Holding peace is rewarding. The Centre has rightly acknowledged it in two north eastern States. Early this week, Union Home Ministry revoked the ‘draconian’ Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Meghalaya and in Arunachal Pradesh reduced its applicability to half—eight police stations instead of 16. Recall, the Act was withdrawn from Tripura in 2015 and is not in operation in Mizoram. Indeed, the recent decision gives hope as well as throws a challenge to the others—Nagaland, most of Assam and Manipur— that they need to work harder to convince the Centre as peace continues to usher in so that the Act, which provides total immunity to security forces from prosecution, becomes passé. If there is a will, there is a way. Precisely, Delhi cannot remain adamant and simply dismiss human rights groups demand that the Act be abrogated. Even the Supreme Court has noted that the legal protection offered by ASFPA cannot be absolute. Further, its extension puts a big question mark on the competence of the State government and security forces to offer safety to its people. Jammu and Kashmir is a point in case. The Centre must look beyond. It cannot view everything as black and white.
Karnataka Hotting Up
Karnataka’s political temperature is heating up faster than the summer season. With polling just about two weeks from now, and filing of nominations ending on Tuesday last, electioneering has gone into top gear. While the murky infighting within the parties for getting a party ticket by the ‘tainted’ is more or less over, the tu-tu-mein-mein between the ruling Congress and waiting in the wings, BJP is expected to hit the lowest so far. The comparatively sober JD-S, which has put up more or less similar number of candidates for the 224-member Assembly, may well turn out to be “kingmaker’. So say poll surveys. In all 3,374 candidates have filed nominations: 250 (Cong), 282 (BJP), 231 (JD-S), large chunk of independents, 1,673 and 938 (regional parties/fringe outfits). Predicting a “photo-finish’ between the Congress and BJP, with each expected to get a little less than a 100 seats each, (short of the 112 mark), the surveys suggest it will be the Deve Gowda team which would call the shots at the end with its ‘40-odd’ seats. However, all eyes would be on how BJP mascot Modi’s five mega rallies from May 1 pan out. Will he again manage to upset the applecart yet again?
Bengal’s Novel Idea
The Calcutta High Court has set a novel precedence. With the ruling Trinamool Congress cadres running a muck, preventing prospective candidates from filing nominations for the panchayat polls, the HC sees WhatsApp helping it to do justice. On Tuesday last, it directed the State Election Commission to accept nominations of nine panchayat poll candidates from Bhangar, who had sent their papers to the Block Development Officer through WhatsApp. To ensure there was no fresh stay on the poll process, it warned the SEC from rejecting their papers. This, after the SEC had said the papers would be rejected as these were not properly filed and the fees too hadn’t been paid. The HC would not hear none of this. In fact, a day earlier, it had warned the SEC if nominations weren’t allowed to be filed by “armed hooligans’ then it would invite ‘contempt of court.’ Predictably, the SEC has put the valid stamp on these nominations. How the candidates fare is anybody’s guess, but one can say that WhatsApp has made a mark in more than the conventional way.
Tripura Teething Hitch
Tripura is giving the BJP teething problems. Its ally, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), is unwilling to be a sleeping partner. On Wednesday last, it threatened to launch a ‘democratic movement’ unless its demands are not met. One, “inter-ministerial modality committee” must be set up within the next three months to study the socio-economic and cultural issues of the indigenous people. Two, it must get another Cabinet berth. Obviously, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb cannot treat it as junior partner, but an equal, even if its numbers are less. The Front has 8 MLAs as against BJP’s 36. IPFT Vice President Debbarma refreshed its partner’s memory saying the Home Ministry had on 8 January announced to set up the committee after its delegation met Modi and Rajnath Singh. No word till now! Further, given the provision of a 12-member Cabinet, it wants one of the three vacancies to be filled by its member, as the BJP has seven and it only two. How soon will the BJP act is the big question. It will do well to remember the adage ‘a stitch in time saves nine!’
Rajasthan ‘Joke’ on Farmers
It’s a cruel joke being played in Rajasthan. Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria’s statement on farmers’ suicide should add fuel to fire. At a media conference on Wednesday last, he claimed “as per records, no farmer had committed suicide in the State due to debt between 2009 and 2017”, and ‘only three peasants’ killed themselves in 2015 during BJP-rule. He was responding to Congress’ accusation that 91 farmers had committed suicide because of their debts during Vasundhara Raje’s rule. Kataria’s explanation is also novel. All deaths cannot be linked to debt-related suicides and this can only be established through ‘suicide note and after police investigation. A pathetic argument, to say the least. Worse, he sought to indulge in the usual one-upmanship: BJP had done a lot better than the Congress when it came to farmers’ welfare and asked the rivals to prove their record. The State, which is seen by Niti Ayog as one keeping the nation backward, among others, must desist from such statements as it only adds insult to injury to the country’s farmers.
Punjab Sets Standards
Uneducated, don’t dream of being a minister, at least in Punjab. Well, this is a clear message Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has given to his team of MLAs in Punjab. While inducting nine new ministers, he ensured that they met the criteria, i.e. they must have studied up to 10th class. A bare minimum. Obviously, the Chief wants to send the strong message that his campaign of “Padho Punjab, Padhao Punjab’ (Read Punjab, Teach Punjab) is not a mere slogan, as most campaigns turn out to be. But there is heart burn amongst aspirants as some have studied up to Class 8 or Class 9 but are not matriculates. If a minister is Class 12 drop out it doesn’t disqualify him, rather it turns out to be a plus point here. All eyes will, however, be how these ministers perform. More importantly, it may be worth a watch to see if the trend makes some MLAs go back to school. —INFA