Goa Politics News

The downslide in federal relations
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Dear Reader,Soon after becoming the Prime Minister in 2014, Narendra Modi spoke about cooperative federalism as an idea that could guide Centre-state relations. His long experience as Chief Minister of Gujarat, presumably, may have been an instructive influence in shaping his vision of governance. Unfortunately, federal relations have been on the downslide for some years now.Historically, Centre-state relations have been a fraught issue since the 1960s, especially during the premierships of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. The tension would exacerbate whenever an Opposition party would win power in a state. In fact, the Kerala crisis in 1959 was a harbinger of how this tension could build into a stand-off between the Union and the state governments. In the heyday of the Congress and Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1950s, Kerala had voted in a CPI government. Just two years after it was sworn in, the Congress-led Opposition, in cahoots with caste/ communitarian groups that were upset with the radical tenancy and education reforms, launched a mass movement calling for the ouster of the communist government. In 1959, reportedly under pressure from the then Congress president, Indira Gandhi, the Nehru government invoked Article 371 to dismiss the EMS government, which enjoyed a majority in the Assembly. Thereafter, successive Union governments, with support from pliable governors, have dismissed inconvenient state governments and imposed President’s Rule in Opposition-ruled states. This tendency peaked in the 1970s and 80s under Indira and Rajiv. Parties such as the CPM, citing the examples of Kerala and West Bengal, used to campaign against the Centre’s “step-motherly treatment” of Opposition-run states. This was the backdrop of the Sarkaria Commission (1983) that looked into Centre-state relations and made numerous proposals for its improvement. Despite Modi’s assurances, federalism seems to have taken a knock as an ambitious BJP seeks to dominate the polity at all costs. The ongoing controversy over the Vedanta-Foxconn project, which this newspaper has tracked in depth, as well as the mass defections in Goa seem like a throwback to the 1970s and 80s, when the Congress used to ignore constitutional and institutional propriety to further its political goals.Last week, it was announced that the Rs 1.54 lakh crore Vedanta-Foxconn project, originally planned for Maharashtra, would come up in Gujarat. The Opposition in Maharashtra alleged that the Centre used its leverage over the promoters to shift the project to Gujarat. Until recently, the Maha Vikas Aghadi, an anti BJP alliance, was in office in Mumbai. Moreover, Gujarat is headed for elections later this year. This war of words between the BJP-Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction) and the MVA has threatened to open old fault lines in federal relations as well as the state’s political economy. Also, ethnic tensions that date back to the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement in the 1950s have started to feature in political debates. Girish Kuber (‘A troubling trend’, September 16) fleshed out the details of the controversy while an editorial (‘Whose project’, September 16) cautioned against an emerging chill in Centre -state relations. The editorial said: “There is no reason why cities or states within India must not compete among themselves for investment and industry. In fact, they should. At the same time, the political gloves are off, Centre-state chill is deepening, many MLAs have become fungible assets, making for tricky terrain when it comes to who decides to invest where. The stakes are high when the fault lines run deep, watch this space.”The defection of eight Congress MLAs in Goa to the BJP, reminiscent of similar movements in Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka, exposed the lead Opposition party’s inability to keep its flock together in the absence of power. An editorial (‘Aya Ram, Gaya Ram’, September 15) pointed out the weakening of the Opposition space as the BJP seeks to consolidate the political space. If the slogan was Congress-mukt Bharat in 2014, today it seems to be Opposition-mukt Bharat. As majorities are upturned or enhanced, the anti-defection law, which was introduced in the 1980s with the intent to raise the bar for party hopping, has been thoroughly exposed. Legislators seem ready to switch sides shamelessly — in Goa, the elections were held as recently as March — with the confidence that voters may be willing to condone their act. In Karnataka, most of the MLAs who defected got reelected on their new party symbol. Perhaps, Parliament should tweak the anti-defection law and ask defecting legislators to sit out one term before they seek endorsement of voters in their new avatar!As the Opposition space gets squeezed elsewhere, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin announced that his government will provide breakfast to primary school students. This is in addition to the universal mid-day meal scheme that has been a part of public education in the state since the 1980s. What is interesting is that Stalin has sought to give a political spin to his initiative by stating that the scheme is welfare, not a freebie, and it is his “duty” to provide such welfare. The breakfast scheme is part of a slew of initiatives in the education sector that Tamil Nadu has introduced in recent months. These interventions in education are framed as conscious political acts and in step with the Dravidian Model of governance as against the preference of Hindutva politics for a polarising nationalism and other majoritarian agendas. This could become the core of a new Opposition politics.One of cinema’s greatest auteurs departed last week. Jean-Luc Godard, French director and film theorist, reportedly died by assisted suicide at the age of 91 in Switzerland. Godard was one of the leaders of the French New Wave and inspired filmmakers all over the world. His films were political to the core and constantly explored the politics of the image and sound. He constantly reinvented himself as an artist to keep his autonomy and agency and from being appropriated by the state and its institutions as well as to keep up with upheavals in politics, science and technology. C S Venkiteswaran (‘Conscience of cinema’, September 14) and Amrit Gangar (‘Godard on the Borivali local’, September 15) wrote touching tributes to the maestro.Last week also saw a new development in the Gyanvapi mosque case, with a district court in Varanasi agreeing to hear a plea by five Hindu devotees that their right to worship at the site be protected (‘Law and politics’, September 13). The hearing is set to begin on September 22. Faizan Mustafa (‘Not by the law’, September 13) warned against over-dependence on litigation to maintain social harmony.That’s all for this week.Thank you,AmrithAmrith Lal is Deputy Editor with the Opinion team

The downslide in federal relations
Doing ‘God’s work’ to seeds of expansion: Dissecting Kejriwal speech at AAP’s first national convention
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday tore into the BJP at the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) first national convention in the national capital that was attended by almost 1,500 elected representatives of the party from 20 states.Kejriwal, several of whose party colleagues are facing either facing corruption allegations or have been arrested over graft charges, framed the fight against the BJP as a struggle against “evil”. He also spoke of Gujarat, where the party is trying to make headway in the run-up to the coming Assembly elections, and brought up the “revdi” debate.Here are five broad topics that the AAP leader touched upon in his speech.Good versus evil“Like Lord Krishna was sent to end evil, God has sent the AAP to end corruption, inflation, unemployment, and save the Constitution and country from evils,” the Delhi CM told his party colleagues.Emphasising that the AAP’s formation was an act of divine intervention, Kejriwal said “god had to come and intervene, and in 2012 the AAP was formed to save the government and the country”. He added, “This is not some coincidence. .. God has given us the responsibility and each one of you has to keep up to that and work for development.”The AAP has always emphasised the importance of believers in its scheme of things, with the Delhi government in 2018 launching an initiative under which the government bears the cost of senior citizens’ travel to pilgrimage sites. Since then, the party has made a similar promise in states where it is looking to establish its presence, including Goa, Uttarakhand, and now Gujarat.BJP and ‘revdi’Kejriwal told his AAP colleagues that BJP was jealous of the popularity of the party’s politics of honesty. “They can’t bear our honesty. There are some things about AAP that they cannot bear — education, healthcare facilities and schemes which they call ‘revdi’. Their leaders have never spoken about education and healthcare facilities.”Last month, targeting the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his comments on “revdi”, or freebie, politics, Kejriwal said people calling welfare schemes “free ki revdi (sweets)” were “traitors” to the country and asked what was wrong with providing free education, health, and electricity to citizens.The AAP leader kept up his attack on Modi on Sunday, saying, “They are buying MLAs and then they stand on the ramparts of the Red Fort and say ‘I am fighting against corruption.’ He is not fighting corruption, he is fighting AAP.”Arrests of AAP leadersThe AAP has increasingly come under pressure over the arrests of its senior leaders in corruption cases and allegations of corruption against others. The latest to be arrested is MLA Amanatullah Khan who was arrested last Friday in a two-year-old case on alleged irregularities in the Delhi Waqf Board.Accusing the BJP of launching the second phase of “Operation Lotus” (in 2008, the BJP allegedly planned to engineer the defections of seven Opposition MLAs), the Delhi CM said, “Their phase-Il failed in Delhi and Punjab. So now they have arrested Amanatullah Khan in a fake case. Many of our MLAs have again started receiving calls from the BJP with offers of Rs 25 crore. They are being threatened that if you do not join BJP, you will also be arrested like Amanatullah Khan.”Kejriwal told his party colleagues that the way AAP MLAs were facing possible inquiries by central agencies was “not a small thing”. He added. “They (the BJP) want to put all of them (AAP leaders) in jail … You all should be ready to go to jail for three to four months … They won’t be able to do anything … Jail is not that bad … we stayed in jail for 15 days … If everyone gets this courage, they won’t be able to anything to us. “The CM also spoke of Satyendra Jain, who is in jail at present in a money laundering case, and said the former health minister should be given a Bharat Ratna for the work he has done to date. Kejriwal also referred to the accusations against his deputy Manish Sisodia and claimed state Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot was now being targeted.The seeds AAP plantedAt the start of his speech, Kejriwal said that 10 years ago, when the party was formed, he could not have imagined that one day so many representatives of his outfit would be present at the Indira Gandhi stadium in Delhi.The CM said AAP was planting seeds across India and these seeds would grow into strong trees, like in Delhi and Punjab. He hoped that like in Delhi and Punjab, AAP would get fruitful results in Gujarat. Since the landslide victory in Punjab, the AAP has its eyes on the western state apart from Himachal Pradesh, where it is not that strong organisationally at the moment. Earlier this year, the party made a foray into Goa and opened its account with two MLAs.“Seeds were planted in Delhi and Punjab and the plant has grown strong … We have planted seeds in Gujarat also and these seeds will grow very strong and become trees,” Kejriwal said. Referring to the party’s 27 councillors in the Surat Municipal Corporation, the AAP chief said, “A year-and-a-half ago, we planted 27 seeds in Gujarat and they are going to become strong trees.”Vision for futureExplaining his vision for the country, Kejriwal said work was required to ensure education, health and employment for people, equal opportunity for women and girls, and world-class infrastructure for farmers.Last month, the Delhi CM launched his ‘Mission to Make India number 1’ campaign. His five-point vision comprised free education; healthcare; employment; respect, dignity, equality and safety of women; and a fair price for farm crops.

