The Indian Express | 2 months ago | 27-03-2023 | 11:45 am
Congress and other Opposition MPs wore black in protest against the “illegal disqualification” of Rahul Gandhi from the House. The unruly scenes made speaker Om Birla adjourn the proceedings in a few seconds.As soon as the House met Congress MPs – TN Pratapan Hibi Eden, Jothimani S and Ramya Haridas rushed to the well of the house, tore the papers in their hands and hurled them at the Speaker. Some of the MPs were waving black stoles also at the speaker. Birla adjourned the proceedings in a few seconds.The Congress MPs, however, continued the protests inside the house in the well of the house, tore papers and hurled it at the speaker’s chair while one banner was thrown on the chair of the speaker after he left the house.Along with Congress members, MPs belonging to DMK, NCP, Left and BRS were also wearing black today. TMC MPs had their mouth covered by a black band.The MPs were holding placards like Jago ED, ED Modani Bhai Bhai” etcAfter the house proceedings were adjourned the opposition held a brief protest in front of Gandhi statue in which Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge were present.The opposition then marched with shouting slogans to Vijay Chowk.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday night (GMT) and alleged that the BJP and RSS are “incapable of looking at the future” and can only talk about the past.Addressing a gathering of the Indian diaspora in the Javits Centre in New York, Gandhi said, “He (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) is trying to drive the car…the Indian car and he looks in the rear-view mirror. Then he does not understand why this car is crashing, not moving forward. And it’s the same idea with the BJP, with the RSS. All of them. You listen to the ministers, you listen to the Prime Minister. You will never find them talking about the future. They only talk about the past”.Gandhi asserted that the BJP and RSS speak only about the past and always “blame somebody else for the past”. In India, there is a fight going on back between two ideologies — one represented by the Congress and the other by the BJP and the RSS, the former MP said.“The simplest way to describe this fight is that on one side you have Mahatma Gandhi and on the other side, Nathuram Godse,” he said.On the Odisha train accident, which claimed 275 lives and left over 1,000 injured, Gandhi said that during the Congress tenure, if train mishaps happened, ministers used to take responsibilities for their actions and “we accepted our mistakes”.“I remember a train accident when the Congress was in power. The Congress did not get up and say ‘now it is the fault of the British that the train has crashed’. The Congress minister said ‘it’s my responsibility and I’m resigning’. So this is the problem we have back home, we make excuses and we are not accepting the reality we are faced with,” Gandhi said.A one-minute silence was also observed to pay respect to the people who died in the accident.During his 40-minute long speech, Gandhi also praised the Indian-American community for the way they have lived in the US. “All the giants that have emerged from India, you can see that there were certain qualities that all of them possessed. Firstly, they searched for, represented and fought for the truth. Secondly, all these people were humble, and there was no arrogance in them. That is how Indians have worked in the US, and that’s why Indians are successful here. I respect and honour you for that.”Gandhi is on a six-day, three-city tour to the United States. He has visited California, the Bay area, Washington and New York to interact with the Indian communities, think tanks and the press.Earlier last week, Gandhi also said the RSS and the BJP are controlling all the instruments of politics in India. Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rahul said, “I think if you sat Modi ji down next to god, Modi ji would start explaining to god how the universe works. And god would get confused that what have I created.”— With PTI inputs
With just the clothes on their backs, M Joy Singh and his family of five fled their home in the hill district of Kangpokpi and arrived at a relief camp in Imphal West’s Lamboi Khongnakhong on May 7. They have been there ever since and see little hope of returning anytime soon, even as the violence that started on May 3 continues across the state.They are among the thousands of families currently in relief camps across the state, many of whom have been living as refugees within their own state for close to a month now.As of June 2, there were 37,450 people living in relief camps across 13 districts. And with the continuing incidents of shooting and arson, particularly in the areas at the border of valley and hill districts, this number is rising by the day.The relief camp in which M Joy Singh and his family are being housed is located in a government school. Set up by local residents from a group called Indigenous Development Mission, it is much smaller than many other camps — housing 67 people from 22 families, most from Kangpokpi district and a few from Churachandpur district. Because the school campus is small, organisers say they are already running over capacity and have not taken in any new people since May 24.