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Projecting Rahul as PM candidate is conscious effort by BJP: AAP

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Modi Rahul

New Delhi, Aug 9 (IANS) The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) believes that the BJP is consciously trying to position the 2019 Lok Sabha election as a Rahul Gandhi-versus-Narendra Modi affair for its own convenience.

AAP leader and chief spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said the projection of Rahul Gandhi will only harm the opposition.

“Projecting Rahul as PM candidate is a conscious effort of the BJP to position this contest as Rahul-versus-Modi as it suits them,” Bhardwaj told IANS.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he said, was choosing its opponent according to its convenience.

“If they choose Mayawati or Mamata, there is a problem. Rahul has never been a minister or a Chief Minister,” said the MLA from Greater Kailash constituency who is a known confidant of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The BJP was creating a perception in which Modi will be seen as a stronger candidate in the battle for prime ministership when his opponent is Rahul Gandhi.

“The perception created about Rahul is to ensure that if there is a contest between Rahul and Modi, Modi will be a stronger candidate,” he said.

But the projection of Rahul Gandhi suits the Congress, he added.

“The Congress is also liking this positioning as it suits them. Their leader is getting the limelight.

“However, this positioning will not suit the opposition’s fight against Modi and the BJP. Projecting Rahul as PM will be a loss for the opposition,” he warned.

He added that for the last three months, BJP leaders, including Modi, were attacking Rahul Gandhi. “Attacking Rahul by taking his name is BJP’s poll strategy.”

Taking about the contest in the national capital, where the AAP is in power, Bhardwaj said the Lok Sabha battle would be between the BJP and AAP.

“The fight in Delhi is between AAP and BJP. Congress will not get a single seat. Their vote percentage may go up, but they will not win seats.”

Bhardwaj also said that the AAP was not part of any opposition alliance. “The party has no plans of giving support to anyone in 2019. Also, there is no plan for any kind of alliance or understanding with the Congress. This is very clear,” he added.

Speaking about AAP’s preparations for the Lok Sabha polls, he said the party had appointed “prabharis” (in-charge) for five of Delhi’s seven Lok Sabha constituencies in June.

“The remaining two will be appointed very soon. Within a week hopefully. It is very likely that they will also be the candidates.”

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP bagged all the seven seats in Delhi. The AAP came stood second in all constituencies and the Congress finished third in six and in fourth spot in one constituency.

The AAP swept the later, February 2015, Assembly elections, winning 67 of the 70 seats. The BJP won three seats and the Congress none.

(Nivedita Singh can be contacted at [email protected])

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Mishandling Kashmir: Learning little from history

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Independent India and I are both septuagenarians, but since I am a trifle older, I take the liberty of indulging in some reminiscences on the nation’s 71st birthday. My recollections are focused on Kashmir where I was born, in a town called Anantnag.

I particularly remember the traumatic night of October 30, 1947 when India was 10 weeks old and I had just turned three. In my mother’s arms I, with two elder siblings, hid under bushes in our garden as bullets ricocheted off our cottage roof. We lived in Badgam village, 30 km from Srinagar airport. The fusillade was coming from surrounding hills, occupied by Pakistani kabailis (tribals), en route from Uri and Baramulla, hoping to capture Srinagar airport.

At dawn, we piled into the family horse-drawn tonga, with just the clothes on our back and fled to the airport, where RIAF DC-3 Dakotas were disembarking Indian troops. We clambered into a departing aircraft, which flew us to Delhi, and refuge, with relatives.

Growing up in lovely little towns of the Valley in post-independence decades was idyllic and I reluctantly parted from my parents in Leh in 1959, to join college and the Indian Navy. In Jammu and Kashmir, my playmates were all Kashmiris — of Muslim, Hindu and Sikh faith. Our parents were friends; we ate in each others’ homes and celebrated festivals together. But even as children, we understood that Kashmir was not (yet) India, and that the average Kashmiri’s attitude towards India was ambivalent.

