Times of India | 6 months ago | 22-09-2022 | 11:50 pm
Panaji: AAP criticised Congress for not taking action against the eight MLAs who joined BJP and alleged that it only gives credence to the theory that there was a pre-election deal between the two parties.“It is the responsibility of Congress to take some serious legal action against the defectors, otherwise people will lose faith in democracy,” AAP’s state vice-president Valmiki Naik said.He said that Calangute MLA Michael Lobo and Margao MLA Digambar Kamat are the main people behind this deal. He alleged that Goa election in charge P Chidambaram, Goa desk in charge Dinesh Gundu Rao and ex-Congress state president Girish Chodankar were all involved.AAP urged Congress to make the affidavit signed by the MLAs ahead of the assembly polls public as AAP has already done.
THE committee under Finance Secretary TV Somanathan, announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last week, to relook at pension may not recommend a solution where the gains made over two decades are reversed, The Indian Express has learnt.That’s the big-picture sense from conversations with officials who have to balance the imperatives of politics in a pre-poll year and a reform that has withstood the pressures of time — and partisanship.There are options.One, increase the government contribution to the pension corpus of its employees from the current 14 per cent to such a level that the employee can expect 50 per cent of her last drawn basic pay as pension upon retirement.Indeed, one of the models being looked at is the Andhra Pradesh government proposal which has a “guarantee” that employees will get 50 per cent of the last drawn salary as pension.Officials said the government may also explore ways to make good for the increase in payout (dearness relief announced twice every year increases the pension by a certain percentage taking care of the rise in living expenses) as it happens under the old pension scheme (OPS).The NDA lost elections in 2004, the year NPS was implemented. But the Congress carried it forward. After a decade, when NDA returned under Modi, it consolidated the gains. But in 2019, just before elections, NDA hiked government contribution. Now, a fresh review again just ahead of 2024 polls.Whatever the formula that’s worked out, one thing is clear.The committee and its mandate mark a sharp turnaround in the Modi government’s support of the new pension system (NPS) — where contributions are defined, and benefits market-linked — which came into effect in January 2004, just a few months before the Lok Sabha elections.“There was no question of any looking back when the BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi returned to power. His political conviction in pension reforms and fiscal conservatism meant the NPS was there to stay,” said an official.And yet there was no escaping the politics.In fact, the BJP’s electoral loss in May 2004 may have nothing to do with pension reforms – the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government was convinced of the economic rationale behind the move. But the party’s 10-year loss of power, between 2004 and 2014, is a memory that still stalks North Block.This when, in 2009, BJP’s loss in the Lok Sabha elections had not deterred the Congress from staying the course on pension reforms. With Manmohan Singh at the helm, and P Chidambaram as Finance Minister, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government earnestly implemented the NPS, exhorted states to follow suit, and also introduced a Bill to develop and regulate the pension sector. This was one of the many reforms that earned bipartisan support.There were four good reasons the government reformed the pension sector at the time it did: i) with increasing life spans, pension bills were ballooning, putting to risk future finances of the Centre and states, ii) a safety net for a very small percentage of workforce was being funded ironically by even the poor taxpayer, iii) inter-generational equity – the next generation footing the bill for the previous – presented a difficult-to-ignore moral hazard, and iv) India was at the cusp of a 50-year demographic dividend opportunity beginning 2005-05 with the best working age population ratio (workers or those in the 15-64 age group age/ dependents or those under 15 plus 65 and over).However, after the first five years in power, the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre did not take any chances. Just before Lok Sabha elections in 2019, it increased the employer’s contribution to NPS to 14 per cent of the employee’s basic pay every month from 10 per cent earlier; the employee continued to contribute only 10 per cent of her basic pay.The timing was not lost on those keeping a tab on BJP’s economic thinking; this came into effect from April 1, 2019.Now with just a year to go for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP is acutely aware of an altered economic and social landscape. The straws in the wind have been there for the past couple of years.Low growth that precedes the pandemic, job and income losses during Covid-19, stretched financial resources of people due to medical expenditure, and high inflation – which works like a painful tax on the poor, have highlighted the inadequacy of safety nets for a bulk of the country’s people. The political class cannot be blind to this. To discount the giveaways in recent Budgets by even fiscally prudent states like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra as an election freebie will be drawing a wrong message.It is in this backdrop that government employees are demanding a return of the old pension scheme. At least five states (Congress-ruled Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh, JMM-led Jharkhand, and Aam Aadmi Party-led Punjab) have done so, having already notified the old pension scheme.The Congress win of the Assembly elections in Himachal, which most attribute to its promise to bring back OPS, has made the BJP leadership anxious. In Maharashtra, protests by state government employees prompted the Eknath Shinde government, whose finance minister is BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis, to set up a committee and address the NPS shortcomings. Some national employee unions continue to protest too, giving calls for rallies demanding restoration of OPS.Then, there is the insider bias. A section of senior IAS bureaucrats – who have the political executive’s ear – feel their juniors who joined service after January 1, 2004, can’t be left to the “mercy” of markets while seniors retire with the assurance of a continuously rising pension kitty.This conversation on NPS has been in the top echelons of power for a while now. Not that the Prime Minister is not aware of these noises around him. But if his preference for fiscal prudence is an indication, he will be happy only with a solution that doesn’t put the future of state finances in jeopardy.
