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‘Modi may not win in 2019’ : Arun Shourie

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Arun Shourie speaks his heart on everything from the Modi government to the state of the judiciary.

Arun Shourie’s latest book–Anita gets bail—offers a scathing indictment of the judiciary, while suggesting remedies to stem the malaise.

The author, journalist, economist and former cabinet minister holds forth on Karnataka politics, the Modi juggernaut and more.

How do you feel about the Supreme Court’s intervention in the formation of the Karnataka state government?

It was a very good thing that the Supreme Court (SC) did. They gave very well thought out orders—that the BJP would need to prove majority by 4pm, it will have to be done under a visual recording, it will be an open vote and not a secret vote, and so on. The governor reflected the attitude of the ruling party, but the SC checked the abuse of power by the governor. It’s one of the few good examples of SC rulings in the recent past.

But the Congress had moved the SC on the grounds that the Governor’s order be set aside, which the Supreme Court did not do…

Generally speaking, in the past, the Court has said that it will not go into the grounds of why the governor recommended President’s rule.

That is deemed to be the discretion of the governor. But the court has said that it will go into whether he had any ground to do so at all. Here, the provision of the Constitution is that the governor will invite that party or combination of parties which he thinks can provide a stable government. So, the court said it will not inquire into his judgement, but would put the judgement to test. I think they did a wonderful thing by giving them just 24 hours to prove majority, thereby minimising horse trading.

Speaking of which, can coalition governments be stable?

Narasimha Rao headed a coalition and was responsible, according to Vinay Sitapati’s book, for transforming India—look at the defence programme. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government was a coalition government. Coalitions are not bad or good by themselves. In Karnataka, it really depends on the leaders. It’s heartbreaking to read that they are still disagreeing about crumbs—portfolios and the appointment of the Deputy CM and such—while the country is in danger. It’s very shortsighted of them—they are not seeing how much rides on this coalition, especially if it doesn’t perform. If Kumaraswamy does a Nitish Kumar and allies with the BJP tomorrow, the recoil among people will be such that they will say only Modi knows how to rule. Today, the Modi government is doing as little as the UPA. But it is dividing the country and endangering our defence, while our foreign policies are a complete failure. But these people are disregarding all of that and behaving in a manner that will lead citizens to conclude that they need to bring Modi back. It’ll be a great betrayal of the country’s and their personal interests if they don’t see the avalanche that is descending on them.

And is that the avalanche that will descend in 2019?

The avalanche is gathering up to come down. If these people don’t take precautionary measures, everyone will be buried including themselves. I don’t say it is inevitable—I feel Modi can be checked. After all, at the height of his popularity he got only 31% of the vote.

You need to come to a pledge—that in every constituency we will have only one candidate against a BJP candidate. One person working very hard to ensure that that is done is Modi himself. It has happened in Gujarat and UP. And I’m sure today Nitish Kumar is feeling sufficiently suffocated. Look at the statements of the Shiv Sena and the lukewarm statements coming in from Akalis in favour of Modi. So, there are many straws in the wind which should encourage us.

Is that what needs to be done in Karnataka?

I have been pleading that you need to rely on the person who controls the fort in a particular state or part of state and leave the distribution of seats to him or her. In Bengal, let Mamata Banerjee decide what seats the Congress will get. Similarly, in Bihar and so on.

Otherwise, because of two-three seats, the understanding will fall apart. And there must be discipline and an embargo on speaking about other parties. In Karnataka, the ministry has not been fully formed and you are talking about each other. Why will people believe you?

Is Karnataka a microcosm of what we might see at the centre in 2019—a combined opposition to the BJP?

There can be an attempt, but every day there is a new statement by politicians. Mayawati has just said that she may fight the elections alone if she doesn’t get the full seats she deserves. The fact is that if Mayawati and Sharad Pawar had not put up candidates who did not win at all in Gujarat, maybe BJP would not have been able to form the government. So, nothing is a foregone conclusion—Modi’s victory is not a foregone conclusion. I think the time to read election forecasts is always after the elections.

What would it take to haul the BJP juggernaut, considering there hasn’t been one galvanising face on the other side?

Like I said, leave it to the good sense of regional bosses to decide the distribution of seats. Work on a minimum programme for everybody. And there doesn’t necessarily need to be one face. Morarji Desai and Charan Singh were not alternatives to Mrs Gandhi. But she was defeated—from Amritsar to Bhubaneshwar she got only one seat. Was VP Singh an alternative to Rajiv Gandhi? What needs to be done is to have one candidate in each constituency against the BJP so that the 69% is not split. That is what Modi capitalises on.