India provided huge financial assistance to Jammu and Kashmir: Food, education, clothing and medicine were either free or heavily subsidised. Kashmiris would accept the largesse, but tune in every evening to Radio Pakistan which invariably played on their religious heart-strings, spouting propaganda about “occupation” of Kashmir and “atrocities” by the Bharatiya fauj (Indian Army).

Kashmir’s first ‘Prime Minister’ (he was called Wazir-e-Azam) Sheikh Abdullah was the state’s tallest figure then; a friend of Nehru’s and a staunch secularist, he was the self-styled Sher-e-Kashmir (Lion of Kashmir). In 1953 we were startled to hear that he had allegedly conspired with the Americans to become “King Abdullah” of an independent Kashmir. He was arrested and the Valley burst into flames.

I recall seeing my father, then Magistrate of Baramulla, coming home, bleeding from the head; there had been stone-pelting in the old town, as agitators waved Pakistani flags and shouted pro-Pakistan slogans.

While the 1950s and 60s may not have witnessed wild enthusiasm for India, there was neither hostility nor bitterness amongst Kashmiris.

However, an utterly unimaginative New Delhi had little to offer them, apart from money. As much as 95 per cent of the millions that India poured into Jammu and Kashmir never reached the impoverished Kashmiri. In the absence of a politico-economic strategy for creating jobs, industry or infrastructure, Indian money merely enriched Kashmiri politicians and aggravated popular resentment and alienation, which Pakistan exploited.

India’s maladroitness did not end here. A succession of Pakistani-orchestrated incidents, between 1963 and 1999, demonstrated the ineptness of our intelligence agencies, lack of civil-military coordination and the complete strategic bankruptcy of New Delhi. This depressing sequence included the theft of Prophet Mohammad’s sacred relic, seizure of Hazaratbal shrine, capture and burning of the Charar-e-Sharif shrine, expulsion of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley, the Kargil War and hijacking of IC-814.

This reminiscence is not a history of Kashmir’s travails, but merely a reminder to those who profess shock at recent developments in the Valley that the Indian state has, since 1947, learnt nothing from history, repeated its mistakes and failed to convince Kashmiris that they are Indian.

The French have a cynical aphorism: “the more things change, the more they remain the same”. This Independence Day, let us introspect if this is true of India’s management of Kashmir.

(The author is a former chief of the Indian Navy and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. The article is in special arrangement with South Asia Monitor.)

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I-Day musing: Does not the law and its protecton apply to all?

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August 15 this year marks the 71st anniversary of Indian independence. As the Prime Minister unfurls the national flag at the Red Fort, it is a celebratory moment; yet, a certain sense of bleakness and despondency is palpable. There is a deeply ingrained perception that anarchy is spreading in the country and that the state has abdicated in its primary responsibility of ensuring the safety and security of every citizen, irrespective of religion, caste, class and gender. Recent events bear testimony to this mood.

In an unprecedented development, the Attorney General (AG) of India K.K. Venugopal informed the Supreme Court in an anguished manner that there was an incident of major rioting every week in different parts of the country and that they often go unpunished. The AG noted: “Kanwarias (a sect of Hindu pilgrims) are overturning vehicles in Delhi…There is an incident of major rioting every week, even by educated groups. Marathas in Maharashtra, SC/ST (scheduled caste/scheduled tribe)… nothing is done.”

Earlier, a former Chief Justice of India, T.S. Thakur, asked a very pertinent question: “When we see day in and day out, mobs lynching people, it’s a complete failure of rule of law. If a mob can take the law into its hands and administer summary justice, what kind of rule of law is this?”

The sub-text in both cases is that the Indian State has become selective in how it applies the law and that there is a tacit indifference to the safety and welfare of the minority citizenry.

Thus what is disturbing is the pattern that emerges in the disaggregation of the violence that is ostensibly spontaneous — be it the rioting mob, the beef-lynchings or now the Kanwarias, the annual north Indian ritual of carrying water from the Ganga to one’s home.

