The political drama unfolding in Punjab relegates the IPL season to the background. Navjot Sidhu’s inconsistent batting in the Congress has queered the pitch for the Grand Old party. Not only has former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh given up his decades-old Congress membership, but jeers are being heard all the way in Delhi, as G-23 starts demanding from Sonia Gandhi a CWC meeting. The events indeed have caught the umpires by surprise. Amarinder is asked to resign as CM and he does, Navjot as PCC President glees and then sulks putting in his resignation after a new Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi takes oath. Navjot said he wouldn’t take back his resignation but Channi says he has and all is sorted out with the aim to work together. Amarinder meets Home Minister Amit Shah soon after and the political grapewine says he’s joining the BJP, but as of now no, says the Captain. The meeting it was said was to discuss the prolonged farmer’s agitation.
In all these twists and turns, the Congress central leadership in Delhi remains a silent spectator. However, a group of party leaders who have been seeking organisational reforms, known popularly as G-23, have seized the moment. They are voicing serious concerns over developments in Punjab and elsewhere.”We (G-23 leaders) are not the ones who leave the party and go elsewhere. Ironically. Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal throws a googly,”People who were close to them (party leaders) left and they were nearby. Those who don’t think are gone. They are still standing with them…. We are G-23, not JeeHuzoor 23. It’s very clear. We keep talking. We keep repeating our demands…” Will their demands be heard? The Assembly elections are not too far and time is running out. AAP is waiting in the wings and already got into a batting mode. Will the Congress umpire, whoever it is wake up and give a verdict? Set its team in order.
The farmers’ ongoing protest has the Supreme Court giving the Centre a lesson or two in governance. Questioning how can highways be blocked perpetually, the apex court firmly stated on Thursday last: “We may lay down a law but how to implement the law is your business. The court cannot implement it. It is the executive who has to implement it.” To the question where does this (blockade) end, the Centre’s reply revealed a sense of helplessness as it urged the court to make farmer unions’ party to the petition, wherein a Noida resident had sought removal of the blockades at Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border at UP Gate. The big question is whether the Centre will, as asked, be able to convince the court of the ‘steps taken to resolve their (farmers) grievances’ and how impleading representatives of farmers ‘will help in the resolution of the dispute’? For their seems no resolution in sight as talks have miserably failed with both sides adamant on their positions for the past one year. In fact, the Samyukta Kisan Morchais buoyed with the ‘massive response’ to the Bharat bandh called on Monday last. It was felt most at the centre of the protests—Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, with large pockets of Kerala, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha giving it support, in addition to Rajasthan Jharkhand and Maharashtra. Where lies the solution? Says the SC, it lies in ‘the hands of Centre and concerned State governments. They have to coordinate to find a solution that when a protest takes place, roads are not blocked and traffic is not disrupted to cause inconvenience to the common people.’
WB To Delhi ?
All eyes will on counting of votes for Bhowanipore by-election on Monday as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee needs to get elected to the Assembly before November to continue in the coveted seat. With ballot boxes sealed on Thursday last, her winning appears a foregone conclusion, but TMC is aiming at the margin, with target of a bigger vote share and beating rival by over 50,000 votes. This will help didi in her vision of catapulting into the national politic arena. Her speeches during an unusual high voltage campaign is a pointer: the voters, a mix of Gujaratis, Sikhs, Marwaris and Biharis, were told ‘every single vote counts…if she can win Bhowanipore, she can win the rest of India… If people want to get rid of BJP government at Centre, then vote for her..’ Plus, the campaign trail included meeting/greeting people in their language, visiting temples/gurdwaras; asking Cabinet ministers, MPs/MLAs to take charge of different wards; stepping up welfare schemes such as Duare Sarkar (Govt at doorstep), etc. The BJP, which put up Priyanka Tibrewal, who lost in Assembly poll, too had lined up 20 star campaigners, including Hardeep Puri and Smriti Irani. And on polling day, it lodged 13-odd complaints on malpractices, guess making a base for the probable loss. Be that as it may, the big question is whether this by-poll will be the next step for Election 2024?
Develop LWE States
A vision is not enough, fast track development is key to wean away youth from the Maoists movement. Oft-heard but reiterated by Home Minister Amit Shah at a meeting with leadership of 10 States affected by Left-Wing Extremism, adding ‘development hasn’t reached there…since independence..” Instead of usual passing the buck, he would do better by heeding to States’ request of raising security-related expenditure and development funds for LWE districts on the principle of ‘cooperative federalism.’ As Jharkhand Chief Minister Soren put it: both Centre and States have to deal with the problem; till now bills of Rs 10,000 crore has been raised against the State and these should be written off; Centre should in future decide not to send such bills to State governments including AP, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal, Telangana, Bihar, MP, Chhattisgarh and Kerala. Maharashtra demanded Rs 1,200 crore for various measures including more police stations and mobile base stations, better roads, railway network, setting up of banks, developing schools etc. Predictably, no commitment was made, but North Block urged States to conduct ‘joint operations’as Naxals move across borders and DGPs and Central agencies’ officersshould hold review meetings at least once every 3 months.Well meaning alright, but it should set its priority right as this review meeting was held after two years!
Civil society and human rights activists should be seeing red over the misery of 7000-odd homeless in Dhalpur, Assam. Reports reveal that over a week since the ruthless eviction ordered by Himanta Biswas Sarma government took place in Darrang district, they are ‘living either in makeshift shanties or under open skies.’ Public health experts are said to be worried as crowded conditions, lack of safe water, open defecation could lead to an epidemic in the area. However, district administration claims that toilets and tube-wells have been provided, other than health camps. If that was the case, then why would NGOs, or for that matter the All Assam Minority Students’ Union or the All India United Democratic Front reach out with ‘ration, tarpaulin sheets, rice, pulses, mustard oil, salt, sugar and biscuits, sending a medical team etc.’ Shouldn’t the BJP government have planned in advance basic amenities before evicting the people under the ambitious Gorukhuti agriculture project and turning them into ‘refugees’? Perhaps it should give a thought that while it plans to spend Rs 960 crore to implement modern farming and scientific animal rearing practices on the land regained, it would do well to spend some funds on their rehabilitation. Is it asking too much? — INFA