The judiciary is under duress, to which you offer a good many solutions in the book…

Judges need to be put under scrutiny. The media, for one, should not just focus on judgments of the higher courts. At random, go to the local court and write what happens during the day. Address this disconnect between courts and what the public knows. It will make the judges more aware that they are being watched. At present, the judiciary is operating in a bubble. They are protected. They know nobody will read their judgements and see how many adjournments there have been in a case. Every time a case comes up in court, the billboard outside should prominently display how many adjournments have been there.

The other problem is that impeachment is the only remedy. Can the Indian Penal Code prescribe only one punishment—beheading? You have to have a grade of measures. Plus, impeachment is a completely political process. In the Rajya Sabha, everyone votes along the party whip, because of Schedule 10 of the Constitution.

Then, there is the matter of judgements themselves—nobody reads them. If a journalist, a law graduates or a professor made the effort, it would alert people to the idiocy of what is often being said.

What also happens is that the courts issue a decree and then don’t bother to follow up. They need to take up random orders and see whether they are being implemented, and haul the offending officers for contempt of court. Instead, there is a lack of seriousness and a lack of confidence in the judiciary—they quote poems and make grand pronouncements in judgements.

We need to name and shame—like in the case of Jayalalitha’s disproportionate assets case, where it didn’t take much to see the idiocies and perversities in Justice Kumaraswamy’s pronouncements. They need to be held up as an example in law schools as what not to do. And nobody pursued him and questioned him after that.

Lastly, we must have stricter rules for admission of cases. To decide whether ‘Vande Mataram’ was written in Sanskrit or Bengali, a whole research team was set up by a judge who gave a lecture on the importance of language. They want to waste time—they think this is eloquence. The Supreme Court should focus on cases where there is a clear violation of law; if the lower court has completely violated the law in pronouncement or distorted the facts; if some new facts have emerged; if a provision of the Constitution has been violated. Instead we have minor traffic offences going up to higher court.

Is that why four Supreme Court judges took the unprecedented step of calling the press conference – a move others have criticised but you have defended?

They tried talking to the CJI. They had a complaint about the benches that were being fixed by him, saying that it was striking at the heart of the administration of justice. They wrote a letter to him and waited for two months. Then there was the handling of a case as sensitive as that of Justice Loya. What else could they have done? It was their duty to inform the ultimate sufferer—the people of India—about what was happening. And the fact that no corrective measures were taken on the ground after that shows that the judges were completely right in their apprehensions. It shows that there should be even more scrutiny of the judges by the media and by people.

Story credit :  Bangaloremirror

India

Opposition requests President to return farm Bills for reconsideration

After the meeting senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “the govt did not have the numbers and our request for division was ignored and even the resolution against the Bill was not allowed”

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Ram Nath Kovind

Opposition leaders met President Kovind on Wednesday and apprised him of the circumstances amid which the Farm Bills were passed in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday. They requested him to return the Bills for reconsideration to the House.

After the meeting Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “the government did not have the numbers and our request for division was ignored and even the resolution against the Bill was not allowed.”

The opposition said that the government ignored the demand for sending the Bills to a select committee.

Ahead of this meeting, the Congress and other opposition parties continued to protest in the Parliament complex here on Wednesday.

The protesting lawmakers marched from Gandhi’s statue in the complex to BR Ambedkar’s statue within the premises to register their protest while carrying placards.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted: “All MPs of the Congress and like-minded parties are marching from the Gandhi statue to the Ambedkar statue in Parliament to protest against anti-farmers and anti-workers Bills rubber stamped in Parliament in the most undemocratic manner by the Modi government.”

Earlier, the opposition leaders met in the chamber of Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and decided to continue their protest over the Farm Bills.

The opposition and the government are at loggerheads ever since the two farm Bills were passed amid a ruckus in the Upper House on Sunday. The third contentious Bill on essential commodities was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

On Sunday, pandemonium broke out in the Upper House as the opposition protested over the two Farm Bills. Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien even approached the Chair and tried to snatch a mike while citing the rule book.

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Obituary – MoS Railway Angadi will be remembered for warm gesture, smile

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Suresh Angadi,

New Delhi, Sep 23 : Minister of State for Railways Suresh Angadi, who passed away on Wednesday evening at a hospital here where he was being treated for Covid-19 will always be known for a big smile and warm gestures by his colleagues and friends.

