party funded “the AAP to divide the Congress votes” in the state.In its official statement on the results Thursday, The CPI(M) called “the BJP’s seventh successive victory” in Gujarat “a confirmation of the deep communal polarisation that has been engineered by the BJP-RSS over the last three decades”. “The projection of a pan-Hindu identity along with the rhetoric about Gujarati pride have overcome the more vital issues like price rise, unemployment and poor public health and educational facilities,” it said.Talking to reporters after the results, Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole alleged that the BJP used “liquor and money” in the Gujarat elections, adding that “the BJP misused all institutions including the Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation and Election Commission to win the polls.””There is no BJP wave in the country. The people are fed up with BJP’s politics of hatred, declining economy, inflation and unemployment and the same is reflected in these results,” the Maharashtra Congress chief said.Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru Thursday, former Karnataka chief minister and Congress leader Siddaramaiah alleged that the BJP funded the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Gujarat to divide the Congress votes.“In Gujarat, the AAP spent a lot. My information says that the BJP funded the AAP to divide the Congress vote. Because the AAP contested the election, we lagged behind,” Siddaramaiah said.“The AAP spent huge money in the election. They spent more than the Congress… The BJP winning in Gujarat was not a matter of surprise. There is no surprise that the BJP is coming to power in Gujarat because the AAP contested the election and ate away our votes in all the seats,” he added.Seeking to downplay the impact of the Gujarat election results in poll-bound Karnataka, the Congress leader said the wave in one state will never have an effect in another. “What happened to ‘Modi wave’ in Delhi where the BJP lost the MCD election?” he said.Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeem (AIMIM) contested the Assembly elections in Gujarat for the first time. He fielded candidates in 13 seats but drew a blank.Despite the results not going his way, Owaisi said he was “not discouraged”. In a video posted on the party’s Twitter account, he thanked the voters who voted for the party and said the party respects the people’s decision. The AIMIM “would discuss its performance, remove shortcomings and make efforts to strengthen the party in the future,” he said.At a press conference in Surat Thursday, AAP Gujarat president Gopal Italia said his party made an “impressive entry” and gave a “tough fight” to the ruling outfit in the just concluded Assembly polls. Italia also termed the AAP winning five seats in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state a “victory of Kejriwal’s politics of honesty” and vowed to make the party a “formidable challenger” of the BJP in Gujarat in the coming years.“It’s a historic day as the AAP today made an impressive entry into Gujarat, which is the BJP stronghold. We gave a tough fight to the rival and won five seats. It’s a revolution in Gujarat and the victory of Arvind Kejriwal’s honest politics,” he said.The BJP came to power in Gujarat for a record seventh consecutive term by winning 156 seats in the 182-member Assembly. It suffered a blow in Himachal Pradesh, where the Congress came to power by winning 40 seats in the 68-member Assembly.Calling the Congress victory in Himachal Pradesh “reassuring”, its DMK ally and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin congratulated the party on Twitter. “May the aspirations of Himachal people be fulfilled,” he said.About the hill state’s Assembly election results, the CPI(M) said “the Congress victory constitutes a stinging defeat for the BJP which had put in all its resources and state machinery to try to retain power. The popular discontent over the BJP misrule prevailed.”(With inputs from PTI)

‘Polarisation’ to ‘misuse of agencies’ to ‘BJP-AAP collusion’: How Opp sees the Gujarat results
Sena factions submit proof of membership to poll body
The Indian Express | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month ago | |

The Shiv Sena (UBT), led by Uddhav Thackeray, has submitted around 20 lakh party membership forms and 2.83 lakh affidavits to the Election Commission (EC) of India, ahead of December 8 – the last day of submission of documents before the poll panel.From December 13, the EC will hear the dispute between the two Sena factions led by Thackeray and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde over which is the real Shiv Sena and would control the party’s organisational structure as well as have the right to use its election symbol bow and arrow.A Shiv Sena (UBT) leader said, “We have filed 2,83,000 affidavits of members from the organisational wing of the party and about 20 lakh primary membership forms. There are more members in the party but due to time constraints, we could only submit 20 lakh.”Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena, led by Shinde, has till now submitted around 10 lakh forms of primary membership and 1.8 lakh affidavits from office-bearers. A Shinde faction leader claimed they would submit 10 lakh more membership forms soon. “Ten lakh forms have been submitted to the poll panel in physical form. But we have 10 lakh more forms, which were filled online. We will soon submit the same to the EC,” the leader added.After rebelling against the Thackeray-led Shiv Sena in June, leading to the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, the Shinde faction had moved EC, seeking allocation of the party’s election symbol and his faction’s recognition as the “real” Shiv Sena. Both the factions of the party were instructed by the EC to submit documentary evidences of their factions, including letters of support and other documents to prove they are the original Sena.

Sena factions submit proof of membership to poll body
No link between elections in one state with another: Siddaramaiah on Guj exit polls
The Indian Express | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month ago | |

