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The ‘pro-farmer’ Budget that raises questions

Moreover, food subsidy and petroleum subsidies have gone up by wafer thin margin. The estimate for rural development has also just gone up by Rs 1,408 crore.

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farmer sprinkles fertilizer

New Delhi, Feb 1: The BJP terms the Union Budget “pro-farmer” in which fertiliser subsidy has gone down quite a bit. Against last year’s Rs 79,998 crore, this year’s estimated fertilizer subsidy is Rs 71,309 cr.

The government claims it has kept farmers in mind by allocating Rs 2.83 lakh crore for agriculture and allied sectors, but the fine print speaks of a different story.

The ‘Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthan Mahabhiyan’ (PM-KUSUM) will be expanded to help 20 lakh farmers in setting up standalone solar pumps, said Sitharaman. But it was not revealed how much money it will cost and where it will come from.

The Budget speech claimed to set the agricultural credit target at Rs 15 lakh crore.

“The Village Storage Scheme run by self help groups will provide holding capacity for farmers, and women in villages can regain their status as ‘Dhaanya Lakshmi’,” said Sitharaman. While details are given about land required for the same or areas shortlisted, the amount it will cost is not known.

The Finance Minister also announced Kisan Rail and Kisan Udan — farmer-centric railway and aviation services — in her Budget speech. But again, the cost that the programme will incur is not mentioned in detail.

Moreover, food subsidy and petroleum subsidies have gone up by wafer thin margin. The estimate for rural development has also just gone up by Rs 1,408 crore.

Interestingly, the Prime Minister lauded the Budget calling it “visionary” and “action packed”. He said with its efforts of doubling the income of the farmer, 16 action points have been created which will work to increase employment in rural areas.

“Integrated approach to agriculture was adopted in the Budget, which along with traditional methods will increase value addition in horticulture, fisheries, animal husbandry and also increase employment,” Modi said.

But Sitharaman’s “pro-farmer” budget that lacks specifics on cost and the means to cover the same raises questions on the success of the Finance Minister’s intent to double farmers’ income.

Earlier the BJP’s demanded a ‘Gaon, Gareeb, Kisan Budget’ in its three-hour-long pre-Budget meeting with the Finance Minister on January 9. BJP General Secretary Arun Singh, who had attended the meeting, told the media after its conclusion that it will be a “Gaon, Gareeb, Kisan” (village, poor, farmer) driven budget.

As Sitharaman read out the details, it turned out, she respected the BJP’s sentiment. But with the coffers running dry, the question that begs an answer is: how can she fulfil her promises?

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MP bypolls: Kamal Nath’s ‘item’ remark raises political heat

Political observers feel that issues which have nothing to do with the general masses are given a political colour to influence voters, in the absence of discussion on real issues affecting them.

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Kamal Nath

It comes in the wake of “coming from a hungry and ill-clad family” remarks used by another Congress leader Dinesh Gurjar for Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

While campaigning in Dabra segment in Gwalior district on Sunday, Kamal Nath had allegedly called Imarti Devi an ‘item’, making the BJP turn aggressive and trying to derive political mileage from the situation even as the Congress accused BJP of trying to misinterpret certain words.

The process of filing of nominations for the Assembly seats, which will go to polls on November 3, has since been completed and both parties are now in full campaigning mode.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that Kamal Nath’s remark against the Minister was symptomatic of “petty mentality”.

“Imarti Devi is a daughter of a farmer who began doing labour in her village and has since emerged as a public representative in building the nation. First, the Congress called me ‘hungry and ill-clad’ and now she has been called an ‘item’. This shows the feudal mindset of Kamal Nath,” the Chief Minister said.

BJP MP and former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said that “calling a woman coming from a poor labourer family an item and ‘jalebi’ by another Congress leader Ajay Singh was both condemnable and objectionable.

“Kamal Nath’s comments reflect his thinking towards Dalits and women. Similarly, Digvijay Singh had used such remarks against party leader Meenakshi Natarajan.”

BJP state unit President Vishnudatt Sharma too flayed the remarks as “shameful”, particularly against a woman when the country was celebrating Navratras.

“Kamal Nath has insulted the womanhood by calling the Minister an item,” Sharma alleged.

In Lucknow, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati too jumped into the controversy and demanded on Monday that the Congress leadership should issue a public apology for the remark against a Dalit woman.

She said the remark was “objectionable”. “The remarks made by a former Chief Minister against a Dalit woman candidate in Dabra (Reserve) Assembly segment is highly shameful and needs to be condemned. The Congress leadership should take note and issue a public apology,” the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister tweeted.

She appealed to the Dalit voters to teach a lesson to the Congress in the by-elections in Madhya Pradesh and vote for her BSP to ensure that such incidents don’t occur in future.

On the other hand, Kamal Nath said the BJP was indulging in a “false propaganda” regarding his remarks.

“I did use the word ‘item’, but it is not an insulting word. I am also an item, you are also an item. In this sense, we all are items. During legislative proceedings, we use words like ‘item numbers’. When the state’s people are in a pathetic condition, the BJP instead of wiping their tears is making an issue out of consumption of a beverage by me. Is it a public issue? Are the people’s lives connected with this?” the Congress leader and former Chief Minister remarked.

Political observers feel that issues which have nothing to do with the general masses are given a political colour to influence voters, in the absence of discussion on real issues affecting them.

