LEGAL CASE FOR LT COL PUROHIT’S BAIL BY SUPREME COURT

The main reason that convinced the Supreme Court in granting bail to Lt Col Prasad Srikant Purohit in the 2008 Malegaon blast case was the investigation itself – material contradictions as the SC bench puts it in the two charge-sheets filed by two investigating agencies in the case, the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) which investigated the case till 2011 and the National Investigating Agency (NIA) which took over the case probe in 2011.

Interestingly, the supplementary charge-sheet filed by the NIA in May 2016 literally overturned the findings of the ATS charge-sheet that were the base of building a terror case around the accused in the case. After the NIA submitted that the stringent anti-terror Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) was wrongly slapped in the case and many witnesses and accused retracted their statements, Sadhvi Pragya got bail in the case in April 2017 and Lt Col Purohit was next in line to claim it.

Every subsequent round of the bail application of an accused requires fresh grounds on which the bail is being sought. In Lt Col Purohit’s case, the SC was convinced that there were fresh grounds which finally paved the way for a bail to him. The SC bench observed, “That the appellant has refuted the claim of conspiracy on the ground of Intelligence inputs which he informed to his superior officers as well and the alleged role of ATS officials in the planting of RDX at the residence of A-11 clearly indicate the fresh grounds which persuade the appellant herein to take a view different from the one taken in the earlier applications.”

The 25-page long verdict of the Supreme Court delivered by Justices RK Agrawal and Abhay Manohar Sapre on August 21 granting bail to Lt Col Purohit is a comprehensive document that puts light on the anomalies in the investigation of the two agencies while making it amply clear that the judgement delivered here has nothing to do with merits of the case which will be decided by the trial court. The arguments qualified for a bail verdict only and the apex court didn’t go into larger merits and demerits of the case as happens in bail applications.

THE DISCUSSION PART OF THE SC VERDICT

CASE AGAINST LT COL PUROHIT OPPOSING HIS BAIL:

  • In order to prove the prima facie case against the appellant, the prosecution has relied upon the transcription of the conversations of the meetings obtained from the laptop of Swami Amrutanand (A-10), statement of prosecution witnesses recorded under Sections 161 and 164(5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (in short ‘the Code’), intercepted telephonic conversations between the appellant herein and co-accused persons and lastly the finding of traces of RDX in the house of co-accused Sudhakar Chaturvedi (A-11).

PUROHIT’S COUNTER ARGUMENT:

  • With regard to the transcription of the conversations of the meetings, it was urged from the side of the appellant that there was no such conspiracy hatched between the persons present in the meeting to commit bomb blasts at Malegaon and the persons present have expressed their general opinion about the then prevailing political and social situation.

SC’S OBSERVATION:

  • In this backdrop, it is relevant to note that the appellant herein was a serving Army Officer and was associated with Military Intelligence and Interior Terrorism (Insurgency Activities).
  • In the statement of PW-21, it has been revealed that immediately after the alleged conspiracy meeting, he found the appellant herein disclosing the details of the said meeting to his superior officers in Military Intelligence.

PUROHIT’S COUNTER ARGUMENT:

  • Even the appellant herein also informed that it was a ‘covert operation’ of Military Intelligence and he attended the said meetings to create the counterintelligence and no conspirator will ever divulge the details of the conspiracy to the superior officers in Military Intelligence.

SC’S OBSERVATION:

  • Besides this, the documents filed by the Ministry of Defence and the papers of the Court of Inquiry also substantiate the claim of the appellant herein.

NIA VS ATS:

  • The NIA started the investigation on the basis of the facts stated in the FIR and the evidence collected by the ATS, Mumbai.
  • During investigation, it was found that there were contradictions with regard to the evidence led in the charge sheet by the ATS.
  • On the basis of the specific points covered during the investigation conducted by the NIA, it was concluded that no offence under the MCOC Act was attracted and the confessional statements recorded under the provisions of the said Act by ATS Mumbai were not being relied upon by the NIA in the charge sheet against the accused persons.
  • In fact, on evaluation of the evidence against Pragya Singh Thakur (A-1), the evidence on record were not found sufficient by the NIA to prosecute her as all the witnesses had retracted from their statements and thus no case was made out against her.
  • A perusal of the statements of various prosecution witness recorded under Section 164 of the Code by the NIA, it was revealed that the ATS, Mumbai forced them to make the statements under the aforesaid Section by threatening them to falsely implicate them in the case.
  • In other words, witnesses retracted from their statements recorded by the ATS, Mumbai at Mumbai.
  • Even during re-examination of PW-79 recorded under Section 164 of the Code, he deposed that he did not attend any meeting of ‘Abhinav Bharat’ held at Bhopal and he had never visited Bhopal until ATS took him to Ram Mandir, Bhopal in the month of May, 2009. The very same statement was again recorded at Delhi by learned Metropolitan Magistrate, where he confirmed the same.
  • In view of the above, it would be relevant to quote the retracted statement of PW-55, mentioned in the charge sheet filed by the NIA, wherein he stated that he did not retract in front of the Magistrate while his statement was being recorded under Section 164 of the Code due to threat and pressure of the ATS.
  • However, he sent one complaint to Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission, Mumbai on 05.10.2009 stating that he was forced to give the confessional statement as dictated to him by the ATS Mumbai that too before transfer of the investigation of the case to the NIA.
  • He further alleged that the following lies were dictated to him to depose before the Magistrate by the ATS which he also incorporated in the complaint sent to State Human Rights Commission which are as under:-

(1) That Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit gave him 3 weapons and ammunition to be kept in his house for amonth sometime in 2006. The description of the weapons was also dictated to him.
(2) That he saw RDX in the house of Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit in a green sack at Devlali.
(3) That Lt. Col. Purohit confessed to him about having supplied RDX for Samjhauta Express Blast.
(4) That Lt. Col. Purohit told him in the early 2008 that something was planned to be done soon. He further told him that an action was planned in Nashik District in Oct/Nov. 2008.
(5) That he was asked to say that Lt. Col. Purohithad confessed to him about planning and executing the Malegaon blast along with his accomplices.

  • Apart from the above, during the investigation by the NIA, it was revealed that the Army authorities had conducted a Court of Inquiry (CoI) against the appellant herein.
  • During scrutiny of the proceedings of the CoI, a different story of assembling of IED in the House of Sudhakar Chaturvedi (A-11) came to light.
  • During re-examination of the witnesses by the NIA who deposed before the Court of Inquiry (CoI), it was revealed that they suspiciously found API Bagde of ATS in the house of A-11 when A-11 was not present in the house.
  • On considering the facts narrated by the witnesses, the question arises here as to why API Bagde visited the house of A-11 in his absence.
  • It is also pertinent to mention here that the ATS conducted the search of the house of A-11 on 25.11.2008 wherefrom they had taken the swab of RDX which creates a doubt on the recovery of RDX keeping in view the examination of the witnesses.
  • Even in the charge sheet filed by the ATS, it has been very specifically mentioned that the recovery itself becomes suspect on the ground that the ATS Mumbai may have planted the RDX traces to implicate him and the other accused persons in the case.

THE CONCLUSION OF THE SC VERDICT GRANTING BAIL TO LT COL PUROHIT

  • In our considered opinion, there are material contradictions in the charge sheets filed by the ATS Mumbai and the NIA which are required to be tested at the time of trial and this Court cannot pick or choose one version over the other.
  • The law in regard to grant or refusal of bail is very well settled. The court granting bail should exercise its discretion in a judicious manner and not as a matter of course.
  • Before concluding, we must note that though an accused has a right to make successive applications for grant of bail, the court entertaining such subsequent bail applications has a duty to consider the reasons and grounds on which the earlier bail applications were rejected.
  • In such cases, the court also has a duty to record the fresh grounds which persuade it to take a view different from the one taken in the earlier applications.

