SC & Sedition Law
The Supreme Court ushers a glimmer of hope, not just in Jammu & Kashmir but across the nation. On Wednesday last, it dismissed a petition seeking sedition charges against former J&K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah over his alleged remarks after abrogation of Article 370. “The expression of a view which is a dissent from a decision taken by the Central government itself cannot be said to be seditious”, said the two-judge bunch, adding “there is nothing in the statement which we find so offensive as to give a cause of action for a court to initiate proceedings.” A fresh of breath air indeed, in this turbulent season of sedition cases under IPC’s 124A section being merrily slapped against political opponents, activists and journalists, by both the Centre and State governments. The judgement must be seen in the larger context and welcomed. But will the government join in? At least it must rethink whether this colonial legacy should continue in 2021 in the world’s largest democracy. More so, as the apex court’s verdict comes on the heels of observations of a trial court in Delhi. Granting bail to 22-year-old activist Disha Ravi arrested in connection with the Toolkit FIR, it said: “offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of governments”. Need more be said.
TN Poll Intrigues
It’s utter confusion for the voter in Tamil Nadu. Political equations for the ensuing Assembly elections are like a jigsaw puzzle—three or four or more fronts will the voter have to deal with? While political parties are thrashing out seat-sharing formulas to keep their alliance intact, in the backdrop of new entrants in the field, the exit of former AIADMK leader and close aide of Late Jayalalitha (Amma), V K Sasikala from the big fight has sprung the biggest surprise. On Wednesday last, in a two-page letter she told her followers that she was stepping aside from politics, will pray for Amma’s ‘golden rule’ and they all must defeat ‘evil force DMK’. The move is bound to help AIADMK-BJP partnership as it will avoid a split in their votes. However, it has unnerved her nephew Dhinakaran, who said he is determined that his party, AMMK form an alliance (third front) — with whom is yet to be ascertained. Meanwhile, AIADMK-DMDK alliance is off as the seat-sharing formula failed. On the other side, DMK-Congress partnership is under threat as the two are so far unable to agree on an amicable set-sharing formula. The question is will Kamal Haasan’s MNM, which is the first to release its manifesto, focussing on women and youth, step in. The actor has kept the suspense going of whom he shall partner with. Await the climax in this southern thriller.
Gujarat’s Clear Message
BJP in and Congress out! A clear verdict that Gujarat has given in the polls held in six municipal corporations. Reason for BJP to be buoyant as it literally swept out the Congress, overturning the verdict of 2015, when the grand old party had swept local body elections in rural areas, winning 23 of 31 district panchayats and 146 of 231 taluka panchayats. This time round, BJP routed it winning in all 31 district panchayats, 200-odd of 231 taluka panchayats and 75 of 81 municipalities. The saffron brigade won 800 of the 980 seats in 31 district panchayats, while the Congress managed a poor 169 seats. The verdict must further bring down the morale of the Congress cadres, given that churnings are growing within the top leadership. Besides, the Patidar quota stir, led by Hardik Patel, which had helped its victory in 2015, appears to be waning or that it his services are not being utilised fully. While both the State PCC chief and Leader of Opposition have resigned taking responsibility for the disaster, is it enough? Will the Congress get cracking sooner than later on setting its house in order as Assembly elections are due next year? It must set its eyes to win the people’s confidence back. More so as the BJP’s flag is flying higher. The saffron colour has enveloped not just the cities but villages too!
Farmers’ Anti-BJP Campaign
The farmers’ agitation, which marks 100 days today, is far from losing steam. Instead, elections in five States and UT appear to have given it good reason to go beyond Delhi’s doorstep. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), umbrella body of protesting farmers, has decided to up the ante against the Centre and chalked out a plan to reach out to the voters in the interiors of West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and campaign against the BJP’s ‘black farm laws’. Its series of conventions will begin in Kolkata on Friday, where its Kisan Doots (farmers’ emissaries) will ask farmers there to teach ‘Kisan Virodhi’ (anti-farmer) party a lesson. The next stop will be Kerala, with others to follow. Besides, the Morcha has decided to launch an ‘MSP Dilao Abhiyan’ (Give MSP campaign) across the country, to highlight ‘shallowness of Modi’s government’s MSP promise. While this begins in southern States of Andhra, Karnataka and Telangana, on International Women’s Day (March 8) the Morcha will observe ‘Mahila Kisan Diwas’ (Women farmers’ Day). Have the Modi government taken a lot on its plate?
Karnataka is not in election mode, but it can ill-afford to have a scandal impacting BJP’s prospects elsewhere this season. On Wednesday last, a senior, influential and defiant minister Ramesh Jarkiholi handed his resignation to Chief Minister Yediyurappa following a video CD allegedly involving him and a young unidentified woman, a ‘sexual harassment’ case, went on local TV channels. Though Ramesh initially refused to as he claimed he did nothing wrong, he put in his papers on ‘moral grounds.’ Not the real reason. It’s the BJP headquarters which tightened the screws fearing the charge would embarrass the party in States going to polls. While it may breathe a sigh of relief, the same cannot be said for Yediyurappa. Rumours of similar CDs involving several other top leaders existing are doing the rounds and worse, Ramesh and the other 3 Jarkiholi brothers are known to enjoy political clout across their constituencies and could extract their pound of flesh— a ministerial post, which one of them was denied in 2019-20. Recall, Ramesh had played a key role in 13 Congress MLAS defecting to help BJP topple the Congress-JDS coalition. Will Yediyurappa give in? He can’t afford the boot to be on the other foot!
Bengal & ECI Wrangle
West Bengal has tasted a small victory already but with Nirvachan Sadan. Putting sharp focus on violation of Model Code of Conduct, ruling-TMC has got the Election Commission to direct all petrol pump dealers and other agencies on Wednesday last, to remove hoardings advertising Centre’s schemes carrying Prime Minister Modi’s photographs from the premises within 72 hours. It agreed it violated the code, which has come into force after poll dates’ announcement on February 26. However, the ECI is not showing the same urgency on TMC’s other complaint that Modi’s photos on Covid vaccination certificates are a blatant misuse of official machinery and must be removed. Instead, it asked Health Ministry for “factual position” — whether certificates were being distributed on its instructions. On the other side, the counters saying the demand is baseless as the vaccination drive started much before dates were announced. While the verdict is awaited, the TMC continues to put the heat on the ECI. On Thursday last, it demanded removal of Dy Election Commissioner in-charge of the State, accusing him of being biased against it (in Lok Sabha polls) and breaking norms of federal structure. It fears he will ‘take steps which will either directly or indirectly help the BJP.’ Building excuses for a setback, is it? — INFA