Doing ‘God’s work’ to seeds of expansion: Dissecting Kejriwal speech at AAP’s first national convention
Chandigarh University: Founder who admires PM Modi, youngest varsity to debut in QS World Rankings
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Now mired in a row over the alleged objectionable videos of its women students shot and leaked from inside the campus hostel, Chandigarh University in Punjab’s Mohali district is a young private institution that has witnessed an unprecedented rise in the last few years.In a development that had surprised many in the academic circle, the decade-old university had performed extremely well in the QS World University and NIRF rankings released earlier this year, and was placed higher than well-established older universities in Punjab. It became one of the youngest universities in the country to make its debut in QS World Rankings 2023, considered the most coveted.According to RS Bawa, pro-chancellor, Chandigarh University, there are around 30,000 students, including international students from 54 countries, currently enrolled at the varsity.From agriculture to the education sectorEstablished in 2012, Chandigarh University was founded by Satnam Singh Sandhu, a Sikh entrepreneur and philanthropist who is also its chancellor and admires Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is also the patron of Chandigarh Welfare Trust (CWT) and New India Development (NID) Foundation—two NGOs working on community welfare projects in Chandigarh.A day before the video fiasco rocked CU, Sandhu celebrated Modi’s 72nd birthday by organising a mega-health camp in Chandigarh, which was inaugurated by Punjab Governor Banwari Lal Purohit and also attended by Union Minister and senior BJP leader Smriti Irani. The CWT and NID Foundation were the main organisers of the camp.Sandhu’s admiration for Modi has never been a secret. He had led a delegation of Sikh NRIs and prominent members Punjabi community which met the prime minister in April this year under the “Sadbhavna programme” in Delhi. “Our PM Modi has shown a very big heart by organising Sadbhavna event for Sikhs and spending time with us,” Sandhu had said after meeting Modi. Sandhu (left) had led a delegation of Sikh community to meet PM Modi in April this year. (Express Photo)The foundersFrom a small village in Ferozepur to one of the fastest growing private varsities of Asia, it’s been a meteoric rise for Sandhu and Rashpal Singh Dhaliwal, the co-founders of Chandigarh University.Both Sandhu and Dhaliwal, who hail from farming families in the hinterland far from the capital, take great pride in their humble origins. The partners, who are in their fifties, often tell journalists they studied in ramshackle government schools where classes were usually held under kikar trees while they sat on sacks they got from home. Raised in Rasulpur village of Ferozepur, Sandhu, who is the face of Chandigarh University, met Dhaliwal in Moga where he had come for his graduation. Dhaliwal, a few years older, soon ventured into politics, and Sandhu was by his side, helping him out as he was elected chief of the local civic body in 1995.Dhaliwal says politics did not suit them but it did help them open many doors. Education was one of them. Sandhu says though he did not get the education he desired, he learnt a lot from his farmer father and grandfather. “My grandfather would make me read the daily paper from end to end, including the editorials… Soon, I became fascinated with the field of education.” A trip down south where he came across many private engineering colleges made him resolve to set up a similar institute in the state. Despite belonging to the interiors of the Malwa region, they decided to set up an engineering college at Landran in Kharar, on the outskirts of the capital city of Chandigarh. It was on a chilly December day in 2000 that they laid the foundation stone of their college on three-acre land with a loan of Rs 95 lakh. They started with Bachelor of Computer Application (BCA) and Master of Computer Application (MCA) courses with around 100 students in the first batch.The two friends remember how many well-wishers thought it was a big misadventure, for then Landran was a scraggy town surrounded by villages, with poor connectivity to Chandigarh. But Sandhu says he knew this area would eventually boom due to its proximity to Chandigarh, around 15 km away. Repaying the loan was not easy, Dhaliwal recalls they borrowed from friends to pay their instalments. But soon the courses started doing well, and they expanded to neighbouring Jhanjeri and Gharuan where they eventually set up Chandigarh University in 2012. Among their new initiatives is the mandatory 30 hours of social work as a precondition for any degree.The partners, who call each other brothers, work as a team with Sandhu focusing on education and Dhaliwal on infrastructure and finances. Debut in QS World Rankings Released in June this year, QS World Rankings had just 41 educational institutions from India featuring on it. And, Chandigarh University broke into the QS World University Rankings for the first time. It was the highest ranked institution from Punjab, and was placed above state-owned Panjab University (PU). While CU was placed in the 800-1000 bracket, PU was in the 1201-1400 bracket.Chandigarh University also performed well in the National Institutional Rankings Framework (NIRF), released by the Union Ministry of Education, jumping from 77th overall rank in 2021 to 48th in 2022. It was the highest-ranked private university from Punjab, and was placed after government-run institutes such as IIT Ropar (35), PU (41), and IISER Mohali (47). It also ranked higher than other well-established, older private institutions in Punjab—Thapar Institute of Engineering, Patiala; Lovely Professional University (LPU), Phagwara, and even two government-run GNDU, Amritsar and NIT Jalandhar—in the overall category.In the “universities” category, CU was placed 29th, the second in Punjab after PU, which was placed 25th. Row over name, famous visitorsA row had also erupted over the name of Chandigarh University when a subcommittee of Panjab University had objected that a private varsity cannot use names of states or Union Territories for private purposes without permission of authorities as “it was causing confusion among the students”. It decided to take a legal opinion on the issue. Apart from Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, who had visited CU to inaugurate the state’s first drone hub in April this year, the university has hosted several known figures in the past few years.Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel laureate Dalai Lama, former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, African Nobel laureate Prof (Dr) Wole Soyinka, film director Mahesh Bhatt, former CEO of the IBM group Ginni Rometty, cricketer Virender Sehwag, actors Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif among others have also visited the university. The Art of Living founder and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had also visited the campus with Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt to take part in the ‘Drugs-Free India’ campaign.

Chandigarh University: Founder who admires PM Modi, youngest varsity to debut in QS World Rankings
Party-hopping in Goa: ‘Family Raj & UT mentality’ among factors influencing voters
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Not its beaches or scenic beauty, Goa now finds itself in the spotlight for its precarious politics defined by moments such as the defection of eight Congress MLAs to the BJP on Wednesday, effecting the merger of two-thirds of the Congress Legislature Party with the BJP for the second time in three years.Defections, mergers, and resignations are not alien to the rest of India. But, given their frequency in Goa in the last 50-plus years, few in the state were surprised by the latest episode. Here are five broad factors that influence the people of Goa, once described as “ajeeb (strange)” by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, when they choose their public representatives.Just a very large villageWhat is striking about Goa’s politics is that Assembly constituencies are small and victory margins can sometimes be in two digits. Most MLAs know the residents of their constituencies by their first name. On festivals such as Ganesh Chaturthi, which is celebrated in Goa as Chovoth or Christmas, some MLAs visit the homes of nearly all their voters to greet them personally. They make assurances in terms of securing government jobs for their constituents or helping them get various permissions for their businesses.Former Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, who quit the BJP ahead of the Assembly election in February and contested as an Independent, said, “It is a small state with small constituencies. Where there are 25,000 to 30,000 voters, getting 10,000 can make you win. So what happens is that one can get about 4,000-5,000 votes on their goodwill or personal help that they may have extended to some people and about 5,000 to 6,000 votes can just be bought. Elections are like an investment and that is why MLAs want to be in power to recover these investments. I am not accusing all MLAs but this has been very common and it will not change until the people decide that their votes cannot be bought.”Personalities over partiesPolitical families in various parts of Goa have a tight grip on their constituencies and the voters have placed faith not on the parties that their MLAs belong to but on the individual, trusting them to get their work done. In various talukas, these families have been in power despite shifting loyalties from one party to another. Former Goa Chief Minister Pratap Singh Rane remained an undefeated Congress MLA in the Poriem seat of Sattari taluka for 45 years. But as soon as the octogenarian withdrew from the election fray before the Assembly polls this year, his daughter-in-law Deviya Rane made her political debut from Poriem as a BJP candidate and scored the highest winning margin of 13,943 in the state.Similarly, in the Tiswadi taluka of which Panaji is a part, Goa Revenue Minister Atanasio “Babush” Monserrate exerts a similar hold. He and his wife Jennifer have both been elected from the neighbouring constituencies of Panaji and Taleigao respectively on Congress tickets in the 2017 elections and a bypoll in 2019. They won this year’s Assembly polls from the BJP. Their son Rohit is the mayor of the Panaji city corporation.Double engine mattersWhile it may appear from a distance that party ideology does not seem to matter to the Goan electorate, the author of Ajeeb Goa’s Gajab politics (Strange Goa’s astonishing politics) Sandesh Prabhudesai begs to differ. “If that was the case, Michael Lobo would have never gone to the Congress. He comes from a Christian-dominated constituency, ” he said.The writer explained that Lobo’s previous victories from the BJP and that of five other Christian MLAs came at a time when the church had backed five Christian MLAs from the BJP to teach the Congress a lesson. He said, “Though the minority is about 25 per cent of the population in Goa, they are concentrated in 24 constituencies out of 40. That is more than half the constituencies. That is why even though they are a minority, they become the majority. It is a funny thing.”Prabhudesai also said that Goa had a “UT mentality”. “In 2014, the Narendra Modi government came to power at the Centre. In Goa, right from the beginning, the double-engine government has worked. Since it was a Union Territory (UT) before, it was dependent on the Centre. The mentality is also the UT mentality but by the time the 2022 election came, it was just not possible for the Church to support the BJP anymore. That’s the reason you’ll see many Christian MLAs of the BJP were defeated. You cannot say that the ideology does not matter anymore. For politicians, it may not matter but for the people it does,” the author said.Overlapping interests in land, businesses and politicsIn a state where tourism and, until 10 years ago, mining were the mainstays, many politicians have interests in these businesses or have been traditional landholders. Their businesses generate employment in their constituencies or in some constituencies, people may be beholden to them because they own land. Many MLAs across parties including have large interests in tourism. They own resorts and restaurants and tourism allied activities. Other MLAs are related to the mining business or allied mining activities, Prabhudesai pointed out.Religion and casteEven if the BJP is seen as a party pandering to its predominantly Hindu vote bank, the party formed its third consecutive government in a state that is still perceived as secular. While religion and caste do play a role in how elected representatives are chosen, they play out a little differently in Goa. Christian MLAs do win in seats dominated by the minority but some win even in seats dominated by Hindus like the Monserrates in Panaji and Taleigao. The Christian-dominated taluka of Salcete remains a hard turf for the BJP to break into but its Hindu MLA won a seat in the taluka this election – thanks to Opposition votes splitting three ways. But few play the religion or caste card in the election campaign.Academicians said candidates who win from various constituencies in the state generally represent the demographic of that constituency. Like a Christian candidate may win in a constituency that has a higher Christian population and similarly a Bhandari candidate may win in seats that have more Bhandari voters, but votes are never sought on those grounds.

Party-hopping in Goa: ‘Family Raj & UT mentality’ among factors influencing voters
  • Goa: ‘Unrecognised in party, left disappointed’
  • Times of India

    VASCO: Mormugao MLA Sankalp Amonkar, who joined BJP on Wednesday along with seven of his colleagues, said that he was forced to leave Congress as it failed to help grow his political career. "I have served the party for the past about 25 years. The party failed to recognise my hard work. I was expecting the GPCC president's post and leader of opposition, but the party leaders disappointed me. I was forced to leave the party amidst disappointments," Amonkar told TOI. Stating that he was always worried about developmental works in his constituency as also the employment issues facing the youth of Mormugao, Amonkar said, "These were possible only if I was in the ruling. I have gone through BJP's manifesto for Mormugao. I will see that all works listed are fulfilled." He said that he will ensure that all problems plaguing the constituency are resolved.

