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Opposition unity needs more effort to bring Mayawati on board

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The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) 4-1 defeat in the Karnataka by-elections has further lengthened the list of the party’s reverses in more than 20 by-polls spread across Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Kerala, Punjab, Maharashtra and elsewhere.

The winners include the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

In all these seats, what has led to the BJP’s defeat is a one-to-one contest against it by a combined opposition. It is obvious that if such unity is achieved in the forthcoming elections, the BJP’s chances of success are minimal, notwithstanding its claims about booth-management tactics of party president Amit Shah and the party’s seemingly huge resources.

The idea of a one-to-one contest against the BJP was first floated by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, but she appears to have taken a back seat lately after the collapse of a federal front proposed by her in the company of the Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao, who has now distanced himself from taking on the BJP along with other “secular” parties.

Instead, his place has been taken by the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu, who has been contacting various leaders in the anti-BJP camp — H.D. Deve Gowda, H.D. Kumaraswamy, Rahul Gandhi and Sharad Pawar — to stitch together an alliance against the Narendra Modi government.

There is little doubt that the success of the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress combine in Karnataka will give a boost to Naidu’s efforts, not least because the earlier signs of tension between the two parties had led to doubts about their electoral success.

However, the large margins of their victories, especially in the supposed BJP stronghold of Bellary, have shown a popular acceptance of the ruling alliance, encouraging Chief Minister Kumaraswamy to predict that the combine will win all the 28 parliamentary seats in the state in 2019.

For the secular camp, what must have been most reassuring about the Karnataka outcome was the clear indication about the durability of the ruling alliance at a time when the BJP continues to harp on the “khichdi” or hodge-podge nature of the opposition formations and their hedging on the question of who will be the leader at the national level.

There is no definite answer to this question as yet with the opposition leaders saying that they will cross the bridge when they come to it. But this indecisiveness is bound to remain a potent weapon in the BJP’s armoury when it comes to needling its opponents.

It is also clear that the cohesion of the Karnataka alliance is not reflected in a state like Madhya Pradesh, where the Congress appears to be as much preoccupied with keeping peace among the three bigwigs of the party — Kamal Nath, Digvijay Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia — as in fighting the BJP.

For the Congress, it is an acid test in Madhya Pradesh, for if it cannot take advantage of the inevitable anti-incumbency sentiments against chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan after three successive terms, then the party would have only exposed its own fatal weaknesses.

As it is, the Congress failed to bring the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on board in Madhya Pradesh and could not dissuade the BSP supremo, Mayawati, from aligning with the breakaway Congress leader, Ajit Jogi, in Chhattisgarh. As a result, the Congress has been left with its only best hope in Rajasthan whereas it was earlier expected to have an easy run in all the three states.

Notwithstanding the series of by-election successes, the opposition’s expectations of making an impact in 2019 will depend on the outcome in the three states and on whether the tie-up between the Samajwadi Party and the BSP remains intact in U.P.

By breaking away from the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, Mayawati has raised doubts about her commitment to the idea of opposition unity. Although she played a proactive role last May to bring the Congress and her ally, the Janata Dal (Secular), together when the Karnataka assembly elections produced a hung verdict, she has remained silent about the latest by-election results.

Instead, she is apparently concerned about the bonhomie between the Congress and the Bhim Army leader of the Dalits, Chandrashekhar Azad “Ravan”. It is possible that the Congress-BSP negotiations failed in the three states which are going to the polls this month because of Mayawati’s fear of the Congress poaching on her territory by wooing the Dalits and rebuilding its old Brahmin-Muslim-Harijan base, which paid handsome electoral dividends for the party in the past.

Clearly, Naidu’s unity efforts will have to focus much more on Mayawati than on any other leader, nearly all of whom can be said to have already climbed on board the opposition bandwagon.

IANS

Politics

Parkash Singh Badal returns Padma Vibhushan to protest ‘betrayal of farmers’

In a letter e-mailed to the President, veteran Akali leader Parkash Singh Badal listed his reasons for feeling “hurt and betrayed” by the government’s attitude and actions against the farmers

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Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and five-time former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday returned the Padma Vibhushan award in protest against the “betrayal of the farmers by the government of India and the shocking indifference and contempt with which it is treating the ongoing peaceful and democratic agitation” of the farmers against the three farm Acts.

