Goa Congress News

The Numbers Game | BJP, Congress: As go the votes, so go the notes
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

As per the annual reports of political parties released by the Election Commission (EC) Tuesday, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has shown total receipts of Rs 1,917.12 crore and expenditure of Rs 854.46 crore in Financial Year 2021-’22. It received contributions through electoral bonds to the tune of Rs 1,033.7 crore.The Congress in its annual audit report for Financial Year 2021-22 has shown its expenditure at Rs 400.41 crore and receipts of Rs 541.27 crore. It has shown grants, donations and contributions to the tune of Rs 347.99 crore.The 2019 to 2020 financial year, which saw the previous Lok Sabha polls, saw the highest income and spending by parties over the last five years. In this period, the BJP’s income touched Rs 3,623.28 crore, as per the Election Commission reports. That year, it declared its expenditure as Rs 1,651.02 crore. The Congress also saw its income go up to Rs 682.2 crore, while its expenditure was Rs 998.15 crore.Analysis of data over the last five years shows that there has been a fluctuation in the incomes and expenditures of the two parties. Besides the poll year, the BJP’s income in the year 2017-’18 was relatively high at Rs 1027.3 crore. The following financial year, 2018-’2019, it was the lowest at Rs 241 crore.A look at how the two parties income and expenditure fared in the previous years:BJP Income over the yearsCongress income over the years

The Numbers Game | BJP, Congress: As go the votes, so go the notes
All eyes on BJP as party is yet to decide on candidate for Kasba bypoll
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

With more than a month to go for the Kasba Assembly bypoll in Maharashtra, all eyes are on the BJP, which is yet to announce its candidate. The bypoll was necessitated due to the demise of sitting BJP legislator Mukta Tilak. While a few local BJP leaders have demanded that the party field a member of the Tilak family to enable an unopposed election as a tribute to Mukta Tilak, a former Pune mayor, other aspirants are waiting in the wings.After Tilak succumbed to cancer last month, BJP leader Ujjwal Keskar publicly made a statement urging the party to consider her husband Shailesh or son Kunal as their candidate for the bypoll scheduled on February 27.“The Kasba bypoll should be unopposed as a tribute to Mukta Tilak and the party should support a member of the Tilak family. Thus, a request has been made to BJP leaders to provide a ticket to a Tilak family member,” said Keskar.According to BJP sources, while the party is yet to take a decision, the Tilak family is not averse to contesting the election if a family member gets a party ticket.However, as the Tilak family members lack political experience, this has raised hopes among other aspirants, including Ganesh Bidkar, Hemant Rasane and Dheeraj Ghate. The name of Medha Kulkarni, former BJP legislator from Kothrud Assembly seat, is also making the rounds. She was asked to refrain from contesting elections to make way for then state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil to contest from the Kothrud seat, which was considered to safe seat for BJP. Kulkarni had registered her protest but was later pacified and made vice-president of the national unit of the BJP women’s wing.From the Opposition, Congress leader Arvind Shinde, the city unit chief who lost to Mukta Tilak in 2019, said he has already conveyed to the party that the local unit was ready to contest the seat. The Congress also has another aspirant, Ravindra Dhangekar, who contested the seat as a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) candidate in 2014 and lost to Girish Bapat.Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Rupali Patil Thombare, who recently switched sides from MNS, has also expressed her wish to contest the Kasba bypoll if her party permits. Thombare had pointed out that the BJP has been fielding candidates in bypolls for seats that were vacated due to the demise of other politicians. However, she was pulled up for going public with her wish to contest.Local Shiv Sena (UBT) leaders have also conveyed their readiness to contest the Kasba bypoll.The Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance is likely to come up with a strategy for the bypoll elections. They are presently contesting state Legislative Council seats as an alliance.

All eyes on BJP as party is yet to decide on candidate for Kasba bypoll
Bharat Jodo Yatra: A wayward yatra and Kashmir
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

The ill-conceived “Bharat Jodo Yatra” led by Rahul Gandhi cannot redeem the Congress party’s missed opportunity in Kashmir. Beginning from the dawn of independence, for over six decades to follow, the Congress leadership had an opportunity which it squandered through a series of self-righteous retrogressive experiments, starting from what history records as the infamous “Nehruvian” blunder.Now that the course correction has been effectively accomplished by Prime Minister Narendra Modi by abrogating Article 370, exercising zero tolerance against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, and mainstreaming Jammu and Kashmir not only physically but even in the hearts and minds, the Congress has once again sought to rekindle the inglorious past in a vain bid to revive Rahul Gandhi’s extinct political career.As Rahul Gandhi’s “Bharat jodo” passes through Jammu and Kashmir, it is essential to set the record straight by recalling the serial blunders by successive Congress-led governments in J&K since 1947. The cumulative effect of these acts of omission and commission was that it created a ground for separatism, terrorism, nepotism and corruption, while severely curtailing economic development.If only Nehru had allowed his home minister, Sardar Patel, to handle J&K in the same manner as Patel was handling the other princely states of India, the history of the Indian subcontinent would have been different and Pak-occupied Jammu Kashmir (PoJK) would have been with India today.The nightmare of the Congress’s misguided approach began with the introduction of Article 370, which sowed the early seeds of separatism soon after independence, at a time when all the other princely states of India were seeking closer integration. The subsequent 1954 order issued by the Centre provided numerous exceptions to the Indian Constitution as applicable to J&K and this virtually “institutionalised” separatism.If Article 370 institutionalised separatism, then Article 35A institutionalised “discrimination” against certain sections of society including the daughters of J&K. For 70 long years after independence, till Prime Minister Modi arrived, the Balmikis and the Pakistani refugees were denied their basic rights of citizenship and voting. Deliberate denial of certain rights including the right to reservation for Scheduled Tribes was another opportunistic tactic of the Congress leadership motivated by vote bank consideration.Unlike in the rest of the country, Congress governments did not allow Lok Sabha elections in J&K till 1967 and later refused to set up local bodies. District Development Councils were set up only after the government headed by PM Modi took over and so also the 73rd & 74th Amendments of Panchayati Raj Act were introduced.Lack of jurisdiction for central laws, like Prevention of Corruption Act, led to corruption and misgovernance in J&K. Non-implementation of provisions like Dowry Act, Child Marriage Act, POCSO, etc. led to social oppression. All this could get corrected only after Modi took over as the prime minister.I had once said in Parliament that history will one day answer the question as to whether on Kashmir, Nehru or Mookerjee was right. Today, history has delivered its judgement. Nehru missed the opportunity to bring about full integration of J&K with the rest of India. Successive Congress governments used every subsequent opportunity to promote their opportunistic dynastic politics.The Bharat Jodo Yatra can hardly redeem the Congress’s missed opportunity in Kashmir because the directionless Yatra is in itself yet another addition to the party’s long list of misdoings in Kashmir.The writer is Union Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences

Bharat Jodo Yatra: A wayward yatra and Kashmir
Decision 2023: After massive gains last time, task cut out for BJP in coming Northeast polls
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

The coming elections in the Northeastern states of Tripura, Nagaland, and Meghalaya will see the BJP fighting to keep hold of the gains it made in the region in 2018. While the BJP is in power in Tripura, it is a part of the ruling coalitions with the National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) in Nagaland and with the National People’s Party (NPP) in Meghalaya.The term of the three assemblies, which have 60 members each, is set to end in March. Tripura will vote on February 16 and Meghalaya and Nagaland on February 27. Votes will be counted on March 2.A look at how the previous elections panned out and what is at stake now:The Nationalist Democratic People’s Party (NDPP) and the BJP contested the elections together. While the BJP won an unprecedented 12 seats, the NDPP’s Neiphiu Rio became the Chief Minister.This year, the state will again see an election in the shadow of the long-awaited final settlement to the Naga political question. It was in hope of this that all parties here joined hands in 2021 to form the UDA.The Naga People’s Front (NPF), which once ruled the state, has announced that it will be contesting the election alone and against the NDPP-BJP coalition. Like in 2018, both parties have announced a pre-poll alliance, with the BJP set to contest 20 seats and the NDPP the remaining 40.NPF – 26 (38.78%)NDPP – 17 (25.30%)BJP – 12 (15.31%)Independents – 1 (4.28%)JD(U) –1 (4.49%)There are fissures between the BJP and the National People’s Party (NPP) led by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma. In the 2018 election, Sangma’s party was backed by the BJP and the regional parties but contested 53 of the 60 seats on its own. The impression that the BJP is anti-Christian has been hard to shrug off, with misgivings of the community further strengthened after the surfacing of a letter by the Assam Police Special Branch seeking information from local police stations in BJP-ruled Assam on religious conversions and the number of churches in the state.The most vocal Opposition party against the BJP in the state is the Trinamool Congress (TMC), a new entrant in Meghalaya. In November 2021, 12 of 17 sitting Congress MLAs, led by former Chief Minister and six-time MLA Mukul Sangma, switched over to it. Mukul Sangma, a popular leader, can help the party, especially in his home turf of Garo Hills, which sends as many as 24 MLAs to the 60-member Assembly.BJP – 2 (9.63%)Congress – 21 (28.50%)Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) – 2 (5.35%)NPP – 19 (20.6%)United Democratic Party – 6 (11.61%)Khun Hyniewtrap National Awakening Movement – 1 (0.9%)The BJP came to power in the state for the first time in 2018, ending a 25-year reign of the Left Front. On May 14, 2022, in an abrupt change, the BJP dropped Biplab Deb and brought in the relatively low-key Manik Saha as CM. The Congress and CPI(M) are trying to put up a fight together, and there is increasing talk of an alliance between the two, while the tribal TIPRA Motha party, formed in 2021, may take away tribal votes of BJP’s ally IPFT. TIPRA Motha may end up being a decisive factor in the elections.BJP – 35 (43.59%)CPI(M) – 16 (42.22%)IPFT – 8 (7.38%)

