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BJP planning ‘major assault’ on Constitution: Shashi Tharoor (Interview)

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By Sarwar Kashani and V.S. Chandrasekar

New Delhi, Feb 8: The BJP government is looking to make a “major assault” on the Constitution if the ruling party gets a majority in both the Houses of Parliament, says Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who feels the attack on various constitutional provisions, like Article 370 on Kashmir and secularism, will be part of attempts to create a “Hindu rashtra” (nation).

Tharoor, a second-time Lok Sabha member from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, also feels that the Congress and like-minded secular parties should come together on a common platform to resist the Hindutva onslaught in the next Lok Sabha elections. Even the Left parties could come on that platform post elections if necessary, according to him.

“I think a lot of their real agenda is waiting for the time when they have both Houses under their control. And once they do, I think you can certainly look to a major assault on the Constitution. Then the question is, will the Supreme Court stand by the basic structure doctrine and interpret it to include these principles of equality, freedom of religion, freedom of worship, non-discrimination, etc., which would make it impossible to reduce the Constitution to the document of a religiously-derived majoritarianism,” Tharoor told IANS in an interview.

He recalled that during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee a constitution review committee was formed under former Supreme Court judge M.N. Venkatachaliah, but it didn’t work on the idea of a Hindu rashtra.

But, Tharoor said, it seems a committee under K.N. Govindacharya, an ideologue of the Rashtriya Swayamseval Sangh (RSS), is working for the present dispensation, according to media reports and interviews, which have never been challenged. Govindacharya has already talked with some candour to journalists about what he is trying to do.

“He says socialism, secularism, all that will have to go. If they are embarking on such a project, I think they are quite serious about it. The only thing is that they probably felt this would be too much of a risk to be taken on in the first term, unless they also have a majority in the Rajya Sabha.”

Tharoor said the BJP doesn’t have a two-thirds majority now because almost no other party is going to go along with its approach.

“So, I think they were really hoping, and perhaps unrealistically hoping, to consolidate two-thirds majority in both Houses and then go for the kill. Rather than fighting the battle prematurely, when they could lose.”

Meanwhile, he said, the BJP did some “test-drives” like the triple talaq bill as one way of trying to get an issue that they believe will both be dog-whistle at their hardcore base and at the same time test their strength on an issue of religious significance.

“But once they get two-thirds in both Houses, I do believe the Constitution, including Article 370 on Kashmir… on the Hindu rashtra concept, on use of words socialism, secularism, all of these would be up for grabs. There is little doubt about it.”

He said he was surprised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi prescribing that Jana Sangh leader Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s ideology is the one those in the ruling party should follow, as it was the same Upadhyaya who said the Constitution should be torn up because it is full of imported ideas.

At the same time, the Prime Minister said the Constitution is the holy book for him, Tharoor said.

Asked if Modi should not be holding this view because he is occupying high office, the Congress leader said: “That will be terrific, I think, if the Prime Minister were to say ‘I admire many things about Upadhyaya, but I don’t agree with him on the Constitution’.”

In the context of his latest book “Why I am a Hindu” (Aleph), Tharoor was asked whether he would like his party to counter the BJP on the lines of what he had written about Hinduism and Hindutva. He replied he would not like to overemphasise on this issue because of the inherent strength of Hinduism.

“In other words, while we were behaving like we were good people who worshipped in private but thought it unseemly to demonstrate our faith in public, they (the BJP) were the ones ostentatiously being religious and saying to their voters ‘see, we are Hindus like you and you should vote for us and those are godless secularists’.

“So, by Rahul Gandhi going to temples in Gujarat and so on, what is he saying: He is saying they go to temples, we also go to temples. So, let’s neutralise our issues. Now let’s talk about vikaas, talk about development, let’s talk about whether your life has become better in five years of the BJP ruling you.”

Tharoor said ultimately the key political arguments ought to be that these people made all sorts of promises five years ago that they have not fulfilled.