FRESH GROUNDS THAT MADE BAIL POSSIBLE FOR PUROHIT

  • Further, the appellant herein, who was at the relevant time was an Intelligence officer of the Indian Army has refuted the claim of conspiracy on the ground of Intelligence inputs which he informed to his superior officers as well and the alleged role of ATS officials in the planting of RDX at the residence of A-11 clearly indicate the fresh grounds which persuade the appellant herein to take a view different from the one taken in the earlier applications.
  • Keeping in view the fact that NIA has submitted the supplementary charge-sheet which is at variance with the charge-sheet filed by the ATS and that the trial is likely to take a long time and the appellant has been in prison for about 8 years and 8 months, we are of the considered view that the appellant has made out a prima facie case for release on bail and we deem it appropriate to enlarge the appellant herein on bail, subject to certain conditions.

©SantoshChaubey

Advertisements

MAHATMA GANDHI’S VIEWS ON CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES AND CONVERSION

Mahatma Gandhi had strong views on religious conversion. He believed all religions were equal and therefore the need to switch from one to other religion was seldom justified, especially in the then prevailing Indian scenario, where he believed the Christian missionaries were indulging in proselytizing in the name of humanitarian aid.

Gandhi held the belief that “religion was not like house or cloak which can be changed at will”.

He used to say that he was not against conversion when it was in its purest form, driven by heart’s urge for higher purposes like peace and spirituality. His eldest son Harilal had converted to Islam in May 1936. Gandhiji condemned it saying Harilal’s decision was based on greed and sensual pleasures and he could never be a true follower of Islam.

“I just read in the paper about Harilal’s exploit. There could be no harm in his being converted to Islam with understanding and selfless motives. But he suffers from greed for wealth and sensual pleasures. I shall be spared all mental pain if I find my impression wrong and he turns a new leaf,” he wrote in a letter to his other son Ramlal. And indeed Harilal was driven by lesser motives as proved by his reconversion to the Hinduism fold just five months later.

He would say time and again that how happy he would be had the Christian missionaries be content with the humanitarian aspect of their work only and not in increasing the count of Christians. Following are views expressed by Mahatma Gandhi from time to time on religious conversion being performed by the Christian missionaries as available on http://www.mkgandhi.org.

WHEN GANDHIJI WAS ASKED BY CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES, WHETHER HE WOULD ALLOW CHRISTIANS TO CONTINUE WITH THEIR CONVERSION ACTIVITY WITHOUT ANY HINDRANCE, GANDHIJI REPLIED (YOUNG INDIA 27-10-20.)

“(And) if a change of religion could be justified for worldly betterment, I would advise it without hesitation. But religion is matter of heart. No physical inconvenience can warrant abandonment of one’s own religion.”

GANDHIJI’S VIEWS FROM BIHAR NOTES (8-10-1925) INDICATE THAT:

“Christian missionaries have been doing valuable service for generations, but in my humble opinion, their work suffers because at the end of it they expect conversion of these simple people to Christianity …How very nice it would be if the missionaries rendered humanitarian service without the ulterior aim of conversion.”

SPEAKING ABOUT THE BHILS, THE TRIBE FROM CENTRAL INDIA, GANDHIJI SAID (NAVJIVAN 18-4-1926):

“These so-called uncivilized communities are bound to attract the attention of missionaries, for it is the latter’s duty to get recruits for the Christian army. I do not regard such proselytization as real service to dharma. But how can we blame the missionaries if the Hindus take no interest in the Bhils? For them anyone who is brought into the Christian fold, no matter how he has become a Christian, has entered a new life and become civilized. If, as a result of such conversion, converts rise spiritually or morally, I personally would have nothing to say against their conversion. But I do not think that this is what happens.”

GANDHIJI SENT A TELEGRAM TO THE EDITOR OF DAILY HERALD, LONDON, (AFTER 23-4-1931) STATING, THAT THE REPORT ABOUT THE FOREIGN MISSIONARIES WAS DISTORTION OF HIS VIEWS.

“Am certainly against the use of hospitals, schools and the like for purposes conversion. It is hardly healthy method and certainly gives rise to bitter resentment, conversion matter of heart and must depend upon silent influence of pure character and conduct of missionaries. True conversion comes imperceptibly like aroma of rose. Thus, am not against conversion as but am certainly against present methods. Conversion must not be reduced to business depending for increase upon pounds, shillings, pence. I also hold that all great religions are of equal merit to respective nations or individuals professing them. India is in no need of conversion of type described. Whilst under swaraj all would be free to exercise their own faiths. Personally, I would wish present methods adopted by missionaries were abandoned even now and that under conviction not compulsion.”

SPEAKING AT THE CONFERENCE OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY, WHICH WAS HELD AT CHURCH MISSIONARY HOUSE, LONDON, ON 8-10-1931. GANDHIJI SAID:

“The idea of converting people to one’s faith by speech and writings, by appeal to reason and emotion and by suggesting that the faith of his forefathers is a bad faith, in my opinion, limits the possibilities of serving humanity. I believe that the great religions of the world are all more or less true and they have descended to us from God.

…Religion is like a rose. It throws out the scent which attracts like magnet and we are drawn to it like involuntarily. The scent of religious contact has greater pungency than the scent of the rose, that is why I hold my view with reference to conversion.”

GANDHIJI FELT THAT HIS CAMPAIGN AGAINST UNTOUCHABILITY SHOULD NOT BE A REASON FOR THE MISSIONARIES TO GET DISTURBED. (HARIJAN, 25-1-1935.) HE SAID:

“But my trouble is that the missionary friends do not bring to their work a purely humanitarian spirit. Their object is to add numbers to their fold, and that is why they are disturbed. The complaint which I have been making all these years is more than justified by what you say. Some of the friends of a Mission were the other day in high glee over the conversion to Christianity of a learned pandit. They have been dear friends, and so I told them that it was hardly proper to go into ecstasies over a man forsaking his religion. Today it is the case of learned Hindu, tomorrow it may be that of an ignorant villager not knowing the principles of his religion… Here is Miraben. I would have her find all the spiritual comfort she needs from Christianity, and I should not dream of converting her to Hinduism, even if she wanted to do so …Take the case of Khan Saheb’s daughter entrusted to my care by her father. I should jealously educate her in her own faith and should strive my utmost against her being lured away from it if ever she was so inclined. I have had privilege of having children and grown-up persons of other faith with me. I was thankful to find them better Christians, Mussalmans, Parsis or Jews by their contact with me.”

WHEN A. A. PAUL FROM FEDERATION OF INTERNATIONAL FELLOWSHIP HAD ASKED GANDHI TO DEFINE CONVERSION, (HARIJAN, 28-9-1935.) GANDHIJI STATED:

“My own detached view may now be stated in few words. I believe that there is no such thing as conversion from one faith to another in the accepted sense of the term. It is highly personal matter for the individual and his God. I may not have any design upon my neighbour as to his faith which I must honour even as I honour my own. For I regard all the great religions of the world as true at any rate for the people professing them as mine is true for me. Having reverently studied the scriptures of the world, I have no difficulty in perceiving the beauties in them. I could no more think of asking a Christian or a Mussalman or a Parsi or a Jew to change his faith than I would think of changing my own.. .It is a conviction daily growing upon me that the great and rich Christian missions will render true service to India, if they can persuade themselves to confine their activities to humanitarian service without the ulterior motive of converting India or at least her unsophisticated villagers to Christianity, and destroying their social superstructure, which notwithstanding its many defects has stood now from time immemorial the onslaughts upon it from within and from without. Whether they—the missionaries—and we wish it or not, what is true in the Hindu faith will abide, what is untrue will fall to pieces. Every living faith must have within itself the power of rejuvenation if it is to live.”

