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Gujarat doesn’t just belong to 5-10 big industrialists says Rahul Gandhi

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Rahul Gandhi in Porbandar
Rahul Gandhi in Porbandar (Photo-ANI)

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, addressing fishermen in Porbandar in poll-bound Gujarat, on Friday accused the ruling BJP in the state and Centre of working for a handful of industrialists and expressed confidence that the Congress would form the next government in the state.

On a two-day visit to the state, Rahul Gandhi was joined on stage by Bharat Modi, a leader of the fishermen community and till recently a senior BJP leader in the region.

Gandhi told the rally that a Congress government and Congress Chief Minister “will have their doors open for everybody in the state to listen to them”.

“Modiji tells you his ‘Mann ki Baat’ but nobody listens to your ‘Mann ki Baat’. Congress will win the December elections in Gujarat and will form a government which listens to you and works according to your needs,” he said.

“If the Congress comes back to power at the Centre, it would consider setting up an independent fisheries ministry,” he said, adding that the BJP government would not consider giving a subsidy of Rs 300 crore to fishermen but “waive Rs 1 lakh crore in debt to big business houses”.

He said that it is these industrialists who are “marketing for the Modi government”.

“This is interesting. A BJP worker here speaks out about your demands from the Congress platform. My dear friend, it is your government, the PM is yours, the CM is yours. Now that you have come here and Congress is going to win in Gujarat, we will listen to you,” Gandhi said addressing Bharat Modi.

He hit out at NDA government on the issues of GST and demonetization and how it had affected the common people.

The Congress Vice President landed in Porbandar in the morning and visited the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, the famous Kirti Mandir before addressing a public rally of fishermen.

The BJP, on the other hand, tried to lash out at the Congress leader on a very flimsy ground — of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi that almost slipped out of Rahul Gandhi’s hand when it was presented to him during his welcome at Porbandar. However, in a quick reflex action, Gandhi grabbed the statue before it fell to the floor and smashed.

IANS

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Which of Vajpayee’s bequests will the BJP honour?

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee

It cannot be gainsaid that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as it is run today, will find it difficult to live up to Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s legacy of moderation.

From this aspect, his death has come at an inconvenient time for the party because there will be constant reminders during the run-up to the four state assembly elections this winter about Vajpayee’s gentleness, which was his foremost political talent.

This will be particularly relevant in the matter of rhetoric which has tended to become increasingly acerbic in recent times. The chances of the speeches becoming more venomous are all the greater when the BJP’s prospects are not supposed to be all that bright in the key states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, as a poll survey has predicted.

Therefore, as caustic comparisons are made between aristocratic lineage and the humble background of a worker — naamdar and kaamdar — Vajpayee’s more temperate oratory may be recalled.

It was Vajpayee’s moderation which enabled him to hold together for more than three years from 1999 to 2002 a mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) of as many as 24 parties, the likes of which had never been seen before and is unlikely to be seen in the future.

The achievement will appear all the more remarkable at a time when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre is fraying at the edges with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) having walked out while the Shiv Sena is forever engaged in verbal onslaughts against the BJP and the Akali Dal is patently uneasy.

What is more, doubts are being expressed as to whether the BJP will be able to form a coalition at the Centre if it fails to secure a majority of its own in the Lok Sabha in 2019 because Modi is seemingly temperamentally averse to act in tandem with others. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s restiveness is a reminder of this proclivity at the NDA’s highest levels.

If Vajpayee’s accommodativeness cannot be seen in the BJP today, neither is its ability to push ahead with the economic reforms as during the former Prime Minister’s reign when several PSUs such as Modern Foods, Balco and Hindustan Zinc were disinvested. In contrast, the present government has not been able to find a buyer for the perennially sick Air India.

However, the most crucial of Vajpayee’s legacies is the peace which prevailed in his time till the Gujarat riots of 2002, which paved the way for his defeat two years later as he ruefully conceded.

Before the riots, however, there was nothing like the present near-anarchic scenes which have made the Supreme Court bemoan the prevailing mobocracy as the “new normal” and the Centre to consider enacting a law to stop lynchings.

It would be a mistake, however, to claim that Vajpayee did no wrong. The targeting of Tehelka and Outlook magazines beause of their embarrassing disclosures about the unsavoury goings-on in high places is a reminder that no government — not even Vajpayee’s — can be tolerant of a genuinely free press.

It is an unworthy legacy going back to Rajiv Gandhi’s abortive attempt to muzzle the media with his proposed Publication of Objectionable Materials Act in the wake of the Bofors howitzer scam, not to mention his mother’s draconian Emergency rule.

