Maharashtra CM’s son spotted in a chair at Varsha, opposition calls it a takeover in Eknath Shinde’s absence

Times of India | 3 days ago | 24-09-2022 | 04:17 am

Maharashtra CM’s son spotted in a chair at Varsha, opposition calls it a takeover in Eknath Shinde’s absence

MUMBAI: The 'seat of power' can sometimes take a literal meaning. A picture showing chief minister Eknath Shinde's son and MP Shrikant Shinde ensconced in a chair at the CM's official residence Varsha caused a controversy on Friday, with a section of NCP and Congress leaders seeking an apology for his use of fixtures reserved for the highest elected office in Maharashtra. Shrikant Shinde reacted saying the criticism was uncalled for as the chair on which he was photographed was part of the Shinde family's furniture, "the chair does not belong to Mantralaya or Varsha." And lest someone thinks he was using it for photo-ops, he said he was "looking after the CM's work in his absence...my father and myself, we meet thousands of people to address their grievances.'' Shinde pointed out that he has been elected to Lok Sabha for consecutive terms and is aware of protocol and rules. The chair in the picture is at the private residence of the CM, it is not the official chamber of the CM, the room is used by the CM for video conferences...the opposition has no issues, it is raising irrelevant issues,'' Shinde said. Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar surprisingly came to his defence, saying it was indeed the private residence of the CM and there was no need to make an issue of who was sitting on which chair. It is the internal matter of the Shinde family, it is their private residence,'' Pawar said even as his party spokesperson Mahesh Tapase asked Shinde to tender an unconditional apology to the people of Maharashtra. In the recent past, Shrikant Shinde has emerged as a super CM,'' Tapase said. Not only was he occupying the CM's designated chair, he was issuing orders to officials. His behaviour is unfortunate, it was expected of him that he would follow protocol norms,'' Tapase said. State Congress President Nana Patole called it a "mockery of democracy" that while the father was away in Delhi, the son was trying to take his place in the chair and controlling the administration.

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The Kurmis: a political history
The Indian Express | 11 hours ago | 27-09-2022 | 05:45 am
The Indian Express
11 hours ago | 27-09-2022 | 05:45 am