“The provisions for the camp are mostly being donated by different NGOs and clubs. They have been asking us about our needs and contributing. We have also been receiving some basic provisions from the government’s side,” said S Milan Singh, one of the organisers. Since May 12, they have received 18 bags of rice, three bags of dal, a few bags of salt, potatoes and onions, three tins of cooking oil and 22,000 litres of water from the district administration.In Churachandpur, Kennedy, part of the Kuki Khanglai Lompi group which runs 50 relief camps in the district, said meeting basic needs is a daily challenge amid the swelling numbers and soaring heat. On Saturday evening itself, more than 100 people arrived at the camps from Moljol village. Currently, he said, there are more than 6,500 people living in these camps, set up in schools, churches and community halls. Another 2,000 people are living in relatives’ homes but depend upon the group for food rations.“Different stakeholders are providing us with supplies. There are other civil society organisations, the church, private organizations, the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum and the district administration… Right now, providing medicines to the people is a big challenge for us, especially since a lot of people are getting sick because of the heat,” he said. More than anything, however, it is the future that worries him.“We can’t just keep feeding them every day. Ultimately, people will need their own livelihood again,” he said.Back in Imphal, M Joy Singh — who was a teacher in a private school — said that for him, rehabilitation would ideally mean returning to Kangpokpi with protection so that he can restart his life there. “I have lived all my life there. My parents and grandparents have been cremated there. I don’t want to lose the place where I was brought up, but I fear it may take more than one or two years to return,” he said.At another relief camp in Imphal, M Baby, whose home was in Churachandpur town and who has been in the camp since May 10, said that her family would prefer a fresh start in the valley.“We came with nothing but our clothes. But there is nothing to go back to, everything is destroyed,” she said.According to the Deputy Collector of one of the districts concerned, there are primarily two sets of people in relief camps with differing long-term needs. People who have moved to the relief camps from border areas of the same districts, and those who have come from other districts dominated by people from another community.“Those from fringe villages will probably eventually go back. It is more challenging for the other displaced group. Until the question of where they will be resettlement is tackled, we want to at least find a better place for them to live where they can have some privacy and live as family units instead of all together, which is something we are working towards,” said the official.Among the inmates of the Lamboi relief camp are 14 children. While schools across the state have been shut since the start of the violence and will continue to remain closed till at least June 15, a small respite for the children is that some volunteer teachers have been visiting the camp for the past two weeks to conduct some informal classes for a few hours for them.
Arun Janardhanan: There was a story that when you decided to resign as an IPS officer, the original plan was to join Rajinikanth’s party, which was to launch in 2019-20. Because Rajnikanth cancelled the plan, you joined the BJP. Is that true?I did not resign to join any political party. I was very allergic to politicians. Being a cop for nine-and-a-half years, I was at the other end of the political spectrum. Joining politics immediately after quitting is something I was not very comfortable with, but I wanted to go back to my grassroots. In the spirit of service, I started a foundation called We The Leaders Foundation. The idea of joining the BJP came after I met some leaders and they convinced me that the foundation can have a life of its own, but through politics I can achieve certain goals and objectives very fast, especially for Tamil Nadu.I have met Rajinikanth sir a couple of times and he’s a great person but I never met him to join his party. Our conversation was about issues of common interest and even now we maintain a good friendship.Arun Janardhanan: When you look at yourself as an ex-IPS officer, how does your past influence your present?After losing my first assembly election in Aravakurichi, I spoke to a lot of people and asked them what I did wrong? Many felt that my journey as a police officer, who directly entered politics, was an impediment. People don’t want the same force of a policeman in politics because you’re always ramrod straight. Politics is much deeper. They also want to test whether you will stay in politics for five-10-15 years, or is it a passing thought for you. Even now, if anybody wants to criticise me, they say, ‘Oh, he’s behaving like a policeman… for Annamalai there’s always black and white’. On the positive side, being in the police for about nine-and-a-half years has given me a good insight into human behaviour.I would like to be in Tamil Nadu. I don’t personally want to contest the Lok Sabha elections because I don’t want to be a leader in Tamil Nadu who will go to Delhi and then come backArun Janardhanan: When we look at Tamil Nadu, the BJP is seen as a North Indian party, an upper caste party. In Tamil Nadu, there is Dravidianism, Tamil nationalism, too. How do you plan to make the BJP popular in Tamil Nadu?In Tamil Nadu, the national party always had a role to play. When Modiji was coming to power for the first time as the PM in 2014, we got 19 per cent votes. DMK was as low as 23 per cent. In Tamil Nadu, a national party should have a face, as people here look for a face. It’s a very peculiar