Opinion

Round The States

Karnataka Politics To Hilt

Karnataka has more on its plate than it can handle. In the midst of the raging hijab controversy, there is another, on the national flag. The opposition Congress has laid siege in Legislative Assembly demanding Rural Development & Panchayat Raj Minister Eshwarappa be sacked and booked for sedition for his statement. This after Eshwarappa last week said the ‘Bhagwa dhwaj’ (saffron flag) may become national flag sometime in future and may be raised from Red Fort. Both minister and BJP government hit back saying his statement was ‘misconstrued’ and Congress was disrespecting the national flag for protests in the floor of House. Plus, Congress was ‘playing politics’ when ‘people/government are working towards creating a conducive atmosphere for students in schools and colleges.” Take it with a pinch of salt? While the court addresses the hijab row and addresses the question “If there are 100 symbols, why is the government picking on only hijab?…Bangles are worn. Why only pick on these poor Muslims girls?..” , the Dept of Minority Welfare, Haj and Wakf has issued a fresh circular. Quoting HC interim order it said it would apply to Maulana Azad Model English Medium schools too. Ruffling more feathers instead?

 

Third Wave Over?

All is now well, is the Centre’s message to States. Minimise Covid-19 impact on “the lives and livelihood of people,” is its advice. A letter to Chief Secretaries on Wednesday last, by Union Health Secretary said: “Presently, as the case trajectory across the nation is showing a sustained downward trend, it will be useful if States review and amend/do away with the additional restrictions so imposed after considering the trend of new cases, active cases, and positivity,” so that people’s movement and economic activities are no longer hampered. Fortunately, the Omicron variant has been much milder and case counts have remained below expected levels, with daily numbers having dropped to 30,000-odd, the lowest this year from 3.47 lakh in January. Just about 75 districts are now reporting a weekly positivity rate of over 10% and 80 districts less than 5%. States are gradually easing restrictions on social gatherings, occupancy in restaurants/theatres, opening schools/colleges, lifting night curfews etc. However, there’s a nagging fear that complacency shouldn’t set in. Families and friends can’t forget the horrific second wave wherein people became victims not to the virus but governments letting down guard. Once bitten twice shy, is sound advice.

 

Punjab Faux Pas

A classic case of putting one’s foot in the mouth? During a poll rally, closing on the campaigning, Congress Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi stirred a political storm by saying: “Punjabian di bahu hai Priyanka Gandhi, eh saadi Punjaban hai, iss karke ikk passe ho jao Punjabion… UP, Bihar aur Delhi de bhaiye aa ke ithe raj karan lagge, vadan na deo ithe (Priyanka is Punjab’s daughter-in-law. She is our Punjaban. So Punjabis, get united. The bhaiyas from UP, Bihar and Delhi want to rule here. But we will not let them enter).” Worse, it got an applaud from Priyanka! Obviously, BJP and AAP got their opportunity and slammed Channi saying it was an insult to the people of UP and Bihar. With Channi’s faux pax going viral on social and polling on Sunday, Congress went into damage control. In a video message, Channi said his statement ‘is being misconstrued. All migrant workers who came to Punjab till date, have toiled and taken it on the path to development. We have only love for them, nobody can change it.” Plus, he wasn’t referring to migrants, but to AAP leaders, including Arvind Kejriwal, ‘who come here and create disruption.’ The big question is whether the sizeable migrant community let it pass? To be sure the Congress, also put out a video message from former PM Manmohan Singh urging people to vote for the party and blaming the Centre for trying to “malign Punjab and Punjabis”. Will his magic work and undo the damage?

 

Kerala Governor-CM Drama

Kerala has been spared a ‘constitutional’ crisis, on eve of Budget session. Governor Arif Mohammed Khan had his way. He finally gave consent for his opening address to the Assembly on Friday last, but only after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan with Chief Secretary in toe visited Raj Bhavan a day before to calm tempers. Khan was upset over a dissent note been issued while heeding to his request to appoint a veteran journalist and BJP State committee member as his additional personal assistant. The note said the appointment of a politician in Raj Bhavan was “unprecedented”  and “it was desirable to stick to norms.” Seeing it as an insult to  Governor’s office, he demanded the officer who issued the note, Principal Secretary, General Administration Dept, be removed and government stops the practice of ‘life-time pensions’ to personal staff of ministers, as it was “a waste of public money, only meant to groom party cadres.” The first demand was met and assurance given for the second. The drama is not the first. Interestingly the Opposition sees it as a ‘quid pro quo’ and not that Raj Bhavan and CM office are at logger heads. It claims Khan eventually gave assent to an ordinance, which would clip the Lokayukta’s powers, just a week before his personal assistance was appointed! The people, it says are being hoodwinked!

 

Reprieve For Haryana

It was well worth knocking on Supreme court’s door. The Khattar government got reprieve and now hopes “The Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act, 2020”, may no longer face hurdles. On Tuesday last, the apex Court set aside the Punjab and Haryana High Court order staying the law, which provides for 75% of private sector jobs for residents of the state. It said the HC hasn’t given ‘sufficient reasons for staying the legislation” and asked it decide within four weeks. Besides, it restrained the government from taking any action against employers under the law till then. The SC was approached by the government and argued that three other States– Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand had similar laws and that the law was a means to regulate migrants from settling in other States. The apex court did  contemplate transferring pending matters to it, but said it would have to hear it on merits as the issue “is about livelihood and we are concerned about it”. Be that as it may, the Khattar government may be able to fulfil its poll promise. All eyes will now be on what reasoned order the State HC gives.

 

Lalu’s Freedom!  

Former Bihar Chief Minister and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav may have to give up his dream. On Tuesday last, a CBI court in Ranchi convicted him in the fifth fodder scam case shattering his desire to return back to active politics and Parliament. The court is to pass an order on the quantum of his sentence on Monday and till then an ailing Lalu was sent to Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, Ranchi. Recall, Lalu was jailed in December 2017 following the Rs 950 crore scam and then shifted to RIMS after his health deteriorated in jail; admitted to AIIMS and set free May last after the Jharkhand High Court suspended his remaining jail term, because he had already served half the sentence. The BJP is elated and its leaders have reacted saying, ‘the verdict is the curse of the poor… is reaping what he had sowed’ and now that he is convicted in five cases ‘he can’t contest any election for even a Mukhiya!’ His son and leader of Opposition Tejashwi claimed the verdict ‘hasn’t dampened the party’s morale, the order needs to be respected”. However, he wondered whether this was the only scam in the country. “There had been some 80-odd scams in Bihar. Has any action been taken against anyone? What about cases against some influential businessmen in the country?”, he said at a press conference. He needs to remember two wrongs don’t make a right! —INFA

 

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