The AAP government in Delhi is seething with anger and rightly so. Its powers have been curtailed with a lieutenant governor (LG) being made an equal. Worse, it has revived the dispute on the distribution of powers between an elected government and the LG. On Wednesday, Parliament passed the controversial Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which includes the “expression ‘government’ referred to in any law to be made by the legislative assembly… shall mean the LG” and Clause 4 saying “the assembly shall not make any rule to enable itself to consider the matters of day-to-day administration of the capital or conduct inquiries in relation to administrative decisions,” predictably evoking a strong reaction.
The AAP was not alone and found support from opposition parties – 12 in the Rajya Sabha and nine in Lok Sabha – vociferously opposing the bill. The MPs called it “unconstitutional,” “violation of the fundamentals of federalism” and questioned: “If Delhi can’t inquire or do matters of day-to-day, then will they fry pakodas?”, “What is the point of elections if you are making the LG the leader?”, etc.
While Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accused the Centre of undermining his government, the Centre rubbished it, saying the bill does not curtail in any manner any of the powers enjoyed by the NCT Delhi government, and that bit would lead to a harmonious relationship between the functionaries.
Recall, from 2015 to 2018, the AAP government was engaged in a constant battle with the Centre over policy decisions and the powers of the LG. Though a Supreme Court judgment gave it a freer hand in terms of policy decisions, the situation seems to have come back to square one now. The fear is that it is not a BJP versus AAP fight, but that whichever party comes to power in Delhi, it shall find its wings clipped.
UP incident rattles BJP
The Kerala assembly elections have had the BJP get into damage control over an incident in Uttar Pradesh, surprising many a member from the minority community. None other than union Home Minister Amit Shah has had to step in, following the harassment of four Christian women, including two nuns, who were forced off a train in BJP-ruled UP by railway personnel after ABVP workers falsely accused them of engaging in forced religious conversion. The incident triggered outrage in Kerala, from where the nuns hailed, and had Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan shoot off a letter to Shah, demanding action against “all groups and individuals who disrupt and impair the freedom of individual rights guaranteed by the constitution.”
In the normal course, the BJP would have maintained a stoic silence, but here it can ill-afford to do so. Thus, at a rally in Kanjirappally, which has a sizeable Christian population, and which goes to the polls on 6 April, Shah said his party’s “government in UP will ensure that the culpritswill be brought to justice.” The UP government too has ordered an inquiry and is awaiting “a detailed report.”
Interestingly, it has already stated that the probe has so far found that “there was no case of human trafficking and the nuns were immediately released.” Be that as it may, the alacrity with which the BJP headquarters has acted on an incident of ‘forcible conversion’ does show that if there is a will there is a way. Let it not be just an election stunt.
Maha corruption slugfest
The controversy over Maharashtra’s Home Minister Anil Deshmukh has turned into a political slugfest. The ruling Shiv Sena has termed the allegations of corruption against Deshmukh by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh a conspiracy by the BJP, its previous ally and now in opposition.
While the SS has said that the row is “now over for the Maha Vikas Aghadi government” with an inquiry being constituted by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and there is no need for the HM’s removal, the government has suffered a fresh setback. Former commissioner of state intelligence Rashmi Shukla had written a letter in August last year to the then DGP, claiming that her personnel had intercepted messages of several persons allegedly engaged in the postings of senior police officers in exchange for money. The reported conversations had names being dropped of top political leaders, including Deshmukh, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and even Thackeray. Predictably, leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavishas grabbed the opportunity and met the union home secretary in Delhi, handing over “a sealed envelope containing 6.3 gb of records related to police transfers and posting deals” and demanding a CBI probe. But the ruling MVA has rubbished this too and said that Shukla is “an agent of the BJP” and that had tapped the phones without taking permission. The big question is whether the truth will ever emerge as the details provided do look damning. Clean, good governance is what the citizens need and not passing of the buck. Is it asking for too much?
Double whammy For AP
It’s a double whammy for the Andhra Pradesh government. The Supreme Court dismissed a complaint by Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy against Justice NV Ramana, which accused him of “influencing the sittings of the (AP) High Court, including the roster of a few honourable judges.” And on Wednesday last, Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde, who retires on 23 April, recommended Justice Ramana as his successor to the post. Adding insult to injury? The apex court held an in-house inquiry into Reddy’s complaint of 6 October and after due consideration, dismissed it. Reddy had alleged Ramana’s alleged “proximity” to opposition politicians and sought an Anti-Corruption Bureau investigation into “questionable transactions of land” involving some kin and others in Amaravati, before it was declared the site for the new capital of the state.
Interestingly, his letter to the CJI was around the same time that Reddy was facing legal heat over allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds in his father YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s government and it was listed before Justice Ramana. The latter withstood the test of time and maintained silence. There’s no guessing, as he would have the last laugh.
Farmers’ stir long-drawn
The farmers’ agitation is far from ebbing and is going to be long drawn. That’s a clear and loud message from Haryana, where BKU leader Rakesh at a Kisan mahapanchayat in Mehamon on Wednesday appealed to farmers to supply milk of their buffaloes to protesters for a period equivalent to the animal’s lactation period that goes on for almost 10 months. The agitation, he said, “will go on (at least till) November or December,” and warned the Centre that it shouldn’t be under the false impression that the “farmers will return to their homes during the summer…. We are here to stay.”
He may not be wrong, for as per police estimates, 40,000-odd committed supporters of the farmers’ agitation from Punjab and Haryana are at Singhu and Tikri borders of Delhi even after nearly four months of the stir. Plus, dharnas are being staged at toll plazas on the national highways, seeking repeal of the three farm laws. Preparations are also afoot by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha for the Bharat bandh on 26 March and the leaders are confident that the farmers will observe it in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra, apart from Punjab and Haryana. Is New Delhi going to have a rethink? The wait and watch carries on.
He also called upon the youth to join the agitation, actively stating, “You have to either struggle or lose the land.”
Faithful to your wife?
Is the Karnataka polity missing the woods for the trees? Perhaps, if Health Minister K Sudhakar’s remarks to the media are to be taken seriously. On Wednesday, he said: “Let all ministers, members of ruling/opposition parties be investigated. Let there be a comprehensive probe on how many are faithful to their wives and how many have extra marital relationships. This will reveal the truth about everyone to the public.” He added: “Former chief ministers Kumaraswamy, Siddaramaiah, former minister Shivakumar and former speaker Ramesh Kumar are all acting like Satya Harishchandras, of being devoted to their wives and being perfect examples to society. Let the world know about them. Everyone will be exposed. I am making an open challenge.”
Expectedly, it triggered a ruckus in the assembly, as opposition Congress is demanding filing of rape charges against minister Ramesh Jarkiholi, who recently resigned after a video CD emerged, allegedly featuring him and an unidentified young woman. Not to forget that he is among six ministers in the BJP government who have obtained a temporary injunction on media broadcast of any CD or other material that is likely to defame them. While he was chided by both Chief Minister Yediyurappa and Speaker Kageri, the minister has set the cat among the pigeons. — INFA