Edit & Opinion

TN, Bengal Bashing: ECI must put house in order

The authority and independence of Nirvachan Sadan has gone down like nine pins. This round of Assembly elections indeed has taken a huge toll on its sanctity and won’t be forgotten. Be it the Madras High Court or the unequivocal bashing by victorious TMC in West Bengal, the Election Commission, would be smarting like never before. More so, since Thursday last, after  Supreme Court refused to expunge Madras HC remarks, which held the poll panel ‘solely responsible’ for the surge in COVID cases in the country, observing its officials “should be put on murder charges” for “not stopping political parties from wanton abuse of the Covid-19 protocol” in poll rallies. Besides, its plea to restrain media from reporting judicial observations was also not upheld. This, said the court would be “retrograde” act. Courts, it said “have to remain alive to evolving technology of media, it is not good, if it’s restrained from reporting judicial proceedings,” as these are “in the larger public interest”. The ECI had argued through its SLP that the HC’s remarks were “uncalled for, blatantly disparaging and derogatory…had made serious allegations of murder on another independent constitutional authority (ECI) without any basis, which has ultimately dented both the institutions.” The apex court was in  disagreement here too: “We have to protect the judicial sanctity of the process…to make sure that High Court judges and Chief Justices are independent to make views.” Guess, the only option left for the ECI is to set its house in order and remember a stitch in time saves nine. It better start preparing for 2022.

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Centre-Bengal Row Kicks Off

Predictably, the Centre and West Bengal pow-wow has already begun. Before even the election dust settles in. Post-poll violence in which 16 persons died, majority as claimed by the BJP being their cadre, has the Ministry of Home Affairs breathing down Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s neck. Governor Dhankar too expectedly hasn’t held back and chose to offer her advice during her oath-taking ceremony on Wednesday last, saying contain violence. 48 hours later, a 4-member team tasked by Amit Shah to look into the reasons for violence, met Dhankar seeking a report on law and order situation. Notwithstanding, Mamata having appealed to ‘all political parties’ to ensure peace prevails in the State. There is some sporadic violence after the election, she said and “We have to control that with a strong hand. In the last two months, the administration system was run by the Election Commission. There was some inefficiency. We have to change the whole setup immediately.” Which she did—hitting where it hurts hard for the EC. Within hours of assuming office, she initiated a major reshuffle in the police and transferred 29 top police officers, mostly those shifted by EC to the polls. But she still hasn’t replied to the MHA, despite its warning “if the situation report is not received at once, it will be viewed seriously.” How serious, is the question. Surely, Modi-Amit Shah team cannot be seen to be crying over spilt milk.

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Maratha Quota Struck Down

The timing couldn’t have been worse. In the thick of battling the pandemic, Maharashtra has to grapple with Supreme Court striking down provisions of a state law which provided over 50% quota to Maratha community. On Wednesday last, a five-judge Constitutional bench said “The 50% rule…is to fulfil the objective of equality as engrafted in Article 14 of which Articles 15 and 16 are facets… To change the 50% limit is to have a society which is not founded on equality but based on caste rule.” It cautioned by saying democracy is “an essential feature of our Constitution…If reservation goes above 50% limit…it will be slippery slope, the political pressure, make it hardly to reduce the same.” It was also firm that data collected and tabled by clearly proves that Marathas are not socially/educationally backward class, rather they “are dominant forward class and in mainstream of national life”. Besides, the government hadn’t offered any ‘extra-ordinary circumstances’ to raise the quota as required! Thus, a piece of advice for Thackeray government: Providing quota is not the only means and method for improving welfare of backward class advancement. Instead, the State “ought to bring other measures including providing educational facilities to members of backward class free of cost giving concession in fee, providing opportunities for skill development to enable the candidates from the backward class to be self-reliant”. Importantly, it’s observation “when more people aspire for backwardness instead of forwardness, the country itself stagnates which situation is not in accord with constitutional objectives”, would stand good for all States, rather the entire nation. Will are political class pay heed and stop appeasement politics?

 

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New Era For DMK

Finally, he takes over the coveted seat, has stepped into his father’s shoes, but how long it will take him to create his own legacy, is a big question. On Friday last, DMK President M K Stalin was sworn in as Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister. Along with him, 33 of MLAs took oath as ministers at the Raj Bhavan. It was a mix of youth and the experienced, with many former ministers inducted. Following his father M Karunanidhi’s demise in August 2018, Stalin took over the party reins. His long political career has seen him as the party’s youth wing secretary for four decades since he was elected in 1982; was Mayor of Chennai 1996-2011 and was Deputy Chief Minister, 2009-2011. While it’s the 6th time the top post is from DMK since 1967 and his party managed to pull through a majority on its own, it wasn’t a sweep as claimed of 200 seats, banking on the anti-incumbency factor, with rival AIADMK in power these past 10 years. He and his party should thank the AIADMK’s folly of having an alliance with the BJP, as the former’s silence on minority issues and support of its MPs for CAA in Delhi, seemed to have alienated its vote bank, a section of minorities. Not getting a landslide victory undoubtedly would be a disappointment for Stalin, but he would do well now to chart out a road for the next five years of good governance, to help him step out of the shadows of his legendary father and AIADMK’s Late Jayalalitha. A tall order indeed, but if there’s a will, there is a way

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Karnataka Covid Scam

BJP-ruled Karnataka must singe with anger. It’s health care system in the Covid crisis smacks of ‘corruption’ in allotment of hospital beds and crass ‘delay in oxygen supply’ which claimed 23 lives. The Yediyurappa government has had to order investigation in both cases. The first, by crime branch after its party MP Tejasvi Surya and 2 MLAs alleged “bribes are being taken to allocate Covid beds.” An unholy nexus of Bengaluru municipal corporation officers, Arogya Mitras and some private agents, claimed Surya has led to “artificial shortage” of beds. And, while patients are getting discharged, many dying, the corporation website “at any point of the day, shows all beds are blocked. How does this happen?” is the big question. In the 2nd case, probe by a retired High Court judge is ordered into the tragic death of 23 persons due to alleged lack of oxygen supply in Chamarajanagar district hospital. Its DC has blamed his Mysuru counterpart saying the tragedy could have been averted if Mysuru had given oxygen on time. “This has been going on for a week to 10 days now. I had also informed the Chief Secretary and district in-charge minister and even nodal officers/team handling oxygen distribution.” His counterpart has denied all accusations. Nevertheless, the investigations must to expedited and the guilty be held accountable. That is the least, the government can do for the grief-stricken families.

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Jammu BJP Brawl

All is not well in J&K BJP. Accusations of corruption against MoS in PMO Jitender Singh by Jammu senior leader and former MLC Vikram Randhawa has got the top brass seeing red. State President has issued a show cause notice to Randhawa to prove his charges or else face disciplinary action. At a press conference, Randhawa, who is also President, Stone Crushers’ Association accused the District Mining Officer of collecting money from the mining mafia ‘on behalf of Singh and his personal staff based in Jammu’. He claimed the DMO had raided 14 of the 45-odd stone crushers, including his, and slapped penalty ranging from Rs 20-25 lakh for illegal mining, though these were registered with the UT administration. Plus, he accused Singh of patronising the mining mafia in illegal extraction of minor minerals from river Tawi and that both DC and SSP were too involved. Singh on the other hand, has denied the charges outright, served a notice demanding an unconditional apology and threatened a suit off Rs 1 crore in damages. While the party, in damage control mode awaits Randhawa’s response, the Opposition is clamouring for Singh’s resignation. Who will have the last laugh?

 

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