The Indian Express | 1 week ago | 19-06-2022 | 10:40 pm
The de facto number two in the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Abhishek Banerjee is viewed as the heir apparent of his aunt and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Though his rise has caused consternation among certain senior leaders of the party, the Diamond Harbour MP is trying to move beyond his recent troubles and consolidate his position and image both within the party and in the public.Earlier this year, as Covid-19 cases increased, Abhishek’s constituency bucked the trend as the MP’s proactive measures — control rooms in every block, panchayat and municipal ward in South 24 Parganas, and the “Doctors on Wheels” service in five blocks — helped bring down the positivity rate from 20 per cent to one per cent in two weeks. Labelled the Diamond Harbour model of Covid management, the episode enhanced his image in the eyes of people. On the occasion of the Bengali New Year in April, the MP launched Diamond Harbour FC, a football club named after his constituency. At the event, reaching out to everyone across party lines, he said, “This is football. So even if you are from the TMC, the BJP, the Congress or the CPI(M), you are welcome here. If you are in politics, even if you are not, you are welcome here. This is football, which has no place for religion or caste.”On Saturday, as he completed eight years as a parliamentarian, Abhishek launched an “Ek Daake Abhishek” helpline for the people of his constituency. The helpline is modelled on his aunt’s “Didi ke Bolo” initiative. The MP also released a report card titled “Nishobdo Biplab (Silent Revolution)” in which he enlisted the work done in the area during his time in Parliament.But it has not been all smooth sailing for Abhishek. While he and his wife are under investigation in connection with a case of money laundering arising out of a coal scam, some in the TMC old guard have been left unenthused by his rise. This year itself, the MP took several positions that seemed to go against the official party narrative. Ahead of the civic polls, Abhishek suggested that relatives of leaders with a tainted background should not get tickets, but Mamata Banerjee ignored this demand. His demand for a ban on political and religious gatherings during a rise in Covid cases was also unheeded as the state government went ahead with the Gangasagar Mela.The rift between Abhishek and the old guard of the party widened over the candidates’ list for 108 civic bodies. The tussle came to the fore after two candidate lists were released for the polls. While one was published by the party’s senior leaders Partha Chatterjee, Firhad Hakim, Aroop Biswas, and Subrata Bakshi, another popped up on the party’s official website and was said to have been the one formulated by Prashant Kishor’s company I-PAC. The involvement of I-PAC in the TMC after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, which saw the BJP make huge gains in Bengal, largely rested on Abhishek’s support.Earlier this year, the Diamond Harbour MP’s actions and statements drew criticism from senior TMC leader and MP Kalyan Banerjee who called Abhishek’s statements a “challenge to the state government” and declared that he did not consider the 34-year-old his leader. Questioning the work Abhishek did in Diamond Harbour during the Covid surge, he said, “What model? There is only one model, which Mamata Banerjee has come up with … Abhishek is basically lending an advantage to the BJP. If Abhishek Banerjee can win Tripura and Goa, then I will accept him as a leader.”As the internal discord increasingly spilled out into the open, Mamata Banerjee, in an effort to keep the old guard happy, dissolved all national-level portfolios in the party, including Abhishek’s portfolio of national general secretary that he had been elevated to following the Assembly election victory in 2021. The TMC chief then reshuffled party positions, appointing senior leaders such as Yashwant Sinha and Amit Mitra to the national working committee and making Sukhendu Sekhar Roy the national spokesperson. At the same time, she reinstated Abhishek as the TMC’s national general secretary and expressed her faith in him as the leader of the party’s next generation.Abhishek has also had to contend with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and ED scanner on him and his wife Rujira in a coal scam case. “The CBI and ED are constantly targeting me but I have not lowered my head before them,” the MP said last month. “I am not afraid of any agency or investigation. The ED tried to harass me by calling me to Delhi twice. I have never run away from any agency. I told them if they want to interrogate me, they should come to Bengal. I am a son of this soil. I am ready to answer all questions.”Some senior leaders said Abhishek was trying to follow in his aunt’s footsteps and develop an image of him being larger than the party itself in order to push his aunt to give him more responsibilities.Speaking about Abhishek, a senior TMC leader said, “He is already number two in the party. But, he has to prove himself as a good administrator. That is why he is developing the Diamond Harbour constituency as a model constituency.”The MP still enjoys the support of some of the TMC old guard. “Abhishek Banerjee is probably the most popular youth icon in India,” claimed veteran party leader and MLA Madan Mitra.Taking a dig at the TMC MP over the report card he unveiled on Saturday, BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said, “Successors in dynasties always try to differentiate themselves from others. I do not know what he did in his ‘silent revolution’ but I know all teacher vacancies in West Bengal were silently sold.”
