Times of India | 1 month ago | 22-05-2022 | 09:18 am
AURANGABAD: Administrations across eight districts of the Marathwada region have started gearing up for the local body elections that have been pending for a while now. In most of the cases, the elections were put on hold due to the pandemic in the past couple of years. Authorities said as a part of the preparations, the process for ward formation has already been started in multiple local bodies across the region. As per the data obtained from across the eight districts, elections for eight Zilla Parishads, 76 panchayat samitis and 43 municipal councils are pending. A senior official said, “There are 50 municipal councils, 26 nagar panchayats and four municipal corporations spread across the region.” Of these, elections for 23 nagar panchayats were conducted in 2020-21 and 2021-22. “Out of the remaining three, Phulambri nagar panchayat has body till 2023. Renapur nagar panchayat election programme is underway while for Himayat Nagar, the election programme is awaited,” said the senior official. For the municipal councils, the ward formation process is underway at 43 places. Authorities at the revenue divisional commissionerate maintained that at several places the ward formation process has been initiated while at the other places the election programme is awaited. Out of the four municipal corporations in the region, Aurangabad Municipal Corporation’s previous body of elected members’ term ended in 2020 and continues to be headed by administrator. “For Aurangabad municipal corporation we have started the Prabhag Rachna or ward formation process, which is one of the vital indicators of election programme,” said a senior official from the AMC. Latur Municipal Corporation’s term has ended on Saturday while Parbhani Municipal Corporation’s term ended on May 15. The election programme for Nanded Waghela corporation the term is expiring in mid-October this year, before which the elections will be carried out. Senior officials privy to the election process maintained that a key election related meeting has been scheduled for Monday. “Most of the things about possible schedule for elections in urban as well as rural areas will be clear in Monday’s marathon meeting,” said an official from election department. In the meeting even the election programme is likely to be intimidated to the district administrations for initiating effective preparations.
Trinamool Congress is open to local alliances in Assam with parties that are aggressively fighting the BJP but “under no circumstance” will it ally with Badruddin Ajmal-led AIUDF, the saffron party’s “B-team”, said state unit chief Ripun Bora on Saturday.Observing that the TMC will support the opposition’s joint candidate in the upcoming presidential election, Bora, however, remained non-committal on whether the Mamata Banerjee-led party will enter into any understanding with the Congress in Assam as the grand old party is “not fighting BJP in the way it should have”.“The TMC will obviously support the opposition candidate in the presidential election. Our central leadership has authorised our state unit to forge alliances at the local level.“However, there will be no alliance with the AIUDF under any circumstance as it is no longer an opposition party, it is the BJP’s B-team,” Bora told PTI on the sidelines of the party’s first state executive meeting here.“TMC wants to join hands with parties fighting BJP aggressively,” he said, without specifying any likely allies in the state.Addressing a press conference at the same venue, Bora said, “We will not have an alliance with any party that has a soft spot for the BJP.” The state unit chief said the TMC will launch a massive membership drive with an aim to bolster its ranks by the end of this year.“We have five lakh members now. We will launch an intensified membership drive once the floodwaters recede,” he said.Bora said the party will continue opposing the camping of dissident Maharashtra MLAs in a luxury hotel here, alleging that it was giving a bad name to the state as a ground for ‘horse trading’.“Our chief minister is emerging as an expert in horse trading, encounters and spreading hatred. It does not augur well for our state,” the former MP said.Among the decisions adopted at the executive meet, which was also attended by Rajya Sabha MP Santanu Sen, were demands for restoration of ‘special status’ for Assam, a “correct and updated” National Register of Citizens, resolving the issue of “doubtful voters” and regularisation of government jobs.