Decision 2023: After massive gains last time, task cut out for BJP in coming Northeast polls
Never suggested renaming TN as Tamizhagam: Guv clarifies
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi Wednesday issued a clarification over his ‘Tamizhagam’ remark, which had added to the simmering tension between him and the State Government.The tension between Ravi and State Government has been brewing for some time. The latest came earlier this month after the governor had walked out of the Assembly in a huff after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin disapproved his deviation from the approved text of the governor’s address to the House. Stalin had also moved a resolution to take on record only the transcript of the speech distributed among the members of the Assembly.Over the issue of using the word ‘Tamilzhagam’, the Tamil Nadu governor said Wednesday, “In the historical-cultural context, I referred to the word ‘Tamizhagam’ as a more appropriate expression”.His remark had come during an event at Raj Bhavan on January 4 to felicitate the volunteers of Kashi-Tamil Sangamam when Ravi had referred to the word ‘Tamilzhagam’, saying there was no ‘Tamil Nadu’ in those days. Kashi-Tamil Sangamam is the recently-concluded month-long festival celebrating the age-old cultural connection of Tamil people with Kashi.On Wednesday, the governor noted an interpretation or interference that it was a suggestion to change the name of Tamil Nadu is “erroneous and far-fetched”. “Without understanding the basis of my speech, arguments that the Governor is against the word ‘Tamil Nadu’ have become a topic of discussion. Hence, I am giving this clarification to put an end to it,” he added.Ravi has been at loggerheads with the Tamil Nadu government over his remarks and other subsequent incidents. The incidents include the Pongal invitation sent by Raj Bhavan wherein he was referred to as Tamizhaga Aalunar or the Governor of Tamizhagam instead of Tamil Nadu Aalunar or the Governor of Tamil Nadu. The invitation also had the Centre’s emblem rather than the state government’s.Political parties, including Viduthalai Siruthaigal Katchi, the Left and Congress, have been condemning the actions of the governor in the past few days. The Tamil Nadu Congress Committee Wednesday announced it will stage a protest against Ravi Thursday near the Chennai Collector’s office, saying he is acting against the Constitution.

Never suggested renaming TN as Tamizhagam: Guv clarifies
'Azad Kashmir' paper row: Centre seeks response from West Bengal govt
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

The Union Ministry of Education has sought a report from the West Bengal government over asking students to identify ‘Azad Kashmir’ on India’s map in a question in a test paper for the class X examination of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE) for the 2022-2023 session.Education Ministry sources said that the explanation was sought on Wednesday after the issue triggered a controversy in West Bengal, where the BJP accused the Trinamool Congress government in the state of being “pro-separatist”.“The ministry has taken a serious view of the matter. For now, it has sought a factual report outlining the circumstances that lead to the lapse along with an Action Taken Report from the West Bengal education department,” said the source.While such interventions by the Centre on state board exams, which come under the purview of the state governments, are rare, in 2022, the Education Ministry had sought a response from the Rajasthan government over the issue of Congress party featuring in six questions of the class XII Political Science exam paper of the state board of secondary education.

'Azad Kashmir' paper row: Centre seeks response from West Bengal govt
  • Question on ‘Azad Kashmir’ on map stirs row
  • The Indian Express

    A question in a test paper for the class-10 examination (also Madhyamik) of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE) for the 2022-2023 session asking the students to identify ‘Azad Kashmir’ on India’s map has stoked a controversy, with the Union Education Ministry asking the state government to probe the matter.Also, taking a strong exception to the development, the BJP accused the Trinammol Congress government in the state of being “pro-separatist”.In the test paper, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) has allegedly been referred to as “Azad Kashmir”. A screenshot of page 132 of the history test paper is being circulated on social media.The WBBSE releases a compilation of test papers every year ahead of the board examination. The test papers generally containing Class 10 pre-board questions framed by different schools affiliated to the board. The questionon page 132 of the test paper is of Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Vidyamandir, Malda.Union Minister of State for Education Subhash Sarkar asked the Bengal Education Minister to probe the matter. “There is a subtle anti-nationalist tone to it. All this will encourage the cause of separatist elements. We need to know who is behind it. Action should be taken against the guilty. It could well be a result of the state government’s policy of appeasement,” he said.State Education Minister Bratya Basu assured “strong action” will be taken against those at fault”. WBBSE president Ramanuj Gangopadhyay said, “Since it came to our notice, we are trying to correct it and find out what happened. We will talk to people who framed the question and those who edited the paper. Action will be taken after that.”BJP MP and party’s national vice-president Dilip Ghosh wrote on social media, “The Mamata government is a supporter of separatists. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir has been asked to be identified as Azad Kashmir. This state government is not only supporting militants, but also trying to create anti-India mentality among young students.”Congress leader Pradeep Bhattacharya said that “such questions should be avoided”.TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said, “It is not possible to comment without seeing whether it is written to condemn, to oppose or to make people understand a situation. But we do not accept the such a thing.”

Bhupinder Hooda urges Haryana govt to hike support price of sugarcane, holds talks with farmers
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Former Haryana Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda Wednesday demanded an increase in the support price of sugarcane in the state without further delay. The demand of the farmers agitating for a hike in the State Advised Price (SAP) of sugarcane is completely justified, Hooda said after a meeting with a delegation of farmers, who have been on a warpath for quite some time.During the meeting, Hooda told the farmers that the Congress party stands with them. “The demand of the sugarcane farmers was also raised by the party in the Assembly. The sugarcane season is coming to an end, but till now the government has not raised the rate by a single penny,” he said.Citing statistics, Hooda said the increase in the rate of sugarcane during the eight-and-a-quarter years of BJP, and BJP-JJP government is insufficient, more so when seen in the context of increasing input prices. “The Congress government in the state had increased the SAP of sugarcane from Rs 117 to Rs 310 per quintal. During the nine-and-a-half years of Congress tenure, there was a 165% increase in the rate of sugarcane, but the BJP increased only 17% in eight-and-a-half years. The Congress used to give an increase every year, which this government did in eight years,” he said. “The surprising part is that this year the government did not increase the rate by a single penny. Because of these excesses of the government, the farmers have to agitate on the streets again and again,” he stated.Hooda has also supported the ‘sarpanches’ (village heads) agitating against e-tendering. “The government is destroying the democratic system by taking away the right of the elected sarpanches to get the development work done in the village. E-tendering system is a means of depriving the village of development and centralization of corruption,” he alleged.“No one accepts the government’s statement that e-tendering will reduce corruption. Corruption is at its peak in municipal corporations, municipalities, B&R, mining etc and all government departments. The BJP and JJP government should advise sarpanches only after it reforms itself as the government is itself immersed in corruption from head to toe,” he added.

