The Indian Express | 1 month ago | 10-08-2022 | 10:45 pm
As Nitish Kumar starts a fresh innings as the Bihar Chief Minister in alliance with the seven-party Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) after severing his Janata Dal (United)’s ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), BJP MP and ex-deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi speaks to The Indian Express at length about Nitish’s move and aspiration as well as the way forward for the saffron party in the state. Excerpts:What was the immediate trigger for Nitish Kumar to break up with the BJP? As his ex-deputy, are you surprised that he reacted too fast and so soon?We are stunned at what he did and the manner in which he broke up with us. When he had done so in June 2013, he had apprised the state and Central BJP leaders about his stand well in advance. So even if it was still betrayal of mandate for NDA, we could still say that we knew it. But this time, it was complete betrayal of mandate for PM Narendra Modi. The 2020 Assembly elections was not a mandate for Nitish Kumar as JD(U) had got only 43 seats and finished third after RJD and BJP.Did the BJP try to placate Nitish or stop him? Or did your party just decide to move on?Nitish Kumar should remember that we made him the chief minister five times since 2000. Even when JD(U) came third in 2020 polls, we kept our word and made him CM. Even after our recent two-day party meet, we said Nitish would continue to be CM till 2025. We also talked about going to the 2024 (Lok Sabha) and 2025 (Asembly) polls with JD(U). We had not sensed much discomfort in JD(U). Even when Union home minister Amit Shah talked to Nitish Kumar on phone Monday and asked if there was any problem, Nitish ji did not say anything and said ‘Just as you have Giriraj Singh in your party, we have Lalan Singh’. He had also dismissed media reports of JD(U) going to snap ties with us.So what did Nitish really expect from the BJP?Some of Nitish Kumar’s aides had approached the state BJP leadership with the message that he wanted to become the Vice-President. This shows Nitish did nurse national ambition.Do you think Nitish did not have a smooth communication line with the current BJP leadership as he used to have with you as his deputy and the late Arun Jaitley?It is not fair to say that, as only recently Dharmendra Pradhan held one-on-one meeting with him. Yet, Nitish did not complain much except making a passing reference to some grudges against Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha. Besides, PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah and our national president JP Nadda would speak to him at regular intervals. But it is true that he used to share a very good rapport with Arun ji and me. He would often say in recent times that he had become CM this time on the PM’s request and was not very comfortable in the present set-up. But there was no communication gap. More From Political PulseIn Bihar BJP cloud of gloom and rage, an admission: We were complacentAs Kodanad estate heist probe crawls, Stalin’s promise remains a distant realityJD(U), RJD pitch for Nitish Kumar, Tejashwi's Bihar template as Oppn national model against BJPClick here for more So, why do you think Nitish took such a quick call?It could be because of his national ambition. He could have believed that it was not possible to fulfil his national ambition with BJP. By 2025, he could have served as CM for almost 19 years and we could have expected a graceful exit from him after that as 20 years as CM is a long time and very fulfilling and rewarding in politics.What is your response to allegations that the BJP often tries to subsume its allies? Does the party need a fresh strategy to get new allies and retain them?If one is referring to Shiv Sena and Eknath Shinde episode, one should know Shiv Sena was no longer our ally. And what would we have gained by breaking JD(U)? After all, it would have led to fall of our government as we have only 77 MLAs. And the insinuation of BJP trying to cultivate RCP Singh as an Eknath Shinde is preposterous as RCP is a bureaucrat with little political constituency and he cannot break JD(U) at all. What continues to nag Nitish is his party being reduced to 43 seats. He would often complain that it was sort of rejection by people. He is still not willing to accept this and decided to switch sides with hopes of staying afloat and relevant. But it is just a matter of time. He should start reading the writing on the wall given his multiple anti-incumbency and the fatigue factors. In fact, we are happy that we will go to the 2024 and 2025 polls without any anti-incumbency baggage.Do you think Nitish can try to emerge as a nucleus of anti-Modi politics in 2024 polls?It is not possible with the kind of image and overwhelming popularity Narendra Modi enjoys now. But everyone has the right in democracy to contest. One has to first see if there is a united Opposition. There are many claimants of PM position from the Opposition camp. There is Mamata Banerjee as well. There could be a few other names as well.What is the BJP’s version of RCP Singh becoming the Union minister?When the NDA decided to offer a single ministerial berth to its each ally irrespective of number of seats they won (in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls), Nitish had