AAM Aadmi Party (AAP) News

‘Refer to Constitution’: Saxena replies to Kejriwal’s ‘Who is L-G?’ question
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Two days after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal came down heavily on alleged interference in the affairs of the elected AAP government during his address in the Delhi Legislative Assembly, asking “Who is the LG, where did he come from?”, Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena wrote to him, asking him to refer to the Constitution for the answer.In his letter, L-G Saxena termed Kejriwal’s statements against him both in the Delhi Assembly and outside it as “substantively misleading, untrue and derogatory”.Questioning his alleged interference in matters of the Delhi government over a range of issues, Kejriwal had accused Saxena of constitutional overreach during his address to the House before leading a march to Raj Niwas and demanding that the L-G meet him and the 61 other AAP MLAs.Referring to media reports related to his allegations against him, Saxena said some of these did not deserve a reply since they “cater to a very low level of discourse.” He also termed as “posturing” Kejriwal’s allegation that the L-G did not meet him after his march to Raj Niwas.“I came to know through media reports that on Monday…you left the Assembly and were protesting with others outside Raj Niwas, demanding to meet me. Thereafter, I invited you and the Dy. Chief Minister to come and see me. I would have, indeed, loved to have you over and served you lunch as well” Saxena stated.“However, you chose not to come on the pretext of wanting to meet me with all of your MLAs. You would appreciate that, given the short notice and sudden demand on your part, it would not have been possible to at once have a meeting with 70-80 people, nor would have it served any concrete purpose,” he added.Terming it unfortunate, Saxena accused Kejriwal of political posturing by announcing that he had refused to meet him. “I must mention here that I was rather astounded at the fact that even as the city is grappling with several serious developmental issues, you found time to walk for long and stage a protest meant solely for posturing, rather than taking the issue to a logical conclusion by meeting me,” Saxena stated.The L-G said he was glad that the issue of education and teacher training was being raised by the CM and AAP MLAs, following which he took on the AAP government over it. The L-G flagged that average attendance in government schools, which was 70.73% in 2012-2013 “consistently fell year on year” reaching 60.65% in 2019-2020, despite concerted efforts after their closure due to the Covid pandemic between March 2020 and June 2022, the numbers “went up to only 73.74%.““Enrolment in government schools that stood at 16.1 lakh during 2013-2014, consistently came down to 15.1 lakh in 2019-2020. This, despite the fact that population of the city grew and enrolment should have increased proportionately,” L-G Saxena said.He also brought up the issue of no new schools having been built during the last eight years in Delhi despite the Delhi Development Authority allotting 13 plots to the education department since 2015.“In this regard, right after taking over, I personally ensured that six plots were allotted in August 2022 for building schools by GNCTD (Government of NCT of Delhi). Adding classrooms in existing schools and counting toilets as classrooms, do not, by any stretch of imagination, amount to opening new schools, as you would appreciate,” he added.Despite the AAP government’s “claims of unprecedented improvement in government education system in Delhi”, Saxena stated that the National Achievement Survey (NAS) 2021 pegged the performance of about 30% students in Delhi government schools till Class VIII below basic levels and for about 44% students “barely basic”.“Similarly, performance of about 33% students studying in Class X is below basic and for about 30%, it is barely basic. There is rampant math and science phobia among students of Delhi government schools and this results in the fact that only 21,340 out of 2,31,448 students studying in Class XII are in the Science stream,” he stated.The L-G also questioned the AAP government’s claims related to higher enrolment in government schools. “Contrary to claims, the number of students going to private schools has increased in Delhi. While the share of private schools in 2013-2014 was 35%, the same went up to 43% in 2019-2020, and despite migration from private schools to government schools due to the pandemic distress, this number yet hovers around 40%,” Saxena said.He also questioned the need to send teachers for training to Finland. “Irrespective of whether a 5-day trip to Finland will serve any purpose of substantive training to the visitors or would serve as an event to be played up in the media, I did not reject the proposal thereof,” he sought to clarify.“I raised a few queries with respect to the impact assessment and cost benefit analysis of such visits which have been going on for past few years, and asked the department, whether such training could be obtained in a more cost-effective manner in our own Institutions of Excellence, like the IIMs,” L-G Saxena added.Saxena pointed out that recently, he had cleared proposals of sending 55 principals and vice-principals of government schools to Cambridge in 2 batches for 10 days each, with specific training goals.“While being on the subject, I would also like to bring to your attention the plight of 12 colleges of Delhi University that are funded by GNCTD. Their representatives met me and submitted a memorandum detailing their grievances in terms of deliberate stopping of already sanctioned funds, non-payment of salaries and non-sanction of posts,” Saxena said.There was much more in terms of scholarships to minorities and marginalised sections that he wanted to discuss with CM Kejriwal, the L-G stated.“I reiterate, that I write to you, not only as the Lt. Governor of Delhi, but also as a concerned resident of the city. You are indeed a driven person, and I am sure that you will take cognizance of the facts stated above and take remedial measures to engage meaningfully and constructively to rectify the grave shortcomings, for better outcomes,” Saxena added.

‘Refer to Constitution’: Saxena replies to Kejriwal’s ‘Who is L-G?’ question
Let us join hands to protect Mhadei: CM, House agrees
Times of India | 1 week ago | |
Times of India
1 week ago | |

Panaji: After over seven hours of heated discussion over the Mhadei diversion by Karnataka, the opposition and the ruling party members kept aside their political differences to protect Goa’s lifeline, as the state assembly on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution to urge Centre to withdraw the nod given to Karnataka for diversion of water and immediate formation of the Mhadei Water Management Authority.Chief minister Pramod Sawant also announced the setting up of a 12-member panel headed by water resources minister Subhash Shirodkar, including MLAs from all parties, to decide the future course of action. “The committee will also seek inputs from legal and environment experts,” he said.Making a strong appeal to all the members to put up a united front, Sawant said: “Let us make whatever comments we have to make here today itself and from tomorrow we should not make any statements outside the House which will adversely affect Goa. We should all come together from tomorrow.”Putting forth his government’s efforts to save the Mhadei, Sawant said Goa would not be found wanting in either action or deed and would strongly oppose any move to divert the water.“Though we have not asked for an early hearing in the Supreme Court, we are constantly monitoring the case. We have filed an interlocutory application already. We have also written to the central government to form the Mhadei Water Management Authority. We are also objecting to out of basin use,” said Sawant.The issue of increase in salinity if water is diverted is also being pursued with the Jal Shakti ministry.“Water from the Kalasa and the Bhandura (tributaries of the Mhadei) is already being taken. It is a well-established fact. I am not denying it and nobody can deny it. Karnataka had stated in the court earlier that the openings to the canals carrying the water into Karnataka have been shut. And though they have carried out constructions to show shutting of the opening, we have our doubts. Our engineer went there and using deep cameras, a report has been made to show how the openings are deep and water is still flowing below into Karnataka,” said the CM.Sawant accepted the opposition argument that six wildlife sanctuaries, including Karnataka’s Bhimgad, is dependent on the Mhadei’s water and that diversion of water from the river will lead to scarcity for Podoshem, Sanquelim and Assonora water treatment plants of Goa.While the opposition—GFP’s Vijai Sardesai and AAP’s Venzy Veigas—insisted on a time frame for withdrawal of permission given to Karnataka’s revised detailed project report (DPR) for water diversion, Sawant said he would leave it to the House committee to lay the groundwork for it.At the start of the discussion itself, Sawant made it clear that he was converting the notice given by Aleixo Sequeira for a short duration discussion on the Mhadei diversion into a House resolution.“Our resolution raises three points: It objects to out of basin use of the Mhadei’s water, we want the sanction granted to Karnataka’s DPR withdrawn for the Mhadei water diversion and seek immediate formation of the Mhadei Water Management Authority,” he said.But opposition MLAs said a House resolution would be inadequate legally to stop diversion by Karnataka.Sawant said Goa has a strong legal team and legal consultants who have been engaged for years and have deep understanding of the Mhadei dispute.The chief minister also made it clear that any adverse decision by the water management authority would not put any restrictions on Goa for legal recourse.Besides water resources minister Shirodkar, the other members in the committee include BJP’s Michael Lobo, Ganesh Gaonkar, Premendra Shet, and Deviya Rane; Congress’s Carlos Ferreira; MGP’s Jit Arolkar; AAP’s Venzy Veigas; GFP’s Vijai Sardesai; RGP’s Viresh Borkar; and Independents Alexio Reginaldo Lourenco and Chandrakant Shetye.