Thousands of Hindu devotees walk long distances in July-August to collect the sacred water and, over the years, the numbers have been swelling and the entire event has acquired a huge carnival profile with music, dancing, et al. Given the religious significance attached to the event and the majority Hindu sentiment nurtured by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Kanwaria pilgrimage also has an electoral relevance. This has clearly become more acute in the run-up to the 2019 national election.

Indian politics and the gradual absorption of the religious leader to high office is exemplified by the election of Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu monk, as the Chief Minister of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh in March 2017. This was a significant development at the time for South Asia, for not even Pakistan, which was created on the basis of religion, had appointed an Islamic cleric to such office.

Thus, in August, India witnessed an unusual spectacle — that of Kanwarias being showered with rose petals from a helicopter by none less than the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and senior police officials. That some of these Kanwarias have become a law unto themselves has been brought to the attention of the courts – but as the AG noted, “nothing is done”.

The ascendancy of religious orientation in Indian politics and the BJP’s empathy for unbridled Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) fervour has an electoral dimension to it. Uttar Pradesh is the swing state that will shape the outcome at the in 2019 elections. Thus the pandering to the majority community is predictable — but this comes with a very heavy price.

Citizenship in India is no longer equal and the law, alas, is not applied equitably. On its 71st independence anniversary, one cannot ignore the conjecture that India, which had determinedly rejected the two-nation theory in August 1947, is now moving towards it in a visible manner. The question whether the silent Indian majority, that is Hindu, subscribes to the ugly manifestation of Hindutva and the violence associated with it, remains moot. But the state cannot abdicate and the exhortation of the Attorney General should not be ignored.

(The author is Director, Society for Policy Studies, New Delhi. The article is in special arrangement with South Asia Monitor)

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M Karunanidhi: A colossus in Dravidian politics

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Chennai, Aug  7: Muthuvel Karunanidhi was one of the last links to the Dravidian movement that ushered in the rise of backward classes in politics and the end of Congress rule in Tamil Nadu five decades ago on the plank of social justice.

A five-time Chief Minister, the 94-year-old Karunanidhi, who strode the public life of Tamil Nadu like a colossus, also played a key role in national politics when he aligned with Indira Gandhi in 1971 and reaped rich rewards in elections.

But he staunchly opposed the Emergency of 1975-77 during which his government was dismissed on corruption charges. He was banished to the opposition ranks till the death of his friend-turned-foe and iconic film hero M.G. Ramachandran or MGR in December 1987.

Under Karunanidhi, the DMK occupied a prime position in the UPA governments at the Centre in 2004 and 2009 and earlier in the NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpyee, an alignment that surprised many given the party’s Dravidian moorings.

He was a wily politician who succeeded his mentor C.N. Annadurai or ‘Anna’ as Chief Minister in 1969 and kept a stranglehold on the party and government. He remained the President of the DMK for nearly 50 years, a rare feat in any democratic country.

Always sporting dark glasses, which became his trademark identity, and in later years a yellow stole, which critics said was against the atheism he preached.

With the death of his arch rival J. Jayalalithaa in 2016 and his departure now, Tamil Nadu is left with a void.

Born in Tirukkuvalai in the erstwhile Thanjavur district on June 3, 1924, Karunanidhi was a multifaceted personality — journalist, playwright, script writer — whose fiery dialogues as an iconoclast in films unleashed changes in Tamil Nadu’s social scene.

He joined the Dravidian movement as a teenager under the tutelage of the late social reformer ‘Periyar’ E.V. Ramasamy and Anna.

‘Kalaignar’, as Karunanidhi was called for his proficiency in arts and literature, fashioned theatre and cinema in a way that gave a fillip to the Dravidian movement and the rise of DMK as a major pole in Tamil Nadu.

Karunanidhi’s political fortunes rose when Anna broke away from the DK to float the DMK in 1949. The box office hit of Tamil movie ‘Parasakthi’ for which he wrote the script and a ‘rail roko’ agitation in Kallakudi near Tiruchirapalli made him known throughout the state.

He ascended to the DMK throne and the Chief Ministership following the death of party founder Annadurai in 1969.

Karunanidhi had the party in his strong grip till the end despite presiding over two major splits and being out of power continuously between 1977 and 1989.