“And to my mind, politically, that is the most powerful argument that we can make — are you better off than you were four years ago or five years ago? And if not why do you want to vote for them again? You think about the price of your gas cylinder. You think about whether you’ve got a job. You think about whether you’ve been able to afford to pay for petrol or diesel at the pump even though world prices dropped for four years.”

Asked about who should be the Congress’ allies in the next Lok Sabha elections, Tharoor said it was too early and wrong because he is not in a position to speak about it.

“I would say there would be states where there would be straight fight between us and the BJP, and alliances would be of less consequence. But we may still have an alliance for the sake of opposition unity.

“But there would be other states where regional parties would be more powerful electorally than we are, and where we may have to reconcile ourselves either by allying with them or, if necessary, tying up a post-electionsalliance.”

Asked if the Congress would ally with the Left post-elections, he said: “They will, certainly. As far as the CPI-M is concerned, they have already announced they will not ally with the Congress and now we have the final decision to be made by their Congress. If that is confirmed by the party congress, then we will only see post-election (alliance).”

Asked what prompted him to write his latest book, Tharoor said he had been playing around with the idea 20 years ago “in the context of the Babri Masjid demolition”.

“The idea to do a full book on the subject became more urgent and compelling because of the extent to which Hindutva has tried to make the issue of the Hindu face front and centre in our public discourse.”

But the real trigger was the way Hinduism was being abused and to counter that abuse.

“You know, when you have been abused as I have been on social media and so on… as ‘anti-Hindu’ and you always thought of yourself as a decent human being within the Hindu faith. What do they mean by anti-Hindu? How can I be anti-myself?

“My father was a very devoted Hindu. Am I anti him? My father was in every respect a profoundly sort of convinced practitioner and believer of Hinduism. And yet the way he brought us up was one of such respect for other faith and such willingness to accept the ideas and sacred objects of other faiths.”

IANS

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West Bengal Governor Dhankhar meets Amit Shah, raises concerns over law & order

Dhankhar is scheduled to head to Darjeeling from Delhi and will stay there for a month, from November 1-30. He would be running his office form the Governor House there.

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Kolkata: West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar called on Union Home Minister Amit Shah at his residence in Delhi on Thursday.

“Governor Dhankhar was with the Union Home Minster for over an hour and state of affairs and affairs of state in West Bengal were traversed,” Dhankhar tweeted.

Raising concerns over the state’s law and order situation, the Governor said: “What is happening in West Bengal is contrary to the democracy mentioned in the constitution. I also wrote a letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stating that the constitution was being violated in the state. I said that we should handle this situation together. But did not get the answer.”

Dhankhar said that he had demanded the West Bengal director general of police (DGP) to be held responsible for the deteriorating law and order situation in the state by September 28.

The Governor also evinced serious concern over a terror network operating in West Bengal, referring to the nine Al-Qaeda operatives, including six from Murshidabad district, who were arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) last month.

Dhankhar is scheduled to head to Darjeeling from Delhi and will stay there for a month, from November 1-30. He would be running his office form the Governor House there.

Dhankhar’s proposed visit to Darjeeling becomes important, especially after Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) leader Bimal Gurung, who had been absconding since 2017, resurfaced in Kolkata on October 21 and snapped his political association with the BJP-led National Democratic Front alliance at the Centre and openly announced that he would support the Trinamool Congress in the 2021 Assembly elections .

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India

BJP Youth Wing Leader, 2 Workers Gunned Down In Kashmir

A Lashkar-e-Taiba shadow group claims responsibility for the killings.

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Suspected militants shot dead three Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers on Thursday evening in the YK Pora area of Qazigund in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district.

The three died when unidentified gunmen opened fire at them. They were taken to a hospital where doctors declared them dead.

The Resistance Front (TRF), which is believed to be a shadow group of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, has claimed responsibility for the killings.

In a message in English and Hindi on its social media account, the TRF said “crematoriums will get overbooked”.