GANDHIJI WAS HAVING DISCUSSIONS WITH HARIJAN WORKERS IN BARDOLI ON 8-1-1942. QUESTION WAS PUT TO GANDHIJI THAT, HOW ONE DEALS WITH THE TEMPTATIONS GIVEN BY THE MISSIONARIES IN FORMS OF BOOKS, SCHOOL FEES ETC., TO WHICH HE REPLIED —

“The missionaries have of course the right to preach the Gospel of Christ and to invite non-Christians to embrace Christianity. But every attempt to press material benefits or attractions in the aid of conversion should be freely exposed, and the Harijans should be educated to resist these temptations.”

©SantoshChaubey

WHEN MAO WANTED TO CRUSH NEHRU

It is consensus in India that China backstabbed our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in spite of his friendly stand that believed the Indian and the Chinese were brothers (Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai). The 1962 Sino-Indian war is the biggest symbol of China’s betrayal in spite of Nehru’s sacrifice that allowed China to have permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Mao Zedong, China’s supreme leader, in fact wanted to crush Nehru alleging India of interference in Tibet, a document released by the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars shows. It is a transcription of meeting between Soviet Union Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Chinese leaders including Mao Zedong and Chinese Premier and Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai on October 2, 1959. It was a heated conversation where the Soviet Premier blamed China for Tibet unrest, defending India and Nehru, and blasted the hostile Chinese action at the Sino-Indian border.

Before Nikita Khrushchev arrived in China, the USSR had passed a resolution, known as the TASS Declaration, taking a public stand in order to be seen neutral and ‘not anti-Nehru’ in the ongoing India-China conflict. This stand by one communist nation on another offended China and in fact laid the foundation of cold-war Sino-Soviet split that continued till late 1980s.

By this time, the expansionist Chinese tentacles had become clearly visibly. China had killed and detained Indian soldiers in Ladakh and had forcefully occupied an Indian post at Longju at Assam-China border resulting in casualties on the Indian side and was increasingly sounding belligerent, especially after the Dalai Lama and countless Tibetans, who were given moral support and shelter by India, had to flee the Chinese oppression, a development that brought China a bad name.

The transcript of the meeting shows how China was hell-bent on proving India and Nehru wrong even if it was not able to convince Nikita Khrushchev of its words, motives and action.

Nikita Khrushchev: We….do not understand in particular your conflict with India. You have had good relations with India for many years. Suddenly, here is a bloody incident, as result of which [Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal] Nehru found himself in a very difficult position…..If you let me, I will tell you what a guest should not say the events in Tibet are your fault. You ruled in Tibet, you should have had your intelligence [agencies] there and should have known about the plans and intentions of the Dalai Lama.
Mao Zedong: Nehru also says that the events in Tibet occurred on our fault. Besides, in the Soviet Union they published a TASS declaration on the issue of conflict with India.

Nikita Khrushchev: Do you really want us to approve of your conflict with India? It would be stupid on our part. The TASS declaration was necessary. You still seem to be able to see some difference between Nehru and me. If we had not issued the TASS declaration, there could have been an impression that there was a united front of socialist countries against Nehru. The TASS declaration turned this issue into one between you and India.

Mao Zedong: Our mistake was that we did not disarm the Dalai Lama right away. But at that time we had no contact with the popular masses of Tibet.

Nikita Khrushchev: You have no contact even now with the population of Tibet.

Mao Zedong: We have a different understanding of this issue.

Though sounding harsh on the Dalai Lama, Khrushchev goes on to vindicate India’s stand on giving shelter to the Dalai Lama pinning the blame squarely on the Chinese Communist Party, “It’s not a matter of arrest; I am just saying that you were wrong to let him go. If you allow him an opportunity to flee to India, then what has Nehru to do with it? We believe that the events in Tibet are the fault of the Communist Party of China, not Nehru’s fault.”

Mao Zedong: No, this is Nehru’s fault…. We also support Nehru, but in the question of Tibet we should crush him.
Nikita Khrushchev: Why did you have to kill people on the border with India?

Mao Zedong: They attacked us first, crossed the border and continued firing for 12 hours.

Zhou Enlai: What data do you trust more, Indian or ours?

Nikita Khrushchev: Although the Hindus attacked first, nobody was killed among the Chinese, and only among the Hindus.
Zhou Enlai: But what we are supposed to do if they attack us first. We cannot fire in the air…. In my letter of 9 September to Nehru we provided detailed explanations of all that had occurred between India and us.
Nikita Khrushchev: Comrade Zhou Enlai. You have been Minister of Foreign Affairs of the PRC for many years and know better than me how one can resolve disputed issues without [spilling] blood. In this particular case I do not touch at all the issue of the border, for if the Chinese and the Hindus do not know where the borderline goes between them, it is not for me, a Russian, to meddle. I am only against the methods that have been used.

Zhou Enlai: We did not know until recently about the border incident, and local authorities undertook all the measures there, without authorization from the centre.

Nikita Khrushchev: That the centre knew nothing about the incident is news to me.

Like China is sounding obstinate today, in the ongoing Doklam standoff, it was the same behaviour on display even then. They kept on repeating their falsities that finally frustrated Khrushchev, “There are three of us here, and nine of you, and you keep repeating the same line. I think this is to no use. I only wanted to express our position. It is your business to accept it or not.”

Though Mao Zedong assured Nikita Khrushchev that the border clash with India was a marginal issue and would be resolved peacefully, the Chinese had other designs and it becomes clear from the letter that Zhou Enlai wrote to India in the aftermath where he blamed India for escalating tension by indulging in border aggression, anti China propaganda and Tibet unrest.

China, in fact, was preparing to betray India all along 1950s, clandestinely intruding into the Indian territories to forcefully acquire them and the Tibetan uprising of 1959 was just a pretext to impose its sinister designs of grabbing thousands of kilometres of Indian Territory in Jammu & Kashmir’s Ladakh, i.e., Aksai Chin that the whole world saw after the 1962 war. Prime Minister Nehru, in fact, detailed these Chinese designs in response to Zhou Enlai’s letter that how Chinese were intruding into the Indian territory since 1954, that how they had built a road in Ladakh, that how China arrested Indian security forces personnel in Aksai Chin in 1958 and so on. Nehru also added in the letter that India did not make public these because it was still hoping for their peaceful resolution.

The streak of the Chinese betrayal has continued ever since, resulting in China usurping India’s territory and claiming for more, ignoring India’s sovereignty by developing an economic corridor in Pak-occupied-Kashmir that is legally India’s, its persistent belligerence on Sino-Indian border, its attempts to encircle India by having military presence in India’s neighbouring countries and its anti-India stand on global multilateral platforms that exhibits itself in its moves like blocking India’s entry in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or vetoing India’s and world community resolution to ban Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist Masood Azhar.

©SantoshChaubey

WHY NITISH KUMAR’S DECISION CAN BE A BLESSING IN DISGUISE FOR RAHUL GANDHI

Rahul Gandhi and Congress may term Nitish Kumar’s act of dumping the grand alliance government of RJD, JDU and Congress in Bihar to join the NDA and form a government with the BJP as betrayal, rank opportunism and treachery, but it may also be an opportunity for Rahul Gandhi to reinvent himself.

The political opposition in India has dearth of credible faces to take on the BJP, the NDA and Narendra Modi at the moment. Nitish Kumar was the strongest of all those contenders who could have provided a viable face against Narendra Modi in 2019 if the political opposition could pull an alliance.