Born in a poor Isai Vellalar (a backward caste) family, he was named Dakshinamurthy by his god-fearing parents Muthuvel and Anjugam. He later changed that to Karunanidhi, a Tamil name shorn of any Brahminical or Sanskrit tinge.

He also took part in the anti-Hindi agitations of 1937-40 and published a handwritten newspaper ‘Manavar Nesan’ (Friend of Students) and later formed the first student wing of the Dravidian movement, Tamil Nadu Manavar Mandram.

The anti-Hindi agitation was revived by the DMK in 1965, leading to massive anti-Congress sentiments amid much violence.

Karunanidhi also published ‘Murasoli’, a monthly which grew to become a weekly and the DMK’s official daily. Last year it celebrated its platinum jubilee.

He contested his first Assembly election in 1957 from Kulithalai successfully and since then has not lost any of the 13 elections he contested.

His fortunes gained further strength when the DMK won the 1967 elections and Annadurai made Karunanidhi the Minister of Public Works.

After Anna’s death in 1969, Karunanidhi became the Chief Minister. He led the DMK to a landslide win in 1971.

Bad times started soon after. Perceiving the popularity of movie hero and party leader MGR as a future threat to him, Karunanidhi began sidelining him and ousted him in 1972.

MGR floated the AIADMK that took power in 1977. He cultivated the Congress well — sharing liberally the Lok Sabha seats while retaining his hold on the Assembly — to effectively consign the DMK to the opposition benches.

DMK’s fortunes revived in 1989 when it won handsomely assisted by a split in AIADMK, with one faction led by its founder’s widow Janaki Ramachandran and the other by Jayalalithaa.

However, in 1991, the DMK government was dismissed in the wake of heightened activities in Tamil Nadu of Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers whose vocal supporter he was. After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination by a LTTE suicide bomber in May 1991, the AIADMK under Jayalalithaa swept to power.

The DMK suffered a second split in 1993 when Karunanidhi saw fiery speaker Vaiko as a threat to his son M.K. Stalin’s ascendancy in the party and expelled him.

After that it was a see-saw battle with people choosing DMK and AIADMK alternatively. In 2006, the DMK was voted back to power for its populist promises.

In 2011 Karunanidhi promised more, but the DMK lost the battle. In 2016 too, it suffered the same fate.

A staunch opponent of Congress and its dynastic rule during earlier days, Karunanidhi later changed tact and paved the way for his progenies’ progress within and outside the party.

He brought his sons — through his second wife Dayalu – M.K. Alagiri and M.K.Stalin — into the party. Alagiri became Union Minister while Stalin was declared the political heir. However Alagiri was dismissed from the party later for anti-party activities.

Karunanidhi made Kanimozhi, his daughter by his third wife Rajathi, a Rajya Sabha member.

After the death of Murasoli Maran, his nephew, conscience keeper and the party’s face in Delhi, Karunanidhi got the former’s second son Dayanidhi Maran a Cabinet post in the central ministry in 2004 and 2009.

With coalitions becoming the norm at the Centre, the DMK started siding with BJP and Congress to get cabinet berths.

It was the Sarkaria Commission which first stamped Karunanidhi as corrupt in the matter of allotting tenders for the old Veeranam water project.

Though Karunanidhi was jailed several times during his long political innings, what shocked many was his midnight arrest by the Jayalalithaa regime in 2001 on corruption charges.

His wife Dayalu and daughter Kaimozhi were questioned by the CBI over corruption charges.

When the Sethusamudram Canal Project got mired in controversy, Karunanidhi shocked the nation by wondering aloud whether Lord Rama was an engineer to build bridge across the sea.

Karunanidhi donated his home at Gopalapuram to a trust to convert it into a hospital for poor after his and his wife Dayalu’s lifetime.

Karunanidhi is survived by his two wives Dayalu and Rajathi, sons M.K. Muthu, Alagiri, Stalin and M.K. Tamilarasu and daughters S. Selvi and Kanimozhi and grandchildren.

 

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