Let us join hands to protect Mhadei: CM, House agrees
PRTC spent over Rs 68 lakh for AAP’s victory roadshow in Amritsar, shows RTI reply; Govt will pay for oath ceremony, says party
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Punjab has found itself in the midst of a controversy after an RTI reply revealed that the first roadshow the party held after winning the Punjab Assembly elections last year cost the government-owned PEPSU Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) more than Rs 68 lakh. The roadshow was held before Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s oath-taking ceremony.The PRTC sent 454 buses from its 13 depots for the roadshow held by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Mann in Amritsar on March 13, 2022, three days before the latter took oath as Punjab CM and incurred a cost of Rs 68,70,252, information acquired last week by activist Harmilap Grewal under the Right to Information (RTI) Act reveals.Similarly, it sent 213 buses for the oath-taking ceremony at Khatkar Kalan on March 16, 2022, spending Rs 24.72 lakh, as per information from the RTI reply. Total expenditure on both events of PRTC alone crossed Rs 93 lakh. “Initially, when gross misuse of public transportation for party functions was exposed, AAP had announced to pay for the bus service from its own pocket. PRTC has not been paid a penny,” said Grewal. “One becomes a chief minister only after taking the oath and it is totally unconstitutional to spend out of public exchequer even before legally acquiring the chair,” Grewal added.PRTC authorities are tight-lipped over who gave the orders to send the buses. “Such decisions are taken by the government,” the PRTC PRO said, refusing to respond to further queries.When asked if AAP would pay the bills, party spokesman Malwinder Singh Kang said, “As far as the oath-taking taking ceremony is conducted, it was a government function and obviously, the government would pay the bill. I will check on the status of the Amritsar roadshow.”The Punjab governor should take action against the errant officers, Grewal said. “The officers concerned should be made to pay the expenses from their own pockets,” he added.On the day of the Amritsar roadshow, Congress party MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira had tweeted an official letter in which the chief secretary had asked the special chief secretary, revenue and rehabilitation, to immediately take up a case with the finance department to allot Rs 15 lakh to the deputy commissioner (DC) of Amritsar and Rs 2 lakh each to all 23 districts for making adequate arrangements, including transportation for the roadshow.“Now, I have found in an RTI reply that GM, PRTC Ludhiana, had written a letter to Ludhiana DC and demanded payment for the buses sent to Amritsar and Khatkar Kalan. The PRTC depot, Ludhiana, spent Rs 5 lakh for sending buses to the Amritsar roadshow and more than Rs 1.88 lakh for oath-taking ceremony,” Grewal said, alleging that PRTC officials intentionally blocked replies to his RTI queries and he had to file an appeal.

PRTC spent over Rs 68 lakh for AAP’s victory roadshow in Amritsar, shows RTI reply; Govt will pay for oath ceremony, says party
Delhi HC seeks Centre, Delhi govt’s stand on plea against AAP over using public funds to organise Ganesh puja
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

The Delhi High Court Tuesday sought responses from the Centre and Delhi government in a 2021 plea alleging that the AAP-led Delhi government organised and promoted a Ganesh Chaturthi puja on September 10, 2021, in contravention of the Constitution, which declares India a secular country.A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said, “The September 20, 2021 order of this court reveals that the respondents’ counsel were granted time to file replies. Respondents no. 1 and 2 have not filed their replies. They are granted six weeks time to do the needful,” listing the matter for hearing in March. The HC was informed that the Election Commission of India had filed a response, however, no response was received from the Centre and state government. The petitioner, advocate M L Sharma, argued that he was seeking a direction to derecognise AAP as a political party and the removal of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and other ministers from constitutional office due to the “deliberate breach” of the Constitution and the Representation of People Act, in the interest of the general public. In a previous hearing, Sharma had argued that AAP and its ministers had taken an oath that they will remain loyal to the Constitution of India. The state and any person connected to it are not allowed to organise any kind of religious activity, he had contended previously. The HC, on September 20, 2021, issued notices in Sharma’s plea. The plea also seeks the registration of an FIR. It alleges that the government released a “heavy amount” to various television channels to advertise the puja, which was broadcasted live on September 10, 2021. The plea states that religious ceremonies or promotion or funding for religious work or trust in any manner by the state from the treasury attracts sections 408 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) of IPC. The plea seeks that such actions of the state should be declared “illegal, arbitrary and unconstitutional”.In a previous hearing, the Delhi government, represented by senior advocate Rahul Mehra, had said that it was a politically motivated plea asking the HC to dismiss it with costs. “It is a mischievous petition. An attempt is being made through this petition that somehow some kind of communal disharmony should be instigated,” Mehra had contended.Mehra had then submitted that the government had taken the initiative — the live broadcast of Ganesh Chaturthi puja — on account of the Covid pandemic and there was no violation of any law or the Constitution. Delhi was probably the only state which banned the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations on a mass scale to prevent the pandemic’s third wave, Mehra had submitted then. “Various governments across the board… There are Kumbh Mela, Amarnath Yatra, Mansorvar Yatra. It is the solemn duty of the state and the Union that the people who have certain faith, their public health is looked into, and they are given good kind of facilities while these yatras are there. It is a laudable objective,” Mehra had argued.The ECI had previously argued that there is no such power vested in the commission for the deregistration or derecognition of a political party once it is registered, and that derecognition can happen on very limited grounds.

Delhi HC seeks Centre, Delhi govt’s stand on plea against AAP over using public funds to organise Ganesh puja
Isudan: 'Gujarat people know Cong not in picture. So AAP will do well in 2024'
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Isudan Gadhvi formally took over as the new president of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s Gujarat unit at the party headquarters in Ahmedabad Monday.In his first interview after taking charge, Gadhvi, who was the AAP’s chief ministerial candidate in the recent Gujarat Assembly polls in which the party won just 5 of the total 182 seats, speaks to The Indian Express about a range of issues including the AAP’s shortcomings, its future road map and the coming elections.What were the AAP’s shortcomings you noted while campaigning for the Gujarat Assembly polls, especially in your seat Khambhaliya that you lost?The atmosphere was good. But there were one or two drawbacks in our organisation at the booth level, for which we did not get time (to fix). We got people, but there was a problem in execution. Secondly, we have performed really well: Historically, no third front in Gujarat has got five seats and 41 lakhs votes. But we had little time… and people were confused till the end as to whether AAP will be able to form the government or not… And this has been the history of the AAP. Even in Delhi, in the first election, people were not sure, so the AAP government was not formed, it had to form a coalition. But second time, it was one-sided (AAP formed the government with full majority). In Punjab too (a similar thing happened in the second time), although it was predicted in the first election that the party would get 100 seats, which did not happen… Now people in Gujarat are thinking that if they (AAP) are taking these many seats (five), then we could have voted for them.So what you are saying is that people were confused till the last moment in the Gujarat polls, which is why they voted for the BJP for its thumping victory?Yes, in the surveys that we conducted, it came out that AAP and BJP will get 36% and 37% of vote share respectively. But, the 15-20% of the vote share that we were getting went to the BJP at the last moment. Secondly, people did not trust the Congress, so at the last moment, those 15-20% who were confused, they voted for the BJP.Do you see the 2024 Lok Sabha elections as a stepping stone for the 2027 Gujarat Assembly polls? Or is the party focused on the Lok Sabha polls in a bid to emerge at the national level?Every election is a challenge for us. Municipality, taluka, zilla (district) panchayat, municipal corporation elections are coming… For 2024, the new strategy is the organisation that we are forming now – we will form vote samitis and samitis at the booth, village and city levels. When there will be six months left for the Lok Sabha polls, we will appoint in-charge in each of the state’s 26 Lok Sabha constituencies. We will try to look for good candidates, who will be connected to the booth level. And the few seats where we can win, we will focus there. In the municipal corporation elections due in 2025, we will win a majority of them. People now know the Congress is not in the picture anymore. So, I think we will perform well in 2024, (but) our main target is 2027.What is the Gujarat AAP’s target for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls?We will be fielding our candidates in all the 26 parliamentary seats. Our focus will be on contesting the 2024 elections with all our strength – till then (the existing) organisational structure will work fine. However, by 2027 polls, our organisation will be fully-formed. Our target is (to win) 2027.What about the AAP’s candidates in the state polls, who withdrew from the fray at the last moment, such as Abdasa and Surat East candidates?Or the buzz about the five party MLAs defecting to the BJP soon after they were elected?The people who come into politics, come with some ambition. Lekin 2025 se mahaul bannana shuru ho jayega, ab toh 2027 mein AAP ke alawa koi hai hi nahi. Toh koi jane ka sawal hi paida nahi hota hai. (But by 2025, an atmosphere will build up in AAP’s favour. By 2027, there would not be any Opposition other than AAP. So, the question of anyone leaving the party would not arise). Secondly, we have time to build the organisation, to find the candidates… So I feel we will manage it well.Did you come across any other issues while campaigning, apart from your manifesto pledges like free electricity, good education, free medical treatment etc, that your party missed flagging for voters. Could they have been more Gujarat specific?Yes, we are assessing that, we will do it by 2025. We are here to serve the people, so we have to give them facilities. We tell them that this is what we are here to give, if you like, take it, otherwise BJP is there. Hum logon ko dara kar dhamka kar vote lena nahi chahate hain. Nahi chahiye aisi sarkar. Hum sarkar lenge, muddon se lenge. Lekin ye baat sahi hai ki janta ko ye appeal honi chahiye ki hum aapke saath hain, sabke saath hain. Hum aapke hain…Wo appeal zaroor jayegi. (We do not want to garner votes by pressuring or scaring people. We do not want such a government. We will form government on the basis of issues. But yes, people should feel that we are with them. That appeal will go to them).