Odisha’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik is another credible face with a clean image who can have acceptability but he is an outsider for national politics and is content with retaining his father Biju Patnaik’s citadel. And he has done well to hold on to the state. But he is certainly not a known Modi-baiter and certainly not a pan-India face to take on Modi in electoral politics.

The other anti-Modi face with a non-controversial image in the opposition camp is West Bengal’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee. But she is also in no position to offer a credible alternative to take on Modi on a pan-India level in electoral politics, at least in the context of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Also, as the BJP is trying to emerge as the principle opposition in West Bengal, sidelining the Left Front and the Congress, she cannot risk neglecting West Bengal for her national ambitions, at least for now.

We have seen what happened with the Aam Aadmi Party and Arvind Kejriwal. They tried to fan out too early after winning the people’s mandate in Delhi. Result! AAP created a sort of record with its candidates forfeiting their deposits in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The humiliation outside Delhi continued in the recently concluded Punjab assembly polls. Like West Bengal is for Mamata Banarjee, Delhi is for Arvind Kejriwal. They cannot risk leaving the states before proving their mettle. And certainly it is not the time.

Remember, even Modi had spent almost 13 years as Gujarat chief minister, consolidating his position, before fanning out of Gujarat. The time was opportune for him in 2014 when the country was looking for an alternative political face and he could make the public believe, based on his credentials of serving Gujarat four times that he was indeed the one who could be the answer to the huge anti-incumbency of ten years of the Congress rule under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Manmohan Singh.

The health of any nation’s democracy needs at least two credible political faces who can compete nationally. The more the merrier. The political opposition space in India is looking for someone who can take on Narendra Modi for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls and Nitish Kumar was the most probable contender.

But as Nitish Kumar has been effectively co-opted by the BJP again, that option is gone, and along with it the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Now only a miracle can save the day for them as hardly a year is left before going full throttle on the campaign spree for the next parliamentary election and we know miracles don’t happen in politics. Every step is a calculated move in this game of possibilities where there are no permanent friends or foes and Nitish Kumar has again showed us this.

Now the political opposition needs to look beyond 2019 to take on Narendra Modi and the BJP. And most importantly a face who can stand against Narendra Modi in elections beyond 2019. The BJP, in fact, has become the only national political party with its governments in every corner of the country. With Bihar again in its kitty, the BJP and its allies have now governments in 18 Indian states while Congress is at a historic low and is seeing further decline. And the central reason behind this is the perceived absence of leadership in the party.

CAN RAHUL GANDHI REINVENT HIMSELF?

Though Sonia Gandhi is still the Congress’ president, its Rahul Gandhi, the vice-president, who is the de facto head of the party. But willingly or unwillingly, an image of being a reluctant and non-serious politician has overtaken his political identity. Add to it the spate of electoral losses in states and the huge setback in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and we come across a perception that Rahul Gandhi is neither inclined nor able to shoulder the responsibility.

That he needs to break. He needs to reinvent himself because he has the means to emerge as the pan-India alternative of Narendra Modi.

To represent India in national politics, one either needs a long and influential political career, be it at state level like Narendra Modi has had or at national level like PV Narasimha Rao had or it has to be a dynastic lineage of a political party with a pan-India presence.

The Nehru-Gandhi family has had this advantage, be it Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi earlier and Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi now. It is true that Indira Gandhi did build her political career for many years, including participating in the Indian freedom struggle, but she was a union minister for just two years before she became prime minister in 1966. Rajiv Gandhi was also a sort of reluctant politician before he was made prime minister after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. But once in the office, he did try to evolve. Sonia Gandhi was accepted because she belonged to the family and same holds true for Rahul as well.

Though the Congress has shrunk to just five states and one union territory with only two electorally significant states, i.e., Karnataka and Punjab, in fold and could win just 44 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 General Elections, it is still the only other national political party than the BJP with a pan-India presence with 19 per cent vote share in the 2014 elections. The party is still the principle opposition in many states including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Telangana, Odisha, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Goa. That is still a great leverage over other anti-BJP political parties.

And as the big three, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik, are effectively ruled out as the anti-BJP face of the political opposition, who could have mobilized the whole anti-BJP opposition to form a credible alternative this is an opportunity for Rahul to chip in and claim the place that he enjoys with his Nehru-Gandhi lineage. What also helps his prospects is the fact that other non-Congress regional satraps like Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, K Chandrasekhar Rao and MK Stalin are limited to their states only with no electoral appeal outside.

Rahul began his active political career around 2008 and since the very beginning he has been the most important voice in the Congress, even if Manmohan Singh was the prime minister and he has worked hard and has campaigned hard in every part of the country in every election. True the Congress is looking like a crumbling bloc these days but Rahul’s failures so far tell us he may be lacking in focus in leading the party out of the mess. The opposition in India is in disarray. Its politics looks flabbergasted. It needs someone who can give it some direction. Can Rahul Gandhi realize the opportunity at hand?

©SantoshChaubey

HOW CHINESE HEGEMONY IS SHAPING UNDER XI JINPING

The article originally appeared on India Today.

This time, it was the turn of China’s defence ministry to warn India. Its defence ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said China would go to any extent to protect its sovereignty and India’s should have ‘no illusion about China’s military strength’. It added to the long list of warnings and threats made by China’s foreign ministry, its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and its official media that began unfolding a month ago with Chinese transgression of the disputed Bhutanese tri-junction near Doklam in the Sikkim Sector.

The Chinese action on border is a sudden change in its stand when we see it in the context of India-China border negotiations as recent as April 2016 when both countries held the 19th Round of negotiations emphasizing on maintaining peace and tranquillity.

But when we see these developments in a wide perspective of Xi Jinping’s global ambitions, it seems well timed. Xi Jinping after emerging as an undisputed supreme leader of China, ruthlessly crushing any rival voice in the name of anti-corruption purge that has swept China, has declared himself a ‘Core Leader’ like Mao Zedong.

And as his China imprint is almost finished, he has turned his gauge take it outside China. And from his acts in last few years, it is quite clear that he seems in a hurry and he is exploiting both, China’s military might and its economic prowess to push the agenda of his power projection.

BORDER HOSTILITY WITH INDIA – SUDDEN CHANGE IN TONE AND RHETORIC

In May 2014, China had congratulated Modi on his victory. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in India in June 2014 and Chinese President Xi Jiping in September 2014. Indian Army Chief Bikram Singh visited China in July 2014 while Modi met Jinping for the first time in the same month on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Brazil. The meeting between them lasted for 80 minutes and Jinping remarked about the meeting, “When India and China meet, the world watches us.”

In February 2015, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited China. Xi Jinping then had this to say, “I have full confidence on the future of China and India relations and I believe that good progress will be achieved in the growth of bilateral relations this year.”

In March 2015, India and China held 18th Round border talks in Delhi. India was represented by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. China had sent its State Councillor and Special Representative Yang Jiechi. The Ministry of External Affairs release on the talks says, “The talks were marked by cordiality and candour and were held in a constructive and forward looking atmosphere.”

From the language of the MEA release, it is quite clear that India and China were on the same platform to settle the border issue, “The Special Representatives expressed satisfaction on the progress made in the negotiations and emphasized commitment to the three-step process to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable resolution of the border question at an early date.”

In April 2016, India and China held 19th Round of border talks in Beijing between Ajit Doval and Yang Jiechi. While Doval didn’t share details of the meeting, he did say that the talks were held in a good atmosphere. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson echoed, “The two sides enhanced mutual trust and expanded consensus through this meeting which is of great significance in promoting settlement of the boundary question, maintaining peace and tranquillity of the border areas and securing sound and stable development of bilateral relations.”

In the light of these developments, just a year after, this sudden change in the stand of China is surprising and tells us about the hegemonic designs of China. China is behaving like a power-blinded imperialist regime hell-bent on its territorial expansion, something that it has been known historically – be in Tibet or Aksai Chin or South China Sea or Taiwan.