“I am who I am because of the people, especially the common farmer. Today, when he (farmer) has lost more than his honour, I see no point in holding on to the Padma Vibhushan honour,” the veteran Akali leader wrote in a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind. He described the betrayal of the farmers by the government as “bolts from the blue on the already beleaguered peasantry of the country”, adding that the farmer finds himself waging bitter struggles in severe cold just to secure his fundamental right to live.

SAD, one of the oldest constituents of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), had snapped ties with the BJP in September 2020 and pulled out of the alliance to protest against the agriculture marketing laws enacted by the Central government.

In a letter e-mailed to the President, Badal listed his reasons for feeling “hurt and betrayed” by the government’s attitude and actions against the farmers. “When the Government of India had brought the ordinances, assurances were given that the farmers’ apprehensions would be addressed to their satisfaction while bringing the relevant Bills and subsequently the Acts. Trusting these assurances, I even appealed to the farmers to believe the Government’s word. But I was shocked when the Government simply went back on its word,” he wrote.

The former chief minister described that period as the most painful and embarrassing moment in his long political career. “I just cannot put in words the pain and emotional stress which I have been going through since then. I have truly begun to wonder why has the Government of the country become so heartless, so cynical and so ungrateful towards the farmers,” he said. Badal also said he had been deeply pained by the communal insinuations being thrown at the peacefully and democratically protesting farmers.

Badal regretted that the government remains indifferent to the sufferings of the farmers. “The spectacle of hundreds of thousands of farmers crying out for justice in one voice in the national capital would have moved any other nation or its government,” he said. No such sensitivity towards the farmers’ pain and anger is visible here, he said, hoping that as the first citizen of the country and a conscientious public figure, the President too would be fully aware and perhaps as deeply concerned about these developments.

Badal felt apologetic that the pleas of farmer friendly parties like the Shiromani Akali Dal were mocked. “It was cynically suggested that farmers take loans just for ostentatious lifestyle. This cruel cynicism and malice against the farmers did not stop even when thousands of farmers in this country were and are being driven to take their own lives in a phenomenon called farmer suicides,” he said. He also came down heavily on the government, saying that while “corporate loans worth lakhs of crores are waived off with just a single thoughtless stroke of the governmental pen, no one has ever thought of even subsiding the farm debts, forget a complete waiver”.

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Neta Rajinikanth to float party in Jan 2021, hopes for ‘honest’ Tamil Nadu Govt

Last month Rajinikanth tweeted that he would consult with the officials of Rajini Makkal Mandram his health condition and announce his political stance to the people.

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Chennai, Dec 3 : Actor Rajinikanth on Thursday said he would float his political party in January and an announcement in that regard will be made on December 31, 2020.

With this Rajinikanth puts an end to various speculations about his plunge into Tamil Nadu politics.

Announcing this in a tweet he added: “In the upcoming assembly polls, with people’s massive support, in Tamil Nadu, an honest, transparent corruption less, secular and spiritual politics is sure to happen.”

“Miracle, Wonder will happen,” he added.

On November 30 Rajinikanth told the District Secretaries of Rajini Makkal Mandram that he would announce his political plunge decision.

Speaking to reporters here, couple of District Secretaries said the actor had told them that he would decide on floating a political party and plunge into politics.

Rajinikanth would announce his decision on jumping into active Tamil Nadu politics soon, said two District Secretaries.

According to the Mandram officials, they also expressed concern at Rajinikanth’s health condition and contesting the 2021 Tamil Nadu assembly polls will be the ideal time.

The meeting lasted for about two hours.

After the meeting he waved at the crowd assembled outside his Raghavendra Kalyana Mandapam sans mask and also mingled with the others without any hesitation.

It is also said Rajinikanth had told the District Secretaries that it is not possible for anyone to make money in politics with him.

Last month Rajinikanth tweeted that he would consult with the officials of Rajini Makkal Mandram his health condition and announce his political stance to the people.