The increase in the visibility and profile of Nitish Kumar in national politics ever since he dumped the BJP and joined hands with Lalu Prasad has spotlighted the OBC Kurmi community to which the Bihar Chief Minister belongs. Kurmis are a smaller community than Yadavs, and they have not always had a cordial relationship. But the political aspiration of Kurmis has spiked in recent weeks — Yadavs for the first time appear willing to accept them as “elder brothers” — and if the bonhomie between Nitish and Lalu continues, the BJP might need some new social engineering manoeuvres in Bihar and UP soon.The communityKurmis are a landowning farming community whose status varies from place to place. The People of India series edited by K S Singh refers to Kurmis as “progressive farmers” who “avail of maximum benefits of all the development schemes available in the area and region”.Unlike Yadavs, Kurmis use a wide variety of surnames like Patel, Verma, Sachan, Gangwar, Katiyar, Baiswar, Jaiswar, Mahto, Prasad, Sinha, Singh, Pradhan, Baghel, Chaudhary, Patidar, Kunbi, Kumar, Patil, Mohanti, Kanaujiya, Chakradhar, Niranjan, Patanwar, and Shinde, etc.Some Kurmi surnames are used by other communities as well, making it difficult to identify a Kurmi by name alone. Sometimes they use no surname at all.Kurmis are distributed across several states — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Goa, and Karnataka. Besides Nitish in Bihar, the Congress chief minister of Chhattisgarh, Bhupesh Baghel, is also Kurmi.Their caste statusIn most states, Kurmis belong to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) in both the central and state lists for reservations.In Gujarat, Patels, who are linked to Kurmis, are in the general category, and have been demanding OBC status. In West Bengal, Odisha, and Jharkhand — where Kurmi is written as ‘Kudmi’ — Kurmis want to be included among Scheduled Tribes.Representation in govtNo data are available on the representation of various sub-castes in government jobs. But in 2018, the Justice G Rohini Commission set up to sub-categorise OBCs analysed data on 1.3 lakh central jobs given under the OBC quota over the five preceding years, and OBC admissions to central higher education institutions including universities, IITs, NITs, IIMs and AIIMS over three years, and reportedly found that the main beneficiaries were Yadavs, Kurmis, Jats (Jats in Rajasthan, except those in Bharatpur and Dholpur districts, are in the central list of OBCs), Sainis, Thevars, Ezhavas and Vokkaligas.The Indian Express has reported earlier that the analysis found that while Yadavs have significant representation in the security forces and police etc, Kurmis, particularly from UP and Bihar, have got better representation in the civil services, and in medical colleges and universities.Kurmis in BiharIn Bihar, UP, Odisha, Maharashtra, and Chhattisgarh, Kurmis constitute a significant political force. In pre-independence Bihar, a political front called Triveni Sangh formed by a Yadav (Jagdev Prasad Yadav), a Kurmi (Shiv Pujan Singh), and a Kushwaha (Yadunandan Prasad Mehta) leader took part in the 1937 elections.Shiv Pujan Singh had a wide following among his castepersons. Prominent Kurmi leaders from Bihar (including Jharkhand) in later years include former MP and Governor Siddheshwar Prasad; former MP and a founder leader of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) Binod Behari Mahto who sought to link Shivaji with the Kurmis of North India through an organisation called Shivaji Samaj; and Satish Prasad Singh, who became the first Kurmi chief minister of Bihar in 1968, albeit for just four days.The Yadav leadership of Bihar’s OBCs was established by Chief Ministers B P Mandal and Daroga Prasad Rai before Lalu’s decade-long dominance, which was ultimately ended by Nitish Kumar. After the rise of Lalu and Mulayam Singh Yadav in Bihar and UP respectively, the Kurmis in these states aligned with upper castes to give themselves a political leg-up. Nitish in particular utilised the dislike for Yadavs in North India to tie up or break with the BJP as and when he wished.Kurmis in UPThe BJP’s predecessor, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), promoted OBC leaders before their leadership passed to Chaudhary Charan Singh who broke with the Congress to form the Jan Congress (which later became the Bharatiya Kranti Dal, Bhartiya Lok Dal, etc). The finance minister in Charan Singh’s first government in UP (April 1967) was an Ambedkarite Kurmi from Kanpur called Ram Swarup Verma. Another prominent Kurmi leader of the decades of the 60s and 70s in UP was Jairam Verma.No Kurmi has become chief minister of UP so far. Beni Prasad Verma was considered number 2 to Mulayam in the Samajwadi Party for several years. He joined the Congress for a few years and became a Union Minister in the UPA-II government. Subsequently, Sonelal Patel, a Kurmi leader, left the BSP and formed the Apna Dal, the two factions of which are now led by his two daughters, Union Minister Anupriya Patel and SP MLA Pallavi Patel. Pallavi and her mother Krishna Patel are trying to strengthen ties with Nitish Kumar in UP.The number of Kurmis in the UP Assembly is currently 41, a record high, up from 34 in 2017. Kurmi leaders contesting on SP tickets defeated three ministers of the Yogi Adityanath government. From the BJP, 22 Kurmis won the elections. This is the second straight Assembly in UP in which Kurmis outnumber Yadavs, even though the number of Yadav MLAs increased from 17 in 2017 to 25 in 2022. The UP presidents of both the SP and BJP, Naresh Uttam Patel and Swatantra Dev Singh respectively during the Assembly elections, were Kurmis.There is no current data, but a Social Justice Committee set up by then Chief Minister Rajnath Singh in June 2001 estimated that OBCs constituted 43.13 per cent of UP’s population, of which Yadavs were 19.4 per cent and Kurmis 7.46 per cent.Nitish has long been seen as having national political ambitions, and Lalu’s family, struggling with allegations of corruption, appears to have happily accepted the leadership of Lalu’s “chhota bhai”, at least for now. What impact this has on electoral outcomes in UP, however, remains to be seen.