Isudan: 'Gujarat people know Cong not in picture. So AAP will do well in 2024'
‘L-G humare sar par baithe hain’: Delhi CM Kejriwal continues attack on Saxena
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Tuesday compared Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena to a British viceroy and asked if the people of the country had fought for Independence only to be subjected to dictatorial behaviour.Kejriwal was speaking on the second day of the Delhi Assembly’s Winter Session, a day after an uproar in the House over what the ruling AAP said was interference by Saxena in the government’s functioning. Monday’s session was adjourned within a few minutes following sloganeering from both Aam Aadmi Party and BJP MLAs. After this, AAP legislators, including the chief minister and his deputy Manish Sisodia, decided to protest outside the L-G’s residence.On Tuesday, the Delhi chief minister once again brought up the issue of teachers’ training in Finland as he objected to the Delhi L-G seeking a cost-benefit analysis for the programme.“I went to meet the L-G and I want to share the discussion I had with him. I wish BJP leaders were also here to listen to this. Nothing is permanent in this world. Aaj Delhi mein humari sarkar hai, unke L-G hain, kal agar bhagwan ne chaha to aisa bhi ho sakta hai Centre main humari sarkar ho aur L-G humare ho. (Today, the AAP has the government in Delhi and they (BJP) have the L-G. Tomorrow, if God wills, it is possible that we will have a government in the Centre and our L-G). But I assure you that our L-G will not behave like this and will not stop the work of an elected government,” he said.Speaking about the file about sending Delhi government school teachers to Finland for a training programme and alleging for which Saxena has refused permission, Kejriwal said, “Delhi has 2 crore people and lakhs of children. I consider all these children as mine. All these children are Harshita and Pulkit (his son and daughter). My only objective is to provide a good education to all the children.”On its part, the L-G’s Office has denied it has refused permission. It said Saxena had asked for a detailed cost-benefit assessment of the programme, whether the agency conducting the training is equipped to do so, and if the training can be done in India itself. Kejriwal and Sisodia have hit out at the L-G for ordering a cost-benefit analysis.“Teachers and principals shape the future of the children. But they are being stopped. LG sir is saying that he has rejected but he has advised considering a cost-benefit analysis. He has returned the file twice with objections. When you apply for a driving licence, they will not say no to you, they will object and give you different reasons and will fail you,” Kejriwal said.He also held up a piece of paper and said it had the names of BJP MPs, MLAs, and ministers who studied abroad.Alleging that the L-G is stalling all work being done by an elected government, Kejriwal said, “He does not have any power but he is sitting on our head. Yeh to begani shaadi main Abdullah deewana ho gaya, L-G humare sar par baithe hain… How can the L-G decide how we educate our children? When the Supreme Court clearly says that L-G does not have any authority to take independent decisions and issue orders”.“When I told him about the SC order and judgment… He says it might be the SC’s opinion. I was shocked and told him ‘Sir, this is contempt of court order’… L-G Sir is not my headmaster. Even my teachers have never checked my homework as he does. I am an educated person, elected by the people. When I asked, he said ‘I have been appointed by the President of India and have the power’. He is like the British viceroy,” Kejriwal said.The eight BJP MLAs, meanwhile, came to the Assembly dressed in black, wearing black turbans, to protest against “corruption by the Delhi government”. As the proceedings started, MLAs Ajay Mahawar, Jitendra Mahajan, OP Sharma and Abhay Verma were marshalled for entering the well of the house and were suspended for the entire day. The others boycotted the session.

‘L-G humare sar par baithe hain’: Delhi CM Kejriwal continues attack on Saxena
Delhi govt's 'hypothetical' administrative difficulties 'more imaginary than real': Centre to SC
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

The Centre Tuesday told the Supreme Court the Delhi government’s “hypothetical” administrative difficulties were “more imaginary than real”, and that the AAP was resorting to “protest and theatrics” even though the matter was sub-judice.“It is impossible, constitutionally, for the NCT of Delhi to succeed to get constitutional jurisdiction over an Entry in the Second List merely by showing some hypothetical administrative difficulties which are more imaginary than real,” said Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, reported Bar & Bench.“Protests and theatrics can never take place when the Constitution bench is hearing… Certain things are happening in the capital,” Mehta added.He also stated that the protest happening in Delhi is capable of being noticed everywhere and can become a matter of embarrassment.A five-judge Constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud was hearing a dispute between the Centre and the AAP government in Delhi over control of services in the national capital.Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had on Monday led a protest march to the Lieutenant Governor’s office along with all his cabinet ministers and AAP MLAs to protest against his alleged interferences in the elected government’s functioning.The latest flashpoint between the L-G, and the AAP is the city government’s proposal to send school teachers to Finland, an initiative that is allegedly being stalled by the L-G.“The apex court clearly says that the L-G does not have any independent authority to take decisions and issue directions. Then who is he to stop the file to send teachers to Finland? He is not our headmaster to check our homework. He has to say yes or no to our proposals, ” CM Kejriwal had said during Monday’s protest.

Delhi govt's 'hypothetical' administrative difficulties 'more imaginary than real': Centre to SC
Why it will take more than Bharat Jodo Yatra to revive Congress
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

The Bharat Jodo Yatra will culminate on January 30 in Srinagar, with a flag-hoisting ceremony on the anniversary of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. By then, the Yatra, which began on September 7, 2022, would have traversed the length of the subcontinent from Kanyakumari to the Himalayas. The Yatra has undoubtedly enthused the Congress cadre and infused new life in a party that was deemed finished. More importantly, it has replaced the earlier “Pappu” image of Rahul Gandhi with that of a mature individual and credible political leader. His message of removing hate and introducing love between communities in the nation has made a mark, igniting much debate on social media. Even Rahul Gandhi’s detractors agree that the difficult Yatra has earned him the respect and support of people in areas where it has passed. Attempts by BJP leaders to criticise the Yatra and Rahul Gandhi have not achieved much success.The seminal question is whether the Yatra can bring electoral success for the Congress. While senior Congress leaders have said the aim of the Yatra is not to capture power, there is little doubt that unless this happens, the goal of social harmony would be difficult to achieve. This is because the Congress is the largest opposition party in the country with a footprint in many regions — out of 403 Lok Sabha seats it contested in the 2019 general election, it won 52 seats, came second in 196, and obtained 19.5 per cent of the vote. The Congress is the main opposition party in 12 states — Punjab, Assam, Karnataka, Kerala, Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland. It is in direct contest with the BJP in seven states — Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand, which account for 102 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. Regional parties do not have a significant presence or strength at the national level. Without a rejuvenated and transformed Congress, the Opposition cannot hope to dent the BJP’s fortunes in these states in 2024. The AAP won just one seat in the Lok Sabha in 2019 and was ranked third in most constituencies. The TMC won 22 seats in 2019 compared to 34 in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections; the TRS won nine out of 17 seats compared to 11 in 2014. Opposition parties by not supporting/aligning with the Congress, where it is the major opposition force, will divide the anti-BJP vote.However, it is doubtful whether the Congress is capable of being the fulcrum of Opposition unity against the BJP in 2024. A party in decline since the late 1980s, it has three key problems: First, centralisation of power and decision-making at the top; second, organisational weakness; and third, lack of unity. Despite the election of a non-Gandhi as party president, the high command culture and the presence of the Gandhi family still continues — as a result of which decisions are taken at the top and local leaders are ignored. Elections to the Congress Working Committee have not been held for nearly 25 years, the last being in 1998. Organisationally, the strong federal structure of the party was destroyed by Indira Gandhi in the 1970s through centralisation and personalisation of power, creating a pyramidal decision-making structure. With the abandonment of the principle of representation, Congress committees and party offices were filled by appointment rather than through election. Centralisation of power led to dismemberment of the party at the grass roots.Without a clear line of leadership, factions have emerged that have destroyed the internal unity and coherence of the party. During the immediate post-independence period, factional groups provided the building blocks of the party ensuring a measure of internal democracy. Over the years factionalism has weakened the party leading to a loss of power. Being in office does not help, the party remains divided in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh between contending groups over the chief minister’s post. The G-23 group of senior leaders — who following a series of electoral defeats, demanded organisational reform and an inclusive and collective decision-making system — have further divided the party.The Yatra cannot reform the party. Yet there is an urgent need to do so as the Yatra does have a political thrust evident from the Congress inviting 21 “like-minded” political parties to join the concluding event in Srinagar. With this grand finale, the Congress hopes to make the Yatra a show of strength of the Opposition. The Trinamool Congress, Janata Dal United, Telugu Desam Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Rashtriya Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party and BSP are among those invited; the AAP has not been invited. But the prospects of Opposition unity or opposition parties uniting behind the Congress seem remote.Given the poor organisational condition of the party, opposition parties such as the AAP and TMC do not view the Congress or Rahul Gandhi as capable of providing leadership to an anti-BJP alliance. However, several ambitious contenders have emerged to lead the Opposition — from Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal to K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR). The Bharat Rashtra Samiti rally organised by Telangana Chief Minister KCR in Khammam on January 18 is aimed at creating a non-BJP, non-Congress, national alternative. The BRS rally is likely to be attended by leaders like Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal.Clearly the Bharat Jodo Yatra, although it has created enthusiasm among party cadre and hope among its leaders, despite its good intentions and success, by itself cannot revive the Congress. Against the backdrop of the achievements of the Yatra, the real work needs to begin after January 30. There is an urgent need for the Congress to unite under a strong leader and reinvent itself organisationally to carry the message of the Yatra to the masses if the party is to retrieve lost electoral ground.The writer taught at JNU

Why it will take more than Bharat Jodo Yatra to revive Congress
Opposition unites for January 16 meet, but Revolutionary Goans stays out
Times of India | 2 weeks ago | |
Times of India
2 weeks ago | |

PANAJI: The state presidents of opposition parties –– Congress, AAP, NCP, Goa Forward, TMC and Shiv Sena –– came together on Saturday to declare their whole-hearted support to the public meeting to be held on January 16 under the ‘Save Goa, Save Mhadei’ banner in Sanquelim. Revolutionary Goans (RG) will not join the protest. The politicos said that despite government efforts to prevent the protest by cancelling the permission granted for the earlier venue in Sanquelim, the protest will go ahead. “Permission for the meeting venue was denied at the last minute. This shows the BJP government does not want the meeting to take place in Sanquelim (chief minister Pramod Sawant’s constituency). But this meeting will take place not only for Sanquelim but for people from across Goa,” said GFP president Vijai Sardesai.RG was the only one to not join the opposition in declaring support for the public meeting. Sardesai said that it proves that RGP is BJP’s B-team.“The chief minister himself has admitted that Karnataka has already begun diverting water from the Mhadei. The time has come to stand together against Karnataka. But a B-team has been formed to divert attention by saying they are having a campaign to create awareness about the issue. When water has already been diverted, what is the point of an awareness campaign at this late juncture,” said Sardesai.He said the BJP government at the Centre is trying to muffle opposition voices against Mhadei diversion in the interest of the upcoming elections in Karnataka.“The central government thinks Goans are susegad and that we will not raise our voices even if we are left to thirst for water. But we have raised our voices to stop the merger of Goa with Maharashtra in the past, and we will start this movement again on Opinion Poll day itself,” said Sardesai.Congress state president Amit Patkar and NCP president Jose Philip D’Souza said that if the Goa BJP government stands for the rights of Goan people, they should join the movement to save Mhadei on Monday.AAP’s Amit Palekar alleged that when the Goa CM-led delegation went to meet home minister Amit Shah, the Union minister was dismissive and said there is nothing to worry as Goans are not ones to hold massive protests.