Bhupinder Hooda urges Haryana govt to hike support price of sugarcane, holds talks with farmers
Karnataka Congress leader Laxmi Hebbalkar: ‘Rs 2,000 promise will gain confidence of women, their family… One woman is not a single vote, but equivalent to five’
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

As part of its “second guarantee” ahead of the Karnataka Assembly elections, the Congress unveiled the ‘Gruha Lakshmi Scheme’ Monday, promising Rs 2,000 per month to each woman head of a family. As the Congress hails it as a game changer to get women into the party fold, MLA and former chief of the Karnataka Congress’s women’s wing, Laxmi Hebbalkar, explains the party’s reasoning and why it expects the scheme to work:What is the Congress’s objective behind the promise of Rs 2,000 per woman head of a household?HEBBALKAR: This assurance is part of our election manifesto. Our promise is in response to growing inflation, which is driving an increase in prices of all essential goods. With this scheme, we want to especially strengthen rural women. At a time when prices of gas cylinders, oil and other goods are rising, we want to provide women some relief. If we give them a subsidy for LPG, they will get only that. Giving them money is better as some large families require two gas cylinders per month and some can make do with just one.Just giving subsidies is a sort of injustice to large families. But with the money, they can decide whether they want to buy gas or other essential items. This is the intention… Every woman head of a family, irrespective of its economic situation, is eligible. For instance, if my mother wants Rs 2,000, she can claim it. We have also promised 200 units of free electricity for everyone.Are you expecting electoral dividends, with more women voting for the Congress?HEBBALKAR: This is election time. If I deny and say that this was not done with elections in mind, it would not be fair. Of course, we have announced this popular programme aimed at women keeping the coming Assembly elections in mind. This is like Anna Bhagya (a scheme offering grains at a very low price to all families, launched by then Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah in 2013).Yes, this money can be used for women’s benefit. She can purchase her medicines or whatever she requires with the amount.Do you think such measures can help overcome caste-based politics and force parties to keep gender issues in mind?HEBBALKAR: I can only say that this will help the party. We will gain the confidence of women, we will get the support of her family. We think that one woman is not a single vote, but is equivalent to five votes. She can influence her husband, son, in-laws.You talk of empowering women, is the Congress also thinking in terms of increasing their representation in the Legislature?HEBBALKAR: For many years, the party has strived for upliftment of women. Even today (January 16), Siddaramaiah spoke about the women’s reservation Bill (at a rally attended by AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi). During UPA-II, (Congress leader) Sonia Gandhi tabled the Bill to ensure reservation for women in the Lok Sabha. This was not passed due to opposition by some parties. But now, we are seriously considering providing more and more opportunities to women.However, we all know that winning is a criteria (in elections). And me, Roopakala M (Kolar Gold Fields MLA), Anjali Nimbalkar (Khanapur) and Sowmya Reddy (Jayanagar) won from four constituencies where the Congress had rarely won. We have proved that women can win in constituencies where the party had lost hope. We are giving our own example to the party high command and trying to convince them to give tickets to women in such constituencies. We have assured the party that we will fight and come back with a victory. This time we hope that due to the influence of Priyanka Gandhi, Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar, more tickets will be given to women.You represent a constituency in the Kittur Karnataka region (formerly Mumbai Karnataka). The Congress faced challenges here in the 2018 elections and performed below par. What are your plans for this election?HEBBALKAR: Whichever party, be it the Congress or BJP, wins more seats in the Kittur Karnataka region, forms the government. This time, unlike 2018, the scenario is very different (for the Congress). People of this region are fed up with price rise, corruption and other issues. They see Siddaramaiah, other Congress leaders and the party as capable of offering better governance, as was the case in the 2013 Congress government.Also, there is no internal strife among Congress leaders in the region. Compared to 2018, there are no more internal fights. This will benefit us.Since you represent the Panchamasali community, how will their reservation demand have a bearing on the coming elections?HEBBALKAR: I have to be very direct about this. The current government has to announce 2A reservation for Panchamasalis. Not only that, they have to reveal the procedure by which they will implement it. Only then can the BJP hope to make any gains from it.(The Panchamasali Lingayats have been agitating for nearly two years for 15% quota under OBC 2A category. Partly to meet this demand, the state government recently announced 2D category for the Lingayat community, along with 2C for Vokkaligas, with the promise of 6% of the 10% EWS quota. The Panchamasalis have rejected the same.)

Karnataka Congress leader Laxmi Hebbalkar: ‘Rs 2,000 promise will gain confidence of women, their family… One woman is not a single vote, but equivalent to five’
  • K'taka Cong leader Laxmi Hebbalkar: 'Rs 2K promise will gain confidence of women'
  • The Indian Express

    As part of its “second guarantee” ahead of the Karnataka Assembly elections, the Congress unveiled the ‘Gruha Lakshmi Scheme’ Monday, promising Rs 2,000 per month to each woman head of a family. As the Congress hails it as a game changer to get women into the party fold, MLA and former chief of the Karnataka Congress’s women’s wing, Laxmi Hebbalkar, explains the party’s reasoning and why it expects the scheme to work:What is the Congress’s objective behind the promise of Rs 2,000 per woman head of a household?HEBBALKAR: This assurance is part of our election manifesto. Our promise is in response to growing inflation, which is driving an increase in prices of all essential goods. With this scheme, we want to especially strengthen rural women. At a time when prices of gas cylinders, oil and other goods are rising, we want to provide women some relief. If we give them a subsidy for LPG, they will get only that. Giving them money is better as some large families require two gas cylinders per month and some can make do with just one.Just giving subsidies is a sort of injustice to large families. But with the money, they can decide whether they want to buy gas or other essential items. This is the intention… Every woman head of a family, irrespective of its economic situation, is eligible. For instance, if my mother wants Rs 2,000, she can claim it. We have also promised 200 units of free electricity for everyone.Are you expecting electoral dividends, with more women voting for the Congress?HEBBALKAR: This is election time. If I deny and say that this was not done with elections in mind, it would not be fair. Of course, we have announced this popular programme aimed at women keeping the coming Assembly elections in mind. This is like Anna Bhagya (a scheme offering grains at a very low price to all families, launched by then Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah in 2013).Yes, this money can be used for women’s benefit. She can purchase her medicines or whatever she requires with the amount.Do you think such measures can help overcome caste-based politics and force parties to keep gender issues in mind?HEBBALKAR: I can only say that this will help the party. We will gain the confidence of women, we will get the support of her family. We think that one woman is not a single vote, but is equivalent to five votes. She can influence her husband, son, in-laws.You talk of empowering women, is the Congress also thinking in terms of increasing their representation in the Legislature?HEBBALKAR: For many years, the party has strived for upliftment of women. Even today (January 16), Siddaramaiah spoke about the women’s reservation Bill (at a rally attended by AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi). During UPA-II, (Congress leader) Sonia Gandhi tabled the Bill to ensure reservation for women in the Lok Sabha. This was not passed due to opposition by some parties. But now, we are seriously considering providing more and more opportunities to women.However, we all know that winning is a criteria (in elections). And me, Roopakala M (Kolar Gold Fields MLA), Anjali Nimbalkar (Khanapur) and Sowmya Reddy (Jayanagar) won from four constituencies where the Congress had rarely won. We have proved that women can win in constituencies where the party had lost hope. We are giving our own example to the party high command and trying to convince them to give tickets to women in such constituencies. We have assured the party that we will fight and come back with a victory. This time we hope that due to the influence of Priyanka Gandhi, Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar, more tickets will be given to women.You represent a constituency in the Kittur Karnataka region (formerly Mumbai Karnataka). The Congress faced challenges here in the 2018 elections and performed below par. What are your plans for this election?HEBBALKAR: Whichever party, be it the Congress or BJP, wins more seats in the Kittur Karnataka region, forms the government. This time, unlike 2018, the scenario is very different (for the Congress). People of this region are fed up with price rise, corruption and other issues. They see Siddaramaiah, other Congress leaders and the party as capable of offering better governance, as was the case in the 2013 Congress government.Also, there is no internal strife among Congress leaders in the region. Compared to 2018, there are no more internal fights. This will benefit us.Since you represent the Panchamasali community, how will their reservation demand have a bearing on the coming elections?HEBBALKAR: I have to be very direct about this. The current government has to announce 2A reservation for Panchamasalis. Not only that, they have to reveal the procedure by which they will implement it. Only then can the BJP hope to make any gains from it.(The Panchamasali Lingayats have been agitating for nearly two years for 15% quota under OBC 2A category. Partly to meet this demand, the state government recently announced 2D category for the Lingayat community, along with 2C for Vokkaligas, with the promise of 6% of the 10% EWS quota. The Panchamasalis have rejected the same.)