The slain BJP workers were identified as Kulgam’s Yuva Morcha general secretary Fida Hussain Itoo and Umar Hajjam — both residents of YK Pora Qazigund and Haroron Beigh of Sopat area of Qazigund.

BJP Jammu and Kashmir spokesman Altaf Thakur said the party strongly condemns the killing of Hussain, Hajam and Umar Beigh. This is a barbaric act, he added. Thakur said the police should track down the killers and punish them.

Senior BJP leader Sofi Yousuf said that they were not provided security in spite of the party’s repeated requests. He said several times they had talked to SSP concerned asking him to provide them security.

He said Fida Hussain had gone to his home and militants took a chance and attacked him. “We informed the administration that there are security lapses at many places. Our district president had organized a press conference saying the SSP is not cooperating,” Sofi added.

In August this year, after the killing of BJP workers, the party had asked for safe accommodation for its workers and leaders at the district headquarters. The BJP had asked its leaders not to step out from their safe houses without security clearance.

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National Lost A Stalwart Leader: President On Keshubhai’s Death

The BJP leader was the Chief Minister of Gujarat twice — in 1995 and from 1998 to 2001. He was a six-time MLA. He was replaced by Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001.

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New Delhi: Conveying his condolence to the kin of former Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday said the nation has lost a stalwart leader.

The President took Twitter to express his condolence, saying “Keshubhai Ji’s dogged determination for social service and committment to Indian ethos will remain exemplary for all. My condolences to his family and friends”.

“With the demise of Keshubhai Patel, former Gujarat Chief Minister, the nation has lost a stalwart leader. His long public life was dedicated to improving the lives of millions, especially in villages. As champion of farmers’ causes, he enjoyed extraordinary rapport with masses.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh along with various Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) expressed sorrow over the death of Patel who breathed his last at a hospital in Ahmedabad on Thursday morning at the age of 92 years.

The Prime Minister expressed deep sadness at the death of Patel, calling him an “outstanding leader” who devoted his life towards the progress of Gujarat.

Mentioning as “our beloved and respected Keshubhai”, Modi in a series of tweet said, “I am deeply pained and saddened” on his passing away.

“He was an outstanding leader who cared for every section of society. His life was devoted towards the progress of Gujarat and the empowerment of every Gujarati.”

The Prime Minister said that Keshubhai travelled across the length and breadth of Gujarat to strengthen the Jana Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“He resisted the Emergency tooth and nail. Issues of farmer welfare were closest to his heart. Be it as MLA, MP, Minister or CM, he ensured many farmer friendly measures were passed,” Modi said.

Modi reminded how Keshubhai mentored and groomed many younger Karyakartas including him.

“Everyone loved his affable nature. His demise is an irreparable loss. We are all grieving today. My thoughts are with his family and well-wishers. Spoke to his son Bharat and expressed condolences. Om Shanti.”

Expressing condolence at the sudden demise of Patel, Shah said: “While in the BJP, Keshubhai played an important role in strengthening the organization in Gujarat. As a trustee of Somnath Temple, he always supported the development of the temple. Keshubhai will always remain in our memory with his actions and behaviour.”

In his condolence message, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said Keshubhai Patel ji was an effective administrator who left an indelible mark in public life.

“I offer my tributes to the departed leader. In this hour of grief, I express my heartfelt condolences to his family and well-wishers. Om Shanti,” Singh said in a series of tweets.

Singh said that Keshubhai Patel will always be remembered for his unwavering commitment to serve the people.

“Former Chief Minister of Gujarat, Keshubhai was a political stalwart who played a significant role in strengthening the BJP in the state. Deeply pained by his demise today.”

Patel was hospitalised after he complained of difficulty in breathing on Thursday morning. He breathed his last during treatment.

The BJP leader was the Chief Minister of Gujarat twice — in 1995 and from 1998 to 2001. He was a six-time MLA. He was replaced by Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001.

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