The BJP will not let go of the chance to use the ‘hungry and ill-clad’ and ‘item’ remarks to its advantage by making these as ‘rich vs poor’ and ‘Dalit’ and ‘women’ issues ahead of the by-elections.

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Old hand, trusted by both Rahul, Ahmed Patel, is Congress choice for Bihar

Shaktisinh Gohil has his task cut out as party in-charge for state, but there are many reasons he may be the man for the job.

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Rahul-Gandhi_Ahmed-Patel

Shaktisinh Gohil may seem an odd choice as the Congress in-charge of Bihar, particularly given the uphill battle the party faces in a state where it has been now out of power since 1990. However, there are two things that make the 60-year-old uniquely placed for the job: the fact that he is a veteran of many political battles against Narendra Modi-led BJP in native Gujarat; and that he is among the few Congress leaders considered close to both Ahmed Patel and Rahul Gandhi.

In his over three-decade political career, it is the first time Gohil will be overseeing a state election as an AICC pointsman. His hand is seen in the hard bargaining by the Congress to secure 70 seats in the Mahagathbandhan, a huge jump from the 41 the party had contested in Bihar in 2015.

A veteran in Gujarat politics, Gohil first entered the national stage in 2014, when he was made a Congress spokesperson. He was elevated as in-charge of Bihar in 2018, given additional charge of Delhi earlier this year, and made a Rajya Sabha MP in June this year.

Often described as Ahmed Patel’s “right-hand man”, Gohil was the Congress veteran’s poll agent in the closely fought 2017 Rajya Sabha election that Patel had won, outmanoeuvring the BJP.

Gohil started his political career in the early 1980s while still in college. In the mid-1980s, as Youth Congress office-bearer, he had been spotted by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi at a national function.

He won the Bhavnagar South Assembly seat in Gujarat at the age of 30 in 1990, and became the minister of state for health at the age of 32 under Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel. He was then the youngest minister in Gujarat’s history.

Two years later though, Gohil took everyone by surprise by resigning over the demand for a medical college for Bhavnagar. The medical college was allocated eventually and Gohil won the seat again in 1995.

Gohil did not contest the 1998 election and lost the one in 2002 that marked Modi’s first electoral win. In the next election in 2007, he returned to the Assembly from Bhavnagar and was made the Leader of the Opposition, emerging as one of the most vocal critics of Modi. However, Gohil lost the 2012 Assembly elections, and while he eventually returned to the Assembly in a by-election from the Abdasa constituency, in the 2017 polls too he couldn’t win. Since then, Gohil has been focusing on national politics.

The Congress veteran had wanted the Grand Alliance in Bihar to be broad-based, involving parties like Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), Mukesh Sahani’s Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) and the Left, but could not convince RJD chief Tejashwi Yadav about the utility of the RLSP and VIP.

However, he managed to bring the CPI, CPM and CPI (M-L) into the fold.

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Meet the ‘Hero of Baramulla’ who conned Pakistan

While Sherwani had to pay with his life after his bluff was caught; he had refused to say, ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ till the very end.

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Maqbool Sherwani

New Delhi, Oct 18 : An event of patriotism from erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 has been given a fresh lease of life. The Union Ministry of Culture has thrown its weight behind the story of October 22, 1947 in its pursuit to mainstream the events of that day that could have altered Kashmir, as we know today.

The Ministry has decided to hold a National Symposium and virtual exhibition on Maqbool Sherwani, a fellow Kashmiri who halted the marching Pakistan-backed tribal militia towards Srinagar.

While Sherwani might have given the Indian Army adequate time to send reinforcements, he had to pay with his own life.

Now, the Narendra Modi-led Central government wants to publicise and mainstream this tale of selfless sacrifice and utter heroism that is starkly opposite to the attempted narrative by Pakistan and certain elements within the valley that Kashmiris want freedom.

The ministry is hailing him as the ‘Hero of Baramulla’.

Prof Amitabh Mattoo will virtually join the symposium themed on “Martyr Maqbool Sherwani: Memory, myth and Imagination”. The Centre organised symposium is also scheduled to take place the same day, Sherwani flaunted his passion for the country- 22nd October. The event is likely to be beamed live on all social media handles of the ministry — Twitter, Youtube, Facebook and Instagram.

“The bravery and subsequent martyrdom of Maqbool Sherwani in 1947 and the story of his role during the Pakistan-backed invasion of Kashmir needs to be mainstreamed throughout India,” says Mattoo.

Sherwani, then a 19-year-old National Conference worker, has been credited with single-handedly stalling the advance of the tribal invaders to Srinagar.

“He managed the feat by telling the invaders that Indian Army was camping outside Baramulla and that a move towards Srinagar would be their undoing. The enemy froze in its tracks before the Indian reinforcement had reached Srinagar. Many say that the outcome of the war would have been different had invaders reached Srinagar before the Indian Army,” reads an e-poster by the Union Ministry of Culture created for the event that will be used to generate interest, in the coming few days over social media.

While Sherwani had to pay with his life after his bluff was caught; he had refused to say, ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ till the very end.

His body was nailed on a wooden plank and left. Now, this heroic story will be disseminated to today’s generation of India and more so to those in the valley, many of whom may not be aware of such an event that could have altered history.

The Culture Ministry has also prepared a 53 second long audio video clip that will be teased over social media to create a buzz and generate interest in him and the significance of the date.

(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at [email protected])

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