BJP squirms as Union minister Rane utters R (recession) word
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Union Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Narayan Rane could not have chosen a worse timing or venue for his statement on Monday that India might see recession towards mid-year.The minister who often courts controversy with his statements said this at a time that the Centre is readying for the Union Budget, and the government has been pains to stress that India has beaten the trend of global economic downturn. Besides, Rane was speaking after delivering the inaugural speech at a programme related to G20 – the Modi government is celebrating the annual G20 presidency that has come to India as a showpiece event.“There is a global recession and it is in many countries. This is what I have gathered from discussions at meetings of the Union government. The recession is expected to hit India after June,” Rane said, while speaking to the media after the G20 event in Pune, adding that the government was working towards lessening its impact.On Tuesday, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh shot back on Twitter: “Narayan Rane, Union Cabinet Minister of MSMEs – that have been destroyed since 2014 — forecasts recession in India after 6 months. He said this in Pune to a G20 gathering. What are the PM & FM hiding from the country?”Narayan Rane, Union Cabinet Minister of MSMEs – that have been destroyed since 2014 – forecasts recession in India after 6 months. He said this in Pune to a G20 gathering.What are the PM & FM hiding from the country?https://t.co/iphinhA6D7— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) January 17, 2023A senior BJP leader requesting anonymity said Rane’s remarks are also embarrassing for the party as they coincide with the BJP national executive meeting in Delhi. On Tuesday, the socio-economic resolution passed by the party at the meeting celebrated India emerging as “the fifth largest economy in the world”. “By revealing that the Cabinet has concerns over the economic situation, Rane has given the Opposition a major issue to question the government,” the BJP leader said.Besides, Rane’s recession remarks coincide with the World Economic Forum meeting at Davos, Switzerland. Among those attending from India is Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, trying to sell the state as an investment destination.While saying that he would not speak of politics as it was not his forte, Dalit Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries Chairperson Milind Kamble told The Indian Express, “As a member of G20, I can confidently state that global recession is not going to cast an adverse shadow on India. This is evident from the parameters where we have majored. Our inflation index is under control at 4-4.5%. We have already returned to the pre-Covid situation, which has given a big boost to the economy… While China is confronting the Covid pandemic still and Europe is facing an energy crisis, India is steady and on the march,” Kamble said.He added that rather than a downturn, India might profit now due to the problems plaguing Europe and China.Rane’s colleagues in the BJP said that while his aggressiveness was his strength when fighting the Opposition, “his remarks on the economic situation may land him in a soup” now.A Shiv Sena leader who was considered a confidant of Bal Thackeray, Rane, now 70, was chosen to head the Sena-BJP coalition government in Maharashtra in 1999. In 2005, after he was expelled from the Sena on charges of anti-party activities, he joined the Congress and became a Cabinet minister in 2005. In 2017, Rane quit the Congress, and a year later, joined the BJP.A Rajya Sabha MP, he was inducted as Union MSME Minister in July 2021.As one of the most aggressive voices in the BJP-Shinde Sena camp, Rane has been in the forefront attacking Uddhav Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya.Recently, he has been caught in an ugly war of words with Uddhav Sena MP and an equally aggressive leader, Sanjay Raut. Threatening to “expose” Raut, Rane said: “I will meet and tell Uddhav Thackeray what Raut speaks about him and his wife Rashmi Thackeray in private. Uddhav Thackeray will beat Raut with chappals.” Raut dismissed Rane’s threat as ramblings of a mad man, and claimed that he was set to lose his Cabinet berth.With a Union Cabinet reshuffle expected soon, some believe Raut may not have been off the mark. According to sources, the BJP leadership is not too happy with his work as MSME minister. With many having opposed his induction in the BJP as well, a leader said: “In the Modi-Shah government, performance matters. Whether in party or government, everybody has to complete their given task.”

BJP squirms as Union minister Rane utters R (recession) word
J P Nadda to steer BJP to 2024 LS polls but first, southern test awaits
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

With his term unanimously extended till June 2024 on Monday, BJP national president J P Nadda’s biggest challenge in the coming months will be extending the winning streak to the southern states.Nadda, who officially took charge of the BJP on January 20, 2020, just before the pandemic struck, is set to be at the helm as the party faces a tough electoral battle in Karnataka, the only south Indian state where it has won so far. After Karnataka, the BJP will face another tough test in Telangana where it is trying to emerge as an alternative force, having already made some significant gains in local elections and bypolls. Sources in the party admitted that Telangana and retaining power in Karnataka would prove to be a tough task. The party faces nine Assembly elections this year, with the finale being the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.Announcing the BJP national executive’s decision to unanimously extend Nadda’s term, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday said the 62-year-old had “transformed the charismatic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi into a mandate for the BJP”. Shah claimed that the BJP “is the most democratic party” in India, with organisational elections usually taking place from booths to the national level. But, because of a membership campaign and due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the election process got delayed. “So, the national executive took up the matter. Rajnath Singh ji has moved the resolution and the national executive endorsed it unanimously,” Shah said.Nadda took over as the BJP’s working president after Amit Shah was elevated to the Union Cabinet following the 2019 general elections. He officially became the party’s national president on January 20, 2020, and, as the pandemic started, he launched the “Sewa hi Sangathan” programme during the national lockdown. As part of the initiative, party workers were deployed for relief work and ration was distributed for free to people affected by the pandemic. “Nadda ji has connected the BJP with the concept of service with vibrancy,” said Shah, underlining the veteran leader’s contributions.The BJP’s electoral juggernaut continued to roll during Nadda’s tenure, with successes in several states. In 2019, the BJP became the single-largest party in Haryana, where it was ruling with a clear majority, and formed the government in alliance with the Jannayak Janta Party. The following year, the party won 74 seats in Bihar, where it contested the polls in alliance with the Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar. Shah said the BJP achieved its “highest strike rate” in Bihar under Nadda. After the pandemic came the victories in Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Uttarakhand, and Gujarat.But, the JD(U) walked out of the alliance last August and realigned with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). The BJP similarly lost the Shiv Sena, one of its oldest allies, in November 2019 after the Uddhav Thackeray-led party joined hands with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress to form the government in Maharashtra. The BJP managed to hit back last October after a split in the Shiv Sena, with its tacit support, and the subsequent political realignment brought it back to power.Another long-term ally that the BJP lost during the soft-spoken Nadda’s tenure is the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), leaving the perception that the party cannot take along its allies.However, the biggest blow to the Nadda presidency was the BJP’s loss in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls last December. Despite his efforts, Nadda could not contain an internal rebellion in the party in his home state. Most of the dissidents blamed the BJP president for their unhappiness. But the landslide win in Gujarat and the narrow margin of the defeat in the hill state — the difference in the vote share of the Congress and the BJP was less than one per cent — cushioned the intensity of the blow.Addressing the media on Tuesday outside the NDMC Convention Hall, Shah lauded Nadda’s “tireless work” behind the growth of the BJP as an organisation and strengthening its booth-level structure. Over the past year, the party extended its outreach initiatives to 1.3 lakh booths where it considered itself as weak. It has grown as the strongest force in the North East. Apart from Assam, it is in power in Tripura and Manipur and is part of the ruling coalition in Meghalaya and Nagaland.“Under him, the BJP will get a stronger mandate in 2024 and Modi ji will be the prime minister again,” Shah said. The responsibility lies on Nadda’s shoulders.

J P Nadda to steer BJP to 2024 LS polls but first, southern test awaits
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'
Détente over, Sachin Pilot back on the road, Ashok Gehlot again in his sights
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

With the Congress high command unable to resolve the differences between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot so far, the truce between the two is now seemingly over. As the promised change has not been delivered by the high command, Pilot has returned to the tried-and-tested method of hitting the road and addressing public rallies to throw around his weight and show that he is second to none. At one on Monday, he even targeted the Gehlot government.Pilot addressed a rally in Nagaur on Monday and more are scheduled till January 20. The former Deputy CM is scheduled to address rallies in Hanumangarh, Jhunjhunu, Pali, and Jaipur.In his public address and even interactions with journalists, Pilot has brought up the familiar point about how the party was reduced to 21 out of 200 seats in 2013 and the hard work that was required to bring it back on track. As the state Congress president, Pilot had led this turnaround. At the first rally in Parbatsar, on Monday, the former Deputy CM’s words indicated that he was not going to relent and targeted the Gehlot government, saying that the big fish behind the recent paper leaks should be arrested instead of small-time middlemen. In response, the CM said on Tuesday, “It is the sargana (kingpin) indeed against whom we have acted. And if leaders tell us more names, we will act against them too.”His address also indicated how he is still smarting from his unsuccessful rebellion in 2020, saying that “There are many types of leaders in politics … but we have to identify the leader, the public representative jo apni zabaan ka pakka ho (a man of their word), one who doesn’t lie to you.”At the meeting, Pilot was flanked by Parbatsar MLA Ramniwas Gawriya and Ladnun legislator Mukesh Bhakar, both considered his staunch loyalists.Following the political crisis in the party in September — when legislators allied to Gehlot boycotted a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting to stall any attempt to make Pilot the CM — the party sent show-cause notices to Gehlot loyalists Shanti Dhariwal, Mahesh Joshi, and Dharmendra Rathore. But despite the Pilot camp’s insistence, no action has been taken against the three and leadership issues remain pending. Ahead of the Bharat Jodo Yatra’s entry into Rajasthan in December, the fight between the two camps threatened to spill over in public yet again but the high command stepped in to ensure the march went off smoothly. In November and before the Yatra, the two flanked party leader K C Venugopal and addressed a press conference jointly to imply that all is well.But, with the central leadership content with maintaining the status quo, Pilot is back trying to reach out to people. The strategy had worked for the Tonk MLA and the Congress in 2017, too, when he undertook a 100-km padayatra in then CM Vasundhara Raje’s backyard Hadauti. While Raje is one of the MLAs from the region (Jhalrapatan), her son Dushyant Singh continues to be the Lok Sabha MP from there (Jhalawar-Baran).By mobilising his supporters and regular outreach initiatives, Pilot was instrumental in the party’s return to power in 2018. If the Congress remains in power in the coming elections, Pilot will look to make a stronger claim for the top job but Gehlot will still stand in his way.At present, the CM is handling things and stitching up his electoral plans the way he probably knows best — through administration, at least for now. On Monday and Tuesday, he chaired a Chintan Shivir with his ministers and top bureaucrats but the factional feud cast its shadow on this too. Cabinet Minister Hemaram Choudhary skipped the Chintan Shivir on Monday and spoke at Pilot’s Nagaur rally.Choudhary, who turns 75 on Wednesday, appeared to make a case for Pilot and said, “Even at 75, if I stay on in politics for a post and don’t give opportunities to others, how far is this justified? The youth have hopes that they will get a chance too. We are in power, we are sitting in the organisation. So we should think it over. If we will not think, then the youths will push us aside and take over. Then what pride will there be? Pride will remain if we give them the chance.”The six-time MLA from Gudamalani in Barmer district targeted the state government over power shortage. “We cannot say as we are in power but what is the electricity situation? People tell me over the phone that they are not getting electricity. Crops of farmers are getting damaged. Who will make the arrangement for this?”He said the farmers should have been told that electricity would not be made available. “The farmers sowed the crops. They made the entire expenditure and now they are not getting electricity. For this, the farmers will have to be united,” Choudhary added.

