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Could NC, Congress afriendly Dangal’ prove costly in J&K? – Dangal 2019

There is little doubt that the voter turnout in the three Lok Sabha seats of Anantnag, Srinagar and Baramulla is going to be low.

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Nabi, Farooq

Jammu, March 20 (IANS) The Regional National Conference (NC) and the Congress on Wednesday decided to forge an alliance for the Lok Sabha polls in J&K.

Interestingly, as per the terms of alliance announced by the NC president, Dr Farooq Abdullah and Congress’ Rajya Sabha MP Ghulam Nabi Azad, the two parties will engage in a “friendly contest” in three of the state’s six Lok Sabha seats.

The Congress will not field any candidate against Dr. Abdullah, who will seek re-election from the Srinagar constituency. In return, the NC will not field any candidates in the Jammu and Udhampur Lok Sabha seats in the Jammu division against the Congress.

In the remaining three seats of Anantnag, Baramulla and Ladakh, it is going to be an electoral fight between the NC and the Congress although the leaders of the two parties have called it a “friendly contest”.

There is little doubt that the voter turnout in the three Lok Sabha seats of Anantnag, Srinagar and Baramulla is going to be low.

The last by-poll was won by Dr. Abdullah from Srinagar in 2017 with just a seven per cent voter turnout.

The seat had fallen vacant after Tariq Hameed Karra resigned from both the Lok Sabha and the PDP. Karra had won the seat for the PDP in 2014.

What if the NC and the Congress voters in Anantnag and Baramulla cast their votes according to party loyalties and thereby pass on the advantage to rivals belonging to other parties like the PDP, the Peoples Conference (PC) headed by Sajad Gani Lone and the J&K People’s movement (JKPM) headed by former IAS officer Shah Faesal?

The NC has decided to field Justice (retired) Hasnain Masoodi from Anantnag. The Congress wanted to field its state president, G.A. Mir.

After the two parties reached an agreement on an alliance, it is now unlikely that Mir would stand from this seat because that would seriously undermine Masoodi’s chances to win.

The PDP is likely to field its president, Mehbooba Mufti, or its senior leader, Abdul Rehman Veeri, from Anantnag.

If the NC and the Congress candidates in Anantnag divide their vote bank in such a manner that the PDP candidate polls more votes than the candidates of the NC and the Congress poll individually, would not the friendly contest become a self goal for the two alliance partners?

Similarly, in Baramulla, the NC has fielded senior leader Muhammad Akbar Lone. Lone is likely to be challenged by Shah Faesal of the JKPM, Raja Aijaz Ali of the PC and Abdul Qayoom Wani of the PDP.

Here again, the NC and Congress will fight a friendly match that could cloud Lone’s victory prospects. The Congress candidate may poll lesser votes than Lone, but what if the Congress candidate steals Lone’ s victory margin against the PC and the JKPM?

Sajad Lone has strong pockets of support in Kupwara district. Shah Faesal might be a new entrant in the political arena, but given the support of the youth he has been getting, the NC cannot wish him away as a challenge to Lone in Baramulla constituency.

In Baramulla, the division of votes between the NC and the Congress is likely to adversely affect the victory chances of Muhammad Akbar Lone.

Another friendly contest between the NC and the Congress is going to be in the Ladakh constituency which was represented by the BJP in the outgoing Lok Sabha.

The BJP has strong pockets of influence among the Buddhist voters, but once the Congress fields its own candidate, the Buddhist vote is likely to be divided.

In contrast, the Muslims of Kargil district, that forms the voting segment of Ladakh constituency, are likely to field a Muslim candidate backed by the two influential Muslim institutions, Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust and the Islamia School.

Once the NC fields its own candidate to engage in a friendly contest with the Congress in Ladakh, this will divide the Muslim votes, thereby posing a serious challenge to the Congress candidate in the Ladakh constituency.

In a nutshell, while Dr. Farooq Abdullah is likely to get re-elected to the Lok Sabha with the Congress opting out of the contest in Srinagar, the fate of both the NC and the Congress candidates in Anantnag, Baramulla and Ladakh could become uncertain because of the so-called “friendly dangal” between the two alliance partners.

Ghulam Nabi Azad, who belongs to Bhaderwah town in Doda district, is believed to wield influence in the Chenab Valley region and also at other places in Udhampur constituency.

Reports suggest that Azad is unlikely to fight the Lok Sabha elections as he would be busy working at the national level for the Congress.

Azad’s absence from the electoral fray could cost the Congress heavily in Udhampur even though the NC would not field a candidate for this seat.

The seat was represented in the Lok Sabha by the BJP’s Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the PMO.

