Gyanvapi Mosque Row
Inflation be dammed, long live mandir-masjid hullabaloo! Uttar Pradesh keeps the flag flying for the BJP and its Hindutva agenda. The fresh controversy over the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi has relegated burning issues such as inflation, growing unemployment and rising petrol, diesel prices among others to the backburner. All attention is now whether the mosque complex was built over a temple. A reminder of Babri Masjid-Ram temple row which catapulted the saffron party to power? Expectedly, the matter reaches Supreme Court, which on Tuesday directed Varanasi DM to ensure protection of the ‘Shivling’ and allow Muslims to offer namaaz and perform ‘religious observances’ as it was “Balancing the equity.” On Friday last, it also transferred the case pending before civil judge, to court of Varanasi district judge for trial, saying a “slightly more mature” and “seasoned hand” should handle it, for ‘it’s a joint mission to preserve a sense of unification in the country.’ Hope the mission is successful for the survey being conducted now shows ‘debris of old temples were found at a corner of northern/ western walls outside the barricading, and Hindu motifs such as bells, kalash, flowers and trishul were visible on pillars in the tehkhana (basement)’. Plus, the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir trust is toying with the idea of filing a petition in court, seeking to bring down the wall in front of Nandi. Whipping sentiments for 2024?
The timing couldn’t have been worse for the Congress in Gujarat. Ahead of year-end Assembly elections, its working President and Patidar leader Hardik Patel quit the party on Wednesday last, accusing its top leadership of behaving as if they hated Gujarat and Gujaratis. In his resignation letter to Sonia Gandhi he said: top leaders were distracted by their mobile phones; State leaders were more interested in arranging chicken sandwiches for them; some leaders were enjoying abroad when the party/nation needed them; over last three years, Congress both at Centre/State levels, has been reduced to opposing everything…India wanted a solution to issues for a long time and Congress only played role of a roadblock.’ Expectedly the list was trashed with Congress accusing Patel of singing BJP’s tune: he was made a star campaigner during 5 States polls. He used to criticise BJP. What has changed suddenly? He was in touch with BJP for last six years to withdraw cases against him.” Be that as it may, there’s no denying that Patel joins the others leaving the sinking ship, forcing the Congress to reach out to another Patidar leader, Naresh Patel. Will the party be able to put its house in order before the polls?
Developments in Punjab make interesting headlines. On the one hand, the ruling AAP managed to resolve a brewing crisis and on the other the Congress got into a bigger crisis! Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Wednesday last, nipped the farmers’ agitation in the bud by accepting several of their demands, and the latter ending their protest at the Chandigarh-Mohali border. The 13 demands included revising the schedule for staggered sowing of paddy, MSP for moong (green gram) crop, maize, Basmati and bonuses on wheat. At a meeting, Mann told leaders of over 20 farmer organisations that while MSP for gram and maize was being done at the State level, he would take up Basmati MSP and bonus issue with Home Minister Amit Shah, (which he did on Thursday). He urged them to give him at least a year’s time to bring farmer-friendly reforms in the sector. The farmers obliged and called off their indefinite protest at Chandigarh.
However, for the Congress it hasn’t been smooth sailing within the party after the poll debacle. Former State president and Jat leader Sunil Jakhar resigned and joined rival BJP on Thursday last. He said it’s not easy to break a 50 year relationship, three generations with the Congress in good times and bad. “But, when principles are broken, when we move away from our ideology, then I believe it’s right time for a re-think…” He accused the party of insulting the Punjab’s spirit of brotherhood by trying to divide it in terms of percentage of castes, communities and religion. The bickering, change in guard is all well known, triggered by Navjot Singh Sidhu, who further adds to Congress woes. The Supreme Court sentenced him to a year’s rigorous imprisonment, after he was let off four years ago with a fine of just Rs 1,000 over the death of a 65-year-old man in a road rage case of 1988. The court noted that “some material aspects which were required to be taken note of appear to have been somehow missed out at the stage of sentencing’ and remedial action needed. Before the order came, Sidhu had led a protest against inflation in Patiala, sitting on an elephant and had been touring villages. That shall be no more. The Congress is down another two wickets!
There is no respite for the RJD and its patriarch in Bihar. On bail in the fodder scam case since past few weeks, Lalu Prasad Yadav finds himself charged again by the CBI. On Friday last the investigating agency booked him in a fresh case of corruption and led search operations at 17 locations across Patna, Delhi and Gopalganj, linked to him and his daughter Misa Bharti, among others. The CBI claims that Lalu ‘accepted plots of land as bribes to give jobs to people while he was the Union Railways Minister in the UPA government.’ He is said to have favoured a company while awarding operation and maintenance contracts of two IRCTC hotels and that as quid pro quo, his family received a prime piece of land in Patna at a throwaway price from the owners of the company that bagged the contract. Others charge-sheeted include Sujata Hotels, which won the contract, its owners, former MD and general managers of IRCTC group. What impact this IRTC scam will have on Lalu’s son Tejaswi Yadav’s functioning as Opposition leader time will tell, but he could take it as a backhand complement— the RJD is a force to reckon with for the ruling dispensation of JD(U)-BJP .
Delhi LG Quits
The national capital, Delhi, woke up to a surprise. Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal resigned on Wednesday last, citing ‘personal reasons’ and submitting his resignation to President Kovind. Baijal had taken over from Najeeb Jung and during his over five-year tenure had frequent run-ins with ruling AAP over administrative jurisdiction and governance-related issues. The timing of putting in his papers is curious. It comes at a time when the terms of the three municipal bodies end as the Centre has issued notification for unification, which will be followed by elections. While three subjects, i.e., land, services and law and order, come directly under the L-G’s purview, the matter regarding control over the services department is pending in Supreme Court. Perhaps, Chief Minister Kejriwal had an inkling of Baijal’s exit for in March he had tweeted: “Is Mr Praful Patel, Administrator of Lakshadweep, being made the next LG of Delhi?” While there is no name doing the rounds for Baijal’s replacement, the grape wine has it that a person with a political background rather than a bureaucrat as was the practice, may be appointed. More so, as reunification of the municipal corporation and elections thereafter will need deft handling.