Détente over, Sachin Pilot back on the road, Ashok Gehlot again in his sights
Centre must withdraw DPR or will call for bandh: Vijai Sardesai
Times of India | 1 week ago | |
Times of India
1 week ago | |

PANAJI: GFP president Vijai Sardesai said that while chief minister Pramod Sawant says it was the Congress government that mishandled the Mhadei issue between 2007 and 2012, the very Digambar Kamat who was the Congress CM at the time is now in Sawant’s cabinet, and then Congress president Subhash Shirodkar is now the WRD minister.Sardesai was speaking at the ‘Save Mhadei, Save Goa’ public meeting held at the Virdi-Amona ground on Monday.He said that a call for a Goa bandh will be given if the Centre does not withdraw the sanction given to Karnataka’s revised detailed project report within 15 days .“He (Sawant) claimed the opposition MLAs did not attend the all-party meeting on the Mhadei issue. But these co-accused for mishandling the Mhadei issue were part of the meeting, and so we as the opposition did not see the point of being with the same people who are responsible for the mishandling of the issue,” said Sardesai.He said that a day before the Save Mhadei meeting, the CM addressed the public over the Mhadei issue in a last-minute attempt to douse the fire blazing in the backyard of his constituency, Sanquelim.“To retain his chair, Sawant is now ready to sell something that he has said he considers bigger than his mother,” said Sardesai.Stating that the Goa governor, during his address in the assembly on Monday, did not speak a word on the Mhadei issue, Sardesai said that “they are all traitors”.“Pramod Sawant said that I moved a congratulatory motion in the assembly when the Mhadei Water Disputes Tribunal’s award came, not knowing its implications. Sawant himself was the speaker at the time,” he said.“If you feel your work is not done, then you should resign and I am with you in giving my resignation. BJP has this one nation concept, where rivers and forests are considered one and that you should give them away to other states like Karnataka. If we want to fight this technique, we should start resistance at the grassroots. Let all 40 MLAs resign if your double-engine does not work,” said Sardesai.

Centre must withdraw DPR or will call for bandh: Vijai Sardesai
'Unacceptable that RSS or its affiliates should put any condition on Muslims'
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s remarks in an interview to the Sangh-affiliated journals sent ripples of concerns through the Urdu Press, which called his prescription for the Muslim citizenry unacceptable, finding his references to “Hindus at war” and “enemy within” disturbing.Amid the rising conflict between the Centre and the Supreme Court over the appointment of judges, some Urdu dailies also took an alarming view of Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar’s questioning of the apex court’s landmark judgment in the Kesavananda Bharati case, which laid down the Basic Structure Doctrine, sensing in Dhankar’s critique a reflection of the government’s push to tame judiciary.URDU TIMESCommenting on the speech delivered by Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar at the 83rd All-India Presiding Officers’ Conference in Jaipur — in which he questioned the Supreme Court Constitution Bench’s 7-6 judgment in the landmark 1973 Kesavananda Bharati case, which enunciated that Parliament cannot change the Constitution’s Basic Structure — the Mumbai-based Urdu Times, in its editorial on January 15, says that V-P Dhankhar made it clear that in a democracy Parliament is supreme and that Judiciary does not have the authority to limit its power to amend the Constitution. “V-P Dhankhar’s statement flies in the face of what defines Indian democracy and is a bid to redefine democracy under which Judiciary would be subservient to Legislature,” it writes, adding that the doctrine of separations of powers between the three organs of the State, which is at the heart of any democracy, stipulates that each of them will operate independently without impinging on the authority of the other organs.“Vice President’s comment that Parliament is supreme is not right as in a democracy it is the Constitution which is supreme. And if any laws or constitutional amendments are made — even by a party that wins all the seats in Parliament — which are judicially determined to be violative of the Constitution’s foundational principles, these would be liable to be quashed for being unconstitutional,” the daily writes. It points out that Dhankhar has opposed the apex court’s2015 decision to quash the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, brought after amending the Constitution by an overwhelming majority, as he called it a “severe compromise” of the parliamentary sovereignty. The law provided for a significant role for the executive in the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary, but the apex court struck it down to retain this right that it exercises through the Collegium. The NJAC Act was perceived to be a bid to bring Judiciary under the government’s influence, the edit adds.SALARFlagging the RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat’s remarks on the Muslim community during an interview with the RSS-affiliated journals, Organiser and Panchjanya, that Muslims have nothing to fear in India but they must abandon their “narrative of supremacy”, the Bengaluru-based Salar, in an editorial on January 12, says that after making a pitch for peace and harmony for some time Bhagwat has again repeated a rhetoric which rather than improving the communal situation would again widen the chasm between the communities. “Bhagwat heads an organisation (RSS) which has never believed in India’s Constitution, which upholds equality of all religions. The people of India have embraced the Constitution which has ensured peaceful co-existence of all communities in the country. But there have been forces that have always attempted to subvert the Constitution based on justice and equality in a bid to establish a particular community’s supremacy,” the editorial charges, adding that the RSS’ views would undermine the country’s future.The daily writes, “Bhagwat said there is no harm to Muslims living today in India. If they wish to stick to their faith, they can. If they want to return to the faith of their ancestors, they may. It is entirely their choice. There is no such stubbornness among Hindus. Islam has nothing to fear. But at the same time, Muslims must abandon their boisterous rhetoric of supremacy.” The question that arises is, it states, “Who is Bhagwat to give Muslims the ‘permission’ to live in India and follow their faith. Muslims are accountable to the Constitution and not to the RSS. The Constitution has given the freedom to every citizen to live life as per his/her preferences.”The edit also states, “This is absolutely unacceptable that the RSS or its affiliated organisations should put any condition on Muslims’ citizenship in India. Bhagwat’s comments betray his ill-intentioned bid to seek the supremacy of the majority Hindu community and ensure that all other communities should remain subservient to it, which cannot be accepted.” The Muslim community is “neither superior nor inferior” to any other community in the country, it says.SIASATHighlighting the challenges facing the ruling BJP in South India in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the Hyderabad-based Siasat, in its editorial on January 14, says that despite ruling the country and dominating most of its regions the southern frontier has continued to elude the party. “This is like the ‘Hanooz Dilli dur ast (Delhi is still far away)’ challenge for the BJP,” the daily writes, noting that the party has ramped up preparations to expand its footprint in South India, as part of which its central leaders have been touring the southern states continuously. The party’s blueprint for the South mirrors its all-out action plan for West Bengal and some other states, it says.“In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had swept states like UP, Bihar, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, but it seems the party may not repeat the same in North India in the 2024 elections. So its South India plan has been drawn up to compensate for expected shortfall in its North tally,” the editorial says, adding that South India will however not be a cake walk for the saffron party. “Karnataka is the only southern state the BJP rules, which the party could clinch through back door after toppling the Congress-JD(S) government. However, there too, the party has been facing headwinds in the upcoming Assembly polls and would find it difficult to retain power. Buoyed by Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra’s Karnataka leg, the Congress seems to be in a pole position in the state ahead of the polls.”In other southern states, the BJP is not a significant player, the daily notes. “In Tamil Nadu the BJP has not been able to make its mark. In Kerala, too, despite all its attempts the party remains in wilderness as it drew a blank in the previous Assembly polls,” it says, adding that Andhra Pradesh would also be a formidable target for the BJP despite its warming up to actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan, given that the state’s politics is a bipolar affair involving the ruling YSR Congress and the principal Opposition Telugu Desam Party. “Telangana is a state, where the BJP has a base. The party has campaigned hard in the state and managed to make its presence felt. But it does not have candidates for all the constituencies and would need an ally, which looks tricky,” the editorial states.