let go the offer saying there were too many ministerial claimants in his party. When BJP made the offer a second time, it was Nitish who had cleared RCP Singh’s name. The version he has been giving now is not correct and is borne out of his political constraints and kind of shrewd politics he does often.You often agree that Bihar politics is a story of three pillars and when the two come together, they become unassailable. Now that BJP is all by itself, do you feel overawed by seven parties, the Grand Alliance constituents, coming together against the BJP?Let me make it clear that the 2024 polls is not the 2015 Assembly polls when Nitish, Lalu and Congress had come together and defeated us convincingly. We had conducted five surveys before 2020 Assembly polls and found that Nitish’s popularity has been constantly on the wane. Plus, it is Modi who has now emerged as the voice of EBCs (Extremely Backward Classes) besides other social groups. If Nitish considers himself such a big stakeholder of EBC votes, why did he not get them in 2014 Lok Sabha polls in which JD(U) got only two seats. As for new allies, every party tries to look for new allies. We will also do so at the right time. It is not proper to name any party or leader who could be our allies in future.Don’t you think Bihar BJP needs a face, if not for 2024, at least for 2025 to give some clarity to voters?Narendra Modi alone is the leader. We did not project anyone in Tripura. We talked about Devendra Fadnavis as he was Maharashtra CM. We have state-wise strategy. Our next goal is 2024. Just that Grand Alliance looks strong socially on papers, it does not mean it would work greatly. Our party has covered a long way in terms of acceptability among all social groups and have big central welfare programmes besides a decisive and dynamic leadership at the helm whereas there is no Opposition leader at the national level.
Chandrakant Raghunath Paatil was appointed as the Gujarat BJP president in July 2020. A confidant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Paatil, 67, is considered to be the most formidable leader in the state BJP under whose leadership the saffron party hopes to break the Congress’s 1985 record (149 of the total 182 seats) in the upcoming Assembly polls. On his part, Paatil has set his target at the maximum level: all 182 seats.Paatil’s tenure at the helm of the state BJP recently saw a change of guard in the BJP government with Vijay Rupani replaced by Bhupendra Patel as the Chief Minister overnight and the subsequent stripping of key portfolios of two ministers in the new government.A few days ago, Paatil asserted that Patel will be “repeated” as the CM after the state Assembly polls, slated for December, as he has done “good work”. He also said that PM Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah would decide the ticket allotment to party candidates for the polls.Paatil is known to have been a key player behind several major decisions taken by the state government, including the recent rollback of the Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) in Urban Areas Bill 2022, whose passage in March had set off massive Maldharis’ (cattle rearers’) protests across the state. The first word on the government’s rethink on this Bill came from Paatil after his meeting with a delegation from the Maldhari community.Similarly, it was Paatil who announced that the controversial Par-Tapi-Narmada Yojana in tribal areas of South Gujarat, which had triggered huge tribal protests, will be scrapped.Paatil, who is also a three-time MP from the Navsari constituency in South Gujarat, holds the record of winning a parliamentary seat by maximum margin ever in the country.The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has emerged as a new challenger for the BJP besides the existing arch rival Congress, had bagged 27 seats in the February 2021 civic body polls in Surat, Paatil’s home turf. The AAP has since been targeting Paatil over various issues including his Maharashtrian origin.Born in Pimpry Akaraut village of Jalgaon district of neighbouring Maharashtra, Paatil, or “CR” as he is popularly known, is the first “non-Gujarati” to lead the BJP in Gujarat. A class XI dropout, Paatil has a degree from the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) as a turner. As per his 2019 Lok Sabha election affidavit, he had one criminal case of breach of trust and cheating pending against him. By occupation, he is a farmer and a businessman.Paatil’s father, who was a police constable, shifted in 1951 to South Gujarat in the then undivided Bombay Presidency. Paatil, like his father, joined the Gujarat Police as a constable in 1975, and was forced to resign in 1984 for attempting to “unite Police Constables under one roof of a Union”, as per his website.He joined the BJP in December 1989 under the leadership of former PM late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and launched a Gujarati daily “Navgujarat Times” in 1991 from Surat.The Gujarat High Court has been hearing a PIL filed by former Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani which states that the Remdesivir injection Paatil distributed from the BJP office in Surat during the Covid-19 wave was “illegal”. Paatil’s website claims that he procured these injections “directly from the Pharma Company and distributed them”.