Bharat Jodo Yatra: Cong hints at East-West tour after Kanyakumari to Kashmir trip
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

As the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, led by Rahul Gandhi, completed a week, the party indicated on Thursday that it could embark on another yatra – from Gujarat in the West to Arunachal Pradesh in the East – after the completion of this yatra next year.The party argued that the yatra has created a new “image” for the Congress and is set to transform Indian politics while strengthening the Congress’s party organisation.Addressing a media interaction in Kerala’s Kollam, AICC general secretary in charge of communication Jairam Ramesh said, “It is possible that with the success of this yatra, next year we will have an East to West yatra. Because in India whenever you do something there will be people asking you why are you not doing something else? For everything you do, there are five questions why you are not doing this. So I want to take this head-on and say it is possible that in 2023 the yatra will be from Porbandar in Gujarat to Parshuram Kund in Arunachal Pradesh. It is possible that we will have this yatra.”He said such mass contact programmes are the only way to transform Indian politics. “I believe the Bharat Jodo Yatra will transform Indian politics and strengthen the Congress party organisation. And the manner in which the BJP is attacking the yatra every day… The BJP has been doing Bharat thodo for a long time… Now it is doing Congress thodo. What happened in Goa, for instance, is an example of the diversion that the BJP wants to create. One day container, second day T-shirt, third day shoes, fourth day something else, fifth day Goa… they will do this every day to divert the people’s attention away from Bharat Jodo Yatra,” Ramesh said.

Bharat Jodo Yatra: Cong hints at East-West tour after Kanyakumari to Kashmir trip
Goa: Political ideology trivial matter for both politicians, voters, say experts
Times of India | 1 week ago | |
Times of India
1 week ago | |

MARGAO: When 10 Congress MLAs hopped over to BJP enmasse in July 2019, political commentators talked about how Congressisation of BJP would lead to the dilution of saffron ideology and principles within the party leading to its "ethical decline". Three years later, when eight of the 11 Congress MLAs decided to merge the legislative wing of the party into BJP leading to its further Congressisation, political scientists said that the development was indicative of how political ideology has been reduced to insignificance for both the politicians and the voters. "In this new era of politics," says political observer Manoj Kamat, "where power has come to be considered the be-all and end-all in the political scheme of things, this threat of defection will always be there. In this altered political scenario, it's generally observed that any organisational structure gravitates towards power; party allegiance then becomes insignificant." Nevertheless, the latest political development has had political observers calling for urgent steps by Congress to reinvent itself lest it heads towards decimation. Political commentator Radharao Gracias is of the view that repeated defections by Congress MLAs have led to erosion of faith of the people in the party and that revival of its fortunes will be a tough challenge for the party. "Why should people vote for them if the elected MLAs switch their loyalties within months of getting elected? As it is, Congress faces an existential crisis; there are no workers, no party organisation, there exist only a few local satraps who win elections on their own strength, financial and political," Gracias said. Kamat described this new era of post 2020 politics as one centered on "short-sighted and short term" electoral gains bereft of party ideology. "In this kind of politics that we see now, if a momentum is seen growing towards a particular party, the trend is that smaller outfits will gravitate towards it," Kamat explained. "If the 1990s era saw defections driven by the desire for plum ministerial positions, in the post 2020 era, defections happen for power centers, for MLAs to exert control over the institutional and financial system in the government. And BJP has been ruthless to adopt this trend to its advantage, and of which Congress has turned out to be a victim." Political commentator Prabhakar Timble, however, is of the view that while the latest round of defection definitely doesn't augur well for the future prospects of the party, "it would be preposterous to talk of decimation of Congress due to defection by MLAs, knowing that the former Congress defectors were rejected by the electorate recently." The challenge before Congress, Timble said, is revitalising itself by expanding its political base in all constituencies. He, however, had not so kind remarks about BJP's opposition MLA-poaching manoeuvers. "Through the abuse of state power and use of money power, it is a pointer that the nation is being moved from democratisation of politics to colonisation of democracy," the former state election commissioner said.

Goa: Political ideology trivial matter for both politicians, voters, say experts
Goa’s tryst with defections goes back over half a century
Times of India | 1 week ago | |
Times of India
1 week ago | |

PANAJI: The brazenness with which 10 Congress legislators merged into BJP in 2019 and another eight on Wednesday may have been the talking point across the country, but Goa's politics has been riddled with defections, splits and mergers for more than 50 years. In July 1970, seven MGP legislators, which included two of the four cabinet ministers-Anthony D'Souza and Gopal Mayenkar-decided to put an end to the supposedly autocratic functioning of chief minister Dayanand Bandodkar. They broke away and formed the Nava-MGP. Bandodkar saw his government being reduced to a minority with the revolt, but Goa's first chief minister swung into action and saved his party by getting five MLAs from United Goans Party (UGP) to switch sides. His daughter, Shashikala Kakodkar, who succeeded him after his death while still holding office in 1973, also faced a revolt when Dayanand Narvekar and Dilkush Desai walked out. She was, however, saved by a vote from Daman when there was a tie while voting on the budget. Four years after liberated Goa faced its first election in 1963, and months before it was to hold its second polls in 1967, there was a split too. Six of the 12 UGP MLAs protested against the unilateral decision of its leader Jack Sequeira to agree on a Merger, Yes or No, rather than Merger or Statehood, and split from the party to form UGP-Furtado group. “The history of defections in Goa is so rich that I may have to write a special book on it,” Sandesh Prabhudesai notes in his book Ajeeb Goa’s Gajab Politics. Much of Prabhudesai’s defection stance appears to have the unstable and unsavoury 1990 to 2002 period in mind. A majority of legislators in the ninth assembly, elected in 1999, he says, were habitual defectors. “From 1990 to 2002, after which started the BJP era, Goa had 13 chief ministers in three assemblies. In these 12 years, defections took place 21 times and the number of defectors was 80,” he wrote. A large chunk of these defectors defected twice in these 12 years. “BJP, in 1999, had 10 MLAs in the beginning. When the then CM Manohar Parrikar had suddenly dissolved the assembly prematurely (in 2002), the saffron party had 11 defectors with them, more than their own party men. Similarly, in 2017, people had elected only 13 saffronites, and as Goa went to polls (in 2022) there were 27, more than double,” said Prabhudesai. In 2019, Atanasio Monseratte led nine other Congress MLAs into BJP. On Wednesday, the inevitable happened as Digambar Kamat, a former Congress chief minister, returned to the saffron party, along with leader of opposition Michael Lobo and six others. The two mergers, though, were not the biggest party splits in the state’s political history. That happened in 1999, ironically also involving Congress. Five months after he took charge as chief minister, Luizinho Faleiro’s government was reduced to a minority after 11 MLAs led by health minister Francisco Sardinha walked out, reducing the 26-member Congress legislative party to just 15. Sardinha formed Indian National Congress-FS, and supported by Manohar Parrikar-led BJP, became chief minister for the first time. In less than a year, when Sardinha was away in Australia, Parrikar pulled the plug on the government to have a BJP government in place for the first time and realise his ambition of becoming the chief minister himself. At a time when defections were the order of the day, the Anti-Defection Act was amended in 2003. The law made it mandatory for a merger to have two-third majority, rather than onethird. Anything less, and there would be a by-election. But almost 20 years later, nothing seems to have changed. Whether it’s minutes after taking oath as MLA, like Vishwajit Rane in 2017, or months, like the eight Congress MLAs on Wednesday, nothing can deter legislators from switching sides.

Goa’s tryst with defections goes back over half a century
Goa defections frame the Opposition’s challenge: Why can’t they keep their flock together?
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

In February this year, Congress appealed to the divine. All its candidates in Goa were shepherded, with great show, by the party’s central leaders to a temple, church and a dargah to take a pledge of loyalty that they will not leave the party after the Assembly elections due in March. Eleven of them won their seats. On Wednesday, eight of them, including seven-time MLA and former chief minister Digambar Kamat, joined the BJP. When reminded of that pledge, Kamat invoked God. “I went to the temple again and asked God what to do. God told me do whatever is best for you.” Fidelity to a party or an ideology is rare in Goan politics: centred around leaders who command a few thousand votes in tiny constituencies, it has allowed legislators to party-hop brazenly without facing the censure of their voters. However, the latest cross-over in Goa, which follows similar developments in Arunachal Pradesh (2018), Karnataka (2019), Madhya Pradesh (2020), West Bengal (2021), Gujarat (2018-19) etc., deepen a vulnerability in the political system.For, at its heart lies the inability of the opposition parties to keep their flock together in the face of the BJP’s predatory instinct to expand its footprint and win new territories. It is disturbing, of course, that the ruling party, in the event of its winning no majority or only a thin majority in an election, wants to overturn that mandate in its pursuit of total domination of the polity: The BJP’s slogan since 2014 — Congress-mukt Bharat — seems to have transformed into Opposition-mukt Bharat. However, none of the Opposition leaders is a political spring chicken, it will be lazy and wrong on the part of the Opposition to lay all the blame at the doors of the BJP behemoth. It is increasingly evident that the only glue that seems to be holding the non-BJP parties together is power, since these outfits have long transformed into fiefs of individual leaders and their families rather than grass-roots political organisations built around ideologies that have an ear to the ground and know how to work in defeat and hibernation. In the case of the Congress, which has been bleeding cadres and leaders across India, the crisis has also been organisational — a rudderless central leadership is unable to inspire or consolidate the party’s declining support base.Clearly, the inflow into the BJP is as much a result of the Opposition’s failure to offer hope to ambitious leaders in its ranks as it is the outcome of the former’s approach of winner should take it all. The anti-defection law, legislated in the 1980s with the aim to discourage political defections, has in the process lost its edge as legislators are either shifting in large groups even at the risk of getting disqualified. Aya Ram Gaya Ram was coined way back in the late 1960s to reflect the shifting winds in Haryana’s local politics but, clearly, the challenge now is deeper — and national.

Goa defections frame the Opposition’s challenge: Why can’t they keep their flock together?
Disquiet among Mamata’s intelligentsia allies as list of TMC leaders under cloud grows
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