Uddhav Thackeray resigned as Chief Minister of Maharashtra Wednesday, after the Supreme Court did not stay the Assembly floor test scheduled for June 30 called by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, and he faced the prospect of 40-odd of 55 Shiv Sena MLAs with the Eknath Shinde camp. The Sena’s petition seeking disqualification of 16 of the rebel MLAs remains pending.The crisis that brought down the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition government has several parallels – from hung Houses to new alliances, to petitions in the Supreme Court:July 2019The 2018 state elections threw up a hung Assembly, with the BJP winning 104 seats, the Congress 80, the JD(S) 37, along with three Independents, in the 224-member House. With the BJP failing to reach the majority mark of 113, forcing BJP leader B S Yediyurappa to step down as Chief Minister within three days, the Congress and JD(S) forged an alliance with the JD(S)’s H D Kumaraswamy as CM.In July 2019, the coalition government hit shaky ground when 17 MLAs (14 from the Congress and three from the JD-S) sought to quit the Assembly, citing differences with the government and CM. The Speaker, K R Ramesh Kumar, elected on the Congress ticket, refused to accept their resignation. With the BJP seen as behind the move, the Congress and JD(S) approached the Speaker seeking that the 17 be disqualified and not allowed to contest the election during the tenure of the then Assembly.The Governor asked the Kumaraswamy government to take a floor test twice, and finally on July 23, 2019, the Congress-JD(S) Ministry fell. The Speaker went on to disqualify the MLAs, which remained away from the Congress-JD(S) reach and sequestered in hotels, and Yediyurappa returned as CM after winning a floor test in the truncated-House of 208. The BJP was able to muster support of 105 MLAs, against the Congress and JD(S)’s combined total of 99.In November 2019, on the plea of the 17 MLAs against the Speaker’s order, the Supreme Court upheld their disqualification but not the directive that they could not contest the election till 2023. In the bypolls held the next month, 11 of the 17 were re-elected to the House, on BJP tickets.October 2010The Yediyurappa-led BJP government had a slender majority – at 117, just four more than the cut off mark of 113. In October 2010, 11 of its MLAs withdrew support. The Congress and JD(S) had 101 MLAs, and posed a challenge in case of six Independents swaying their way.On October 6, the Speaker, K G Bopaiah, allied to the BJP, disqualified the rebel MLAs under the anti-defection law, just after Governor Hans Raj Bharadwaj had asked Yediyurappa to initiate a trust motion. With the rebel MLAs disqualified and the House strength down to 213, Yediyurappa won the trust vote by a voice vote and support of 106 MLAs, amid chaos.In May 2011, the Supreme Court held that some of the actions of the Speaker in disqualifying the 11 MLAs did not “meet the twin tests of natural justice and fair play”. It also said Yediyurappa had ignored Constitutional norms.January 2006The 2004 Karnataka Assembly polls had thrown up a hung verdict, with the BJP winning 79 seats, the Congress 65 and the JD(S) 58. The Congress and JD(S) initially formed an alliance with Dharam Singh of the Congress as CM.In January 2006, a dissident group of 42 MLAs of the JD(S), led by Kumarswamy, withdrew support to the Congress, and allied with the BJP. Dharam Singh resigned and the Governor invited the BJP and JD(S) to form the new government.Kumaraswamy struck a deal that the two parties would hold power for 20 months each. But the coalition collapsed in October 2007, after the JD(S) reneged on transferring power to the BJP. President’s rule was imposed, and the next Assembly elections were held in May 2008.2019In March 2019, newly appointed Chief Minister Sawant urged Governor Mridula Sinha to summon the Assembly for a floor test on March 20, 2019, after sitting CM Manohar Parrikar’s death. Sawant resigned from the Speaker’s chair before he was sworn in as CM ahead of the floor test, and Michael Lobo, then Deputy Speaker, carried out the proceedings.The Congress had 14 MLAs, the BJP 12. The Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Goa Forward Party (GFP) had three each. The NCP had one candidate and there were three Independents. The strength of the Goa Assembly is 40, but there were only 36 sitting MLAs at the time (Parrikar and BJP MLA Francis D’Souzaas had died and two Congress MLAs had resigned).Sawant won the floor test with the