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For Modi, its ‘Focus Uttar Pradesh’

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Focus Uttar Pradesh

A day before Ram Shankar Katheria was sacked the Minister of State for Human Resource Development (HRD), he had said that there was nothing wrong with the saffronization of education.

He was articulating the long-standing agenda of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which the Hindu patriarchs have been peddling ever since Murli Manohar Joshi was the HRD minister in Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government.

But now, not only Katheria but even Joshi’s feisty successor, Smriti Irani, have been relieved of their charge and moved to the less glamorous textiles ministry.

If any message was delivered to the RSS, it was that its pet project of rewriting textbooks in accordance with its antediluvian ideas could not be implemented via its “moles” in the government and the party like Dinanath Batra, who led the crusade against American scholar Wendy Doniger’s book on Hinduism, and the new kid on the saffron block, former model and actress Smriti Irani.

It is a measure of the significance of Irani’s “demotion” in the cabinet reshuffle that her removal hogged the headlines although in the normal course of things, the HRD ministry does not rank as high as finance or external affairs.

But given the education sector’s value to the RSS, Narendra Modi probably had no option but to pointedly distance Delhi from Nagpur, where the RSS has its headquarters.

But reasserting the government’s control over education might not have been the sole consideration for the change. Of greater importance was the need to send the signal that ineptness and courting controversies were not the way forward for any minister.

Irani was guilty of both. Having had no experience of campus life (she had studied only up to Class XII), she made a mess of the unrest among students in Hyderabad Central University (HCU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

What is worse, she palpably played to the tune of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in the two universities, which were described by saffronites as “dens” of anti-national activists. Her need as a newcomer to the saffron camp to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) students wing in good humour was evidently behind her ill-advised interventions in campus “politics”.

The fact that the new HRD Minister Prakash Javdekar has emphasized the importance of dialogue in dealing with students is a sign that Modi wants an about-turn in the policies of the ministry.

But this particular initiative is not the only indication that Modi has decided to call the shots vis-a-vis the RSS. As is evident, he has succeeded in ensuring that the Ram temple issue will remain on the back burner, the ghar wapsi and love jehad campaigns will be called off and even the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, will refrain from reiterating that all Indians are basically Hindus.

The snubbing of Subramanian Swamy also shows that Modi has no time for those who seemingly utilize their supposed proximity to the RSS to chart their own course on sensitive issues.

What effect these measures will have on the BJP-RSS relations will only be known in course of time. Will the RSS hold back its cadres during the election campaign in Uttar Pradesh, which is of prime importance to Modi?

As the reshuffle has shown, Modi’s focus is now wholly on Uttar Pradesh. He is apparently interested more in upstaging Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati than Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, considering that of the 19 new entrants in the ministry, five are Dalits.

Arguably, the BJP is banking on Akhilesh Yadav sinking under the weight of the anti-incumbency factor. Hence the targeting of mainly the BSP although it, too, is currently not in the pink of health in view of internal dissensions.

The million-dollar question is whether Modi’s pitch for development will succeed in edging out the saffron militants who constitute a legion in the state, led by Yogi Adityanath. Any headway by the prime minister in this respect will mark a sea-change in the political scene. It has to be remembered that the BJP’s extraordinary success in the parliamentary polls, when it won 73 out of 80 seats in the state, including two by Apna Dal, was based entirely on support for Modi’s economic programme. To repeat the feat, the BJP has to sideline the Yogi Adityanaths, which means the RSS.

Much will depend on how the refurbished cabinet functions. After the “shock” of Irani’s marginalization, one can sense a new awareness among the ministers about delivering results. A similar urgency was there when Modi first took charge, but it gradually disappeared and was replaced by either a lackadaisical attitude or individual enterprise, which was not always well directed.

For the frequent flyer prime minister, it is make-or-break time. If he can pull it off in Uttar Pradesh, success in 2019 will be virtually assured. Success will also mean that he will be one-up on the RSS, a secret ambition of front-ranking BJP leaders from Vajpayee’s time.

India

Wrong to prevent farmers from holding peaceful demonstrations: Kejriwal

Thousands of farmers have been marching to Delhi from Punjab and Haryana protesting against the laws that liberalise the agriculture sector

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Farmers Protest

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday showed his support to the farmers who are protesting against the three farm laws passed in the Parliament in September, and said that they should be allowed to stage a peaceful protest.

“The three farm bills of the central government are anti-farmer. Instead of rolling back these bills, farmers are being stopped from staging peaceful protests. Water cannons are being used against them. This is injustice to the farmers. Peaceful protest is their constitutional right,” said Kejriwal in a tweet on Thursday.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had voted against the Bills in both Lok Sabha (where it has one MP) and Rajya Sabha (where it has three MPs).

Thousands of farmers have been marching to Delhi from Punjab and Haryana protesting against the laws that liberalise the agriculture sector. While some groups were stopped in Haryana on Wednesday and water cannons used against them, several others continue to approach Delhi to stage a protest. The Delhi Police has issued a notice prohibiting any gathering in the Capital, citing Covid-19 regulations and the Delhi Metro has temporarily closed operation on certain routes.

The three laws that have led to widespread protests are the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.

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Politics

I have lost a comrade, colleague and friend: Sonia on Ahmed Patel’s death

Congress has lost one of its greatest son. I am at loss of words at his death. May his soul rest in peace. May god give strength to his family to cope up with this terrible loss.”

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Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi: Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday while condoling the death of Ahmed Patel said she has lost a dedicated Congress colleague.

“In Sh. Ahmed Patel, I have lost a colleague, whose entire life was dedicated to the Congress Party.” she said

She said, “His faithfulness and dedication, his commitment to his duty, his always being there to help, his generosity were rare qualities that distinguished him from others.”

“I have lost an irreplaceable comrade, a faithful colleague and a friend. I mourn his passing and I feel deeply for his bereaved family to whom I offer my sincere feelings of empathy and support,” she added

Scores of Congress leaders condoled Ahmed Patel’s death, “It is very hard to come to terms with Ahmed patel Ji’s passing. He was a political troubleshooter par excellence & will be sorely missed by all. “Ahmedbhai” was also a close friend of my late father’s & a mentor to me,” tweeted Milind Deora.

B.K. Hariprasad said in a tweet, “Its very saddening to know about the demise of Shri Ahmad patel ji. Congress has lost one of its greatest son. I am at loss of words at his death. May his soul rest in peace. May god give strength to his family to cope up with this terrible loss.”

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India

Ahmed Patel’s role in strengthening Congress will always be remembered: PM Modi

A top strategist of the Congress and a most-trusted ally of its president Sonia Gandhi, Patel (71) died in the early hours of Wednesday.

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Narendra Modi

Condoling the death of senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said his role in strengthening the opposition party will always be remembered.

Patel spent years in public life, serving the society, Modi noted.

A top strategist of the Congress and a most-trusted ally of its president Sonia Gandhi, Patel (71) died in the early hours of Wednesday.

He was admitted to the Medanta hospital in Gurugram and had been critical for a few days. He had contracted COVID-19 and subsequently, developed complications.

“Saddened by the demise of Ahmed Patel Ji. He spent years in public life, serving society. Known for his sharp mind, his role in strengthening the Congress Party would always be remembered. Spoke to his son Faisal and expressed condolences. May Ahmed Bhai’s soul rest in peace,” the prime minister said in a tweet.

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