Vendetta vs protocol

Centre-Bengal Row

By Insaf
‘Political vendetta’ or ‘breach of protocol’, is the latest tug-of-war between Prime Minister Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. This time it has gone beyond petty politics between BJP-ruled and non-BJP States. It has engulfed the country’s bureaucracy leading to a debate wherein a section bats for former Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay and the other against him. True to her style, Mamata has hit out at New Delhi’s recalling of Bandyopadhyay and sending him a showcause noticeunder the DMA seeking his explanation for skipping a cyclone review meeting, after he had resigned and become her advisor. The Centre, she said cannot ‘force an officer to join it without the permission of the State government…it’s not the battle of Bandyopadhyay. This is a battle for all bureaucracy. I can’t accept this.” In his reply, former CS has said he was scheduled to visit cyclone-affected areas and was following his CM’s orders. So was he right or wrong? Where does one draw the line? A section of civil servants argue the Centre over-reachedas it is smarting under its recent poll defeat, while others say by not being present to brief the PM,he transgressed professional lines. The rule book is being interpreted differently. What is static is the bitter Modi-Mamata feud. And Didi never misses an opportunity to use it to the hilt and more ferocious. The incident, she says, is a great blunder of the Centre. “They want to bulldoze State government totally. They want to play political vendetta… What do you want, Mr Busy Prime Minister? Mr Mann Ki Baat Prime Minister? You want to finish me? Can you do it? Never and ever…” Guess, protocol and stature demand Modi should ignore the vendetta.

States’ SOS To Centre
Odisha and Kerala have upped the ante against the Centre’s unfair and discriminatory vaccination policy. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wrote earlier this week to all CMs urging centralised procurement of vaccines by Union government, rather than by individual States, arguing that while many of us have floated global tenders, vaccine manufacturers are unwilling to get into supply contracts with State governments. Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan too wrote, but only to CMs of 11 non-BJP States urging them to push for the same. In fact, its Assembly went a step further on Wednesday unanimously passing a resolution the Centre ‘make vaccines available free of cost to all States in a time-bound manner.’ Asking States to procure vaccines from open market was “highly objectionable”. Mizoram CM Zoramthanga too joined the chorus citing north eastern States “stressed economic resources”, and asking Centre to procure and distribute vaccines free. West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, slammed ICMR’s claim the entire country would be vaccinated by December as a “hoax”. The BJP, ‘does this type of political propaganda. Before Bihar election, they said people will be vaccinated free, but did nothing after it.’ Will Modi oblige or throw it back in their face — Centre was willing, States demanded change in policy! In this political opera, where do citizens’ figure?

UP’s Introspection
Startling preparations are underway in Uttar Pradesh for ensuing electoral battle in February next. Nervousness within the BJP, both at headquarters and State is palpable. The focus appears to be whether Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath can retain the party’s supremacy, as his handling of the pandemic has put a big question mark. However, party national General Secretary (Organisation) B L Santhosh choose to give a picture that all is well. The two-day meeting held with ministers and other leaders in Lucknow was said to “review social work done by our party leaders” and to plan for the possibility of a third wave. In fact, he wrapped it up giving Yogi full marks saying Covid management in the State was “unparalleled”. Not many are willing to accept this, for since Yogi took over the kursiin2017, this is the first such meeting held by a senior BJP leader with his team. Plus, it takes place in backdrop of some party ministers and MLAs openly voicing concern over mishandling of Covid situation. Recall, the BJP’s poor performance in recent panchayat polls, with rival SP claiming to have given a tough fight. Viewed as semi-final, before the big fight, BJP now gets down to what it’s best at doing. Propaganda: we shall do better in 2022 and go beyond 300-mark! Let’s just say time will tell.

Himachal Gift To Media!
Himachal Pradesh government has unwittingly helped the fourth estate, journalists across the countryThe issue relates to sedition being used increasingly against journalists and wherein a . On Thursday last, the Supreme Court quashed the sedition case registered against well-known journalist Vinod Duaby the Himachal police following a complaint by a local BJP leader in Shimla last July. Every journalist, said the apex court, “is entitled to protection under the Kedar Nath Singh judgment.” In the verdict of 1962 on scope and ambit of sedition in the IPC, while the court upheld section 124A’s validity,it said sedition charges couldn’t be invoked against a citizen for criticism of government actions as it would be in conformity with freedom of speech and expression. Obviously, conveniently forgotten by authorities to browbeat journalists. Dua was charged under sections 124A, 268, 501 and 505 for his 15-minute YouTube show on March 30, after the complainant said Duaaccused Prime Minister Modi of using “deaths and terror attacks” to get votes!Dua knocked on the apex court’s door and got protection to the extent that police was stopped from taking coercive action till further orders. Insafhails the verdict as it gives hope that intolerant governments’ repeated attempts to stifle press freedom through sedition law shall be halted, finally? Learn from Himachal’s experience.

Punjab Cong Blues
Will the Congress high command at least put its house in order in Punjab? The question begs an answer after its party leader Navjot Sidhu, who has consistently been gunning for Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, had a hearing before a three-member AICC committee on Tuesday last. True to his style, after the meeting Sidhu told reporters he came on ‘invitation’ of high command and conveyed ‘the voice of people at the grassroots level in the State… my stand is people’s democratic power that goes to government in form of taxes should go back to the people, in whatever form. I have completely uncovered the truth…” The bitter truth is he has been hitting sixes against Amarinder on Twitter: promises unfulfilled and a quid-pro-quo with Akalis, terming it a 75-25% partnership. Apparently, he’s smarting as Amarinder has thrown his suggestions into the dustbin. These include cash-crunched and debt-ridden Punjab could fill empty coffers if its pilferage to private pockets is checked and the State having three rivers can make millions from sand as well as liquor sales! Enough is enough, must sigh Amarinder. Can he be optimistic? Sidhu’s diatribe must be put an end to. Or will it meet same fate as the infamous Letter of 23, seeking changes in party? February polls are not too far away.

Bihar’s Novel Plans
Killing two birds with one stone. That’s what Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar proposes with his plans to reserve 33% seats to girls in medical and engineering colleges. Clearly, not only will give a further boost to his women vote bank constituency, but the provision in two Bills will put Bihar as the first State to do so. With his government proposing to bring the Bills — Bihar Engineering Universities Bill and Bihar Medical Education Bill in next Assembly session, Nitish on Wednesday last at a review meeting to give fine tune these, recommended one-third seats for girls in medical and engineering colleges be reserved, to raise their numbers in technical education. Remember, he has nurtured women voters all these years: reservation of 50% seats for girls in primary and 35% in secondary schools at panchayat level; 35% jobs for women in police and 33% in other government jobs; Rs 50,000 cash incentive to encourage girl graduates to pursue higher education and of course his popular schemes such as bicycles and school uniforms for girls. Guess, this gives further impetus to open engineering colleges in every district and medical colleges in some districts, so that students don’t have to go out of the state for such education. What an idea, Sirji! — INFA