President Rule In Puducherry: BJP’s Machiavellian Intrigues
The BJP does it again, another Congress-led government bites the dust. This time in tiny Puducherry, due for Assembly elections in just about three months! The UT was brought under President’s rule on Thursday last, following Chief Minister V Narayanasamy and his Council of Ministers submitting their resignations on Monday to new L-G Tamilisai Soundararajan, after a Motion of Confidence was defeated in the Assembly. The BJP’s strategy to topple his government was described by ousted CM as “nothing but political prostitution.” The Congress-DMK coalition got reduced to a minority with five of the seven MLAs joining the BJP over the last month. Similar tactics used in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka! Besides, the 5-year tenure saw a constant face-off between the CM and L-G Kiran Bedi, who was accused of running a parallel government. Bedi was recalled a week before the government fell as the BJP realised that she had antagonised not just the ruling establishment but almost the entire political class, which would impact its future plans. The timing of the political drama, however, has raised eyebrows. Narayanasamy accuses the BJP wanting to rule ‘by proxy’ and have better luck with a caretaker government during the polls. BJP counters saying it has no role in the government falling, rather it was ‘highly corrupt and collapsed on its own due to mismanagement and poor governance.’ Will BJP’s Machiavellian intrigue here pay dividends too?
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Kerala Poll Compulsions
The CPM-led government in Kerala has had to do a U-turn. Predictably, under compulsion of wooing its voters. On Wednesday last, it decided to withdraw all cases of ‘not serious criminal nature’ registered in connection with protests against entry of young women at Sabarimala shrine and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Obviously, with Assembly elections round the corner, the CPM can ill-afford to ignore the Sabarimala issue, as it did severely impact its performance in General elections 2019. Following the Sabarimala protests in 2018, the police had registered 17,000-odd cases, arraigning some 68,000 people from various Hindu outfits and 530-odd cases in connection with anti-CAA protests, involving people from various political and Muslims outfits. Not only has the opposition Congress and BJP placed the Sabarimala issue on their poll plank, but upper caste Hindu outfit Nair Service Society had last week criticised the government’s reluctance to withdraw the cases, which affected the future of several job seekers. However, it doesn’t seem to end here, as many organisations see the withdrawal as just ‘an eyewash’. Genuine concern will be known only when the Vijayan government implements the decision and is prepared to withdraw its affidavit in the Supreme Court favouring entry of young women at the temple.
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Delhi AAP Upbeat
Delhi’s AAP government is upbeat. It sees hopeful signs of spreading its wings across other States, with its victory in Surat Municipal Corporation polls. AAP won 27 of 120 seats but more importantly ‘breached Modi’s citadel.’ This has given the party a high to prepare the roadmap with greater vigour to contest polls in Goa, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat in the next two years. In fact, its leaders see AAP emerging as an opposition party, given that in Surat it dislodged the Congress, which failed to get even a single seat. Chief Minister Kejriwal proposes to flog Delhi formula of free water, electricity and success stories in health and education sector to do the trick. After all it has helped AAP retain its hold in the capital, against the BJP juggernaut. However, it may be wishful thinking, for a corporation election doesn’t make it a ‘key alternative’ to both national/regional satraps in the States. But AAP is optimistic. It has tasted victory, even if small, a seat each in the panchayat election in Goa and District Development Council polls—unexpected quarters. It claims it has learnt through mistakes and gained experience. Time will tell.
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Health, Education Priority
Rajasthan appears to get its priorities right, at least that is what the Budget outlook suggests. On Wednesday last, presenting the State budget for 2021-22, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot spelt out the Congress government’s vision for enhanced health and education services for the common man. He announced Universal Health Coverage with Rs 3,500 crore allocated as part of measures to reinforce health infrastructure and that it was more accessible. Terming it as ‘Rajasthan Model of Public Health’ (RMPH), Gehlot promised ‘Right to Health Bill’, which would take into account Preventive, Primary and Curative Care, as envisioned by WHO. Every family can look forward to Rs 5 lakh health cover, contract workers/small and marginal farmers made eligible for free/cashless treatment, and no one is forced to pay any kind of fee or charge which may prevent him/her from seeking complete medical care. New Public Health Colleges, 30 new PHCs, 50 PHCs to be upgraded to CHCs, 10 new trauma centres are among various initiatives listed. On the education front, Gehlot announced upgradation of 100 State schools, setting up 50 new government schools, 1,200 Mahatma Gandhi schools and as many as 200 English medium schools, among others. Though people have reason to be upbeat, the big question is whether these would materialise with government ensuring funds earmarked to reach the target. Talk is cheap?
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Protests continue to grow. Other than the ongoing farmers’ agitation, trade unions across the country protested on Friday last with a ‘Bharat Bandh’ demanding a review of the GST regime. The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which gave the call, has said that traders find the provisions “regressive”, “complicated”, and “draconian” and that 40,000-odd associations have extended support to the call. Importantly, the All India Transporters Welfare Association (AITWA), an apex body representing road transporters, decided to join the protest and announced a Chakka Jaam between 6 a.m.-8 p.m. demanding roll back of diesel prices, removal of undue penalties by transport departments and replacement of E-Way bill with e-invoice. It claimed that 80 per cent vehicles were either off the road or parked on the road in solidarity. With the All India Consumer Products Distributors Federation joining in commercial establishments put their shutters down in some State, though largely Opposition-ruled. While Bihar saw a lukewarm response, the call got a fairly good response in Odisha, Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra and West Bengal. Will the simmering anger make a difference? The answer, unfortunately may well be in the negative.
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J&K Screen Outreach Governance through ‘Grievance portal’! This is Jammu & Kashmir administration’s style of functioning — public outreach through ‘LG Mulaquat’. Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and the UT’s top bureaucracy are reaching out to citizens on screen through video conferencing, as the Centre is so far in no mood to have elections to ensure a popular government. Of the thousands of complaints received daily, the administration seeks to redress grievances, at least one from each district, depending on the complaint’s nature for direct interaction with Sinha in the last week of the month. The complaints range from compensation for damaged houses to commercial vehicles passing through villages to avoid toll on national highway or low voltage in a locality or unpaid salaries, with the highest numbers being dealt by Revenue, General Administration, Home, Public Works and School Education departments. The L-G and Chief Secretary are said to directly review the performance with all administrative secretaries, DCs, SPs and senior officials from various departments. Since the redressal system started in August, the number of complaints disposed off are claimed to have gone up gradually: from 52% in the first edition to 86% in the last. However, New Delhi must realise that the digital ‘Mulaquat’ is no answer to an elected government and people’s representatives reaching out with a human touch.