It is tempting to view K Chandrasekhar Rao’s decision to rename the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) as the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) as yet another sign of a regional pushback to the BJP’s unitarian governance agenda and its expansionist political goals. KCR seems to suggest that shedding his party’s provincial credentials and adopting a name that indicates a pan-Indian vision for it could provide him a platform to expand nationally and fulfill his national ambitions.This approach is very different from the federal politics signaled by his southern counterparts such as the DMK in Tamil Nadu, the CPM in Kerala, and the Congress in Karnataka, or even the recent coalition initiatives in Bihar and Maharashtra against the BJP.The southern leaders — M K Stalin, Pinarayi Vijayan, Siddaramaiah — have emphasised regional/linguistic pride and have been projecting a state-centric story to counter the BJP’s political narrative that is perceived to be focused on privileging Hindu, Hindi, Hindutva identities. KCR, however, seems to have decided to abandon his regional legacy and embark on a path similar to the one taken by Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, which is to eye the political space that the Congress has been occupying. Ironically, in his bid to go national, KCR may have taken a big risk by dropping Telangana from his party’s name — will a communist party avoid Communism or a Dravidian outfit ignore Dravida while repositioning their respective organisations?So, what explains KCR’s national foray? Is it just the personal ambition for a national role? Or the presumption that expanding his party’s footprint could help him counter the BJP’s rise in his own backyard? Could it be an attempt to elevate himself above regional politics and entrust the party and the state to his son, K T Rama Rao?The BJP has been eyeing Telangana for some time though the TRS was focused more on marginalising the Congress, its mother ship, in the state. The BJP did spectacularly well in the last Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections in 2020 — it won 48 seats, up from four, whereas the TRS tally fell from 99 to 56; both had a vote share of around 36 per cent. The BJP won four of the 17 Lok Sabha seats in the state in 2019, and the last two assembly bypolls and seems to be the beneficiary of whatever anti-incumbency is in place against KCR, who has been CM since the state was formed in 2014.The fact is, also, that KCR, unlike the DMK in Tamil Nadu or the Left in Kerala, has no story to tell — the DMK now talks about the Dravidian Model whereas the Kerala Model has been in vogue in political debates for some time now. His party emerged from the debris of the Vishalandhra Movement in the 1950s that mobilised for a Telugu state. By taking up the case for a separate Telangana, the TRS had refuted the idea that a singular linguistic identity could be the binding factor for a state. Instead, it preferred a narrative of uneven development and spun a politics centred on the economic backwardness of Telangana. The cultural distinctiveness of the region may have been a powerful undercurrent in the broad Telangana statehood movement but has not resonated with the TRS in office.A wide range of welfare schemes for farmers (Rythu Bandhu and the Kaleshwaram lift-irrigation project, Mission Kakatiya), Dalits, etc that the TRS has implemented are popular, but it is the aura of having led the statehood battle on a nativist platform that lends credibility to KCR’s politics. The BJP, however, seems intent on shifting the terrain of state politics and is eyeing a potential fault line — Nizam rule and Hindu-Muslim relations — that it hopes to tailor with its Hindutva agenda. The TRS also has no access to the political legacies of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh — the national movement, peasant struggles, anti-Nizam agitation, the language movement — which could have provided the party with the cultural resources and memories to battle Hindutva.This is in sharp contrast, especially, to the DMK’s political stance, which projects the “Dravidian Model” as an alternative political worldview to that of the BJP. The Dravidian Model has a storied legacy and is rooted in the history of the Self-Respect Movement and the battles for social justice, linguistic identity, individual rights, provincial autonomy, and even self-determination of nationalities. Justice and equality have been key concepts in the Dravidian (and Left) political vocabulary: In the case of the DMK, it prioritised action against caste-based inequalities whereas the Left focused more on struggles against assets-centric inequalities. The DMK government’s stance on federalism and welfare, which it is vocal about, is influenced by this rich legacy of collective action, involving political mobilisation of intermediate and backward castes and classes. The DMK has also been quick to realise that the debate Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched on revdi culture could ultimately lead to the undermining and unravelling of the welfare state idea the Dravidian parties have promoted in Tamil Nadu. Recently, when Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin announced the launch of free breakfast for school children, an expansion of the mid-day meal scheme, he explained that the scheme was not a freebie but a part of his “duty” as CM.The federal coalition Stalin represents, and that is visible in Tamil Nadu, is an ideological front that broadly responds to ideas of secularism and social justice including protection of minority rights, federalism etc. The Maha Vikas Aghadi in Maharashtra and the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar are political coalitions more driven by the exigencies of the immediate political moment, primarily the threat posed by a BJP that wants complete domination over the polity. The Mahagathbandhan is also a social coalition that can claim the inheritance of Lohiaite social justice politics and the struggle against Emergency. Leaders of all three coalitions recognise the pivotal role the Congress — like the Janata Dal in the National Front in the 1980s — will need to play in turning them into viable electoral combines. KCR’s national ambitions have limited scope in this context.If at all, the BRS, in alliance with its steadfast ally, the AIMIM, can hope to undercut the prospects of the Congress (MVA in Maharashtra, for instance), just as the AAP is likely to do beyond its own email@example.com
The BJP national secretary Pankaja Munde has once again expressed her disappointment with the organisation for forcing her to play secondary role. Yet, she has also indicated that she is not going to resort to any extreme step right now and will take right decision at appropriate time.At the annual Bhagwan Bhakti Gad rally in district Beed, Pankaja did not mince words to vent her anger and unhappiness. But she exercised great caution not to directly name any central or state BJP leaders. Thus, keeping herself within the “laxman rekha” which she had in recent past repeatedly crossed.संख्या प्रचंड… उत्साह अफाट .. मैदान अपुरे पडले… पण प्रेम आणि आशिर्वाद यांनी भरून पावले..(१/२)#AaplaDasraAapliParampara pic.twitter.com/Msj8W1877J— Pankaja Gopinath Munde (@Pankajamunde) October 5, 2022As a result Pankaja has given her political rivals reason to question her continuation in BJP. Meanwhile, both Thackeray’s Sena and NCP have given an open-offer to Pankaja to join their organization, rather than face humiliation in BJP.Daughter of late Gopinath Munde, Pankaja belongs to Vanjari community ( Denotified Tribe). The former minister in state BJP-Shiv Sena government had lost 2019 state assembly polls from her home constituency in Parli (Beed district). It came as a jolt andshe blamed BJP for her defeat at the hands of estranged cousin, Dhananjay Munde who is with NCP. She was hoping the party would offer her bigger role in state politics, instead, she was moved to Delhi as national secretary since 2020.” I have started massive preparations for 2024 polls. If the party gives ticket, I will contest 2024 polls, ” she herself announced. At the same time, “I am not someone who will bow before anybody. I don’t hanker for power and post,” she added.What am I today? I am not a minister or MLA, MP. Yet, “look at the mammoth crowd. Why have people gathered. What can I offer them? I have nothing to give them except dignity,” she asserted. Thus, trying to strike an emotive chord with the people who thronged to her public meeting.While declaring she was not afraid of struggle, Pankaja exhorted her supporters to once again put their heart and soul for 2024 preparations. In a candid admission she said in 2019 assembly elections she lost and said that while appointments of eight MLCs and four MPs were done after that, she was never considered. Now, I have no complaints. But my supporters talk about it. And I have no answer.Although she did not elaborate on it, she ensured the message was loud for one and all. At the same time she was quick to clarify, ” I am not unhappy.”The subtle attack on party leaders throughout her speech was difficult to ignore. This was substantiated when she said in Hindi, ” Maana Ke Auro ke mukable kuch jyada paya nahi humne, Par kush hu ki khud girta sambhalta raha par kisi ko Giraya nahi maine…” (I admit I may not have achieved more compared to others, but I am glad I fall and rise …but haven’t pulled down others.)Pankaja who has earned the tag of inhouse “rebel” was directing her ire against party for not considering her for bigger roles in state politics. It is no secret that Pankaja wants to work in Maharashtra. She was vying to become member of state legislative council and leader of Upper House. But state and crntre leaders refused to consider her candidature in state. Instead, she has been asked to focus on strengthening organisation in her own home pitch Parl, district Beed.At some point she makes a point that the moto organisation above individual appeals to her. At the same time she mentions ” it s her goodness that has cost her …” ( Jarrorat se jyada imandar hu, isiliye sab ki nazar mein gunehgar hoon main..”Although she has issued veiled warning to party to not test her patience, she stopped short of selling out her options outside BJP and she told her followers, ” I have embarked on 2024 preparations. We will show how we can create sea from drops of water.”The state BJP leaders dismissed her speech as “nothing unusual.” A senior BJP office bearer said, “From her language it is clear she is not in mood to revolt, provided she gets chance to contest 2024 polls.” The political rhetoric is her style to enthuse her followers.For instance she says, ” I know you think I will play Durga ( fiery) but I am not going to speak against any leader.” If we read between lines she is careful not to antagonize top leaders.
The Congress may be seeking to shed the family baggage with its presidential election, but here in Haryana, its list of delegates who will vote for the poll is generous when it comes to relatives.A total of 195 delegates will vote to choose the new Congress president, from between Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor. Officially the party stand is that people who have put in work into the party, have got new members enrolled or have been managing politicians’ work in their respective constituencies, have been picked as delegates.Unofficially, many of these delegates now see an opportunity to be considered for Assembly tickets in the 2024 polls.Some of the 195:* Anirudh Chaudhry, father Ranbir Mahendra: The grandson of former Haryana chief minister Bansi Lal, Chaudhry has had a long stint in the BCCI in various capacities. He was the manager of the Indian team for its tour of England in 2011, has been honorary secretary of the Haryana Cricket Association, manager of the Indian team for the ICC T20 World Cup in England in 2009, and manager of the India Under-19 team that took part in the ICC Under-19 World Cup held in New Zealand in 2010.During Chaudhry’s term, questions were raised on the expenditure of the offices held by him and the implementation of recommendations by a panel. Chaudhry maintained he was targeted because he was the one raising questions.Anirudh’s father Ranbir Mahendra has contested from Badhra constituency in Haryana earlier. A lawyer-turned-sports administrator-turned politician, he has had a long association with the Congress.Of the three Lal political dynasties of Haryana, Bansi Lal’s is the most shrunken. The most prominent now is daughter-in-law Kiran Chaudhry who, incidentally, had complained to the high command about rivals Bhupinder Singh Hooda and aide Udai Bhan stuffing the delegate list with their people.* Sudhir Choudhry: A close relative of Haryana PCC president Udai Bhan, Choudhry is a B.Tech who runs a factory manufacturing plastic parts for automobiles in Manesar, near Delhi. Defending his inclusion in the delegate list, Choudhry told The Indian Express: “I have been in several positions in the Congress since 2008. I worked as a Returning Officer for the party’s Assembly as well as Lok Sabha polls, Zonal Returning Officer and also Pradesh Returning Officer. I have worked in Delhi, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh as Pradesh Returning Officer for the Youth Congress. I have also been in the AICC and worked as an APRO (Additional Pradesh Returning Officer) for PCC delegates in East Uttar Pradesh in 2015. Then I became an AICC member and am the vice-chairman of the SC wing of the Haryana Congress.”* Sudeep Surjewala: The cousin of Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Randeep Surjewala, Sudeep is a farmer in Kaithal. While calling Sudeep “basically a farmer, who owns over 60-70 acres of land in Kaithal and nearby areas”, a close aide of Surjewala said: “Sudeep is the one who handles all the party affairs for Randeep Surjewala in Kaithal and neighbouring Assembly constituencies.”* Chanakya Sharma, father Kuldeep Sharma: A former Haryana Assembly Speaker, Kuldeep has for long been trying to launch Chanakya into politics. In the 2019 Assembly polls, he even pitched Chanakya as a candidate against Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar from Karnal. For 2024, Chanakya is considered almost sure to get a ticket.Chanakya told The Indian Express that he is a practising lawyer at the Punjab and Haryana High Court and District and Sessions Courts across Haryana. “But while on weekdays I am in Chandigarh, from Friday till Sunday, I stay in the constituencies of Karnal and Gannaur. It (politics) is not new to me. I have been helping the people, listening to their grievances and trying to help them in whichever way I can for a long time.”* Shelly Chaudhary, husband Ram Kishan Gujjar: The first woman MLA from Naraingarh, Chaudhary got the ticket after her in-laws had held the seat for 13 elections, since 1966. Of these 13 times, her father-in-law the late Lal Singh won on seven occasions, and her husband Ram Kishan Gujjar twice.