The Jammu seat was represented by BJP leader, Jugal Kishore. The BJP has decided to repeat its candidates for Udhampur and Jammu seats.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])

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BJP leaders brainstorm for second day, say govt ready for talks with farmers

Union Home Minister Amit Shah met Agriculture Minister Narender Singh Tomar earlier in the day to discuss the strategy to break the logjam.

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Farmers on Protest

Eager to break the deadlock with famers who are agitating for scrapping the new farm laws, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership held meetings for a second consecutive day on Monday and sent out the message that the Union government is ready for talks.

Union home minister Amit Shah met Union minister for agriculture, NS Tomar earlier in the day to discuss the strategy to break the logjam. A senior party functionary said, “The message from the top is clear that the laws are not anti-farmers and that the farmers are being misled. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reiterated that laws will offer better opportunity for the farmers.”

The functionary said the government is ready to sit across the table and discuss the new laws and “address whatever concerns” the farmers have.

Speaking in Varanasi, the PM on Monday said the laws have given farmers new options and legal protection. He lashed out at the opposition for “misleading” the farmers and said earlier decisions of government were opposed now rumours have become the basis for opposition and propaganda is being served even though the laws favour the farmers.

The party has also opted for a cautious, measured response to the agitation. Even though it is pinning the blame on the opposition for provoking the protest, it is taking care not to rile the farmers. “The farmers are innocent. They are being misled by those with vested interests. The laws have barely been implemented and their impact is yet to be ascertained, so how can people rush to call these anti-farmers,” said Rajkuamr Chahar, head of the BJP’s Kisan Morcha.

He said the Punjab unit of the Morcha has been communicating with the farmers’ representatives and has relayed the government’s willingness to address their concerns.

On Monday, even as the party tried to diffuse the anger against the bills, its ally the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) joined the chorus for the rollback of the laws. Rajasthan lawmaker and RLP chief, Hanuman Beniwal, shot off a letter to Shah, seeking the reversal of the laws.

“….In view of the countrywide sentiment in support of the ongoing farmers’ movement, the recently introduced three bills related to agriculture should be immediately withdrawn. (The Centre must) implement all recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, and immediately hold dialogue with farmers in Delhi,” he said.

The BJP, however, played down the ally’s demand. Its national spokesperson on economic issues, Gopal Krishna Agarwal said, “We assure all, including our NDA partners that farmers’ well-being and welfare are in our heart. Large scale market reforms are needed and that has always been the consensus.”

He went on to add that while the BJP opposes misgivings about the APMC mandis being dismantled and MSP being withdrawn, the opposition is politicizing the issue along with the Arhtiyas (commission agents) and middleman.

“We have offered all the basic facilities to farmers, drinking water, toilets, shelters and medical facilities. They have been given permission to protest and also been invited for dialogue. We are open for all discussions on the merits or demerits of the three bills. If farmers have certain serious concerns, we are ready to listen to them,” he said.

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Lunar Eclipse: Chant these mantras for peace during Chandra Grahan

Check out the Chandra Beej Mantra, Dhanvantari Mantra, Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra and Shanti Path given below to ward off the ill-effects of this celestial movement.

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Lunar eclipse

Lunar Eclipse 2020: The fourth and the last Upachaya Chandra Grahan (Penumbral Lunar Eclipse) of 2020 will take place today. Though Sutak is not applicable during Upachaya Chandra Grahan, the constant movements of the Grahas (planets) may cast an impact on zodiac signs. It may influence people’s natal charts. Hence, people must chant mantras to negate the negative effect of Grahan.

The Lunar Eclipse will have a duration of 4 hours and 18 minutes. It will begin on Monday at 1.04 pm and reach its peak at 3.13 pm. The Lunar Eclipse will end at 5.22 pm and will have a magnitude of 0.82.

Check out the Chandra Beej Mantra, Dhanvantari Mantra, Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra and Shanti Path given below to ward off the ill-effects of this celestial movement.

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Uttar Pradesh law on love jihad seeks to divide communities, writes Kapil Sibal

The Ordinance also goes against the right to privacy. The state has no role to play in the personal choice of individuals in consummating a union and embracing their partner’s religion

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Love Jihad

When laws are motivated by communally divisive agendas, they breed suspicion within communities, resulting in a sense of alienation. That in turn negatively impacts societal peace and harmony. Occasionally, it leads to sporadic violence. When such laws attempt to interfere with personal relationships or emotive issues of choice, which are at the heart of individual freedoms, the outcomes are even more disturbing. That explains why matters relating to marriage, divorce, succession and inheritance polarise dialogues and attitudes.

