Notwithstanding it’s too early, rumblings in Maharashtra and Delhi may just play spoilsport for united Opposition’s ‘INDIA’ bloc. The path to elections 2024 no doubt is long and arduous, but both NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal are not making it any easier. Pawar’s ‘clandestine’ meetings with nephew and Maharashtra’s Dy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, has led to nagging suspicion in the MVA. The Congress is giving credence to rumours of senior Pawar and daughter Supriya Sule having been offered a post in Modi’s Cabinet by Ajit in lieu of their deserting the bloc, while Uddhav Thackeray faction chooses to give him the benefit of doubt. Senior Pawar has rubbished all insinuations and led a blistering attack against BJP while addressing the ‘Swabhiman rally’ in his home district Beed on Thursday last. The party, he said, was pulling down democratically installed governments in States and widening the rift in society. He took pot shots at Modi saying “current political scenario is not favourable for him. I have no doubts he will not return as PM in 2024.” Convincing enough? The next INDIA conclave in Mumbai should provide answers.
Likewise, the national capital Delhi has both Congress and AAP trading charges. A meeting of local Congress leaders with the top brass on Wednesday last has got AAP seeing red. A war of words has broken out. “If Congress has already decided to not form an alliance with us, then it’s of no use for us to attend the next ‘INDIA’ alliance meeting…Our top leadership will decide,” reacted its Delhi spokesperson. This after a Congress leader claimed the party had asked its cadres and leaders to start preparing for the 7 Lok Sabha seats, held by the BJP. To cool down tempers, Congress had to do a U-turn. Notwithstanding President Kharge asserting that revitalisation of Delhi Congress was a priority, “in which participation of all leaders and workers is necessary. We had made Delhi prosperous and happy, our struggle for the people of Delhi continues even further,” the Congress asked AAP not to read too much in the statements and urged it “to understand… the entire media wants to support the BJP… wants to provoke you…” Passing the buck, won’t help. Sincerity in united action is needed.
* * * * * * *
Rain fury has devastated the hill State of Himachal Pradesh. The incessant rains for past three days have claimed 74 deaths so far, 21 alone in 3 major landslides in capital Shimla, including at Shiva temple; over 2000 people have been evacuated by Indian Army and Air Force. Chief Minister Sukhu has assured people all possible help, but it’s a tall order — losses are a whopping 7,500 crore; plus 875 roads blocked, 1,135 transformers and 285 water supply schemes disrupted! The MLAs will need to chip in with their local area development fund of Rs 2.10 crore per year. Not enough as calculations will go up given that despair looms over the tourism industry and apple orchards. Sadly, governments don’t learn from mistakes. The Disaster Management Dept data reveals a shocking 6-time rise in incidents of major landslides in 2022, 117 as compared to 16 in 2020. Plus, there are 17,120 landslide-prone sites of which 675 are near critical infrastructure and habitations. Reasons: “Unscientific constructions, depleting forest cover, cutting of rocks at foothills, structures near streams blocking flow of water, lack of proper drainage system et al. Time to stop blaming the rain God.
* * * * * * *
BJP’s Surprise Move
The BJP has sprung a big surprise. Months ahead of the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and even before Nirvachan Sadan is to announce the dates, the BJP on Thursday last announced its first list of candidates: 39 seats of 230 in Madhya Pradesh and 21 in Chhattisgarh of 90 seats, currently held by rival Congress. The lists include five women each in both States and several SC, ST reserved constituencies where the party had suffered serious reverses in 2018. The announcement comes 24 hours after the party’s Central Election Committee met in Delhi, chaired by party President Nadda and attended by Prime Minister Modi and Union Ministers Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh, among others. The urgency is being viewed not only in the backdrop of Congress upstaging it recently in Karnataka polls and that it devoted less time to get its list in order, but the sheer fact that these polls along with three other States later this year, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram, are bound to have a bearing in the big battle, Lok Sabha 2024. While it’s logical the BJP wants to outdo the ruling Congress in Chhattisgarh though it seems on a weak wicket, the urgency in MP suggests unfavourable intelligence reports along with the anti-incumbency factor weighing against it. Be that as it may, the BJP seems to give credence to the saying ‘The early bird catches the worm.’ Will it?
* * * * * * *
Preparations for Assembly polls in Rajasthan raise eyebrows on one hand and on the other bring cheer. Developments in both BJP and Congress hint exciting drama ahead. First the BJP: former Chief Minister and National VP Vasundhara Raje wasn’t in either of election management and manifesto committees, announced on Thursday last. Her non-inclusion hit social media, with BJP having to explain that while manifesto drafting involves ‘scholarly work’ and therefore Law Minister Meghwal is ‘best suited’, the poll panel ‘will mainly be tasked with managing rallies, arranging tents, chairs, food, etc, and it isn’t at par with Raje’s stature’. Instead, she will campaign, ‘a big role’! The bigger, CM face, remains in limbo. On Congress front, Chief Minister Gehlot-Sachin Pilot face-off thankfully may be passé. The former came out in support of Pilot trashing BJP allegations of his father, former Union minister Rajesh Pilot, being involved in bombings over Mizoram in 1966. He “was a brave IAF pilot. By insulting them, BJP is insulting the sacrifice of IAF. The whole country should condemn this,’ Gehlot’s official X handle read. Sachin too hit out saying BJP had wrong dates, wrong facts. “Yes, as an IAF pilot, my late father did drop bombs. But that was on erstwhile East Pakistan during 1971 Indo-Pak war. He was commissioned into IAF only on 29th October 1966! (Certificate attached)” Fingers will be crossed they remain on the same page.
* * * * * * *
Manipur is far from returning to normalcy! The claim by both the Centre and BJP-led Biren Singh government appears to be hollow. On Friday last, fresh violence erupted in the ethnic strife-torn north-eastern State and three youths mutilated bodies were found following heavy gunfire in the morning at Kuki Thowai village, Ukhrul district. As the police searched surrounding villages and forest area, the bodies of the men with injury marks and limbs cut off were discovered. 48 hours earlier, eight firearms,112 rounds of ammunition and six explosives were recovered from different districts of Bishnupur, Churachandpur, Tengnoupal after search operations by security forces, who admitted the situation ‘was tense with sporadic incidents of firing and congregation of protesters.’ A CPM delegation led by Sitaram Yechury, which is undertaking a three-day visit to the State, would confirm this too. While the party seeks to ‘express solidarity with the people of Manipur and tell them that India is with you,’ Yechury reiterated the demand that Biren Singh be “sacked” as the situation in the State is ‘dangerous.’ Recall a 5-member TMC team and another 21-member delegation from new alliance INDIA had visited the State around Parliament’s monsoon session. A common demand has been to remove Chief Minister Singh, but the Centre refuses to budge. When will it change its mind?—INFA