Opposition unites for January 16 meet, but Revolutionary Goans stays out
AAP MP Sanjay Singh, former SP MLA granted bail in 2001 case
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP Sanjay Singh, former Samajwadi Party MLA Anoop Sanda and four others were convicted by an MP/MLA court in Sultanpur district on Wednesday in connection with a 21-year-old case related to holding a demonstration over power and water supply in 2001. While Singh is currently a member of the Rajya Sabha for the AAP, Sanda is a two-time MLA from Sultanpur and had unsuccessfully contested the 2022 Assembly polls from the same seat. He is currently an SP national spokesperson.The court convicted the six persons to three months in jail along with a fine of Rs 1,500. The six were granted bail by the court on Wednesday after their conviction and can file an appeal in a higher court.Special Prosecution Officer Vaibhav Pandey, who argued on behalf of the state, said, “The court convicted the six accused to three months in jail along with a fine. They were convicted under IPC sections 143 (unlawful assembly) and 341 (wrongful restraint). They were granted bail by the same court on Wednesday after their conviction.”The case dates back to June 18, 2001 when the accused had held a protest against apparent power and water supply issues back then, said Pandey. “They had held the demonstration at an important road of the city. Despite attempts by the police to disperse the crowd, the accused had refused to call off the protest resulting in traffic problems for the people,” he said.A case was lodged by the then SHO of Kotwali police station Ashok Singh.“They were booked under the IPC sections they have been convicted in and under IPC sections 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation) and under the Police Act. However, the court didn’t convict them under these sections, and convicted them only under IPC sections 143 and 341,” said Pandey.He said the four others convicted were local leaders Subhash Chaudhary, Kamal Srivastava, Santosh Kumar and Vijay Kumar. “ They can file an appeal in a higher court,” he added.

AAP MP Sanjay Singh, former SP MLA granted bail in 2001 case
2 IAS officers, 2 corruption cases but bureaucracy holds Punjab govt to ransom only for one
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

Registration of a case under Prevention of Corruption Act against IAS officer Neelima is second such case against IAS officers in Punjab after Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government took over the reins of the state in March this year.While Neelima has only been booked, the Vigilance Bureau had booked and arrested IAS officer Sanjay Popli in June last year, that too without seeking sanction from the Chief Minister under section 17 of Prevention of Corruption Act.However, no IAS officer protested at that time even as he was arrested for allegedly demanding a commission of 1 per cent for clearing a tender for laying sewerage pipes in Nawanshahr. Four days after the arrest, the Vigilance Bureau recovered over 12 kg gold, 3 kg silver, four iPhones, one Samsung fold-phone and two Samsung smartwatches from the storeroom of his residence in Chandigarh’s Sector 11. In Neelima’s case, however, there have been protests by the IAS fraternity and Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has already directed Chief Secretary Vijay Kumar Janjua to check whether the Vigilance Bureau took prior sanction of the state government before booking her in a case related to alleged transfer of an industrial plot to a real estate firm. Janjua is expected to submit the report on Wednesday.Meanwhile, the Vigilance officials are preparing their defence in the case. It is learnt that the Vigilance officials have quoted a few Supreme Court judgments to prove that they did not need sanction under Section 17 for acting in an alleged corruption case.Meanwhile, the IAS association is pooling in resources by collecting money to hire a lawyer and move court seeking quashing of FIR against Neelima. “Since, the executive cannot do it, we will need to go to the court,” said an IAS officer.While the government remained busy in handling protests by PCS officers against the arrest of Narinder Singh Dhaliwal, who was posted as Regional Transport Authority (RTA) in Ludhiana, on allegations of corruption, and Vigilance and Chief Secretary’s office remained busy preparing their respective reports, questions are being raised as to how the IAS and PCS officers were allowed to hold the state on ransom.While protests against the bureaucracy were organised at some places in the state, an AAP leader Satnam Daun burnt the effigy of bureaucrats outside Vigilance office in Mohali and demanded from the CM that action be taken against corrupt officers.Former Deputy Speaker Bir Devinder Singh exhorted Mann to be “very firm in his fight against corruption and must strongly resist the emergence of a ‘neo-model’ of ‘bureaucratic gangsterism’ seeking the free right to indulge in corruption with unrestricted immunity.”In a statement, he asked, “What the hell is going on in Punjab, the entire magistracy of the state is on maliciously wilful leave for a week to defend an allegedly corrupt colleague, arrested by the state vigilance. The higher bureaucracy has also ganged up, in the defense of one of their colleagues, named in the FIR (not yet arrested) that pertains to a multi crore scam of alienating an Industrial plot in Mohali.”Singh quoted a judgment from the apex court, “There is a clear judgement of the Supreme court that the public servant can face prosecution without prior sanction of the appropriate authorities as all their acts in the purported discharge of the official duties cannot be brought under the protective umbrella of section 197 of the criminal Procedure Code.”A few days ago, Punjab Vigilance Bureau had registered a case against former minister Sunder Sham Arora, Neelima and 10 other government officials for allegedly transferring an industrial plot to a realtor firm and allowing it to establish a township by cutting plots in violation of norms.The Vigilance Bureau had registered a case under various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and relevant provisions of the IPC at VB police station, Mohali, against various persons including three directors of the realtor firm, the bureau had said.In another development, work at revenue and administrative offices in the state remained affected as Punjab Civil Officers remained on mass casual leave on the second consecutive day.The PCS officers on Monday had proceeded on five-day mass leave in protest against the “illegal” arrest of PCS officer Narinder Singh Dhaliwal in Ludhiana by the state vigilance bureau.The talks between PCS officers’ association and the state government officials were held on Tuesday to resolve their issues, sources said.

2 IAS officers, 2 corruption cases but bureaucracy holds Punjab govt to ransom only for one
Another minister out, Bhagwant Mann govt buffeted by crises
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

THE AAM Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Punjab may have dealt with a thorn in the flesh by getting Fauja Singh Sarari to resign from Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s Cabinet, but scores of other issues still pose a challenge for the fledgling 10-month-old government.It is facing Opposition wrath on several law and order incidents, multiple agitations by farmers, and now separate protests by IAS and PCS officers over registration of cases against IAS officer Neelima and PCS officer N S Dhaliwal. While PCS officers went on mass casual leave and were joined by revenue officials and power engineers, the IAS cadre have also threatened similar action if the FIR against Neelima is not quashed. As a number of PCS officers are in charge of crucial government posts in headquarters and districts, their mass casual leave had left the administration crippled.The CM, after meeting delegations of IAS and PCS officers Monday, directed the Chief Secretary to file a report on how the case was registered without taking approval under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act. He has also asked the vigilance department to ensure proper procedure is followed.Recently, the government also faced a protest by various Sikh organisations under the banner of Kaumi Insaaf Morcha, in Chandigarh, over demands such as release of bandi Sikhs (those considered political prisoners) and justice in incidents of sacrilege.The farmers have been protesting over issues such as a private brewery at Zira, and the acquisition of land for the Delhi-Katra highway. With many holding dharna at toll plazas, the National Highways Authority of India has warned that if the government is unable to handle this, it would affect future PPP projects in Punjab. Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari also wrote to the state a few days ago, seeking redressal of issues in order to expedite highway construction.Even on the Bargari sacrilege cases, while both the previous Akali Dal-BJP and Congress governments struggled to handle the same, the AAP’s own legislator, Kunwar Vijay Pratap, is turning out to be an embarrassment for the party, raising the issue repeatedly at various fora.On October 14, the anniversary of the sacrilege, Pratap addressed a gathering and even displayed “proof” of a report he had prepared as a member of the SIT probing the cases. He has been seeking time from the government to speak on the issue, as well as the subsequent case of firing on protestors at Behbal Kalan.On the law and order front, the government has been on the defensive over the murder of kabaddi player Sandeep Singh Nangal Ambian on a kabaddi ground on March 14 last year, soon after the AAP government was elected with a big majority. On May 9, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at Punjab Police’s key installation, its intelligence headquarters. A fortnight later, six shooters killed popular Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala, a day after the government had withdrawn the singer’s security, and publicised the withdrawal. Later, Shiv Sena leader Sudhir Suri was gunned down in Amritsar.Then, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann was embarrassed after he announced in Gujarat that wanted gangster Goldy Brar had been arrested in the US and would be extradited to India soon. Brar himself appeared on a TV channel to dismiss the claims.

