Assembly, LS Bypolls
United we stand, divided we fall, is a phrase obviously stirring the Opposition parties. Some of these sticking together have given the BJP and NDA a rude shock in the latest round of bypoll results in 11 States. Of the 14 Assembly and Lok Sabha byelections, results declared on Thursday last, the Opposition won a handsome 11. While the BJP would try to seek solace of retaining two of the four Lok Sabha seats-in Maharashtra and Nagaland (by its partner, the NDPP), it should have loud warning bells ringing specially in Uttar Pradesh, which gave it 71 of the 80 seats in 2014. The Kairana seat, which was billed the biggest battle, after Gorakhpur and Phulpur defeat, has reaffirmed that sticking together pays huge dividends. The RLD-BSP-Congress-SP combine’s common candidate wrested the seat from the BJP, giving another hit to the Yogi Adityanath government. Likewise, the Congress-NCP combine snatched the Bhandara-Gondiya seat in Maharashtra. Of the nine Assembly seats, the BJP won only one! Importantly, the JD(U) got a beating from the RJD candidate in Bihar and in West Bengal, the TMC continued its sway. While the BJP may put up a brave front saying bypolls wouldn’t have an implication in the 2019 General election, it should realise that its electoral reverses are becoming a reality. At the same time, the Opposition would need to burn the midnight oil if it wants to repeat its recent successes. There is no denying that coalition mantra can do wonders.
At least, seven States are in the throes of farmers’ strike, ‘Gaon Band’ (village shutdown). On Friday last, thousands of farmers in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab (Congress-ruled) started a 10-day nationwide strike for long-pending demands –waiver of loans, right MSP for their crops and implementation of Swaminathan Commission. Importantly, the strike is to mark the first anniversary of Mandsaur protest in MP, in which five farmers were killed in police firing on June 6. With over 130 farmers’ organisations joining the strike, June 10 is slated to be observed as Bharat Bandh till 2 pm. Shopkeepers have been urged to participate as a mark of respect for farmers who lost have their lives. While there is high alert in the States, ordinary folk are bound to feel the brunt, for farmers have said ‘no milk, vegetables and other commodities of daily use’ will be supplied from villages to the cities! So other than petrol prices, be prepared for an additional pinch. Unless there is a miracle.
Will Bihar go the Andhra way? Uncertain, but probability can’t be ruled out, given simmering in the JD(U). Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is putting the pressure on partner BJP to deliver on its long-pending special status category demand as well as be included in decisions that the NDA takes. It’s less than a year to the alliance, but Nitish’s patience seems to be running out. Not only has he shot off a long note to Finance Commission seeking “differentiated needs of Bihar and Backward States with a special perspective,” but is heard bad mouthing the note ban. Is it feeling the pinch of dumping RJD and going with the saffron brigade, which is giving it a cold shoulder? JD(U) leaders are selectively speaking to media saying the BJP got a lot more than it and claim that Congress and the Left haven’t shut the doors on them. RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav too senses the JD(U) using pressure tactics. Says it is looking for an opportune time to betray the BJP and change sides again. Will BJP hear the warning or let Nitish take a walk like it did to ally Chandrababu Naidu? Time will tell.
There’s both good and bad news from Assam. In the midst of simmering over the Citizenship Bill and the NRC, the BJP-ruled is going all out to reassure its people. Fortunately for it, Bangladesh has for the first time agreed to take back 33 of its nationals, declared illegal migrants by the Foreigners’ Tribunals. Further, Dhaka has identified 152 of its nationals lodged in detention camps and sent a proposal to South Block for their repatriation. North Block too has assured Chief Minister Sonowal that any future steps in regard to the Bill would be taken ‘only after consulting all stakeholders.’ The BJP ally the AGP, is particularly wary of the Bill as it seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslims (Hindus) from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who came to India due to religious persecution. This, it says goes against the Assam accord, which provides for ‘safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the culture, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people.’ It’s a tightrope walk for the State as well as the Centre. Nagging uncertainty will persist.
Justice For Kashmir
Over a decade later, people in Kashmir may find some solace. After a sex scandal rocked the Valley in 2006, the court has finally given its verdict. Five persons including former J&K DSP Mohammed Ashraf Mir and former DIG, BSF, KC Padhi, have been held guilty for sexually exploiting minors. The quantum of punishment, which could range from seven years in jail to life imprisonment, will be pronounced on June 4. Recall, the scandal hit the State after the J&K police discovered two video CDs showing Kashmiri minors being forced into sex trade, and that they were exploited sexually by politicians, bureaucrats, police officials and surrendered militants. The case was transferred to the CBI after names of two ministers and some MLAs were part of a list of 56 persons allegedly involved. The Supreme Court transferred the case to Chandigarh court. In 2009, then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah resigned after his name too was linked, but the Governor rejected it. The fact that top officers haven’t been let off the hook should ring warning bells for others.
Uttarakhand Govt ‘Dishonest’
Uttarakhand government is ‘dishonest’. A serious charge, as this is an impression the National Green Tribunal has. It has slapped a fine of Rs 3 lakh on the government for not demolishing illegal structures inside the core area of the Corbett Tiger Reserve, as assured September last and has been resorting to delaying tactics. Its order is worth being quoted: “From the narration of facts as stated, the intention of the State appears not to be honest. The order hasn’t been complied with on one pretext or another and now the ground created is about want of land for rehabilitation before the demolition could take place. In the circumstances, we are justified in concluding that unless a serious view is taken, the State will again frustrate the directions of the tribunal.” It asked the authorities to submit an affidavit within a week and also pay the compensation amount. While the government may pay the fine, the big question is when and how will it restore its credibility. —INFA