Round The States
Elections will be elections, COVID-19 or not. Crowded campaign rallies for Bihar’s first phase of polling on Wednesday have party leaders, contestants and voters throwing all precautions to the winds. No social distancing, no masks, have sent Nirvachan Sadan into a tizzy. It now warns all political parties of invoking apt penal provisions against candidates found violating its orders. The question to be asked it, did it think that its mandated social distancing of at least two metres between participants at physical gatherings and all wear masks, was possible? Be realistic, it’s unfeasible. Impractical guidelines would obviously be violated and more so when money and muscle power play a role in Indian elections. Same way, as false promises are made to woo the voters.
The BJP has done so without batting an eyelid—free vaccine against COVID-19 to every Biharwasi, is its first poll promise in its manifesto! Sadly, the party is playing with sentiments and raising false expectations even when New Delhi has said a policy to deliver the vaccine under production is in the works. Worse, it’s an attempt to manoeuvre anxieties of the poor voters and smacks of desperation. It would have done better to first apologise to the State’s migrant worker and admitted lapses in not being able to lessen their misery. But then whoever believes in what is said during the election mela. With all parties, the Congress, JD(U), LJP, RJD etc promising the moon, the voter must remain wary and separate the chaff from the wheat. Unlike the Election Commission, it’s the people’s words and action that matter to the politician. Will Bihar help test waters and prepare for post-COVID times?
Punjab Vs Centre
Punjab does it! On Tuesday last, the Legislative Assembly passed four new state farm Bills, including three amendment Bills, keeping Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s word to counter the Centre’s laws passed last month. Barring the 2 BJP MLAs, all political parties, cut across party lines and gave their nod and passed a resolution against the Union laws. However, all is not over, the Bills would require Governor Badnore’s and President Kovind’s assent, as these seek to amend laws passed by the Centre. Singh is doubly pleased for the time being as he has delivered, plus countered one-upmanship game by rivals SAD, which exited the NDA over the Bills. To the big question whether Rashtrapati Bhavan will give assent to the bills, Singh has an answer –his government will seek legal recourse. At its end, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar has said once they get the bills ‘these will be examined and action taken in interest of farmers’. While Singh is seeking time to raise Punjab’s concerns with Kovind, the matter may just end up in the Supreme Court, as it did in the water agreements termination Act. Will it be a long drawn battle?
Empowering People In J&K?
Will winds of change blow in J&K? New Delhi seems confident as the Union Cabinet on Wednesday last, approved amendment to the J&K Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, clearing the decks for beginning of a three-tier system of local body governance in the UT. Accordingly, it will lead to institution of District Development Councils (DDC), members of which will be directly elected by the voters. The Councils will be the third-tier — at district level, over the block and village levels and once the amendment is approved it shall facilitate ‘holding of elections soon.’ Before abrogation of Article 370, people in the erstwhile State didn’t have the right to elect their local representatives like in rest of the country, explains Union Minister Javadekar. So now there will be a three-tier system — Gram Panchayat, Block Development Council and DDC—which will replace the District Development Boards, headed by a State Cabinet minister and MLCs, MLAs and MPs as members. Each district will now be divided into 14 constituencies, electing a member each to the DDC, who then shall elect a chairperson and vice-chairperson. It will be worth a watch to see whether the people will exercise their power to manage the local bodies or will the exercise remain a promise redeemed by the Prime Minister and his Home Minister.
Maharashtra’s No To CBI
Maharashtra says a big no to CBI to carry out investigations in the State. On Wednesday last, the Uddhav Thackeray government withdrew “general consent” given to the Central investigating agency saying it was to ensure that the CBI ‘is not misused for political purpose.’ It is firm that the agency cannot carry out investigations till it issues “permission.” This after the CBI took over a case registered by the Uttar Pradesh Police against “unknown” channels and persons over alleged fudging of TRPs. The government smells a rat and sees the move as a bid to move the case from the purview of the Mumbai police, which had registered an FIR on October 6, against three channels, including Republic TV, wherein prima facie these were involved in manipulating TRPs. Plus, it had burnt its fingers only recently with the CBI taking over investigations into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, when its Police was already looking into it. No more. Home Minister Deshmukh justified the action saying, “the CBI had been given a free pass by the earlier government. We have withdrawn it. We thought about political scores being settled through CBI…” Best explained as ‘once bitten, twice shy’.
‘Dirty’ MP Campaign
Electioneering decorum is thrown to the winds in Madhya Pradesh, making Nirvachan Sadan cringe. The by-elections to 28 seats is witnessing an offensive campaign, to say the least. The tu-tu-mein-mein between BJP and Congress leaders is at a new low and sadly distasteful to women candidates: Former Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s hitting out at State minister Imarti Devi and saying to the crowds “You know her better than I do, you people should have warned me beforehand…ye kya item hai…”; Minister for Food & Civil Supplies Bisahulal Singh, dealt with his Congress rival’s nomination papers, wondering why he had mentioned the name of his “rakhail” (mistress) and not his first wife; After BJP General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya called Nath and Digvijaya Singh as “chunnu-munnu” who couldn’t mobilise over 100 people for their rallies, former Congress minister SS Verma hits back saying, “Have you forgotten the days when you wore bangles on your hands, draped a saree, wore nose rings and prayed to god, dreaming of becoming the Chief Minister.” The EC has issued a notice to Nath for alleged violation of MCC, Bisahulal Singh was booked for using an “obscene” word by Anuppur police and the State women’s commission has sought an explanation. Will they be able to stem the rot?— INFA