Assam has been in the grip of a devastating flood and landslides that have claimed more than 100 lives so far. The deluge has affected over three million people who are in dire straits. But it seems there is a “bigger crisis” which has kept the entire nation’s focus fixed on Assam. As many as 38 rebel Shiv Sena leaders are currently camping in Assam’s capital Guwahati and probably hatching a conspiracy to topple the three-party coalition government led by Uddhav Thackeray. The almost week-long political drama involving dozens of Sena legislators has kept the local police and administration busy, at a time when they have more pressing issues to attend to. Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday sought to downplay the issue saying all “tourists” are welcome in Assam. A leading Assamese daily reported the daily food bill of these rebel MLAs, who are lodged at a luxury hotel in the city, is around Rs 8 lakh. A total of 70 rooms of Radisson Blu are being occupied by these ‘tourists’. And all this would surely run into several crores of rupees. The million dollar question is - why Assam, why not any other state? Sarma said he has nothing to do with the politics of Maharashtra. “Some people have come to Assam. They booked hotels. I am happy for that. You also come, it will help Assam's economy. Through this, Assam's tourism is also getting promoted,” he was quoted as saying by news agency PTI. On Friday, Sarma was among the galaxy of BJP leaders who accompanied NDA's presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu while filing her nominations at Parliament complex, in the national capital. Reacting to the claims that Assam government was allegedly ignoring flood relief work and busy hosting the MLAs from Maharashtra, Sarma said he cannot order closure of hotels in Guwahati due to “floods in some parts of the state”. “We have spent so much money to promote tourism, (we say) visit Kamakhya, visit Kaziranga, now, should I stop those who have come to Assam,” he added. But the fact is that the 38 “tourists” from Maharashtra have not stepped out of the hotel since he checked in earlier this week. And the Kaziranga National Park is closed during the rainy season. So, one is left wondering how these tourists are killing their time in a Guwahati hotel. Perhaps, Sarma, seen as one of BJP’s master strategists, has a ready-made answer to this query. The NE tribal leader who nearly became PresidentBefore Droupadi Murmu, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had backed an influential tribal leader from the northeast. But that was a decade ago and the party was not in power back then. Former Lok Sabha Speaker, late Purno Agitok Sangma, belonged to the Garo tribe of the northeast. He served as chief minister of Meghalaya from 1980 to 1990. He represented the Tura Lok Sabha constituency for several terms until his death in 2016. The seat is now held by his daughter Agatha. His son Conrad is the current CM of Meghalaya. PA Sangma was a staunch Congressman but in 1999, he became a part of the group which revolted over the issue of Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin. Subsequently, he joined the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) floated by Sharad Pawar. During the 2012 Presidential election, the BJP, which was the main opposition party, supported his candidature while the Congress-led ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) proposed the name of former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. Sangma hogged the limelight when he challenged Mukherjee’s election as the President, in the Supreme Court. He claimed that Mukherjee was holding an office of profit as chairman of the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata and as the leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha when he contested the election. In December 2012, the top court turned down Sangma’s petition, saying it is not maintainable for regular hearing. ‘No encounter killings, but killed in police action’The Assam government carefully crafted its reply to a directive issued by the Gauhati high court, which is hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) on alleged extrajudicial killings. In an affidavit, the state Home Department said earlier this week that 51 people died and 139 were injured “in police action” between May 2021 and May 31, 2022. The government claimed that no extrajudicial killings have taken place during this period, according to the affidavit quoted by a local English daily. This is the second affidavit filed by the BJP-led state government in the case. The PIL filed by Delhi-based lawyer and activist Arif Jwadder sought a probe into alleged fake encounters by an independent agency such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or a special investigation team (SIT) constituted by the court. He alleged that all the “victims were unarmed and handcuffed at the time of the encounter”, claiming that those killed or injured “were not dreaded criminals”. Earlier this year, the Union home ministry said in a written reply in Parliament that 655 cases of death in police encounters were registered across the country, with Assam recording the third-highest cases at 50. Maoist-infested Chhattisgarh topped the list with 191 deaths, followed by Uttar Pradesh at 117. It’s yet to be seen if the Assam government can steer clear of the allegation of extrajudicial killings levelled by the PIL. The next date of hearing is scheduled for the third week of July.