Such agendas germinate a majoritarian culture pitting “us” against “them” and give birth to electoral majorities. The road to power then becomes a relatively easy enterprise. The rise of right-wing assertions, a global phenomenon, is based on such engineered societal divides. The Uttar Pradesh government’s recent promulgation of the UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, relating to “Love Jihad” is yet another attempt, in a string of communally charged initiatives, aimed at reaping electoral dividends.

Love jihad is a concept the contours of which are blurred. However, in simple terms, all that it means is that if a Muslim boy, in love with a non-Muslim girl chooses to marry her and she embraces Islam, such a union will be looked upon with suspicion by the law and is liable to be declared void. This strikes at the root of individual liberty since such a union cannot be held to be legally suspect. It strikes at the core of the ‘right to privacy’, which is protected constitutionally.

The Ordinance also targets mass conversions, which have taken place in the past. These include conversions to Christianity in the 1930s, to Buddhism by Dalits in the 1950s and Mizo Christians to the Jewish faith in the 2000s. Those seeking to convert allure marginalised castes and tribes with hope, dignity and material enticement. Dr Ambedkar, disenchanted with the caste structure of Hinduism, converted to Buddhism.

The reasons for such mass conversions are complex and need to be addressed separately. Under the proposed law, those guilty of mass conversions are liable to face a jail term extending up to 10 years and a minimum fine of Rs 50,000. While it is justifiable to prevent conversion based on force, coercion, undue influence, misrepresentation and allurements, it is difficult to prove these elements if a Muslim boy and a non-Muslim girl or vice-versa exercise their free will to marry for reasons that are entirely personal. The reason why non-Muslims convert to Islam is because the children born in wedlock would otherwise be excluded from inheritance under Muslim law.

Absent this conversion, the union of a Muslim with a non-Muslim or vice-versa will be a difficult proposition. That is why the intent of the proposed law is suspect as it seeks to target conversion and not marriage. The Ordinance provides that in an interfaith marriage, if one of the partners wishes to embrace another religion, that person will have to inform the District Magistrate or the Additional District Magistrate in writing at least two months in advance. A format of the application seeking permission for conversion will be provided by the government.

Under the proposed law, it would be the responsibility of the person embracing another religion to prove that such person was not converted forcibly or through fraudulent means. Those who abet, convince or conspire are also liable to be prosecuted. Any such violation of the law would entail a jail term of six months to three years and a minimum fine of Rs 10,000.

Marriage between two people is personal to them. It allows either of them to opt out of the marriage. In addition, the person victimised is free to allege use of force, coercion, fraud, undue influence or misrepresentation against the other. In the absence of any of these, it is unthinkable that the law mandates a person who voluntarily embraces another religion to seek permission to prove that the decision was not actuated by any of those elements. Reversal of the burden of proof in matters of personal choices of a life partner may be legally unsustainable.

The obligation to seek permission for conversion two months in advance is fundamentally arbitrary and a violation of the ‘right to privacy’. The state has no role to play in the personal choice of individuals in consummating a union and embracing the religion of the partner. The state can certainly regulate acts of forced conversion but the starting point of such regulation has to be a complaint made by the individual who opts to convert. In most of these cases, it is the parents who complain that their daughter has been fraudulently enticed into a relationship and is a victim of forced conversion.

The Ordinance allows members of the family of those who convert or any relative to lodge an FIR. This makes the Ordinance an instrument of harassment in situations where interfaith marriages are voluntary.
We have seen this being played out in Hadiya’s case in Kerala. The couple went through trauma when Hadiya’s husband and some organisations were targeted for allegedly having induced her to convert to Islam. This was despite the fact that she constantly denied the allegations, asserting that she had embraced Islam voluntarily and much before she had met her husband.

The drama was then played out in court after the Kerala High Court held the marriage to be void on grounds that there was no reasonable explanation given by Hadiya for her marriage to a Muslim without the consent of her parents. Finally, while appearing personally in the Supreme Court, she unequivocally stated that she had married her husband of her own free will and converted to another religion much before her marriage. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) was asked to investigate the circumstances in which Hadiya had married and converted.

The NIA decided to widen its investigations. From a list of 89 such marriages, it investigated 11 cases and in the absence of prosecutable evidence, all such matters resulted in closure. The bottom line is that the Ordinance serves a political purpose. It is yet another way to polarise our polity. The issue is emotive and seeks to divide communities. The constitutionality of such a legislation when challenged should be decided with utmost speed. The court, hopefully, will find such laws to be antithetical to the constitutional ethos and our civilisational values. Any attempt to delay adjudication would only be playing into the hands of those intending to divide and not unite India.

This article first appeared in the newindianexpress on Nov 30, 2020 under the title ‘The perils of an economic oligarchy’. The writer, a senior Congress leader, is a former Union minister.

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