At that time, denying a statement purported to be issued by him announcing his decision to quit politics Rajinikanth said some of the contents in that statement relating to his health and the medical advice given by the doctors were true.

“After discussing the matter with the officials of Rajini Makkal Mandram at an appropriate time will announce my political stance to the people,” Rajinikanth had said.

As per the alleged statement, Rajinikanth’s doctors had voiced out their reservations on his political entry since he had undergone a kidney transplant sometime back. Further there is no vaccine for Covid-19.

Further even if there is a vaccine, whether it would be effective at his age of 70.

The election for Tamil Nadu Assembly is slated in 2021.

As per the purported statement, if Rajinikanth had to start a political party then the plans would have to be finalised by December and announcement to be made in January 15th next year.

The condition of his health getting bad was also mentioned as he had to address rallies and meet people once he plunges into active politics during the Covid-19 period.

Asserting that he was not getting into politics for the sake of power, actor turned politician Rajinikanth in March this year ruled himself out of the race for the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s post and said there was an urgent need for a change in the system.

He said that his political party and the government, in case it came to power, would have different leaders.

He said that 60-65 per cent of his party’s candidate for the Tamil Nadu Assembly polls will be in the age group of 45-50. The remaining seats will go to “good people” in other parties, professionals, judges, and former IAS officers.

Recalling his speech on December 31, 2017, Rajini said that he was not into politics for power. At the age of 45 (in 1996) he was not interested in political power, and now at the age of 68 (in 2017) one cannot say he is power crazy, he recalled saying two years ago.

On December 31, 2017, Rajinikanth had announced his decision to float a political party to practice ‘spiritual politics’ and contest all 234 Assembly seats in Tamil Nadu in 2021.

The actor said at that time that his entry into politics was a “compulsion of time” since the country’s politics had gone wrong.

Rajinikanth had remarked that while earlier kings would invade other countries and loot them, nowadays political parties were looting their own people under the guise of democracy. The system needs a change, he added.

After 2017, Rajinikanth has voiced his views on some issues. In the wake of anti-Sterlite Copper smelter plant protest in Tuticorin and killing of 13 persons in police firing, he said that Tamil Nadu would turn into a graveyard if protests were held for everything.

Later, he said that he was not a mouthpiece of the BJP and attempts were being made to paint him in saffron.

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Farmers’ Income Has Halved, That Of Govt’s Friends Risen: Rahul Takes Dig At Centre

Congress leader seeks scrapping of the three ‘black’ farm laws, asks Centre not to befool farmers with rhetoric.

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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday attacked the Centre over its claim of doubling farmers’ income and alleged that their income has in fact “halved” under the “suit-boot” government, while that of its crony friends has grown four times.

He also demanded that the government abolishes the three “black” farm laws which are against farmers and farm labourers and asked it not to befool them with rhetoric.

No immediate response was available from the government.

Gandhi’s remarks come at a time when farmers from Punjab and Haryana are protesting at the Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders of the national capital against the Centre’s new agriculture reform laws.

“They (government) said farmers’ income will be doubled. What they did was increase the income of (their) ‘friends’ four times and halved that of farmers. This is a government of suit-boot, lies and loot,” the Congress leader said in a tweet in Hindi.

Gandhi also shared a video showing police using water cannons and firing tear gas shells during protests by farmers with a speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi playing in the background wherein he says his government is taking steps to resolve the problems faced by farmers and double their income.

“Modi government, stop giving ‘jumlas’ (rhetoric) to farmers, stop the dishonesty and atrocities, stop giving them the falsehood of talks, (and) abolish all three black laws which are against farmers and labourers,” Gandhi said in another tweet.

The Congress has been attacking the government over the use of force against the protesting farmers, and urged the dispensation to withdraw the new farm laws and redress the grievances of the protesters.

Farmer unions say the three new laws will lead to the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving farmers at the mercy of corporate houses.

But the government says the MSP system will continue and the new laws will give farmers more options to sell their crop.

Farm leaders met Union ministers on Tuesday, but the two sides failed to break the deadlock. The next round of talks is scheduled to be.

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