Round The States


Kashmir Meeting: overcoming trust deficit?

Removing ‘Dilli ki duri’ and ‘Dil ki duri’ with Kashmir is a challenging goal indeed that Prime Minister Modi has set for himself. His invitation to People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, derided by him and his Home Minister Shah as ‘Gupkar Gang’, for a meeting on Thursday last suggests there’s more than meets the eye. Remember, in the past two years they have termed the alliance as ‘irrelevant’ and determined to ‘banish them from public life’.So, was the meeting called just to prepare a future course of action or holding elections eventually? Not really. It’s sheer realisation by the Centre that it does need to get mainstream regional parties on board if it wants to get the delimitation exercise underway, the first step towards Assembly elections. Perhaps, pressure from the new dispensation in Washington DC? Or rather it’s time BJP redrew electoral boundaries in J&K to its advantage. But for that it needs a measure of legitimacy like did the DDC elections. However, it’s not easy. ‘New Kashmir’ remains a slogan as 14 leaders first demanded restoration of Statehood at the meeting. They were ‘unwilling’ to accept revocation of J&K’s special status and bifurcation into two UTs. It was made amply clear they would continue to protest, but peacefully. Be that as it may, there is already the first deadlock: delimitation first, says Modi, Statehood demands the alliance. Can it be overcome and how soon? When the curtains will fall down on Central rule, imposed in June 2018? The answer perhaps lies in whether New Delhi can build trust, unquestionably lost since the aftermath of 5 August 2019.

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Meghalaya Vaccine Poser

The vaccination drive gets an interesting twist in Meghalaya. On the one hand, its High Court held that vaccination was ‘need of the hour, an absolute necessity’ and on the other was against mandatory or forced vaccination, saying it impinges on Constitution’s Article 19(1). This it said, while dealing with the court filing a suo moto PIL after State authorities had asked shopkeepers, vendors, taxi drivers and others in many areas to get themselves vaccinated before resuming business.On Thursday last, the CJI’s bench opined putting a pre-condition on taxi drivers, shopkeepers etc “vitiates the very fundamental purpose of the welfare attached to it… and impinges on fundamental right(s) under as such, especially when it affects the right to means of livelihood…” It also observed it was the State’s responsibility to disseminate information and sensitise citizens of the entire exercise of vaccination and to stop misinformation on it. Interestingly, a day earlier, the court asked all business houses, shopsand commercial vehicles to put on display the ‘vaccinated’ status of employees at a “conspicuous” place to allow people make a conscious decision before using their services.Similarly, owners of local taxis, auto-rickshaws, taxis, and buses, must too put up a sign with the vaccination status of drivers, conductors or helpers.Guess the message to many would read as: ‘You can’t have the cake and eat it too!

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WB Speaker Joins In

The bitter feud between West Bengal-Centre reaches the doorstep of House of the people, the Lok Sabha. On Tuesday last, State Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee took the opportunity provided by the virtual All India Speakers’ Conference on Tuesday last, and complained to his Lok Sabha counterpart Om Birla about “excessive interference” of Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar in matters related to parliamentary democracy and the House’ functioning. Not a political turn, but more to do with business of the House? Apparently, despite the Assembly passing bills, Banerjee said, several of these were lying at Dhankar’s desk waiting for his signature. This, he added, ‘is unprecedented in history of West Bengal’s parliamentary democracy.”It’s no secret, that the Governor, who assumed office in July 2019, has repeatedly been accused by TMC leadership of acting as BJP’s mouthpiece, not just interfering in functioning of the Mamata Banerjee government but maligning it too. Expectedly, State BJP unit rubbishes the allegations saying Dhankar was only exposing reality—of lawlessness in the State. And though there have been complaints against him earlier, it adds, all turned out to be baseless. Be that as it may, the big question is what will the Lok Sabha Speaker do? Remember,  the CBI’s repeated requests to chargesheet MPs, including turncoat Suvendu Adhikari, who is now BJP’s Leader of Opposition, continue to gather dust on his desk. Adding fuel to fire?