political model because people want to travel with the leader for a long time. We have to create leaders in Tamil Nadu who stick with people for 20-30 years. After some time, if the party gives me some other assignment, I would like to be in Tamil Nadu. I personally don’t want to contest the Lok Sabha elections because I don’t want to be a leader in Tamil Nadu who will go to Delhi and then come back.Liz Mathew: The BJP’s disappointing Karnataka election results were attributed to excessive Delhi influence in campaigning. What was the reason for the debacle? Was it the local or national leadership that worked on the party’s election strategies?Karnataka’s political landscape is intricate. In 2013, BJP faced challenges due to Yediyurappa’s separate party, KJP (Karnataka Janata Paksha), and vote cutters like JD(S), resulting in Congress taking power. In 2018, despite Congress leading by 2.5 per cent in vote share, BJP outperformed in 24 seats, marking a shift.Each of the six regions of Karnataka has a distinct voting pattern. In south Karnataka, with 64 seats from Mysore to Ramanagara, JD(S) is a key player. BJP’s influence is growing in north Karnataka, and they dominated central Karnataka in 2018. Bellary, a strong area for BJP in the past two elections, saw a downturn this time. Coastal Karnataka usually favours the BJP, but the recent election was tougher.Any government that releases the caste census will be in trouble. In a democracy like ours, with so many caste and social groups, nobody is going to agree with the numbersA surprise was JD(S)’s unexpected five per cent vote share drop, despite an aggressive campaign. BJP’s vote share in south Karnataka increased from 16 per cent in 2018 to 23 per cent, but Congress came out victorious, gaining 18-20 seats in the region. Despite the increase in ST reservation from three per cent to seven per cent, BJP underperformed in Bellary, calling for introspection. In Bangalore, BJP saw an improvement, winning 17 seats compared to 11 in 2018.Overall, the BJP remains unperturbed after the Karnataka elections, as its vote share held steady. While Congress retained its candidates, BJP took risks, including a generational shift with Yediyurappa not contesting. The continuous change of three chief ministers in five years — HD Kumaraswamy, BS Yediyurappa, Basavaraj Bommai — also unsettled the administration. Furthermore, ex-Congress members contested under BJP, adding to the dynamism. Yet, the BJP is optimistic about sweeping the 2024 Parliament election.I can tell you, 100 per cent, that the Delhi leadership never drove this election. The election was completely driven by the local leadership. Modiji attended more rallies because the local leadership wanted him to attend more rallies. The programme was made by them — the election co-convener Shobha Karandlaje, state President Nalin Kumar Kateel, the former CM Yediyurappa, the then CM Basavaraj Bommai. The “Ee baari nirdhara, bahumatada BJP” (This time, BJP majority government) slogan was made by the local leadership. People want Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath to come for campaigning. We acted as a facilitator: Dharmendra Pradhan as election in-charge, Mansukh Mandaviya and myself.Liz Mathew: Were the leaders united? Was the decision on a generational shift taken on time? How will you address these issues?There were issues but whenever you make a shift, it is always an issue. You have seen Jagadish Shettar. The party has collective wisdom. The senior five-six leaders of Karnataka felt a generational change was needed. The way the BJP works for me, as a karyakarta, is that after a certain point of time they believe that you are not fighting elections but you’re important to the party — we will take care of you. The party will not reject any single person. I can give severalexamples from Tamil Nadu of people sitting in different positions, and for many of them it was a surprise. I have taken the resignation letters of two BJP karyakartas from Tamil Nadu who have become governors. In case of Jagadish Shettar also, the party didn’t sideline him. Seniors have to make way, but in some places they have to still be there. For instance, in Chitradurga we have a 74-year-old fighting the election on a BJP ticket because the next level of leadership is developing. Each seat will go through a different module. No two individuals can be equated. In the case of Laxman Savadiji, he was given a seat to contest but not the seat he wanted. He was also assured of something else once the government comes to power. These are all micro issues.Liz Mathew: Given BJP’s limited success in Tamil Nadu, have you felt frustrated or considered quitting due to its slow progress?I have no intention of quitting; I never publicly declared such a thing. A party’s growth depends on its members’ election competency. I was pleased when, in the recent urban local body elections, around 5,900 BJP candidates stood independently across all bodies. Many were successful, others weren’t, but now they are effectively working on the ground. Constant alliances can weaken a party’s ability to contest elections independently and fearlessly.Each state’s political environment varies, and what transpires in Tamil Nadu affects Delhi, considering its 39 Lok Sabha MPs. While BJP’s independent fight might be beneficial for us, it may not be advantageous for the overall Delhi numbers due to vote division.To establish roots in Tamil Nadu, BJP needs the ethos of a regional party. Consider DMK or AIADMK; they always prioritise Tamil Nadu. Since the inception