President & VP Polls
The country can rejoice having its first tribal President Droupadi Murmu. It was a foregone conclusion that the NDA candidate would sail through, but the 64-year-old won by an overwhelming margin against Opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha after grabbing over 64% votes. Opposition States such as Jharkhand, Odisha and even Kerala voted for her candidature. Now all eyes will shift to the next big election of the Vice President. The Opposition would need to get its act together as fissures already appear. The Trinamool Congress has decided to abstain from voting in this poll after a meeting held on Thursday last at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s residence. The NDA candidate former West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar is a clear no-go with the TMCas it says: “when he was Governor he always tried to undermine the State. We cannot vote in favour of him ideologically.” However, what is intriguing is that it chooses not to support Opposition candidate Congress leader Margaret Alva. The TMC is peeved and explains: ‘the process of how they chose the candidate was not right…they decided the candidate without consulting senior leaders like Mamata Banerjee, when TMC has 35 MPs. So, after taking the opinion of 85% of our MPs, we decided to abstain.” It claims that opposition unity will not be hampered, but there are few takers. Apparently, Didi has a bigger agenda, and it’s going to be a merry-go-round till close to 2024. It will unfold gradually, but the fear is it may be too late. Whither opposition unity!
Delhi’s Singapore Row
Nothing appears to change in Delhi’s governance! In fact, the beginning of discord between Lt Governor V K Saxena and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal suggests Delhi, like old times, shall witness controversies. On Thursday last, Saxena returned Kejriwal’s proposal to travel to Singapore for the World Cities Summit, after sitting on it for nearly two months. His office claims the summit is of Mayors and CM attending doesn’t “befit attendance,” plus as many agencies are involved in smart cities project, Kejriwal’s going would “set bad precedent.” It’s “mean politics” hits back AAPadding if Singaporeor any other government has called Delhi government to present things, “how can anyone have a problem with it?” Kejriwal says he’s no criminal, “there’s no legal issue. No court has restricted me from attending the summit. When a common man travels abroad, why not Arvind Kejriwal?” Besides, “the Delhi model of education, health is being discussed globally… prominent leaders who attend the conference want to learn more about it. These initiatives make our country proud. I think the Centre should encourage and not stop a CM. This is not right.”The CM office is to knock on Ministry of External Affairs’ door for a clearance. Will the Centre heed?
Chhattisgarh Power Struggle
All is not well in Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh. The power struggle between Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and number two TS Singh Deo is far from over, with opposition BJP seeking to encash on it. The Assembly’s monsoon session started on a jarring note on Wednesday last,with BJP raking up Deo’s resignation from panchayat and rural development dept, one of four portfolios, plus moving a notice of no-confidence motion Baghel government.It’s grounds: Deo has claimed of being side-lined and ‘a minister has levelled allegations against the CM. As per constitutional arrangements, the Cabinet and Executive are answerable to Legislature but the State government has failed on this front.” Deo is apparently camping outside the Stateand Baghel has given the portfolio to another senior minister. Expectedly, all eyes are on how the party High Command douses the fire. For the ghost of power-sharing agreement between them following Congress coming to power in December 2018 re-emerges. While Baghel claimed he hadn’t agreed to splitting the five-year CM tenure with Deo and refused to give up the chair after first two-and-a-half years, the latter hasn’t given up hope. Is he eyeing Assembly polls in December 2023? Like shenanigans being played out in other States, will he too jump over the fence to the BJP camp? Time will tell.
Hazy Normalcy in J&K
A big question mark hangs over the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley. The government on Wednesday last, cited numerous figures in the Lok Sabha to state that Jammu and Kashmir was limping back to normalcy since its abrogated Article 370 on 19 August 2019. These included: “A substantial decline in terrorist attacks from 417 in 2018 to 229 in 2021; 21 non-Muslim Kashmiris and outsiders were killed by militants, but ‘no Kashmiri Pandit’ migrated out of the Valley; Till July 9, 2022, terrorists killed 128 security personnel and 118 civilians (five Kashmiri Pandits and 16 belonged to other Hindu/Sikh communities); No pilgrim killed during this period.” However, after targeted killings in 2021, many Kashmiri Pandits are said to have left the Valley and fled to Jammu and some Pandits in government service in Valley, have accused the government of forcing them to stay on by threatening disciplinary action. Additionally, though the government claims it’s trying to resettle migrated Kashmiri Pandits back to the Valley, the progress is tardy. While ‘1,025 units of the 6000 transit accommodations for Pandits under PM’s Development package have been completed and another 1,872 units are at different stages of completion’, there are no figures cited as to how many have actually moved in. Predictably, confidence building measures aren’t yielding results. Figures mean little, if ground reality doesn’t support these. More needs to be done.
Shiv Sena Blues
Maharashtra continues to hit headlines with the Shiv Sena epic continuing. Uddhav Thackeray group got another big jolt on Tuesday last following Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla recognising 12 of the 19 Sena MPs with Rahul Shewale as floor leader. A big hit indeed after two-third MLAs had last month joined Eknath Shinde, now Chief Minister, and allied with BJP to uproot the MVA government. The matter is now in the Supreme Courtto resolve the disqualification controversy. On Wednesday last, it said some issues between the two factions need to be referred to a larger bench and matter would be heard on 1 August. Thackeray group has argued: democracy is in danger if governments of any State can be toppled despite the Constitutional bar; Speaker recognising a whip other than the official one nominated by party is malafide; Maharashtra Governor shouldn’t have sworn-in the new government when the apex court was seized of matter.”Counter-argument of Shinde group being: “The moment you gather enough strength within the party and stay within it to question the leader without leaving the party, and say we will defeat you in the house, that is not defection.” All eyes would be on the apex court. Will the big question as to ‘What happens to the people’s verdict’ find an answer? — INFA