'Unacceptable that RSS or its affiliates should put any condition on Muslims'
As Narayan Rane indicates recession in India, Cong asks: 'What are PM, FM hiding?'
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

The Congress Tuesday sought to know what the Prime Minister and Finance Minister were “hiding from the country”, a day after Union Minister Narayan Rane indicated that India may face a recession in the second half of the year.Speaking to reporters in Pune on Monday, Union Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Narayan Rane said India was likely to be hit with recession after June, and that the Centre was working towards handling it effectively and minimising its impact on the country.Sharing the link to The Indian Express’ article on Rane’s press meet, Congress’ general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh tweeted: “Narayan Rane, Union Cabinet Minister of MSMEs – that have been destroyed since 2014 – forecasts recession in India after 6 months. He said this in Pune to a G20 gathering. What are the PM & FM hiding from the country?”Narayan Rane, Union Cabinet Minister of MSMEs – that have been destroyed since 2014 – forecasts recession in India after 6 months. He said this in Pune to a G20 gathering.What are the PM & FM hiding from the country?https://t.co/iphinhA6D7— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) January 17, 2023“There is a global recession and it is in many countries. This is what I have gathered from the discussion in the meetings of the Union government. The recession is expected to hit India after June,” Rane said after giving an inaugural speech at the two-day G20 Infrastructure Working Group (IWG) meeting in Pune.“As I am in the Cabinet, some information is available to us and whatever advice we get from PM Modiji, on that basis, we can say that there is an economic recession in big countries. It is a reality,” news agency PTI quoted the minister as saying.“To ensure India is not impacted or to stop (the economic slowdown), which is expected to come after June… Modiji and the Centre are making efforts to ensure the people of the country are not impacted by the slowdown,” Rane added.(With inputs from PTI)

As Narayan Rane indicates recession in India, Cong asks: 'What are PM, FM hiding?'
Over 30 DAP founding members to join Cong today as Azad meets EC for party registration
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

In a major blow to Ghulam Nabi Azad-led Democratic Azad Party (DAP), its general secretary Nizam-ud-Din Khatana and over three dozen of its founding members are joining the Congress here on Tuesday.Significantly, the latest defections from the DAP have come at a time when Azad is likely to meet the Election Commission in connection with the registration of his new party.A senior DAP leader confirmed that Azad has been called by the Election Commission for a meeting on Tuesday. “At present, we call our party Democratic Azad Party but it depends on what name the Election Commission allows us tomorrow,’’ he said.Hailing from Kashmir’s Kokernag area, Nizam-ud-Din Khatana, a two-time MLC (from National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party), had quit the PDP to join Azad’s party in September last year. His son, Chowdhary Gulzar Khatana, who was vice-chairperson of Gujjar and Bakerwal Advisory Board with the status of minister of state during the PDP-BJP coalition government, is also quitting DAP and joining the Congress.A senior DAP leader said both Nizam-ud-Din and his son had left the party and joined the Congress earlier this month when former deputy chief minister Tara Chand and former minister Peerzada Sayeed returned to their previous party. Nizam-ud-Din, who has been a loyalist of Sayeed, is unwell and not active in politics, he added.The defections threaten to destabilise the DAP, which is yet to overcome the damage caused to it by the expulsions of three senior leaders — former deputy chief minister Tara Chand, former minister Dr Manohal Lal Sharma and former MLA Balwan Singh — in December last year and the subsequent resignations by nearly 126 of their supporters, including many founding party members.One of the founding DAP leaders, who recently returned to the Congress, told The Indian Express that at the time of preparing documents for getting EC registration, they were told to have at least 100 founding members. “Accordingly, we made 50 founding members each from Jammu and Kashmir divisions,’’ he said, adding that while a number of them have already left DAP following the expulsion of three senior leaders, several more are quitting on Tuesday.Earlier in the day, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted: “Tomorrow, more leaders from DAP-Disappearing Azad Party will end their leave of absence and return to where they belong. Expect news from Jammu, which is all set to welcome the Bharat Jodo Yatra on January 19.’’DAP general secretary and former minister R S Chib, however, denied it, saying the party has more than 500 founding members. He said they had sent a list of more than 800 founding members to the Election Commission, along with their application for registration, and of them, nearly 300 were rejected on account of deficiencies in their documents. All the founding party members are not senior leaders, he added.The DAP, meanwhile, seems to have started damage-control exercise. After senior DAP leaders, including G M Saroori and Jugal Sharma, party chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad had an over four-hour long meeting with Dr Sharma at his residence in Jammu last week to persuade him return to the party. The latter sought time to consult his supporters before taking a decision, sources said.A senior DAP leader said he is most likely to return to Azad’s party and for this, he has already fixed a public meeting at Billawar on January 18.The buzz created by Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, whose last leg through Jammu and Kashmir is about to begin, has ensured an impressive reception for the march. Chairman of Dogra Swabhiman Sanghthan and former minister Choudhary Lal Singh, who has been three-time MLA from Basohli and two time MP from Udhampur constituency, has already extended his support to the yatra amid speculation that he is returning to the Congress.Before forming his own party, Singh was a BJP MLA from Basholi and a minister in PDP-BJP led coalition government in J&K. He had joined the BJP ahead of the 2014 Assembly elections after quitting Congress.

Over 30 DAP founding members to join Cong today as Azad meets EC for party registration
Ensure BJP wins all 9 states in 2023: Nadda to leaders at executive meet
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

BJP national president J P Nadda on Monday categorically asked his leaders not to leave a stone unturned to see that party wins all the nine Assembly elections coming up this year as its the prelude to 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Of the nine states, the BJP is in power in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Tripura and it’s a part of ruling coalition in Nagaland and Meghalaya.“He exhorted the party to be ready with full commitment to see that the BJP wins all nine states this year as a prelude to 2024. We should not lose a single state. The party workers have to tighten the belt and the party should not be defeated,” BJP leader and former Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, quoting Nadda’s address in the two-day national executive meet, which began here on Monday.Nadda said that the party cadres and the state units will have to follow what Gujarat, where the BJP achieved “extraordinary and historic win” in the recent Assembly election, had done. “The Prime Minister had led the election from the front….and the state unit, with all its leaders and workers, worked from the booth level… The hard work and the booth-level work will have to be copied,” Prasad said, citing Nadda’s message to the party workers.Referring to Himachal Pradesh debacle, Nadda said the party as an organisation had failed to read the intensity of the anti-incumbency factor and could not work to contain it, sources said. Nadda said rebels ignored the party’s interests, a source said.“He [Nadda] said we had to break the cycle (of BJP and Congress coming to power in alternative terms), but we could not. The BJP has lost Himachal Pradesh by less than one per cent voter margin. The vote difference between the Congress and the BJP in Himachal Pradesh is close to 37,000. It’s a matter of happiness but we have to correct ourselves,” Prasad told reporters.The BJP, which had made considerable gains in terms of electoral victories but has lost most of its traditional allies, maintained that the party had not dropped any of its old partners. Asked if the BJP would re-align with its erstwhile allies to ensure it wins the states, Prasad said: “The BJP has not dropped any of its allies. The Shiromani Akali Dal and Nitish Kumar (of JD -U) left us. Those who switched sides for greener political pastures, will be taught lessons by the people.” The veiled reference was to Kumar, who according to BJP leaders, is now trying to be the prime ministerial candidate of the opposition parties.The BJP is gearing up for elections in key states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka where it is expecting a direct battle against the main opposition Congress, later this year. In Telangana, another poll-bound state, the BJP has been desperate to emerge as an alternative to the state ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS).

