New Delhi is trying to ward off the winter chill in Jammu & Kashmir. How soon, is the big question following Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s 3-day visit to the UT. There’s a whiff about Assembly polls being on the cards finally. The exercise, he said would be held as soon as EC revises electoral rolls. Perhaps coming summer. At Rajouri and Baramulla rallies his speech had all trappings of a poll campaign: “3 families—Mufti & Co., Abdullah & sons and Congress that have ruled Kashmir for 70 years have done nothing for welfare of people”; “development is Modi’s priority. Earlier, all money sent by Centre for development was usurped by a few, but now everything is spent on people’s welfare…I want to appeal to you to free J&K from clutches of these 3 families and to make Modi’s hands strong for betterment, welfare”; Trashing demand for talks with Pakistan, he said: “Why should we? We will not talk. We will talk to people of Baramulla, of Kashmir…” Gujjars, Bakerwals and Paharis were given bait saying they shall now get reservation benefits, plus in past 3 years an investment of Rs 56,000 crore has come to J&K! The icing on the cake being: “Government will wipe out terrorism from here, we want to make J&K as the most peaceful place in the country.” The NC and PDP have rubbished his claims and the season ahead is bound to turn politically hot.
The Election Commission of India has kicked up a storm. Political parties are up in arms over it ‘doing a U-turn’ and proposing a change in Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by asking them to provide ‘authentic information’ to voters on financial viability of their poll promises and how it would impact financial situation of State/Centre governments concerned. They parties are vocal and will send their response in writing by 19 October. The Left say: It’s “totally unwarranted. The EC’s mandate is to ensure free and fair elections and has no authority to regulate policies/welfare measures of political parties.” It is solely their prerogative. Congress tweets: “None of social development schemes would have become a reality if such a bureaucratic approach would have been in place”. DMK: “It will negate sense of competition, deny aspirations of people and discourage innovative thinking by parties.” EC is exceeding limits. They draw EC’s attention to its own affidavit to Supreme Court on Freebies issue wherein it stated it can’t “regulate policy decisions of political parties and it would be an overreach of powers.” Suspecting the U-turn is due to “pressure being exercised by the Executive,” MP Kapil Sibal tweets: “Maybe EC itself needs a MCC” Perhaps!
‘Mission Repeat’ In HP
The election bugle has been sounded in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh. None other than BJP star campaigner and Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the ball rolling on Wednesday last in Bilaspur district, while inaugurating state-of-the-art hospital AIIMS. He appealed to the people to change their “riwaaz” (custom) and give his party a second term for polls scheduled next month. The reasoning: previous governments only laid foundation stones and forgot about actual projects once polls were over! Instead, the “double-engine sarkar has given the state new infrastructure at every step.” BJP’s ‘Mission Repeat’ is to be led by Chief Minister Jairam Thakur and it’s to be seen whether he will break the jinx—no incumbent party has returned to power since 1990s. The contest has been basically between the BJP and Congress, but this time it may turn triangular with the entry of AAP. While the Congress is going to miss Late Virbhadra Singh, who was a strong Chief Minister, it’s hoping his wife Pratibha Singh, State party chief, could take on the mantle as she’s gaining influence. Whether it’s good enough, only time will tell. In meantime, it could reach out to the EC and ask whether Modi using AIIMS inauguration or announcing government schemes amounted to pre-poll sops? The freebies debate should be made wider.
TRS To BRS
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao is no longer mincing words. He eyes a bigger role for himself– the national and not just State canvas. On Wednesday last, in Hyderabad he rechristened his Telangana Rashtra Samiti, created over 2 decades ago for carving out Telangana from Andhra Pradesh, as Bharat Rashtra Samiti. Clearly eying 2024 General elections. At party headquarters, a unanimous resolution to merge TRS with BRS was passed—to emerge as a national force, bringing like-minded parties together. KCR is known to bat for a non-Congress, non-BJP opposition and seeks now that regional parties make a force to reckon with. Lately, he has been viciously critical of Modi and BJP, which is making inroads in his territory. Will the gamble pay off? Perhaps, its more for 2023 Assembly polls. Or will it backfire? Efforts are nevertheless on and he has been meeting with party leaders such as Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal, Nitish Kumar, Sharad Pawar. Banners with slogans read ‘Dear India, he is coming’, ‘KCR is on the way’ at the meeting venue. Will the sentiment reach all the way to Delhi?
It’s the time of the year for RSS to make headlines. And it did so at its annual rally held in Nagpur on Vijayadashmi. It’s chief Mohan Bhagwat focus on two issues caught attention: One, he called for a comprehensive population control policy which “must apply to all without any exception”, given the “population imbalance”, which has led to “division of countries.” He cited conversion as main reason for this population imbalance, with addition of allurement. More reason to worry for the Muslim community? Two, he said “50 per cent of nation’s maternal power can’t be ignored, we need to strengthen it…until women’s equal participation in workforce is ensured, efforts aimed at nation’s progress won’t be successful”. Clearly, wanting to send another message, the BJP idealogue was not male-dominated. And, to drive home the point, this time the RSS had mountaineer and former ITBP officer Santosh Yadav was its chief guest. Predictably, Bhagwat’s speech is being dissected. The Hindu Sangathan ethos – “of organising Hindu society for protecting Hindu dharma, sanskriti, samaj and all-round development of Hindu Rashtra,” is debatable.
Shameful and shocking, to say the least. In Kheda district of Gujarat, a few members of the minority community were tied to an electric pole and publicly flogged by the police for allegedly stone-pelting during a garba dance event. The dastardly action has made the Minority Coordination Committee, a voluntary organisation, send legal notices to Chief Secretary and DGP on Thursday last. The TMC has filed a complaint with the NHRC. The legal notices seek ‘appropriate and suitable departmental, disciplinary, punitive and criminal action against the erring police officials forthwith who have openly violated all rights of the victims by way of public flogging’. Besides, such “open and brazen violation is not only against Article 21, but the whole constitutional spirit of a civilised society”. The other side claims few policeman were injured in an attack on a garba event on Monday night by a group comprising Muslim community members, who objected to holding of the programme near a mosque.