support of 20 MLAs, after the MGP and GFP MLAs as well as three Independents voted for him.Sawant consolidated his strength in July 2019, after 10 Congress MLAs and two MGP MLAs defected to the BJP.1995The BJP won 121 of 182 seats in the 1995 Assembly elections in Gujarat – its highest till then – in the backdrop of the Babri Masjid demolition and the subsequent riots. However, many MLAs were upset with Keshubhai Patel being made CM. They were believed to have the backing of then BJP general secretary and Gujarat in-charge Narendra Modi.While Patel was away in the US, leaving Ashok Bhatt behind as caretaker CM, Shankersinh Vaghela, then a BJP MP from Godhra, claimed the backing of 105 MLAs and launched a coup in September 1995.The MLAs were first taken to Vaghela’s village in Vasan and later to the home of a Congress leader in a village in Gandhinagar. While some of the MLAs were lured back by the BJP, Vaghela flew the remaining 55 out to Congress-ruled Madhya Pradesh overnight.They only returned after senior BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee agreed to replace the CM. Suresh Mehta was subsequently appointed CM.But as remnants of the discontent followed the party, in 1996, during a meeting to felicitate Vajpayee, now the Prime Minister, the MLAs literally came to blows. An MLA was stripped of his dhoti and another was nearly set ablaze.The House was placed under “suspended animation”. The Governor was hospitalised at the time when Vaghela staked claim to form the government after parading 103 MLAs before him, including of the BJP, Congress and some Independents. The BJP MLAs numbered 48, more than one-third of the total, thus escaping the anti-defection law. Vaghela became CM.(with inputs from Johnson T A, Mayura Janwalkar, Leena Misra)
Good morning,In today’s edition: Uddhav Thackeray’s resignation and its aftermath; Udaipur killing accused’s links to Da’wat-e-Islami; and moreOutnumbered after a rebellion in his own party and realising he will not be able to prove majority on the floor of the Assembly, Uddhav Thackeray resigned as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra Wednesday night, shortly after the Supreme Court declined to stay a floor test called Thursday by the Governor.Thackeray has not only lost chief ministership after taking a gamble with an unlikely coalition, he is facing the prospect of losing control of a party founded by Balasaheb and deriving sustenance from the Thackeray name.What’s next? A source told The Indian Express that top BJP leaders from Maharashtra will hold a meeting Thursday to finalise their next course of action. He added that BJP will stake claim for the formation of the new government under the leadership of Devendra Fadnavis, backed the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena.InThe rebels, expected to align with the BJP, flew on a special Spice Jet flight to South Goa. Sources said that they were met by Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant late Wednesday night, the sources said.Opining on the brutal murder of Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur, Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes: “The perpetrators’ gruesome execution works as a strategy, because they know we will make a political business out of it… The will to condemn this act has to be accompanied by the commitment to build a free society. Otherwise Kanhaiya’s executioners win.”Speaking to The Indian Express, Lal’s wife, Yashoda said, “My husband was consistently receiving threats that he would be killed. People would come to his shop and threaten him… If timely action had been taken, he would have been alive.” His son, Yash, added: “Despite the fact that he was receiving threats, the police didn’t provide him protection.”One of the accused in Lal’s murder, Ghouse Mohammad, had been to Karachi in 2014 and been making phone calls to Pakistan “for the last 2-3 years”, Rajasthan Minister of State for Home Rajendra Singh Yadav said. Director General of Police M L Lather said Ghouse had gone to visit the office of Dawat-e-Islami, Sunni Islamic proselytising group, in Karachi.Among the two options detailed by the Centre for states to borrow to meet the compensation deficit of Rs 2.35 lakh crore this fiscal under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, a total of 12 states, mostly consisting of BJP-ruled states, have opted for Option 1 — borrowing of Rs 97,000 crore through a RBI-facilitated special window. Only one state, Manipur, has so far opted for Option 2 which involves