Ensure BJP wins all 9 states in 2023: Nadda to leaders at executive meet
Most parties oppose remote voting plan, EC puts off demo
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

NEARLY ALL political parties that attended a meeting called by the Election Commission Monday to discuss remote voting were opposed to the EC’s proposal to allow migrants to cast their votes from outside their home constituencies, sources told The Indian Express.With parties demanding more in-depth discussion on the matter, the EC put off the demonstration of a prototype Remote Voting Machine (RVM), which was scheduled after remarks by Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and a presentation on remote voting.According to an EC official, 16 representatives from the eight national parties — BJP, Congress, NCP, TMC, BSP, CPI(M), CPI and NPP, which is heading the ruling alliance in Meghalaya — were in attendance. A total of 67 participants representing 40 state parties also attended the discussion held at the Constitution Club in New Delhi.The official said the political leaders agreed with the broad objective of increasing voter turnout, while some asked for the demonstration of the RVM to be done in states. Others wanted the concept of domestic migrants to be defined before going ahead with the proposal.As a result, the EC decided to extend the date of submission of written views on the matter by the parties to February 28 from January 31. The EC had on December 28, 2022, written to all recognised national and state parties about its proposal to increase turnout among migrants.Except the BJP and to an extent the BJD, all other parties opposed the proposal, sources said. Even the BJP, which was represented by Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav, said it would give its views in writing. Yadav said the BJP agreed in principle that turnout should be increased and “missing voters” should get a chance to vote but the procedure to be adopted was a matter for discussion, and the Election Commission would decide after that.The leaders raised several issues — from electoral bonds to hate speeches and working of EVMs. They argued that electoral bonds lack transparency and kill the level playing field.Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, who represented his party along with Praveen Chakravarty, told reporters after the meeting that the concept note prepared by the EC and the presentation given to the leaders showed the Commission was “confused”.“When there is no survey of migrant labour, they are providing facilities to migrant labour,” he said, raising concerns on how a remote voter would be identified.RJD’s Manoj Kumar Jha raised the issue of hate speeches. Without taking names, he said people have become Chief Ministers after delivering hate speeches while the EC has remained a mute spectator.AAP MP Sanjay Singh told The Indian Express that he raised questions on how the Model Code of Conduct would be followed for remote voters outside an election-bound state — and how parties, particularly smaller ones, would be able to appoint polling agents for multiple locations.“It is not practical. I suggested that the EC should give people four days of leave instead of one day to travel to their hometowns to vote. They can make travel on buses and trains free (for them),” he said.Among those who attended were Ramgopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, and TMC’s Kalyan Banerjee and Mahua Moitra.In its concept note sent to parties in December, the EC had said that the RVM had been developed by Electronics Corporation of India, a company under the Department of Atomic Energy, as a modified version of the existing Electronic Voting Machine.The RVM would be a stand-alone device, not connected to the internet. At one time, it would be able to handle 72 constituencies, and voters would be able to see the candidates for their home constituency using a code. Special remote voting polling stations would be set up in locations outside the constituency after the eligible voters register with the Returning Officer.Explaining the reason behind its proposal, the EC said that voter turnout had stagnated over the past few election cycles — 67.40 per cent in 2019 and 66.44 per cent in 2014. It said it was concerned that about 30 crore registered electors were choosing to skip the polls.

Most parties oppose remote voting plan, EC puts off demo
Rahul Gandhi’s advice for CM Mann: Punjab should be run from Punjab, not Delhi
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

On the fifth day of the Punjab leg of his Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi trained his guns on Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, his AAP government and party supremo Arvind Kejriwal saying that Punjab should be run from the state and not from Delhi.Addressing a gathering in Urmar Tanda in Hoshiarpur district, the Congress leader said, “Last thing I want to tell Punjab. See, every state of India has its history, way of living and Punjab should be run from Punjab only…I have said a very deep thing. Punjab should not be run from Delhi. Punjab should be run from Punjab only and I want to tell this thing to the Punjab chief minister, want to tell this thing to Bhagwant Mann-ji that Punjab should be run by Punjab only and not under any influence by Delhi and Bhagwant Mann should not be under any pressure from (Arvind) Kejriwal-ji.”“This is about the history and honour of Punjab. You should work here independently. The Punjab CM should listen to what is in the hearts of the farmers and labourers in the state and work accordingly and should not become someone’s remote control.” Gandhi further said. “Understand this thing that whenever the Congress ruled Punjab, we adopted this philosophy. Punjab CM should run Punjab.”Lashing out the BJP-led government at the Centre, Gandhi said the farmers who protested against three farm laws were tapasvis as they did not go back home for one month. He said that when he demanded two minutes of silence for the 700 farmers who died during the agitation, “the government said no one would observe silence; no one got martyred”.“The farmers were demanding the fruit of their tapasya. They were demanding the fruit of their sweat and blood. Two years later, the prime minister says it was a mistake. The PM of the nation did not talk to the farmers for even a minute. I say this with guarantee that had there been the UPA government, had Manmohan Singh-ji been the prime minister, he would have gone and talked to the farmers…Congress leaders reach out to farmers to ask what happened, what they want. But this government does not hear,” he saidGandhi also criticised the Modi government over demonetisation, GST policies, Covid response and the rejection of the land acquisition Bill. “This is an attack on tapasvis. This is a country of tapasvis and this yatra is protecting that spirit.”“The labourers of this country, small shopkeepers, small and medium businessmen, the youth of the country, they all do tapasya. When a youth prepares for an IIT exam, it is a sort of tapasya. When a student takes the exam of 10+2, that is tapasya. When a farmer sows the seed in the farm, that is tapasya. When a labourer constructs a building, that is tapasya. And our message is that in this country, a theft is being committed with the tapasvis. The one who is doing tapasya is not getting the fruit and the one who is not doing tapasya is getting the fruit. The debt of farmers will not be waived off, but debts worth lakhs of crores of rupees of two to three billionaires would be waived off,” the Congress MP said.Earlier, in the morning, Gandhi started his Yatra from Kala Bakra, near Adampur, in Jalandhar district. Historian S Irfan Habib was among those who joined him in the Yatra. Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu also joined the Yatra from Kharal Kalan, where it halted before its evening leg started.Gandhi also met the late Bahujan Samaj Party leader Kanshi Ram’s sister Swaran Kaur and Kanshi Ram Foundation chief Lakhbir Singh.The morning leg of the Yatra was dedicated to the cause of women’s empowerment as hundreds of women including MGNREGS workers and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) walked with Gandhi. He interacted with school and college students, little girls as well as elderly women during his walk, which lasted about four hours.

Rahul Gandhi’s advice for CM Mann: Punjab should be run from Punjab, not Delhi
  • What Rahul thinks about Punjab as he spends another day in Doaba
  • The Indian Express

    Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo yatra entered its fifth day in Punjab on Monday. Punjab has three regions, namely, Majha, Malwa and Doaba. It will be Rahul’s third day in the Doaba region.Today he resumed his yatra from the Kala Bakra village near Bhogpur in Jalandhar district at 7:00 am. The first break will take place at 11:00 am in the village of Kharal Kalan. And from there it will resume at 3:00 pm and proceed towards Tanda Urmur in district Hoshiarpur on the Jalandhar Pathankot National Highway. The yatra will halt at 6:00 pm and the night stay would be at Khudda near Tanda.Yesterday, Rahul had heaped praises on the people of Punjab on his Facebook handle. Rahul wrote, Blessed by five rivers, Punjab is known for its fertile land. But even nature’s gifts must be nurtured and worked upon for them to yield benefits. It is the Tapasya of the people of Punjab that has turned this land of great opportunity into a land of prosperity, over time.“Their tapasya has also made the people of Punjab fearless, generous, warm and compassionate. As I walk through this remarkable state, every heart I connect with has a common story to tell, a story of true love for India.”Out of his eighth days yatra in Punjab including one day halt on the Lohari festival on January 13, Rahul is spending four days in Doaba itself which is more than half.Doaba, which has 1/5 representation in the state assembly, had given 10 out of 18 seats that Congress had won in Punjab during the 2022 assembly elections. Also, Doaba has the highest percentage of the Dalit population in the country.Rahul Gandhi had started the Punjab leg of his Bharat Yatra from the historical Fatehgarh Sahib on January 11 and entered Ludhiana from there and remained there till January 12.Rahul resumed it on January 14 from Ludhiana- Jalandhar border and entered the Doaba region from Phillaur. But on the same day, he had to suspend it just two hours after its resumption because of the sudden demise of sitting Lok Sabha MP from Jalandhar Santokh Singh Chaudhary, who died while walking in the yatra.After the cremation of Chaudhry which was attended by Rahul, the Yatra resumed at 3:30 pm again on Sunday from Jalandhar’s Lyallpur Khalsa college and it went peacefully till its halt at 6:30 pm in Adampur.

