Manipur Politics: Cong turns table on BJP?
Manipur is again riding on a political merry-go-round. There’s hope and despair among warring sides. The BJP-led coalition government is on a shaky wicket, as 3 of its MLAs have quit, ally National People’s Party (NPP) has withdrawn support of its 4 MLAs, despite their holding ministerial berths, as also one TMC and independent MLA each. Despondency in Chief Minister Biren Singh’s camp is growing. His former counterpart and Opposition leader Ibobi Singh is upbeat, as those who quit have either extended support or got into the Congress fold forming the Secular Progressive Front. The number game, very much familiar in North East, is being played to the hilt in the 60-member Assembly. With its strength reduced to 56, the BJP is down to 23 and Congress, with a tally of 26, will go for the kill. It has asked Governor Najma Heptulla to convene a special Assembly session for a no-confidence motion against Biren. The previous disqualification of 7 of its MLAs by the Speaker after they crossed over to BJP, will not impact the end-result insists Congress. Messy alright, but it may be BJP’s own making: putting up titular king Leishamba Sanajaoba as its Rajya Sabha candidate, against people and insurgent groups’ wishes and stripping NPP Dy CM of his portfolios. Looks the government would need to pack up, unless Governor decides not to go by the rule book again, as she did in 2017—inviting the BJP when the Congress was the single largest party. There’s no certainty in politics, specially when its dirty.
Ladakh Top Priority
Ladakh needs to be top priority for the Centre in the midst of COVID-19. With Opposition leaders wanting to know the ground situation, Prime Minister had called a meeting. However, it is critical that the locals get a bigger role to play for border protection. In fact the BJP’s Lok Sabha MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal insists it’s time to take our territory back from the Chinese. “Not just Aksai Chin, but even areas like Gilgit and Baltistan are all part of Ladakh. India of 2020 is not the India of 1962.” He regretted that the Chinese have been allowed to bully for far too long and that “our shepherds should go to their traditional pasturelands, to which China has denied them access, and reclaim Indian territory”. The sentiments against the Chinese are growing rather getting more shrill after 20 Indian Army soldiers, including a colonel-rank officer, were killed in a violent face-off with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley. The government cannot be a mute spectator, the Opposition insists. There is a clamour that Chinese goods be boycotted. More needs to be done, sooner the better.
SC or Govt Task?
Supreme Court has had to step in, rather take over government’s role once again. After providing succour to migrant workers, this time round it’s to ensure justice for the ‘corona warriors” — doctors and nurses. Following its orders, the Centre has written to all States/UTs asking salaries of doctors and health workers doing corona-related duties be released on time, or else any violation by hospitals will be treated as a punishable offence under the DMA. The apex court was hearing a petition questioning the Centre’s decision that 14-day quarantine was not mandatory for doctors, whereas quarantine facilities were critical not just for them but their families too. Plus, it was alleged that these healthcare workers were either not being paid salaries or their wages were being cut or delayed. While the Centre needs to file a compliance report within four weeks, it must mull over this advice: ‘In war, you do not make soldiers unhappy. Travel extra mile and channel some extra money to address their grievances,’ and settling issue of non-payment of salary to health care workers is not the court but government’s job. Hope it learns its lesson, so no more knocks on SC door.
Rajasthan HC Shuns Social Media
Rajasthan High Court’s order raises many an eyebrow. Watch out what you post on social media, is a warning to its judicial officers and staff. On Monday last, the court’s Registrar General issued a standing order asking them “to desist from forwarding, liking, disliking and commenting upon any posts which are against the policies of Government/High Court Administration”. Clearly, it’s uncomfortable with them expressing opinions on social media on “matters to which they have no concern whatsoever.” Specifically it noted they were indulging in: “forwarding, liking, disliking and commenting upon the posts which are not only scandalous and derogatory but sensational also; government and court’s policies were being commented upon; official communications were being forwarded “unauthorizedly” on these platforms which amount to “a breach of official confidentiality”; and accessing of social media during office hours is not only affecting the working but diminishing dignity and reputation of entire system”. These practices, it warns amount to misconduct under Rajasthan Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1971 and would attract ‘suitable disciplinary action’. Would it be a deterrent, is a big question.
AP Stands Firm
Andhra Pradesh belies the hopes of BJP-supporters that young Chief Minister Jagan Reddy is on the right side of New Delhi. On Wednesday, the Assembly put its stamp on the Cabinet decision to oppose the implementation of NRC and the revised format of NPR, much to the chagrin of North Block. A resolution to this effect was passed with justification that there’s been strong opposition to NRC across the country as it was ‘creating a sort of fear psychosis and insecurity among the minorities.’ Further, the government would oppose the revised format of NPR-2020 too and the centre must stick to the old format, was a clear message. At the same time, Jagan has kept the heat on his former counterpart Chandrababu Naidu too, with the Cabinet giving the nod to its sub-committee’s recommendations for a CBI probe into AP Fibernet project, wherein “misappropriation added to corruption and nepotism took place”, to the tune of Rs 700 crores alone, under the TDP government. This apart, the panel found irregularities in welfare schemes like Chandranna Sankranti Kanuka, Ramzan Tofa, and Christmas Kanuka, to tune of Rs 150-0dd crores, where purchases were made in “an arbitrary manner”. Where will it all eventually head is anybody’s guess.
No Rath Yatra!
There is great disappointment in Odisha and among devotees of Lord Jagannath. For the first time in 235 years, the annual Rath Yatra, scheduled on June 23, will not be held, due to the pandemic. The Orissa High Court had last week advised the Naveen Patnaik government to consider holding it with elephants or machines, instead of humans, pulling the chariots. Somehow this wasn’t shared by the government counsel before the Supreme Court, which had been petitioned by an NGO ‘Odisha Vikas Parishad’. It restrained the yatra ‘in interest of public health and safety of citizens, given that 10-12 lakhs would gather for it.’ The State Cabinet has agreed, drawing flak from priests and Opposition leaders who complain: government’s approach is ‘half-hearted’; offering no alternative to pull chariots, or PIL was State-sponsored to hoodwink devotees and preparations so far have gone waste. Some even opine, the 9-day Yatra, an intrinsic part of Lord Jagannath’s life could instead have ‘re-instilled faith of billions of people praying to the lord for well-being during the pandemic.’ Why couldn’t it be allowed on a limited basis like other commercial activities or why not impose curfew in Puri city two days before the yatra and only cops pull the chariots? No point waiting for answers—people need to get used to this new normal.