As Rahul Gandhi’s viral photographs from his Bharat Jodo Yatra in Mysuru show, it often pays to have a little rain on your parade.On the 23rd day of his Kanyakumari to Kashmir padyatra, Rahul was in Mysuru when it started pouring. As the audience got up from their plastic chairs and held those above their heads against the rain, Rahul went on, underlining that “Neither ran, nor heat can stop this Yatra.”Thanking his supporters for listening to him despite the heavy downpour, Rahul added: “Just as Gandhiji fought the British Raj, we are today fighting a battle with the very ideology that killed Gandhi. This ideology has in the past eight years delivered inequality, divisiveness and the erosion of our hard-won freedoms.”The Congress put out videos of the supporters at the rally, clearly impressed, raising slogans. Party general secretary K C Venugopal tweeted calling Rahul “spirited, strong & tireless”, while the party’s communications in-charge Jairam Ramesh said Rahul had “electrified a sea of people”. “It (the event) was an unequivocal declaration. No force can stop the #BharatJodoYatra from uniting India against hate, from speaking up against unemployment and price rise.”The Congress’s official social media handle juxtaposed the photo of Rahul and the rain, against Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivering a speech under an umbrella held by a security personnel, saying: “Jan neta (mass leader), abineta (actor) – the difference is clear.”One of the first to react among non-Congress parties was, not surprisingly, the NCP. Its spokesperson Clyde Crasto tweeted, “Time has Proved and Time will Prove. When the Rain Gods decide to Bless you, there will soon be a Storm in the Opposition Camp”.Crasto attached a photo of a soaking NCP supremo Sharad Pawar carrying on with his speech in October 2019 at Satara in Western Maharashtra, ignoring a downpour.Pawar was canvassing for just an Assembly bypoll, for party candidate Shriniwas Partil, in an election necessitated by NCP leader Udayanraje Bhonsale joining the BJP. But the message sent by the then 79-year-old NCP patriarch, known to still be among the toughest political fighters in the ring, was larger, and loud and clear. He said he committed “a mistake” in selecting a candidate for the Lok Sabha earlier that year, and that people were now waiting to correct it.A stint in the rain has done other politicians good too, more so in foreign corners, even as those seen as shunning the heat and dust of the race have found themselves open to scorn:Just days prior to Rahul’s speech, Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi carried on with his address to an audience ignoring the rain in Anantapur in Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh. The occasion was a pre-release event for his much-awaited film Godfather, but much was read into his choice of Anantapur as the venue.Chiranjeevi’s brother, actor and politician Pawan Kalyan, has been touring the region meeting tenant farmers who are reported to have died by suicide. Chiranjeevi had earlier mentioned that while he wanted to be “away from politics”, politics was “not going away from” him.Referring to the rain, he said he was “surprised”. “I’m drenched in the rain after a long time… I want to remind you that it rains whenever I come to Rayalaseema… When I came here for political campaigning and to shoot a song for Indra, both the times it rained. I take today’s rain as a good omen.”Kejriwal was into the first 15 minutes of his 41-minute speech, at his first Independence Day as Delhi Chief Minister, when the clouds opened up. Kejriwal managed to read almost all that he wanted to say, shielded by just an umbrella dutifully held open by security escorts.The participants at the Independence Day parade, including many schoolchildren, remained seated in the open even as TV crews ran for cover. Once Kejriwal left, the children couldn’t resist swinging to the catchy beats of A R Rahman’s Jai Ho, as per a report by The Indian Express, with the stadium turning into a giant floor for an impromptu rain dance. Some of them made a dash for the tri-coloured helium balloons, grounded by the rain.Biden was in the midst of the political fight of his life, against Donald Trump seeking to make a comeback, against complaints that he was too old for the job, and seeking to fill the large shoes of his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.In October 2020, during the last leg of the presidential campaign, with three days left for the polls, Biden held a rally in Florida where rain started pouring. He continued to talk, later captioning a photo that showed him in the rain saying: “The storm will pass, a new day will come.”The same month, Biden’s Vice-President partner Kamala Harris, broke into an impromptu dance at another Florida rally, while holding an umbrella. As the video went viral, Harris shared a picture of hers from the event, tweeting: “Rain or shine, democracy waits for no one.”Obama had perhaps set the playbook for his Democratic colleagues at an event in July 2012, when he was the President. As per a Reuters report, he was “soaked to the skin as he rallied supporters during a downpour in the election battleground state of Virginia”. About 900 people heard him out in the rain, the report said.Obama told the cheering audience: “I know this from Michelle (his wife). Ladies, I do apologise for your hairdos getting messed up…We’re going to have to treat everybody to a little salon visit after this.”Their Republican rival and then US President Donald Trump, on the other hand, found himself in a sticky spot after he skipped a World War I memorial service about 50 miles from Paris because of the rainy weather, with White House officials stepping in on his behalf.The trip to Ainse-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial was cancelled “due to scheduling and logistical difficulties caused by the weather”, the White House said in its official reason.Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, wasn’t the only one with raised eyebrows. Not taking any names, the French Army in a tweet said, “There is rain, but it does not matter… We remain motivated,” along with a picture of a soldier crawling under wire in the rain.Some reports drew a comparison to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who, in 2017, while at an event to honour those who fought during the Dieppe Raid of World War II, put down his umbrella amid rain and said, “As we sit here in the rain, thinking how uncomfortable we must be these minutes as our suits get wet and our hair gets wet and our shoes get wet, I think it’s all the more fitting that we remember on that day, in Dieppe, the rain wasn’t rain, it was bullets.”In her heartbreaking and bitter contest against Trump for the US Presidency, Hillary Clinton came closest to joy at one rain-hit rally. As The New York Times wrote, “The moment lasts about 45 seconds… But in it, so much of the cautious stagecraft that surrounds and inhibits Hillary Clinton appears to break away.”The report talks about how Clinton cut short a critique of Trump, flipping the page in her binder, and raced to her closing lines. “Here’s what I want you to remember,” she told the crowd at the rally in Florida. “I want to be the president for everybody: everybody who agrees with me, people who don’t agree with me, people who will vote for me, people who don’t vote for me.”Just before leaving the stage, writes the report, “she turns and raises both arms, giving herself up to the storm and the moment — and the looming end of this adventure”.While her start may have been rough, new UK Prime Minister Truss has handled at least one storm with aplomb. In her first address as PM, amid speculation that rain would halt her speech and force her to deliver it inside, Truss said the country’s citizens could “ride out the storm” of the worst economic crisis.With the pound plunging and forced to backtrack on a tax cut for the wealthy, many would say she spoke too soon.
Not unknown to controversy, senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal has this time ventured into a caste minefield, leaving not just him but also his party squirming.Last week, speaking at a meeting of the Samata Parishad (an OBC outfit founded by him in the early 1990s) in Mumbai, Bhujbal questioned the rationale behind putting up portraits of Goddess Saraswati in schools. Instead, he said, social reformers such as Jyotirao Phule should be honoured in schools and colleges.“In schools, we have portraits of Saraswati and Sharada. Have you seen Saraswati? Has she taught you? If at all Saraswati taught, it must be to those 3%… we were kept out,” Bhujbal said.While Bhujbal did not specify, the 3% remark was seen as directed at Brahmins. The upper caste community comprises 3% of Maharashtra’s population. The politically dominant community are the Marathas, forming 33%, while OBCs such as Bhujbal himself make up 40%. Dalits comprise 13%, tribals 8% and denotified tribes another 3%.In his speech, Bhujbal said: “Social reformers like Savtribai Phule, Jyotiba Phule, Dr B R Ambedkar opened the doors of education for OBS, Dalits.”Bhujbal’s remarks have been met with strong reaction by various right-wing student organisations and mainstream parties. Apart from this, a police case has been registered against the NCP leader under Section 506 (2) (criminal intimidation) of the IPC. A former aide, Lalitkumar Tekchandani, has accused Bhujbal and two other unidentified people of issuing death threats to him after he shared videos of Bhujbal’s speech.Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said, “We are not going to remove portraits of Saraswati from schools. We will go by public sentiments.”Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis said Saraswati was the Goddess of learning. “Those who don’t subscribe to our culture, Hindutva make such statements.”The NCP has largely washed its hands of the statement of one of its most seasoned leaders, coming amidst the festive season, leaving it to Bhujbal to do damage control. On Sunday, the 74-year-old visited the Kalika Temple in Nashik, which has idols of Goddesses Kali, Laxmi and Saraswati, for aarti.Seeking to put the controversy behind him, Bhujbal said, “I was not asking anybody to bring down Saraswati portraits. My concern was as to why portraits of great social reformers were not put up in schools… How and whom one worships at home is an individual’s right and freedom, but why bring it to school?”An NCP leader regretted that Bhujbal used the wrong words to make his point, and while OBC leaders including him are known for anti-Brahminism, he should not have dragged the Goddess into the argument.“Social reformers in Maharashtra have always attacked casteism and religion. In that sense, Bhujbal has not done anything different. But then there are other ways to make your point. There are individuals who don’t believe in any religion or God. One can be an atheist. But why question someone else’s belief?” the leader said.Bhujbal insists his remarks have been wrongly perceived. “I am not against Hindu gods or goddesses, I have just suggested that social reformers should find a place in schools,” he said.His close aide in the Samata Parishad said, “The backward classes, Dalits and tribals have been subjected to atrocities by upper castes, landlords. Caste sentiments still prevail. So, what he said was not entirely wrong. But I admit he should not have named Saraswati.”A steadfast OBC leaderBhujbal, who belongs to the Mali (gardener) community and is an engineering diploma holder who once helped his grandmother sell vegetables, has often faced controversies in his political career spanning over four decades. However, among politicians with few lasting loyalties, his commitment to OBC politics has never wavered.Reflecting the contradiction of Maharashtra politics, where the Shiv Sena represents as much Maratha chauvinism as Hindutva politics, Bhujbal began his politics with the Sena in the 1960s, inspired by Bal Thackeray, and made his way slowly up the ranks – from BMC corporator to two-time mayor of Mumbai, to the lone Sena MLA in the Assembly in 1985 and 1990.In 1991, Bhujbal held true to his politics again when he quit the Sena to join the Congress citing Thackeray’s opposition to the Mandal Commission recommendations for OBC reservation. It was in the Congress that he found his new political master, Sharad Pawar. When Pawar formed the NCP, Bhujbal moved with him, reportedly even turning down promises of CM post if he stayed.Bhujbal was entrusted by Pawar with the NCP state president’s role to consolidate OBCs in 1999. Later, when the Congress-NCP came to power in 1999, he was made Deputy CM and given the Home portfolio.His politics came full circle when, as Home minister, Bhujbal did the unthinkable and ordered the arrest of the all-powerful Bal Thackeray for inflammatory writings in the Sena mouthpiece Saamna. Although Thackeray got bail immediately, Bhujbal had earned his stripes.In 2003, Bhujbal had his first brush with the law when he had to step down as Deputy CM following allegations against him in the multi-crore bogus stamp scam popularly known as the Telgi scam.Many at the time believed it would be the end of his political career. However, he survived and within a year, returned as PWD Minister. Later, he got a second shot as Deputy CM from 2008 to 2010.At the height of the Modi wave in 2014, the NCP fielded Bhujbal from the Nashik Lok Sabha seat. While he lost, he made it to the Assembly six months later from the Yeola constituency.In March 2016, he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on charges of receiving kickbacks to award government contracts as PWD Minister, including for the Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi built at a cost of Rs 870 crore. Bhujbal spent two years in jail before release. A year later, he contested from Yeola again in the Assembly polls, and retained the seat.While compared to his fiery past, Bhujbal is much more mellow now, he retains the streak when it comes to OBC politics, especially as a counter to the BJP. He has often taken on the BJP-RSS, accusing it of divisive politics and spreading communal hatred.NCP leaders admit they often advise him caution, but he is not intimidated on account of the cases against him, dismissing the same as “political vendetta”.
AS THE government led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde nears the 100-day mark, Shinde’s increasing focus on political commitments and his overdrive to meet people as an accessible CM has made a section of Shinde camp leaders urge him to maintain a distinction between politics and governance.In the past week, The Indian Express interacted with over a dozen leaders from the Shinde camp, the opposition as well as the legislators from the ruling BJP. “One would always see a long queue outside his office in Mantralaya. We joined him in hope that our pending works will be cleared soon. But we are finding it difficult to discuss with him due to lack of time,” a Shinde camp leader from north Maharashtra.According to the Shinde camp, Shinde’s popularity and way of functioning separate him from the rest, and it is bound to disturb a few in the beginning. “People want to see the person, who sent the Thackerays back home. He is at the top of his popularity and people across the state will naturally come to him with their work,” said Kiran Pawaskar, a spokesperson of the Shinde camp.In a candid admission, a Shinde camp leader from western Maharashtra pointed out that more leaders are coming to the Shinde fold with the hope to get their work done under the new regime. “These are political demands, which naturally get challenged by the opposite side. Many times, BJP and Shinde camp lock horns. The lack of organisational structure is forcing the CM to focus on politics than on governance. It needs to be tackled,” he said.MLAs from ally BJP are also facing problems as Shinde supporters in their respective constituencies are pushing for changes without their knowledge. A BJP legislator from west Vidarbha went to Mantralaya last week seeking a stay on the transfer order of a CEO of a local municipal council that was issued without his knowledge.“I realised that some Shinde supporter from my area went and met the CM with an application. The CM signed and the transfer order was issued. I am the local MLA and need to be at least told in advance,” he said, adding that the administration in an alliance government cannot run on whims.During the Monsoon Session this year, a Congress legislator wanted to meet Shinde regarding issues in her constituency but seeing the crowd at his office chose to hand over the letter to an officer there. “The officer smiled when I asked him if that’s how the CM office works now. There is a need to have a balance between political work and administrative work,” she said.Shinde has been vocal about his unchanged ways of functioning even after becoming the CM. After visiting more than 200 mandals and individual houses during the Ganesh festival, he was seen participating in Navratri procession for five hours last week.