But, for Vajpayee, it was an uncharacteristic misstep in the misuse of the Enforcement Directorate and other government agencies, which has largely been forgotten. What is remembered instead is the fact that of all the saffron leaders, he was the only one who had the Nehruvian vision of the “idea” of a multicultural India.

It was this broad outlook which made Vajpayee urge the Jan Sangh in 1960 to open its doors to “all Indian citizens irrespective of creed or sects”. Noting that at least formally, the party is opposd to politics being linked with religion, he said that “in the partition of the country, we have already had a grim experience of the consequences of mingling politics with religion”.

Not surprisingly, Vajpayee was not a favourite of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) despite the swayamsevak tag that he wore all his life, which is why one of the RSS chiefs of his time, K.S. Sudarshan, wanted his as well as L.K. Advani’s ouster from positions of power by calling for a generational change in the BJP.

Incidentally, Sudarshan was believed to have prevailed upon Vajpayee on the eve of the ministry-making in 1998 not to make Jaswant Singh the finance minister since he was not a true-blue (true-saffron) Sanghi.

Now that a generational change has taken place in the BJP, it has to be seen how many of Vajpayee’s inheritances are honoured and how many disregarded.

If his moderation does not gell with the party’s aggressive pro-Hindu line, which made observers say that Vajpayee was the right man in the wrong party, the BJP can at least acknowledge his adulation of Jawaharal Nehru (whom the party likes to dislike at present) as Bharat Mata’s “favourite prince”. As Vajpayee’s accolade to Nehru showed, not all naamdars are to be shunned.

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected] )

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Congress MPs, MLAs to donate month’s salary to flood-hit Kerala

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Randeep Singh Surjewala

New Delhi, Aug 18: The Congress on Saturday demanded that floods in Kerala should be declared a “national calamity.”

All elected representatives of the party would donate one month’s salary towards relief efforts in the state, it said.

The decision to donate salaries was taken at a meeting of Congress general secretaries, party in-charges of states, legislative party leaders and state unit chiefs, which was presided over by party chief Rahul Gandhi.

Gandhi had earlier in the day urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately declare the floods in Kerala as “a national disaster.”

Briefing reporters after meeting of Congress office-bearers, party communications in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala said the Modi government should come forward to help Kerala where over 180 people have died and property worth over Rs 3,000 crore has been damaged due to floods.

“It was decided that all Congress MPs in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Congress MLAs across India and party MLCs will donate one month’s salary, which will be sent through the AICC for relief measures in Kerala,” Surjewala said.

He said it was also decided that all Congress governments will come forward to help the people of the state.

Surjewala said Punjab government has already donated Rs 10 crore to the Kerala Relief Fund and JD-S and Congress- government in Karnataka has also donated Rs 10 crore to the relief measures. The government in Puducherry has also donated Rs 1 crore.

He said special relief committees will be formed in adjoining states including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu apart from Puducherry. Material collected by Congress workers will be sent to the people of Kerala.

Surjewala said the party also noted with concern the grave situation due to floods in Karnataka and some other parts of the country.

“Modiji should stop discriminating in matters of flood relief. The Prime Minister must rise above party-politics and come forward to help Kerala, Karnataka and other flood-affected states. The Prime Minister should declare Kerala floods as a national calamity,” Surjewala said.

Overflowing rivers and a series of landslides in Kerala have resulted in the death of 180 people as of Saturday morning, with over 3 lakh others forced to move to some hundreds of relief camps.

IANS

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Back series GDP calculation proved UPA years best: Chidambaram

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P Chidambaram
P. Chidambaram (File Photo)

New Delhi, Aug 18: Former Union Minister and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram on Saturday challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to match up with the UPA’s GDP rate in its fifth year and said that back series calculation of GDP has proved that the best years of economic growth were the UPA years 2004-2014.

Quoting figures of the recently released Ministry of Statistics’ data, Chidambaram said: “Truth has triumphed. The back series calculation of GDP has proved that the best years of economic growth were the UPA years 2004-2014.”

“The average growth rate under four governments since 1999 were– NDA I – 5.68 per cent, UPA I – 8.36 per cent UPA II – 7.68 per cent and NDA II – 7.35 per cent (four years),” Chidambaram tweeted.

“I wish the Modi government well in its fifth year. It can never catch up with UPA I, but I wish it catches up with UPA II,” he added.

Chidambaram said that the UPA governments delivered the best ever decadal growth and lifted 140 million people out of poverty and thanked the people for the opportunity to serve them for 10 years.

IANS

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