The Indian Express | 3 days ago | 22-06-2022 | 12:45 am
On June 11, a day after the BJP managed to win three Rajya Sabha seats in Maharashtra in spite of inadequate numbers, NCP chief Sharad Pawar lauded the leadership of Devendra Fadnavis, stating that the performance was largely due to the Leader of Opposition’s ability to “win over people”.Many saw Pawar’s statement as a swipe at Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who has over the past 30 months of his tenure come to be seen as aloof and unapproachable, to both his Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi allies as well as own party MLAs.This aloofness coupled with Thackeray’s propensity to communicate with his partymen and allies through a select coterie deemed to be part of his kitchen cabinet sowed the first seeds of discord in the party, which erupted on Tuesday morning into a full-scale rebellion. So blind was Thackeray to this that earlier this year he had entrusted Shinde himself to address these concerns of MLAs.Thackeray took over as CM in 2019 without any experience in the administration or of contesting elections, having spent years in the shadow of his father Bal Thackeray.The Covid pandemic and a spine surgery followed soon after, confining Thackeray to his home Matoshree. The recuperating CM could attend the Secretariat only after a five-month hiatus, lasting from November 2021 to April 2022. This left many Sena leaders frustrated over their inability to meet the CM, and over being forced to go through intermediaries such as Milind Narvekar or Anil Parab.Apart from these trusted leaders, the new CM was also seen as excessively dependent on bureaucrats, particularly Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta and his successor S J Kunte.Though Thackeray was seen as being in the forefront of the state’s Covid fight with his frequent televised addresses and his reassuring tone tackling people’s concerns, a retired additional chief secretary says officials too were left frustrated at times at the “lack of interest in administration”. “The CM would discuss his hobby of photography and wildlife sighting. I had to plead with the CM’s secretariat to get files cleared.”Among those to publicly voice their resentment over Thackeray’s lack of accessibility were Sena allies like the Bahujan Vikash Aghadi, helmed by Hitendra Thakur. In the recent Rajya Sabha polls as well as the MLC elections held on Monday, Thakur voted against the Sena candidates. Sources point out that while veteran NCP chief Sharad Pawar made it a point to personally call allies up, Thackeray left it to his aides to rally support, including Thakur’s.The Bahujan Vikas Aghadi leader told The Indian Express: “Not just us, many MLAs, including of the Shiv Sena, felt the CM had no time for us. Many are angry.”The rise of Uddhav’s son Aaditya Thackeray also added to the insecurity of many senior and old-time Sainiks. Several have been sidelined to make way for members of the Yuva Sena, headed by Aaditya.Thackeray’s frequent espousal of Maharashtra and Marahti pride did help rally a section of the cadre, but it was not sufficient to make up for the MLAs’ concerns, including on administrative neglect. Sena leaders compared this with the NCP’s running of the party, with the Pawar-led party ensuring it called the shots in the Cabinet.The NCP’s dominance was also felt in the state budget, with nearly two dozen Sena MLAs earlier this year threatening to boycott the Budget Session of the Assembly alleging a rough deal in the allocation of development funds.Thackeray also failed to gauge the uneasiness regarding the alliance with the Congress-NCP. Many felt the alliance was inimical to the Sena’s own political growth, with the consequent moulding into a less-strident Hindutva seen as ceding space to the BJP. Aaditya especially was seen as keen on a more moderate identity for the Sena, by taking up “progressive” causes.If Shinde was among those seen as in favour of an alliance with the BJP instead of with the Congress and NCP, another such leader was Nandgaon MLA Suhas Kande, who is now among the rebels in Surat. Worried about his survival, Kande had taken the surprise step of moving the Bombay High Court in September last year seeking the removal of senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal as Nashik’s guardian minister.In 2019, Kande had defeated Chaggan’s son Pankaj Bhujbal in Nandgaon, but he feared the seat could be given up by the Sena if the alliance with the Congress and NCP continued.Interestingly, among the factors behind the Sena’s loss in the Rajya Sabha poll was the disqualification of Kande’s vote. Kande blamed the episode on a BJP conspiracy.
