Season Of Protests
It’s a season of protests. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Maharashtra and Delhi are among various States which have been impacted one way or the other. Be it the Bharat Bandh called on Thursday last by 35 upper caste and OBC organizations to protest against amendment passed to the SC and ST (prevention of Atrocities) Act, or the farmers’ protest in the national Capital, by the Mazdoor Kishan Sangharsh Rally a day earlier, or the ongoing hunger strike by Hardik Patel for reservation for the Patidars in Gujarat, etc governments are being pushed to wall to deliver on their promises. Clearly, the communities are no longer prepared to be taken for a ride and raised the ante before 2019. Madhya Pradesh is perhaps the most-affected. Bharat Bandh saw all districts being placed under prohibitory orders, as legislators are being targeted by groups demanding rolling back of the amendment. In fact, the ruling BJP in States as well at the Centre is getting worried about “upper caste unhappiness with the party,” and thinking caps have been put on to address the concerns on a priority basis, before a bigger damage is done. What can be done? The answer is not only elusive only rather tricky as on the other side are the Scheduled Castes, which had forced the amendment.
Then there is the farmers’ protest, which again came into sharp focus after a successful march from Nashik to Mumbai in March. A sea of protesting farmers, workers, agricultural labourers from across the country swamped Delhi. The mood was belligerent with Modi government under attack– being labelled as ‘anti-poor’, ‘anti-farmer’ and ‘pro-corporate’. Guess, the Opposition line of attack has takers. They threatened to ‘bring down the government’ if their demands including implementation of remunerative prices for farm produce, loan waiver, a minimum wage of Rs 18,000 a month, redistributive land reforms, stopping forcible land acquisition and curbing the price rise etc were not met. How and by when, is the question here too? In contrast, Gujarat was quieter. Hardik Patel’s protest is through an indefinite hunger strike, which was into the second week. Leading the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, he is demanding reservation for his community and farm loan waiver. Importantly, he has got support from leaders of various parties including Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena, etc, forcing a worried government to reach out to leaders of the Patidar community to persuade him to end his fast. With his health deteriorating, the question here is what is the best offer? In the overall scenario, while governments contemplate pros and cons of solutions at hand, they should be prepared to get over burdened with fresh protests. Whose next?
Telangana Snap Polls?
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao is in a tearing hurry. He yearns to hold the reins for another term. But nine months wait may not produce desired results. So, on Thursday last, he got the Governor to accept dissolution of Assembly (its term was until May) and agreed to continue as Caretaker Government. The reasons: having State polls along with Lok Sabha would be a disadvantage for the regional party, he can’t fight national parties at the same time; neither can TRS be party to a Congress-alliance, as it is the main rival, nor will it gain by having a pre-poll alliance with BJP-led NDA; his charisma is said to be fading as Sunday’s mega rally had four-lakh people instead of 25-lakh expected; the Opposition gets much less time to cobble up a united front or put up a suitable opponent; the media, which supported his fight for a separate State is angry as promises haven’t been kept, and that 218 journalists have died in these past four years under terrible working conditions; and KCR believes in astrology and 6 is his lucky number, et al. While time will tell, if it’s good reasoning for polls sooner than later and goal achieved, the Congress threatens to approach the Election Commission and courts against advancement. Who will have the last laugh?
Rajasthan’s Misplaced Pride
Don’t fund party activities with government funds, is a terse warning sent out by the Rajasthan High Court. Hopefully, it should make Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje think twice before misusing the State exchequer for political gains, which the ruling-BJP seeks to encash through its ongoing Gaurav Yatra (Pride journey). Hearing a PIL which questioned party programmes being funded by the government during the yatra, the court on Wednesday last declared: “no public functions sponsored and financed by the State would be held during the road-shows…on the day of the Yatra no government functions would be held enroute when the CM and BJP functionaries halt the Yatra for some time and re-commence the same after the break.” Its reasoning: public programmes during a political rally “would be the glorification of the political party and not of government achievements”. Though the party is in denial mode, orders of departments of Public Works and Information and PR revealed these were actually engaged in promoting the party. While all eyes will be on the yatra to catch Raje on the wrong foot, other State governments would do well to watch their steps too.
J&K Local Polls Jinxed?
New Delhi would do well to remember the proverb “Cutting off the nose to spite the face,” when dealing with Jammu & Kashmir. With fears of the Centre tinkering with Article 35 A abound and the National Security Advisor Doval saying a separate Constitution for the State is an “aberration”, a big question mark hangs over elections to panchayat and local urban bodies in October-November. Barring the BJP, all other parties in the State are livid with Doval’s statement and timing. It creates deep suspicion of the Centre’s conduct and worse has made some even counter question whether ‘the instrument of accession ‘is also an aberration’. The National Conference has gone a step further by announcing it will not participate in the polls “unless and until the GoI and State government clears its position, and takes effective steps to protect Article 35A in and outside the court.” The PDP is yet to make up its mind but is firm that mixing issue of Article 35A with ensuing polls was a “disastrous idea.” The Congress accuses the BJP of eyeing 2019 elections only. In the end, will Delhi have missed the woods for the trees?
Wither Freedom of Expression
Mind your language! Or face music, as BJP netas would have us unflinchingly believe. Indeed, the shocking incident in Tuticorin on Monday last sends warning signals across. Its police arrested a student Sofia after the State unit chief Soundararajan lodged a complaint saying she had shouted “fascist BJP government down, down”, in front of her on board a domestic flight. Worse, the student was sent to judicial remand for 15 days, but luckily got bail. However, other than the Opposition, it has made activists and citizens see red. Though the police registered cases against Sofia for ‘creating public nuisance and attempt to cause alarm,’ it was far from the truth. Clearly, the party chief was ‘intolerant’, a word oft heard. Her question “Is it freedom of expression” must be countered by one and all, lest the netas make a mockery of rights guaranteed to citizens under the Constitution. —INFA