Good morning, Big Story 🔴 With days to go before the inter-minesterial consultations for 2022-23 revised estimates of Union finances, internal discussions within the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Finance seem to suggest that the cascading impact of a worse-than-anticipated global downturn may dent the budget arithmetic in the second half of the current financial year. 🔴 So far, the political leadership has been somewhat sanguine with the upsides – an uptick in GDP growth during April-June; steady tax revenues, among others. But policy makers are now pointing to multiple headwinds: pressure on the twin deficits (fiscal deficit and the current account deficit), concerns over private investment and job creation, and the continuing distress in the MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) sector. Read why policy makers are worried. 🔴 Meanwhile, India’s service sector activity lost growth momentum and eased to a six-month low in September due to slow new business inflows amid inflationary pressures and competitive conditions, a survey showed.Only in the Express Days after the TRS was renamed as the Bharat Rashtra Samithi, Amrith Lal writes on how KCR’s national pitch differs from Stalin’s: “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.”Reversing a decision by former Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, the Supreme Court has revoked the appointment of Registrar Prasanna Kumar Suryadevara as a permanent employee of the court, The Indian Express has learnt. Sources said Suryadevara has been repatriated to the News Division at All India Radio as of September 30.From the Front Page The group of men in plainclothes, seen restraining and flogging at least four men held against an electricity pole, one after the other, in video clips of the incident, have been identified as police personnel of the Local Crime Branch (LCB) unit of Kheda district in Gujarat.India on Thursday abstained from voting on a draft resolution in the UN Human Rights Council on holding a debate on the human rights situation in China’s restive Xinjiang region.Must Read With the BMC polls approaching, the political grounds in Maharashtra are heated and the bitterness is reflected in the words that the BJP and the Uddhav Sena are flinging at each other. From Raavan to Katappa, Penguin to Spider-Man, Kamalabai to Champa: The acerbic political battle ahead of the BMC polls is reflected now in the constant name-calling.The promise of a job in Thailand, a boat ride across the border to Myanmar and a sinking realisation that he had been scammed — that his dream job was all about scouring the deep, dark web for potential victims to carry out financial frauds. The story of Stephen, a Tamil Nadu engineer who was rescued from Myawaddy in southeastern Myanmar’s Kayin state, in pockets controlled by armed rebels, returned home on Wednesday with stories of his days spent in captivity in a company engaged in online scamming. The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) 20th National Congress will begin on October 16 in Beijing. The 20th Congress is likely to endorse an unprecedented third term for President Xi Jinping. The session comes at a critical time for China and the world. Here’s what to watch out for.And Finally While India’s 14-member World Cup T20 squad chase the title 15 years after their first one, there’s a backroom staff of 16 consisting of masseuse to team video analyst to head coaches, who will silently plot and plod on to keep the 11 wound up to the challenge of winning, writes Devendra Pandey.Delhi Confidential: The Congress after accepting the Parliamentary panel on commerce has nominated Rajya Sabha MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi as Chairman of the Standing Committee on Commerce.🎧 In today’s episode of the ‘3 things’ podcast, We talk to our correspondents about the death of 66 children in Gambia linked to four syrups manufactured by an Indian pharmaceutical company, a police officer in Gujarat publicly flogging a group of muslim men who had been arrested for pelting stones at a garba event and the three scientists who have won the Nobel Prize for Physics.Until tomorrow,Rahel Philipose and Susobhan Roy
From the latest developments in the Congress presidential poll, to Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s faction meeting the Election Commission to stake claim to the party’s symbol ahead of a crucial bypoll, here are political developments to watch out for:Kharge begins campaign tour: Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge will begin his multi-state tour in Ahmedabad today to gather support for his candidature in the Congress presidential poll, scheduled for October 17. The Indian Express reported that he will go to 10 state capitals in the next five days. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, his counterpart in the polls, has already visited Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala as part of his campaign tour. Meanwhile, leaders associated with the Tharoor campaign have approached Madhusudan Mistry, the head of the party’s election authority, with complaints regarding state presidents endorsing Kharge’s candidature, alleged “intimidation” faced by Tharoor’s proposers, and discrepancies in the list of state Congress delegates who constitute the electoral college in the polls.Amit Shah, Nadda in Assam: Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president J P Nadda will reach Guwahati this evening and attend a core meeting of the state’s party unit. They will inaugurate the new state office of the party on Saturday, which will be followed by an address at a rally with an estimated 40,000 to 45,000 booth workers. Nadda will leave on Saturday evening after attending a couple of meetings, while Shah will stay on till Sunday for other official engagements.Karnataka BJP meets, amid Bharat Jodo Yatra: After facing heat on corruption allegations through the PayCM campaign and with the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra gaining political traction in the state, the ruling BJP is expected to draw up plans to counter the Congress at meetings today.D K Shivakumar summoned by ED: The ED has rejected Karnataka Congress chief D K Shivakumar’s plea seeking exemption – until October 21 in light of the Bharat Jodo Yatra in the state – from appearing before the agency in the National Herald money laundering case.Jairam Ramesh, the Congress’s general secretary in-charge communications, has termed the ED’s action “political vendetta Modi-style”.Shinde faction to meet Election Commission: Ahead of the Andheri East Assembly bypoll in Maharashtra on November 3, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena faction is set to meet the Election Commission today to argue its case for the party’s ‘bow and arrow’ poll symbol.In the bypoll, which will be the first major electoral battle between the two Senas since the developments in July, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray’s group has fielded Rutuja Latke, the wife of late MLA Ramesh Latke whose death necessitated the election. The BJP, the Shinde faction’s ally, has picked BMC corporator Murji Patel.(With inputs from PTI)
MUMBAI: One of the first decisions the Shinde government took after coming to power in the state was to allow farmers to vote directly in Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMC) polls, instead of through representative bodies. While direct elections by farmers in gram panchayats was enacted in July, the state is yet to implement the same move in APMCs. Sources said the prohibitive expense of direct polls by farmers in APMCs has forced a rethink within the government, with MLAs in the Shinde camp resisting the move. Shinde, who controls the marketing department which oversees APMCs, did not respond when asked to comment, but minister Deepak Kesarkar, who holds the school education portfolio, said: "This issue has not yet come before the cabinet. I cannot comment on it since it does not concern my department." Elections to 281 of the state's 306 APMCs have been declared in January, but these will remain indirect polls. The voters will be farmer representatives at primary agricultural credit societies and gram panchayats. In direct polls, farmers who sell their produce at the APMC would be allowed to vote. The Opposition said direct polls by farmers are expensive. "The last direct election in the Solapur APMC cost Rs 1.4 crore. The election has to be funded by APMCs and many are in bad financial shape. When the voter list includes farmers instead of their just representatives, the number of voters shoots up," said Dilip Mohite, NCP MLA and president of the Maharashtra State Federation of Market Committees. "More than 50% of the APMCs will not be able to hold direct polls because they do not have the funds," said a senior Congress leader. APMCs are massive market yards where farmers sell their produce to traders. They are part of the local body network with an elected leadership and are linked to the rural economy. Most of these are controlled by the Congress-NCP. Over the last few years, the BJP has tried to weaken their hold by trying to widen the voter base. In 2017, the BJP-Sena government had changed the rules to allow farmers selling their produce in APMCs to elect its leaders. This was reversed by the MVA government in 2020, to return to an indirect poll. As soon as the Shinde-Fadnavis government took charge, it took the decision of direct elections by farmers. However, the decision remains in limbo three months later. The state also did not introduce a bill on this in the July assembly session. Now, on the directions of the government, Maharashtra cooperative election commission has filed an application in court, seeking to postpone APMC polls. It has argued that the gram panchayat and APMC polls will overlap. Also, that elections to 1,700 primary agricultural credit societies, whose representatives vote for APMC poll, are yet to be completed. It has also said if the state enacts direct polling by farmers, the voter list will take longer to compile. The opposition claimed that the government is delaying the polls so that it can appoint administrators and control APMCs. "The ruling parties know they will do poorly if there is a poll. They want administrator bodies to run APMCs," alleged NCP leader Balasaheb Patil, who was cooperation minister in the MVA government.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org