Poll strategist Prashant Kishor, who sets off from West Champaran Sunday for a yatra lasting one-and-a-half years, speaks to The Indian Express about his Jan Suraaj campaign, his political party that is in the works, the support he is getting, Rahul Gandhi’s Yatra, and why the Congress presidential poll could not have had “worse timing”.Now that you have already travelled across 25 of Bihar’s 38 districts before your scheduled padayatra, what are your takeaways and plans?There is a vast majority of people who are showing a huge fatigue factor with the present regime. Whether they are JD(U) or RJD supporters, or others, they want something new. For the first time, I have been seeing people use terms or words they did not use for Nitish Kumar till 2014-’15, till the time I worked for him. No one used abusive words for Nitish till 2015. But people are using abusive words for him now … When I used to move around a lot for him before the 2015 polls, he used to say that the worst that could happen is that he might lose. He would say, ‘Hamne ijjat kamai hai, log mujhe gaali nahi denge (I have earned respect, people will not abuse me)’. I think that phase is over for Nitish Kumar. People will say Lalu and Nitish are the same. There is corruption, lethargy and inefficiency in the lower bureaucracy. There is no fear of government among such functionaries.What are people saying about the liquor law Nitish Kumar often talks of?The failure of the liquor law is a huge factor. People say, ‘Sab kuchh barbaad ho gaya (everything is destroyed)’. They explain how the liquor mafia rules the roost and some policemen also extort money in the name of implementation or non-implementation of the liquor law. There has been criminalisation of the youth (because of an illegal liquor trade). As for women, what I could sense after talking to a few lower court lawyers is that women are the worst sufferers, with their husbands, sons and brothers being sent to jail for drinking. The liquor law has badly affected law and order, with most of the police force being engaged in the implementation of the law or hiding facts from the government. I got such feedback after talking to some IPS officers … when I met Kisan Chachi (social activist Rajkumari Devi in Muzaffarpur), a mukhiya told me how the local police often get womenfolk from Mushahari to wash utensils at police stations. These women’s husbands often get arrested after drinking.How have you selected your padayatra route? Have you also kept the social combination in mind?A padayatra of this magnitude has not been attempted in Bihar in the last 75 years. It will be a 3,500-km total on-foot yatra. No vehicle will be used, nor will I go back to Delhi or Patna and resume. I will stop at villages where I reach in the evening. I have avoided national highways. I will visit all blocks and all towns and most of the panchayats. My idea is to visit a maximum number of villages and identify people who should be encouraged to join politics. Just take the example of West Champaran from where I will start my padayatra, I will be moving around in this district for 35 days. That’s why I have kept one-and-a-half years to complete the padayatra. As for the social combination, it is true that caste is a reality in Bihar, but people do not see me as a caste leader. I have a different USP. They expect me to bring change. There is also a section of people who think that I can bring about change. There is also a set of people who think if I help them, they can win local-level elections.Who are the ones coming along with you? Social activists, RTI activists, politicians falling by the wayside?All sorts of people mentioned above. Besides an interest among the youth, what surprised me the most is senior citizens’ deep interest in my programmes. Just the other day, I met an 88-year-old Gandhian from Muzaffarpur who wants to join my yatra. During a recent meeting in Madhubani, 22 of 25 people who met me were 70-plus. These are the people who have lived their life but still believe things can still change. Shaayad kuchh ho jaaye (hope for something good to happen). I was telling my wife that I met hugely talented and well-read people in villages.Another padayatra, the Bharat Jodo Yatra by Rahul Gandhi, is on. What is your take on it?The route of this yatra is beyond my understanding. Ideologically or politically, Kerala or Telangana cannot be the nerve centre of this yatra, especially when the Gujarat Assembly elections are round the corner. Though I am no one to suggest, the yatra should have started from Gujarat for obvious political reasons. The Congress should have started the battle from the place that matters the most. From Gujarat, Rahul Gandhi could have gone to Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, and Telangana. Some people argue that their yatra is for a larger cause, not the Gujarat polls. Then, UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, or Madhya Pradesh could have the ideal place to start it. The Congress should have focussed on states where a maximum of 300 BJP Lok Sabha seats came from.How do you see the Congress’s presidential election? Do you see the party looking beyond the Gandhi family?The timing of the Congress presidential poll could not have been worse, even if it is about the party looking beyond the Gandhi family. It is rattling the ship before it enters troubled waters. It is like changing the captain when there is an announcement of a storm. It is tough to expect the incoming person (president) to overhaul the system in one-and-a-half years before the next Lok Sabha polls. It could have made sense had it happened soon after the 2019 LS polls … As for Congress moving beyond dynasty, it will come out of the Gandhi family sooner or later. I do not know if it is desired.Do you see Bihar politics becoming bipolar, with Nitish Kumar perhaps playing his last innings as CM? What has changed since Nitish joined the Grand Alliance?I have no idea about it getting bipolar. What happens to the JD(U) post-Nitish is also up to its leaders to figure out. I am also not sure if the JD(U) will merge with the RJD … Nothing has changed with Nitish joining the Grand Alliance except the change in the number plates of some ministers. There is the same old culture in governance and bureaucracy. Work ethics and government mechanism are the same.And what about Nitish Kumar’s prime ministerial ambitions and efforts for Opposition unity?Having cups of coffee with some leaders and going for photo-ops is not the right approach to building a formidable Opposition. There has to be a clear message and narrative. Vast machinery is needed to run an effective campaign to build momentum that can defeat the BJP.What is your biggest criticism of the Nitish government?Investment in health and education is a must. My biggest criticism of Nitish Kumar is that despite being an educated person the education system has totally collapsed under his rule. We used to have basic schools, which have collapsed now. There used to be at least two to three government schools in each district where seats were fought for. But we do not have it. Maybe, Simultala school of Jamui in the entire state. The failure of the education system will affect two to three generations whereas broken roads can be repaired. For Nitish Kumar, education meant only constructing one or two-room pink buildings, never-ending agitation by teachers, distribution of school uniforms and bicycles, and a third-rate midday meal scheme. Tell me, where is learning? When I was part of the JD(U), I suggested one good school be built in every block. His response was that the idea was shot down by the UPA government in name of ensuring equality in education. But my counter suggestion was that the state government should still fund such schools. Somehow, Nitish Kumar has stopped listening. Nobody dared speak in front of him. During his evening meetings, hardly anyone would dare suggest anything. They would only listen to Nitish Kumar and speak five-six words in a three-hour sitting.What is the alternative model you are offering to the people of Bihar?Any alternative model has to give top priority to health and education. And unless the right people come to politics, some tinkering here and there will not help. Right-thinking people have to come together, they do not have to be afraid of anything and must not worry about where the money will come from (to help them contest elections).But where will the money come from?In the next couple of months, one will see the biggest crowdsourcing in Bihar. The biggest operators of crowd-funding will come to the state.When will you announce your party and will you lead it?We will announce the party soon after the padayatra. I have already announced that I will not lead it. I will neither be elected nor selected. But it will have a leader who will be selected from among its workers … Though it could be outrageous to draw an analogy of my venture with Mahatma Gandhi’s association with the Congress, he was the Congress president for just a year, what I want to suggest is that examples exist in our political history itself.How do you describe Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, Chirag Paswan, and Kanhaiya Kumar, the three young leaders from Bihar?Tejashwi is the son of Lalu Prasad, Chirag is a friend, and I have not heard or seen much of Kanhaiya Kumar in Bihar.What is your political ideology — Left, Right, or Centre?Left, Right, and Centre are from western democracies. That way, I am Centre-Left. I am a great believer in a welfare state that has to be maintained and respected. People cannot be left to market forces. Wealth creation and its creators have to be respected. One cannot distribute poverty. In the Hindi heartland, in the name of socialism, poverty was distributed and re-distributed. Look at the south Indian states. They also believe in social justice but they focussed on education, educating girls, and decentralisation of power. Take the example of Lalu Prasad, who distributed and redistributed poverty. He killed Panchayati Raj institutions … I am a great votary of Panchayati Raj institutions and believe that one-third of development funds should be routed through them.What else do you have in mind for good governance?I am in favour of the lateral entry of talented people in government to work as multipliers. Vikram Sarabhai, Homi Jehangir Bhabha, and APJ Abdul Kalam in space and missile science, Verghese Kurien in White Revolution, MS Swaminathan in Green Revolution, Sam Patroda in telecommunications, and Nandan Nilekani in Aadhar were game-changers. All of them are examples of lateral entry into government. Imagine, we have a pool of thousands of such people who can make lateral entries to work as multipliers.In recent times, only Arvind Kejriwal’s political venture has succeeded. Do you also have some populist initiatives in mind such as Kejriwal’s free electricity and water schemes?I am not at all inspired by Arvind Kejriwal. If inspiration has to come from anywhere, it is from the Congress of pre-Independence days, in terms of selection of leadership, organisational stricture or having social and moral standards. I do not think that Kejriwal has succeeded because of what one calls populist measures. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had done so in 2017 but it did not succeed. It succeeded this time because the Congress has set its house on fire. The AAP has gone with the same model for Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat but the results may be different. While it can be the main Opposition in Gujarat, it may not do well in Himachal Pradesh. Freebies do not work. One has to be credible. I am taking a long route. After all, who takes two years to start a party?
To those who know Mukul Balkrishna Wasnik, this is an unusual situation for the 63-year-old low-profile Congress Dalit leader from Maharashtra to be in.As the Congress looks around for someone to take the party presidency, in the wake of the shock waves coming from Rajasthan, Wasnik is one of the names thrown up in the churning. That the Congress relieved him of his charge of general secretary in-charge of Madhya Pradesh in recent days has lent credence to this theory.The man who has always shunned the limelight, a silent witness to the political upheavals in the AICC, thus finds himself a player in the biggest show the Congress has put up in years – even if unintentionally.In his long political career spanning over four decades, Wasnik has always steered away from controversy. Among the party’s longest serving general secretaries, he has held responsibilities of various states, and was recently rushed to Goa after almost all the Congress MLAs there moved to the BJP.A senior Maharashtra Congress leader says Wasnik is “surely in the reckoning”, not just for his clean record but also the fact that he is a Dalit. Another notable feature of his career has been that it has been spent largely in Delhi, putting him at the heart of action.Wasnik also has political lineage behind him, with his father, the late Balkrishna Wasnik, once an MP. Hailing from Vidarbha, Wasnik rose the political ladder gradually, and was the president of the National Students’ Union of India from 1984 to 1986, and president of the Indian Youth Congress from 1988 to 1990 before moving on to electoral politics. He stormed into notice then, becoming the youngest MP at the time at 25 years. However, since then, his electoral record has been mixed.Wasnik first won from Buldhana in 1984, and while he retained the seat twice more, he also lost thrice. In 2009, Wasnik moved to Ramtek, near Nagpur, and won, but then lost in 2014.He served as Union Minister of State, Sports, Youth Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs, under Narasimha Rao in 1993-96, and during the UPA government of 2009-14 led by Manmohan Singh was the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment. Currently, he is a Rajya Sabha MP, having started his term in 2020.While measured in his words otherwise, Wasnik has not minced them when it comes to the RSS-BJP’s “communal politics”. Insiders in the Congress say that he had opposed tooth and nail the decision to align with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra after the 2019 Assembly elections to form the government. He had expressed concern about the Congress being seen as compromising on “secularism”, sources said.His politics though has largely not concerned Maharashtra, with Wasnik mostly blossoming in Delhi, thanks to his unflinching loyalty to the party high command and the Gandhi family.As a result, when his name emerged as one of the signatories on the G-23 letter of August 2020, seeking widespread changes in the party, it had come as a complete surprise.A senior leader requesting anonymity says still no one saw Wasnik as a “rebel”. “We believe he was still the eyes and ears of the AICC top brass. He is not somebody who would ever compromise his loyalty to the Congress high command,” the leader said, underlining that the G-23 group was not really rebelling but only seeking changes in the party.If the party president’s post does come Mukul Balkrishna Wasnik’s way, it will be the second time he would leave his colleagues surprised. The first time was three years ago, when at age 60, he tied the knot with friend Raveena Khurana.
BRISTLING at the BJP since long, over what she sees as slights towards her, and often intemperate in her remarks, national secretary Pankaja Munde stunned the party on Tuesday by going one step further. Addressing a public meeting at Ambejogai in district Beed, to mark Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s September 17 birthday, she said, “If I live in the heart and mind of people, nobody can finish me politically… PM Narendra Modi wants to end dynasty rule prevalent in the Congress. Even I come from a political family. But if I live in people’s minds, even Modi cannot finish my political career.”The eldest of three daughters of Gopinath Munde, the popular senior BJP leader who died in a car accident in Delhi, Pankaja has often aspired for a bigger role in the party than she has been accorded. She stepped into electoral politics during Munde’s time, contesting and winning from Parli Assembly constituency in Beed in 2009. That was when Munde moved to the Lok Sabha, passing on his political legacy in Maharashtra – where he also served as Deputy CM for a while – to Pankaja.With their vote bank among the sizeable Vanjara community, with presence in Marathwada, parts of North and Western Maharashtra, and with her good oratorical skills, Pankaja had soon made a mark. Political strategists in the BJP talked of her emerging as “the OBC leader in the BJP”.In 2014, after she was re-elected from Parli, Pankaja was inducted into the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition government that came to power. She held the important portfolios of Rural Development and Women and Child Welfare in the Cabinet led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.However, it was around then that her troubles started, with her tenure marked by Opposition accusations of a chikki scam. Norms were allegedly violated while issuing tenders for the purchase of chikki (a sweet made of jaggery and groundnut) under the Integrated Child Development programme of her Women and Child Welfare Ministry. Fadnavis backed her, and the Anti-Corruption Bureau gave her a clean chit, but she didn’t win any friends when the controversy saw her lash out with remarks directed at own party members, on a routine basis.Pankaja’s troubles compounded when in 2019, she lost the Assembly polls from Parli by a huge margin. Worse, it was to her cousin Dhananjay Munde, who had long coveted the seat and crossed over to the NCP when the BJP wouldn’t give him the constituency. Again, Pankaja blamed the state BJP leadership for her defeat.In 2020, the BJP politically rehabilitated her as national secretary and made her co-incharge of Madhya Pradesh. However, far from mollified, Pankaja kept speaking out, making her desire to return to state politics evident. She vied for a seat in the Legislative Council and didn’t get one, and in another snub, sister Pritam Munde Khade, who is an MP, didn’t get a berth when PM Modi carried out a Cabinet reshuffle in 2021.The sisters saw a message in the induction instead of Bhagwat Karad as Union Minister of State, Finance. Karad hails from Aurangabad in Marathwada region, and hence considered Pankaja’s direct rival in the region. Pankaja’s followers received the news with a three-day protest, with several local leaders resigning, before she stepped in, asking her followers to calm down.BJP leaders denied at the time that there was any bid to clip Pankaja’s wings by favouring Karad for a Union berth.At the time too, she dared the party to take action against her. “We have built this house (the BJP). Why should we leave? We will see what to do when the roof collapses,” she said, adding that she was waiting for the appropriate time. In another remark, seen as directed at Fadnavis, she said: “My leaders are PM Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and party president J P Nadda.”A few months ago, when Vinod Tawde was elevated from the post of national secretary to national general secretary, Pankaja said at a public gathering: “I am not used to begging for any post. I have been taught to serve people, and not to stretch my hands, asking for a post.”Lately, after the BJP returned to power in Maharashtra in coalition with the Eknath Shinde Sena, Pankaja’s supporters have been pitching for a Cabinet berth for her in the state.Insiders in the BJP say that some senior leaders have tried lobbying on her behalf. “They took up the issue with central leaders, asking them to nominate her to the Legislative Council and make her a minister in the Shinde-Fadnavis government. But they were asked to mind their own business,” a BJP leader said.Another leader claimed that the central leadership has sent a clear message: “Pankaja should focus on the assignment given to her as national secretary and strengthen her organisational base in home pitch Parli.”The Opposition has been sending feelers, meanwhile, realising the embarrassment for the BJP if Pankaja crosses over. While the Uddhav Thackeray Shiv Sena has repeatedly asked her to join them, senior NCP leader and MP Supriya Sule recently said, “If someone in my party has made an offer to Pankaja to join us, I support it.”The BJP, however, is not unduly worried, as of now. Party leaders said Pankaja keeps making such off-the-cuff remarks, and these should be taken only at face value. “When she talks to her supporters, she is at times unmindful of the Laxman Rekha,” a leader said.
PANKAJA MUNDE, national secretary of BJP, on Tuesday said that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not be able to end her political career if she has got a place in people’s mind and heart.According to Munde, “If I live in people’s mind and heart, even Modiji cannot end my political career… Dynasty politics has been prevailing in the Congress party. Modiji, however, wants to end the dynasty rule… I hail from a political family, but if I live in your mind and heart, nobody will be able to finish (end the career) me. If I live in people’s minds and hearts, even Modiji cannot finish my political career.”She made the comments on Tuesday, while addressing a public rally — part of PM Modi’s birthday celebrations for a fortnight across Maharashtra — in Beed district’s Ambajogai. State BJP leaders have refused to comment on Munde’s statement.Meanwhile, a senior BJP functionary, on the condition of anonymity, said, “… Here, we must note the context of her remarks… However, a national BJP leader with her stature could have avoided mentioning PM Modi in the speech.”