Another minister out, Bhagwant Mann govt buffeted by crises
Birender Singh to hold show of strength at Jind on March 23
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

BJP leader and former Union minister Birender Singh, who had sat on a dharna in support of the protesting farmers against three farm laws in 2020, Sunday announced his plans to hold a rally at Jind on March 23.The rally is seen as a show of strength by the grandson of Sir Chhotu Ram amid changing political equations in Haryana, particularly in Hisar parliamentary constituency. Birender Singh’s son Brijendra Singh had won the 2019 Lok Sabha election from Hisar by defeating JJP’s Dushyant Chautala and Kuldeep Bishnoi’s son Bhavya Bishnoi. After the October 2019’s Assembly polls, the JJP had joined hands with the BJP for a coalition government which had made Dushyant the deputy chief minister. A few months ago, Kuldeep had also joined the BJP after quitting the Congress. Later, the BJP fielded his son Bhavya Bishnoi for Adampur bypoll who won the poll. These developments have changed the political scenario in Hisar as it would be interesting to see whom the BJP fields for Hisar parliamentary poll in 2024.On Sunday, Birender’s associates gathered in Hisar at a function organised by a platform known as “Birender Singh Ke Sathi”. Addressing the gathering, Birender said that his comrades have estimated that as many as one lakh people will attend the Jind rally. Every year, March 23 is observed as Shaheed Diwas in the country to pay homage to legendary freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev.Birender said:“This will not be a rally of any party. It won’t be against Congress, BJP, JJP or Communists but for consideration (of some issues). It’s 75 years when this country got freedom but the problems which were before Independence still persist. It may be poverty, unemployment and corruption. The politicians in their speeches say ‘corruption can be reduced but can’t end’. Such a statement makes happy those keen to indulge in corruption. I urge you to listen to those who say that corruption can be uprooted. And it will happen as our society is changing.”Referring to the thumping majority of the AAP in the Punjab Assembly elections in 2022, Birender said: “If AAP thinks it won 92 seats, that’s not the case. It was because of a lack of trust in both parties (Congress and SAD) which were ruling the state for 35 years. In that election, corruption was the biggest issue. The people will lose their confidence in a political party and administration which doesn’t have the strength to uproot corruption.”The former Union minister said: “I don’t say I am a big honest person. Sometimes my mind also used to intend to make ‘something’ thinking I may not get this opportunity again. But one thing always stopped me that if I turned corrupt, I won’t be defamed, but the name of Deenbandhu Chhotu Ram would be defamed.” Birender is the son of Sir Chhotu Ram’s daughter.The BJP leader also said now there is a trend in Haryana villages too where youths are moving abroad like youths of Punjab. “This is compulsion of these youths,” said Birender referring to the shrinking landholdings of their families. “When youth looks for employment, he doesn’t get it. The unemployment has increased.” The senior leader suggested an arrangement of passports, visas and guarantee of the state for those who are keen to go abroad for higher education and jobs. He also pushed for higher salaries to those doctors who prefer to go to village hospitals and dispensaries.

Birender Singh to hold show of strength at Jind on March 23
Shark Tank India 2: Namita Thapar tells Anupam Mittal ‘Aap humein pasand aa gaye’ and asks him to fix wedding date, netizens call it ‘saas-bahu drama’
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Shark Tank India 2 judges or ‘sharks,’ Namita Thapar and Anupam Mittal, engaged in a fun banter during a recent Shark Tank India episode. After entrepreneurs pitched their concept, which included a drink, Anupam took the drinks forward and served it to the rest of the sharks. Namita couldn’t help teasing him and pretended it was an arranged marriage set-up. For the unversed, Anupam Mittal is the CEO of the matrimonial site, Shaadi.com.In the promo shared by the Shark Tank India page, Anupam served the rest of the sharks drinks. An amused Namita said, “Hum aapko dekhne aaye hain, aur aap humein pasand aa gaye. Aap shaadi ki tareek jaldi pakki kardijiye ( We came to see you and we approve of you. You can zero in on a wedding date now).” Hearing this, Anupam reacted and said ‘Wah wah…’ while the rest of the sharks chortled.  Shark Tank India shared the video with the caption, “Shark Namita Thapar absolutely adores Shark Anupam Mittal, just like we do!”However, the clip was met with mixed reactions from fans. While many demanded the return of Ashneer Grover, others called the new season a ‘saas-bahu drama’. One user wrote, “Kya ho gaya yrr is show ko fairytale type bann chuka h drama, emotional scene.” Another added, “This season Shark Tank looks more Drama than business dealing.” “We want Ashneer back. We want to enjoy Aman and Ashneer chemistry,” another added.   A post shared by Shark Tank India (@sharktank.india)Anupam Mittal had earlier penned a note, addressing the criticism regarding the show. He wrote, “Just 2 episodes & the chatter around @sharktankindia has just blown me away. Loads of love & criticism too – ‘if u r never criticised u may not be doing much that makes a difference’ – so keep the bouquets AND the brickbats coming, mazaa aa raha hai.”  Meanwhile Ashneer Grover has made it clear that he would not be watching the second season of the show, and even mentioned that he had unfollowed all the other sharks.

Shark Tank India 2: Namita Thapar tells Anupam Mittal ‘Aap humein pasand aa gaye’ and asks him to fix wedding date, netizens call it ‘saas-bahu drama’
Gajraj Rao on 'lathi' scene with Irrfan in Talvar, what the actor taught him
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Versatile actor Gajraj Rao has been seen in a variety of roles over the years. He has been on screen, what I call the ‘beloved papa/uncle figure,’ a good husband, and even a terrorist. In the 2015 Meghna Gulzar directorial Talvar, Rao essayed the part of a corrupt cop resigned to compromise at work in order to please the higher ups. In the film, which is based on the controversial Arushi Talwar murder case, Gajraj’s Dhaniram manages to botch up the high-profile investigation and faces lashings (literally) for it by Irrfan’s character Ashwin, who’s the Joint Director of Central Department of Investigation.In the brutal but immensely well-acted sequence, Gajraj is first seen blabbering, then begging Irrfan’s character to not humiliate him as he holds on to his pants (again, literally). Gulzar manages to make us rally behind both Dhaniram and Ashwin. Ashwin is angry about his sub-ordinate’s complete incompetence, meanwhile Dhaniram does what he is asked to do by his bosses since his livelihood depends upon it. So, who do you side with?Speaking about the scene, Gajraj Rao told indianexpress.com about sharing screen space with the late Irrfan Khan: “Wo pehla din tha mera shoot ka, film city mein set laga hua tha hamara. Main Irrfan se usse pehle mila hua tha, par unke sath kabhi act nahi kiya tha. Maine unka ek natak dekha hua tha jab wo NSD mein the, and unnka sara kaam dekha hua tha, Salaam Bombay se lekar jab tak wo the. Main hamesha sochta tha ‘arey yaar kya kamaal hai ye aadmi’ aur apna signature unhone ek create kar liya tha (It was the first day of shoot, and despite meeting Irrfan on a few occasions, I had never had the chance to act with him. I had seen his plays of course when he was in National School of Drama, and had followed his work closely, right from Salaam Bombay up until his last work. I always used to think he was incredible, he had managed to create his own unique voice with his features).”Irrfan then asked Gajraj Rao about what he knew of his character Dhaniram’s background, or whether he had anything on his mind? Rao was taken aback, he had not thought of doing any homework.“Hum shot lene wale the, tab tak Irrfan kehte hai, chalo discuss karte hai. Aur main apne instinct pe bohot zyada depend karta hun, uss tarah se maine socha hua nahi tha. Ye mere liye yaad rakhne wali baat hai, aur hamesha yaad bhi rahegi aur hamesha follow bhi karta hoon uske baad ki aap jab act kar rahe hai to bas aap hi important nahi hai, baaki jo actors hai unki journey kya rahi hai film mein, uski knowledge hona bhi zaruri hai. Phir Irrfan ne mujhse pucha ki ‘Dhaniram ka background kya hoga, Gajraj?’ Maine realise kiya ki kiss tarah le jaa rahe hai wo scene ko. We discussed for one hour, and when we had begun, it looked very filmy, ki aisi thodi hota hai ki ek CDI officer aaya hai aur ek police wale ko aise thodi peet dega? (We were about to take the first shot, and that was when Irrfan turned to ask me what would the background of my character be. I realised then that you should not only be aware of your own scene, but have some basic knowledge regarding your co-actors’ parts too, and their journey within the movie. I understood where he was trying to take the scene. When we had begun the take, it looked very filmy, after all a CDI officer just cannot come and actually beat a cop in this manner),” Gajraj told us.During the course of conversation, Gajraj Rao referred to Irrfan with a term that we have been associating him with since years now — extraordinary. He even credited the celebrated artiste for helping him shed light on the surface-level dubiousness of Dhaniram.The actor said, “So you understand from that scene that Dhaniram is not a villain, and aisa nikal kar nahi aana chahiye ki wo ek joker hai (It shouldn’t come out like he is a joker). The system has made him the way he is. The part where he is holding on to his belt and searching for his laathi was improvised. Actor ka kaam hota hai khaane ko interesting banane ke liye dhaniya daalna thoda. Ye X factor wale log hote hai yaar, jaise Irrfan ho ya Mr Amitabh Bachchan hai, ya phir Manoj Bajpayee. Toh jab aap aise actors ke sath collaborate karte hai to apne aap ko aur zyada blessed feel karte hai (It is the job of an actor to make the dish interesting, add some dressing to it. Artistes like Irrfan, Amitabh Bachchan and Manoj Bajpayee possess an X factor which is hard to duplicate. You just feel blessed when you get to collaborate with them). What Irrfan taught me during Talvar unknowingly really affected my career; he was an extraordinary actor, goes without saying.”We agree, sir. We agree.Talvar is available to stream on Disney Plus Hotstar. 

