It’s too early to say ‘All’s well, that ends well’ in BJP-ruled Gujarat. On Thursday last, a 24-member Cabinet was administered oath at Raj Bhavan, though none from previous Vijay Rupani-led ministry made it! The sudden change in leadership of Rupani to first time MLA Bhupendra Patel, with just over a year to go for Assembly polls, the post of deputy CM done away with and Cabinet formation deferred by a day after supporters of a BJP MLA created a ruckus outside Raj Bhavan on Wednesday last, doesn’t bode well for party which has ruled the State for 16 years. Clearly, with Patel, who belongs to the Kadva sub-group of the influential Patidar community and being the first from this section, is being seen as the dark horse, who should help the party sail through in the 182-member Assembly. The move, clearly is to pacify the Patidar community, its core vote bank, which is getting disillusioned. Recall, AAP in February secured sizeable support from Leuva Patidars and won 27 seats in civic body polls in Surat, gaining an edge in three of 12 Assembly seats there; also under Rupani, the BJP had won only 99 seats in the Assembly, its lowest tally since 1995, and was being questioned by the party over mishandling of the pandemic. The big question is whether the new top man can neutralise the damage done. Having the support of Modi-Shah team may not be enough.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has as expected set the tone and tenor for the ensuing State Assembly elections—communally polarise the debate and the vote bank. His latest ‘abbajaan’ (father in Urdu), has not only stoked a bitter row with the Opposition parties, but is trending high on social media. At a public rally in Kushinagar district he said: “2017 ke pahle kya sabhi ko ration milta tha?….Abbajaan kahne wale sara ration hajam kar lete the,” (did everyone get ration before 2017?…Those, who used the word abbajjan used to digest all the ration). It’s the same old ‘politics of appeasement’ by previous governments versus ‘politics of development’ of BJP. But can he claim the Muslim minority community is seeing ‘achche din’? Has he dealt with their economic concerns or is simply taking the Hindutva rhetoric forward? He claimed PM Modi has changed the country’s “political agenda”, which was earlier limited to caste, faith, religion, place, language and family, but today “people from every class are getting benefits of development….” In the same breath, he questions whether previous governments of Congress, SP or BSP would have built the Ram temple in Ayodhya? Playing on religious sentiments and not so-called development is what UP elections will end up with. Nirvachan Sadan must be on guard. The battle of the ballot is going to be bitter, but it must ensure the secular fabric, already torn, is not allowed to be tattered.
MP Tribals Saga
Tribals feel insecure in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and there is a rise in cases of atrocities against them is a not an off-the cuff statement. The State, with the largest tribal population in the country, recorded 2,401 cases of atrocities against them in 2020 i.e. 25% more than 2019 (1922 cases) and beat Rajasthan’s tally of 1,878 cases. Worse, it chronicled the most rapes of tribal women in the same period! Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan must squirm, as these statistics are not reeled out by the Opposition but the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in its 2020 report. The cases are registered under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and turn out to be most against tribal population for past five years. However, the government refutes the data saying it “only shows that police records every case and every person gets justice in the state and soon there will be a Gangster Act to curb crime against tribals, SC, women and poor people.” This is rubbished by human right’s activists, who insist the spurt is because tribals, who work as migrant labourers, were harassed on returning home; their condition remains same since Independence; they feel unsafe, are thrashed for land and being harassed by false cases lodged against them. Opposition Congress has quipped: This data is nothing but a report card of 16 years of development plan of Chouhan! Need more be said.
Both J&K administration and New Delhi must see the writing on the wall. There is utter lack of enthusiasm among former residents of J&K, who moved out during the late 80s following beginning of militancy, to take up the offer of domicile certificates. As a result, the Dept of Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction has extended the scheme, announced in May last year, to a new deadline, 15 May 2022. With few Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs opting to register with Relief & Rehabilitation Commissioner (Migrants) at Jammu, the office also decided to ‘hold special camps to accept applications at places where a minimum of 50 such families are residing’. For example, the exercise in Delhi, where 25,000 such families have settled, only 3000 turned up of which 806 were registered on the spot. The certificates are meant to aid migrants to own land, and get jobs and educational opportunities in the UT. But there’s a bigger catch. The scheme comes at a time, when addition of their numbers as domiciles would have political consequences, given that a delimitation exercise is underway. Local political parties suspect it to boost seats in Hindu-dominated Jammu. Be that as it may, the administration needs to gain migrants’ confidence to consider ‘ghar wapasi.’ As of now, the message they send out is winds of change aren’t blowing. The claim to ushering in a new era, post revocation of Article 370, remains in Raj Bhavan, Secretariat or North Block!
River Water Dispute
Will the bickering over Krishna and Godavari river water disputes between two Telugu States of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana finally come to end? Though the Centre is hoping for an affirmative yes, the two States are wary of Delhi’s takeover of all completed and ongoing major and medium irrigation projects on the two rivers with effect from October 14, after a gazette notifications by Jal Shakti Ministry in July, comes into effect. In all 36 irrigation projects on Krishna river will come under maintenance and control of Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) and another 70-odd projects under Godavari River Management Board (KRMB). On Monday last, the Ministry held meetings with both the board’s chairmen to discuss modalities on the functioning. But, there is a hitch. Both States need to bear expenditure on salaries and allowances of CISF personnel to man the irrigation projects as well as deposit ₹200 crore each for the two Boards’ operation within next 2 months. But they have so far hinted a no to the latter. Unhappy over all projects being taken over, they insist it should be only those under dispute and thus defer implementation of the notification. Will Centre yield?
No more ‘homestay’ shall be permitted for tourists in the beautiful hilly Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu, orders the Madras High Court on Wednesday last. Reasoning: “arbitrary sanctions or permission can’t be granted” as there appears to be ‘pure adhocism’ without an ‘environmental impact assessment study or a cap put in’. The bench felt it was becoming increasingly ‘fashionable’ for residents here to retreat into a corner of the property on weekends to open homestays for urban visitors to enjoy the beauties of nature. But not anymore, till a plan is put in place following studies and ‘a viable scientific report being obtained.’ The district authorities must conduct inspections to ensure the homestay arrangements don’t continue without permission in the ecologically sensitive region of the Nilgiris. A dampener for some, but for nature lovers, a welcome move.
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