The first-ever working committee of eminent parliamentarians from various political parties and Vidhan Sabha/Council Speakers/Chairmen from many States and Union Territories met in Pune to decide on the organization of the National Young Legislators’ Conference (NYLC or Rashtriya Yuva Vidhayak Sammelan). The working committee meeting was co-chaired by the noted former Speakers of Lok Sabha – Shri Shivraj Patil, Smt. Meira Kumar, and Smt. Sumitra Mahajan. The incumbent and former speakers of State Assemblies and chairpersons of Legislative Councils from more than 15 states, former Chief Election Commissioners, and a few former bureaucrats also participated in the deliberations. Shri Pramod Sawant, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Goa, also joined the meeting virtually and offered to extend complete support of the Goa government.We are celebrating the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav currently and in another 2 years we will be entering into the 75th year of implementation of our Constitution. The NYLC will connect these two memorable achievements in the history of our country by bringing young legislators from all across the country on one platform in a historic effort.The NYLC, once established, will be organized jointly by the legislative bodies, non-governmental institutions and civil society with active support from the MIT School of Government, Pune. The NYLC will seek support from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UNESCO.NYLC will aid in the creation of a cohesive ecosystem among leaders of all ideologies for the common cause of development beyond party politics, instilling the spirit of nationhood, encouraging clean leadership for enhancing good governance, and creating a model to be reckoned with globally. It will foster peer-to-peer learning aimed at designing innovative development solutions, in addition to developing ethical, spirited, and competent public leadership for formulating pro-people policies.The proposed dates for the organization of NYLC are 16, 17 and 18 June, 2023 in either Goa or Mumbai, Maharashtra.Shri Shivraj Patil, Former Speaker of the Lok Sabha said – “There are three very important aspects which are expected out of the legislature. The first is policy making, the second is to make laws and the third is to check that laws are implemented. If young legislators are imparted with knowledge of the law, policy making, and administration at an early stage, this would, in turn, change the democratic shape of the country and yield good outcomes for society.”Smt. Meira Kumar, Former Speaker of the Lok Sabha said, “It was a wonderful conference and the interactions we had in the evening were both positive and successful. I congratulate Mr. Rahul Karad and pay respect to his father Dr. Vishwanath Karad. They are the guiding spirit behind NYLC. ”Smt. Sumitra Mahajan, Former Speaker of the Lok Sabha said, “NYLC shouldn’t be an end in itself but a means to obtain a bigger purpose where we sensitise our young legislators of the responsibility that they have ahead as they start their journey to serve the people of this country.”Shri Rahul V. Karad, Chief Initiator, MIT School Of Government said “The time has come for our country’s Young Elected Representatives to rise above partisanship and work toward the creation of a Unified, Strong, and Developed Bharat that will address the aspirations of countless young, old, and women alike. Only a united Bharat, led by a strong democratic leadership, can face the challenges of an increasingly divided world and show the international community the path to world peace. NYLC will act as a catalyst of ideas and as a concept that will ignite and strengthen the sense of national unity and responsibility among the young legislators who will be the future of Bharat.”The outcome of the legislators’ conference will be to assist the National Leadership in understanding the pros and cons of policies, as well as the challenges of governance and development at the grassroots level, and in spreading the progressive imagery of the National Leadership around the world.The National Young Legislators’ Conference is being held under the aegis of MIT School of Government (MIT-SOG). MIT-SOG has been at the vanguard for fostering innovative and flagship events in the past such as Bharatiya Chhatra Sansad, National Women Parliament, National Panchayat Parliament, and National Youth Parliament among many other events.About MIT School of Government (MIT-SOG):The MIT School of Government (MIT-SOG), a constituent unit of MIT World Peace University (MIT-WPU), Pune, is the first institute of its kind to initiate a two-year Master’s degree program in Political Leadership & Government or MPG (UGC-approved program) for a Career in Politics.MIT-SOG was initiated in the year 2005 under the visionary leadership of Shri. Rahul V. Karad – Initiator & Executive President, MIT World Peace University with the vision of creating Ethical, Spirited, and Committed Political Leadership for the country from the grassroots and all walks of life.Under the able guidance of Late. Shri. T.N Seshan, First Chairman, MIT-SOG, former Chief-Election Commissioner of India (also well known as the Father of Electoral Reforms in India), the curriculum for MPG program at MIT-SOG was designed with the complete involvement of highly decorated officials from Government, Politics, Judiciary, Media and Academia. MIT-SOG specifically caters to the need for training students in politics & government to become trained Political Leaders of the country.Participants for 1st National Young Legislators Conference (NYLC)Day & Date: Friday, 16th September 2022Venue: J W Marriott, PuneDignitaries in the meetingFor more information, contact: Nishita Sharma | firstname.lastname@example.org | +91-9654192435
What has politics in Maharashtra got to do with Mumbai’s Shivaji Park? A lot, historians and political analysts say.Popularly known for being a cradle of Indian cricket – this is where batting legend Sachin Tendulkar cut his teeth in the game, the sprawling playground in the heart of Mumbai has been a rallying centre for many social and political movements that have shaped the state’s history over the past century.For Shiv Sena, though, it has a special place. Its founder late Bal Thackeray held his first political rally here on the day of Dussehra 56 years ago, an event that would recur every year thereafter. Thackeray would use these rallies to spell out the party’s political agenda from time to time, hit out at his rivals and offer motivational speeches to his followers, said veteran Sena leader and MP Gajanan Kirtikar.When Thackeray died in 2012, he was cremated here. Sena workers call Shivaji Park ‘Shiva-tirtha,’ or a holy place, that now houses a memorial to Bal Thackeray.That is why Shivaji Park turned into a new battleground between the two warring factions of the Shiv Sena, led respectively by Maharashtra’s current chief minister, Eknath Shinde and his predecessor Uddhav Thackeray who bowed out of office in June, after the former staged a rebellion. Shinde walked with an overwhelming majority of MLAs to form the new government in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party.Both sides are since fighting a bitter court battle over who has the right to the legacy of Shiv Sena and its founder leader Bal Thackeray. That fight turned uglier earlier this month when both sides decided to hold Dussehra rallies in Shivaji Park.Fearing a possible law and order problem, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) denied permission to both factions, but on Friday the Mumbai High Court granted the Thackeray group permission for the rally. Thackeray’s supporters erupted in joy, as they saw the court’s ruling as vindicating their claim to being the real Shiv Sena.“Bal Thackeray held people in thrall at his Dussehra rallies at Shivaji Park year after year for five decades. Later, Uddhav ji guided us from there as party chief. So it is naturally our right (to hold the rally there),” said Arvind Sawant, a spokesperson for the Uddhav-led Sena faction.Before his death, an ailing Thackeray held a virtual rally at Shivaji Park to urge his party workers to support his son Uddhav and grandson Aaditya, Sawant added.The playground and the residential clusters around it have a storied past. According to author Shanta Gokhale, who has written a book “Shivaji Park: Dadar 28: History, Places, People”, the Park was opened to the public in 1925. It was first called the Mahim Park. In 1927, the tercentenary year of iconic Maratha king Shivaji’s birth, it was renamed as Shivaji Park following popular demand.Since then, it has witnessed many landmark events in Maharashtra’s political history, including the Samyukta Maharashtra movement which led to the birth of the state in 1960. How did it become central to the Shiv Sena’s politics? This is the place from where Shiv Sena pramukh (chief) Balasaheb Thackeray spelled out the party’s agenda, like the issue of Marathi manoos, Hindutva, the party’s position on various issues; and also launched searing attacks on his opponents and the state and central governments, Sena leader Kirtikar told PTI.The memorial of freedom fighter and Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar too is located near the Park. Savarkar lived in a bungalow in the same area.The Thackeray family too resided in the same area before shifting to ‘Matoshree’ in suburban Bandra. The Sena Bhavan, the party’s headquarters, is also located close to the Park.Sena veteran and former Maharashtra chief minister Manohar Joshi, in his book “Shiv Sena Kal, Aaj ani Udya” (Shiv Sena – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow), has narrated how the first-ever rally of the party was organised at Shivaji Park.On October 23, 1966, Marmik, a cartoon-centric magazine edited by Bal Thackeray, published a note that there would be a rally at Shivaji Park at 5.30 pm on October 30 to observe Dussehra – the festival Hindus hold to celebrate the victory of the good over evil. Thackeray was already using his pen and paintbrush to fulminate against what he perceived as injustices suffered by sons of the soil in Mumbai.Some people suggested that the rally be held in an auditorium as they were not sure how much crowd it would attract.According to veteran Marathi journalist Prakash Akolkar, even Bal Thackeray was unsure about the response. But the rally turned out to be a huge success and, thereafter, there was no looking back for Bal Thackeray, Akolkar wrote.When the Sena came to power in the state for the first time (in alliance with the BJP) in 1995, Manohar Joshi took oath as chief minister not at Raj Bhavan, but at a grand ceremony at Shivaji Park. In 2019, Uddhav Thackeray was also sworn in as chief minister at the same venue.When the controversy over which Sena faction should be allowed to hold the rally at Shivaji Park this Dussehra broke out, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar said Shivaji Park is synonymous with the Shiv Sena. “When one says Shivaji Park, it brings to mind the Shiv Sena led by Balasaheb Thackeray. And that Shiv Sena is now Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena. So their demand for the Dussehra rally is not wrong,” Pawar told reporters.On Friday, Uddhav Thackeray won the battle for Shivaji Park. Only time will tell if he is able to win the battle for his father’s party.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday said the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi government did nothing to attract investment in the state during its two-and-half year tenure and spent time "slamming and insulting" the Centre. His remarks to reporters here comes a day after Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray led a protest in Talegaon against the shifting of the Vedanta-Foxconn semiconductor chip manufacturing project to Gujarat from Maharashtra. He also slammed the Sena leader for claiming that a medical equipment manufacturing cluster project slated for Maharashtra had been bagged by neighbouring Gujarat. "Let them show me one piece of paper to prove this project was slated for Maharashtra. The previous MVA government did nothing during its tenure. They only managed to slam and insult the Centre," he said. Here to attend the annual day of the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture, Fadnavis said his government was committed to make the state the foremost investment destination in the country. "Some people staged protests and played politics on the Vedanta-Foxconn project. Till the time we do not improve the industrial environment of the state, no investment will come here. Our government will improve this situation and will make Maharashtra the country's top investment destination," Fadnavis said.
Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray’s Saturday protest at Pune’s Talegaon, the site for the proposed Rs 1.5 lakh crore ($20 billion) semiconductor project of the Vedanta-Foxconn joint venture (JV), has signalled a spiralling political row in Maharashtra days after the JV despite being in discussion with the Maharashtra government on the project for years switched to Gujarat.A political slugfest has erupted in Maharashtra since September 13, when the Vedanta-Foxconn signed an MoU with the Gujarat government for their semiconductor project, with the Opposition MVA blaming the Eknath Shinde-BJP government for letting the flight of the big-ticket project to the neighbouring BJP-ruled state.Attacking the Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis dispensation, Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, while addressing a party rally earlier this week, alleged that the government was “lying” on the issue and should be “ashamed” of the project going to Gujarat, even as he offered his support to it to bring the project back to Maharashtra. “Let’s come together and bring it back. I will also come with you,” he told the Sainiks.Cornered over the Vedanta-Foxconn project, which was one of the biggest industrial investments projected to come to Maharashtra, the ruling camp is now desperately looking for a face-saver, with CM and rebel Sena leader Shinde reaching out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah in this regard.Speaking to the Express Group last Sunday, Shinde said his government will announce a mega project for the state very soon.Vedanta-Foxconn project shift furoreAn industrial state like Maharashtra, which has almost all the key elements to attract investors – land, skilled labour, port, road connectivity, water, knowledge ecosystem – has been waiting for a mega industrial investment for years. While the state has seen various investments, from medium to large scale projects, coming to the state in the IT and automobile sectors among others, a mega investment has not fructified over the last decade despite the Magnetic Maharashtra summits and the “Make in India” investors summit in 2015 – when Foxconn had made its first investment commitment of $5 billion to the state.If the wait for Foxconn to invest in the state lasted for 7 years, losing it to a neighbouring state in a matter of two months or a quarter, was set to unnerve the political class and the residents of the state alike.While the continuous flow of new projects in any state keeps its economic growth on track, creates jobs for its people and also enhances social development, mega projects worth $3-5 billion or more give impulse and ripple impact that leads to the building of the ancillary industry, development of service sector and a thrust to the real estate, among other things.The Vedanta-Foxconn project had come as a hope for Maharashtra, which has been reeling under an accumulated debt of Rs 6.50 lakh crore, as the state saw it as a golden opportunity to give impetus to both its sluggish investments and channelise it towards job creation after the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.Terming the Vedanta-Foxconn project loss as a major setback for Maharashtra, a top economist, who has been closely watching the state’s progress over more than three decades and has been involved with various governments in the state with regards to its development, said, “It takes a long time for mega projects to fructify as a lot of home work has to go into it and bureaucrats, political class are involved. So in that sense the loss of Vedanta-Foxconn is a big setback. Also when I take a closer look, I don’t see a mega project in the vicinity and so it is both loss of time and opportunity.”While the state had also announced a Rs 3 lakh crore refinery project in Nanar in 2015, which promised to generate over 1 lakh jobs, it has failed to see the light of the day. The new government is, however, hopeful to revive the project.As regards the past mega investments in the state, the two that made their mark were the $3 billion Enron power project announced by the US major in 1992 and the $13 billion Jaitapur nuclear power project for which the agreement was signed with the French company in 2010. While Enron ran into trouble and also resulted in financial loss for the state, its debacle led to a power