As CPM, Cong look at it as third partner, TIPRA Motha says no alliance without Tipraland guarantee
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

WITH the Opposition CPI(M) and Congress formally announcing an alliance and reaching out to the TIPRA Motha to join them, its chief Pradyot Kishore Debbarma reiterated Monday that he would not go by promises alone and wanted “assurances in writing” on Greater Tipraland before any coalition.“Give in writing what rights you will give to Tiprasa (the people of Tripura). If you don’t give in writing, don’t try to buy me. This fight is not mine alone but of 13 lakh Tiprasas,” he said at a rally in Khumulwng.In fact, Debbarma urged the Congress and CPI(M) to join him, saying the Motha was the only party that could resist the BJP’s “violence”. “Congress, CPI(M) workers have been assaulted. No TIPRA Motha warrior could be touched by the BJP. We know how to protect ourselves. We are the lone party in Tripura today that can challenge the bike bahini (alleged motorcycle-borne goons of the BJP),” he said.Debbarma appeared to rule out any chance of an alliance with the ruling BJP, accusing it of ushering in communal politics and bike bahini, and urging his supporters to send the “Delhi ka party” back in the Assembly elections next month.Parties should be talking of hospitals and schools, instead of “mandirs and masjid”, Debbarma said. “They talk about Pakistan, no one talks of Bangladesh, which lies right here.”In an emotional appeal, the royal scion who has been unwell for some time said: “I’m ill. These people offered me money, the CM’s post, MP post… Your Bubagra (king in the tribal Kokborok language) will not live forever, I will not fall for money or post. But when I die, people should say that Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma fought for his community. Before dying, I want your love and blessing, not money or post.”Asking for unity, he said: “I don’t know how much time I’ve got… This is my last fight for you. If the IPFT (which is right now a BJP ally), Motha don’t become one, if the Bengalis, Manipuris, Buddhist Christians don’t become one, then the state will be destroyed.”While Debbarma is largely riding on the popularity of the royal family, he added: “These leaders… are fighting for the next elections, I’m fighting for the next generation. That is the difference between a leader and a king.”In keeping with the mood at Debbarma’s recent public meetings, his supporters raised emotional slogans such as “Jitega toh Jitega, harega toh harega, lekin one last fight toh kar ke rahega (We may win, we may lose but we shall fight one last fight)”.Enthused by the crowds, organised largely by the Motha’s women supporters, Debbarma said BJP national chief J P Nadda had been unable to draw people to his rally at Khumulwng five months back.Alleging lawlessness under the BJP government, he said while bike bahini gangs moved around freely, women of all sections, including tribal, Bengalis, Manipuris and other communities, were no longer safe from attacks by people who got away citing VIP links. The TIPRA Motha chief accused the BJP of also harbouring the big drug traffickers while going after the small fish.

As CPM, Cong look at it as third partner, TIPRA Motha says no alliance without Tipraland guarantee
Congress questions EC's remote voting proposal, flags multiple concerns
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

The principal Opposition Congress has taken a dim view of the Election Commission (EC)’s proposal for remote voting for migrant voters, questioning its entire process — from the identification of remote voters to the counting of votes cast in different locations.The EC called a meeting of all national and state political parties Monday for a discussion on increasing voter participation, especially of migrants. At the meeting, the EC also demonstrated before the parties a prototype of the Remote Voting Machine (RVM) it has developed.On the eve of the EC’s meeting, the Congress and other Opposition parties met and decided to oppose the poll body’s remote voting proposal.According to sources, the chairman of the Congress’s data department, Praveen Chakravarty, made a presentation to the Opposition leaders, highlighting multiple concerns with regard to the EC’s remote voting plan to be raised at Monday’s meeting.The Congress leader raised questions about the identification and registration of the remote voters of a constituency, asking how would the duplication of the same voter in two places be avoided. On the voting process, he questioned how would the location of the remote polling stations be decided.Chakravarty also flagged concerns about the logistics for political parties, candidates and their representatives on the issue, asking how would polling agents monitor remote voting in different locations away from the constituency. His presentation also raised questions on the counting process as to how would the VVPAT slips be transported and stored, and whether the remote votes be counted separately or mixed with other votes before counting.While the EC has said the need for remote voting arose as there are around 30 crore migrants in the country, who stay away from their home constituencies, the Congress leader questioned the number, saying it was unclear how many of these migrants need the option of voting from their place of work. Any plan for remote voting should overcome the “trust deficit” on the issue, he said.

Congress questions EC's remote voting proposal, flags multiple concerns
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
K'taka Congress’s poll ‘guarantee’: Rs 2,000 for female head of every household
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

The Congress announced Monday that it would provide Rs 2,000 per month to the female heads of all families if voted to power in Karnataka.This is the second “guarantee” given by the Congress in the poll-bound state. Last week, during the launch of its Prajadhwani Yatra, the party announced 200 units of free power to all households.The new promise, to be implemented as the Gruha Lakshmi scheme, was announced by state Congress president D K Shivakumar at the party’s Naa Nayaki rally attended by general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.The money will be directly debited to the accounts of beneficiaries every month, Priyanka said.According to the Congress, the initiative is meant to reduce “the burden of exorbitant LPG prices and the costly daily expenses that a woman has to bear…” as “the Congress wants to provide financial independence to each woman of Karnataka”.Priyanka, in her address, trained guns at the BJP government and accused it of indulging in rampant corruption. She alleged that by taking 40 per cent commission as bribes, the government had pocketed Rs 1.5 lakh crore. “You have to pay bribes for everything (in Karnataka),” she said.Congress General Secretary Smt. @priyankagandhi launched the Griha Lakshmi scheme in Bangalore today. Under this scheme, every woman head of household in Karnataka will be provided with Rs. 2000 per month.#KarnatakaWantsCongress pic.twitter.com/TCyuA8z6Od— Congress (@INCIndia) January 16, 2023Life has become unaffordable, but nobody is holding the government accountable, Priyanka said. “So they are busy creating distractions,” she said, citing the textbook controversy as an example.The BJP’s policy works to benefit only a few and these few become richer and richer, she added.Opposition leader Siddaramaiah alleged that though the BJP had been in power in the state for the past three years, it did not come up with a single programme for women.After the Congress announced 200 units of free power, the BJP has started making false assurances to woo the voters, he said.

K'taka Congress’s poll ‘guarantee’: Rs 2,000 for female head of every household
Demand for Collegium rejig ‘precise follow-up action’ on SC direction in NJAC ruling: Kiren Rijiju
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju Monday said the demand to include a government nominee in the Collegiums of the Supreme Court and high courts was in line with the apex court’s suggestion for a “precise follow-up action” while striking down National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) Act.Rijiju was responding to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who called the Central government’s demand “extremely dangerous” while insisting that there should be no government interference in judicial appointments.“I hope you honour Court’s direction! This is precise follow-up action of the direction of the Supreme Court Constitution Bench while striking down the National Judicial Appointment Commission Act. The SC Constitution Bench had directed to restructure the MoP (Memorandum of Procedure) of the collegium system,” the minister said on Twitter.I hope you honour Court’s direction! This is precise follow-up action of the direction of Supreme Court Constitution Bench while striking down the National Judicial Appointment Commission Act. The SC Constitution Bench had directed to restructure the MoP of the collegium system. https://t.co/b1l0jVdCkJ— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) January 16, 2023“The contents in the letter to hon’ble CJI are exactly in conformity with the observations and directions of the Supreme Court Constitution Bench. Convenient politics is not advisable, especially in the name of Judiciary. Constitution of India is supreme and nobody is above it,” Rijiju added.The law minister has written to Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud “suggesting” the inclusion of a government nominee in the decision-making process for shortlisting of judges. His letter came after the last hearing in the Supreme Court on a plea by the Advocates Association Bengaluru seeking contempt proceedings against the Centre for delaying the appointment of judges despite recommendations by the Collegium.Highly-placed sources told The Indian Express Rijiju’s letter pointed out that the finalisation of the Memorandum of Procedure regarding the appointment of judges was still “pending” and gave “suggestions on how best it can be streamlined”.The Congress, too, hit out at the BJP-led Central government over the union law minister’ letter to CJI D Y Chandrachud. It accused the government of trying to “capture” the judiciary.“The Vice President’s assaults. The Law Minister’s attacks. All this is orchestrated confrontation with the judiciary to intimidate and thereafter capture it totally. The Collegium does need reform. But what this Government wants is complete subservience. Its remedy is a poison pill for an independent judiciary,” Congress communication head Jairam Ramesh told The Indian Express.In November, Rijiju kicked off a row with the top court by saying that the Collegium system of making judicial appointments was “alien” to the Constitution. The tug of war between the Supreme Court and Centre has continued ever since with Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar supporting the union law minister’s claims.A parliamentary panel too had raised alarm about the failure of the government and the Supreme Court Collegium to arrive at a consensus on the memorandum of procedure (MoP), guiding the appointment, elevation and transfer of apex court and high court judges, even after almost seven years.(With inputs from PTI)

Demand for Collegium rejig ‘precise follow-up action’ on SC direction in NJAC ruling: Kiren Rijiju