Gajraj Rao on 'lathi' scene with Irrfan in Talvar, what the actor taught him
Outgoing Punjab minister Fauja Singh Sarari a retired cop who vowed to reform the system
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

The second minister asked to resign from the Bhagwant Singh Mann government in 10 months, Fauja Singh Sarari, 62, retired as a sub-inspector after 36 years in the police force, and joined the ruling Aam Aam Party (AAP) months later, before going on to win from Guruharsahai in Ferozepur by an impressive margin.In July last year, Sarari was inducted into the Cabinet and was given portfolios covering freedom fighters, defence services welfare, food processing and horticulture.While Sarari had tried to brazen past the controversy over the extortion allegations against him arising from a leaked audio tape, there were enough indications that the Mann government was unhappy with him. The Chief Minister had assured action on the matter at their last appearance together, and not been seen with him in public since.The delay in action had grown more and more untenable as in May last year, the Mann government had asked Vijay Singla to resign as health minister over another clip, though that was not even in the public domain.With Sarari not seen much in his constituency since the tape came out, several there said Saturday they were not surprised at the resignation, only that it had come four months after the said audio tape surfaced.A father of three, who declared assets of Rs 1.29 crore in his poll declaration, Sarari has maintained his innocence, claiming that the audio was doctored. However, the 1 min-40 sec audio was also hard to live down for the 62-year-old as his OSD, Tarsem Singh, was believed to have put it out.Singh, who reportedly bore a grudge against the minister for not helping a relative in a police case, has been running a social media campaign against Sarari since the controversy broke.In the audio, a voice said to be Sarari says commission should be extorted from contractors while they were loading foodgrains for transportation, and that part of it should go to the district food and civil supplies controller.One factor that might have tied the government’s hands is that Sarari belongs to the Scheduled Caste Rai Sikh community, with influence in at least eight-nine constituencies of Ferozepur and Fazilka districts. In Guruharsahai, from where Sarari won in the 2022 Assembly elections, nearly 70,000 of the 1.72 lakh voters are estimated to be Rai Sikhs.It’s quite a fall for Sarari, whose poll pitch was that having worked in the police for more than three decades, he knew the loopholes of the system and wanted to fix them. He promised there would be no favouritism under his watch, with strict instructions to officials to take decisions as per merit, and said he wanted to improve literacy levels in his seat.Having reposed overwhelming faith in the AAP in the elections, voters of Guruharsahai said they have been watching with dismay what transpired with Sarari. They also repeated a claim that can’t be good news for the ruling party: that “like all other AAP MLAs, Sarari too had become inaccessible to people after winning the election”.

Outgoing Punjab minister Fauja Singh Sarari a retired cop who vowed to reform the system
Day after MCD House violence, councillors to take to streets ‘in defence of democracy’
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

A day after the councillors of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to blows inside the House of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) during the Delhi mayoral polls, they will take to the streets on Saturday decrying an assault on the Constitution.Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councillors are scheduled to stage a sit-in at 11 am outside Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena’s office accusing him of an assault on the Constitution through the decisions taken against existing civic procedural rules and regulations. The AAP had cried foul over Saxena’s decision to nominate 10 BJP members as aldermen.Soon after, a contingent including BJP MPs, MLAs, and councillors will stage a sit-in protest near Raj Ghat against the “assault on the Constitution” underlined by the “hooliganism” of AAP councillors in the House.The first sitting of the reunified MCD on Friday had witnessed unprecedented police deployment and deferment of its internal polls following violence over who would be sworn in first.There was a ruckus between AAP and BJP councillors as soon as the proceedings related to the scheduled mayoral polls commenced. The scuffle over the order of oath-taking soon blew up, with councillors of each party accusing the other ones of physical confrontations. The House was adjourned till further notification.The polls for the prestigious positions in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi were being held a month after the AAP ended BJP’s 15-year rule in the civic body.

Day after MCD House violence, councillors to take to streets ‘in defence of democracy’
From 1997 to today: How they blow the House down
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Ahead of voting for the Delhi mayor elections Friday, ruckus broke out between Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) councillors over who would take oath first, with the AAP blaming the BJP for ensuring a departure from procedural norms.The scuffle started after presiding officer Satya Sharma asked BJP-appointed Alderman Manoj Kumar to take oath first.With the AAP starting to protest, the Leader of the House Mukesh Goel said it was for the first time in the history of 25 years of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) polls that the winning party was being sidelined and the runner-up BJP was being asked to take oath first.As per convention, AAP sources contended, the senior-most councillor — in this case, Adarsh Nagar councillor Mukesh Kumar Goel — should have been nominated the presiding officer of the meeting to elect the mayor. However, party sources speaking to The Indian Express alleged that Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena decided on BJP’s Gautampuri ward councillor Satya Sharma and sent the file directly to the chief secretary for notification.From time to time, the Delhi Assembly has seen such issues crop up. Across the country too, legislators have engaged in minor and major brawls over the years in their respective Houses.On August 25 2022, legislators of both ruling and Opposition sides came to blows on the staircase of Maharashtra legislature on Wednesday. While NCP MLC Amol Mitkari alleged MLA Mahesh Shinde attacked him, chief whip of Eknath Shinde faction and Mahad MLA Bharat Gogawale added fat to fire by claiming they were the ones to have manhandled Opposition members.The West Bengal Assembly witnessed bedlam on March 29 that year marked by exchange of fistcuffs between TMC and BJP MLAs over the Birbhum killings – when a killing of a minor TMC politician in the Birbhum district in the state led to the killing of wight others.During the trust vote of the K Palaniswami-led AIADMK government in February 2017, pandemonium broke out inside the House and some opposition members even climbed atop the Speaker’s podium and sat on the chair, while the opposition DMK members were physically evicted. Then LoP and DMK chief M K Stalin and Speaker P Dhanapal said their shirts were torn in the melee.The Rajya Sabha monsoon session in August 2021 witnessed ugly scenes as some MPs tore papers, jostled with the marshals and attempted to go near the presiding officer’s chair and some marshals were allegedly attacked, even as the House was adjourned sine die two days ahead of its scheduled end. Twelve opposition MPs were subsequently suspended in connection with the incident.In the Uttar Pradesh Assembly in May 2017, governor Ram Naik was pelted with paper balls by the Opposition during an address. The House witnessed slogan-shouting and trooping into the well by opposition members, even as an SP member blew a whistle through the 35-minute address to ensure that the governor’s voice was drowned out.In June 2017, now BJP leader, then Rebel AAP leader Kapil Mishra was allegedly manhandled when a scuffle broke out between him and some party MLAs in Vidhan Sabha. A few minutes into the assembly session, called to discuss GST, Mishra got up and demanded that his allegations of corruption against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and minister Satyendar Jain be discussed. When he was not allowed to talk, he unfurled a banner that read, “A special session of the assembly should be called at the Ramlila Maidan to discuss corruption, havala dealings, black money, foreign trips, and benefitting relatives by Kejriwal and minister Satyendar Jain.”Speaker Ram Niwas Goel ordered marshalls to take Mishra out but some AAP MLAs started pushing and shoving him. The marshalls then freed him and dragged him out.Mishra alleged he was kicked and punched by MLAs.The Kerala Assembly in March 2015 witnessed unprecedented scenes with then opposition Left Democratic Front members trying to prevent Finance Minister K M Mani, who was facing charges in a bar bribery scam, from presenting the state budget. The speaker’s chair was flung from the podium while electronic equipment like computers, keyboards and mikes on the desk of the presiding officer were also allegedly damaged.Back in 2014, at the time of the passage of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act that paved the way for creation of Telangana state, Parliament saw acrimonious scenes such as pushing and jostling between MPs.In 1997, a brawl erupted in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly when a Bahujan Samaj Party MLA allegedly threw a small loudspeaker at the Speaker’s chair in the course of a protest against the BJP government led by Karan Singh. Microphone stands, paperweights, glass shards and furniture were used by members to attack each other, leaving many grievously injured.(With inputs from PTI)

From 1997 to today: How they blow the House down
Gujarat AAP reshuffle: Changes show tribal push, 2024 intent, leaders on test
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

The overhaul by the Aam Aadmi Party of its unit in Gujarat is being seen as part of measures by the AAP to prepare for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, with the appointment of the six working presidents and replacement of Gopal Italia with Isudan Gadhvi as the state chief part of the plan.The changes come a month after the Gujarat Assembly elections, in which the party won just five seats, which was way below expected from the noise made by the AAP but commendable as the party secured enough votes to qualify as a national party.AAP insiders said one of the clear messages of the reshuffle is that Gadhvi now has complete free hand in running the party organisation in the state. He had been picked as the chief minister face by the party for the recent Assembly elections without him having held any organisational experience, which the party seems to be seeking to correct now.Of the six working presidents for six zones in the state — Alpesh Kathiria for Surat, Chaitar Vasava for South Gujarat, Ramesh Patel for North Gujarat, Jagmal Vala for Saurashtra, Jewel Vasra for Central Gujarat, and Kailash Gadhvi for Kutch – the most interesting choice is tribal leader Vasava.With tribals reposing their faith in the AAP in the Assembly elections, the party is clearly trying to keep them in its corner.A party leader who fought the recent Assembly elections said: “The changes are an attempt to rectify the mistakes made during the polls. The party was claiming to form the government, but could win only five seats. The overhaul of the organisation has been taken up after analysing the election performance.”This leader also claimed that one reason for moving Italia out were complaints against him “regarding his behaviour and arrogance”. However, another AAP party leader who too was a contestant in the recent polls, argues against this, saying: “It could be true that Italia faced complaints, but there is no denying that he created the party organisation in the state. And the results were not bad for the party at all. We won five seats and got national party status after securing 12.9 per cent of the vote share.”Pointing out that Italia had been now appointed Maharashtra co-in charge, the leader said this was a big responsibility. “It shows that the party acknowledges his qualities.”Similarly, Isudhan also finds himself vested with great responsibility as the new Gujarat chief. “With freedom comes a lot of responsibility. Also, it is a clear message to party workers that they have to deal with Isudan. But this means that if the party does not get the desired results, Isudan would be held accountable,” a party leader said.Vasava, the AAP MLA from Dediapada constituency of Narmada district and its new in-charge of South Gujarat, is set to emerge as the party’s tribal face. “The appointment is a clear indication that the party is very serious about its focus on the tribal vote bank in Gujarat. Of the total votes the AAP got in Gujarat, more than 25% were tribal votes… With Vasava as working president of South Gujarat zone, our party is eyeing two Lok Sabha seats dominated by tribals, Bharuch and Bardoli,” a party leader said.The other consideration in selecting the working presidents was their record, said a party source. While caste equations weighed in, what was of prime consideration in the appointments was “merit”, said a leader.