ECONOMIC IMPERIALISM

China is known for territorial expansionism and autocratic rule but its increasing economic prowess has added another dimension to its clout – the economic imperialism. It is now financially big enough to first pump its money in small, poor nations and then acquire controlling stakes in organizations as the nations fail to repay, be it the poor or financially weaker nations of Asia or Africa.

ONE BELT ONE ROAD (OBOR): India’s neighbourhood countries that China is eyeing are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar. Having a strong Chinese presence in these countries would give China strategic advantage over India. So, China, in the name of building economic corridors linking Asia, Africa and Europe, is offering these countries huge loans for infrastructural projects at higher interest rates and when these economically poor countries are not able to repay the loans, China goes on to acquire controlling stakes in them, as high as 85 per cent.

THE AFRICAN BLUEPRINT: There has been consensus among experts that China, that has ramped its ties with African nations significantly in the last 15 years, has used Africa as ‘testing ground’ for its global ambitions. African countries are rich in oil and minerals and some one million Chinese entrepreneurs have settled there. “Africa has been a workshop of ideas that now have a much bigger scale and strategic significance,” writes a Financial Times commentary quoting Howard French, journalist, Columbia University professor and author of “China’s Second Continent: How A Million Migrants Are Building A New Empire in Africa “.

China-Africa trade rose to $220 billion in 2014 from mere $10 billion in 2000 according to Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and is investing $60 billion to develop infrastructure in different African countries but there are valid questions on this humongous rise, “Many are suspicious of what they see as a neocolonial land grab, in which companies acting as proxies for the Chinese state extract minerals in return for infrastructure and finance that will saddle governments with large debts. There have been legitimate complaints about Chinese companies employing few locals, mistreating those it has and paying scant regard to the environment,” the Financial Times commentary further writes.

Though there are African experts like Horace Campbell, a Syracuse University professor and renowned international scholar, who question this stand, calling them western afterthoughts on increasing Chinese footprints in Africa, going by China’s history and its recent acts of imposing itself on some South Asian countries where it invested heavily, we have reasons to think otherwise.

GLOBAL LEADERSHIP OR HEGEMONIC PROJECTIONS?

China has been more than eager to represent itself as the new world leader that is going to replace America. Reportedly, China is eyeing to replace America in the proposed 12-member trading bloc of Pacific-rim counties, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) after US President Donald Trump withdrew US from the treaty in January this year. The other members of the proposed trading bloc are Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, New Zealand, Mexico, Chile and Peru and after American withdrawal they have warmed up for a Chinese prospect.

Then China, the largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world according to the Global Carbon Project, portrayed itself as an environment crusader after Donald Trump withdrew the US from the global climate agreement in June, i.e., Paris Climate Accord of 2015, to reduce the emission level of the greenhouse gases to check global warming. Rejecting the Paris Accord was one the main campaign themes of Trump in the US presidential election, something that would have appealed Jinping’s designs to pitch in on a global stage. So, in May, before Trump had even officially announced his decision, Jinping declared that he would ‘protect the Paris climate deal’, pledged his commitment to the pact after the formal US withdrawal and China held a meeting of energy ministers to find ways to push clean energy.

OVERSEAS NAVAL BASES: Earlier this month, China sent its troops to Djibouti, its first overseas military base. China has entered into an agreement with Djibouti which allows it to station its 10,000 troops in the country till 2026, much higher than 4000 US soldiers stationed at Camp Lemonnier, also in Djibouti, America’s largest permanent base in Africa. And experts say its second overseas naval base is going to come up in India’s backyard, at Pakistan’s Gwadar Port in the Arabian Sea.

This is quite contrary to the earlier Chinese stand when it didn’t want to have overseas military presence. “China has previously been very reluctant even to contemplate a serious overseas military presence,”, the India Today magazine writes quoting Andrew Small, author of The China Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics.

Clearly, Xi Jinping, the only second Core Leader of China after Mao Zedong, wants to go beyond Mao. Mao had an absolute power grip over a China that was not in the global mainstream and was not a military and economic superpower. Jinping’s China is both now. It is an economic powerhouse and a global manufacturing hub with a military might that is probably next only to US and Russia. Something that has, probably, given Xi Jinping wings to fly far and wide. Under Mao, China was inward looking and protectionist. Under Jinping, China is trying to become the leader of the world, but probably with a more protectionist streak of its national interests that are no longer limited to China.

©SantoshChaubey

CAN RAM NATH KOVIND, SECOND DALIT PRESIDENT, FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FIRST DALIT PRESIDENT K R NARAYANAN?

The article originally appeared on India Today.

India’s President-elect Ram Nath Kovind is only the second Dalit President of the country. He won comfortably by cornering 66 per cent of the Presidential electoral college while his rival, another eminent Dalit politician, Meira Kumar got 36 per cent votes.

The result of the presidential election held on 17 July was just a requirement for Kovind to take over India’s apex constitutional job and the coveted Rashtrapati Bhawan at the Raisina Hills in Delhi. But since he is the only second Dalit President in the country, he would obviously be compared with the first Dalit President of India, K R Narayanan who was in office from 25 July 1997 to 25 July 2002.

Former President K R Narayanan, described by Jawaharlal Nehru as the best diplomat of the country, was known as a pro-active President with an official run that saw landmark active presidential interventions and three of them stand out, his flat no to the then BJP led Atal Bihari Vajpayee government on the Constitution’s review in favour of Presidential System in India, his conscious decisions of returning the Union Cabinet advice on imposing the President’s Rule in states and his advocacy for weaker sections for their under-representation in Indian judicial service.

THE CONSTITUTION’S REVIEW

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had to dilute the terms of reference of the National Commission that it had constituted for the Constitution’s review in 2000. After stern message from Narayanan who would go on to say that “we should examine whether the Constitution has failed us or we have failed the Constitution”, that any Constitution review process could only be undertaken within its basic framework only, preserving the sanctity of the Parliamentary System of India, the Atal Government was forced to change the basic mandate of the National Commission from ‘the ‘Constitution’s review to review the working of the Constitution’ with an assurance that the ‘review will be done without interfering with the basic structure of the Construction’.

The other most visible change that the former President’s tough stand brought was on who was going to head the National Commission to review the Constitution. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy L K Advani, reportedly, had requested former President R Venkataraman, a strong proponent of the Presidential System, to head the National Commission. But Narayanan’s reservations on the Presidential System, coupled with objections from the BJP allies like DMK and TDP on Venkataraman, the government had to shed the idea. Then it zeroed in on the name of the former Chief Justice of India (CJI) and former National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairman M N Venkatachaliah. But Justice Venkatachaliah only agreed to head the commission after given assurance that the basic structure of parliamentary framework of the Constitution would not be touched and his decision would prevail in recruiting the other ten members of the Commission.

REFUSED TO APPROVE IMPOSITION OF PRESIDENT’S RULE IN UTTAR PRADESH AND BIHAR

This one is a fine example to see how President Narayanan rose above party politics to upheld the dignity of the post that required, theoretically, unflinching loyalty to the Constitution and unwavering impartiality in dealing with the political parties irrespective of the previous political affiliation.

In October 1997, President Narayanan returned the union cabinet decision on imposing President’s Rule under Article 356 in Uttar Pradesh for reconsideration. The United Front Government was led by Congress’ I K Gujral. It didn’t matter for Narayanan while returning the decision that he was a career Congress politician brought into politics by Indira Gandhi and was a Union minister in the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet. Gujral government respected his decision and the BJP led UP government of Kalyan Singh escaped the dismissal.