Uddhav Thackeray has the support of less than 13 MLAsMumbai: The battle for Shiv Sena's control has moved from the streets to the drawing room, where the legal teams of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Sena rebel MLA leader Eknath Shinde are working to make a claim as the rightful owner of Maharashtra's ruling party.In the Sena's first tangible move against Mr Shinde, who is camping in Guwahati and claims to have the support of nearly 40 Sena MLAs and 10 others, Maharashtra's Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal has accepted Ajay Choudhari as the Sena's Legislature Party leader by replacing Mr Shinde.The Deputy Speaker rejected a suggestion by the Mr Shinde camp to appoint Bharat Gogawala as the Sena's whip.Pressing on his attack, Mr Thackeray has asked the Deputy Speaker to disqualify Mr Shinde and 15 other rebel MLAs, who are camping in a five-star hotel in BJP-ruled Assam.After the Deputy Speaker issued notice to the rebel MLAs on the disqualification plea, two independents rose to defend the Mr Shinde camp by directly going for the Deputy Speaker - they moved a no-confidence motion against the Deputy Speaker Mr Zirwal in a bid to stop the MLAs from being disqualified.Mr Shinde, supported by the rebel MLAs, has said he would go to the Election Commission and claim the Shiv Sena as belonging to them as he has the numbers.The Sena's two allies in Maharashtra - Nationalist Congress Party, or NCP, and the Congress - have said they will stick with Mr Thackeray come what may. Sena leaders have said their party is strongly focused on cadre. While MLAs come and go, the cadre will remain with Mr Thackeray, they said.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.com"We're Shiv Sainik and will fight and will win. What they (rebel MLAs) are doing is not legal and politically not feasible. It's not happening for the first time with Shiv Sena. Earlier also it had happened but all in vain. This time also it will not succeed," Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said.The Sena filed to disqualify the rebel MLAs in a last-ditch attempt to save the ruling alliance. Team Thackeray is unlikely to seek more rebel MLAs for disqualification since that would bring the halfway mark down, which would benefit the BJP. Sena's play appears to be to go for disqualifying a few rebels to discourage the rest from facing elections, hence forcing them to return from Assam, where the BJP's north-east election strategist Himanta Biswa Sarma is the Chief Minister.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi Thursday appointed Abhishek Singhvi, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) spokesman, as a member of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, along with a few other names. In an interview with The Indian Express, Singhvi spoke on a range of burning issues. Excerpts:How do you see your elevation as a CWC member?Undoubtedly, it is a matter of great honour, privilege and pleasure. Personally, I see this apex decision-making body of the Congress as representing firstly, geographical diversity, secondly, community diversity, and thirdly, a kind of a brains trust or an in-house think tank. The third element needs to be reinforced and reinvigorated.On the Presidential election, there is a sense that the Opposition lacked imagination. And the Congress, the main Opposition party, simply sat back and let the other parties come up with names and agreed on the name on which there was wider acceptance. Why?I don’t quite agree with this formulation for the reason that firstly, the paramount consideration has to be consensus. There cannot be “ekla chalo” model on the President’s selection. Secondly, Gopal Krishna Gandhi was our choice more than five years ago and was again a front-runner this time. One cannot be blamed if for a variety of reasons he declined gracefully. Yashwant Sinha is a powerful name with rich experience and represents a thinking process about whatever is wrong with the BJP. I do not mean the slightest disrespect to the NDA candidate and she has every right to vigorously campaign and claim the Presidency but that should not detract from the continuous efforts of every segment of the Opposition for the last several days to provide a very respectable ideological opponent.On the ED’s questioning of Rahul Gandhi, the Congress has been attacking the government accusing it of misusing the agency. The party has called the ED’s summoning “illegal”. Then why hasn’t the party approached the court or taken a legal recourse?It’s completely wrong to suggest that “confinement by questioning” or “detention through questioning” for 55 hours over 5 days can be attacked only by going to court. The whole point is that there’s nothing to go to court about. Interminable questioning was intended for harassment, heaping insults and political objectives. Certainly Rahul Gandhi could have sought anticipatory bail but we had resolutely decided not to do so because he was confident in standing up to such intimidation. How can the ED first act perversely and unreasonably and then put the ball in our court saying we should seek legal redress for their unreasonable behaviour.I can personally tell you that when the summons for questioning first came to Sonia Gandhi, it was difficult to restrain her from going even with Covid at the initial stage. She has been raring to go and will go immediately when medical advice permits. However, elementary medical knowledge tells us that exposure to collateral infection must be avoided, especially at her age, and that is the simple reason why time has been sought.First, let me briefly address the political part. No doubt this is a storm which should have been partly combated preventively. But one must never brush aside the humongous immoral conduct of the BJP. Luxury buses, 3 or 4 jets, trans-Indian coverage from Surat to Guwahati and over 70 rooms in luxury hotels and resorts do not come cheap. All escorts were provided by BJP leaders visible on camera and all protection by police of BJP-ruled states. Now we know how 90% of the money from electoral bonds which admittedly and officially goes to the ruling party is utilised. They are the last persons who have any right to preach or moralise or feign ignorance.Turning now to the legal, the options are limited because all of them, first and foremost, depend on the numbers. However, firstly any Chief Minister can recommend dissolution (of the Assembly) subject to the caveat that a Governor is not obliged to accept that recommendation if there is sufficient