crisis, with the state running into power deficit for several years as power producers stayed away from committing investment in the power sector in view of the expected big capacity addition of 2,000 MW through Enron’s natural gas-based Dabhol power project. Also, the Jaitapur nuclear power project has not been able to take off in the manner it was envisaged.The politics of economyWith the latest big investment opportunity gone, the Maharashtra government is now hoping for a bigger project and is counting on the BJP-ruled Centre’s blessing. However, even as Shinde exuded confidence in pronouncing that Maharashtra will bag a major investment in the coming days, Deputy CM and senior BJP leader Fadnavis has exercised caution warning that “Maharashtra will have to initiate concrete steps to rebuild the confidence of the investors.”The government is also hopeful of benefiting from a “double-engine” government — a BJP government both in the state and at the Centre. While the Vedanta-Foxconn project might have been lost due to the lack of the Centre’s intervention (CM Shinde’s July 26 letter to Vedanta chairman Anil Agarwal showed that Vedanta had asked the state government to get the “Central Government alignment”), the current government still hopes to capitalise on a “favourable” central government. This “alignment” has already led to breakthroughs in some key infrastructure projects in the state such as the land acquisition approvals for the Mumbai Ahmedabad bullet train project, clearance for the metro car shed land in Mumbai, and the Dharavi redevelopment project. These projects could not move ahead during the previous Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government, comprising the Sena, BJP and Congress, as the state and Central governments used to be locked in a recurring tussle over them.While the state government has redoubled its efforts to clinch a big-ticket project ahead of the crucial Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls, slated for late 2022 or early 2023, it is working on multiple fronts, including the revival of the Rs 3 lakh crore refinery project. At the Mumbai industrial conclave last week, Fadnavis indicated his government’s resolve to revive the refinery project. He said, “The refinery project is high on our plate. But the inordinate delay has made it difficult to match the same scale. Even if it is taken to its logical end it will be on a smaller scale.”Another project under process and being discussed on priority is Wadhawan Port at Raigad. With access to natural deep draught the project when completed will have the potential to anchor even the biggest ship across the world.Concerned over losing the the Vedanta-Foxconn project to Gujarat, Shinde and Fadnavis seem to be hopeful now that they will get the Centre’s backing for these critical large projects in Maharashtra.It is also important that the state improves its record over the conversion of signed MoUs into real investments on the ground. In the past 7.5 years the state hosted two major investment events — Magnetic Maharashtra and Magnetic Maharashtra 2.0. The first Magnetic Maharashtra was held in 2018 under the then Fadnavis-led BJP-Sena coalition government. At the end of the three-day conclave, the state had then signed 4210 MoUs with promised investment of Rs 16 lakh crore, of which around Rs 12.1 lakh crore was investment from private industries and Rs 3.9 lakh crore was a proposal signed between the Centre and state governments. However, only 50 per cent of the total proposed investments, which were signed, could be realised and have been since at various stages of implementation.The second Magnetic Maharashtra was held under the MVA government in 2020 when Vedanta-Foxconn had committed their semiconductor project to the state, subject to the approval from the Centre.Although the Vedanta-Foxconn project’s departure from the state has now given the Opposition MVA a handy weapon to score points against the BJP-Shinde regime, nobody is disputing the state’s ability to “overtake” Gujarat.The Leader of the Opposition and NCP leader, Ajit Pawar, said, “We had promised a 1,000 acres land parcel to the company in Talegaon. If Vedanta-Foxconn has buckled under political pressure to relocate the project it is a sad comment on politics.”Taking up the political challenge, Fadnavis has pledged to outstrip Gujarat in coming days. At least two projects show promise and are cited to show the BJP’s success — the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) complete with two nodes, Shendra-Bidkin Industrial Area and Dighi Port Industrial Area, and the Aurangabad Industrial City (AURIC). While Shendra-Bidkin Industrial Area is being developed as a large-scale industrial cluster, the Dighi Port Industrial Area will become a port as well as an industrial hub. On the other hand, the AURIC is a greenfield smart industrial city spread across 4,030 hectares with investments of Rs 5,500 crore with the state government estimating that it can generate more than three lakh jobs over the next 15 years.The politics of rivalryThe creation of Maharashtra and Gujarat on the same day, May 1, 1960, through reorganisation of states was not a smooth affair. Mumbai (then Bombay) was the bone of contention between them. To ensure Mumbai remains in Maharashtra, a long-drawn agitation, Samyukta Maharashtra Movement, was launched in 1956. About 105 people lost their lives in this movement. In this background, Maharashtra versus Gujarat has always been a fraught discourse.Despite the co-existence of both Marathi and Gujarati communities in Mumbai, the faultlines remain. And following the switch of the Vedanta-Foxconn project to Gujarat, the Opposition has again brought this debate to the centre stage of Maharashtra politics. Confronted with the in-house challenges following a major split within, the Uddhav-led Sena seems to have got a major political issue on a platter that it hopes would cut ice with the people besides helping the party to hit back at the BJP. This assumes more significance as the BMC polls may be held over the next three-four months, which will settle the key question whether the Uddhav Sena would be able to retain its hold over the BMC that it has been able to do successfully over the last 25 years.The BJP-Shinde alliance, on the other hand, has been sensing an opportunity in the upcoming BMC polls to bring an end to the Sena rule from there and deal a body blow to Uddhav’s party. It, however, reckons that if Maharashtra versus Gujarat narrative gains traction, it might be “politically fatal” and hence they are going all out to quell the controversy and promise a mega industrial project for the state soon.Even as the BJP-Shinde combine has set higher electoral targets for the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls — in the previous 2019 polls, the BJP had won 23 out of 48 Lok Sabha seats and 105 out of 288 Assembly seats in the state — a polarisation along Maharashtra versus Gujarat lines might undermine it. Demographically, 65 per cent of the Maharashtra population is youth with an average age of 27. No political party can overlook the youth aspirations given its presence and potential to make or wreck the electoral results in the state. And the departure of a mega semiconductor project — which is regarded as the industry of the future — from the state makes for bad optics, both in the eyes of the state political class as well as its youth.The NCP’s youth leader and Karjat-Jamkhed MLA, Rohit Pawar, says, “We are not against any state’s development. But the question is why sacrifice Maharashtra youth. Why should our next generation pay the price?” Now, this may be question, which cannot go unaddressed for long as it is not just about employment and financial implications but also the aspirations of youth, whose vote base could play a big role in the electoral outcome.
MUMBAI: A day after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat visited the mosque on Kasturba Gandhi Marg in New Delhi, which also happens to be the office of All India Imam Organization, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president Nana Patole said it was in view of unprecedented response to Congress MP Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. “Our view is that following the massive response, Bhagwat met Umer Ahmad Ilyasi. So far, he did not think of meeting him. Why did he suddenly rush to New Delhi and meet him? In our opinion, the BJP and RSS are worried over Gandhi’s success,” Patole said. He added that after Gandhi launched the Bharat Jodo Yatra, people from all walks of life, caste, creed and religion joined him in unprecedented numbers, and as a result, political parties indulging in caste and religion politics are struggling for existence, particularly the BJP and RSS. “Now, the BJP through RSS is making all possible efforts to lure the minority communities, therefore Bhagwat called on Ilyasi and that too in New Delhi,’’ Patole said. He said Gandhi is giving a befitting reply to BJP’s ‘Bharat Todo’ through the ‘Bharat Jodo’ campaign. “Gandhi will walk across the country to meet people and understand their problems. It’s interesting that those people, who do not like Muslim caps, are personally visiting mosques. Despite its efforts to lure the Muslim community, the BJP and RSS will not succeed,’’ Patole said.
Setting the ground for a tussle with the Pawar family in Maharashtra’s Baramati Lok Sabha constituency, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said the cooperative sector had been misused for political gains.“It is the dynasty politics that leads to corruption. We are against dynastic politics,” she said at a BJP office in Baramati, the hometown of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar. “The NCP is a party of corrupt leaders and many have been in jail for corruption…”She added that BJP workers should not be scared to reach out to the people of the constituency with the message.In an indirect reference to Pawar, Sitharaman said there were people who held the Union ministry and led the cooperative sector, but failed to introduce reforms that would benefit the poor.“The cooperative sector has been used for political gain till now. The Congress misused it for its benefit,” she said at a meeting with representatives from the sector.The BJP has now set up a cooperation ministry and is implementing reforms that will benefit poor farmers and also weed out corruption from the system, the finance minister said.Sitharaman also said it was the Narendra Modi government that introduced a minimum support price for sugarcane.The BJP leader told party workers that they also had to focus on removing bogus voters from electoral rolls. “We want to have fair elections. So identify bogus names and get them removed from electoral rolls,” she said.BJP cadres should take the central government schemes to people and help eligible people avail of their benefits, she added.
Big Story After some of its top brass were arrested by Central agencies along with over 100 of its workers for allegedly supporting terror activities, the Popular Front of India (PFI) is set to hold a hartal today in Kerala, where it is dominant. 🔴 Here’s what happened: Launching a multi-agency operation spearheaded by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), law enforcement agencies conducted searches across the country and arrested 106 PFI workers for allegedly supporting terror activities. 🔴 PFI’s response: PFI state general secretary Abdul Sathar, in a statement, slammed the use of the “state machinery” and claimed that Central agencies were being used to “silence the dissenting voices”. In protest, PFI workers took to the streets across Kerala and stalled movement of vehicles, demanding that the NIA and ED stop their action.🔴 But, what is the PFI? The PFI was created in 2007 through the merger of three Muslim organisations in southern India, the National Democratic Front in Kerala, the Karnataka Forum for Dignity, and the Manitha Neethi Pasarai in Tamil Nadu. Read our explainer for more. Only in the ExpressIn an exclusive interview with The Indian Express, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot spoke about his plans ahead of the upcoming election for the post of Congress party chief, possibly running against Digvijaya Singh, and how he plans to navigate the party’s ‘one person, one post’ principle. Here’s what he had to say. From the Front Page🔴 Meanwhile, in one line, Rahul Gandhi on Thursday sent a clear message to Gehlot: that he cannot hope to remain Rajasthan Chief Minister if he is elected as Congress president. Sources in the Congress said the leadership is in favour of Sachin Pilot succeeding Gehlot, but the Chief Minister is keen that the views of the MLAs — most of them are with him — be taken. 🔴 Speaking at the UNSC session on Ukraine, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar delivered one of his toughest statements on Russia in the last seven months, since the invasion began. “Let me emphasise that even in conflict situations, there can be no justification for violation of human rights or of international law,” he said. 🔴 Observing that economic backwardness, unlike caste-based backwardness, “can be temporary”, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court asked if problems of the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) can be addressed through affirmative measures like providing scholarships and fee concessions instead of reservation.Must Read Naktala Udayan Sangha’s pandal in Kolkata, being one of the most high-profile pujas in the city, is not creating the usual buzz like every year. The reason for the lack of enthusiasm: the puja’s association with former state Cabinet minister Partha Chatterjee, who is now under arrest in the teacher recruitment scam. The ‘brand ambassador’ of the Naktala puja committee last year, Arpita Mukherjee, is now a co-accused with Chatterjee in the case. Read our report about the Puja and its politics in West Bengal.DGCA, the civil aviation body, has written to the telecom department flagging concerns over the likely interference of 5G C-Band spectrum with aircraft radio altimeters. For context: a radio altimeter is an instrument that provides direct height-above-terrain information to various aircraft systems. The primary concern of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation emerges from the fact that these altimeters as well as a part of the 5G telecom services operate in the C-Band.In our opinion section today, Badri Narayan writes on why the Congress’ anti-RSS campaign undermines its Bharat Jodo Yatra: “During the Bharat Jodo yatra campaign, some of the party’s members tweeted an image of the “khaki half pant on fire” – the garment has been a stereotypical metaphor for RSS and Hindutva politics in secular discourse that has occupied significant political space for decades. Congress is trying to project Hindutva and RSS as being divisive. But those who understand the public psyche know that this perception is changing fast.”And FinallyBajrang Punia recalls what his wife told him after an injury: “the blood is no biggie, strap on some gauze and go for the bronze.” Bravado manifesting to work like boldness, has been central to Bajrang Punia’s big tournament outings all these years. After 1 Olympic medal and 4 from the World Championships, bravado ceases sounding like a reckless thing he marinates his bulk in, when he’s tossed into glazing fire. The wrestler tells us how he won bronze at the world Championships.Since you are here, check out our national cinema day crossword, an ode to the silver screen. In today’s episode of the ‘3 Things’ podcast, we take a look at why the Vedanta-Foxconn row could cost the BJP in Maharashtra, how death penalty cases are carried out in India, and how Mumbai police found a new cybercrime hotspot.Until tomorrow, Rahel Philipose and Susobhan Roy
HITTING OUT at Maha Vikas Aghadi in Maharashtra for criticising the newly formed state government led by Eknath Shinde and Devendra Fadanavis over losing the Vedanta-Foxconn plant to Gujarat, Union Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the opposition parties ‘shedding crocodile tears’ now were the same political parties, who created hurdles for at least five mega projects in the state during their tenure in power.“Who were the people who stopped the bullet train project in Maharashtra; who were the people who stopped a Rs 65,000 crore Wadhvan project in Palghar district; who stopped the Nanar refinery project and who created hurdles for the Metro car shed project…,” Sitharaman asked on Day 1 of her three-day tour of Baramati Lok Sabha constituency.“Were these projects not beneficial for Maharashtra? Were all these projects benefitting Gujarat? When you were in power, you stopped not one or two projects, but created hurdles for five projects. Now you are shedding crocodile tears in the name of Maharashtra’s interest and for sake of doing politics,” she said.Responding to a possible tussle with NCP in Baramati to end the stronghold of Pawar family, she said, “I am here only to strengthen BJP and not to think about any one family.”
