Uttar Pradesh politics has a new star on the horizon. The entry of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as Congress General Secretary in-charge of UP (East) has hit headlines and is being viewed by many as a morale booster for a decimated party cadre and may rejuvenate the Grand Old Party. While it’s uncertain whether she will make a huge impact in the most critical State, there is no denying that the Gandhi family realises the need for her to be actively beside brother and party President Rahul facing his biggest challenge. The workers may get enthused as Priyanka is a crowd puller more so as she looks and talks like her grandmother Indira Gandhi. In fact, her charm seems to have already overshadowed the other appointment– of young scion of Scindia family, Jyotiraditya– as General Secretary in-charge UP (West). And while the 80 seats are divided between the two, hers is a bigger challenge as the East is a stronghold of arch rival BJP, electing Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath. Besides, how she teams up to take on the BSP-SP alliance needs to be closely watched. It is a tall order no doubt given her earlier limited role of managing her mother and brother’s constituencies Raebareli and Amethi. Will she as rahul says be able to “herald the dawn of a new kind of politics in the State?” is the million dollar question. Priyanka must ensure there is more than meets the eye
Maha Alliance Sop
Maharashtra offers a different kind of pre-election sops. This time it is a political entity rather than the common voter. On Tuesday last, the Fadanivs Cabinet agreed to give Rs 100-crore for the construction of a grand memorial for Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, at the mayor’s bungalow in Shivaji Park in Mumbai. And within 24 hours, 11,500 sq m of land, where the bungalow stands, was transferred to the Balasaheb Thackeray Rashtriya Smarak Nyas. That day, coinciding with senior Thackeray’s 93rd birth anniversary, also saw both Fadnavis and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray jointly performing ‘vaastu pujan’ at the site, creating a flutter in the corridors of power. Will there be a rapprochement between the partners, given that SS has threatened to go it alone this election and has been a headache by losing no opportunity to hit out at partner BJP, be it the Rafale deal or construction of Ram temple or farm crisis et al. The memorial is being seen as a means to soften and entice the Sena. The two, it is being heard, may eventually cement a pre-poll alliance, by agreeing to halve the seats more or less for both General and Assembly polls amongst them. How soon a formula, if at all, is worked out between the estranged partners is anybody’s guess. Slow and steady may not apply here as the race is closing in.
Punjab Cautions Delhi
Don’t throw caution to the winds, is Punjab’s nudge to the Centre. Keeping a close watch on the progress of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is peeved over reports on Islamabad’s draft proposal for regulating entry to the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara. Don’t allow Islamabad to negate the initiatives taken, he urges Delhi and puts forth his arguments. One, why will only Sikh pilgrims be allowed to visit the Gurdwara, when Guru Nanak Dev was a universal guru and revered by followers of all religions, especially Hindus? Two, to limit the number of people to a group of 15 is wrong as individual yatris must too be permitted. Three, don’t restrict 500 pilgrims per days as it defeats the concept of ‘khulle darshan’ and more so in November, when the Guru’s 550th birth anniversary will be celebrated. While admitting Islamabad was within its rights to set terms and conditions viz its territorial safety and security, Amarinder insists the restrains as proposed must be logical and Delhi should take these up. Will South Block pay heed?
The Congress government in Chhattisgarh will literally have to pay for the ills of the previous BJP government. The State’s rural healthcare system is in doldrums. Not political accusations but severe criticism from none other than the Comptroller and Auditor General. In the audit report 2012-17 on the National Rural Health Mission, placed in Assembly on Thursday last, the CAG noted: “The State suffers from shortages of human resources in critical positions of specialist doctors to the extent of 89%, medical officers by 36%, staff nurses by 34% and paramedics by 12% against their sanctioned strengths.” Obviously health services in district hospitals, community health centres and PHCs were impacted. Besides, there was shortage of medical equipment (25-69%), drugs and consumables (40-76%), laboratory services (36-71%) and many of these centres were operating from private buildings-lacking space, infrastructure, delivery service, OPD facilities, labour rooms, beds, water connectivity, toilets etc! While it was reason enough for the voter to boot out the Raman Singh government, the question which needs to be addressed is the time the Baghel government will take to bring the State back in pink of health.
States Asked To Buckle Up
All States and Union Territories have been put on alert. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed Chief Secretaries to mark dates between March and May to be available at the Tribunal with a progress report on having tackled air/river pollution, municipal solid waste management, illegal sand mining and polluted industrial cluster among other environment-related issues. This is first time the NGT has chosen to club all issues together instead of hearing these separately. So with specific 36 meeting dates slated, the 36 Chief Secretaries will need to do their homework and as asked ‘get acquainted’ with the status of compliance regarding: management rules; functioning of committees (of former HC judges or senior bureaucrats) set up by NGT to oversee order implementation; action plans to remediate polluted river, deal with illegal sand mining and fines from erring industries under “Polluter Pays” principle and committees overseeing execution of National Clean Air Programme. That the NGT means serious business is clear by it asking Chief Secretaries to appear on their dates and not delegate the task to anyone else. At best they can request a date change. Enough time to get their act together?
‘A party of mothers’ will soon come knocking on your doorstep for vote and support. Preparations are afoot by the National Women’s Party (NWP), the nation’s first-ever all-women party, to fight for 283 of the 545 Lok Sabha seats this General election season. Founded by social activist and a medico, Shwetha Shetty strives for women empowerment and gender equality in this patriarchal society. And this it is believed can only be achieved if the elusive reservation for women, not 33% hanging fire for over two decades, but more i.e. ‘50%’ is fought for. With trust deficit on men politicians, the NWP seeks to create an environment for women to realise their full potential and demand their space. Steps under consideration include the launch of a mobile app “Mahila Rakshak” (women safety) and setting up a ‘Youth Parliament’ – a political school for women in every State which offers both academic and practical training to them to engage in the political process. Baby steps, men would perhaps say, but these women must remember: ‘Well begun is half done!’—INFA