The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | 21-11-2022 | 07:45 pm
Nearly two-and-a-half decades ago, at its Pachmarhi Chintan Shivir, which was known more for the stand the party took on alliances, the Congress had emphatically reaffirmed its commitment to secularism and declared that it will “unflinchingly” meet the challenge posed by “communal forces” — among them the Shiv Sena.In 2019, over two decades later, the party diluted its position when it allied with the Sena to keep the BJP out of power in Maharashtra. It was an a la E M S Namboodiripad moment for the Congress. The legendary Communist leader had in the 1980s declared that he would even ally with the devil to defeat the Congress, then the main pole in Indian politics.The Congress’s decision to shed its opposition to the Sena had stunned many in the party.Some of them had remembered the 1998 Pachmarhi resolve which had said the party will “unflinchingly meet the challenge of the communal forces as represented by the BJP and its associates in the Sangh Parivar, such as the RSS, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, and those outside, such as the Shiv Sena, with no compromise or dilution of the well-established principles and practice of secularism, defined and evolved by the party as crucial to our nationhood”.Sonia Gandhi, who had just taken over as the Congress president, had said in Pachmarhi: “The question we must ask ourselves is whether we have in any way diluted our commitment to the fight against communal forces. It would perhaps be tempting to say we have not. However, there is a general perception that we have at times compromised with our basic commitment to the secular ideal that forms the bedrock of our society”.Rahul Gandhi’s unabashed criticism of right-wing hero V D Savarkar in Maharashtra is hence interesting and significant. The timing of his comments may have been unfortunate since they came in the middle of campaigning for the Gujarat Assembly elections. Moreover, they came in Maharashtra, where Savarkar is revered more for his cultural contributions, and despite Congress leaders of the state cautioning him against them.The Shiv Sena, of course, was upset.But Rahul has always been trenchant in his criticism of the Sangh. Attacking Savarkar was not new for him either. The merit of Rahul’s remarks on Savarkar can be debated and hotly contested from historic and political points of view, but despite the timing and the setting, Rahul has perhaps shown that he is consistent and his party should not fret. In fact, it was a welcome reassertion of what has been his party’s principled position.But will the Congress show the courage to come out of the embrace of the Sena if it really does believe strongly in adhering to the secular ideology? Can it afford to do that given that the 2024 Lok Sabha battle is a kind of do-or-die moment for it? The Sena still wears its hardline Hindutva ideology on its sleeves. It has never been sheepish about the role of its workers in the demolition of the Babri Masjid or its admiration for Savarkar.So is Rahul’s oft-repeated assertions on secularism half-hearted?After all, the Congress has always tried to position itself as a centrist party and its sway to the Left and Right for electoral and political considerations has dented its credibility over the years. If the party allied with the Sena in Maharashtra in 2019, it entered into a disastrous tactical understanding with the Indian Secular Front (ISF), a party formed in January by Abbas Siddiqui of the Furfura Sharif shrine in West Bengal’s Hooghly district, for the West Bengal Assembly elections in 2021.If the Sena was upset, the DMK, another ally of the Congress, too may not have been pleased this month when the Congress severely criticised the Supreme Court for ordering the premature release of all six remaining convicts who were serving life sentences in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, calling the judgment “highly problematic”, “completely erroneous” and “totally unacceptable”. But the Congress did not baulk.But if this is the Congress’s position, be it the Sena or the DMK, it should ensure that there are no inconsistencies in its approach — both political and economic – with dilutions in the past having dented its political credibility. Especially since the party often attacks Prime Minister Narendra Modi on dilution of his positions on GST, Aadhar and MNREGS.The Congress’s reversal of its position on the New Pension System is one such dilution of its economic principles. For a party which proudly proclaims itself as the architect of India’s economic reforms, the move seemed nothing but pandering to the hustings. It was more or less a sway to the Left.It was the UPA government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that took the New Pension System to its logical conclusion in 2013 by passing the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill despite stiff opposition from the Left parties and the Trinamool Congress. On the contrary, the party’s opposition to the GST was in the way it was rushed through and implemented. It never went back on its commitment to the GST.