The Kurmis: a political history
Distributed for party work, Panvel Congress’s SUV all set to hit the road after 8 years
The Indian Express | 18 hours ago | 26-09-2022 | 10:45 pm
The Indian Express
18 hours ago | 26-09-2022 | 10:45 pm

It took eight years for the Maharashtra Congress to put the car it had handed over to its Panvel unit for party work back on the road. While the party has managed to bring back the car, its new owner – another Congress office bearer – is now spending his own money to get the vehicle refurbished.During the last days of the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government, the then Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, in August 2014, had distributed 22 Scorpio cars to district presidents of the party. The aim was to use the cars to expand the party base in the district presidents’ respective areas.“While taking the review, we could not locate the car given to Panvel city unit. Upon inquiry, it was found that the car was not in the use of party related works. We received reports that it was on a private stone quarry. We decided to call it back,” said a senior official from the Maharashtra unit of the Congress.Former Panvel Congress president R C Gharat, who had received the car, told The Indian Express that he had his own fleet of cars and did not need the one given by the party for travel purposes. “I use my own cars for my work and party related work. I have my business and don’t require cars from my party for business purpose,” said Gharat. Gharat said that he had called the party state headquarter asking the office bearers to take back the car.After the state unit office received the car, it was handed over to Abhijit Patil, the new president of the Panvel Congress, last week.“Except for the engine, the car was damaged so much that I will now have to spend around Rs 1.75 lakh to make it run smoothly,” Patil said.“It is an old car, but it has been given to me by my party. I own different cars but I will ensure that it will be used for its intended purpose as much as possible,” Patil added.

Distributed for party work, Panvel Congress’s SUV all set to hit the road after 8 years
Maharashtra minister’s comment on Maratha reservation triggers controversy
The Indian Express | 18 hours ago | 26-09-2022 | 10:45 pm
The Indian Express
18 hours ago | 26-09-2022 | 10:45 pm

Maharashtra Public Health Minister Tanaji Sawant’s comment on the Maratha reservation triggered a controversy Monday.“There was nothing on the Maratha reservation for two years after it was stayed by the Supreme Court. Now, after the change of power in the state, they are itching for reservation. I want it and my next generation wants it,’’ Sawant said in his address to Eknath Shinde camp supporters in Osmanabad (Dharashiv) district.But faced with attacks from pro-Maratha reservation organisations as well as Opposition parties like the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Congress, and the Shiv Sena, Sawant later apologised for his remarks.In his apology, Sawant said, “If my statement has offended the Maratha community then I am apologising to the Maratha community. My role is to ensure that the Maratha community gets the reservation.” The minister added that he would ensure a quota for the Maratha community before leaving the ministerial post.State Congress chief Nana Patole demanded that Sawant be immediately sacked from the cabinet for making ‘an irresponsible and objectionable’ statement. Patole also sought the views of Shinde and Devendra Fadnavis on Sawant’s remarks.Maratha Kranti Morcha coordinator Vinod Patil said Sawant should be reprimanded by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.NCP spokesperson Suraj Chavan said Sawant was ‘high’ on power. “How can he say Marathas are itching for reservation? Is it wrong to demand a reservation? The minister is high on power, money, and post…” said Chavan.Shiv Sena leader Kishori Pednekar said Sawant insulted the Maratha community, which has been aggressively pursuing the restoration of quota.

Maharashtra minister’s comment on Maratha reservation triggers controversy
MP: Congress hopeful Kamal Nath will defuse Rajasthan crisis
The Economic Times | 22 hours ago | 26-09-2022 | 07:22 pm
The Economic Times
22 hours ago | 26-09-2022 | 07:22 pm

Loyalists of Kamal Nath in Madhya Pradesh on Monday said the Congress veteran can broker peace between factions led by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot. A state Congress leader said he was hopeful that Nath, who heads Congress in Madhya Pradesh, will defuse the crisis in the Congress-ruled state. "Kamal Nath flew to Delhi around 11.30 AM after getting an urgent call from the party's high command in the wake of political development in Rajasthan. He has already reached Delhi," a leader close to the MP Congress president told PTI in the evening. This is not the first time that Congress has roped in Nath, a former Union minister who had been a Lok Sabha MP for nine terms, to troubleshoot. Nath was sent to Maharashtra to save the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress following a rebellion within the Sena.However, the then chief minister Uddhav Thackeray resigned in June owing to a lack of numbers, paving the way for rebel Eknath Shinde to take oath as the CM with the support of the BJP. "Nath is a tall leader. He had served as Union minister multiple times. He commands respect in Congress," the party leader said. When asked about the Rajasthan crisis, he said, "of course, Nath can broker peace between the camps of Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot". Nath has close ties with Gehlot, he said. A majority of Congress MLAs in Rajasthan have rebelled against Sachin Pilot and want Ashok Gehlot, who is set to contest the upcoming elections for the post of Congress president, to continue as the chief minister. A day earlier, 82 MLAs loyal to Gehlot resigned to preempt the possible appointment of Pilot as the next chief minister.