Rejecting the claims that the Gujarat poll result will be an indicator of electoral outcome in Karnataka, which will go to polls by April-May next year, Senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah on Tuesday said local issues dominate these elections.The Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly also accused neighbouring Maharashtra of raking up the border dispute for political reasons, and felt that Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai should have called an all party meeting to discuss the issue by now.“Let’s see when the results are out on December 8. Some channels are projecting Congress ahead in Himachal Pradesh, while others are saying it is BJP, and that there is a stiff competition.nIn Gujarat they are saying BJP is ahead, let the results come. In any election we will have to accept the mandate of the people,” Siddaramaiah said, reacting to the exit poll results.Speaking to reporters here, he however rejected the claims that the Gujarat poll result will be an indicator of what might be the electoral outcome in Karnataka, and asked why not Punjab election results, in which BJP did not win.“There is no connection between elections in one state with another, as local issues, administration, and feelings of the people differ. In Parliament elections it is different game, as national issues dominate there. In assembly polls issues of particular states are important,” he added.With exit polls favouring the BJP retaining power in Gujarat, Bommai earlier today exuded confidence that the “pro-incumbency mandate” is likely in this poll-bound southern state.Exit polls on Monday predicted a big majority for the BJP in Gujarat and a dead heat in Himachal Pradesh, where most pollsters gave an edge to the ruling party over the Congress.The counting of votes in both states will take place on December 8. Elections for the Himachal Pradesh assembly took place on November 12, while polling in Gujarat happened in two phases on December 1 and 5.Regarding the border issue, the former Chief Minister said, Maharashtra is keeping the dispute alive for the sake of politics and the issue is well settled with the Mahajan report (1967), which is final.“… if they (Maharashtra) don’t accept that report, is it not unruly? We should not get afraid of such things and fight it out. We have to face the case in the court with the assistance of eminent advocates,” he said.Siddaramaiah said, the Chief Minister should have called an all party meeting by now to discuss the issue, but has not called. “The issue of jurisdiction and maintainability of the case has come before the Supreme Court for hearing,” he added.The border dispute dates back to 1957 after the reorganisation of states on linguistic lines. Maharashtra laid claim to Belagavi, which was part of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency as it has a sizable Marathi-speaking population. It also laid claim to 814 Marathi-speaking villages which are currently part of Karnataka.

No link between elections in one state with another: Siddaramaiah on Guj exit polls
PM Narendra Modi and accusations of poll code violation: From 2014 to Congress complaint today
The Indian Express | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month ago | |

The Congress on Monday filed a complaint with the Election Commission (EC) against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for alleged violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC). But this is not the first time the PM has faced such an allegation.In its complaint, the Opposition party said Modi, on his way to vote, stepped out 500 to 600 metres from the polling booth at Nishant School in the Ranip area of Ahmedabad. Wearing a saffron scarf and carrying a BJP flag, he walked with people who had gathered all around. This, the Congress alleged in Delhi, was a “two-and-a-half-hour long roadshow by the PM around his casting of vote” and amounted to electioneering long after the moratorium on campaigning had set in.According to The Indian Express reporter present at the scene, the entire episode — Modi arrived at the voting centre around 9.15 am and took around five minutes to walk up to the polling booth, greeting and waving his hand at eager voters lined up on either side of the road behind barricades and before leaving, he addressed the media — lasted for around 50 minutes, considerably less than the time the Congress mentioned. The EC has dismissed the Congress complaint saying it was not established that it was a roadshow and added that the “crowd was there on its own”.Lotus lapel pin to Bangladesh speechThe Opposition has often accused the PM of violating the poll code. In 2014, at the same polling booth in Ahmedabad’s Ranip, which is part of the Sabarmati Assembly constituency, Modi prominently displayed the BJP’s “lotus” election symbol to the media after casting his vote in the Lok Sabha polls. Modi later claimed that the media interaction was not pre-planned and the lotus lapel pin he displayed was part of his attire.During the 2019 general election, the PM was accused of violating the model code when, in an election speech, he appealed to first-time voters in Maharashtra’s Latur to vote for the BJP by citing the terrorist attack in Pulwama and the retaliatory air strikes on Pakistan’s Balakot. Another complaint was filed against the PM during the campaign after he hinted in an election speech that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was contesting from Wayanad in Kerala because the constituency had a high percentage of Muslim voters.During the Bihar Assembly polls of 2020, CPI MP Binoy Viswam alleged that the PMO, in a newsletter sent via its official email, had been soliciting funds for the BJP. The MP later filed another complaint accusing the EC of not taking any action on his earlier complaint. In 2021, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) complained that Modi had visited Orakandi in Bangladesh and offered prayers at a Matua community temple during the West Bengal Assembly polls solely to influence Matua voters across the border after the Model Code moratorium had set in. The EC dismissed all these complaints against the prime minister.

PM Narendra Modi and accusations of poll code violation: From 2014 to Congress complaint today
  • Congress abuses PM Modi whenever it sees defeat: Fadnavis
  • The Indian Express

    Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis Wednesday said that whenever the Congress sees defeat it abuses Prime Minister Narendra Modi, referring to Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge’s raavan remarks about Modi.At an election rally in Ahmedabad, Kharge, while taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for asking people in all constituencies to vote for BJP on the basis of his face, had asked whether he is hundred-headed Raavan with a head everywhereFadnavis added that entire country is condemning the use of abusive words against Modi and that the people of Gujarat will give Congress its lowest-ever result in the state Assembly elections.The BJP leader was addressing a press conference at BJP’s media center in Ahmedabad, on Wednesday.Quoting Fadnavis, a party release stated, “Because the Congress leaders can’t put any issues against the development model of BJP and due to lack of neta and niti, they try to defame PM Modi and BJP.”

‘Chunavi Hindu’ says BJP, but Rahul Gandhi is climbing steps one temple at a time in his Yatra
The Indian Express | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month 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 | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month 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 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month 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 | 2 months ago | |
The Indian Express
2 months 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 | 2 months ago | |
The Indian Express
2 months 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 | 2 months ago | |
The Indian Express
2 months 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 | 2 months ago | |
The Indian Express
2 months 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 | 2 months ago | |
The Indian Express
2 months 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 | 2 months ago | |
The Indian Express
2 months 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 | 2 months ago | |
The Indian Express
2 months 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 | 2 months ago | |
The Indian Express
2 months 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