UP formidable challenge
Uttar Pradesh shall be the crème de la in the forthcoming big electoral fight in five States. The Election Commission has set the ball rolling by announcing the dates beginning February 4. While polls for 609 seats in Punjab, Goa, Manipur, Uttarakhand and UP are being viewed as a referendum for Modi’s demonestisation scheme, BJP’s comeback in the Hindi heartland shall be the most crucial. Media opinion polls are already giving the saffron party an edge in the largest State, but it is not going to be easy, as both the SP and BSP are vying to retain their hold with equal vigour. The Congress is hoping for a resurrection after being in the wilderness for 27 years and in all likelihood would go piggy back with the SP and flog the farmers’ vote. Young Turks Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi are learnt to have a good connect and an alliance appears to be in the offing. Mayawati is obviously going to try retain her Dalit vote but has decided to cut into SP’s traditional votebank of Muslims by giving them more tickets! The BJP is trying to woo Brahmins, Dalits and OBCs but doesn’t have a chief ministerial candidate. Will it be able to encash on the Modi brand as it did in 2014 hitting a jackpot? Perhaps not, as Akhilesh would give him a run for his money. His development agenda and clean image hold him in good stead with the people and there is talk of a truce in the family. The picture is hazy in the four-cornered fight. It could go either ways, but for BJP it is now the mother of all battles. A victory will pave the way for Modi to steamroll his agenda and play roughshod. Will he be stopped short?
TMC Wounded In Bengal
West Bengal is in the thick of a murky war between the TMC and the BJP. In fact, one may even term it as another Mamata-Modi big fight. With didi hitting out hard at the demonetisation scheme, it was anticipated that ‘gabbar’ (as she termed Modi) would react. And, so came the shock—TMC MP and leader in the Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhyay was arrested by the CBI in connection with the alleged Rose Valley chit fund scam. Stung, but her fiery self, Mamata promptly accused PMO putting the pressure on the CBI and using the agencies against all those who raised voice against note bandi—the ‘biggest scandal in country’s history’. In an emergency meeting, the TMC supremo chalked out an action plan beginning with dharnas to protest the arrest. But there was more. Party workers attacked the BJP offices and its workers, forcing the latter to petition Governor Tripathi to put the State under President’s Rule. Party MPs demonstrated in Delhi close to PMO. Wonder, where the extremes would lead. Being an MP doesn’t imply immunity for wrong doings. TMC should take its fight to the courts and not the streets.
The Congress is preparing grounds for a poor showing in the Assembly polls in Uttarakhand, in case the BJP get the better of it. Chief Minister Harish Rawat has accused the Centre of meting out “step-motherly treatment” and halting the State’s development plans. Upset with New Delhi rejecting his master plan for the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone (ESZ), Rawat has demanded that it be approved immediately. It envisages setting up of 10 small hydro-power projects in the region and infrastructure projects such as building roads in the eco-sensitive area. The demand for relaxation of environmental norms for this hill State is similar to those offered to other Himalayan States, is his argument. However, the Centre has trashed the plan saying it had too many shortcomings. But Rawat insists it’s a lame excuse and the BJP’s intent is to short change Congress-ruled States. Be that as it may, it’s rather late in the day to make demands when the State has gone into poll mode. Better he concentrates on his government’s achievement and let people decide.
Puducherry CM-LG Face-Off
Is Puducherry going to go Delhi’s way, is a question doing the rounds on social media. The anxiety emanates from confrontation simmering between Lt Governor Kiran Bedi and Chief Minister V Narayanasamy. On Thursday last, Bedi, who was the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate for Delhi 2015 polls, declared ‘null and void’ the CM’s order of Tuesday banning use of social media for official work. It had directed all officers, HoDs among others to stop using twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook etc, as their servers were based outside the country and “any foreign country can get access to these official communications and documents uploaded which is a violation of Official Secrets Act and also against the guidelines issued by the Union IT Ministry.” This order made Bedi see red as she has been pushing for the use of social media. In fact, an OSD in Raj Bhavan is the administrator of a WhatsApp group created by Bedi to monitor impact of various Government schemes.
Maharashtra Tops List
Maharashtra, the country’s financial capital has taken a big beating. The State tops the record of the highest number of farmer suicides —3,030 cases or 37.8 per cent against a total increase of 42 per cent such deaths in the country between 2014 and 2015. The statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reveal that Telangana was second in line with 1,358 cases and Karnataka third with 1,197. Apparently, six States of Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka accounted for 94.1% of total farmer suicides. As against this, nine States and UTs, including poor Bihar, West Bengal, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Nagaland and Uttarakhand showed nil cases of suicides in 2015. With Maharashtra recording 5,650 suicides by farmers in 2014 and the figure rising to 8,007, the nation’s political leadership needs to hang its head in shame. Figures stare it in the face. Mere talk and subsidies, loan waivers is no answer.
Nagaland is in the throes of a boycott call which should have feminists see red. Major tribes in this north-eastern State, such as Ao tribe, Angami Public Organisation, Central Naga Tribal Council etc have asked people to shun the ensuing municipal elections. This is their way of saying a big no to the State government’s move to reserve 33 per cent of the seats for women. Their reasoning: One, Article 371 (A) of the Indian Constitution empowers the Naga people to decide their own laws as per customs and traditions. This means that municipal elections held as per 74th amendment of the Indian Constitution reserving 33% of the seats for women shouldn’t be applicable here. Two, people are angry that the Naga Mothers Association had petitioned the Supreme Court demanding this reservation without discussing with them and three, in Naga society women are not considered to be equal to men and providing 33% reservation to them amounts to giving her the same status and this gives men inferiority complex! Sadly, few nominations have been filed for the polls to be held in February. Is this India of the 21st century? —INFA