Gujarat AAP reshuffle: Changes show tribal push, 2024 intent, leaders on test
AAP gen secy: ‘9 states go to polls this year, seeing where our chances high’
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Sandeep Pathak is one of the most influential leaders in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hierarchy, second perhaps only to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal when it comes to its plans to expand nationally. Elected to the Rajya Sabha last April, Pathak was appointed the party’s National General Secretary (Organisation) last month. It was a recognition of his role in the AAP’s victory in Punjab last year and its entry into Gujarat – factors which have earned it the status of a national party.Pathak, a former IIT professor, talks to The Indian Express about the AAP’s objectives this year, looks back at the Gujarat Assembly poll results, and the party’s plans for the all-important Lok Sabha elections in 2024.Post Gujarat, which are the states that are keeping AAP’s expansion manager busy?From the election point of view, nine states are going to the polls this year. We are trying to analyse where the chances of the party are high and carrying out surveys. It is just a matter of time regarding how we proceed. We are in the process of zeroing in on the states and will be in a position to say with clarity in a month.Since taking over you have been holding marathon meetings. You must have identified some states out of the nine by now.Right now, I can say that there is no doubt that we will contest in the poll-bound states and we will fight hard. But as of now, I cannot say whether that will be in one state or two states or more.The AAP in Gujarat could not build on its performance in the 2021 Surat municipal elections. Was that disappointing?I would not say that. For instance, in Kamrej, our candidate received over one lakh votes, compared to a few thousand votes when he had contested as an Independent. It is quite a leap. But yes if you aim high, you can say Surat did not deliver seats. But I believe in terms of vote share we have done quite well. Surat is quite complex and the BJP dominated. Achieving what we did is quite a success. The corporation polls, state polls, and general elections are completely different.Did the Congress make your task easier this time by not fighting aggressively?Our party is quite young and professional. Irrespective of whether the Congress fights or not, we fight elections hard. Even if the Congress had fought hard, they had nothing to gain. People do not see the Congress as a hope anymore. They have some good local candidates who also do not get support from the top leadership. Still, they won because of their work. Whenever there is a third force, the Congress collapses.Currently, the AAP does not have a single Lok Sabha MP. In 2024, apart from Delhi and Punjab, where do you see your MPs coming from?I totally agree that the number of elected representatives makes an organisation credible or prominent on the national stage. Delhi, Punjab, Gujarat, and Goa overall look good for us. In addition to that we have a mayor in MP, and more than 2,000 elected representatives across states. If you have local-level representatives, it helps you in organisation building. In MP, the Rewa belt and the Gwalior belt look promising for us; so do some belts in Rajasthan, adjoining Gujarat, and parts of Chhattisgarh.The AAP contested nearly every seat in the 2014 polls. Is that a mistake you want to avoid?If you look in terms of numbers, yes we won very few. But we won seats from Punjab. Had we not contested, we would have never known that Punjab was ready to vote for alternative politics. At that point, the party had just come out from the movement. It was not a mistake, I would say it was quite an audacious attempt. I think it was a good idea. There are so many states where our volunteer base is very strong. It all consolidated during that election even though we did not do much beyond that. You will see that in Odisha, Tripura, and Mizoram. Now we have learnt the art of fighting elections. We will fight strategically and to win. We will not fight for the sake of fighting but to maximise the numbers.As you enter more and more states, you will be expected to take a position on issues related to caste and religion. Will we see that from the AAP?Wherever it is required, we will. Sometimes it is a political trap. You have to be wise and smart enough not to get trapped. If you are fighting polls to win and someone frames a trap for you, you should not be naive to walk into that. Our agenda is very simple: we will stick to education, health, and good governance. But wherever there are critical issues, we will take positions.Do you see a situation where Muslims start deserting you due to a sense of betrayal? We saw the AAP losing some Muslim-dominated seats in Delhi in the MCD polls.I do not think so. We do not focus our policies on a particular segment. Good governance is for all. The civic polls in Delhi were very localised and local dynamics influenced them. Our focus is very clear – that we are neither focusing on anyone nor deserting anyone. That’s the novelty of this politics. The old-school politics will try to trap you in the same old tactics and if you get trapped you are done and dusted. Our agenda is refreshing. Kejriwal’s guarantees are for all. Promises on education, power, and governance may sound simple, but it is redefining politics.You say the BJP has not delivered on governance despite having a majority. Do you feel the party wins by pandering to majoritarian sentiments?They have been playing on sentiments and all these things. But they have been coming back with a greater majority because of a lack of fight from the Opposition, the Congress. They did not fight in Gujarat, why blame the BJP? I would not blame the BJP. They fought the way they fight. You have to counter it. The growth of the BJP can also partly be attributed to the failure of the Congress. As a political party, you have to go to the people with clarity of thought of ideas. You cannot blame people for your own failure to convince them.Arvind Kejriwal says honesty, die-hard patriotism, and humanity are the pillars of the AAP’s ideology. But some say they sound more like personal virtues rather than an ideology. Do you believe in secularism?Of course, this country believes in secularism, which is enshrined in the Constitution. No one can deny the Constitution. Ideology is a fundamental belief you have. I do not think complicated ideologies help. You deliver what you have been voted for. People do not vote for ideology but for what you have delivered. We will keep that simple. As a new political party, a new age party it is your governance you are voted for.Are you getting enough funding from corporates?No, we are not. So we reach out to people. So far that has worked. We have survived so far and will continue to do so. We will not compromise for the sake of big corporate support. People like us were primarily drawn by the idea of honesty in politics and governance. If people fall in love with you, everything falls into place.How do you explain the changes in your Gujarat unit announced on Wednesday? Why has Gopal Italia been removed from the post of state president?The party has grown manifold. It is a routine reshuffle based on volunteers’ aspirations. Italia has been brought to national politics and given a bigger role.

AAP gen secy: ‘9 states go to polls this year, seeing where our chances high’
Opposition MLAs boycott all-party meeting with CM
Times of India | 4 weeks ago | |
Times of India
4 weeks ago | |

Panaji: The opposition boycotted the all-party meeting convened by chief minister Pramod Sawant to discuss the Centre’s move to approve Karnataka’s plans to divert water from the Mhadei river basin. The seven opposition MLAs justified their decision to stay away, saying that the state BJP government is conniving with the Centre and Karnataka to permit diversion of water.The opposition also demanded that chief minister Pramod Sawant resign within a week if he cannot convince Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw the approval granted to Karnataka’s detailed project report (DPR).“We tell the chief minister that once you lead a delegation to the Prime Minister, within a week make sure that you ask him to withdraw the DPR failing which you should resign on moral grounds,” said Congress legislature party president Yuri Alemao. “Go meet the Prime Minister and explain to him the importance of this issue.”Three Congress MLAs, two AAP MLAs and the lone MLAs from GFP and RG came together for the meeting and said that they did not want to be seen as accomplices of the BJP government.AAP MLA Venzy Viegas said that with BJP heading the governments at the Centre, in Goa and in Karnataka, there is no need to bring in the opposition to resolve the issue. “What is the use of so-called ‘double engine’ if the BJP government in Goa has to fight the BJP government at the Centre in court? Do they want the opposition to join them because they cannot get the Centre to withdraw the DPR?” said Viegas.Alemao said the Goa government is hand in glove with the Karnataka government to enable the neighbouring state to divert water from the Kalasa-Bandura project.Though the opposition boycotted the meeting, RG MLA Viresh Borkar metthe chief minister after the meeting and conveyed the opposition’s demands.