borrowing the entire compensation deficit from the market.RFID tags for all pilgrims, unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance of routes, deployment of over 80,000 security personnel – a multi-layer security cover is in place for the Amarnath Yatra this year. The annual yatra is taking place after a gap of two years due to the pandemic – it is the first since the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5, 2019. The first batch of pilgrims will set off from the Pahalgam and Baltal base camps on Thursday. The Da’wat-e-Islami (DeI), the group to which Rajasthan police have linked Ghouse Mohammad who killed tailor Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur, is a Sunni Barelvi proselytising group that was founded in Pakistan four decades ago. It has chapters in several western countries. We take a look at the group’s origins, ideology and its growth. One of India’s several dilemmas heading to the Edgbaston Test would be, to tweak Shane Warne’s tweet, “if you don’t pick two spinners at Edgbaston, then when?” India has seldom picked two spinners in a Test match outside Asia, even if it possesses two of the finest around in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.Chances are, if they don’t pair up this time around, they will never again in England.Delhi Confidential: BJP general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh retweeted a post, which had a letter issued from Uttarakhand Assembly Speaker Ritu Khanduri’s office. The letter, denying reports about the appointment of a media adviser to Khanduri, was marked to the BJP general secretary as well. Suddenly, questions on why an official release from the Speaker’s office was marked to a party office-bearer were raised on social media. In today’s episode of the ‘3 Things’ podcast, we talk about what is known so far in the case of the brutal murder of a tailor in Udaipur, fuel shortage at pumps and the Hermit software.Until next time,Sonal Gupta and Srishti Kapoor
THE GROUP of rebel Shiv Sena MLAs, headed by Eknath Shinde, arrived in Goa amid heavy security cover, minutes after Uddhav Thackeray announced his resignation as Chief Minister of Maharashtra Wednesday evening.After camping in Guwahati for days, the Shinde faction, which brought down the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra, arrived on a special Spice Jet flight at Dabolim airport in South Goa.After hopping from one BJP-ruled state to another over the past nine days, the rebel MLAs flew in closer to Mumbai ahead of a floor test that was scheduled on Thursday. However, Thackeray’s resignation meant there would be no floor test.The MLAs were expected to leave for Mumbai on Thursday morning by a chartered flight but sources said the plan may change now since there will be no floor test. The sources said Shinde will hold a meeting with the MLAs and strategise the next move.Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant met the breakaway legislators at the hotel late Wednesday night, the sources said. The Shinde faction is expected to align with the BJP in the next government formation in Maharashtra.Shinde and the other rebel MLAs reached the Taj Resort and Convention Centre in Dona Paula, where they were scheduled to spend the night, around 11.15 pm amid heavy security cover. Sources said at least 80 rooms were booked for the Shinde camp.Ahead of their arrival, security measures were tightened outside the five-star hotel. Goa Director General of Police Jaspal Singh and other senior police officers reviewed the security arrangements Wednesday evening.As tourist families milled around the hotel lobby, sources said armed police officers kept vigil. Outside, there was heavy barricading.The Goa Police had also strengthened its checks at its northern state border at Patradevi. Goa shares a border with Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra. Shiv Sena MLA from Sidhudurg Vaibhav Naik has stayed on with Thackeray while senior Shiv Sena leader and MLA from Sawantwadi Deepak Kesarkar is among the rebels.Hours before the rebel group arrived, Shailendra Velingkar, Goa Shiv Sena leader and chief of Parshuram Gomantak Sena, reached the hotel. He was, however, asked to leave the hotel premises by the police and hotel security.Goa Shiv Sena leader Jitesh Kamat earlier targeted the BJP government in Goa for deploying the state’s security apparatus to provide protection to the Shinde-led rebel faction. He said the BJP in Goa had protected “traitors” from Maharashtra at the cost of the taxpayer.
