Penchant for controversies?
BJP-ruled Rajasthan appears to have a penchant for courting controversies. Days after Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s government had to blink and send the notorious bill that sought to shield public servants from probe and gag the media to a House select committee following uproar, she has had the Assembly pass a Bill which increases reservation for OBCs from 21% to 26%. The Backward Classes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions in the State and of Appointment and Posts in Services under the State) Bill, 2017, passed on Thursday last granted 5% reservation to the five “most backward OBC communities”, including Gujjars, who have been agitating for long. However, the Opposition says Raje is ‘hoodwinking’ the communities. Recall, last year the Rajasthan HC had struck down her government’s attempt to give 5% quota to Gujjars as it would have raised reservation to 54%, which is contrary to Supreme Court guidelines of total quota not exceeding 50%. While the BJP government insists this time homework is done, Raje needs to be wary of the HC, which has already issued notice to the government on the controversial ordinance on public servants. Will her aim to keep the reservation bogey alive till polls next year be short lived?
Gujarat, Himachal Poll Heat
This winter it is going to be hot—politically. With Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh going to the polls in November and December, the main contending parties, the BJP and Congress, are already slugging it out. Both the States are a litmus test for Modi’s popularity in the wake of reforms including demonetisation and GST. Likewise, for the Congress too these are critical not only to make a comeback but in a way it could be a referendum on Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. While opinion polls so far are giving the BJP an edge, in fact some even a cake walk, the going is not easy. The BJP which has been ruling Gujarat for the past 22 years will have to tackle the OBC and Patel community deftly, as the Congress stitches alliance with Thakore and Patidar leader Hardik Patel. In Himachal, the Congress would need to work doubly hard to retain its hold and put up a combined show to stave off the anti-incumbency factor. The clamour for tickets has begun and the atmosphere is warming up. It is going to be a long wait till November 9 and December 9 and 14, when the people will seal the fate of the parties in ballot boxes. Till then all eyes would be on how the parties beat each other on the campaign trail.
UP Damage Control
Uttar Pradesh has been forced to go into damage control mode. With ministers and leaders making highly absurd comments on the Taj Mahal, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has rightly come under flak from all quarters. Caught on the wrong foot, he now treads carefully. Describing the Taj Mahal as “India’s rare gem” he paid a visit to the mausoleum, swept the parking lot within the Taj complex in the garb of Swachch Bharat and laid a foundation stone for a Taj-Agra fort tourist pathway. The big question is whether this will help salvage the dent his government’s image has suffered. Additionally, the government has been asked by none other than the Supreme Court to spell out its policy, if it has one, towards protection of the Taj. This after the court stayed its order directing the demolition of a multi-level car parking being built near the Taj and sought to know whether the government had given go-ahead for hotels to come up in the vicinity. Thus, not only does Yogi need to rein in his flock, but ensure that no further damage is caused to one of the world’s seven wonders. He will do well to adhere to the idiom a stitch in time saves nine.
J&K Dual Approach
A carrot and stick approach is now being adopted in insurgency-hit Jammu & Kashmir. On the one hand, the Centre appointed its special representative to hold dialogue with elected representatives, various organisations and concerned individuals in the State on the other, days later the Governor has chosen to clampdown on deleterious activities of individuals/organisations which result in damage to public and private properties. On Friday last NN Vohra promulgated an ordinance making persons calling for strikes and demonstrations, which leads to damage of public property liable for fines and imprisonment up to five years. So is it a clear message to the separatists that dialogue is the only option available now for any call by them for direct action in the form of strikes, demonstrations or other public forms of protests which result in damage to both public and private property will be punishable? While time will tell which strategy would work, there can be no denying that former IB chief Dineshwar Singh will need every help to find that elusive solution to the Kashmir issue. More importantly, the Centre needs success given the fact that it has done a U-turn by initiating a dialogue.
They are back at each other. Yes, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine in Maharashtra are bickering again. And as oft-heard the alliance is under threat. This time, Sena leader Sanjay Raut ruffled feathers when at a function with Chief Minister Fadnavis present, he praised Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi saying ‘he was no longer considered a Pappu (a derisive reference to infantilism) and that people were accepting his leadership.” Worse, he claimed that the Modi wave, which was there in 2014, ‘is seeming to fade away’ and warned that it seems the BJP is “going to face a challenge”. The two have been partners for over a quarter century and their tricky relationship makes one wonder how do they continue to sit together. Guess the lure of being in power makes the two stick together. But this time around, Fadnavis has issued an ultimatum to Sena saying choose to be part of the government or opt out, as it cannot play the role of a ruling party and also that of Opposition. So will the Sena continue to have the cake and eat it too?
TMC Not To Connect
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee adds fuel to fire in the ongoing debate on linking of Aadhar with the mobile phone, even as the Supreme Court is seized of the matter. At the meeting of TMC’s extended core committee on Wednesday last, Didi made it amply clear that she will not comply with the Centre’s order ‘even if her phone connection is snapped’. She accused the Centre of interfering in people’s rights and privacy and asked the cadre to play a role to remove the “autocratic” BJP government. With the supremo saying a big no to the Department of Telecom’s March 23 notification calling for linking of mobile numbers with Aadhaar, it’s obvious that not only cadres and party leaders but people across the State would be emboldened to follow suit. This apart, TMC will observe November 8, the day on which demonetisation was announced last year, as black day, along with the rest of the Opposition. Time to watch. —INFA