Union Minister Smriti Irani on Tuesday came down heavily on Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi over some controversial remarks about her made by Youth Congress President BC Srinivas during a recent event organised by the Congress.“Shabd Rahul Gandhi ke hain, sanskaar Sonia Gandhi ke hain, bas zuban Yuva Congress ki hai (The words are Rahul Gandhi’s, the values are Sonia Gandhi’s, only the mouth belongs to Youth Congress),” she said.“Shabd Rahul Gandhi ke hain, sanskar Sonia Gandhi ka hain bas zubaan Yuva Congress ki hain” says Union Minister Smriti Irani on the reported “gungi-behri” remark on her by the President of Indian Youth Congress Srinivas BV pic.twitter.com/AIX1CLXfaB— ANI (@ANI) March 28, 2023“I am saying this because he’s not the first Youth Congress chief who is making indecent comments… Jab tak ye do hain, tab tak Congress ka neta jo promotion chaahega, woh is praakar ki abhadra tippiniya karta rahega (Till the time these two are here, any Congress politician who wants a promotion will continue making such indecent comments),” Irani added.The remarks in question were made at the Congress’ ‘Sankalp Satyagraha’ on Sunday (March 26). In a purported video clip of the speech, he can be heard saying in Hindi, “The BJP means inflation. These same people in 2014 used to say that there is inflation witch which has been made to sit… Smriti Irani has become a little mute and deaf. That witch (Daayan)… Inflation witch (Mehengaai Daayan) has been made a darling and made to sit in the bedroom.”Congress has become a cesspool of misogyny , hatred for women especially if she comes from a humble background & defeats an entitled dynastFirst abuse OBC, then courts, then throw papers at Speaker; abuse journalists now abuse women!Time & again, Congress has abused those… pic.twitter.com/8KwU01a9tH— Shehzad Jai Hind (@Shehzad_Ind) March 27, 2023The BJP has come out strongly to attack Srinivas over the clip. Party spokesperson said that Congress has become a “cesspool of misogyny”.“First abuse OBC, then courts, then throw papers at Speaker; abuse journalists now abuse women! Time & again, Congress has abused those who have risen up to the top by strength of their hard work – they called Rashtrapati as Rashtrapatni; they said Draupadi ji has evil mindset; they abused even the mother of PM; they chanted ‘Modi ki Kabr’ khudegi. The words are from BV Srinivas but the soch (thought) is of Rahul Gandhi. Will Priyanka & Sonia ji take action on him? Is this ‘Ladki hoon lad sakti hoon’ or a party of such disgusting misogynists?” he tweeted.Meanwhile, the Youth Congress has reacted strongly to the charges, claiming BJP leaders were sharing a doctored video of he speech made by Srinivas to tarnish his and the party’s image. “It is nothing but a disinformation and fake news campaign initiated by BJP supporters and office bearers,” it said in a statement.
The first session of the newly elected Meghalaya Assembly is set to conclude on Tuesday without a consensus among the non-treasury benches on who will assume the role of the Leader of Opposition.This deadlock is a result of the Congress and the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the two largest Opposition parties, insisting on the position. Both parties, with five legislators each, have written to Speaker Thomas A Sangma to put forward their claims.The recently concluded Assembly elections threw up a fractured mandate but the National People’s Party (NPP) led by Conrad Sangma emerged as the single-largest party with 26 seats in the 60-member House.After a few days of uncertainty, the NPP formed the government by stitching up a coalition with the BJP and several other regional parties, including the United Democratic Party (UDP), which was the second-largest party with 11 seats.Andrew Simons, the commissioner and secretary of the Meghalaya Assembly, said the final decision rests with the Speaker. “Since both sides have claimed, it will be taken up soon,” he said. Simons said that since the two parties had the same numbers, factors such as seniority would be considered by the Speaker before making a final call.The other alternative is for the parties to come to an understanding with each other and make an arrangement. However, both the TMC and the Congress are, for now, refusing to relent.Congress Legislature Party leader Ronnie Lyngdoh said, “At the national level we are not together with them. If they reach out to us, we can approach the high command, but they haven’t.”Meghalaya TMC vice-president James Lyngdoh also put the ball in the court of his party’s high command. “Our president has already written to the Speaker. We will discuss with the party leaders.”The other Opposition party is the newly formed Voice of the People’s Party that has four seats. The regional outfit has said it will not align with either the Congress or the TMC as it wants to be “independent”.