On September 1, when West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee led a rally in Kolkata as a thanksgiving gesture to the UNESCO for including the city’s Durga Puja in its Intangible Cultural Heritage list, she was accompanied by many TMC leaders and legislators including TV and film actors who got elected as party MLAs and MPs.Among the prominent faces who were conspicuous by their absence at this grand rally were independent writers, academics, painters, musicians and film and theatre personalities, such as Jogen Chowdhury, Aparna Sen, Nachiketa, Kaushik Sen, Arpita Ghosh and Sohini Sengupta among others, many of whom had rallied round Mamata during her landmark Singur and Nandigram movements in protest against the then CPI(M)-led Left Front regime’s land-acquisition policy.This group of intellectual and cultural figures had played a remarkable role in helping Mamata oust the 34-year Left regime from power in the 2011 Bengal Assembly polls. In the previous Assembly polls last year too they had strongly supported Mamata to keep the BJP at bay, whom they have always accused of allegedly practising the politics of communalism and polarisation.However, in worrying signs for the ruling TMC, these intellectuals and artists are now increasingly distancing themselves from the TMC dispensation as a slew of its leaders and functionaries have been allegedly implicated in various cases or scams after coming under the scanner of central agencies like the CBI and ED.On September 7, the state law and PWD minister Moloy Ghatak became the latest TMC leader to have been raided by a central agency, the CBI in this case, over his alleged involvement in a case of multi-crore coal smuggling from a state coalfield. Ghatak had already been summoned by the ED several times for questioning. Several TMC leaders, including the party’s national general secretary and Mamata’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, are on the radar of the central agencies over this scam. Abhishek has also been questioned by the ED several times.On July 22, a day after the TMC’s martyrs day rally, the ED raided multiple places in Bengal and finally arrested the then education minister and TMC heavyweight Partha Chatterjee in connection with the school jobs scam. It also recovered Rs 50 crore cash from the apartments of Partha’s close aide Arpita Mukherjee and arrested her. Both of them have been in jail. Partha’s arrest shook the TMC, even as the seizure of such massive stashes of cash, whose videos went viral, shocked the people of the state.On August 11, the CBI arrested a close Mamata aide Anubrata Mondal, the TMC’s Birbhum district president, over a cattle smuggling case. On September 7, the CBI conducted raids and search operations at the premises of several Mondal associates.On September 3, the Halisahar municipality chairman and TMC leader, Raju Sahani, was arrested in a chit fund case. A day later, the CBI raided the houses of TMC MLA Subodh Adhikari and his brother and Kanchrapara municipality chairman Kamal Adhikari in the same case.Recently, the TMC Rajya Sabha MP and former Union culture secretary, Jawhar Sircar, admitted that “a section of the TMC was completely rotten” and that the party could not fight the saffron party in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections with the help of such elements.A fierce critic of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre, Sircar said the visuals of piles of cash recovered from Arpita’s houses were so outrageous that his family urged him to quit politics. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw it on TV. So much money can come out of someone’s house! Past imagination. Scenes of such corruption are rarely seen on TV,” he reportedly said.Sircar’s remarks sparked a row even as he drew flak from within the TMC. Senior party MP Sougata Roy said, “Jawhar Sircar did not walk in a Trinamool procession even for a day before becoming a Rajya Sabha MP. There are no sacrifices. When he was secretary of the Ministry of Culture in Delhi, he did not do the Trinamool any favours.” Calling Jawhar “selfish”, he also charged, “They are all self-centred and act in their own interests. When you get on a plane as an MP, get a salary of two lakh rupees a month, and leave during the party’s difficult times!”Hitting back, Jawhar said his family members and friends have urged him to quit politics, saying “I have never heard of this kind of insult in my life.”Amid increasing raids on its leaders by central agencies in connection with various scams, the TMC has cried foul, charging the BJP-led Centre with allegedly indulging in “vendetta” by using various agencies like “political weapons” against its rivals.However, a major intellectual section seems to be getting disillusioned with the TMC now. A senior theatre actor, who was an active participant in Mamata’s Singur-Nandigram movement, said, “Many like me have ethics and principles. So we had become part of this movement for a cause, but we cannot back the TMC now. The corruption cases against the TMC, especially the school jobs scam is very serious.”Some TMC leaders also referred to the point that in the wake of Mamata’s resounding victory against the BJP in the 2021 polls, several prominent leaders from various parties, including Yashwant Sinha, Pawan Verma and Ashok Tanwar, joined the party. “A few months ago, Verma and Tanwar resigned from TMC. In Tripura and Goa also, many of our leaders decided to quit although they had joined the party barely a year ago,” said a TMC leader. “We have suffered a loss of face in the intelligentsia class that had returned to our camp ahead of the 2021 polls. Various corruption cases and Rs 50 crore cash recovery from Partha Chatterjee’s aide have severely dented our image.”During the 2021 polls, a section of the state’s political parties had undertaken a “No vote to BJP” campaign, which had helped the TMC. The CPI(ML) Liberation’s Partha Ghosh said, “We campaigned for ‘No vote to BJP’. But we cannot support this TMC government. They are claiming that it is pro-people. Their slogan is ‘Ma Mati Manush’. But they are not clearing the dues of labourers under the MGNREGA scheme. Also, they are paying huge money to Durga Puja committees. This cannot be a policy of pro-people government. School jobs scam and other scandals showed how much this government has sunk into corruption. We have to now fight against both the BJP and TMC and strengthen the Left forces.”

Disquiet among Mamata’s intelligentsia allies as list of TMC leaders under cloud grows
  • Disquiet in Mamata allies among intelligentsia as list of TMC leaders under cloud grows
  • The Indian Express

    On September 1, when West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee led a rally in Kolkata as a thanksgiving gesture to the UNESCO for including the city’s Durga Puja in its Intangible Cultural Heritage list, she was accompanied by many TMC leaders and legislators including TV and film actors who got elected as party MLAs and MPs.Among the prominent faces who were conspicuous by their absence at this grand rally were independent writers, academics, painters, musicians and film and theatre personalities, such as Jogen Chowdhury, Aparna Sen, Nachiketa, Kaushik Sen, Arpita Ghosh and Sohini Sengupta among others, many of whom had rallied round Mamata during her landmark Singur and Nandigram movements in protest against the then CPI(M)-led Left Front regime’s land-acquisition policy.This group of intellectual and cultural figures had played a remarkable role in helping Mamata oust the 34-year Left regime from power in the 2011 Bengal Assembly polls. In the previous Assembly polls last year too they had strongly supported Mamata to keep the BJP at bay, whom they have always accused of allegedly practising the politics of communalism and polarisation.However, in worrying signs for the ruling TMC, these intellectuals and artists are now increasingly distancing themselves from the TMC dispensation as a slew of its leaders and functionaries have been allegedly implicated in various cases or scams after coming under the scanner of central agencies like the CBI and ED.On September 7, the state law and PWD minister Moloy Ghatak became the latest TMC leader to have been raided by a central agency, the CBI in this case, over his alleged involvement in a case of multi-crore coal smuggling from a state coalfield. Ghatak had already been summoned by the ED several times for questioning. Several TMC leaders, including the party’s national general secretary and Mamata’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, are on the radar of the central agencies over this scam. Abhishek has also been questioned by the ED several times.On July 22, a day after the TMC’s martyrs day rally, the ED raided multiple places in Bengal and finally arrested the then education minister and TMC heavyweight Partha Chatterjee in connection with the school jobs scam. It also recovered Rs 50 crore cash from the apartments of Partha’s close aide Arpita Mukherjee and arrested her. Both of them have been in jail. Partha’s arrest shook the TMC, even as the seizure of such massive stashes of cash, whose videos went viral, shocked the people of the state.On August 11, the CBI arrested a close Mamata aide Anubrata Mondal, the TMC’s Birbhum district president, over a cattle smuggling case. On September 7, the CBI conducted raids and search operations at the premises of several Mondal associates.On September 3, the Halisahar municipality chairman and TMC leader, Raju Sahani, was arrested in a chit fund case. A day later, the CBI raided the houses of TMC MLA Subodh Adhikari and his brother and Kanchrapara municipality chairman Kamal Adhikari in the same case.Recently, the TMC Rajya Sabha MP and former Union culture secretary, Jawhar Sircar, admitted that “a section of the TMC was completely rotten” and that the party could not fight the saffron party in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections with the help of such elements.A fierce critic of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre, Sircar said the visuals of piles of cash recovered from Arpita’s houses were so outrageous that his family urged him to quit politics. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw it on TV. So much money can come out of someone’s house! Past imagination. Scenes of such corruption are rarely seen on TV,” he reportedly said.Sircar’s remarks sparked a row even as he drew flak from within the TMC. Senior party MP Sougata Roy said, “Jawhar Sircar did not walk in a Trinamool procession even for a day before becoming a Rajya Sabha MP. There are no sacrifices. When he was secretary of the Ministry of Culture in Delhi, he did not do the Trinamool any favours.” Calling Jawhar “selfish”, he also charged, “They are all self-centred and act in their own interests. When you get on a plane as an MP, get a salary of two lakh rupees a month, and leave during the party’s difficult times!”Hitting back, Jawhar said his family members and friends have urged him to quit politics, saying “I have never heard of this kind of insult in my life.”Amid increasing raids on its leaders by central agencies in connection with various scams, the TMC has cried foul, charging the BJP-led Centre with allegedly indulging in “vendetta” by using various agencies like “political weapons” against its rivals.However, a major intellectual section seems to be getting disillusioned with the TMC now. A senior theatre actor, who was an active participant in Mamata’s Singur-Nandigram movement, said, “Many like me have ethics and principles. So we had become part of this movement for a cause, but we cannot back the TMC now. The corruption cases against the TMC, especially the school jobs scam is very serious.”Some TMC leaders also referred to the point that in the wake of Mamata’s resounding victory against the BJP in the 2021 polls, several prominent leaders from various parties, including Yashwant Sinha, Pawan Verma and Ashok Tanwar, joined the party. “A few months ago, Verma and Tanwar resigned from TMC. In Tripura and Goa also, many of our leaders decided to quit although they had joined the party barely a year ago,” said a TMC leader. “We have suffered a loss of face in the intelligentsia class that had returned to our camp ahead of the 2021 polls. Various corruption cases and Rs 50 crore cash recovery from Partha Chatterjee’s aide have severely dented our image.”During the 2021 polls, a section of the state’s political parties had undertaken a “No vote to BJP” campaign, which had helped the TMC. The CPI(ML) Liberation’s Partha Ghosh said, “We campaigned for ‘No vote to BJP’. But we cannot support this TMC government. They are claiming that it is pro-people. Their slogan is ‘Ma Mati Manush’. But they are not clearing the dues of labourers under the MGNREGA scheme. Also, they are paying huge money to Durga Puja committees. This cannot be a policy of pro-people government. School jobs scam and other scandals showed how much this government has sunk into corruption. We have to now fight against both the BJP and TMC and strengthen the Left forces.”

If Obama from Kenya could do it in US, you too can do it in UK, dad told Suella Braverman
Times of India | 2 weeks ago | |
Times of India
2 weeks ago | |

PANAJI: Given Suella Braverman's excellent track record right from her childhood, her father Christie Fernandes isn't particularly surprised by her appointment as UK home secretary in the Liz Truss cabinet. "Suella has been a trailblazer all her life, right from her school days, when she was appointed head girl. The headmistress at the time told us she was chosen as she was the most balanced student," Christie, 75, told TOI from Wembley. "Yes, she now has one of the most powerful jobs in the world, but it didn't happen overnight. She has been involved in politics since she was a young girl, accompanying us and MPs canvassing. My wife Uma was a nurse at the NHS and stood for Parliament twice and didn't make it. I was a political activist," he said. Uma, a former councillor, ran a political surgery where women in need of housing and extra funding would come seeking help. "We knew local politics and worked hard. If paving stones weren't properly placed, we would take it up with authorities and ensure that the elderly didn't have a fall," he said. Christie was born in Nairobi, Kenya, the eldest of five children, to Roque Claudius Malakios Fernandes from Assagao and Cassiana from Calangute. Roque worked for the East African Power and Lighting Company, and on his return to Goa, unsuccessfully contested elections to the post of sarpanch in Assagao, Christie recalls. After schooling at Dr Ribeiro School, Christie worked at the land and settlement government department. His family left Kenya for Goa in the early 1960s, and in 1967, he migrated alone to northwest London. It was a struggle with no friends or family in London at the time. “When I came to London, because of my colour, I was given only blue collared jobs — factory work. I was more of a sportsperson in school, interested in hockey and cricket,” he said. He ensured Suella got an all-round education and played sports too. “In England, football is almost a religion, and you have to make sure you understand the game well. Many MPs have made mistakes when describing football, and never understood the game,” he said. Suella played the centre back position in hockey while growing up, and was named outstanding hockey player at Harrow Hockey Club, he added. “She could go on the offense and defense. She was very strategy-minded even then,” he said, adding that she is also a graded pianist. After working blue-collared jobs, Christie took up other work and went on to get a degree in political science. “I was not a rich man, but I believed in topclass education and was working 9 to 5. I didn’t waste my time sitting around. I worked for Red Cross, did community service, and worked various jobs. I believe in individual ambition. If you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, there’s nothing like it,” he said. The family opted Suella out of state school because they were not happy with the education she was getting there and admitted her into a private school. “She then went on to study at the best educational institutions in the world,” Christie said. He recalls Suella asking him when they were holidaying in the US and when Obama became president, if she could become like him one day. “I told her that if Obama coming from Kenya could do it in America, you too can do it in England,” Christie said. The former UK attorney general now has challenging times ahead of her “It’s either make or break, but she’s not a person to rush in. She is the type who will sit back and take stock of everything. She has the entire police force under her. There are challenges of immigration, refugees taken in by other European countries coming into UK because of welfare schemes, crime and terrorism,” he said. To the Goan community living in the UK, Christie says if she could do it, they could too. “The Goans have had a terrific political history in England. She’s a mentor for people and has proved that black, white or brown, anyone can achieve anything. Imagination is a very powerful thing,” he said.