MP: Congress hopeful Kamal Nath will defuse Rajasthan crisis
Why the Maharashtra govt has proposed a study of the state’s Muslim community
The Indian Express | 23 hours ago | 26-09-2022 | 05:45 pm
The Indian Express
23 hours ago | 26-09-2022 | 05:45 pm

The Maharashtra government recently announced a decision to commission a study on the social, educational and economic status of the Muslim community in the state.The decision, which comes as a surprise to the state’s political circles, is being hailed by BJP as a part of its ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vishwas’ campaign, while the opposition questions the implementation of the previous committee report’s recommendations.What is the latest study by the Maharashtra government about?The Minority Development Department in Maharashtra, currently headed by Chief Minister (CM) Eknath Shinde, has commissioned a study on the “social, educational and economic status of the Muslim community” in “56 cities in six revenue divisions of the state which have a sizeable Muslim population”. The study will be conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).The study will also examine the impact of the various state policies in the fields of education, health, employment, housing, credit access and infrastructure on the community.What could be the reason behind this decision?The move comes amid repeated claims by the Shinde-led Maharashtra government, that his rebellion against former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was to keep the flag of Hindutva flying high. Shinde and his rebel camp have consistently stated that they are proponents of the Hindutva ideology propagated by Shiv Sena founder late Bal Thackeray, unlike his son Uddhav who joined hands with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).There is growing concern that a large section of Muslims is gradually feeling alienated due to issues over the hijab, madrasa surveys and the Gyanvapi mosque dispute, and that the government has been unable to engage with them. Thus, the decision to set up the study was planned as an outreach measure to the state’s Muslim community.A similar strategy by the RSSThe decision was announced amid the outreach campaign undertaken by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) toward Muslim organisations. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Thursday (September 22) met All India Imam Organisation chief Umer Ahmed Ilyasi and visited a Madrasa run by the group in Delhi. This was the first time that an RSS chief visited a Madrasa.Earlier that day, a delegation of eminent Muslim intellectuals like former Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi, former Delhi Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung, and former Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University Lieutenant Zameer Uddin Shah met Bhagwat as a part of the ‘Samvad process’.Has the Maharashtra government conducted a similar study in the past?In Maharashtra, the last such survey of the Muslim community’s socio-economic conditions was done by the Mehmood-Ur-Rehman Committee, set up in 2008 by the then Congress-NCP government.The committee, which submitted its report in 2013, had said that nearly 60 per cent of Muslims in Maharashtra lived below the poverty line. The community’s share in government jobs was only 4.4 per cent, and its total number of graduates stood at 2.2 per cent, the report said. The committee had recommended an 8 per cent reservation for the community in state jobs, education and housing.What was the outcome of that report?Based on the Rehman committee report, ahead of the Assembly elections in 2014, the then Congress-NCP government had announced a 5 per cent quota for Muslims in government-run schools/ colleges, as well as jobs. The decision was challenged in the Bombay High Court, which struck down the quota in jobs but said the community should get a 5 per cent reservation in education.The BJP government, which was voted to power in October 2014, did not implement the recommended reservation, claiming that it did not support quotas based on religion.How have political parties in Maharashtra reacted to this development?Maharashtra Congress unit chief spokesperson Atul Londhe said that while the state government is planning another survey of the Muslim community, it should first reveal the steps it has taken to implement recommendations of the 2013 Rehman committee report. “The government needs to come up with concrete steps for the community, instead of setting up committees. It should also focus on betterment of the community, rather than spreading hatred between Hindus and Muslims,” Londhe said.NCP chief spokesperson Mahesh Tapase said that while the survey is a welcome step, the government must clearly explain its position on the five per cent reservation for Muslims in education. “Surveys must be reflected in action on the ground,” he said.BJP leader and spokesperson Keshav Upadhye said that his party believes in its agenda of ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vishwas’. “Whether Muslim or non-Muslim, we believe in all-round development. This survey is out of that belief that all sections of the society should progress,” he said. He also stated that his party continues to oppose reservations based on religion, as the constitution has no such provision.However, a section within the government is still uncertain about the decision to commission the study. Sources within the department have told The Indian Express that CM Shinde will take the final call on the matter.

Why the Maharashtra govt has proposed a study of the state’s Muslim community