Is it an end to the violent Bodo movement in Assam? Envisioned yes, but there hangs a nagging uncertainty. While there is no denying that Home Minister Amit Shah has maneuvered to ink a “historic” tripartite agreement between Centre-State-Bodo groups, the timing is significant signaling there may be more than meets the eyes. Assam and Sonowal government are in the thick of protests against the CAA and the exercise seeks to shift the focus as New Delhi tries to do elsewhere in the country. On Monday last, with the four factions of National Democratic Front of Bodoland signing the ‘Memorandum of Settlement’, the signatories saw hope of “permanent solution” to the Bodo issue. Promises include: reorganize areas and enhance powers of Bodoland Territorial Council B, Assembly seats to go up from 40 to 60, rehabilitation of surrendered militants and a special development package of Rs 1,500 crore for the region. This apart, on Thursday last 1,615 armed cadres of various NDFB factions with 130 weapons surrendered and they have been assured leniency. The accord signed, the third since 1993, has had mixed reactions—hope on one side and cynicism on the other. A real picture shall only emerge if and when the big promises made are kept. Words, as such come easy.
Delhi Hots Up
Winter temperature in the national Capital, Delhi, is not just turning warm but literally hotting up. The election campaign for the next incumbent to seat of power is not just unsavory but vicious, to say the least. It has the Nirvachan Sadan finally yielding the stick. As of now, two BJP campaigners have come under its radar — Finance Minister of State Anurag Thakur and West Delhi MP Parvesh Verma. On Thursday last, the EC barred the former from campaigning for three days for egging on the crowd to raise the slogan “shoot the traitors”, Verma has been halted for four days for his warning to voters that what happened to Kashmiri Pandits could happen in Delhi and that lakhs of anti-CAA protesters in Shaheen Bagh ‘could enter homes to rape and kill women.’ Worse, Verma was heard saying some ‘terrorists’ like Arvind Kejriwal are hiding in Delhi. Interestingly, while AAP is trying to woo the voters by reaching out with his governance report card, the BJP is banking on the usual nationalist sentiments. Thus even Home Minister Amit Shah was heard asking citizens to press the EVM button so hard that the “current” is felt in Shaheen Bagh, where thousands, mostly women and children, have been protesting against CAA since mid-December. Will the citizens oblige? February 8 is not too far but long enough for the campaign to get murkier.
Kerala Nasty Drama
Legislative decorum is thrown to the winds in God’s own country. Kerala, which has added a first to its list after passing a resolution against the CAA, may yet affix another one. On Wednesday last, the UDF MLAs blocked Governor Arif Mohammed Khan inside the State assembly with ‘go back’ slogans and placards against the CAA when he was being ushered in by Chief Minister Vijayan and the Speaker. Not just unprecedented, but many who believe in the sanctity of the Legislature would say unacceptable. It took the ward and watch staff a good 10 minutes to clear Arif’s way to the dais. Worse, the playing of the national anthem didn’t stop them from carrying on their protest and when Arif started his address they walked out. However, the Governor did well. Even though his disagreement with Vijayan is known over the CAA, he did read out the policy statement (Resolution) of the government as desired. Will the protesting MLAs at least feel the shame?
Bengal Joins anti-CAA
West Bengal is the latest State to join the anti-CAA bandwagon. On Monday last, the State Assembly, which met for a day only, passed a resolution asking the Centre to take immediate steps to repeal the CAA, saying it went against the country’s “pluralistic structure” and sought to divide people on basis of religion. The State is the fourth after Kerala, Punjab and Rajasthan to take on New Delhi and had both the Congress and Left members support the move. Remember, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also said a no to NPR and has suspended work on its updation and skipped the meeting called in Delhi. With the rumblings growing, two other States—Chhattisgarh and Telangana have said they won’t implement the CAA. While the Centre obviously needs to mull over tackling these belligerent States, it must take stock of Odisha and Bihar’s announcements that they will remove the clause on date and place of birth of parents in the NPR as it creates ‘unnecessary confusion’. As the clause is optional there should be no problem. What should, however, be of concern is that even those on board with it on CAA and NPR are unwilling to give a blanket acceptance. More hurdles in offing?
Bitter Battle In Bihar
There is a bitter churning in Bihar politics. The ruling JD (U) has been besieged by dissidence, not so much in numbers but by senior leaders. On Wednesday last, the party yielded the stick and showed the door to its Vice President and poll strategist Prashant Kishor and Rajya Sabha member Pavan Varma. The reason, the big two had differences with President and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over the CAA and NPR and worse were openly vociferous and “insulting” to their chief and even took digs at Amit Shah. While for the leadership “loyalty to party’s discipline, decision and leadership is the organisation’s basic mantra”, Varma and Kishor sought to drive home the point that ideology was paramount. Varma hit back wishing Nitish well in his “ambition of being CM of Bihar at any cost.” He may not be wrong, as it’s obvious that Nitish is eyeing the kursi for another term as both the JD (U) and BJP have announced the alliance remains for Assembly polls later this year. The removal would be welcome not only by partner BJP but by leaders within the party as the rise of the two was a concern for some, who were getting side-tracked. Is there more to follow? Time will tell.
Traffic Choked Bengaluru
Bengaluru, which enjoys the reputation of being the country’s major IT hub, is stagnant on the road! A location technology company TomTom Traffic Index describes Karnataka’s capital as ‘the world’s most traffic choked city’. The survey, conducted in 416 cities in 57 countries, revealed that drivers in this southern city expect to spend an average of 71% extra travel time stuck in traffic or driving during peak hours plus the residents would spend an extra 243 hours, i.e., 10 days, three hours in traffic each year. While this red signal does halt progress, the hit may be softened by the fact that three other Indian cities are among the top 10. Mumbai is on 4th position with 65% congestion, Pune is 5th with 59% congestion and New Delhi falls into 8th place with 56% congestion. The other global cities on the list include Manila, Bogota, Moscow, Lima Istanbul and Jakarta. Of the 239 cities i.e. 57%, congestions levels have increased between 2018 and 2019, with only 63 cities showing measurable decreases, says the survey. Indeed, there is a long road to travel until congestion levels are brought under control and it would be worth a watch to see how Bengaluru takes on the lead. ——INFA