If Obama from Kenya could do it in US, you too can do it in UK, dad told Suella Braverman
Goa: She got taste of politics from her mother, says Suella Braverman’s priest uncle
Times of India | 2 weeks ago | |
Times of India
2 weeks ago | |

PANAJI: The UK’s new home secretary, Suella Braverman, has proud relatives in Goa, Delhi, and Cyprus. Braverman, who traces her father Christie Fernandes’ roots to Sokolwaddo, Assagao, and grandmother’s roots to Calangute, has visited Goa on very few occasions. Her last visit was several years ago, when she accompanied her parents to the Dr Ribeiro Goan School reunion held in Goa. Christie had studied in the school in Kenya before migrating to London. The eldest of five siblings — all born in Kenya — Christie, was the only one who migrated to London from Kenya in the 1960s, while the rest of the family came to Goa. He lost one sibling who was working in Delhi. Two of his sisters live in Goa and Cyprus with their families, and his brother is a priest in the Archdiocese of Delhi. “We are very proud of her. She has always been a smart girl and always had her hopes high,” said Suella’s aunt. “Although she’s of Goan origin, she’s more British than Goan. She always had ambition and it’s an honour for us Goans and for her extended family here,” one of her cousins told TOI. Suella’s uncle, Fr Ayres Fernandes, director of a retreat centre in Okhla, Delhi, says he is not surprised at Suella’s rise in British politics. “She got a taste of politics from her mother. My brother too was an activist and was always well read. He was a good orator too. Public speaking runs in the family,” he told TOI. Fr Ayres shares his birthday — April 3 — with Suella, and recalls her being unassuming and softspoken during her visits to Goa. He has also visited her and the family in the UK. “She’s always been humble and a hardworking and bright student. I pray she does well as this is a very challenging job,” he said. “She’s straight forward and people like that about her. She has a bright future ahead of her and has the desire and capability to climb higher,” he added. Fr Ayres studied at Saligao and Rachol seminaries to become a priest before moving to Delhi to study theology. More recently, he spent three years in Benaulim as administrator of Shanti Sadan, the extension secretariat of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), for which he served as national secretary for Liturgy.

Goa: She got taste of politics from her mother, says Suella Braverman’s priest uncle
Bharat Jodo Yatra: Reaching the journey
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

Tour the length and breadth of the country, “with eyes and ears open, but mouth shut”, was the advice given to Gandhiji by Gopal Krishna Gokhale. This is how he would learn about India, its peoples, cultures, challenges, and aspirations on his return from South Africa – by going on a yatra. Gokhale was making the obvious point that seeing and hearing are two of the primary ways to know the world. But when he advised Gandhiji to keep his “mouth shut” he was making a subtler point. Let the people speak, he seemed to be counseling. Do not lecture them, for you do not have all the answers. They have something to tell you. Gandhiji followed this sage advice, and as a result India got a new vocabulary of politics.Jawaharlal Nehru also undertook a yatra, but of a different kind. It was a mental yatra through Indian history as he wrote, in five months, while in prison in Ahmednagar jail from 1942-46, his voluminous 700-page book, The Discovery of India. He marvelled not just at India’s ancient land but also at its culture and philosophy. People have criticised him for the word “discovery” in the title, saying that no Indian needs to discover India, only outsiders do. Indians know India. This is a superficial and vacuous criticism for it has no understanding of the philosophical complexity of India, its cultural diversity, geographical variety, and long history. India’s layered reality can, in fact, only be known through many lifetimes of continuous discovery. That is what makes it so magical. Try understanding the significance of the 300 Ramayanas that AK Ramanujan mentioned and you will see how complex and how delightful India is. A regular yatra of the mind is certainly required in India.Closer to our time, Chandra Shekhar undertook a 4,260 km six-month padayatra, later called Bharat Yatra, from Kanyakumari to Rajghat in 1983. In the Commemorative Volume published by Parliament, he says of his yatra: “When we started, it was doubtful whether people would react positively to Bharat Yatra or would take it as a political drama. But all through the yatra, the villagers who were illiterate, who were ignorant, who were helpless, lined up in large numbers to receive the volunteers who were walking. In almost all the villages, even the poor people managed to offer the best welcome that they could afford. There might have been difficulty of language, but the language of the heart, which was more powerful, helped to communicate the feelings. We ourselves understood that the people are willing to cooperate if we go to them. In this respect, it was Mahatma Gandhi who put his finger on the pulse of the people. It was an adventure in self, it was an adventure of self-education.”Chandra Shekhar was anxious that the yatra would be seen as a political drama but it grew, instead, into the “language of the heart” as people lined up to connect with the leader. For Chandra Shekhar, the yatra turned out to be “self-education”. It raised his political profile, gave him moral authority. The power of the yatra as a tool of political mobilisation was later successfully used by NT Rama Rao, who launched the Telugu Desam Party after his yatra across Andhra Pradesh, and YSR Reddy who walked nearly 1,500 km across AP. Both won the assembly elections that followed. From a different political perspective, LK Advani embarked on a Rath Yatra that converted the demand to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya into the dominant discourse of contemporary India. Now, three decades later, it remains the pivotal idea of the NDA regime’s politics of mobilisation.LIVE: Shri @RahulGandhi flags off and joins Bharat Jodo Yatra in Kanyakumari. #BharatJodoBegins https://t.co/lpRsDyKWun— Congress (@INCIndia) September 7, 2022“Yatra” is one of the key ideas that India has contributed to the global democratic lexicon. It is a unique instrument of political mobilisation. Few leaders across the world have undertaken yatras, preferring air and road-hopping trips instead. The yatra is a powerful strategy to build a counter discourse on all things concerning the nation. Because it is peaceful, and because it is slow, it allows a prolonged engagement with the concerns of the political. It reduces the gap between the leader and the citizen, since its spatial and temporal attributes — one has to travel through remote villages and ignored habitations — bring it closer to the people. This can serve to produce a political excitement that change is coming, that better times lie ahead.The Bharat Jodo Yatra has much to learn from the previous yatras. Build a new imagination for India, as was achieved by Gandhiji’s yatra. Learn about India’s rich history and cultural diversity, as bequeathed by Nehru’s yatra. Listen to the people with humility (shut up and listen), was the lesson of Chandra Shekhar’s yatra. And produce a counter mobilisation to the power of the entrenched regime, as was done by the yatras of NTR, YSR, and Advani.Of course, there will be adverse comment. This is legitimate in a democracy. The NDA and its formidable media cell will employ every trick in the book to mock the Bharat Jodo Yatra, ridiculing its leaders, obstructing its progress, and belittling its goals. This has already begun. It will get more intense as the power of the digital world will be harnessed to diminish its possibilities. But India needs an alternative discourse to that of the politics of othering, which, in its best version, is what the yatra offers. The yatra is potent because it will show how far the rulers have moved from the people, and how dismissive they are of the people’s concerns. It carries the seeds of change which have to be carefully nurtured, if it is to win the support of the people. We live in a digital world and therefore capturing the symbolic high ground, in visuals and text, is vital. Like the farmers’ protests did in 2021.In India, a yatra has at least four meanings. It is a physical “journey” where the traveller moves from one place to another. It is an internal “discovery” where causes long overlooked, both personal and public, acquire new political significance, especially when one shuts up and listens. It is a “pilgrimage” — as in the “char dham” yatra — when the pilgrim travels to different hallowed sites to receive blessings from the people. And it is a “signal” of change that another India is possible. To succeed, the Bharat Jodo Yatra will have to be all four things simultaneously.Peter Ronald deSouza is the DD Kosambi Visiting Professor at Goa University. He has recently co-edited the book Companion to Indian Democracy: Resilience, Fragility and Ambivalence, Routledge, 2022. Views are personal