Almost a year after it, in September 1998, Narayanan returned the Union Government’s file on imposition of the President’s Rule in Bihar. The government in centre was of BJPs’, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee which had recommended the dismissal of the RJD government in Bihar led by Rabri Devi. In a series of dramatic developments, the Rabri government was able to demonstrate that numbers were in its favour – 182 MLAs in a legislative assembly of 325 members. The then NDA government had based its decision on imposing the President’s Rule in Bihar citing corruption and Constitutional breakdown in the state but the clear majority in the Bihar assembly in Rabri Devi’s favour could not override President Narayanan’s conviction that dismissing an elected government in the case would be akin to acting against people’s mandate and thus violating the spirit of the Constitution.

These two decisions of President Narayanan remain unparalleled in the Indian political history. They effectively established the credibility of the institution of the President of India that it was not mere a decorative position with a rubber-stamp President to follow the diktats of the government of the day but an institution that housed the soul of the Indian Constitution.

ADVOCACY FOR WEAKER SECTIONS IN THE INDIAN JUDICIARY

K R Narayanan was vocal about under-representation of Dalits in the higher judiciary. He would often question the judges’ appointment and transfer process in the High Courts and the Supreme Court, something that even invited confrontation with the judiciary. Narayanan on record had said even if deserving candidates from the weaker sections were available, they were ignored.

He had written in November 1998, “I would like to record my views that while recommending the appointment of Supreme Court judges, it would be consonant with constitutional principles and the nation’s social objectives if persons belonging to weaker sections of society like SCs and STs, who comprise 25 per cent of the population, and women are given due consideration.”

Though the then CJI strongly refuted it ruling out any caste-based discrimination in the appointments in the higher judiciary, two successive CJIs, A M Ahmadi and J S Verma, had failed to recommend elevation of any High Court Dalit Justice to the Supreme Court, before CJI M M Punchhi recommended Justice K G Balakrishnan who was then the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court for the Supreme Court in March 1998.

After the strongly-worded suggestion from Narayanan, the judicial circles started trying to figure out whom the President was referring to but CJI A S Anand, who succeeded Punchhi refused to elevate Balakrishnan as he was 53 then while the minimum age for the elevation to the Supreme Court was 55 as per the judicial convention being followed. Though exceptions could have been made for meritorious candidates, the Supreme Court Collegium ruled out doing so in Balakrishnan’s case who was finally elevated to the top court in June 2000 after he turned 55 in May 2000.

LIKE NARAYANAN, KOVIND, TOO, COMES FROM A HUMBLE BACKGROUND

President-elect Ram Nath Kovind, too, comes from a humble background as President Narayanan. They both had their share of struggle before they started on the path to success in life. Kovind though may not have as illustrious a career as Narayanan had who was an IFS officer, a career diplomat, a union minister and the Vice-President before becoming the President of India, he has been a successful lawyer, practicing in India’s apex court for years.

And like Narayanan, he has also earned a reputation of playing by the rule book while being Governor of Bihar. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is all praise for him the way he has discharged his gubernatorial responsibility in the state. Like Narayanan, he has been speaking for the weaker sections going as far as to join agitation against laws that he considered anti SC/ST. His clean and non-controversial record will only help him.

Let’s see if he can follow in the footsteps of K R Narayanan, extending the legacy of the Presidents who restored the credibility of the institution. In his post-victory speech, an emotional Kovind said he was going to the Rashtrapati Bhawan as a representative of every Indian citizen who worked hard to arrange for an evening meal. Let’s see where his conscience drives him.

©SantoshChaubey

COMPLACENCY COSTS CONGRESS TWO MORE STATES

Now even the Supreme Court’s seal is on it that the Congress got complacent and took matters lightly in Goa and Manipur, the two states where it had emerged as the largest party but missed the bus to stake claims. The obvious consequence to it is that a BJP chief minister has taken oath in Goa and the party’s government will be formed in Manipur with the swearing-in scheduled for tomorrow.

While hearing a Congress petition against the oath-taking ceremony of Manohar Parrikar in Goa, a special Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar took the Congress to task for reacting late and refused to stay Parrikar’s swearing-in. The top court observed that a ‘simple floor test’ can take care of issues raised in the petition. As directed by the Supreme Court, Manohar Parrikar led BJP government will have to prove its majority in the House on March 16.

On the counting day, after the BJP’s massive victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and impressive show in Uttarakhand, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor had some words of advice for the BJP leadership. He tweeted that the BJP was in power in two of the five states where elections were held and it lost both and therefore the party ‘shouldn’t be too complacent for 2019’ when the next parliamentary polls will be held.

But it seems, the Congress leadership got complacent with the poll results as it failed to move before the BJP in staking claims to form governments even if Amit Shah, the BJP president, had announced after the results came in that the BJP was going to form government in four states, i.e., Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.

GOA

Even though Digvijay Singh, Goa in-charge of the Congress party, has been camping in Goa, the party failed to make its move and arrange numbers to stake claim. While the Congress was still contemplating its moves, the BJP met Goa Governor Mridula Sinha with a list 21 MLAs to stake its claim to form the government in the state with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar as its chief minister. Now he is back as CM and the BJP is claiming to have support of 23 MLAs. This is a point where the Congress clearly failed, a fact highlighted by the Supreme Court, which said the Congress didn’t approach the Governor or the Supreme Court with its list and affidavits of the supporting MLAs.

Parrikar had resigned from the CM position in November 2014 to join Narendra Modi’s union cabinet. This will be his fourth term as Goa’s chief minister. His first two terms were from 2000 to 2002 and from 2002 to 2005.

The BJP, the incumbents in the state, won 13 assembly seats this time, four less than Congress’ 17. To prove majority in the 40-member Goa House, support of 21 members was needed. Congress needed four MLAs to scale the gap while the BJP needed eight. And the BJP arranged its eight before the Congress could garner support of four MLAs.

The BJP claims to have support of three MLAs each of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Goa Forward Party (GFP), two independents and lone NCP MLA. Then there are reports that some Congress MLAs are ready to defect to join the BJP. That the Congress has resigned to its fate becomes clear from its Goa in-charge Digvijay Singh’s reaction, who was earlier claiming to form the government, was quoted saying that the Congress was ready to sit in Opposition if the BJP had the numbers. Today, in an interview with a channel, senior Congress leader Kamal Nath accepted that the Congress was slow to act in Goa and Manipur and better chalked-out plans were needed.

The Congress’ hara-kiri is evident from the fact that some of the newly elected Congress MLAs have blamed the senior Congress leaders of ‘indecisiveness’ even if it had the mandate to stake claim first, an unacceptable delay that gave the BJP enough time to play its cards. Congress Valopi MLA Vishwajit Rane, who is son of the former CM Pratapsingh Rane, felt so letdown that he left the party saying he was ‘disillusioned’ with the party after its ‘shameful handling of the mandate’.

MANIPUR

Manipur is the second state that is a missed opportunity for the Congress. Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla has invited the BJP leader N Biren Singh to form the government and his oath-taking ceremony is scheduled for tomorrow.

The Congress has been in power in the state since 2002 and even this time it emerged as the largest party winning 28 seats in the 60-member house. But the BJP’s performance is stunning here. The party that had not been able to open its account in the last polls in 2012, has emerged as the second largest party in this polls, winning 21 seats. But what is more remarkable is the fact that its vote share at 36.3% is more than Congress’ 35.1%, something that gives it the largest representation in the state. From 2.12% in 2012 to 36.3% in 2017, this is huge.

And thanks to the indecisiveness shown by the Congress here as well, the swift moves made by the BJP gave it the necessary edge and Imphal is going to have a BJP government next.