WITH UDDHAV Thackeray resigning as Chief Minister of Maharashtra, capping over a week-long political crisis, the Congress, which was a constituent of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, on Wednesday said it was a sad day for the state and India and argued that courts have failed to check the “treachery” committed on democracy.“A sad day for democracy in Maharashtra and India. People’s mandate is again run over by the bulldozer of allurement-inducement-intimidation and crass political corruption,” AICC general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala said.Recalling the fall of Congress and opposition governments in several states and formation of governments by the BJP in some states despite not having numbers on its own, he said, “The conclusions are clear. Right of voters to choose a government has been trampled by political corruption (and) Tenth Schedule of Constitution- Anti Defection Law- is a dead letter now, observed in violation.”Targeting the judiciary, he said the courts have failed to check the treachery committed on democracy.“Salute to the MVA and its leaders for fighting the principled fight – for truth, for righteousness, for harmony, for progress and for the Constitution. Time to pause and think for every fellow Indian – Is this the India of our dreams? If not, let’s reclaim our country,” he said in a Twitter post.The CPI(M) too hit out at the BJP.“The big black blot on India’s democracy grows larger. Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and now Maharashtra. Gross and brazen misuse of state machinery, central agencies and massive money power accumulated through loot of national assets to capture governments,” said CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury. “At least now after this Maharashtra episode, the Supreme Court must hear challenges against election bonds. These bonds are legalisation of political corruption. The 21st tranche opens on July 1. The BJP has cornered the bulk of past tranches of Rs 10,000 crore.”
With Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s decision to call a floor test in a special Assembly session on Thursday morning in line with an alleged “fake letter” bearing the governor’s name that got leaked on social media on Tuesday night, sources said the BJP and rebel Shiv Sena MLAs camping in Guwahati had to significantly change their logistical plans.Sources said the original plan was to get the Sena rebels and other Independent MLAs who have sided with them to Mumbai on Wednesday evening. However, with the “fake letter” divulging the details of the floor test and alerting the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, the MLAs will now land in Goa on Wednesday around 5 pm and will be taken to Mumbai around 10 am on Thursday amid high security. The BJP is leant to have already booked around 125 rooms in Taj President in Mumbai’s Cuffe Parade area.Meanwhile, airport sources confirmed that a special SpiceJet aircraft was on its way to Guwahati to bring the rebels to Goa. The special flight will depart for Goa in the afternoon. SpiceJet planes have been used to ferry MLAs in the past too, including when the Sena rebels travelled from Surat to Guwahati. SpiceJet is owned by Ajay Singh, the man who coined the “Abki Baar Modi Sarkar” slogan that became widely popular in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.Sources said the BJP was upset with the details of the floor test getting revealed through the “fake letter” as it gave the MVA and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray time to prepare and plan. On Wednesday, soon after the governor’s actual letter asking for a floor test was released, the Shiv Sena challenged it in the Supreme Court. The BJP and the rebel MLAs will have to wait for the court order that may come by the end of the day. The BJP has instructed its workers to remain on standby as their help might be required when the MLAs arrive in the city.Setting things in motionOn Tuesday morning, Eknath Shinde, who is leading the rebellion against Thackeray, told the media that the MLAs in Guwahati would soon go to Mumbai. During the day, Leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP also went to Delhi to meet his party’s national president J P Nadda and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Hours after the meeting, he returned to Mumbai and met Koshyari. He submitted a letter to the governor, urging him to direct Thackeray to call for a floor test.Koshyari’s directive to the Thackeray-led MVA government, asking it to prove its majority on Thursday, came in a three-page letter that states the present political scenario in the state “paints a very disturbing picture”. The governor then said that, as per media reports, 39 of the Shiv Sena’s 55 MLAs had decided to exit the MVA government.“As the constitutional head of the State, must ensure that the government functions with the support and confidence of the House. Thus, have issued a communication to the Chief Minister calling upon to prove his majority on the Floor of the House on 30.06.2022,” read the letter. The special session will begin at 11 am, with the only agenda being a trust vote against Thackeray. The proceedings of the floor test will be concluded by 5 pm.The content of the alleged “fake letter” that got leaked the night before also had similar content. That letter too directed that a special session of the Assembly be convened at 11 am on Thursday and directed the CM to prove his majority on the floor of the House.