of BJP state leadership, we resolved to champion Tamil Nadu’s cause, even if it occasionally inconveniences the party. For instance, when Karnataka, governed by the BJP, planned to build the Mekedatu dam, Tamil Nadu BJP observed a one-day fast in Thanjavur to express local sentiments. National leadership can then address these concerns.Modiji gave Tamilians a great honour by placing our Sengol sceptre, symbolising Chola power transfer, in the new Parliament, continually reminding the Speaker of its significance.P Vaidyanathan Iyer: What were the BJP’s apprehensions about the recent labour law amendments in Tamil Nadu, given that similar changes were made nationally?BJP is in support of bringing in a new labour code that is realistic and (in line) with the market sentiment, new era of technology. We had a problem with the way it was communicated by the Tamil Nadu government. It seemed they were trying to squeeze the workers’ rights by trying to put them in a room. Second, we asked for certain safety mechanisms, a welfare board to take care of it. Even if there was a labour union, we wanted them to go one level up in terms of setting a proper communication channel which was not addressed in the Tamil Nadu order. We are there for increased working hours, flexible working hours, but with certain conditions that make sure that everybody is heard. We are not blanketly opposing anything, like other parties. In the new era, a lot of changes have to come, but I feel the central government order was more practical and communicative.P Vaidyanathan Iyer: What is the local BJP’s position on Tamil Nadu’s decision to stick with the New Pension System?The local BJP strongly supports the New Pension System over reverting to the old model, citing concerns over escalating government expenses. I was one of the earliest people who entered the New Pension Scheme and the model is fairly good. I found it beneficial, offering flexibility in investment choices. It’s crucial to communicate to Civil servants that they can influence where their pension contributions are invested.P Vaidyanathan Iyer: Regarding the temple management dispute in Tamil Nadu between BJP-RSS, spiritual leaders and the government, what’s your stance?The Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act (TN HR&CE) faced initial opposition in the 1950s,assuaged by promises of undisturbed temple rituals, operations and properties. However, the Act’s execution is criticised today. Many temples lack Arukala puja and are deteriorating due to discord among stakeholders. Also, administrative costs exceed the stipulated 12 per cent of hundi collections, misappropriating funds meant for temple activities.The opposition to the current management is both ideological and administrative, with poor coordination adversely impacting temple operations.The BJP believes the TN HR&CE has outlived its usefulness and supports a new management method.For example, in the Kalikambal temple, trustees are publicly elected by the community. We propose a model where the temple community elects a board supervised by a reputable private individual. An overarching government authority should intervene only when norms are violated. This approach ensures community involvement while maintaining regulatory oversight.SHYAMLAL YADAV: Tamil Nadu has played a key role in the social justice movement and some parties in the state are demanding a nationwide caste census. In Karnataka, one reason for the BJP’s defeat is that the Congress very aggressively demanded a caste census. Shouldn’t there be a caste census?When there was the Congress government in Karnataka and Siddaramaiahji was the Chief Minister, from 2013-18, they conducted a caste census. That report never saw the light of the day. In several judgments, especially when the issues of caste and reservation came up, the Supreme Court has demanded for an empirical proof for giving data. The Karnataka Congress demanding for a caste census is like a kettle calling the pot black. They themselves are not releasing what they did. Any government that releases the caste census will be in trouble. In a democracy like ours, with so many caste and social groups, nobody is going to agree with the numbers. Let all the political parties fall in line. I’m not saying it won’t happen, it has to happen. But how it has to happen, what methodology, let us defer it to the wisdom of the senior political leadership.AMRITH LAL: How does BJP’s one India, one language and, to some extent, one faith agenda, work with the very strong regional linguistic nationalism of Tamil Nadu? Also, as early as 1982-1983 Hindu Munnani won a seat on its own in Padmanabhapuram, an assembly constituency. What is it that prevented the BJP from growing into a party that can win at least one seat in Tamil Nadu on its own?Our PM and the senior leadership, none of them believes in one country, one language. The new National Education Policy very clearly laid down the mandate saying it is not going to work.Let us have three languages. One is your mother tongue, one is English, one could be a regional language of your choice.You are right about the seat in Padmanabhapuram, Kanyakumari. Tomorrow if the BJP is standing alone, if it is a three-way division in Tamil Nadu, BJP will start with 40 seats. It is my strong answer to you as BJP State President. In 2016 we stood alone, but unfortunately there were some issues like lack of leadership, somebody went out, somebody came in, but post the assembly elections we are in a very good position in Kanyakumari, which you will also see in Lok Sabha.