Both the BJP and the Congress are making claims and counterclaims. But certainly, the BJP has outsmarted the Congress in making first moves, be it parading the supporting MLAs before the Governor or holding joint presser with the National People’s Party (NPP). The Congress also claimed to have the NPP support but it was refuted by NPP chief Conrad Sangma.

In the 60-member strong Manipur legislative assembly, a simple house majority needs support of 31 MLAs. In a quick move, on March 12, the BJP approached the Governor with a delegation of MLAs including four NPP MLAs, lone MLA of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), lone TMC MLA and a Congress MLA who had defected. The BJP delegation also handed over a letter of support from the Naga People’s Front (NPF), an NDA alliance partner.

After it, Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, like waking from a slumber, rushed to the Governor House to stake claim. He showed a letter on a plain paper with names of four NPP legislators in Congress’ support which was later junked by the NPP. Also, it is believed that the Governor asked Ibobi Singh to parade the four NPP MLAs to validate his claims. Then there are reports that around a dozen Congress MLAs are ready to defect to the BJP fold.

Sources say the Governor wanted to meet the four NPF MLAs personally before taking any decision. Today, NPF MLAs met the Governor and reiterated their party’s support for the BJP. That validated the count of 32 MLAs in BJP’s support. After it, the Governor invited the BJP to form the government.

DESPERATE LAST DITCH EFFORTS

In its last ditch effort, the Congress had moved to the Supreme Court challenging the invitation to Manohar Parrikar to form the government. But if we go by the Constitution’s interpretation of experts, inviting the largest party is more of a convention and the Governor is not bound to follow it if another political formation convinces him of having the required numbers.

It is left to the Governor’s discretion and wisdom to ensure that a stable government is formed, be it by the single largest party or a coalition of other parties, a fact reiterated by the Supreme Court during today’s hearing. The top court said that though it has become a Constitutional convention to invite the single largest party, the preference goes to them who show stable numbers.

Rapidly changing political developments have proved Shashi Tharoor wrong. It is not the BJP, but the Congress that has lost two states, i.e., Manipur and Uttarakhand. And unlike the BJP which lost one in Punjab, to gain four states in its fold, it could gain just one, i.e., Punjab. With these developments, the BJP and its allies now have governments in 17 states while the Congress and its allies have shrunk to just seven states.

©SantoshChaubey

COMPLACENCY LIKELY TO COST CONGRESS TWO MORE STATES

On the counting day, after the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) massive victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and impressive show in Uttarakhand, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor had words of advice for the BJP leadership. He tweeted that the BJP was in power in two of the five states where elections were held and it lost both and therefore the party ‘shouldn’t be too complacent for 2019’ when the next parliamentary polls will be held.

But it seems, the Congress leadership got complacent with the poll results as it failed to move before the BJP in staking claims to form governments even if Amit Shah, the BJP president, had announced on the counting day that the BJP was going to form government in four states, i.e., Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.

GOA

Even though Digvijay Singh, Goa in-charge of the Congress party, has been camping in Goa, the party failed to make its move and arrange numbers to stake claim.

While the Congress was still contemplating its moves, the BJP met Goa Governor Mridula Sinha with a list 21 MLAs to stake its claim to form the government in the state. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has resigned from the union cabinet. The Goa Governor has invited him to take oath tomorrow and prove majority in the Goa assembly in 15 days. He had resigned from the CM position in November 2014 to join Narendra Modi’s union cabinet. This will be his fourth term as Goa’s chief minister. His first two terms were from 2000 to 2002 and from 2002 to 2005.

The BJP, the incumbents in the state, won 13 assembly seats this time, four less than Congress’ 17. To prove majority in the 40-member Goa House, support of 21 members is needed. Congress needed four MLAs to scale the gap while the BJP needed eight. And the BJP arranged its eight before the Congress could garner support of four MLAs.

The BJP claims to have support of three MLAs each of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Goa Forward Party (GFP), two independents and lone NCP MLA. Then there are reports that some Congress MLAs are ready to defect to join the BJP. That the Congress has resigned to its fate becomes clear from the development where its Goa in-charge Digvijay Singh, who was claiming to form the government, was quoted saying that the Congress was ready to sit in Opposition if the BJP had the numbers.

The Congress’ hara-kiri here is evident from the fact that some of the newly elected Congress MLAs have the blamed the senior Congress leaders of ‘indecisiveness’ even if it had the mandate to stake the claim first, an unacceptable delay that gave the BJP enough time to play its cards. Congress Valopi MLA Vishwajit Rane, who is son of former CM Pratapsingh Rane, is feeling so disgusted that he had decided to leave the party saying he is ‘disillusioned’ with the party after its shameful handling of the mandate.

In its last ditch effort, the Congress has moved to the Supreme Court challenging the invitation to Manohar Parrikar to form the government and the Supreme Court has agreed for an emergency hearing tomorrow before Parrikar’s oath-taking ceremony at 5 PM. But the Constitution is silent on whether the Governor can call the second largest party or not in case of a hung assembly scenario and it is left of his discretion and wisdom to ensure that a stable government is formed, be it by the single largest party or a coalition of other parties.

MANIPUR

Manipur is the second state that is likely to slip from the Congress fold. The BJP legislature party has elected N Biren Singh as its leader and the party, along with its allies, are soon going to meet Najma Heptulla, the Manipur Governor, to stake claim to form the government.

The Congress has been in power in the state since 2002 and even this time it has emerged as the largest party winning 28 seats in the 60-member house. But the BJP’s performance is stunning here. The party that had not been able to open its account in the last polls in 2012, has emerged as the second largest party in this polls, winning 21 seats. But what is more remarkable is the fact that its vote share at 36.3% is more than Congress’ 35.1%, something that gives it the largest representation in the state. From 2.12% in 2012 to 36.3% in 2017, this is huge.

And thanks to the indecisiveness shown by the Congress here as well, the swift moves made by the BJP have created very real chances where Imphal could have a BJP government next.

Both the BJP and the Congress are making claims and counterclaims. But certainly, the BJP has outsmarted the Congress in making first moves, be it parading the supporting MLAs before the Governor or holding joint presser with the National People’s Party (NPP). Both, the BJP and the Congress, claim support of four NPP MLAs but Conrad Sangma, the NPP chief, has denied the Congress claims.

In the 60-member strong Manipur legislative assembly, a simple house majority needs support of 31 MLAs.

After the BJP met the Governor and paraded 32 MLAs yesterday, including four each of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) and the NPP, lone MLA of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), lone TMC MLA and a Congress MLA who defected, Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, like waking up from a slumber, rushed to the Governor House to stake claim. He showed a letter with names of four NPP legislators in Congress’ support. The BJP has dismissed the letter as it was not on official letterhead. The letter claim was later debunked by the NPP. Also, the BJP had held a joint press conference with the NPP before meeting the Governor and the NPP had announced that it would go with the anti-Congress grouping in the Manipur assembly.

To make matters worse for the Congress, it is believed that the Governor has asked Ibobi Singh to parade the four NPP MLAs before to validate his claims, something that looks an improbable task now after the BJP has firmed up numbers in its favour. Then there are reports that around a dozen Congress MLAs are ready to defect to the BJP fold.

Whether the Congress will move to the Supreme Court in the Manipur case depends on what respite it gets from the Supreme Court tomorrow with its Goa petition. If the Supreme Court puts a stay on Parrikar’s oath-taking ceremony, Manipur will also see a prolonged uncertainty till the apex court finally comes with a definitive interpretation. But if we go by the interpretation of the experts, inviting the largest party is more of a convention and the Governor is not bound to follow it if another political formation convinces him of having the required numbers.

