Notwithstanding the grand oath-taking ceremony in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the NDA may already have teething problems in round two, where none were expected. With the BJP having got a majority on its own, there was fear that the regional allies importance would wane further. Remember, murmurings of not being consulted even at the time of NDA-1. For starters the JD(U) in Bihar has already thrown a googly as it is sulking with the offer of only one Cabinet berth for it. Chief Nitish Kumar chose not to mince his words and refused categorically to join the Modi-led Ministry. He said: “we don’t want a token participation.” With 16 MPs the JD(U) is the third largest party in the NDA in this Lok Sabha. And so was eyeing at least two Cabinet and one Minister of State berths. So as of now it’s a no-go between the partners. Besides, Apna dal, from Uttar Pradesh has been kept out this time from the government but so far it is not heard complaining, as the State has got 9 berths. How Modi and Amit overcome the Bihari problem is anybody’s guess. However, they can well argue that 20 of the 29 States are represented and that even its Shiv Sena partner from Maharashtra, which is in second number in the tally of seats in the lower House has got just one Cabinet berth. Importantly, Modi has not given a single berth to the three southern States of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra. And why would he, as the BJP got a harsh beating there.
The NDA-II is being described as “a blend of energy and experience”, let us keep our fingers crossed that the two are not wasted on squabbling within.
3 CMs Take Oath
The leadership of three States—Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh took its oath too to work for and fulfil aspirations of their people. While for 72-year-old Naveen Patnaik it is the 5th consecutive term overcoming a Modi wave with a decisive victory, 46-year-old Jagan Mohan Reddy will start a new innings after a long wait of 10 years, and for Pema Khandu it is a more comfortable start since the BJP will install the government on its own having won 41 of 60 Assembly seats. He was CM since July 2016, but as is normal in the North-east there were twists and turns.
Importantly, this time round all the three Chief Ministers shunned the Raj Bhavan’s for their oath taking ceremony and instead did so at convention centres/stadium among the aam janata, which is a growing ‘populist’ trend. And, while they had counterparts from other States in attendance at the solemn occasion, where the team of Cabinet and MoS were also inducted, what stood out Chandrababu’s absence, as he turned down Jagan’s invite! It goes without saying while it will be easy for Khandu with BJP at the Centre the same cannot be said for Naveen and Jagan. Both require special attention of the Centre’s given the recent Fani cyclone in Odisha and long pending demand for Special Status in Andhra. The latter it is learnt is non-negotiable. Jagan is said to have turned down 2 Cabinet berths offered by Modi on his visit to Delhi. Developments are worth a close watch.
Karnataka, WB On Edge
Karnataka and West Bengal are on tenterhooks. The Lok Sabha results have stumped Chief Ministers Kumaraswamy and Mamata Banerjee respectively, forcing them to rejig their respective Cabinets. And while the former did it on Saturday last by dropping two ministers and bringing on 8 others from coalition partner Congress, the latter made a major reshuffle on Tuesday last. The situation in Vidhan Souda is more worrisome after the Lok Sabha verdict for the JDS-Congress combine as the BJP has been waiting in the wings to topple the six-month-old government at the earliest opportunity available. Such is the fear that Kumaraswamy dropped a minister, who did not attend the Cabinet meeting and replaced him with his brother! The ruling combine is making all efforts to keep its flock together as the nagging fear that some of its MLAs may cross over is not just a hallucination.
Likewise, not just the drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls, but that her flock is deserting her (3 MLAs and 50 councillors so far who have crossed over to the BJP), Mamata is worried for the future – the 2021 Assembly elections. However, it chooses to dismiss the developments and put up a brave face. Its leaders proclaim that one or two MLAs joining the BJP will not impact it. “State elections will prove whether the people are with us or not,” and insist that “people are with Didi and they will continue to remain irrespective of the fact that some leaders are switching sides.” This only time will tell, as the BJP has made major inroads into her bastion and she would need a miracle to retain her hold. At the same time, Didi showed signs of her annoyance by doing a flip-flop for Modi’s swearing-in. First she accepted the invite and later, just hours after the BJP invited the families of 54 party workers allegedly killed in political violence across the State, Mamata said she won’t go. Instead she decided to visit North 24 Parganas to protest against attacks on TMC cadres by the BJP after the polls! She went a step further and in a message go Modi said the swearing-in ceremony was an “august occasion to celebrate democracy” and not one that should be “devalued” by any political party which uses it as an opportunity to score political points.” Indeed, let’s be prepared to see a lot more of it.
Mizo Goes ‘Dry’
Is controlled sale of liquor better than a complete ban? Mizoram perhaps has an answer as it opts for the latter. On Tuesday last, the Mizo National Front government decided it was time to act to turn the State ‘dry’, after four years of controlled sale of liquor. The Assembly had in fact passed the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition) Bill 2019 on March 20, but it couldn’t be implemented as the model code of conduct was already in place for General elections. Also, the High Court had granted time to liquor sellers till May 27 to dispose of existing stock. Apparently, the government is not only fulfilling its poll promise made last year but hopes that alcohol-related deaths would not continue to rise since 2015, when prohibition was lifted. As per the State Excise and Narcotics dept 9 such deaths happened in 2015, with the number going up to 22 in 2016 and to 59 in 2017. Figures are unavailable for 2018. Former Chief Minister, Lal Thanhawla, who was instrumental in introducing regulated sale of liquor in 2015 has his doubts whether the ban will help “as prohibition has never been successful anywhere in the world.” Will he be proved wrong eventually? —INFA