The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | 22-11-2022 | 05:45 pm
To the casual watcher, the politics of the Shiv Sena and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) is poles apart. If the Sena is associated with militant Hindutva, the VBA led by B R Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar has positioned itself as staunchly secular. Until recently, an ally of the VBA, which has free-floated in the third front zone for years, was the AIMIM.However, Maharashtra’s changing politics – with its softening of secular-communal edges – has churned up a friendship from an earlier, different time. On Sunday, at the relaunch of the website prabodhankar.com, on the Thackeray patriarch, Uddhav Thackeray invited VBA president Prakash Ambedkar to form an alliance to fight the BJP.The bonhomie was a throwback to the 1950s, when then Maharashtra stalwarts B R Ambedkar and Prabodhankar Thackeray had together fought against social evils such as untouchability, dowry and casteism. They were also comrades in the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement, for a separate state of Maharashtra with Bombay (as Mumbai was called then) as its capital.This harking back to old ties has been made possible by Uddhav turning a more palatable shade of saffron, after his alliance with the Congress and NCP. Their common goal, Prakash and Uddhav declared at the Sunday meeting, was to take on the BJP as it posed a threat to the ideals of Constitution – framed by Babasaheb — and to the basic premise of democracy as equality for all.Prabodhankar first came into prominence in the late 1920s when he sought to break the upper-caste hegemony over the Ganesh festival by inviting a Dalit aide of Ambedkar to offer flowers to the deity at a puja in Dadar. There was an uproar, and the Dadar puja could not be held the next year. But the spark had been lit, and Prabodhankar along with his followers next started a ‘Shri Shri Bhawani Navratri Mahotsav’, open to people from all castes and communities. An individual from the lower-caste Mahar community unfurled a saffron flag at the venue.Over the years, thanks to these first steps, the Ganesh Puja lost its rigid religious nature in Maharashtra and became more of a community festival.The state was also ripe for such changes, with the ground having been prepared by the Bhakti movement, with its emphasis on anti-Brahminism and inclusivity.Speaking at Sunday’s event, both Uddhav and Prakash underlined that the message given by their grandfathers was more relevant than ever. Uddhav accused the BJP government at the Centre of undermining the federal nature of the Constitution, and the judiciary and other institutions. “They want the Prime Minister to directly appoint a judge,” the Sena leader said.“Today, there is lynching if one is seen carrying beef. Those who inflict brutal crimes against women are let off (in what seemed a reference to the Bilkis Bano case),” he said. Going on to address Prakash, Uddhav added: “We have to uphold Indian democracy and the Constitution. Otherwise, what right do you and I have to recall the great work of our grandfathers? In the past, Babasaheb was personally subjected to atrocities. Yet, he fought valiantly. Prabodhankar Thackeray who witnessed the wrongs in the system supported Ambedkar… Time has come to rise and work together.”Prakash said that years after the two stalwarts took up the fight, atrocities against Dalits and tribals continue. “In the name of religion, some segments want to retain their upper caste dominance… We have to choose whether we want democracy or dictatorship… (In this context) the writings of Prabodhankar Thackeray for social and progressive reforms are still relevant today,” he said.Interestingly, the VBA leader went on to suggest that secularism should not be looked at through a narrow definition. “When Babasaheb drafted the Constitution, he introduced the word ‘secular’, but the Constitution does not define it. That is because with changing times and generations, secularism can be interpreted accordingly.”The geniality on the stage apart, there are several hurdles to coming together of the Uddhav Sena and VBA – or Shiv Shakti and Bhim Shakti, as some call it. Prakash has been clear about his opposition to Sharad Pawar and the NCP. With Pawar the tallest leader of the Marathas, he represents for the VBA the face of the community that has traditionally oppressed the lower castes.At the same time, Prakash, a two-time Lok Sabha MP and one-term Rajya Sabha MP, is known for his political flexibility – barring his opposition to the BJP. Till 1994, he represented the Republican Party of India and pursued Dalit and anti-Congress politics. Later, he tried to expand his political base by forming a Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh where OBCs were the mainstay. In 2019, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, he formed the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, seeking to represent all those “oppressed”. This led to an alliance with the AIMIM – on paper bringing together Dalit, OBC and Muslim votes. While the VBA did not win any seats, it cut into votes and is seen to have caused the defeat of parties like the Congress, NCP and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana in at least eight seats.The VBA’s alliance with the AIMIM too though had proved short-lived, not surviving till even the 2019 Assembly elections.Asked about Sunday’s meeting of minds between the Uddhav Sena and VBA, the BJP dismissed it as a desperate measure. Senior BJP leader Atul Bhatkhalkar said that, in the past, the Sena has vehemently opposed reservations for Scheduled Castes and Tribes in the Constitution. “The Shiv Sena led by the late Bal Thackeray also fought a bloody battle against Dalits to oppose the renaming of Marathwada University after Dr B R Ambedkar,” he said.The Sunday’s appeal for an alliance was a “survival” tactic by the two parties, Bhatkhalkar added. “They both know they are in the doldrums… Attacking the BJP or PM Narendra Modi is easy as they have nothing to offer to their own cadre.”
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.