Angadi was made the Minister of State for Railways in May last year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Soon after his appointment as MoS for Railways, he knew that he has to meet the expectations of PM Modi to improve the train services.

During the inaugural run of second Vande Bharat Express train between New Delhi to Katra on October 4 last year, just two months after the abrogation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, he travelled in train with media persons to give a message that the government is standing with the people of J&K for the overall development of the region.

There were around 80 media persons along including the camerapersons to cover the inaugural run of the Vande Bharat Express.

During the trip, Angadi kept on interacting with the media about the plans of the Railway Ministry to bring development in erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

He gave interviews for four consecutive hours without any break and assured that he answered all the tough questions posed to him.

Speaking to IANS on the same trip, Angadi had said, the Indian Railways, which has witnessed delays in completion of several important projects, was aiming to finish all of them by 2022, on the occasion of 75th Independence Day.

He had also said that the national transporter sees the option of allowing private operators to run trains as an opportunity to provide world class services.

Angadi had said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed that all the pending projects and works be completed by 2022. We are focusing on completing pending works, like doubling and tripling of tracks, electrification, installation of CCTVs and signalling system upgrade.”

“New projects will be taken up only after completing them,” Angadi said.

He also favoured giving trains to private operators, and cited the example of private TV channels and said, “The entry of private players will generate more jobs and investment opportunities. In the long run, a lot of development will follow due to the competition.”

In countries like China trains run at 400 kmph. But in India trains were not running even at 160 kmph, he said.

“To compete with the world, we have to opt for investment from many sources. When a private company or people comes and invests in railways, it will create opportunities to develop economy,” he had said.

The railways had last year proposed to corporatise Rae Bareli Modern Rail Coach factory in UP.

On opposition of the Congress and other parties to corporatisation and privatisation of railways’ manufacturing units, the Minister said, “The Congress never thought about development. It has always opposed development.”

“We have not got to think of the Congress, but development and competition, and let the economy grow and create employment opportunities,” Angadi said.

Citing examples, he had said, the national highways remained undeveloped till the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government took it up and today even foreign countries were appreciating them.

Angadi in the railway ministry was also known as one of the most punctual minister. He always came to the ministry on time and ensured that the press briefing started on time.

Angadi represented Belagavi constituency of Karnataka in Lok Sabha.

He first won from the seat in 2004 and remained undefeated from the seat till 2019.

He was also known as a media man, who always remained responsive to the queries of media even late in night.

Following the news of gis death, Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said, “Deeply anguished at the unfortunate demise of Suresh Angadiji. He was like my brother. Words fall short to describe his commitment and dedication towards the people. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this hour of need. Om Shanti.”

Angadi Angadi admitted at AIIMS on September 11 after testing positive for Covid-19. He breathed his last on Wednesday evening.

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Naidu’s warning ahead of Rajya Sabha’s adjournment sine die

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Rajya Sabha VP Naidu

New Delhi, Sep 24 : Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu, in his valedictory remarks ahead of the house being adjourned sine die on Wednesday, made some serious observations about Sunday’s ruckus in the Rajya Sabha that got eight MPs suspended.

“For the first time in this history of this august House, a notice of motion for removal of the Hon’ble Deputy Chairman has been given. It had to be rejected for the reasons I have elaborated while doing so,” Naidu said, calling the “developments” “unprecedented” and “painful”.

“I don’t want to go into details of those unpleasant turn of events. All that I like to do is to appeal to all of you from the depth of my heart to kindly ensure that such unseemly behavior is not repeated,” he urged.

Calling the ruckus “unpalatable”, he reminded: “To protest is the right of the opposition. But the question is how should it be done?”

“But if boycott is done for a longer period, it amounts to leaving the very platform that enables you to effectively convey your ideas and contesting those of others. I request all members to keep this in mind.”

However, there were high points too. Naidu said that 25 Bills have been passed and six Bills have been introduced in this very short span of time in the upper house.

The productivity of the house during this session has been 100.47 per cent, he informed.

“(As much as) 22 hours 3 minutes time has been spent on discussing the government’s legislative proposals during these 10 sittings. This comes to a record 57 per cent of the total functional time of the House during this session,” an otherwise upset Naidu said with visible happiness.

Meanwhile, 1,567 unstarred questions were replied to in writing by the government during these 10 sittings.

Members also raised issues of urgent public importance through 92 Zero Hour and 66 Special Mentions.

Both houses of Parliament were adjourned sine die on Wednesday — eight days before their scheduled end on October 1 — due to increasing Covid-19 cases.

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