Nirmala Sitharaman was addressing a press conference near Pune. (File)Pune, Maharashtra: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today slammed the opposition parties in Maharashtra for "shedding crocodile tears" over shifting of a Vedanta-Foxconn semiconductor plant to Gujarat from the state, and accused them of creating hurdles for five big-ticket projects during their rule.She was addressing a press conference near Pune on the sidelines of a programme.A blame-game has started in Maharashtra following the announcement last week that the joint venture semiconductor project of Indian conglomerate Vedanta and Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn, proposed to be set up near Pune city earlier, will come up in Gujarat.The Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena have been targeting the Centre and the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government over the issue, saying that the Rs 1.54 lakh crore plant has been handed over to Gujarat ignoring the economic interest of the state where it was originally planned.The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government formed by these three parties collapsed on June 29 this year, days after Eknath Shinde rebelled against the Sena leadership.Asked about the opposition's criticism over the project shifting to Gujarat, Ms Sitharaman said the current opposition means those who were in power in the state till four months back."Who were the people who stopped the bullet train project in Maharashtra; who were the people who stopped a Rs 65,000 crore Wadhvan project in Palghar district; who stopped the Nanar refinery project and who created hurdles for the Metro car shed project in Mumbai's Aarey Colony," she said.Were these projects not beneficial for Maharashtra, the minister asked. "Were all these projects benefitting Gujarat? When you were in power, you stopped not one or two projects, but created hurdles for five projects. Now you are shedding crocodile tears in the name of Maharashtra's interest and saying anything for politics," she said.Asked about her tour of the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency, the home turf of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Ms Sitharaman said that she has come to the constituency to strengthen the party's base and not for any family.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comAs part of her tour, Ms Sitharaman interacted with beneficiaries of various schemes of the Centre.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
The proposed events on September 25 to mark the 109th birth anniversary of the former deputy prime minister and iconic farmer leader, Devi Lal, has put the spotlight on two rival parties in Haryana — the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP). Both of them are run by members of the Chautala clan, with its patriarch Om Prakash Chautala, son of Devi Lal, heading the INLD and his grandson Dushyant Chautala, who is Deputy Chief Minister in the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government, leading the JJP.While both the parties consider Devi Lal as their idol and woo the electorate in his name, they will celebrate his birth anniversary separately and in different ways.Struggling to make a comeback in Haryana politics, the INLD is making attempts to project itself as a party that is the “true follower of Devi Lal’s principles”. It is going all out to hold a “Samman Diwas” rally at Fatehabad on September 25 as a show of strength for which it has invited a slew of top Opposition leaders from across the country. The INLD is projecting this rally as the beginning of formation of a third front that would eventually take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.On the other hand, the JJP, which is a key ally of the BJP-led coalition government, is going to hold some charitable events and unveil Devi Lal’s statues on his birth anniversary.Ahead of the 2019 Haryana Assembly elections, infighting within the Chautala clan caused a split in the INLD resulting in the formation of the JJP. Amid the rift between Om Prakash Cuatala’s two sons — Abhay Chautala, INLD secretary general and its lone MLA from Ellenabad, and Ajay Chautala, Dushyant’s father and JJP president — both parties have not missed any opportunity to trade barbs, even as they have stepped up their bids to claim Dev Lal’s legacy.The 87-year-old Jat leader and five-time CM, Chautala, who came out of prison last year on completion of his 10-year jail term, has been looking to steer the INLD back into reckoning in Haryana politics through the Samman Diwas rally.To ensure a mega rally to commemorate Devi Lal’s birth anniversary, the INLD has invited NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Bihar CM and JD(U) supremo Nitish Kumar, Meghalaya Governor Satyapal Malik, Shiromani Akali Dal patron Prakash Singh Badal, Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, ex-Maharashtra CM Uddhav Tackeray, ex-PM HD Deve Gowda, SP president Akhilesh Yadav, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu, among others, party leaders told The Indian Express, claiming that a number of them have also confirmed their participation in the rally.The INLD is carrying out its preparations for the September 25 event in full swing, readying the venue spread over many acres at Fatehabad, where multiple large stages are being set up to accommodate the Opposition stalwarts from across the country. Led by Abhay Chautala, a team of senior INLD leaders are monitoring the entire preparations.On its part, the JJP would also hold various events on September 25, although it would not hold any rally on the day. The JJP has instead decided to organise its show of strength by holding a rally on its foundation day, December 9, for which, the party says, it will invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah besides other top leaders of its ally BJP.“Our party’s name Jannayak Janta Party shows that we are working on the principles of Jannayak Chaudhary Devi Lal. Till the day our respected leader Chaudhary Om Prakash Chautala is there, if we hold a parallel rally in front of him…it is not good on our part. Any sort of comparison at any public platform with Chautala Saab…our principles do not allow that,” said Digvijay Chautala, the JJP’s secretary general.“I can only say that Chaudhary Devi Lal’s name is an institution in itself…. I would like to ask Abhay ji (Abhay Chautala) what is his problem if anybody else is putting garlands at Chaudhary Devi Lal’s statue? Devi Lal can never be his party (INLD) only, he is the idol of every farmer and every person of Haryana and the entire nation. He (Devi Lal) can never belong to one person or one party. Whatever programmes are held on his birth anniversary, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Assam to Gujarat, we appreciate all such programmes. We even appreciate the Fatehabad rally that they are holding in his honour,” he said.On the JJP’s September 25 plans, Digvijay Chautala said: “Statues of Chaudhary Devi Lal will be unveiled in Kaithal and Dadri. It is one of the key priorities of Haryana Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala to open e-libraries to promote education in rural areas that shall be launched on that day from NEET topper Tanishka’s village Bachhod in Mahendragarh. Till December 9, we shall complete this work of opening 108 model libraries across the state. Blood donation and health check-up camps, among other events, will also be organised.”The INLD is banking on its Devi Lal Samman Diwas rally to re-launch itself in Haryana politics. Although it would not be the first time when top “third front” leaders will be sharing the dais with Chautala, but their presence at a single event together amid the ongoing talks about uniting the Opposition against the BJP for the 2024 general elections assumes political significance.
MUMBAI: Amid trading of charges between Shiv Sena and the Shinde-Fadnavis government over exit of the Vedanta-Foxconn project from the state, Adani group chairman Gautam Adani met Uddhav Thackeray at Matoshree on Wednesday. While details of the discussion could not be confirmed, Sena sources said the meeting lasted for over 40 minutes and a range of topics, from politics to industrial investment in the state, could have been discussed.
The meeting between Gautam Adani and Uddhav Thackeray took place today, an official said. (FILE)Mumbai: Industrialist Gautam Adani met former Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai on Wednesday."The meeting took place today," an official said but declined to elaborate on what transpired between the Adani Group chairman and the Shiv Sena president.Mr Thackeray stepped down as Chief Minister after senior Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde led a revolt against his leadership and walked away with 39 party legislators in June.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comMr Shinde took over as Chief Minister on June 30. The two rival Shiv Sena camps are locked in a legal battle over the party symbol and defection of rebel legislators.(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani met former Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray at the latter’s residence in Mumbai on Wednesday. The meeting is said to have taken place at Matoshree at around 3 pm. It is unclear what transpired during the meeting. Details of the same have not been made public yet.This comes at a time when Chief Minister Eknath Shinde is in Delhi along with three ministers, including Industries Minister Uday Samant, Ports Minister Dadaji Bhuse, and Horticulture Minister Sandipan Bhumare. On Wednesday evening, the Maharashtra delegation will meet Union Minister Nitin Gadkari regarding work on highways in Maharashtra.According to sources within the Shinde camp, Samant has been asked to stay in Delhi and a few developments regarding Maharashtra’s politics may take place at night. “There is likely to be a big announcement from Delhi today evening,” said a senior Maharashtra minister.The two Shiv Sena factions, led by Thackeray and Eknath Shinde, have been vying for the right to hold the Dussehra rally at the Shivaji Park ground at the same time. Both the factions also applied for different Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) exhibition grounds for the Dussehra rally as a back-up plan.
MUMBAI: With the BMC sitting on applications of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena and the CM Eknath Shinde faction to hold the Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park for close to a month, a Sena team met officials of G-North ward. Former Sena corporator Milind Vaidya, who is with the Uddhav camp, met assistant municipal commissioner Prashant Sakpale, who said the BMC was yet to receive its law department's opinion. "We submitted the application on August 22... We have given two letters and met officials personally twice. We have no faith in the administration... We have asked them to give us copies of the communication between the ward and the law department. But whether we get permission or not, Shiv Sainiks are going to gather at Shivaji Park in large numbers as and when Uddhavji directs," said Vaidya, a former corporator from Mahim. He added: "Eknath Shinde's faction applied for permission in BKC and has been granted permission. So if the Shinde faction's gathering is going to be held in BKC, what is the objection to allowing us at Shivaji Park? Where does the question of law and order come in? Whoever applies first gets permission usually but there is politics going on and the BMC is under pressure." An official said the BMC had been considering the first come first served policy, but another view was permission should be given to the local MLA, Sada Sarvankar, who happens to be with Shinde.
MUMBAI: With the BMC sitting on the applications of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena and CM Eknath Shinde's faction for close to a month, the Thackeray team has drawn out a two-pronged plan to ensure it holds its annual Dussehra rally at the iconic ground. It is likely to move the Bombay high court if the BMC rejects permission or delays it any further. Its other strategy is to go ahead with the rally without permission. A senior Sena functionary said, "We had applied for permission on August 22, and it has been almost a month since. The BMC had initially claimed the application would be examined after the Ganpati festival. Now it has been 10 days after the end of the Ganpati festival, but still no decision has been taken. This is nothing but a delaying tactic. We will be moving the HC soon if the application is rejected or if there is unfair delay." BMC to go over permissions it granted in past to Sena ralliesThe tussle to hold the Shiv Sena's annual Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park is becoming more intense. For the Uddhav Thackeray faction, MP Vinayak Raut on August 22 asked for the BMC's nod, while for CM Eknath Shinde's group, Mahim MLA Sada Sarvankar applied for permission on August 30. Meanwhile, the BMC has sought legal opinion from its law department on the two applications received from the rival factions. Senior civic officials said that a factual report from the BMC's G-North ward, under which Shivaji Park falls, was sought to examine how permissions for the previous Dussehra rallies were given. A senior civic official said that a view on which of the two factions should get approval is expected this week. An official pointed out that while the BMC was looking at the 'first come first served' policy to give permission to the Uddhav camp, another view was that approval should be given to the local MLA of the Sena who has successfully applied for permission for the Dussehra rally in the past. The MLA in this case is Sarvankar, who has joined the Shinde group. The Shinde group had also applied for the MMRDA grounds at BKC, after which the Thackeray team applied for another plot on the same grounds. The MMRDA has given the Shinde faction its nod for Dussehra, while the Thackeray faction's application was turned down saying the plot it had asked for had already been taken for that day. Sena MP Arvind Sawant of the Thackeray group said, "Since they (Shinde faction) filed the application first, they got permission first -this criterion has been set by MMRDA. If you apply the same criterion, we should get permission to hold our Dussehra gathering at Shivaji Park. The kind of politics being practised now is not in Maharashtra's culture. Elections are still far away. The rallies are part of Sena's culture. After Balasaheb, only Uddhavji has been addressing the rally there. There is still time, and we are confident we will get permission. There is political pressure, so for no reason permission is being held back. We know who is pulling the strings and whose script is being read out." Last week, Thackeray had reiterated the Sena would hold its Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park, while rebel Sena MLA Bharat Gogawale said that ifthey did not get Shivaji Park, they would organize their rally at BKC.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena faction has received permission from the MMRDA to hold the Dussehra rally at the Bandra Kurla Complex Grounds (BKC) grounds in Mumbai.The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority last week also rejected the application made by Uddhav Thackeray to hold the Dussehra rally at another nearby ground, saying it has been booked for another event already. Both factions had applied to hold the rally at different plots at BKC. The Dussehra rally will be held on October 5.While the Shiv Sena camp led by Uddhav Thackeray is yet to receive permission to hold the Dussehra rally at any spot, this is likely to pave way for it to get a nod to hold the rally at Shivaji Park. Both factions had applied to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for permission and were vying for the venue for their rally. However, the BMC is yet to decide on its permission.Last week, the BMC referred the case to its legal department for clarity, and has also sought information from the G/North ward, with jurisdiction over Shivaji Park, on how permissions for previous Dussehra rallies were given. The BMC is likely to reach a conclusion this week, a senior civic official told The Indian Express Sunday evening.The Shiv Sena has been holding the Dussehra rally at the park or Shiv Tirth, as the party calls it, for years now. It is one of the most important events for the Sena as a political party since its foundation was laid in 1966. In 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic, the rally was organised virtually and it was held at the Shanmukhananda hall in Kings Circle in 2021.
MUMBAI: The MMRDA last week gave CM Eknath Shinde's faction permission to hold its Dussehra rally in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) on October 5 and rejected the application of the Shiv Sena faction led by Uddhav Thackeray for another plot in the same grounds saying it has already been booked for another event, reports Chaitanya Marpakwar. As a result, the Uddhav camp is yet to get any plot for its rally-the BMC is yet to decide on the applications from both the factions for holding a rally at Dadar's Shivaji Park. While rebel Sena MP Rahul Shewale had applied for permission for the Shinde group's rally at BKC, the Thackeray faction's application was given by MP Arvind Sawant. "We have given permission to the Shinde faction... and they have also paid the rent. The Shiv Sena's application was not accepted since the plot that they had asked for had already been booked by another company. Both factions had applied for different plots within the MMRDA grounds," said a senior MMRDA official. Use first-come policy for Shivaji Park rally: MP The BMC has sought a legal opinion from its law department on the two applications received from two Shiv Sena factions for holding their Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park on October 5. Senior civic officials said a factual report from BMC's G-North Ward, under which Shivaji Park falls, was sought to examine how permissions for previous Dussehra rallies were given. A senior civic official said an opinion is expected this week. Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant said just like the MMRDA had used a first-come, first-served formula for giving permission to CM Eknath Shinde's faction at BKC, the same formula must be used by the BMC for giving permission to the Shiv Sena faction led by Uddhav Thackeray at Shivaji Park. "...If you apply the same criteria, we should get permission to hold a Dussehra gathering at Shivaji Park," Sawant said.
MUMBAI: Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday reiterated that the Sena's annual Dussehra rally will take place at Dadar's Shivaji Park. Uddhav asked all office-bearers of his party to get to work and ensure that Shiv Sainiks turn up in large numbers for the rally. "Uddhavji has clearly said that the Dussehra rally will happen at Shivaji Park, like it does every year. There is nothing to worry about. We have begun preparations and will ensure record numbers," said Pandurang Sakpal, Sena vibhag pramukh from south Mumbai. A Sena leader said Uddhav will address Sena office-bearers on September 31 at Goregaon's Nesco grounds too before the October 5 Dussehra rally. Sena MLA Sunil Prabhu said, "The Dussehra rally of Shiv Sena is an exchange of ideas. Culture is preserved, it is a tradition, and Shiv Sainiks from every region come to Shivaji Park in large numbers. Since the establishment of the Shiv Sena, Dussehra rally has been held at Shivaji Park. Permission for this rally has been given every time, so this time too permission must be given". "The Shiv Sena delegation met BMC chief Iqbal Chahal regarding permission for the rally. He said he will make a decision soon. What happened this year that the permission is being delayed?" Prabhu asked.