Opposition MLAs boycott all-party meeting with CM
Protests against Delhi police; one of the accused a BJP member
The Indian Express | 4 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
4 weeks ago | |

One of the accused in the Kanjhawala hit and run case, in which a 20-year-old woman was killed as she was dragged for around four km after getting stuck in the undercarriage of a car Sunday morning, is affiliated to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).The woman was killed after her scooter was hit by the car, and she was dragged by the vehicle from Sultanpuri to Kanjhawala early Sunday. The police have said the five men, who were in the car, have been arrested and booked for rash driving and causing death by negligence.According to Delhi BJP officials, Manoj Mittal, one of the accused, is a party functionary from the Sultanpuri area. “He is a small-time party functionary. He was appointed as co-convener of our local data entry cell four days ago,” said a senior BJP leader. “He is very low in the party hierarchy and is only part of a sub-division in the Mongolpuri area,” the leader added.Posters of Mittal, describing him as the co-convener of the Mongolpuri ward, have been pasted in several places in the Sultanpuri area, including outside the Sultanpuri Police Station. Local residents demanding action against the accused tore several of these posters on Monday morning.The police said Mittal, 27, was a ration dealer in P Block, Sultanpuri.Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson, Saurabh Bharadwaj, alleged the accused were booked under lighter IPC sections (304 A — Causing death by negligence) because of their affiliation with the BJP.“There’s a hoarding outside the police station with the name of Manoj Mittal, who is an accused in the case. He is locked up in the same police station. The Delhi Police and L-G have not dared to say anything yet about how he is a BJP member. Inke mandal ka sah-sanyojak hai. I challenge Vinai Saxena to make public the call details of the accused. The accused was in constant touch with the police and BJP netas. Three PCR vans passed by the vehicle when it was moving with the body,” Bharadwaj said.“There have been efforts to cover this up right from the start… We don’t have any hope that the L-G will do anything because this is a matter of the BJP. This is a matter of great shame… Woh log Bharatiya Janata Party ke netaon ko bachane ki koshish kar rahe hain aur L-G saheb bhi chahte hain ki Bharatiya Janata Party ke netaon ko bachaya jaye (They are trying to save the leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the L-G also wants that they are saved),” he said.The BJP hit back and accused the AAP of politicising the incident.“The police have taken action. Did the police know he was a functionary when the incident took place? The language being used by AAP’s Saurabh Bharadwaj does not befit a legislator. He is talking like a roadside goon… This is a very serious incident and the accused should be tried by a fast-track court and hanged,” said Delhi BJP spokesperson Harish Khurana.A Delhi court Monday remanded the five accused arrested for causing the woman’s death in police custody for three days. A detailed order from the court is awaited.(With PTI inputs)

Protests against Delhi police; one of the accused a BJP member
Nine state stops on road to Lok Sabha 2024Premium Story
The Indian Express | 4 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
4 weeks ago | |

With a mix of fear and hope, India came out of the long shadow of Covid in 2022 and life and politics — the latter more turbulent and fractious than at any time in recent history — started to return to normal. 2022 saw ideological divisions worsen, social and communal cleavages deepen, and the political chasm between the BJP and the opposition widen.The BJP maintained its electoral dominance, winning five of the seven state elections including Uttar Pradesh, but the defeat in Himachal Pradesh at the end of the year came as a reality check. Prime Minister Narendra Modi continued to occupy the political centrestage, and his popularity, at least electorally, remained more or less intact.The Congress finally addressed its leadership question by choosing Mallikarjun Kharge. Former president Rahul Gandhi’s ambitious march from Kanyakumari to Kashmir got him significant mileage but his party’s electoral woes continued. The Himachal victory brought hope, but it was decimated in Punjab and Gujarat.Fleet-footed parties like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Trinamool Congress (TMC) are posing a challenge to the grand old party in newer territories. The AAP emphatically declared its arrival in 2022, knocking down the Congress in Punjab and registering its presence in Goa and Gujarat.The bitterness in politics, both in Parliament and outside, worsened. Conversations in social media and elsewhere took on clearer communal overtones. In litigation around the Gyanvapi mosque-Kashi Vishwanath Temple dispute, in the gruesome beheading in Udaipur and the grisly murder of Shraddha Walkar, and in the nonsensical controversy over a Shah Rukh Khan-Deepika Padukone song, the communal cauldron was kept simmering.The government sought to hardsell India’s G20 presidency even as the economic recovery remained tentative with the Russia-Ukraine war pushing up food and energy prices. To address the jobs crisis, it rolled out the Agnipath scheme despite massive street protests, it clashed with the higher judiciary, and it tried to turn the Chinese aggression at the LAC into a political attack on the opposition.The political calendar of 2023 is packed with high-stakes state elections. Political events of 2023 are important because they have the potential to shape the debate and narrative for the Lok Sabha battle of 2024.The semi-final clash2023, in all likelihood, will shape the political script of 2024.The BJP and Congress will be in election mode throughout the year. From Tripura, Meghalaya, and Nagaland in February-March, Karnataka in May, and Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, and Telangana in November-December, they will clash in state elections around the country — the outcomes of which will give a sense of the way the political wind is blowing.The ruling party won Gujarat, UP, Uttarakhand, Goa, and Manipur in 2022, but it will not rest on its laurels. The nine states that will go to polls next year account for 116 Lok Sabha seats. Some of them have voted differently in the previous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. In 2018, the BJP lost in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, but decimated the Congress in Lok Sabha elections a year later.The ruling party is not in great shape in Karnataka; the situation of the Congress is no different in Rajasthan. Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh could spring surprises. In Telangana, the BJP will use its full might and organisational firepower to try to dislodge K Chandrashekar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) — now rechristened Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) — and take a second South Indian state.It will also be a crucial year for the TMC, which is keen to extend its political presence outside West Bengal. The AAP’s massive success in Punjab and its small but significant openings in Goa (2 seats) and Gujarat (5 seats) would have made the TMC both anxious and hopeful. Mamata Banerjee’s party is working hard to make inroads in Tripura and Meghalaya.What next for BJP and GovtThe BJP believes that Modi’s personal popularity and connect with voters remain largely intact. While caste, community, and regional equations play a key role in state elections and campaigns are often centered around local issues, the ruling party has always banked on Modi’s carefully crafted charisma and appeal. This strategy will be put to test again in 2023.Every decision and policy announcement of the Modi government next year will be viewed and analysed from the point of view of the Lok Sabha election. The first glimpse of the government’s political strategy could come in the Union Budget, the last full budget before the 2024 elections. The recovery has been slow, inflation has soared, and the global economic situation remains uncertain.Will the government resort to a slew of big-bang populist promises and measures? How will it strike a balance among fiscal prudence, economic growth, and electoral imperatives?Another key question: Will the Modi cabinet don a new look next year? The timing and scale of the reshuffle — if it happens — will be interesting.Much of the government’s attention will be on the G20 summit in September. It has managed to create a hype around India’s presidency, and the build-up to the summit is key to its plan to position the event as an occasion for national rejoicing, and to use it to proclaim India’s growing stature under Modi.Will Assembly elections be held in Jammu and Kashmir in the summer? The government will be keen to hold transparent elections in J&K ahead of the summit to send out a message to the world.The second half of the year will see the build-up to the inauguration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. The trust overseeing the construction has signalled that celebrations for opening the mandir will start in December, in time for the Lok Sabha election.Congress: Revive or perishThis year saw the Congress unveil two experiments that broke from its recent history. The Gandhis made way for a person outside the first family to become party president, and Rahul Gandhi embarked on his arduous Yatra with the hope of turning around both his party’s fortunes and his own image.After a four-year electoral drought, the Congress tasted success in a state election (Himachal) but it was humiliated in Punjab and Gujarat. The impact of the Yatra, if any, and the effect of the separation of powers will be visible next year. Rahul’s walkathon has helped dilute the perception that he is a non-serious leader. But it is too early to rush to predictions that have been made — and proven wrong — earlier.Kharge has shown signs of emerging as a potent speaker who could take on the BJP. It is to be seen whether he can bring at least some opposition parties together in a credible coalition.Of the election-bound states next year, two are ruled by the Congress. The party will have to win some and retain some if it is to pose a credible challenge to the Modi juggernaut in 2024. It fancies its chances in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, and believes it is on a stronger wicket in Chhattisgarh. However, it also has a recent history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.While the G23, which functioned as a pressure group within the party, has lost its relevance, the big organisational question is whether Kharge and the leadership would agree to hold elections to the Working Committee at the AICC plenary in Raipur in February. The biggest challenge for the Congress — and the opposition as a whole — will be to navigate the politics of polarisation which will likely get worse in the election year.AAP, regional forces, Opp unity2022 was a defining year for AAP — it became the third party to be in power in more than one state, and it’ll become the ninth national party. The big question is whether Arvind Kejriwal will try his brand of ideology-agnostic politics in states going to polls next year.Kejriwal has to maintain the tempo if he has to emerge as a challenger to the BJP in 2024. And he has competition. The TMC and BRS have national ambitions, and Nitish Kumar has declared that the 2025 Bihar elections will be fought under Tejashwi Yadav’s leadership, suggesting that he senses an opportunity for himself in national politics. It is significant that almost all non-Congress, non-BJP Prime Ministers have come from the Janata family.What is Kejriwal’s next big idea? Many in the opposition believe his brand of politics more or less mirrors that of the BJP. And that makes him persona non grata for many parties. As the AAP, TMC, and BRS eye national roles, the casualty will be opposition unity.Is a pan Indian anti-BJP electoral coalition possible? Many parties prefer state-level alliances, though some are pushing for a non-BJP, non-Congress coalition — a sort of third front. Posturing and discussions in that direction will continue in the opposition space.Government-judiciary conflictThe last months of this year saw the government and the Supreme Court enter into confrontation mode once again. After remaining silent for seven years, the government has started to express unhappiness over the scuttling of the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act by the apex court in 2015.The Supreme Court has pushed back against the government’s criticism of the collegium system. There is a tussle over names being recommended by the Supreme Court collegium for appointment as judges, with the government delaying appointments.The opposition feels the government is keeping the threat of bringing back the NJAC alive to get the judiciary to fall in line. The tussle could worsen next year, as the court hears petitions and delivers judgments on matters with major political implications. Among them: appointment of members of the Election Commission, challenges to demonetisation and constitutional changes in J&K, electoral bonds, the Citizenship Amendment Act.Also Read in Gujarati: Click Here

Nine state stops on road to Lok Sabha 2024Premium Story