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Parliament was denied opportunity to examine farm laws: Sonia




Sonia Gandhi

Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi on Friday slammed the Centre on the farmers’ issue. During a crucial Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting here, she said it was abundantly clear that the three farm laws were prepared in ‘haste and Parliament was consciously denied an opportunity to examine in any meaningful detail the implications and impact’.

She said the government has shown ‘shocking insensitivity and arrogance while going through the charade of consultations’.

She also raised the issue of the alleged chat leak of Arnab Goswami over the Balakot airstrike in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF troopers were killed.

Speaking at the CWC meeting, Sonia Gandhi said, “Parliament will reconvene in a week’s time. It is the Budget session of course. But there are so many pressing issues of public concern that need to be debated and discussed fully. Whether the government will agree, however, remains to be seen.”

Discussing the farmers agitation over the three farm laws, which has been going on for past 58 days at several borders of the national capital, the Congress leader said, “The agitation of the farmers continues and the government has shown shocking insensitivity and arrogance while going through the charade of consultations.”

Launching a tirade against the government over the way in which the three farm laws were passed, Sonia Gandhi said her party’s position on the farm laws has been very clear from the very beginning. “We reject them categorically because they will destroy the foundations of food security that are based on the three pillars of MSP, public procurement and public distribution system (PDS),” she said.

Discussing the alleged chat leak of Goswami with BARC former CEO Partho Dasgupta, Sonia Gandhi said, “Very recently there have been very disturbing reports on how national security has been so thoroughly compromised.”

She said, just a few days back, former Defence Minister A.K. Antony said that leaking of official secrets of military operations was “treason”.

Questioning the government’s silence on the issue, she said, “Yet the silence from the government’s side on what has been revealed has been deafening. Those who give certificates of patriotism and nationalism to others now stand totally exposed.”

Discussing the Covid vaccination, which started on January 16, the Congress leader said that vaccination of the courageous frontline health professionals and workers has begun and “we certainly hope that the process will continue and be completed to the fullest extent”.

“The government has inflicted untold suffering on the people of our country by the manner in which it has managed the Covid-19 pandemic. It will take years for the scars to heal,” she said.

Sonia Gandhi also raised the economic issue and said that the economic situation remains grim and large parts of the economy like MSME and the informal sector have been decimated with the government refusing to extend a lifeline.

“When public expenditure has to be carefully prioritised, it is very painful to find huge amounts of money being allocated and spent on initiatives that can only be described as ‘personal vanity projects’,” she said.

She also targeted the government over the weakening of the labour and environmental laws and moving ahead with selling off of carefully built-up public assets.

“Panic privatisation has gripped the government and this is something that the Congress party can never accept and support,” she said.

Sonia Gandhi also said that the party has started preparing for the forthcoming Assembly elections in some states.

“Meanwhile, the schedule and modalities for the organisational elections too has to get the CWC’s approval,” she said.


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Andhra govt petitions SC to defer Panchayat polls




Supreme Court

The Andhra Pradesh government has challenged the High Court’s green signal to conduct rural local bodies elections through a special leave petition in the Supreme Court.

In its petition on Thursday, the government said that it amounts to risking employees’ lives amid the coronavirus pandemic to go to elections at a time when the Covid vaccination drive was being held.

The petition pointed out that the State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar was not a medical expert to decide on the polls at a time when the vaccination drive was on, and alleged that he did not even consult any expert.

According to the petition, Kumar unilaterally went ahead with the election schedule, despite the state government highlighting that vaccination is of utmost importance now, amid the prevailing conditions.

The state government aims to start vaccinating its police forces from the first week of February, who are the frontline workers and already engaged in vaccine security, shipping and other tasks.

Likewise, the petition pointed out that Kumar has two more months left in the office and was adamant to conduct polls during his tenure at any cost, disregarding public health.
People will be compelled to participate in elections without taking a vaccine, which will pose a threat to their lives, said the petition.

Meanwhile, ruling YSRCP leader Vishwaroop said the government prioritises public health over the elections. “YSRCP will sweep elections on any given day. Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy went to polls alone several times,” said Vishwaroop.

Several other senior leaders assailed the SEC’s alleged unilateral decision.

Already, several government employee unions have opposed elections at this juncture, saying their lives are more important than the hustings.

Conduct of the rural local bodies’ elections has emerged as a major bone of contention between the government and the State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar.
These elections were originally supposed to have been held in 2018 when the tenure of the local bodies expired back then but were not held.

However, Reddy thought of going to the polls in March 2020 but Kumar did not give the green signal, citing the coronavirus pandemic, leading to a major standoff between the two.

Reddy accused Kumar of acting at the behest of opposition leader Nara Chandrababu Naidu and even tried to replace him, which backfired as the SEC has Constitutional protection equal to a Supreme Court judge.

With just two more months left as the SEC, Kumar is keen on conducting the polls which the state government is opposing, citing the coronavirus pandemic and the gigantic vaccination drive.

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Cong to get elected party chief by June: Venugopal




The Congress will have an ‘elected’ party President by June, its General Secretary (Organisations) KC Venugopal said here on Friday after a crucial Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting.

Party sources said that several senior party leaders had raised the issue of CWC elections as well, which led to heated arguments. The party however denied any such happening.

Venugopal said that no dispute whatsoever on organisational elections arose at the “fruitful meeting”.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting that went on for three-and-a-half hours, Venugopal said: “The CWC discussed the organisational elections slated to be held in May. But CWC members unanimously requested interim chief Sonia Gandhi that the party elections should not interfere with Assembly polls in several states in the coming months.”

He said that the CWC members thereby requested for rescheduling of the organisational elections. “Finally, the CWC decided that an elected party President will be on the post in June 2021 at any cost,” Venugopal said.

As for ‘heated arguments’ between former Union Ministers Anand Sharma, Ghulam Nabi Azad and others who differed on the organisational elections, the Congress leader said: “There was no big debate in the CWC. We will conduct party election as per its constitution. And the schedule will be out very soon.”

“Some change in schedule was required due to coming Assembly elections (in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam, West Bengal, and Puducherry) and that was taken into consideration; the party will announce the election schedule accordingly,” he said.

Asked if there was demand for elections to the CWC as well, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said: “Don’t get misguided. Don’t fall for rumours. The leaders whose names have been taken are not dissenters — they are our respected leaders and they are our family members. And we all were unanimous that the party election schedule be postponed for a month.”

Even as Surjewala said that there were not heated arguments in the meeting, the party source present there said that Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot raised the issue of demand by a few leaders for organisational elections and questioned if they had no faith in Congress leadership.

A fuming Anand Sharma, one of the 23 signatories to a letter to Sonia Gandhi in August last year, retorted by demanding CWC elections as well.

“We will have to look into the party constitution once again to see if elections to the posts of Congress President and Working President can be held simultaneously or not. Elections will definitely be held — we are not saying that elections to the CWC will not be held, Venugopal said.


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