4 Assembly Elections
Criminalisation of politics has come into sharp focus at an opportune time. With Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana to go to polls, all eyes need to be on candidates put up. Can political parties make a clean start by not giving tickets to those facing criminal charges? And not look at winnability factor but what the Supreme Court wants it to do. On Monday last, though it admitted not having powers to disqualify politicians facing criminal cases from contesting polls, it asserted: “In a multi-party democracy, where members are elected on party lines and subject to party discipline” Parliament should bring out a strong law “whereby it’s mandatory for parties to revoke membership of persons against whom charges are framed in heinous and grievous offences and not to set up such persons in elections, both for Parliament and State Assemblies”.
No longer, it added, should they remain oblivious to criminalisation of politics, “a bitter manifest truth”, and should adhere to series of guidelines: Candidates must fill EC forms and state in bold letters, details of criminal cases against them; those contesting on a party ticket must inform the cases to the party, which must put this up on its official website; and publicity must be given in widely-circulated in print and electronic media, at least three times after nomination is filed. So can there be miracle? Miracles come in moments, it is said and we have to be ready and willing.
Karnataka politics is turning to be both exciting and intriguing. The BJP has surprised many by deciding not to contest bypolls to three seats in the State Legislative Council, two of which were vacated by its members. It thus did not file nominations on Monday last and let the cat out of the bag i.e. it simply didn’t have the requisite number of MLAs, 112, to bag these seats. Odd indeed, as the ruling Congress-JD(S) combine has these past days accused the saffron brigade of trying to poach its MLAs in a bid to topple the government in the 224-member House, The combine has support of 118 MLAs against BJP’s 104 members and has given the BJP a run for its money. It’s set to see its three candidates – two of Congress, one of JD(S) get elected. More importantly, it sees the BJP backtracking to save itself not only an embarrassment but avoid factional feud within over the choice of its candidates. Who will have the last laugh?
Mob Lynching Scare
Prevention is better than cure, and the Centre proposes to deal with spiralling cases of mob lynching this way for the time being. In an advisory to all States and UTs on Wednesday last, Home Ministry directed they publicise and broadcast the “serious consequences under law” for those indulging in mob violence. Plus, it has roped in I & B Ministry to start broadcasting messages on both radio and TV that such cases would invite “stricter punishment”. The idea is the Supreme Court’s, which recently ordered both Central and State governments to publicise the warning, even on official websites of home departments and police. Will it suffice? Unlikely, as a specific law to check mob lynching is critical, given that 34 lynching deaths have been ‘reported’ in nine States this year. The longer the wait for the elusive will to legislate, the numbers will sadly continue to grow. Time to act.
Setback to NC
Proposed municipal elections in J&K have had its first casualty. Not a candidate as feared, but within principal party, the National Conference. On Wednesday last, it expelled eight party leaders, who filed nominations for various wards in Jammu region, despite the party’s decision to boycott the polls beginning 8 October. All filed as independents and sent out another message that they were unhappy with the boycott call, which was ‘Kashmir-centric’! The regional divide is known, but it seems to be getting sharper with the collapse of the PDP-BJP government and nagging fear is it could get worse. But priority for Governor Malik is to ensure passage of both civic/panchayat polls – after a gap of 13 and two years respectively. Thus, while these nominations and Congress decision to contest comes as a breather, the administration and security forces are burning would need to burn the midnight oil to ensure these are ‘free and fair’. Plus, elaborate security arrangements are in place. As of now, 238 additional companies of forces requisitioned for Amarnath Yatra are retained by the State, and an additional 162 companies have been called to provide “environment of security.”Each candidate has been promised 2-3 security officers and government accommodation etc in the plans being worked out. Will the gamble pay off?
NRC In Meghalaya?
A stitch in time saves nine, is what Meghalaya believes will do the State well. Watching ongoing messy developments in neighbouring Assam over the NRC exercise, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma chooses to play safe. On Wednesday last, he informed the State Assembly that the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance too is wary of illegal migration and committed to protecting its ‘indigenous people’. This during a debate on media reports that the North East States were keen on a similar exercise. However, before embarking on it, he proposed to discuss it with all stakeholders and ensure that all parties are on board with the idea. At the same time, ‘other preparatory exercises in a phased manner’ were being considered such as setting up of entry and exit points. His Railway minister is contemplating having a ‘facilitation centre at Mendipathar’, the lone railway station in the State connecting Guwahati, to check illegal immigrants. Is the State on right track and get a green signal?
Kerala Thumbs Up
God’s own country offers additional hope to same-sex couples. On Monday last, the Kerala High Court brought cheer to a lesbian couple, by taking the Supreme Court historic judgement a step forward. It allowed Aruna, post graduate in Economics and Sreeja, a saleswoman in Kuwait, to live together. Fear and anguish is over for the two as no longer will they give a damn to what people say. Their marriage stands legitimised and perhaps may give confidence to others like them to seek justice. Their story reads like a Bollywood script: the two discovered their inner instincts years ago and through a website found each other; tied the knot in Thiruvananthapuram as per Hindu traditions in August despite stiff opposition from Aruna’s family, which filed a missing person complaint with the police; Sreeja produced her at a magistrate court, which set her free; but the family forcibly took her away and put her in a mental hospital; Sreeja tried to take her away, but hospital authorities wouldn’t permit; she began a legal battle to get her partner back and on Monday they were united. Hope the story ends on a positive note i.e. they lived happily ever after. —INFA