Bharat Jodo Yatra: Reaching the journey
Satya Pal Malik: Decoding the curious case of the Meghalaya Governor
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Meghalaya Governor Satya Pal Malik has been keeping his guns trained on the Narendra Modi government over the farmer issues for more than one year now. Curiously, the Centre has still chosen not to remove him so far.Seeking to explain it, a senior Haryana BJP leader, on condition of anonymity, said, “A Jat leader from western Uttar Pradesh, Malik wants to emerge as a hero in the Jat community at this stage of his life by hitting out at the BJP-led Centre over farm issues. But the BJP dispensation doesn’t want to sack him as Governor and help him realise his wish. BJP has passion and patience. We have handled such personalities earlier too.”Referring to Malik’s “annoyance” against the Modi regime, the BJP leader said: “As the Jammu and Kashmir Governor earlier, he was like its CM. But then he was shifted to Goa (in November 2019) as Governor that might have upset him. And his transfer from Goa to Meghalaya (in August 2020) was seen as his further demotion.”On his part, Malik recently said that after completing his current tenure, he will “fully participate” in the fight for farmers’ rights. Addressing a function at Kira village in Nuh a week ago, he slammed the Modi government as he demanded the implementation and legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) for farmers’ produce, asserting that the country’s farmers cannot be defeated and will continue to protest till their demands are met.“I want to tell you all that there will be another protest by farmers and when that happens, leave aside differences of caste and fight together. Do not think this is a protest of Sikhs or Jats. No government can defeat you if you learn to fight together. This is a fight for every farmer, their farms, produce, the price of crops…the farmers are suffering, their produce is becoming cheaper while manure and irrigation are getting costlier,” Malik told the gathering.At the same event, the Meghalaya Governor also said: “The MSP is not being implemented because the Prime Minister has a friend whose name is Adani, who at the moment has become Asia’s richest person in five years.”During the year-long farmer agitation against the now-repealed three controversial central farm laws, Malik had made headlines several times by gunning for the Modi government, which was said to have then boosted the morale of protesters camping on Delhi’s borders.In January this year, Malik alleged that PM Modi came across as “arrogant” when he met him to discuss the farmer stir and that he ended up having an argument with the latter. Addressing a social function at Haryana’s Dadri, Malik had then said: “When I went to meet the Prime Minister to discuss the farmer issue, I ended up fighting with him within five minutes. He was very arrogant. When I told him that 500 of our own (farmers) had died… he said, ‘Did they die for me?’ I told him yes, since you are the king. I ended up having an argument with him. He told me to meet Amit Shah and I did.”Malik, 76, who hails from UP’s Baghpat, was a member of the UP Assembly during 1974-77. During 1980-86 and 1986-89, he represented UP in the Rajya Sabha. In 1989, he won the Lok Sabha election from Aligarh as a Janata Dal candidate. In 1990, he became the Union minister of state for parliamentary affairs and tourism.In 2004, Malik joined the BJP and unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha elections, losing to the then RLD chief Ajit Singh.The Modi government appointed Malik as the Bihar Governor in October 2017 and transferred him to J&K in August 2018. During his J&K tenure, the Modi government scrapped Article 370 which granted a special status to the then state.With Malik’s five-year term set to be completed in a couple of months, the BJP circles say he will not get another gubernatorial stint. A BJP leader said, “What bigger reward Malik would have got other than the governorship? He should have spoken only after tendering his resignation.” He also said, “Under the Constitution, the Governor is head of the state… It’s not a post of an employee who can be sacked anytime. Any action against the Governor would have its ramifications. Malik could have emerged as a ‘martyr’ if the Centre had resorted to firing him,” claiming that the BJP dispensation got Jagdeep Dhankar elected as the Vice-President “to woo the Jats”.In political circles, Malik’s bid to fire salvos at the Modi dispensation at regular intervals is perceived as part of his attempts to remain relevant in politics after his superannuation from the Governor’s office.At an event in Jaipur in November 2021, Malik had said that every time he spoke on the farmer issues, he had an apprehension for a couple of weeks that he might get a call from Delhi. Declaring that he met PM Modi over the farm laws issue, Malik said: “I was very hurt and angry and I met the Prime Minister and I told him that you are misreading the situation; these Sikhs cannot be defeated…nor can these Jats be defeated. You think that they (the farmers) will go away just like that; but give them something before sending them off, and don’t do two things: don’t use force on them, second, don’t send them empty-handed because they don’t forget, they don’t forget for a hundred years.”An Independent MLA from Dadri, Sombir Sangwan, who is supporting the BJP-JJP government in Haryana, recalls how Satya Pal Malik learnt politics in the company of Chaudhary Charan Singh in UP. Sangwan says, “Narendra Modi made him Governor of Jammu and Kashmir because he is a strong person and is capable in taking decisions. He played a good role during the abrogation of Article 370.”However, Sangwan is miffed with Malik for not attending a panchayat of farmers in Haryana this year despite having “promised” it.

Satya Pal Malik: Decoding the curious case of the Meghalaya Governor
AIFF polls: Former footballers can make a difference, says Eugeneson Lyngdoh
Times of India | 1 month ago | |
Times of India
1 month ago | |

Panaji: Eugeneson Lyngdoh dropped out of his engineering degree in electronics and telecommunication to focus on football. It was his choice, and it turned out to be a great one as the midfielder represented the country for several years.At his prime, he was the best in his position.Last year, after the former Bengaluru FC midfielder had quit playing professional football, he had another choice to make. This was a tough one.“After I stopped playing and dad passed away (last year), people wanted me to take his place. That’s how I got into all this,” Eugeneson told TOI late on Friday.Eugeneson’s father, SK Sunn, was a popular politician and football administrator in Meghalaya. He owned Ar-Hima, later Rangdajied United, and was the legislator from Mawphlang seat in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills.Sunn represented the constituency for over three years, until his untimely death in 2021.Eugeneson contested the by-election and won. From there, his journey not just into politics but football administration also started.“My father was the president of the Shillong Sports Association that runs the Shillong Premier League. The people of SSA convinced me to take his place. They made me the president. Now with (Larsing) Ming not being eligible due to the change in (AIFF) statutes, the Meghalaya Football Association nominated me,” said the former India midfielder.He was handpicked as the Meghalaya FA representative after Larsing Sawyan was “deemed disqualified as per provisions of the draft Constitution,” for being part of the AIFF executive committee for three terms, the last two as vice-president.Eugeneson’s nomination created plenty of buzz.When rumours made the rounds that Eugeneson was contesting for the AIFF president’s post, he found it hard to believe. “That’s crazy,” he said, wondering how such news was floating around.The MLA from Mawphlang, though, is not staying away from AIFF politics and will contest the election.Eugeneson has filed his nomination for an executive committee member’s post. He’s keen to make a mark. At 35, he would be younger than most candidates aspiring to get into the AIFF, but his stint as a top-notch footballer should give him an edge.“I still like to be called a former player than a politician,” said Eugeneson, who is among the 14 candidates battling for five executive committee member posts. “From my point of view, it’s important that footballers who have retired get involved with their respective state associations. They have so much to offer. They can make a difference at both state and national level.”If needed, elections will be held on August 28 for president, one treasurer, five members from representatives of member associations and five eminent players.

AIFF polls: Former footballers can make a difference, says Eugeneson Lyngdoh
Cong slams govt for no Nehru photo in official I-Day advt
Times of India | 1 month ago | |
Times of India
1 month ago | |

PANAJI: State Congress president Amit Patkar on Monday slammed the Goa government for excluding the photograph of the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru from the official advertisement released for Independence Day. “We strongly condemn this act of the divisive BJP government,” Patkar said. He said chief minister Pramod Sawant should watch the video of defence minister Rajnath Singh praising Nehru and also read history books to understand Nehru’s contribution. “The BJP government cannot erase the achievements of the nation with its divisive politics,” Patkar said. He said that they have documentary proof to show to the next generation about Congress' contribution in nation building. Since the BJP government has nothing to show about its contribution, it was compelled to organise a “silent March” to observe the “horrors of partition”, the state Congress chief said. “This only reflects BJP’s negativity. The BJP government has no right to use funds from the state treasury to push forward its own agenda,” he said. Congress held a Tiranga March in Panaji to celebrate the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. Patkar played the ‘dhol’ during the march.

Cong slams govt for no Nehru photo in official I-Day advt
  • Cong slams govt over damage to National Flags
  • Times of India

    Panaji: Congress slammed chief minister Pramod Sawant after he reportedly stated that almost 2.5 lakh National Flags received by the government were damaged.“It is disheartening to hear from the chief minister about the damaged tirangas. This shows the irresponsible and insensitive behaviour of the BJP government towards our national symbols of pride,” Congress functionary Viriato Fernandes said on Thursday.The BJP government, Fernandes said, does not know the value of food items, the National Flag and National Anthem. “It is obsessed with making fortunes by using national occasions,” he said.Fernandes, who has served the Indian Navy, demanded that the government come clean on the expenditure incurred on the purchase of flags in view of reports that the flags were purchased at prices higher than the market rates. He also said the government must tell the public the total amount paid to the event management agency to publicise its ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ drive.

Explained: Bihar churn in Opposition calculus
The Indian Express | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month ago | |

Two developments — the split in the Shiv Sena and the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra, and the political trapeze of Nitish Kumar in Bihar — have injected fresh vigour in Indian politics. Maharashtra and Bihar together have 88 seats in Lok Sabha — a little more than a sixth of the total — and are critical for both the BJP and the Opposition.In 2019, the BJP, in alliance with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and JD(U) and LJP in Bihar, had swept these states, winning 80 seats in all — 40 of which were the BJP’s own. In Maharashtra, the Opposition won just 7 seats — and in Bihar, the Congress got 1 seat and the RJD was wiped out.Political equations have been turned on their head now. Nitish Kumar has switched back to the Opposition, which is pushing the narrative that the BJP is friendless — or without allies — and is out to finish all other parties. Indeed, since 2019, the BJP has lost three major allies: Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab, Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, and JD(U) in Bihar.But can the Opposition, disparate and divided, find a common thread against the BJP for the 2024 elections? Will it be able to find a face it can agree on, to challenge Narendra Modi? Can Nitish Kumar be that face and unifier?Does the opposition need a face opposite Modi’s for 2024? With the Congress, the central pole in the anti-BJP tent, in terminal decline, several other Opposition stalwarts — Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal, K Chandrasekhar Rao, Sharad Pawar — nurse national ambitions. But the appeal of almost all of these leaders is confined largely to their states, and none of them appears willing to accept any of the others.Almost all coalition governments before the Modi era — the United Front, UPA, or even NDA-I — took shape after the elections, with candidates emerging out of negotiations among parties. But the political situation now is completely different from 2004, 1996, or even 1989. The overwhelming dominance of the BJP, the rightward shift of the centre of gravity of mainstream politics, and the hugely successful presidential nature of Modi’s campaign have changed the rules of the game entirely.An influential section of the Opposition spectrum believes that projecting a face, or even entering into a pre-poll anti-BJP alliance, would be counterproductive — and amount to walking into Modi’s trap. They say there is no face in the Opposition space with a pan-Indian appeal. Others argue that there is a pressing need to present an alternative — a credible narrative and a counter story.Can Nitish Kumar be the Opposition’s face, if anti-BJP parties do decide to put up one?Nitish has been Chief Minister of Bihar since 2005, except for a brief period when he stepped aside for Jitan Ram Manjhi in 2014-15. Both his critics and well wishers believe he has national ambitions. He remains a staunch socialist with a record of governance that is unmatched in Bihar.Secular in outlook, Nitish has stitched an impressive caste coalition in his state. He is one of the few anti-BJP leaders of stature in the Hindi heartland, where the BJP pulverized the Opposition in 2014 and 2019. And he carries no taint of corruption.But because of his legendary flip-flops, and especially his move to embrace the BJP in 2017, there is a certain deficit of trust in Nitish. Also, he has no appeal in the South, West, or Northeast.The silence of Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal on Nitish’s switch is telling. The Gandhis too have not spoken. Sharad Pawar has merely said that Nitish has taken a wise step, anticipating the crisis that the BJP was planning to create in his state — a comment which fits into the narrative that the BJP devours its allies.The DMK and Telangana Rashtra Samithi, on the other hand, have appeared enthusiastic. And former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda has tweeted: “…The developments in Bihar [have] made me think of the days when the Janata Dal parivar was under one roof. It has given three PMs. I am in my advanced years but if the younger generation decides, it can offer a good alternative…”Which other leader can be a possible contender to lead the Opposition?The Congress, Mamata, Pawar, and KCR have all said that the Opposition should come together, but no leader has mentioned any specifics; neither has there been any concerted effort at converting speech into action. Kejriwal has maintained a distance from the rest of the Opposition, which he believes suits him politically. Each of these leaders thinks they have a chance — and a roadmap.* Mamata believes the Trinamool Congress can sweep West Bengal, which has 42 seats, and win a handful of seats elsewhere. Many TMC leaders think the Congress will slide further. Mamata is comparatively better placed than the other contenders.* With his party’s influence limited to 17 seats in Telangana, KCR can only hope to emerge as a catalytic agent to bring the Opposition together.* Pawar is head and shoulders above the field in stature. But he is 81, and past his prime. Pawar does not believe a viable Opposition coalition is possible without the Congress.So where does the Congress stand in all of this?The Congress is in a dilemma. Rahul Gandhi seems to believe that the family needs to make a tactical retreat from the leadership of the party. His return as Congress president will automatically pitchfork him as the challenger to Modi, a situation he wants to avoid.With some regional parties challenging the premise of Congress preeminence, the party took a back seat in the selection of opposition candidates for President and Vice President. The party is also ready to explore the option of allowing a non-Congress leader to head, and possibly revive, the largely defunct UPA. But Mamata’s aggression — entering the fray in Goa and trying to lead the Opposition in the selection of the presidential candidate — has not gone down well with the Congress.Mamata can likely be countered better by Pawar or even Nitish. The Bihar CM sent a signal on Wednesday: he has no “daawedari” on Prime Ministerial ambitions, he said, but the BJP should remember that 2014 is the past and they should worry about 2024.A section of the Congress feels the party is too caught up with electing its president to give serious thought to rallying the opposition for 2024. The party also hopes to change the political narrative with its four-month, 3500-km Kanyakumari to Kashmir yatra beginning September 7.It is clear that despite the Bihar switch boosting the anti-BJP parties, the Opposition space remains as fluid as ever.