PUNE: The state’s booster or precaution dose consumption has surged with the initiation of the doorstep Covid-19 vaccination programme. Going by the latest report of the state health department, nearly 3.16lakh residents over 60 years of age across 36 districts have availed of the benefit of the third dose since the beginning of the special Har Ghar Dastak drive on June 1. “We aim to administer this precaution dose to every eligible person over 60 years in the state and cover the maximum people by the end of July,” said state immunisation officer Dr Sachin Desai. The response to the precaution dose had gone down drastically after Covid cases dipped between February and May. The cases have started slightly rising over the last two weeks, which is also prompting people to seek a booster dose. Currently, only residents over 60 years of age and healthcare/frontline workers are eligible for a free booster dose. Citizens in the 18-59 age bracket are not privy to the free booster shot under the country’s Covid vaccination programme, and have to bear the cost of the shot at designated private hospitals. This is also one of the prominent reasons why most districts have registered extremely low consumption of the booster dose in the 18-59 age bracket, while a few have recorded zero jabs. The Union government allowed the booster shot for the 18-59 age group at private centres from April 10 this year. Earlier in June, state health minister Rajesh Tope had asked the Centre to give the booster dose for free for the younger group to push up vaccination numbers.
MUMBAI: The political drama unfolding in Maharashtra now has legal experts divided too on whether disqualification can be sought for the ‘rebels’ in the Shiv Sena. However, most are in agreement that the MLAs cannot be disqualified on grounds of not attending recent party meetings as that is outside the ambit of legislative affairs. The party’s petition to the deputy speaker seeking disqualification of 16 MLAs including rebel leader Eknath Shinde has sought to invoke para 2 (1) (a) of the 10th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which governs ‘disqualification on grounds of defection’. A senior counsel from Delhi said the party may be relying on a 2019 Supreme Court judgment in a Karnataka case to argue that the actions of the MLAs would “portray defection.” The Sena plea is that at a “crucial time” during “political uncertainty” when the party needed to consolidate, meetings were called on June 21-22 and despite issuing notices, these MLAs did not attend and instead left for Surat and Guwahati which are in BJP-ruled States. The plea said the BJP, in a conspiracy with these MLAs, is trying to topple the govt and in these circumstances, their not attending the meetings amounted to voluntarily giving up membership of the party; remaining incommunicado and not responding to the call of the leadership also shows that they have given up membership and hence they should be disqualified, it said. However, former attorney general S G Aney said the disqualification process would be “void” legally as not attending the meetings would not amount to quitting the party. Lack of attendance at meetings “cannot be taken into the realm of legislature’s action and the Speaker has no authority over the matter. At best it would be a matter for the party’s internal consideration for consequences on such unbecoming behavior,” said Aney. Anil Sakhare, a senior counsel, also agreed that at this juncture it may not attract disqualification. Senior counsel Prasad Dhakephalkar said the situation is “very fluid’’ but if by their conduct it can be shown that they have left the party, then it may attract disqualification. “But rebels can claim merger,” he added. To overcome any threat of disqualification they have to show 2/3rd members of a party have merged with another party. Under the 10th Schedule paragraph 4, disqualification on grounds of defection would not apply in case of a merger with another party. “It will eventually depend on the facts which at the moment are not all clear,’’ said another senior counsel from Delhi. He added, “At this stage prima facie, there can be no disqualifications since not attending the meeting does not amount to voluntarily giving up the membership of the party. It would depend on the explanation that the member may give. A party cannot single out a few members if there is support of two-third members in the rebel faction. The Karnataka case was different on facts.”
MUMBAI: While Covid-19 cases dipped in Maharashtra on Friday, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray appealed to lakhs of warkaris walking towards Pandharpur during Ashadhi Wari to use face masks to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission. The state had registered its highest single-day tally in this surge on Thursday at 5,218, but cases dropped by 20% to 4,205 on Friday. Mumbai saw a 24% drop, with 1,898 cases registered on Friday. "We had a problem updating our data on the ICMR website for a couple of days and that led to a bunching up of cases on Thursday. But the data is now updated and Mumbai is back to reporting less than 2,000 cases a day," said BMC executive health officer Dr Mangala Gomare. Two nonagenarians with chronic conditions succumbed to Covid-related complications in Mumbai while the neighbouring Thane city registered a death. Daily hospitalisations which had gone past 100 dropped on Friday to 96. The daily test positivity rate which had increased to 20% a few days back was 12% for the second consecutive day. Dr Gomare said that cases should start plateauing soon. Dr Gautam Bhansali, who is a member of the state Covid task force, said that despite the surge, patients are recovering with minimum medication within a few days. "There is no need to panic at all,'' he said. The surge has been limited to five districts-Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Palghar and Raigad-but the state administration is worried about the Pandharpur yatra. Of the 4,205 cases on Thursday, 3,354 (80%) were detected in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. A state official said, "Active cases in the state have crossed 25,000 as compared to 626 a couple of months back. In this backdrop, the chief minister held a video-conference instructing district collectors, municipal commissioners and district police superintendents to take steps to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19.'' Meanwhile, another patient of BA.5 variant has been detected in Nagpur. State surveillance officer Dr Pradip Awate said a fully vaccinated 27-year-old female tested Covid-positive on June 19. "She was mildly symptomatic initially but has since become asymptomatic and is stable and in home isolation,'' he added. The total tally of BA.4 and BA.5 variant cases in the state has increased to 26-15 in Pune, five in Mumbai, four in Nagpur and two in Thane.
