It’s curtain-up for ‘Padmaavat’ finally. Bollywood and cinema goers across the country can raise a toast to the Supreme Court. Amidst the upheaval within, it has at least put an end to the fiery row over Sanjay leela Bhansali’s magnum opus. On Thursday last, it stayed the ban imposed by four BJP-ruled States and cleared the decks for an all-India release on January 25. States, said its order, following a petition by the film producers, ‘are constitutionally obliged to ensure law and order, must prevent any untoward incident during its screening and can’t ban the film citing it as a problem…’ This, after it was told that they had obliged the CBFC and made requisite changes. The court simply trashed the States’ argument of history being distorted. All eyes will now be on what the four States–Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Rajasthan – do. The latter two have promptly reacted saying though they respect the court’s decision, they will look for legal provisions to appeal! Sadly, they continue to opt for appeasing the fringe group, Rajput Karni Sena, which threatens that cinema halls screening the film will be burnt down and ‘the country will break’, rather than uphold the artistes and citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression. Is the climax is yet to unfold?
Poll Fever in N-E
The poll bugle has been sounded in the North East. Political parties are gearing up for Assembly elections in three States –Tripura, February 18 and Meghalaya and Nagaland on February 27, as their terms expire on March 14, 6 and 13 respectively. The stakes are high for the BJP in Left Front-ruled Tripura and Congress-ruled Meghalaya. Will it be able to displace the longest serving Chief Minister Manik Sarkar in Tripura following ‘positive’ talks of an alliance with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IBFT), and the rise of hindutva in the region? In Meghalaya, its fingers are crossed that more MLAs (two so far) cross over from the Congress to the newly-formed People’s Democratic front. However, five others resigned from the Congress and joined the National People’s Party, suggesting that regional parties may be a force to reckon with this poll. The United Democratic front has already forged an alliance with Hills State Peoples Democratic Party. In Nagaland, the BJP is more at ease as it’s an ally of the ruling Naga People’s Front and has assured of resolving the vexed Naga issue soon. For the time being, the north-east will be on centre stage, at least for national parties.
Punjab Congress government has faced a double whammy. One, its Minister of Power and Irrigation RG Singh has had to resign for his alleged involvement in multi-crore sand mining auctions scam last year, wherein four staff members, including his cook, had bagged mines. While Singh said he resigned only to “put an end to Opposition’s smear campaign,” the party high command now seeks to send a message of ‘zero tolerance towards corruption’. The other blow came from Punjab & Haryana High Court, which set aside the appointment of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s Chief Principal Secretary Suresh Kumar terming the post as “extra constitutional authority”. He had retired in 2016 as Additional Chief Secretary but was again appointed in March for five years. A lawyer challenged this. The retired IAS officer, noted the court, was given “overriding powers”, which may not be possible to delegate even to a serving cadre! Worse, it was odd how the ‘State authorised a contractual employee to exercise powers, sovereign in nature, even for a limited period i.e. during the CM’s absence…’ Apparently, Singh had been Amarinder’s Principal Secretary when he was CM in 2002-07. Kumar has resigned from his post, but twice earlier the same had not been accepted. What Amarinder does with his trusted lieutenant now is anybody’s guess.
Haryana BJP-government needs to hang its head in shame. Five cases of rape were reported from different districts of the State-Hisar, Jind, Sonipat and Fatehbad this week alone. Four of them were of minor girls, including a three-and-a-half-year old, and another, a reminder of the horrific Nirbhaya case. A “hurt” Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar assured ‘no one will be spared and all those involved will be behind bars.’ At a press conference, he claimed that systems have been stepped up and officers changed, even up to the level of IG. The so-called change obviously is no good, and the Opposition has been quick to seek his dismissal given “complete breakdown of law and order.’ But, trust Khattar to retort that such cases of crime against women ‘have occurred in the past as well. I will request the Opposition not to politicise these.’ In his defence, he is said to have asked his team to compile figures of cases during the Congress government’s tenure. Sadly, Khattar forgets or he doesn’t know that two wrongs don’t make a right!
Gujarat has raised many an eyebrow. The disappearance ‘drama’ of VHP leader Pravin Togadia would have the BJP squirming. Togadia wanted in a 15-year-old case of flouting prohibitory orders by the Rajasthan police was found unconscious in a park in Ahmedabad and later admitted to a hospital. He claimed there was a conspiracy to kill him in a police encounter under instructions from “political bosses in Delhi”. He trained his guns also at the joint commissioner of police, Ahmedabad crime branch saying check his cell phone ‘to see how many times he had spoken to the Prime Minister’! The cop of course rubbished the charges, more so as Togadia has Z-plus security. The mystery veers round talk of Togadia connecting with the Congress. But why as the BJP has embraced hundreds of MLAs of the Congress in UP and former ministers too? Typically, the BJP’s top brass has maintained stoic silence. But ally Shiv Sena comes to his aid. With voices being stifled in the past, it demands that Modi and Shah need to clarify when pro-Hindutva people have to fear for their lives. Will they oblige? Guess it’s best to wait for what unfolds further.
Filmy Political Track?
Nagging suspense in Tamil Nadu is to come to an end partially. Actor Kamal Hassan is to start his State tour from tomorrow to mark his political entry. In a letter to the public, the actor has said he will announce his party’s name and the ‘guiding principles we intend to live by’. In an obvious reference to AIADMK and DMK, the actor aims to challenge the status quo plaguing State politics for some time now. The wait for the people has indeed been long. But there is another question that begs an answer. Will he be joined by superstar Rajnikanth or will the two have different scripts? Recall, ‘Thalaivar’ too had in December-end announced his entry into politics, after a long wait of 20-odd years. He said he would float a party and contest all 234 of the Assembly seats. Indeed, both want a political change as they are ‘pained’ that developments this past year has made the State a laughing stock. Good direction is what matters in the end.—-INFA