material to show that the recommendation is based upon a minority support. Secondly, the Governor is within his or her rights to order a floor test if some group so claims and the Governor on demonstrable material finds that the incumbent does not have numbers. Thirdly, the anti-defection law clearly kicks in but is unfortunately time-consuming. Thus, while in a properly constituted complaint with sufficient natural justice for hearing, the Speaker or Deputy Speaker would be fully entitled to disqualify those who have jumped ship, that may practically be of no use given the time lag involved. Fourthly, Indian genius has found enough ways of circumventing the anti-defection law by resigning, creating artificial deductions in the total pool of voting and then after toppling the government by such illegal shenanigans getting re-appointed as ministers with a six month window left for the election. Fifthly, if by any last minute retrieval, Uddhav Thackeray gets the numbers, he himself is entitled to call for a vote of confidence. Unfortunately, in all of this the Congress remains an outsider but a self-professed clear strong supporter (of Thackeray).On the contrary, I believe the Aghadi (MVA coalition) has had a highly desirable convergence of views to the center point of reasonableness of the Hindu religion. Aghadi is absolutely right in saying that this is the brand of Hinduism which is true Hinduism and not the distorted, politically expedient and hyperventilating, breast-beating of the BJP. In that sense a lot of aberrations and distortions have been ironed out to the golden mean which Aghadi has adopted.Undoubtedly, the elections will happen on time. And undoubtedly everyone is free to stand. And we must all respectfully await the results. Naysayers and doomsdayers will keep on creating negative scenarios because it does not suit their script. There is a wait of hardly a few months and we must therefore all await the eating-of-the-pudding before sermonising.You are also the chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home. The committee is travelling to the Northeast. What is on its agenda?I’m equally privileged to be the Chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home not only because it’s an extremely important committee but because its remit covers the wide vistas from the Northeast to issues of national security to a huge swathe of paramilitary forces and to the vital themes of Center-state relations and federalism. On these issues, we have already started discussions on infiltration and security and border security in the Northeast. We have already examined the CRPF and ITBP. Indeed, the trip to the Northeast was already finalised and about to take off from 25th to 30th but was postponed because of the terrible floods and landslides and logical difficulties.Lastly, Kapil Sibal, one of the key G-23 leaders, has left the Congress and some of the leaders of the group have been placated with positions. How do you see the development and the activities of the dissident or reformist group?As Mr Sibal has rightly refused to comment on the Congress, the latter should equally rightly reciprocate. As far as your larger question on G-23 is concerned, I believe that the primary justification of such a grouping can only be suggestions for reform, which were intensively discussed and openly thrashed for over three days at the Udaipur Shivir. With (internal) elections round the corner, I think every legitimate demand of this G-23 has either been met or about to be met.
The still-unfolding scenes of the dramatic political crisis in Maharashtra, stretching from Mumbai to Guwahati via Surat, frame a government in freefall in an important state, and its rippling echoes. The Uddhav Thackeray government would appear to be coming undone by, on the one end, its own weakness, the inability or unwillingness or both of a family-run party to accommodate the rising ambitions within, and on the other end, by its partner-turned-foe’s aggressive fishing in murky waters. That the Sena rebels who have rallied behind Eknath Shinde have been ferried and locked into hotels in BJP-ruled states, first Gujarat and now Assam, tells its own story. There has been visible rancour between the Sena and BJP ever since 2019 assembly election, in which the BJP emerged as the single largest party but after which the two long-standing allies went their separate ways. The rift inaugurated a battle over the “real” flagbearer of Hindutva against the arresting backdrop of the country’s financial capital. At that time, the Sena went on to join hands with Sharad Pawar’s NCP and the Congress, and formed a coalition government. Now the Shinde-led group of rebels are pointing to that unlikely alliance and the need to go back to a solo, undiluted Hindutva as reason for their revolt, but they protest too much. After all, unlikely alliances are not unusual in Indian politics and, time and again, power has proved to be a strong glue. In all likelihood, therefore, the current unravelling in Mumbai has more to do with a Sena, having lost Bal Thackeray, finding it difficult to hold together and a BJP, in power at the Centre and not above weaponising its control of central agencies against political rivals and opponents, that is seizing the opportunity.In the coming days, the prospect of a vertical split in the Sena, and the endgame for the Uddhav Thackeray government, will pose a test for the institutions of the Speaker and Governor. The Deputy Speaker — since the Maharashtra assembly does not have a full-time Speaker since 2020 — could be called upon to assess the claims and counter claims and determine the status of the Sena factions under provisions of the anti-defection law. The governor could play a critical role in resolving the political instability, even as, after the Bommai judgement in 1994, the Supreme Court has laid down that the place for deciding whether a government has lost its majority is the floor of the assembly, not Raj Bhavan.The fate of the Uddhav Thackeray government in Maharashtra will also send signals that resonate beyond the state. With less than two years to go for the general election in 2024, and given that the Opposition is struggling to rally together to put up a fight against a formidable and predatory BJP, the loss of a crucial state will be consequential. Maharashtra, which has been one of the most prominent sites in the fight against Covid — during which, incidentally, the Uddhav Thackeray government kept a remarkably calm head — is now, amid the political tug and pull, again ground zero.