Explained: Bihar churn in Opposition calculus
Friends remember Pupul as ‘spirited’ and ‘adventurous’
Times of India | 1 month ago | |
Times of India
1 month ago | |

Panaji: One of the victims of the car accident, Priscilla Cruz, 53, fondly known as ‘Pupul’, was the line producer of the award-winning Konkani film Nachom-ia-Kumpasar, besides also being active in politics. Pupul also played a small role in the film as a matchmaker. “She had never acted before and needed some convincing, but she was sporting enough to take up the challenge,” director of the film, Bardroy Barretto, told TOI. Barretto said she played her part well. “She dazzled, but has gone too soon,” he said. “She was a very spirited person and you would never find her down and out,” Barretto said, adding that she had handled all the logistics for the film. Few years earlier she also worked as the location manager for ‘The Letters’, the international biopic on Mother Teresa that was partly shot in Goa. “She was the liaison person for other foreign film productions in Goa,” her friend told TOI. Pupul, a resident of Loutolim, leaves behind her school-going son, her father who was a PWD contractor and her sister. “She has been through a lot over the past years as she had to deal with the death of her younger brother and mother,” her friend said. “I will always remember her as being very outgoing, adventurous and a strong woman who had friends in every corner. In her younger days she loved bikes. She was a fighter in life,” he said.Goa Congress president Amit Patkar took to twitter to express his “shock and pain” at “the tragic death of Congress leader from Nuvem”.

Friends remember Pupul as ‘spirited’ and ‘adventurous’
Arrest of a minister, a lesson for Mamata Banerjee
The Indian Express | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month ago | |

In November 2015, after the results of the Bihar assembly elections, Nitish Kumar was arguably the most likely prime ministerial candidate to oppose Narendra Modi. The chimaera of “opposition unity” too seemed to be a concrete proposition. Nitish, despite being the junior partner in the Mahagathbandhan (the RJD had 80 seats in the assembly, JDU, 21 and Congress, 27), was chief minister once more. His gamble – of abandoning long-time ally BJP, and resigning as CM after an abysmal performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections – paid off. Most importantly, he seemed willing to work with old foes; to sacrifice his ego and compromise on his style of politics and governance for a larger political goal.Less than two years later, the Bihar CM quit the Mahagathbandhan and joined hands with the BJP overnight, once again. Today, his stature as a national leader — someone to head a coalition to oppose the formidable political dominance of the BJP-RSS — is greatly diminished.In Nitish’s decisions – and the story of her own rise to power — lies a political parable that Mamata Banerjee would do well to heed.Just two days before the Enforcement Directorate arrested West Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee, Mamata Banerjee took the surprising decision to instruct the Trinamool Congress’s 221 MLAs, 23 Lok Sabha MPs and 13 Rajya Sabha MPs to abstain from choosing between Jagdeep Dhankhar and Margaret Alva for the post of Vice-President of India. The TMC’s stated reason for not backing the Opposition candidate appears to stem from a petulance about propriety: “You can’t spring a name upon us at 10 minutes’ notice… We are the second largest opposition party in Parliament, and I’m sure we will grow bigger after the 2024 elections,” Derek O’Brien told this newspaper.Perhaps O’Brien has a point. The 2021 Bengal election – pitched almost as a head-to-head battle between the PM and Banerjee – has been perhaps the only major political setback for the BJP since 2019. The TMC, given its position in an electorally significant state – Bengal has the most number of Lok Sabha seats after UP and Maharashtra – must be a pillar of any national opposition formation. Yet, if the party wants to fulfil its national ambitions, it must do more than field candidates in Goa.The scandal around Chatterjee’s arrest by the ED, the unseemly statements by his aide Arpita Mukherjee are unlikely to endear the TMC to the people of Bengal, let alone the rest of India. Unfortunately, this latest episode is not a one-off. The Sharada and Narada scams, and the overwhelming presence of the TMC-backed “syndicate” (the CPM leadership did not have a reputation for indulging in financial corruption) in the state’s economic and political life are not features that inspire confidence. Unlike Nitish Kumar, or even Arvind Kejriwal’s “Delhi model”, Mamata Banerjee does not have a governance story to sell to the rest of the country. That is not to say that Banerjee and the TMC cannot overcome their shortcomings. To do so would require, first and foremost, cleaning house internally (Banerjee has the political mandate and power within her party to do so) and living up to the moral high ground it takes vis a vis the Centre. On the national stage, the TMC needs to display that it has the political maturity and ideological vision to hold together disparate forces. Banerjee, for her part, needs to show the same single-mindedness she did before she became CM to be more than just a regional satrap.The TMC has the potential to be more than just a regional party. It is, after all, an off-shoot of the Congress and not, in its essence, a party based on linguistic identity (the most hopeful Congress sympathisers dream of a reunion between the TMC, INC and NCP – with Sharad Pawar as party president and Banerjee as the PM candidate). The growing presence of Bengali workers across India can provide a foothold for the party beyond the state. Equally significant is the fact that with some exceptions, the TMC’s secular credentials are bona fide. Unlike, say, the Aam Aadmi Party, it has not celebrated the Ram Temple at Ayodhya or set up schemes to send “pilgrims” to the site where the Babri Masjid was destroyed. But what is most significant for the Opposition’s prospects is Banerjee’s political history and ability.It is easy to forget now that the CPM-led left in Bengal was once the most dominant electoral, ideological and organisational political force in any state in India. Its 37 years in power made it the longest-serving democratically-elected communist government in history.Banerjee – first as a young Congress leader and then with the founding of the TMC – fought this force and its vast cadre on the street. She was there at every protest, bore the brunt of severe violence and even when there was little prospect of unseating the CPM, she and her party ensured that when they were present, as the eventual alternative when the bastion falls. Even now, the TMC’s most significant political rally takes place on July 21 – “Martyrs’ Day” – to commemorate the killing of 13 Congress workers who were protesting the CPM’s electoral practices in 1993. Banerjee herself was injured. But her political credentials and modus operandi were set that day. They were visible in the Singur and Nandigram agitations, and eventually led her to the CM’s chair.The Left, for better or worse, stands diminished. But the BJP and RSS are a far greater force – in terms of ideological zeal, cadre, organisation, resources and the perceived use of state agencies to target political opponents. On paper, Banerjee’s record makes her the perfect candidate to lead the charge against this dominant force. But to do so, she must build bridges. The TMC alone is in no position to challenge the BJP beyond Bengal. In the state, too, a divided Opposition could mean the party’s days in office are numbered (the BJP, despite its loss in 2021, has seen a phenomenal rise in both vote- and seat-share in West Bengal since 2014).The state’s economic stagnation and the lack of industrialisation continue to be a problem. The political violence that has marred Bengal’s politics, according to many, has continued and even grown under TMC rule. And the fact remains that Nitish Kumar’s hailing from a Hindi-speaking state was an asset. Banerjee may have more seats and votes in Bengal, but she needs friends across parties to help her broaden the TMC’s appeal.The TMC may believe that its electoral victories are immune to corruption charges. Or, perhaps, that it is best to “abstain” from opposing the BJP to stay in power in Bengal until the saffron tide ebbs from much of the rest of the country. Or that its political future is so secure that it can break ranks over the VP candidate even as the Opposition tried to rally around the party’s erstwhile vice-president for the post of President of India. But Mamata Banerjee ought to know – better than almost any other leader in Indian politics today – that combating the hegemony of an ideological party requires constant work. With another corruption allegation – this time against one of the most senior TMC ministers – the CM needs to recognise that she does not hold all the cards. She must negotiate and build bridges with the rest of the Opposition in good faith.She can certainly go the Nitish Kumar way – and let ego and the crises and contradictions of coalition politics distract her from the larger national political picture. And given the fact that power has not made the Sangh complacent – every election is fought as though it is a make-or-break one – the only sustainable accommodation she will get from the BJP is likely to be similar to Nitish Kumar’s stature in Bihar: A diminished leader, ruling under the suzerainty of Delhi. The firebrand of Bengal is unlikely to be happy with that position.aakash.joshi@expressindia.com

Arrest of a minister, a lesson for Mamata Banerjee
Differences in non-BJP camp family quarrel; enough time for Mamata to change mind: Margaret Alva
The Indian Express | 2 months ago | |
The Indian Express
2 months ago | |