©SantoshChaubey

WHEN KEJRIWAL, SISODIA, NADDA AND OTHERS FAILED AN 80-YEAR OLD DISABLED, HELPLESS WOMAN

A lady, around 80 years, wheelchair bound, in an old-age home, with no one to take care of her in desperate medical emergencies – should the state ignore such cases – especially when they are tagged and tweeted multiple times about it – especially when they tweet and retweet multiple times a day – showing their social media alertness and connect to the world?

If that happens so – it tells how insensitive our political class has become – and in this case, it exactly came out like this!

And the ‘very aam aadmi-esque Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or the claimed harbinger of change in Indian politics, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) are to share the blame here.

The grandma in question here is 80 year old Mrs. Phool Mehta, an old-age home resident from Delhi’s Mayur Vihar Phase 1. She lost her husband some years back and has no son or daughters or any other immediate family. She has no regular source of income apart from some savings, barely enough to sustain her life in the old-age home. She finds it hard to meet her routine medical needs, that are many, so managing finances for medical emergencies, that require huge sum, is out of question. Anyway, somehow, it has been managed so far somehow, like it is going to be this time.

She has multiple health issues. She is diabetic. She takes blood-pressure pills. She met an accident some years ago that has left her wheelchair bound. She has plates and rods in her thighs and hands, one of which she cannot use properly. She has ulcer and continuous internal bleeding leads to periodic Haemoglobin reduction. Her Hb at the moment is 5.2. Her both legs and left hand are swollen and it is spreading to other parts of the body. Yesterday, we took her to a nearby hospital but it refused to take her referring her to some higher centre for specialized care. They said her heart was enlarged, had oedema and they could not take the risk of blood transfusion in this case. We spoke to some Delhi government hospitals, including LBS and GB Pant but they, too, refused, saying they did not deal with such cases.

Doctors told us that the window of time that she had was very limited and so we very trying hard to get her hospitalized in some big hospital yesterday only but no headway was coming in. She was in imminent danger of a renal failure. Out of desperation, I tried to use social media to reach out to the Delhi government and Union Health Minister JP Nadda. Though I did not have much hopes, because I know politicians use social media selectively, going by the content that furthers their agenda, I did try. And I tried multiple times.

Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal (@arvindkejriwal), Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia (@msisodia) and Union Health Minister JP Nadda (@jpnadda) were tagged in all ten tweets that I shot yesterday, hoping they or someone from their team would respond to at least one of them. I also tagged @pmoindia, @sushmaswaraj, @atishimarlena, @raghav_chadha and @drkumarvishwas. But all of them, who are quite active of Twitter, couldn’t find time to look even once at my tweets. A friend even tagged Delhi’s Health Minister Satyendar Jain (@satyendarjain).

In an ideal situation, based on the founding principles of these parties, or the values they claim to live and die for, they would rushed to help. But I had expected, the help did not come. It reminded me of another ‘social media savvy’ Union Minister who never responds to uncomfortable or critical tweets – Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu.

Here are those tweets that I shot for Mrs. Mehta, the tweets that could find an alert from anyone in the Delhi Government or the Central Government. I do not want to go into a running commentary on moral obligations and ethical behaviour of our politicians because the episode is self-explanatory.

@SantoshChaubeyy
@msisodia : a 80 yr old old-age home lady in desperate need of medical help in Mayur Vihar Ph 1. Can some1 help?
12:29 PM – 18 Feb 2017

‏@SantoshChaubeyy
@ArvindKejriwal @msisodia @JPNadda : a 80 yr old old-age home lady in desperate need of medical help in Mayur Vihar Ph 1. Can some1 help?
12:59 PM – 18 Feb 2017

@SantoshChaubeyy
@ArvindKejriwal @msisodia @JPNadda 80 yr old oldage hom lady in desprate need of medical help in Mayur Vihar Ph1. Can some1 help? 3rd tweet.
2:44 PM – 18 Feb 2017

‏@SantoshChaubeyy
@ArvindKejriwal @msisodia @JPNadda 80 yr old oldage hom lady in desprate need of medical help in Mayur Vihar Ph1. Can some1 help? 4th tweet.
3:27 PM – 18 Feb 2017

‏@SantoshChaubeyy
@PMOIndia @ArvindKejriwal @msisodia @JPNadda 80yr oldage hom grandma in desprate need of medical help in MY. Can some1 help? 6th tweet.
4:35 PM – 18 Feb 2017

‏@SantoshChaubeyy
@ArvindKejriwal @msisodia @JPNadda @SushmaSwaraj 80yr oldage hom grandma in desprate need of medical help in MY. Can some1 help? 7th tweet.
6:11 PM – 18 Feb 2017

‏@SantoshChaubeyy
@ArvindKejriwal @msisodia @JPNadda @DrKumarVishwas 80yr oldage hom grandma in desprate need f medical help in MY. Can some1 help? 8th tweet.
9:25 PM – 18 Feb 2017

‏@SantoshChaubeyy
@ArvindKejriwal @msisodia @JPNadda @AtishiMarlena 80yr oldage hom grandma in desprate need f medical help in MY. Can some1 help? 9th tweet.
9:49 PM – 18 Feb 2017

‏@SantoshChaubeyy
@ArvindKejriwal @msisodia @JPNadda @raghav_chadha 80yr oldage home grandma in desprate need f medical help in MY. Can some1 help? 10th tweet.
9:49 PM – 18 Feb 2017

So it was all for us to try – and we had no option here to fail.

Thankfully, I was also trying my alternate network – of social workers and volunteers. And it was finally this network that came to our rescue – with timely intervention and help from Sai Padma, Vaishnavi Jayakumar, Sailesh Mishra, Abha Khetarpal, Rajeshwar Devarakonda, Dr. AB Dey of AIIMS and many others. With the coordinated help of these dots, the guiding lights here, from different parts of India, Mrs. Mehta was finally admitted to the Geriatric Ward of AIIMS this afternoon.

The doctors have put her on Oxygen. They will treat her for oedema next and then will go for her blood transfusion, some three units minimum that she needs to come to a sustainable level of Hb in her blood. Then she needs some time to stabilize. Hope all will go well now.

©SantoshChaubey

SURESH PRABHU’S SELECTIVE SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVINESS AGAIN!

Most of our ministers and politicians have got social media savvy – even those who don’t conform to the prevalent notions attached with the savviness of being socially aware of media’s commoners’ extension.

But not without the routine hues of our so-routine politics – a potent mix of ‘to be/not to be/and maybe’.

And ‘I, me, myself, my work, my constituency, my party and my ideology are always right’ is the basic tenet here as well – something that first comes to the senses that prevail this landscape – something that defines our politics when we look for words to describe it.

That makes our politicians ‘selectively honest’ – be it direct communication or indirect access to people through social media.

So, even if our ministers and politicians have got social media savvy, their activity (or intense activity, like that of Suresh Prabhu, our rail minister) is heavily loaded towards favourable views and cosy knits.

And Suresh Prabhu comes in the front league of such signatures.

Though he looks like one of the most busy souls in our system, tweeting dozens of views and replies every day, he never responds to negative or uncomfortable tweets. I would like to use ‘seldom in place of never’ here, but if I go by my experience, it doesn’t allow that – going by at least two bad experiences that I have had with Indian Railways. One was today and one was sometimes in the past. On both occasions, seeing Twitter promptness of Mr. Prabhu, I tweeted my problems tagging him. I did so multiple times but not even once did Mr. Prabhu respond.

Just a cursory glance through my tweets today and those of Mr. Prabhu will be more than enough to prove the point here. And like it is, and like I wrote in my previous post on Mr. Prabhu’s ‘social media alertness’, it doesn’t matter whether Mr. Prabhu personally handles his social media accounts or he has a team to manage it.

While my tweets are here, Mr. Prabhu’s Twitter handle is @SureshPrabhu. You can go there and check yourself.

tweet1

©SantoshChaubey