Opposition parties and Sambhaji Brigade, a prominent Maratha organisation, have called for a bandh in Pune next Tuesday, December 13, protesting against the alleged objectionable comments against Chhatrapati Shivaji made by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, who called Shivaji an “icon of olden times”.Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Congress, Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray faction and Sambhaji Brigade met in front of the Chhatrapati Shivaji statue on the Shri Shivaji Preparatory Military School ground in Shivajinagar Wednesday.“It has been almost a month since the Governor made a controversial statement on Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji. The BJP leadership has not taken any action against him for insulting the Maratha king,” said Santosh Shinde of Sambhaji Brigade.“BJP leaders are repeatedly making statements insulting the Maratha king. There is a need to intensify the agitation against those insulting Chhatrapati Shivaji. Thus, a Pune bandh has been unanimously called on December 13 by representatives of various organisations. However, the bandh will not cause inconvenience to citizens,” he added.The meeting was attended by city NCP chief Prashant Jagtap, city Congress chief Arvind Shinde and Gajanan Thurkude of Shiv Sena “The NCP will participate in the Pune bandh. The details of the kind of agitation will be declared later on,” said city NCP spokesperson Pradeep Deshmukh. City Shiv Sena chief Sanjay More said he was not around and would later announce the plans for the agitation.Last month, during his speech at Dr Ambedkar Marathwada University, Koshyari said: “Earlier, when you would be asked who is your icon — Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose, and Mahatma Gandhi used to be the answer. Whereas in Maharashtra, you need not look elsewhere (as) there are so many icons here… while Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is of olden times, there are icons such as Ambedkar and Nitin Gadkari in modern times.” The Governor’s statement evoked a sharp and angry backlash across political parties.
Good morning! Get your day started with the top reads from today’s edition.Gujarat, Himachal election results todayThe Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is looking to return to power for a seventh consecutive term in Gujarat, riding on the Narendra Modi-wave. All eyes, however, are on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is flying high after its win in the civic polls in Delhi, and hopes to create dents in the BJP bastion. A question remains over the Congress’s fate after its low-key campaign in the state.In Himachal Pradesh, meanwhile, exit polls have predicted a tight race between the BJP and Opposition Congress, with AAP’s bid falling short after it redirected its energies to the Gujarat elections.Head to indianexpress.com for live updates on the counting of votes, analysis and more.Here are five other stories you shouldn’t missThe role, however, comes with its own set of challenges — from an uphill task of selecting a mayor to tackling issues it attacked the BJP on.While the BJP has managed to perform better than exit polls had predicted, would it have retained its control over the MCD had it not been unified? Take a look at our analysis.The Congress, meanwhile, has won just nine out of 250 seats in the MCD, losing its hold over a city it once governed.2. The UP police thought it was a simple open-and-shut case. They believed that a 14-year-old girl, who went missing from her home in Aligarh, was killed and dumped over 90 km away in Agra by her neighbour. Little did the family and police know that the girl was now a married woman, a mother of two children, working mustard fields, attending weddings and religious functions at her new home in Hathras. A chance meeting with a katha vachak (storyteller) blew her cover and the police investigation.3. As tensions continue to mount along the Maharashtra-Karnataka border, the inter-state dispute was echoed in the Parliament on Wednesday. NCP member Supriya Sule accused Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai of “making ad hoc statements” and “conspiring to break Maharashtra”. Ruling BJP MPs from Karnataka took objection to her remarks and pointed out that the matter is in Supreme Court.4. The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has unveiled its latest review of the monetary policy. In it, the RBI cut India’s GDP (gross domestic product) growth forecast for the current financial year, maintained the inflation forecast, and raised the repo rate by 35 basis points. Why has RBI taken this hawkish stand? What does the GDP forecast signify about economic recovery? Udit Misra explains. 5. FIFA World Cup 2022: After Morocco’s win over Spain, the team’s star player Achraf Hakimi tore away to the enclosure where his mother was seated. He climbed over the barricade and hugged her, tears rolling down the eyes of both. Not just Hakimi, you could see several other teammates in the embrace of their parents. In fact, parents of most of the Moroccan players are in Doha to watch their children play, many capping long journeys of hardship and pain. 🎧 Before you go, tune in to our podcast, ‘3 Things’: In today’s episode, we talk about the border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka, Goldy Brar’s alleged detention and subsequent interview, and delay in Ayodhya Mosque after 2019 Supreme Court judgement.Until tomorrow, Sonal Gupta and Rahel Philipose
Will it be a seventh consecutive term in power for the BJP in Gujarat; how many seats will the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), flying high after its victory in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections on Wednesday, win; and what will be the Congress’s fate after it ran a low-key campaign?If the exit polls are anything to go by, the BJP is set to equal the Left Front’s record in West Bengal on Thursday while the Arvind Kejriwal-led party is not likely to cross 10 seats in the 182-member Assembly. The Congress, whose spirited campaign had brought down the ruling party’s tally to 99 seats in 2017, is expected to register its worst performance in Gujarat, with none of the pollsters giving the grand old party more than 51 seats.The BJP’s campaign blitzkrieg was centred around Prime Minister Narendra Modi who crisscrossed the state, making an emotional pitch to Gujaratis to “strengthen him”, the son of the soil. He addressed around 30 rallies and road shows, wrapping up the campaign with two roadshows and covering more than over 50 km in Ahmedabad city that is considered to be the BJP’s bastion. Union Home Minister