Is politics being played over Covid-19, is the question doing the rounds. While on the one hand Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a high-level meeting on Thursday to review the situation in the country urged States to ‘remain alert and create awareness’ about Covid protocol, on the other Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya wrote to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi ‘to consider suspending his Bharat jodo yatra if Covid protocols could not be followed.’ The government reacted Rahul is ‘now coming up with excuses to stop the yatra. Wear masks, stop the yatra, Covid is spreading, these are all excuses.” And asserted the yatra “will go to Kashmir…Hindustan ki shakti say, Hindustan ki sachai say, yeh log dar gaye hai, yeh sachai hai (they have got scared of power and truth of the country. This is the truth.” If there was real concern why hasn’t the government stopped flights from China, the party asks. Interestingly, the BJP hours after deciding to suspend its ‘Jan Aakrosh Yatra’ in Rajasthan in view of a rising cases globally, did a U-turn saying it will go ahead with holding public meetings in constituencies! Rajasthan Chief Minister Gehlot promptly reacted: “Two days ago, Prime Minister held a rally in Tripura where no Covid protocol was followed. During Covid’s 2nd wave, he addressed huge rallies in Bengal. If the purpose of Health Minister was not political, then his concern is justified, then he should have written the first letter to the PM.” Point well made. With the situation emerging, time will tell which side is proved right.
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Has Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha bitten more than he can chew? On Wednesday last, he sent a ‘loud and clear’ message there will be ‘no salary for sitting at home’ to the protesting Kashmiri Pandit employees in Kashmir. His reasoning: ‘all necessary steps have been taken for their safety and almost all of them were transferred to district headquarters in consultation with DCs, SP and other government functionaries”. Plus 1,200 of them will get accommodation at secured places by April, and 1,800 more flats will be given during next financial year. But it has cut no ice. The striking employees insist relocation outside Kashmir. “It’s an unfortunate statement. It’s better for government to sack us all. Our lives are more important than jobs,” reacted a Pandit. Another said ‘KP employees could not be made symbols of peace and normalcy in Kashmir…” Remember they did return to the Valley as part of PM Special Employment Scheme after leaving in May following targeted killings of two KPs. However, with the LeT publishing hit lists of such employees they are on strike since past 6 months. Life or livelihood is the big question here. North Block needs to address it.
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Delhi ‘Ad Scam’
The fight goes on! Amid inquiry into Delhi government’s liquor policy, the heat is now on its ‘advertisement scam’. Lieutenant Governor Saxena has revived his predecessor’s demand by directing Chief Secretary on Tuesday last to recover Rs 97 crore from AAP for publishing ‘political advertisements’ in guise of government ads way back in 2016. The Directorate of Information and Publicity had notified that Rs 97.14 crore were spent or booked on account of ‘non-conforming ads’ as per Supreme Court guidelines, of which Rs 42.26 crore was released and Rs 54.87 crore was pending. The Directorate of Vigilance has stepped in alleging that the pending amount was paid by government instead of AAP, worse in 8 cases Rs 20.53 crore was paid ‘falsely attributing it to court/arbitration orders.’ Rubbishing the directive, AAP said BJP is ‘flustered’ with it wresting power in MCD and LG sahib is following its diktat. He has “no such power…BJP’s various state governments issued ads that were published here. We want to ask when will the Rs 22,000 crore spent on these be recovered from them? The day that money is recovered, we will also give Rs 97 crore.” Poor justification for it must remember that two wrongs don’t make a right!
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BJP-ruled Karnataka should have Union Home Minister Amit Shah going red in the face. The Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution on Thursday last moved by Chief Minister Bommai condemning the border dispute ‘created by Maharashtra’, resolved to protect the state’s interests and not to cede ‘an inch of land.’ It condemned statements by Maharashtra leaders and attempts to instigate, by trying to come to Karnataka at a time when the law and order situation was sensitive. Bommai claimed ‘it’s not a dispute at all, as it’s a settled matter’ and asked the Shinde government ‘to take care of people in its territory and protect their interest first, instead of claiming land within Karnataka’s border’. This after, Shah had met both sides last week and asked them to set up committees to resolve the issue. However, Maharashtra too refuses to relent, and its minister a day earlier warned “If Karnataka doesn’t stop (making irresponsible statements), then we will have to rethink over the water being supplied to the neighbouring state… we will not leave even half-inch of territory.” The Opposition parties want the government to give a tit-for-tat response and assured support for a resolution if introduced in the Assembly. Though Bommai has beaten Shinde to it, it’s on the cards, unless North Block has another advisory.
* * * * * * * MP’s Over Confidence
The BJP government in Madhya Pradesh is well entrenched. A no–confidence motion moved by opposition Congress was defeated by a voice vote in the Assembly on Thursday last, with Shivraj Singh Chouhan saying the grand old party didn’t have any issues, rather had committed ‘sins’ during its rule. The debate sadly turned out to be a tu-tu-mein-mein affair. Targeting law and order, corruption, unemployment, inflation, atrocities against women and tribals, farmers’ issues et al, Congress cited examples of Panchayati Raj representatives’ powers being snatched by officials; government debt burden going up to Rs 4 lakh crore due to wasteful expenditure like Rs 15 crore spent alone on releasing cheetahs from Namibia; taxing farmers citing rising diesel prices etc. Chouhan hit back with: Congress turned the secretariat into a ‘den of corruption’; money was taken for posting of collectors and SPs; irrigation sector rules were relaxed in favour of a contractor and a payment of Rs 877.57 crore made; welfare schemes including payment of Rs 1,000 to tribals started by BJP government stopped; names of 75 lakh poor beneficiaries in Sambal Yojana deleted; distribution of laptops to meritorious students stopped etc. To top it all, a BJP Minister even proclaimed “Hamare Ram hai, Hamare Sita hai” (we have Ram and Sita) “who is yours.” Positive thinking went missing!
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Bihari Pride Hurt
Bihar and its 12-crore people are hurt. Following two days of protest and a demand for an apology, some of its MPs and political parties finally got Union Minister Piyush Goyal to at least withdraw his ‘demeaning’ statement in the Rajya Sabha. On Tuesday last, he had interrupted RJD’s MP Manoj Jha speaking on inflation, saying “Inka bas chale to desh ko Bihar bana dein (if he had his way, he would turn the entire country into Bihar).” Jha protested promptly saying it was ‘an insult to Bihar’. Other MPs joined in. He also wrote to chairman Dhankar expressing dismay that a Leader of the House would make a statement “demeaning one of the greatest states …his comment smacked of elitism and was completely uncalled for”. In Patna, Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav tweeted: “Look at the insult of Bihar and Biharis by an unwise and arrogant (vivekheen aur ahankari) Union minister. Projects worth ₹ 2.5 lakh crore were taken away from his home state Maharashtra to Gujarat and he could not utter a word. This shows his standing.” The JD(U) too said this reflects what “they think of Bihar and how the state has been treated all these years…Goyal should read more about Bihar to understand its bright side. The people of Bihar will give them befitting reply at the right time.” Be that as it may, though Goyal refused to apologise, he withdrew his statement saying he had no intention of insulting either Bihar or the people of Bihar. Will matters rest here? —INFA