The Opposition’s vice presidential candidate Margaret Alva Saturday described the prevailing situation in the non-BJP camp as a “family quarrel”, but asserted they are clear they don’t want a one-party rule and were working to “sink the differences” and unite for the 2024 challenge.The 80-year-old Alva, who faces an uphill task in the August 6 vice presidential poll, also said the Opposition was clear in its intention that the Constitution has to be defended and democratic institutions protected.In an interview to PTI, the former governor said, “The tragedy of today’s democratic system is that the mandate of people does not prevail and muscle and money power, and threats change the composition of the elected framework.” On frequent disruptions seen in Parliament, the multi-term parliamentarian said these interruptions were happening because the Chair was “unable to work out compromises” and consider the Opposition’s viewpoint.“How can a democracy function with the government slogan seemingly being ‘my way or no way’.” Alva has been fielded by the Opposition for the vice presidential poll contest against the ruling NDA’s Jagdeep Dhankhar, but the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress has announced it will abstain from the election. Alva admitted she was “aghast at the announcement” the TMC would abstain.“Mamata has been leading the entire movement to unite the opposition,” Alva said. “She has been my friend for many years and I believe that there is enough time for her to change her mind.” On Saturday, Alva met Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal to seek his support for her vice presidential bid.On dynastic politics, which has been frequently been deprecated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a threat to democracy, Alva said there is nothing wrong in children of politicians coming in. “But they have to win elections and the confidence of people and be accepted.” Alva, a former Congress general secretary, had questioned the denial of a party ticket to her son in the 2008 Karnataka elections when wards of leaders in other states had been accommodated.On her rival Dhankhar’s tenure as West Bengal governor, she said there is a ‘Lakshman Rekha’ a Raj Bhawan occupant needs to respect. “It is unethical and unconstitutional to function as a party representative when holding the constitutional office.”Downplaying the apparent cracks in the Opposition betrayed by the cross-voting in the presidential poll on July 18, Alva said, “Opposition parties are making efforts to sink their differences and work together before the general elections. I think they feel the need and the urgency of finding a common platform to face the challenge of 2024. There might be ups and downs, differences but the intention is clear, they are concerned and they want to make a point. The Constitution has to be defended and democratic institutions have to be protected. We do not want a one-party rule.” The veteran Congress leader, who has spent nearly 50 years in politics, said the differences in the Opposition bloc were “like a family quarrel” which would be resolved.“We will sit and sort it out,” she said, adding “She (Mamata) is very much part of us and her basic ideology is that of the Congress. I always consider her one of us. I believe we can sit and sort out any differences that have arisen. She has been fighting the BJP all along. There is no way she can help the BJP win.” The Congress veteran, who has served as governor of Goa, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, also favoured consensus on the posts of president and vice president, saying the government should take the initiative and engage various parties and forge a common ground.On the status of democracy in the country, she said “it is not the mandate of the people that prevails” these days.“In various states, the mandate of the people is ignored and muscle power, money power and threats change the composition of the elected framework,” Alva said, citing the examples of Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh.She added, “Today, it is frightening when I look around. It’s a different world altogether. You cannot eat what you want, you cannot wear what you want, you cannot say what you want, you cannot even meet people what you want. What is this time?” She said parliamentary disruptions are unfortunate.“The point is why are there disruptions?” she asked. “It is because the Chair is unable to work out compromises and work out a way by which the point of view of the opposition and their demands for discussion and debate can be worked into the agenda of the house.” “You can’t just pass 22 bills in 12 minutes, without debate, without discussion, the opposition candidate said. “How can a democracy function like this? The government’s slogan seems to be either my way or no way. You don’t allow a discussion and you don’t want to hear a point of view which is different from yours. It is the people suffering outside — common people, the voter, the taxpayer.”Noting that she has been a governor and a lawyer — her vice presidential poll rival Dhankhar has also served as governor and lawyer — she said, “He (Dhankhar) has been fighting a woman in the state (West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee) and now he is fighting another woman in the election. Something in his stars…” Alva said Dhankhar is “being rewarded” for the hard political stance he took as West Bengal governor.“I have also been a governor and you are supposed to be non-partisan. You are supposed to help your government function. There is a Lakshman Rekha, which you have to keep in mind once you are in the Raj Bhawan. You can’t sit there and function as the representative of your party. I think it is unethical and unconstitutional.” Speaking about her own journey, Alva said Indira Gandhi was her political mentor.“Indira ji handpicked me for Parliament, but my in-laws helped me grow.” The numbers in the electoral college are heavily against Alva, but she said in democracy it was important to accept the challenge, notwithstanding the considerations of victory or loss. “Because the numbers are stacked against us, should we not fight the election?” “I think in a democratic system, win or loss, you have to accept the challenge and place your point of view before your MPs who are now the electoral college. We have a different point of view from the government and the need is for those who are on a common platform to accept the challenge,” Alva said.The veteran leader also pointed to her struggles saying she has come up the ladder of politics — from block level to being MP, minister and governor – all by the virtue of “hard work, commitment and clean politics”.“This is another chapter,” said Alva, who had returned to Bengaluru to settle, but returned when called upon by the Opposition to fight the August 6 election.

Differences in non-BJP camp family quarrel; enough time for Mamata to change mind: Margaret Alva
From the Urdu Press: Dhankhar-Alva battle and Revdi culture war to unparliamentary duels and Hamid Ansari row
The Indian Express | 2 months ago | |
The Indian Express
2 months ago | |

As the polling for the Presidential election concluded, the stage was set for the ruling BJP-led NDA’s candidate Droupadi Murmu to become the first tribal President of India. Battle lines were also drawn for the upcoming Vice Presidential poll, with the joint Opposition pitting Congress veteran Margaret Alva against the NDA’s pick Jagdeep Dhankhar. Meanwhile, the Monsoon Session of Parliament got underway on the expected stormy note, with both the government and the Opposition bracing for a bristling, protracted showdown. The Urdu dailies were packed with these reports even as they unpicked their different strands and multiple layers to give their readers perspectives too.SiasatIn its first leader on July 17, the Hyderabad-based daily Siasat writes that India has witnessed a shift in governments’ priorities over the last few years, with some dispensations now rolling out various relief and welfare measures for the people, who are appreciating the same. It has often been the case that governments have gone out of their ways to ensure ease of doing business for corporates and industrial houses — especially players who provide funds for their parties — giving lands for their industrial units, providing them with power and water at concessional rates, making news laws or rules for them, and even letting them pile more burdens on public, the daily states, adding that some changes have however been observed in the situation in recent years.“Although the trend of offering sops and concessions to industrialists has intensified, some ruling parties have now also come out to provide some relief in various forms to the public in their states, which include measures such as free electricity and water up to certain levels, pension for widows and elderly women, free bus rides for women, upgrading of facilities and standards in government schools and hospitals, scholarship for foreign education and setting up of skill training centres for youth,” the editorial says, claiming that the BJP has often raised objections to such freebies. “And now Prime Minister Narendra Modi has himself taken exception to these measures, calling it ‘revdi (sweets) culture’ and claiming that it is dangerous for the development of the country,” it states. “The reality is that if people get relief and live contented lives, this would rather stabilise things and ensure faster development. Crony capitalism is affecting development. Corporates have been given loans worth thousands of crores, but instead of paying them back some businessmen are fleeing the country. Instead of Indians’ black money returning to the country, the public money is being transferred overseas. A select band of corporates and industrialists is being handed out public assets ranging from airports to railways, telecommunication to ports.”Describing the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP as a “leading party dedicated to providing relief to public”, the daily cites the example of Delhi, listing various freebies and welfare measures taken by the party’s government. “Rather than objecting to the politics of welfarism, the need of the hour is to actually promote and boost it,” it claims.InquilabIn its editorial on July 17, headlined “‘Gair parlimaani alfaaz’ ka tanaza (Row over unparliamentary words)”, the New Delhi edition of Inquilab writes that Parliament is a hallowed institution in a democracy where public representatives discuss issues relating to people’s problems and concerns besides making laws. In the course of such debates, the Treasury and Opposition benches target each other and engage in heated verbal duels. As a matter of principle, coarse language should not be used as even trenchant criticism can be made in decent words, the daily says. “This used to be the parliamentary tradition prior to the decline in its standards. The MPs used to make sharp criticism eloquently in a civil manner without furrowing their intended target’s forehead,” it states. Referring to the compilation of unparliamentary terms in a new booklet issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat, it concedes that such compilations have been done by Parliament and Assemblies earlier too, but highlights that the addition of unparliamentary words and expressions in the updated booklet is “patently excessive”, pointing out that many of them have been part of our daily spoken language.“It is incomprehensible what is objectionable in words like ‘dhindora peetna’, ‘ghadiyali aansu’, ‘drama’, ‘bahri sarkar’, ‘eyewash’, ‘corrupt’, ‘lie’, ‘incompetent’, ‘untrue’, ‘mislead’, ‘coward’, and ‘criminal’? Many other terms like these are now part of the new list of unparliamentary words,” the edit says. It notes that following the blowback from the Opposition, which slammed the list as a “gag order” meant to shield the Modi government against “criticism and hard-hitting truth”, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla clarified that such words and phrases had not been banned and that the decision to expunge words is the prerogative of the presiding officer of the House. “This clarification is however not convincing. Expunging such words from the records would be tantamount to striking off key words from a meaningful line. If Parliament is debating corruption, then what should a member call corrupt people or officials. Terming them as merely ‘not honest’ would barely serve the purpose. One could only wish that the Lok Sabha Secretariat’s booklet would also have listed the alternative parliamentary terms for those words and expressions deemed unparliamentary!”Roznama Rashtriya SaharaCommenting on the August 6 Vice Presidential election, the multi-edition daily Roznama Rashtriya Sahara, in an editorial on July 18, states that like the case of the Presidential election, the ruling NDA and the joint Opposition could not work out a consensus with regard to picking a nominee for the Vice Presidential poll. It points out that after having fielded Droupadi Murmu and Yashwant Sinha as their respective Presidential nominees, the Modi dispensation and the Opposition have now nominated Jagdeep Dhankhar and Margaret Alva as their Vice Presidential candidates, respectively. It says there are some commonalities in both camp’s selection of these candidates though. “Both sides have fielded one woman candidate. Also, while Dhankhar is West Bengal Governor, Alva had been a Governor of states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Goa,” it says. Noting that by naming a tribal woman leader from Odisha, Murmu, the ex-Jharkhand Governor, as its Presidential face, the Modi camp succeeded in splintering the Opposition, getting parties like the Biju Janata Dal, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena on board. The daily writes that Murmu’s candidature even forced the Trinamool Congress (TMC) to adopt a curious position, which saw Sinha despite having been its erstwhile leader skipping his campaign in the party-ruled West Bengal. “This is the art of politics and its myriad colours, where nothing is what appears on the surface, and where there could never be any certainties,” it says.Urdu TimesThe Mumbai-based daily Urdu Times, in its editorial on July 15, writes on the BJP’s bid to gun for ex-Vice President Hamid Ansari in the run-up to the Vice Presidential election. It refers to the BJP’s allegations quoting media reports on claims of a Pakistani journalist Nusrat Mirza that he had visited India on the invitation by then V-P Ansari and later shared the information gathered during the visit with Pakistan’s ISI. Flagging the curious timing of the ruling party’s assault on Ansari, it asks “whether the plot against Ansari is aimed at blocking the entry of any Muslim candidate in the V-P poll fray”, even as it highlights the name of senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi as one of the aspirants for the V-P’s post. (The BJP named Dhankhar as the NDA’s V-P candidate on 16 July.)The daily refers to Ansari’s rebuttal of the saffron party’s slurs. Dismissing the charges levelled by the BJP’s national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia as a “litany of falsehood”, the former two-time V-P stated that “It is a known fact that invitations to foreign dignitaries by the Vice President of India are on the advice of the Government, generally through the Ministry of External Affairs… I never invited him (Mirza) or met him.”“Despite these facts, the BJP’s move to open a front against Hamid Ansari on the basis of a Pakistani journalist’s absurd and unsubstantiated claims in a bid to brand him as a traitor is unacceptable,” the daily says. “In recent years dozens of people, including military personnel, have been arrested for espionage. In 2017, a member of the Madhya Pradesh BJP’s IT cell was among those arrested by the state ATS on charges of spying for Pakistan. The BJP never held any press conference then,” it states. Asserting that Muslims have discharged their duties for the country in various high offices with unimpeachable integrity and loyalty, the edit says that “They don’t need to explain their loyalty for the country. The BJP spokesperson, however, now needs to explain the crisis gripping the Indian economy in the form of dipping GDP, rising inflation and falling Rupee against the US dollar.”

From the Urdu Press: Dhankhar-Alva battle and Revdi culture war to unparliamentary duels and Hamid Ansari row