Amit Shah was the second-most prominent campaigner for the party. He was in the state for almost two months, micromanaging the campaign and election strategy for the BJP. He also spent a considerable time in his Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency, finalising the candidate list and trying to pacify rebels.The BJP also deployed its heavy-hitters such as chief ministers Yogi Adityanath, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Pramod Sawant, Maharashtra Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and national president JP Nadda for campaigning. The ruling party struck a balance between playing its Hindutva card — it raked up issues such as the 2002 riots and “love jihad”, and in its poll manifesto promised an anti-radicalisation cell and the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code — and its caste arithmetic.Unlike in 2017, when the Patidar quota agitation hit the party hard and benefitted the Congress, this time the BJP tried to get the caste calculus right. It dropped veterans and fielded at least 19 candidates who were originally from the Congress, emphasising “winnability” at the cost of some dissidence in its rank and file.AAP’s debutThe AAP put as much effort into its campaign as the BJP, with its convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann addressing almost as many rallies a day as Modi. With a debilitated Congress running a quiet campaign, the AAP succeeded in creating the perception that it is the main Opposition to the BJP. In a state where the BJP is overwhelmingly dominant, it projected itself as a better candidate to be a more vigilant Opposition than a deflated Congress.Kejriwal’s campaign was based on a call for change after decades of BJP rule and focused on pushing the Delhi school model, a set of “10 guarantees,” and the promise to take pilgrims to the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Though the party is expected by all to open its account, most likely it has to be content with having a foundation on which it can build for the future in a state that has never had a third front.Interestingly, both the Congress and the BJP found common ground in their Opposition to the AAP, saying that the noise it created is disproportionate to its strength and that history isn’t on Kejriwal’s side when it comes to a third front. Former CMs Shankersinh Vaghela who led the Rashtriya Janata Party and Keshubhai Patel who led the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) failed in building a third front in the state.Congress’s troublesIn 2017, the Congress was able to take advantage of the churning in the state resulting from the disenchantment of the Patidar community, farmers and traders with the BJP. Before the elections, it deputed its top leader Ashok Gehlot, the current Rajasthan CM, to Gujarat well in advance and allocated significant resources for campaigning.But this time, Rahul Gandhi, who led a major outreach and travelled across the state, was busy with the Bharat Jodo Yatra and visited Gujarat only for a day. Save Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, other top leaders of the party were absent. Though former Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modhwadia claimed that this strategy of running a grassroots campaign “helped the candidates focus on the real issues of price rise, unemployment, on which the BJP avoided a debate”, the exit polls showed this will likely fail and lead to a further shrinking of its footprint in a state where it has been out of power for more than three decades.
A bandh call has been given in the industrial city of Pimpri-Chinchwad on Thursday in protest against the controversial remarks of Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and BJP spokesperson Sudanshu Trivedi. The call has been given by the NCP, Shiv Sena (UBT), Congress, VBA and at least 100 social and voluntary organisations.“Essential services, hospitals, ambulances, schools and colleges have been exempted from the bandh. The NCP, Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray, Congress, VBA, AIMIM and at least 100 organisations are supporting the bandh,” Maruti Bhapkar, one of the organisers of the bandh, said.Activist Manav Kamble said the bandh has been called to protest against the “insulting” remarks of Koshyari and Trivedi. “We want the Governor to be shifted out of Maharashtra. The Governor has insulted Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj twice and it seems like there is a BJP conspiracy behind this,” he said.Bhapkar said the bandh will be enforced from 9 am to 5 pm. “All shops, industrial units, eateries and markets will remain closed to support the bandh,” he said.
A FEW days ago, on November 29, the Maharashtra government had announced completion of 100% vaccination of cattle in the state against Lumpy Skin Disease. However, from that date onwards till December 5, the state has seen 2,018 animal deaths as per the data available with The Indian Express.So far, the state has seen 24,430 cattle deaths due to the disease since the outbreak in mid-September.The government claims that it has vaccinated 100% cattle, which is over 1.39 crore animals in the state. However, the Opposition has raised doubts over the vaccination claims of the state government.As per the data of state’s Animal Husbandry department available with The Indian Express, the cattle affected by LSD in the state till December 5 is 3,50,171, out of which 24,430 animals have succumbed to the disease. “We have vaccinated 100% cattle in the state. The total number of vaccinated animals is 1,39,41,581 and we believe the disease is under control,” said an official from the Animal Husbandry department.On November 29, Maharashtra government had issued a notification which said that 100% vaccination of the cattle is achieved in the state. It said that permission has been given to transport animals from the LSD-affected areas to those which are not affected by the disease and carry the certificate of vaccination. It also said the district collector can give permission for animal fair and sports in areas other than controlled ones.However, the Opposition Congress has contested the claims of the state government. “If 100% vaccination is complete, then why animals are still getting infected and dying due to this disease? The government had claimed that timely vaccination of animals does not lead them to death and despite that hundreds of deaths are recorded in the state daily,” said Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole.Patole claimed that the state government’s efforts to vaccinate animals are not fool-proof and the claims of 100% vaccination need to be checked once again.