It is a dig that seems to infuriate the BJP like no other. On Sunday, the ruling party hit out at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for saying that his name was “not Savarkar”. Gandhi made the comment at a press conference in New Delhi on Saturday when asked if he would apologise for the remark that got him disqualified as Lok Sabha MP the day before.“My name is not Savarkar. I am a Gandhi. I won’t apologise,” Rahul said when asked about the BJP’s demand for an apology for the remark that a court in Surat has ruled as defamatory. The “my name is not Savarkar” jibe was a reference to the mercy petitions that V D Savarkar, an icon of the Hindu right-wing, wrote to the British government while imprisoned in the Andamans.In a series of tweets, BJP leader and Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur said Rahul could never be Savarkar as the Hindutva ideologue was known for his determination. Thakur wrote, “Dear Shri Gandhi, you can never be SAVARKAR even in your best dreams because being Savarkar requires strong determination, love for Bharat, selflessness and commitment. @RahulGandhi You can never be… ‘SAVARKAR’ (Read in Caps).”Dear Shri Gandhi, you can never be SAVARKAR even in your best dreams because being Savarkar requires strong determination, love for Bharat, selflessness and commitment.@RahulGandhi You can never be…“SAVARKAR”(Read in Caps)— Anurag Thakur (@ianuragthakur) March 26, 2023Taking a dig at Rahul’s visits abroad, Thakur said Savarkar “neither spent six months in a year holidaying abroad nor did he seek intervention from foreign powers”. When Savarkar went to England, he “blew the bugle of war against the British to free Mother India from slavery”, said the minister. Thakur claimed that such was the respect for Savarkar’s patriotism that none other than Bhagat Singh went to Ratnagiri in Maharashtra and arranged for Savarkar’s book India’s First War of Independence to be translated and circulated in Punjab.Thakur claimed that well-known leaders and thinkers at the time were in awe of Savarkar’s patriotism and courage, adding that the Congress in its Kakinada session in 1923 passed a special resolution “in favour of Savarkar”.The Union Minister said the government led by Indira Gandhi, Rahul’s grandmother, released a documentary on Savarkar to acknowledge his “valour, sacrifice, and selfless service to the nation”. Thakur posted the image of a letter, dated May 20, 1980, in which Indira Gandhi wrote, “Savarkar’s daring defence of the British government has its own important place in the annals of our freedom movement.” The letter was written to Pandir Bakhle, the secretary of a trust set up in Savarkar’s memory.Here you go!When Smt. Indira Gandhi Ji was the Prime Minister of India, a documentary on Sh Veer Savarkar Ji was released by Government of India to acknowledge his valour, sacrifice, and selfless service to the nation.5/6https://t.co/o4BBlCN19O— Anurag Thakur (@ianuragthakur) March 26, 2023“Think. In honour of the great personality Veer Savarkar, his grandmother used to do all this,” wrote the Union Minister. “None of the great men of that era would have said wrong things about him. Today, Rahul Gandhi says all these things. He is not insulting Savarkar but insulting his grandmother, Netaji Bose, Bhagat Singh, and even Gandhi ji.”Thakur also posted another image of a postal stamp issued during Indira Gandhi’s tenure as a tribute to Savarkar. “Only a person who does not understand all this can insult Savarkar, from whose books Bhagat Singh made notes in his diary before his execution,” said the minister.At a press conference in Delhi, BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi also criticised Rahul, saying the Congress leader can never “even in his dreams” match the level of “patriotism and bravery that V D Savarkar had shown during India’s freedom struggle”.This is not the first time Rahul Gandhi’s comments on Savarkar have riled the BJP. During the Maharashtra leg of the Bharat Jodo Yatra last November, the Congress leader read from a mercy petition that Savarkar wrote to the colonial government and said that in the letter the Hindutva ideologue called himself an “obedient servant of the British”. The comments drew backlash from the BJP and some in the ruling alliance of the BJP and the Shiv Sena led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said the yatra should not be allowed to proceed.
Congress and other Opposition MPs wore black in protest against the “illegal disqualification” of Rahul Gandhi from the House. The unruly scenes made speaker Om Birla adjourn the proceedings in a few seconds.As soon as the House met Congress MPs – TN Pratapan Hibi Eden, Jothimani S and Ramya Haridas rushed to the well of the house, tore the papers in their hands and hurled them at the Speaker. Some of the MPs were waving black stoles also at the speaker. Birla adjourned the proceedings in a few seconds.The Congress MPs, however, continued the protests inside the house in the well of the house, tore papers and hurled it at the speaker’s chair while one banner was thrown on the chair of the speaker after he left the house.Along with Congress members, MPs belonging to DMK, NCP, Left and BRS were also wearing black today. TMC MPs had their mouth covered by a black band.The MPs were holding placards like Jago ED, ED Modani Bhai Bhai” etcAfter the house proceedings were adjourned the opposition held a brief protest in front of Gandhi statue in which Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge were present.The opposition then marched with shouting slogans to Vijay Chowk.