The spectre of the Babri Masjid demolition haunted the Urdu dailies as they spotlighted the Varanasi district court’s decision to allow the hearing of the plea seeking the right to worship deities within the Gyanvapi mosque, ruling that it is not barred by the Places of Worship Act, 1991. They fear that the tilting of scales in favour of this plea may open the floodgates of similar rows, setting up a new faultline in the country.ROZNAMA RASHTRIYA SAHARAThe multi-edition Roznama Rashtriya Sahara kicks off its September 13 editorial with a question: “Will Gyanvapi mosque turn into another Babri Masjid?” It says the question has assumed salience as the Varanasi district court has dismissed the challenge by Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee against the civil suits filed by four Hindu women seeking the right to worship deities within the Gyanvapi mosque premises, thereby allowing the maintainability of the suits to be heard on merit now. It notes that Varanasi district judge AK Vishvesha ruled that the Hindu side is not barred by the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, which stipulates that the nature of all places of worship, except Ayodhya’s Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid which was then under litigation, shall be maintained as it was on August 15, 1947. This law was invoked by the Supreme Court while delivering its judgment in favour of Ram Temple in 2019.The daily writes that the 1991 Act has been reassuring for the Muslim community so far despite the setback in the Ayodhya case. “However, the Varanasi court order has now cleared the decks for hearing in the dispute involving a second mosque after Babri Masjid — Gyanvapi mosque… It has also triggered concerns whether this would lead to opening of floodgates of such rows despite the 1991 Act since multiple disputes involving various places of worship have surfaced in recent days.”The edit points out that the Ayodhya row had sparked widespread riots killing many people across the country. The Babri Masjid demolition sent shock waves across the world as such an outrage was considered “unthinkable” in India prior to December 6, 1992, it says, highlighting the point that such cataclysmic shifts are brought about by changing politics. Noting that the apex court had transferred the Gyanvapi case from the Varanasi civil court to the district court which rejected the mosque committee’s challenge based on the 1991 Act, the daily flags apprehensions that the simmering dispute will remain on the boil now.INQUILABTracking the progress of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, the New Delhi-based Inquilab, in its leader on September 18, writes that the Yatra has been gaining traction “beyond expectations”. Regardless of a few bumps, the march has been negotiating its route with “discipline, motivation and purpose”, it says. “The remarkable response the Yatra is getting from people as seen in Tamil Nadu and Kerala makes it clear that our country is not what is portrayed on TV channels through warlike debates and propaganda. It seems such a march had become imperative and that people were waiting for it.”According to another viewpoint, the daily notes, the Yatra’s passage through Tamil Nadu earlier and Kerala at present has been notable since the Congress party still has strength in these southern states. However, there seems to be a distinct possibility now that the Yatra will prompt a groundswell of public support and enthusiasm as it weaves its way through various states, it says. The Congress’s critics had earlier dubbed the night-time sleeping containers atop trucks for Rahul and Yatris as “vanity vans”, but it has been debunked. Stating that the long road ahead will test the Congress marchers, the edit says, “This is also being claimed that the Yatra has been in the throes of confusion and that since the country is not divided the question of uniting it does not arise…However, going by the public response it is evident that the Yatra has been able to put its narrative across effectively.”SIASATIn its September 17 editorial titled “Yeh Jung Ka Daur Nahin (This is not an era of war)”, the Hyderabad-based Siasat refers to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand in Uzbekistan, highlighting that PM Modi told President Putin that “today’s era is not an era of war”.Pointing out that the war still rages months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the daily says that in its initial phase Moscow seemed to dominate the conflict as its military forces made their advances and launched massive attacks on the Ukrainian cities. However, in recent weeks, Kyiv has got an upper hand as its forces mounted counter-attacks, regaining its regions lost to Russians. It is evident that the fierce Ukrainian fightback has been fuelled by weapons worth billions being supplied from the United States and several European countries, the edit states. Kyiv has forced Moscow on the defensive, but there does not seem to be any signs of a cessation of hostilities.PM Modi’s remarks on war, with him telling President Putin that this is not an era of war and that diplomacy and dialogue should be adopted, is “right and important”, the daily says. “Humanity is getting hurt by the war between Russia and Ukraine, whose consequences are severely impacting the entire world. It has caused a rise in food prices and energy bills, triggering inflation in Europe. Reeling under price rise, Britain’s workers are holding protests to demand an increase in their wages,” it states. Noting that the sanctions slapped on Putin by the Western countries have not deterred him so far, the edit says it is imperative that the international community and global institutions launch the initiative urgently and take measures proactively to ensure the termination of the war.URDU TIMESCommenting on the Rs 1.54 lakh crore Vedanta-Foxconn semiconductor project’s flight from Maharashtra to Gujarat, Urdu Times, in an editorial on September 16, writes that the world of business is driven by its own politics of profit and loss and that the Vedanta-Foxconn joint venture (JV)’s sudden shift mirrors the world of politics marked by defections of MLAs from one party to another. It points out that despite holding negotiations with Maharashtra for a long time for setting up their project there, the JV made the switch overnight sealing the MoU with the Gujarat government. The Mumbai-based daily states that the Maharashtra Opposition has cried foul, calling it an alleged plot against the state to advantage Gujarat. “However, this is not the first time big-ticket projects have chosen to switch states. The states also compete with each other to bag them. Even in the case of the Vedanta-Foxconn project, other states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Telangana were also making attempts to clinch it.”However, the JV’s move stunned Chief Minister and rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde and silenced Deputy CM and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, the edit notes, adding that Shinde must ensure that the country’s financial capital Mumbai is not weakened. It is now a matter of record that soon after the Shinde-Fadnavis government assumed office a mega project slipped out of Maharashtra’s hands, the daily states. One reason why Gujarat walked away with the project could be its better ease-of-doing-business deal for the promoters as compared to the neighbouring state, it says, claiming that Maharashtra has always “nurtured” Gujarat in the arena of business. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bullet train project will also link Ahmedabad with Mumbai. The progress of neighbouring states should be welcomed, but CM Shinde has to maintain Maharashtra’s edge in the economic sphere. In business too, there is no last projects. Like governments, projects would keep coming and going, but the aim must be to ensure the progress of states as well as the country.”
The Opposition in Maharashtra criticised Chief Minister Eknath Shinde for convening the official Marathwada Mukti Sangram Din event in Aurangabad at 7 am Saturday, and for leaving for Hyderabad soon after to participate in the Hyderabad Liberation Day programme attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, apart from chief ministers of Karnataka and Telangana.Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra legislative council Ambadas Danve said: “The CM has surrendered to Delhi. He is at their beck and call… Why else did he convene the function at 7 am and finish the programme within 15 minutes?”Earlier, at the event in Aurangabad, Shinde hoisted the Tricolour and promised holistic development for the Marathwada region comprising eight districts.“Our government is committed to bring industrial growth and address the water crisis in the region. We also promise to bring equitable growth in the region,” he said.In neighbouring Nanded district, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis hoisted the national flag to celebrate Marathwada Liberation Day. Later, Fadnavis inaugurated a book and a documentary film on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the event.A crowd of jobseekers raised slogans at the Marathwada Din programme in Nanded. The youths were demanding a police recruitment drive. Some also criticised the state government for allowing the Vedanta-Foxconn project to relocate to Gujarat. The police resorted to mild lathicharge to disperse the crowd.However, there was no report of any injury.Earlier, while speaking at the event, the Deputy CM termed the Marathwada Mukti Sangram agitation as an important milestone in India’s Independence.Fadnavis said, “The state government is committed to expedite its ambitious water-grid project to make Marathwada drought-free. The plans for industrial growth will be fast tracked to bring greater economic prosperity and employment in the backward region.”Notably, although India got Independence on August 15, 1947, the Marathwada region which was then a part of the princely state of Hyderabad had to wait till September 17, 1948, to join the Union in the face of resistance from Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan.
ONE OF the reasons the controversy over the mega Vedanta-Foxconn project, headed for Maharashtra but going to Gujarat instead, is unlikely to die down soon is the old wounds between the two states.They have often bickered over attracting investments and FDI, with non-BJP leaders in Maharashtra fanning apprehensions that the fact that the top two in the BJP — Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah – are from Gujarat, tilts the scales heavily in favour of the latter.Maharashtra leaders rattle off many such examples where Gujarat, once considered the “junior” partner, having been carved out of the larger Bombay State, has sneaked ahead of its counterpart.Like when Maharashtra planned an International Financial Services Centre at its commercial hub of BKC in Mumbai. In 2014-15, the project was in an advanced stage, with areas earmarked for it, when Gujarat rolled out GIFT City, a business district. Later, in 2017, PM Modi announced his flagship bullet train Ahmedabad-Mumbai project, and land required for it included some belonging to the BKC.More recently, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari left many feathers ruffled when he said: “Sometimes I tell people that if the Gujaratis and Rajasthanis are taken away, Mumbai will lose its financial status. There will be no money left in Mumbai and Thane.”There were protests cutting across party lines to the remarks, including from BJP ranks.More From Political PulseBJP gets a Sikh face, on many counts, Amarinder Singh a good fitCapt Amarinder Singh: ‘Bhagwant Mann not being allowed to function … Anything important is sent to Kejriwal’Party-hopping in Goa: ‘Family Raj & UT mentality’ among factors influencing votersClick here for more Mumbai itself remains a contentious issue between the two states. Before Gujarat and Maharashtra were created out of the Bombay State on May 1, 1960, on linguistic lines, there was debate over where Mumbai, or Bombay as it was called then, should go.Between 1956 and 1960, the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement led by veteran Communist and socialist leaders held protests to ensure that Bombay, which was largely Marathi-speaking, remained with Maharashtra. Almost 105 people lost their lives in the agitation in police firing, and a stone statue at Hutatma Chowk in Mumbai’s Flora Fountain is a stark reminder of that protest.CPI leader Prakash Reddy says, “While the capitalists always favoured a separate Mumbai, the credit for it going to Maharashtra goes to the common struggling class people, who took to the streets during the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement.”Congress leader Hussain Dalwai, who was closely associated with leading socialist leaders, says, “Mumbai has always embraced people across classes, communities or religions. But it is the hidden agenda of some segments to break it.”While time has healed much of the Gujarat versus Maharashtra rancour, the fault lines remain. Particularly, as for parties seeking power in the state, the Marathi and the Gujarati vote remains critical. Among the common citizenry, tension spikes over issues such as separate ‘vegetarian’ and ‘non-vegetarian colonies’ in the metropolis, with the Gujarati way of life projected as imposing on Maharashtra culture.The Shiv Sena rose to prominence presenting itself as the party of the “Marathi manoos”, while the Gujaratis are considered a vote bank of the BJP, especially since Modi’s rise.However, the Sena has largely kept the Gujaratis in good humour, even during its 1980s anti-north Indians campaign, when it accused migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar of taking away jobs in the service sectors.Gujarati leaders too have split their bets across parties, maintaining cordial relations with all, and content not stirring regional tensions, unlike some leaders from the North.But the latest row is expected to impact the coming elections to the BMC with the Gujarati vote estimated at around 17%, against 26-30% Marathis.Last year, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray had announced an outreach plan to woo Gujaratis. The slogan coined by the Sena was: ‘Khao jalebi, fafda, Uddhav Thackeray appda ( Eat jalebi, fafda, but consider Uddhav Thackeray yours)’, a message that Gujaratis could keep their way of life with the Sena. It will be interesting to see its messaging now, particularly as its breakaway faction led by Eknath Shinde is a ruling ally of the BJP.Some time ago, Fadnavis had accused the non-BJP parties of “deliberately raising the bogey” of separation of Mumbai from Maharashtra. “But people know that Modi and Shah are always working for the welfare of Mumbai and Maharashtra,” he had said.This will be a hard sell now in the light of the Vedanta-Foxconn row. The Opposition, for one, will point out that it was Fadnavis who as CM in his last tenure in government promised Maharashtra a $1 trillion economy.
NCP MP Supriya Sule on Wednesday participated in a protest of city NCP against the state government over losing the mega Vedanta-Foxconn semiconductor project to Gujarat after it was slated to be in Maharashtra.Hitting out at the state government led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Sule said the youth of state has lost the employment opportunity that was to come up with the start of the project. “There is all possible attempt to reduce the importance of Mumbai and Maharashtra. This mentality is responsible for the shifting of the mega planned project to Gujarat,” she said.The NCP leader said there is a need of a serious chief minister to protect the rights of Maharashtra and the son of soil. “If need be, the state should have two chief ministers but don’t snatch away the employment opportunity of youths of the state,” Sule said sarcastically.The city NCP staged a protest outside S P College on Tilak Road. Sule further stated that the Maharashtra has a tradition that it never relents to pressure of those in power at centre but the present state government decisions are taken in Delhi.However, a new tradition is emerging in the state under the leadership of Shinde and Fadnavis.The city NCP has also planned a protest on Thursday against the statement of a state minister that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured chief minister that a much bigger project would be given to Maharashtra.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government collapsed in June this year. (FILE)Mumbai: Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has hit out at former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, saying that his style of functioning was responsible for the split in the Shiv Sena.He also admitted that believing senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar was his "biggest" political blunder, and added that in order to take revenge for the back-stabbing, it was important that one lives long.After the 2019 Assembly election results, Mr Fadnavis and Mr Pawar had taken oath as the state Chief Minister and deputy Chief Minister, respectively, at a hush hush ceremony held at the Raj Bhavan in November that year. However, their government lasted only nearly 80 hours after Mr Pawar quit.Speaking at the CNN News18 Town Hall event on Saturday, Mr Fadnavis said only Uddhav Thackeray has to be blamed for the recent political turmoil in the state and it was his style of working that led to the split in the Shiv Sena.The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government comprising Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress collapsed in the last week of June this year after Sena MLA Eknath Shinde along with 39 other legislators revolted against the party leadership. Shinde was on June 30 sworn in as the chief minister, while Fadnavis took oath as his deputy."Only Uddhav Thackeray is responsible for the political debacle and crisis in Maharashtra. His working style is responsible for the Shiva Sena's split. Around 30-40 MLAs left the MVA alliance and he had no idea about it," Mr Fadnavis said."Uddhav ji used to say in his speeches - 'You can try to bring down my government'. I said - 'One day your government will come down and you won't even realise it'. And that is exactly what happened," the senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader added.The BJP and Sena had contested the 2019 Assembly polls together. However, the Sena parted ways with the BJP following differences over sharing the chief minister's post. The Thackeray-led party then joined hands with the NCP and Congress to form the MVA government."Uddhav Thackeray made a mockery of the mandate. When we fought in alliance, at every gathering, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah said the Chief Minister will be from the BJP. Uddhav ji was also on stage and clapped. But when aspirations exceed capabilities, people make decisions," Mr Fadnavis said."We had earlier fought under (Sena founder) Balasaheb Thackeray's leadership for Hindutva and today they are calling Balasaheb, 'janab' Balasaheb Thackeray…publishing a calendar in Urdu…This type of appeasement was never done by the Shiv Sena," he added. Mr Fadnavis has been targeting the Sena, claiming that one of its party workers had printed a calendar in Urdu in which Bal Thackeray was addressed as "janab".The BJP leader, however, added that Mr Thackeray might be his political opponent, but they were not enemies."I can talk to Uddhav Thackeray even now, but it may be a non-political conversation. All things should not be viewed from a political angle only," he said.The former Chief Minister also trashed rumours of conspiracy at being given the deputy Chief Minister's post."My focus is Maharashtra, not Delhi…I believe that only the Opposition tried to cut me to size. My party and leaders were behind me. It's all conspiracy theory," he said.Mr Fadnavis said that believing Ajit Pawar was his biggest political blunder."When such things happen, it is important that you live long enough to take revenge for such political back-stabbing," he said.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comTo a question about the BJP being accused of dividing the nation, he said his party dreams of a united India.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
AURANGABAD: Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Scheme and horticulture minister and Eknath Shinde loyalist MLA Sandipan Bhumare has accused Uddhav Thackeray of not working while holding the chief minister’s post during the tenure of the MVA government. Bhumre, who has planned a grand public felicitation for Shinde during his upcoming tour to Paithan, said Thackeray was even reluctant of meeting MLAs and, therefore, his felicitation was out of the question when he was the CM. “Now, the present CM — Shinde saheb — is working hard. He has given funds worth Rs 2,000 crore for the development of Paithan. Therefore, we are felicitating him with great pride,” Bhumre said. The MLA said Shinde and his deputy Devendra Fadnavis have allotted Rs 890 crore for the Brahmgavhan lift irrigation scheme in his constituency, besides sanctioning Rs 388 crore for water projects and Rs 300 crore for road works among other works. Leader of Opposition in the State Legislative Council and Shiv Sena MLC Ambadas Danve could not be reached for his comments on Bhumre’s criticism of Thackeray. While addressing the media here, Bhumre also took potshots at Danve and former Sena MP Chandrakant Khaire stating that the two politicians are now left with the only work of attending religious activities. Shinde will be on a day-long tour of Paithan taluka of Aurangabad district, on Monday, where Bhumre is expected to hold a show-of-strength event in an apparent bid for the post of Aurangabad district guardian minister. During his visit, Shinde is scheduled to visit the temples of Sant Eknath and Sant Dnyaneshwar besides holding a public rally and presiding over a felicitation event organised by Bhumre.
