Winds of change blow in Himachal Pradesh. The hill State finally gets a young Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and a new team, which speaks of a generational shift. After week-long uncertainty, BJP’s top brass zeroed in on 52-year-old Thakur, five-term MLA, over former Chief Minister Dhumal and Union Minister Nadda. His simplicity, clean image and close connect with RSS are factors which went in his favour. The swearing in ceremony at the Ridge on Wednesday last, in the presence of PM Modi, Amit Shah and BJP Chief Ministers would be encouraging, but he literally has an uphill task. Reversing his predecessor’s Vir Bhadra Singh’s orders, like removing government retirees who were either given extension or re-employed, is run-of-the mill. To make a mark, he would need to eventually work towards good governance to beat the anti-incumbency disadvantage, governments have faced all along. Will his line-up of 11 ministers so far, eight first-timers and below 55 years, be able to deliver a longer innings as being imagined by party headquarters? While age is on his side, his work will need to be closely watched.
TN Poll Upheaval
Political churnings and twists in Tamil Nadu leave many astounded. Shocked and jittery after its candidate lost in the prestigious R K Nagar byelection to Dinakaran, AIADMK’s ruling faction of Palaniswami and Panneerselvam expelled a number of senior party leaders and 44 party functionaries seen as ‘violators’ and close to Late Jayalalitha’s nephew. These included five district secretaries, Karnataka State secretary, propaganda leader and women’s wing deputy secretary. The action is bound to lead to further uncertainty over the stability of the government, already wobbly since disqualifying 19 MLAs supporting Dinakaran, who is obviously upbeat with this emphatic win. Will he now extract his pound of flesh and lure more MLAs to his camp? Will Palaniswami and team try for a compromise, under fear of their government falling? Likewise, Opposition DMK too is worried. Its candidate finished third and lost his security deposit! This after the party was gung-ho over its leaders getting a clean chit in the 2G scam. What is the next game plan is anybody’s guess, but coming weeks need a close watch.
States may no longer be able to appoint their blue eyed boys as Directors-General of Police, if the Centre has its way. The Union Home Ministry has pleaded with the Supreme Court to modify its 2006 order, which stipulates a two-year fixed term for DGPs. It has argued that some States were ‘misusing the order and appointing officers about to retire, giving them a fixed term of two years, irrespective of the superannuation date.’ Cases in Andhra and W Bengal are examples, wherein posts were kept vacant deliberately and appointments made a month or two before the officers were to retire. This says the Centre is done for ‘political gains’ as the officer is bound to return the favour. Further, the governments are violating All India Services Act, 1951, which bars any officer from remaining in office after retirement, unless cleared by the Centre.’ But, it must remember, the States could throw the Act back on its face, for there are umpteen cases of ‘favourite’ officers being retained by it after or close to retirement. Is this a classic case of the kettle calling the pot black?
Fingers will be crossed for the quote “Brothers and sisters are as close as hands and feet,” turns out to be model in Jammu and Kashmir. On Thursday last, the suspense over Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s brother, Tassaduq Hussain Mufti, joining the government was finally over. He along with Chadoora MLA Javaid Mustafa Mir took oath as ministers. Recall, Tassaduq, a trained cinematographer, came back to the Valley to support his mother and sister after the passing away of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed last January. His involvement began with looking after the CM’s Grievance Cell, which he gave up last week after nomination to the Legislative Council to fill a vacancy, pending since October, when Karan Singh’s son Vikramaditya Singh resigned from the PDP. While he makes a debut on the political stage, the big question is whether the cinematographer is on the same page as his sister on the gag order on government employees and officers, who are now barred from posting anything against the PDP-BJP government on social media. Surely, the right to freedom of expression must be close to his heart and could he change the script?
Election fever already seems to be gripping Karnataka. The Mahadayi river water dispute, between the State, Maharashtra and Goa, is set to turn into a full blown war between the Congress and the BJP. Both are eyeing the Assembly elections next year. On Wednesday last, Bangalore got a taste of what the future might hold—an ugly brawl between both the parties’ workers in front of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee office. It started with BJP staging a protest outside the office, following the Mahadayi Kalasa Banduri Horata Samithi, which is spearheading the agitation, declaring a half-day bandh in North Karnataka’s districts. The police had to deploy 400 personnel to control the mob. While some semblance of order was brought, the issue will get more intense. The BJP governments in Maharashtra and Goa are far from resolving the issue as sought by Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Playing politics over farmers’grievances appears to have become a norm. When will enough be enough?
Delhi’s Atal Aahaar Kendras
The way to a voter’s heart is through the stomach. At least, our politicians believe so. The trendy “Amma canteens” in Tamil Nadu are now being cloned in nation’s capital Delhi. Monday last, civic bodies rolled out six “Atal Aahaar Kendra”/”Atal Rasoi Deen Dayal Aahaar Kendra” centres offering a thali (whole meal, of rice, chole, rajma, puri,halwa etc) for just Rs 10! The scheme, to mark former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday, will cover one such centre in every ward in a phased manner this coming year. Open between noon and 2 p.m., the kiosks run by NGOs, expect to get 500-700 thalis per day, with civic bodies promising to provide Rs 4-5 per thali subsidy. Recall, Congress’ Shiela Dikshit government had started Jan Aahaar project but had to shut down for lack of funds. AAP too, had promised to open “Aam Aadmi canteens” but so far been unsuccessful. Will the BJP, with its corporations cash-strapped be able to sustain the thalis or will its scheme turn sour? —INFA