Airbus is closing towards a potentially record deal to sell 500 narrow-body A320-family jets to India’s largest carrier IndiGo, industry sources said on Sunday.The European planemaker has emerged as front-runner for an order eclipsing Air India’s historic provisional purchase of 470 jets in February, the sources said on the sidelines of an airline industry meeting in Istanbul.Such a deal would be worth some $50 billion at the most recently published Airbus list prices, but would typically be worth less than half this after widespread airline industry discounts for bulk deals, according to aircraft analysts.Airbus and Boeing are also still competing in separate talks to sell 25 A330neo or Boeing 787 wide-body jets to the same airline, the industry sources said.IndiGo Chief Executive Pieter Elbers, attending the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association in Istanbul, declined to comment on commercial matters.Airbus and Boeing also declined to comment.Reuters first reported in March that IndiGo, which has a 56% share of the domestic Indian market, was in talks with both Airbus and Boeing for the order, which if confirmed would be the largest by a single airline ranked by the number of units.IndiGo is already one of Airbus’s largest customers and has so far ordered a total of 830 Airbus A320-family jets of which nearly 500 are still to be delivered.Airbus and Boeing have been racking up billions of dollars of new orders stretching beyond 2030 as airlines lock in supplies ahead of looming shortages.Turkish Airlines had taken the spotlight before the IATA meeting with a surprise announcement that it could order 600 jets, but delegates said there were few signs of an immediate deal.TRAVEL REBOUNDIndian carriers now have the second-largest order book, with over 6% share of the industry backlog, behind only the United States, according to a June 1 report by Barclays.But some analysts have expressed concern that airlines could be over-ordering jets in pursuit of the same passengers.Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr told reporters on Sunday there was globally more supply than demand, however.The drive by IndiGo comes as the world’s third-largest aviation market is seeing a strong rebound in travel post-COVID, with passenger numbers surging despite high fares.IndiGo aims to double its capacity by the end of the decade and expand its network, especially in international markets.The airline has a codeshare partnership with seven carriers including Turkish Airlines, American Airlines and KLM.The alliance with Turkish Airlines has seen IndiGo make a major push into Europe, a favourite holiday destination among Indians, with the budget carrier now offering flights to 33 European airports.In a departure from its single-aisle strategy, IndiGo earlier this year began international operations to Istanbul with a Boeing 777, its first wide-body aircraft, taken from codeshare partner Turkish Airlines, which provides the pilots.Taking on the two widebodies is a stop-gap arrangement for IndiGo which needs the capacity until it takes delivery of the longer-range Airbus A321XLR planes in 2025-ish timeframe, Elbers told Reuters in an interview in March.
The first joint meeting of the Opposition parties scheduled for June 12 in Patna has been postponed after the Congress signalled its inability to send its top leaders to the conclave because of their prior commitments.The Congress wanted the meeting to take place after June 20 so that both party president Mallikarjun Kharge and senior leader Rahul Gandhi, who is currently on a tour of the United States, could attend it, but the Janata Dal (United) went ahead and announced the June 12 rally after holding consultations with some Opposition parties for whom this date was said to be “convenient”.Sources said the June 12 schedule was also not convenient for the DMK as well as the CPI(M). With the JD(U) unilaterally announcing the date, the Congress had indicated that Kharge may not attend the meeting and could send instead one of the party’s Chief Ministers to the Patna meet.Rahul, sources said, will return to India on June 18. A meeting of the anti-BJP parties to chalk out the strategy for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections without the top Congress leadership in attendance would have been bad optics.Sources said the JD(U) has now conveyed to the Opposition leaders that the conclave can now be held after June 20, preferably on June 23.Earlier, the Congress made it clear that the party will participate in the June 12 meeting but was yet to decide the level of its representation.Although the Congress still believes that it should be “rightfully” at the centre of the Opposition unity project given its status as the largest among the non-BJP parties, the party had let Bihar CM and JD(U) supremo Nitish Kumar do the groundwork for the meeting given that some of the Opposition parties are not keen to accept the primacy of the grand old party.Many of the Opposition parties are keen that they come together and field one joint candidate against the BJP in majority of the Lok Sabha seats in the 2024 polls. But the exercise is fraught with challenges.In fact, Rahul recently admitted that the discussions regarding Opposition unity would be a “complicated” affair. “The discussions are complicated because there are spaces where we are also competing with the Opposition. So a little bit of give and take is required, but I am confident that it will happen,” he said during one of his events in the US.