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Bihar’s Churnings

Will political Gen Next hold hands, is a question doing the rounds in Bihar. The turmoil in the LJP and its beleaguered leader Chirag Paswan has made RJD’s firebrand leader Tejashwi Yadav, leader of Opposition, reach out to him. The enemy i.e. BJP seems common, though somewhat blurred in LJP’s case. The revolt in the party by his uncle, has disenchanted Chirag with his alliance partner’s silence and feels JD(U) Chief Minister Nitish Kumar may be playing mischief. Chirag is set to embark on ‘Aashirwad Yatra’ from July 5, his father Ram Vilas Paswan’s birth anniversary to test waters. There’s a ripple already. Reminding him of how his father Lalu Prasad had helped Ram Vilas to get a Rajya Sabha seat in 2010 when LJP had no MP or MLAs, Tejashwi said “It’s Chirag to decide if he would continue to live with followers of Guru Golwalkar’s ‘Bunch of Thoughts’ or with BR Ambedkar, maker of Constitution.” Though Chirag has yet to respond, there appears political logic for the two to come together. While Chirag failed miserably in Assembly poll, the two have their respective vote banks, Paswans and Yadavs are political castes and not antithetical and can work for next poll cycle. Importantly, the two are not really averse to each other. Recall it was Chirag keen to partner with BJP, though his father had in past left Vajpayee Cabinet due to differences with Modi after 2002. Time will prove the ancient proverb: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

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Kerala Steps In

Glimmer of hope appears in Lakshadweep for its protestors. On Tuesday last, the Kerala High Court stayed two provocative orders of the UT administration headed by Praful Patel, following a petition by a lawyer and native of Kavaratti. These relate to closing down dairy farms on the islands and changing midday meal diet of school children by excluding chicken, beef, and other meat from the menu. Patel through a new set of proposals these past months had stirred up a hornet’s nest. The petitioner termed the decisions as being ‘violative of human rights’ as these were ‘aimed at destroying culture and eating habits of islanders.’ Besides, like other proposals, the decision to shut down dairy farms and auction off the animals was taken without any consultations with elected local bodies. The islands have been witnessing unprecedented protests under ‘Save Lakshadweep Forum’ (SLF),a group of six political parties with the population observing ‘black day’ and day-long fast demanding ‘justice’.All eyes are now on the UT’s response to the Kerala court. Will Patel be convincing and continue to ride rough shod with his right-wing leanings or will his clips be eventually clipped? New Delhi must step in too.

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‘Third Front’ In Offing?

An evening in Delhi has created a flutter in political circles. Is a ‘third front’,against the formidable BJP, in the offing as leaders of 8 political parties along with some intellectuals got together on an invitation of Rashtra Manch, at NCP Chief Sharad Pawar’s home on Tuesday last? The organisers deny any such move and explain individuals and not parties were invitedto discuss ‘current political and economic situation in the country.’ Not convincing enough as other than NCP, leaders of TMC, SP, AAP, Rashtra Manch (founded by former Yashwant Sinha), SP, Left parties, RLD and NC were present. The absence of Congress raised some eyebrows, though it was said its members were invited. Among the non-politicos were former Delhi HC Chief Justice A P Shah, writer and former MP Javed Akhtar, Sudheendra Kulkarni, economist Arun Kumar and former diplomat K.C. Singh. The timing of the meeting is interesting too—followed after Pawar having a 2nd sitting with poll strategist Prashant Kishor within 10 days. More so as though leaders say a common strategy must emerge to deal with issues such as joblessness, farmers’ protests, freedom of press, inflation etc, it is important to make a note of Kishore’s reaction. He said “I don’t believe a Third or Fourth Front could emerge as a successful challenge to the current dispensation…The ‘tried and tested’ 3rd Front model is archaic and does not suit the current political dynamic..’ Should one read into the group strategizing at the State level with eye on winnability? It’s a long way off to 2024, but an early start may give a lead.—INFA




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