NASHIK/AURANGABAD: Members of Shiv Sena in Ahmednagar and Jalgaon municipal corporations are in 'tight spot' following the rebellion by Eknath Shinde. Ahmednagar civic body has 25 Sena corporators and shares power with NCP. Sena got its mayor in Jalgaon Municipal Corporation last year after a defection of 30 BJP corporators engineered by Shinde. Sena sources in Ahmednagar city unit told TOI that at least 10-12 Sena corporators have endorsed the stand taken by Shinde about toeing the Hindutva line. Adav told TOI that although he has huge respect for Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, he fully endorses and supports Shinde. He also said Uddhav is still the chief of Sena. "The party is moving away from its core principle by aligning with parties that are not natural allies of Sena," he said, adding the leaders deputed by central leadership to oversee party affairs in Ahmednagar are ruining Sena in the district. Sena leaders from Jalgaon claimed there is no threat to the ruling party in the civic body, one of the defectors admitted he is watching the political developments keenly. "If the Shinde faction joins hands with BJP to form the government, there is a possibility of a political turmoil in the Jalgaon civic body," added Sena sources. Jalgaon city president Suresh Bhole mocked the defectors saying that they have 'dug their own grave' by deserting BJP. In Aurangabad, which had Shiv Sena and BJP in alliance for the municipal corporation, party workers were confident of bagging more than expected number of seats. The term for the previous body elected ended in April 2020 and since then, the AMC is being headed and run by administrator Astik Kumar Pandey. Former Shiv Sena mayor Nandkumar Ghodele said, "For the first two days, we felt that the rebellion would dent the party. But with the passing of time, we sense a growing sympathy and love for Sena and Thackeray family." He said that in the upcoming civic body elections, Sena will definitely get more seats as people are criticising the rebel camp. During the previous term, Shiv Sena won 28 seats and post election, seven independents joined the fold.
PUNE: With Covid cases rising in the state, especially in Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Palghar and Raigad, the state health department has directed chemists' associations to maintain records of buyers of self-test kits or rapid antigen kits so that they can be shared with local authorities. "Considering the sudden rise in Covid cases, we have directed manufacturers, chemists/pharmacists supplying and selling home antigen testing kits to provide information to us. There may be some cases that have been tested with home test kits but not reported on the ICMR portal. In such cases, we cannot track the patient and it becomes difficult for us to contain the spread of the virus," said a state public health official. Anil Belkar, secretary, chemists' association, Pune district, said that they have circulated the message to all retail medical stores to ensure that details of the buyers are noted down so that they can be shared with the local health officials, if required. The health department had directed chemists to maintain records of buyers of self-testing kits during the third wave, too. Now, again with cases rising in mainly five districts, chemists have been directed to ensure that details are noted down diligently. Association members of the state chemists and druggists' association said that many people are buying the testing kits from online sites, which also needs to be monitored. Chemists have also been told to educate buyers of self-testing kits about the application they need to download. Through the app, the test data is connected with the ICMR portal and citizens have to ensure that it is uploaded within the given time frame. State surveillance expert Dr Pradip Awate told TOI that if self-testing kits are used then the data should be uploaded. "With cases increasing in clusters, we need to stress more on RT-PCR tests than RAT tests," he said. Those detected positive with RAT have to follow it up with RT-PCR tests as samples have to be sent for genome sequencing," he said. Dr Awate said that while the daily cases in the state are hovering around 4,000-5,000, severity of cases continues to be low.