Didi-Shah Brawl: West Bengal hots up
West Bengal is hitting headlines and may well turn out to be the political flavour of the season. The tu-tu-mein-mein between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee-Union Home Minister is getting personal. The parivar bug has entered the unsavoury fiery speeches with Didi dragging his son, Jay Shah for alleged corruption charges, following his weaving in her nephew being groomed to take over. But she needs to concentrate on the bigger picture. Her flock of leaders are slowly leaving, what may be to them, a sinking ship and sending a strong message to the electorate. Her trusted lieutenant Rajya Sabha MP Dinesh Trivedi on Thursday last said he is resigning, as he had reached an inflection point and was “feeling suffocated,” specially after looking at “the kind of violence taking place in his State.” The question doing the rounds is whether Shah has him under his fold. So far 2 ministers, 7 MLAs and one MP have already quit the TMC. Plus, Shah has struck on Didi’s vote bank of Matua community, migrated from East Pakistan, and assured grant of citizenship under CAA, to begin soon after control over COVID-19. The BJP has given itself a target of 200 seats in the 294-member Assembly, which Didi scoffs at as a pipe dream. However, there is no denying the saffron party is making inroads. But will Shah take a mega leap from 3 seats to his target? Tall order alright, but it’s a long way from now as polls are slated for April-May. It could turn out to be the mother of all battles!
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Maharashtra’s tussle between Raj Bhavan and Chief Minister’s office turns ugly and petty to say the least. Governor Koshyari had to disembark from the State’s aircraft and instead take a commercial flight to Dehradun, Thursday last, as the MVA government denied permission. Obviously, triggering a blame game. The Opposition accuses Uddhav Thackeray of showing disrespect to Governor and State’s image maligned, and the latter quotes Home Ministry rules for use of government machinery for private/personal use and blames Raj Bhavan Secretariat for not ensuring it had permission to use the plane before his departure from his residence. The negligence is by Governor House and officials will have to face action, warns Thackeray’s office, adding the request for aircraft was pending approval till Wednesday night and his office was duly informed. Besides, it asks why Koshyari doesn’t put some burden on Goa’s BJP government, as he is its Governor too or for that matter as he’s using Raj Bhavan for party activities rather than State affairs, the BJP could offer one of its commercial planes! Clearly, the government continues to smart under Governor’s refusal to clear Cabinet’s recommendation of the 12 nominated members to the Council. Is there more to come?
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Odisha government is peeved with Andhra Pradesh. It warns of a constitutional crisis and accuses the Jagan Reddy government of ‘invading’ into its territory. The Naveen Patnaik government has knocked on Supreme Court’s door petitioning contempt action against the Telugu officials for notifying Panchayat polls in three villages controlled by it! It alleges them of violating the court’s status quo order of 1968, with the Andhra Collector notifying polls on March 5, 2020, wherein the 3 villages from the ‘Kotia Group of villages’ falling under Koraput district territory were roped into Salur Mandal of Vizinagaram district and the names ‘clandestinely changed.’ This it did by ‘tactfully converting’ the villages of one Gram Panchayat under its territory to 3 different Gram Panchayats. The territorial dispute of 21 districts, known as Kotia Group of villages, had first reached the apex court in 1968, when Odisha accused Andhra of trespassing. Both States then were directed to maintain status quo till the disposal of suit and “there shall be no further ingress or egress on the territories in dispute, on the part of either party”. Similar orders were issued in 2006 with both States’ consent. Will the court be able to broker an agreement, which stands the test of time?
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Good news For Ladakh?
Is Ladakh convinced of Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s assertion that the country has not conceded anything in the sustained talks with China and “won’t allow even an inch of territory to be taken by anyone”? Whether fear, suspicion or hope is to follow following the statement in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday last, the Congress has questioned the agreement between New Delhi and Beijing on disengagement at Pangong Tso in Ladakh. It accuses Modi government of “brazenly compromising” national security and territorial integrity, which doesn’t help matters in tense Leh, since the stand-off. In Pangong Tso Lake Area, the country was occupying Finger 4 and patrolling up to Finger 8 on north bank, but notes with suspicion Singh’s statement saying our troops will withdraw now to Finger 3. It asks doesn’t this ‘tantamount to redrawing the LAC’ to our disadvantage and creating a buffer zone between Finger 3 and Finger 8…that is on our side of the LAC?” Further, it alleged that ‘our armed forces will be withdrawing from these vantage points in Kailash Ranges on the Southern Bank’. For the citizens, it may all be too technical, as their concern is whether this means that jets circling or convoys moving will eventually stop. Will the movement of civilians beyond Leh be allowed now and will communication blackout in border areas be lifted?
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The worst is not yet over. Uttarakhand continues to be on the edge. There is a fresh scare at Rishi Ganga and Dhauli Ganga rivers– sites of the flash flood in Chamoli district, following rise in water levels. Worse, it has put on temporary hold rescue operations. While 160 people are still missing, the death toll rose to 36. Rescue teams are unable to reach 34 labourers, said to be stuck inside a tunnel at NTPC’s hydro power project site. Unfortunately, there were no warning signs before the tragedy struck as according to officials ‘even half-an-hour of warning could have made all the difference’. However, there is more that needs to be considered. Do hydro power projects are amplifying force to disasters? Remember, their construction involves deforestation, submergence, blasting, tunnelling, roads, townships, destruction of terrestrial biodiversity, among others, which have an adverse impact on local ecology and local capacity to withstand/adapt to impact of disasters. There is additional warning. According to a recent study by environmental think tank Council on Energy, Environment and Water on extreme weather hotspots, over 85% of districts in the State, home to 9 crore-odd people, are hotspots of extreme floods and its associated events! Will the government pay heed, tread cautiously and not forget the adage: once bitten, twice shy.
Chhattisgarh Halts Vaccine An unhealthy battle is brewing between Chhattisgarh and the Centre. The State Health Minister Deo has in a letter to his counterpart in New Delhi asked halting of Bharat Biotech Covaxin’s supply until two issues were addressed: incomplete third-phase trials and absence of expiry date on its vials. Harsh Vardhan has written back saying don’t ‘sensationalise a non-issue’ and instead focus to step up measures to improve the ‘abysmally low vaccination coverage’ in your State—it has covered only 9.55% of 2,09,512 frontline workers through the vaccine’s first dose. Plus there was hard hitting tweet: “Is it really befitting of a state’s Health Minister to stoke inhibitions regarding efficacy of COVID-19 Vaccine? In such unprecedented times, you should help address any vaccine hesitancy & do what’s in best interest of people, not further vested interests.” All vaccines supplied, he asserted were “safe and immunogenic”, should be used expeditiously and that expiry date on vials is mentioned. The big question is will the response satisfy Deo’s Health Department as desired or will the Congress government continue to find fault and take on the Centre?