Dear Reader,Soon after becoming the Prime Minister in 2014, Narendra Modi spoke about cooperative federalism as an idea that could guide Centre-state relations. His long experience as Chief Minister of Gujarat, presumably, may have been an instructive influence in shaping his vision of governance. Unfortunately, federal relations have been on the downslide for some years now.Historically, Centre-state relations have been a fraught issue since the 1960s, especially during the premierships of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. The tension would exacerbate whenever an Opposition party would win power in a state. In fact, the Kerala crisis in 1959 was a harbinger of how this tension could build into a stand-off between the Union and the state governments. In the heyday of the Congress and Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1950s, Kerala had voted in a CPI government. Just two years after it was sworn in, the Congress-led Opposition, in cahoots with caste/ communitarian groups that were upset with the radical tenancy and education reforms, launched a mass movement calling for the ouster of the communist government. In 1959, reportedly under pressure from the then Congress president, Indira Gandhi, the Nehru government invoked Article 371 to dismiss the EMS government, which enjoyed a majority in the Assembly. Thereafter, successive Union governments, with support from pliable governors, have dismissed inconvenient state governments and imposed President’s Rule in Opposition-ruled states. This tendency peaked in the 1970s and 80s under Indira and Rajiv. Parties such as the CPM, citing the examples of Kerala and West Bengal, used to campaign against the Centre’s “step-motherly treatment” of Opposition-run states. This was the backdrop of the Sarkaria Commission (1983) that looked into Centre-state relations and made numerous proposals for its improvement. Despite Modi’s assurances, federalism seems to have taken a knock as an ambitious BJP seeks to dominate the polity at all costs. The ongoing controversy over the Vedanta-Foxconn project, which this newspaper has tracked in depth, as well as the mass defections in Goa seem like a throwback to the 1970s and 80s, when the Congress used to ignore constitutional and institutional propriety to further its political goals.Last week, it was announced that the Rs 1.54 lakh crore Vedanta-Foxconn project, originally planned for Maharashtra, would come up in Gujarat. The Opposition in Maharashtra alleged that the Centre used its leverage over the promoters to shift the project to Gujarat. Until recently, the Maha Vikas Aghadi, an anti BJP alliance, was in office in Mumbai. Moreover, Gujarat is headed for elections later this year. This war of words between the BJP-Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction) and the MVA has threatened to open old fault lines in federal relations as well as the state’s political economy. Also, ethnic tensions that date back to the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement in the 1950s have started to feature in political debates. Girish Kuber (‘A troubling trend’, September 16) fleshed out the details of the controversy while an editorial (‘Whose project’, September 16) cautioned against an emerging chill in Centre -state relations. The editorial said: “There is no reason why cities or states within India must not compete among themselves for investment and industry. In fact, they should. At the same time, the political gloves are off, Centre-state chill is deepening, many MLAs have become fungible assets, making for tricky terrain when it comes to who decides to invest where. The stakes are high when the fault lines run deep, watch this space.”The defection of eight Congress MLAs in Goa to the BJP, reminiscent of similar movements in Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka, exposed the lead Opposition party’s inability to keep its flock together in the absence of power. An editorial (‘Aya Ram, Gaya Ram’, September 15) pointed out the weakening of the Opposition space as the BJP seeks to consolidate the political space. If the slogan was Congress-mukt Bharat in 2014, today it seems to be Opposition-mukt Bharat. As majorities are upturned or enhanced, the anti-defection law, which was introduced in the 1980s with the intent to raise the bar for party hopping, has been thoroughly exposed. Legislators seem ready to switch sides shamelessly — in Goa, the elections were held as recently as March — with the confidence that voters may be willing to condone their act. In Karnataka, most of the MLAs who defected got reelected on their new party symbol. Perhaps, Parliament should tweak the anti-defection law and ask defecting legislators to sit out one term before they seek endorsement of voters in their new avatar!As the Opposition space gets squeezed elsewhere, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin announced that his government will provide breakfast to primary school students. This is in addition to the universal mid-day meal scheme that has been a part of public education in the state since the 1980s. What is interesting is that Stalin has sought to give a political spin to his initiative by stating that the scheme is welfare, not a freebie, and it is his “duty” to provide such welfare. The breakfast scheme is part of a slew of initiatives in the education sector that Tamil Nadu has introduced in recent months. These interventions in education are framed as conscious political acts and in step with the Dravidian Model of governance as against the preference of Hindutva politics for a polarising nationalism and other majoritarian agendas. This could become the core of a new Opposition politics.One of cinema’s greatest auteurs departed last week. Jean-Luc Godard, French director and film theorist, reportedly died by assisted suicide at the age of 91 in Switzerland. Godard was one of the leaders of the French New Wave and inspired filmmakers all over the world. His films were political to the core and constantly explored the politics of the image and sound. He constantly reinvented himself as an artist to keep his autonomy and agency and from being appropriated by the state and its institutions as well as to keep up with upheavals in politics, science and technology. C S Venkiteswaran (‘Conscience of cinema’, September 14) and Amrit Gangar (‘Godard on the Borivali local’, September 15) wrote touching tributes to the maestro.Last week also saw a new development in the Gyanvapi mosque case, with a district court in Varanasi agreeing to hear a plea by five Hindu devotees that their right to worship at the site be protected (‘Law and politics’, September 13). The hearing is set to begin on September 22. Faizan Mustafa (‘Not by the law’, September 13) warned against over-dependence on litigation to maintain social harmony.That’s all for this week.Thank you,AmrithAmrith Lal is Deputy Editor with the Opinion team
Balasaheb Thackeray’s philosophy towards politics was that of principles – the principles of Jai Hind and Jai Maharashtra, which meant the nation is first, then comes the state. The current political scenario requires the so-called “nationalists” in power at the Centre to re-visit his philosophy more than ever. The recent developments in the Vedanta-Foxconn deal highlight how increasing shallowness and partisanship are overtaking the needs of governance for those who occupy the highest political offices.In line with Balasaheb’s philosophy of nation first, Aditya Thackeray rightly expressed happiness at the semiconductor facility coming to India — but the question of Maharashtra and its people losing out on development and opportunities despite having offered the best possible incentives cannot be ignored.It is often said that “once is an accident; twice, a coincidence and three times is a pattern”. There are several accounts of plans and opportunities that were first conceptualised for Maharashtra but ended up going to another state, which seems to have a greater priority for the Centre. This “favouritism” is the harsh truth of Indian federalism today.The IFSC centre planned in the Bandra-Kurla Complex has been relocated to Gujarat. The National Security Guard & Maritime Policy Academy, initially meant to come to Palghar in Maharashtra was shifted to Dwarka. The ship-breaking facility was moved from Mumbai to Gujarat; the Air India Office from Mumbai to Delhi and so too the Trademark Office – and the list goes on. The Tata-Airbus manufacturing facility could also be lost by Maharashtra thanks to a servile, publicity-hungry chief minister at the helm.In the case of the Vedanta-Foxconn deal, a comparative study was conducted between Talegaon, Maharashtra and Dholera, Gujarat. Given the various issues around setting up a plant at Dholera — such as lack of water supply, skilled labour, electronic manufacturing ecosystem as well as the absence of supply chain vendors, secondary manufacturers, and the presence of marshy land — it is natural that the decision to set up the facility in Gujarat is attracting a shocked reaction for those aware of the negotiations between the legitimate government (MVA) of Maharashtra and Vedanta.Maharashtra not only offered a higher capital subsidy of Rs 40,000 Crore, compared to Rs 28,000 crore by Gujarat, but it also offered more land — 1,100 acres compared to 200 acres at Dholera. The shifting of the semiconductor facility to Gujarat, which is neither a major consumer of semiconductors nor has better technical capability compared to Karnataka, Maharashtra, etc — is disappointing.Why, despite these more lucrative and profitable deals, did the project move to less green pastures? It seems unexplainable — unless the deal has been “Modi-fied”. This phenomenon also explains the sudden increase in FDI in Gujarat – the state jumped from sixth to first position within one year. But coming as this does against the backdrop of upcoming assembly elections in the state, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising.The Centre’s step-motherly treatment of opposition-ruled states is not only astonishing but unconstitutional and against the ideals of harmony and unity on which India’s governance structure is based. The Prime Minister of India, who calls himself “Pradhan Sevak”, should remember that he is meant to serve the 138 crore people of India, not just a select few. He seems often to ignore his own words from the Independence Day speech: “Programmes can be different, working style can be different but dreams for the country cannot be different.”Competitive federalism can be sustained only in an environment where the competition between political equals (states) is fair and transparent. In an ideal scenario, several states contend to attract investments from businesses and try to offer the best possible incentives, letting the businesses freely make their final call. However, this is not how things unfold when political considerations supersede the economic welfare of the nation as a whole for those in power at the Centre.A BJP Leader from Vidarbha defended the Vedanta-Foxconn move to Gujarat by saying that “everybody knows why the Vedanta-Foxconn has gone to Gujarat. As BJP, we are one. It is Maharashtra’s duty to ensure that BJP wins the Gujarat polls.”“Maharashtra’s duty”? At the cost of development and employment for its own youth? The political considerations of the current ruling party at the Centre have brought us to this situation – party over country.This controversy is only a trigger. The more important question is: Who wins and who pays the cost for this kind of party politics? It’s the people of the country who end up losing the most in terms of jobs and development. The Centre’s intervention, arm-twisting and political environment only deter the businesses further from investing in the country due to being embroiled in controversies.Competitive federalism cannot be a tool for governance in silos. It has to be coupled with cooperation among states and honesty, transparency, and bipartisanship from the Centre. It also cannot disregard the aspect of asymmetric federalism – different states have different needs and the Centre is bound to ensure the development of each unit.Cooperative and competitive federalism may be two sides of the same coin competition alone cannot give the best results. It is competition with cooperation (horizontally as well as vertically) that will drive real change.(The writer is a Shiv Sena leader and Rajya Sabha MP)
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday credited Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel for the liberation of Hyderabad and took a swipe at those who had “turned back” on celebrating the day due to vote bank politics and the “fear” of Razakars.Shah was addressing the Hyderabad Liberation Day event here, attended by among others, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.If not for Sardar Patel, Hyderabad would have taken more years to get liberated and he knew that as long as Nizam’s Razakars could not be defeated, the dream of Akhand Bharat will not be fufilled.“After so many years, there was a desire in this land that the Hyderabad Liberation Day should be celebrated with the government’s participation. But unfortunately 75 years are over and those who ruled this place could not dare celebrate Hyderabad liberation day due to vote bank politics,” Shah said.“So many people have promised during elections, agitations that they would celebrate the Liberation Day. But when they came to power, due to the fear of Razakars they turned back,” Shah added.He expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for deciding to celebrate the Hyderabad Liberation day. When Modi decided to celebrate the day, everyone followed suit.“They celebrate, but not as Hyderabad Liberation day, they still have fear. I want to tell them, remove fear from your heart and Razakars cannot take decisions for this country as it got independence 75 years ago,” the Home Minister added.“I want to congratulate Modi because he understood the aspirations of the people of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana and decided to celebrate Hyderabad Liberation day,” he added.The State of Hyderabad which was under Nizam’s rule was annexed into the Union of India following a police action codenamed ‘Operation Polo’ that culminated on September 17, 1948.
The Rs 1.54-lakh crore Vedanta-Foxconn semiconductor project has become a political lightning rod in Maharashtra with the ruling coalition and the Opposition accusing each other of failing the state. On Tuesday, the promoters announced that the project, originally mooted by the Devendra Fadnavis government in 2015, will be set up in Gujarat, forcing the ruling coalition in Mumbai on the defensive. Shiv Sena leader and industries minister in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government Subhash Desai has said the project went to Gujarat “under pressure from the Central government”. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said he called up the Prime Minister and got an assurance that the Centre would help “big projects” come to the state. Clearly, the Centre is the elephant in the room as states compete for investment. This has implications for the federal pact between the Centre and states given the BJP’s political refrain of a “double-engine” and how it pulled the rug from under the MVA feet.This isn’t the first time a party at the Centre has been accused of disfavouring states that vote Opposition parties to office. CPM-led governments in West Bengal and Kerala used to accuse the Congress government in New Delhi of “step-motherly treatment” in allotting resources and projects. The Sarkaria Commission (1983) investigated a gamut of issues related to Centre-state relations, including financial powers, and made recommendations. The Centre and opposition parties are not on the same plane in the ongoing freebies debate. In Maharashtra, the Vedanta-Foxconn case has threatened to reopen an old faultline that dates back to the 1950s, when the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement realigned politics in the region around linguistic identity. It gained traction as the metropolis of Bombay, the capital of Bombay State, became a bone of contention between the emerging states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Linguistic identity has since been a powerful strand in Maharashtra politics with the Shiv Sena weaponising it to establish itself as a regional party that spoke up for the local manoos. However, the administration and capital negotiated their way out of the nativist trap; Sena too realised that it was in the party’s self-interest not to frame capital and investment in ethnic colours. The Sena-BJP alliance that came into being in 1989 privilleged the Hindutva agenda over regional-nativist impulses and a political consensus seemed to have emerged on nurturing Mumbai as the business capital of the country. That consensus seems to have fractured with Ahmedabad emerging as a competitor for attracting capital in the 2000s, when Narendra Modi became the chief minister of Gujarat.There is no reason why cities or states within India must not compete among themselves for investment and industry. In fact, they should. At the same time, the political gloves are off, Centre-state chill is deepening, many MLAs have become fungible assets, making for tricky terrain when it comes to who decides to invest where. The stakes are high when the faultlines run deep, watch this space.