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Amit Shah vs Ghulam Nabi Azad: Congress and BJP lock horns

Arti Ghargi

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While BJP President Amit Shah slammed the Congress for its comment on unemployment, Ghulam Nabi Azad called the BJP ‘The weakest government’ in past 70 years.

 

The winter session of the parliament mostly remained stormy. The Budget Session witnessed nothing different as well. Ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha election both Congress and BJP are taking each other head on the inside as well as outside the parliament.

Today, BJP President Amit Shah made his maiden speech in Rajya Sabha. Amit Shah moved a motion of thanks and parliament decided to discuss on it over Monday and Tuesday.

However, Amit Shah’s first speech was filled with sharp attacks on Congress. Amit Shah said when his party came to power in 2014, it was handed over a country where economic progress had gone downhill, by the preceding government.

Shah said, after 30 years in a “historic mandate” a party received a sweeping majority to form the government at the centre.  He said, “For the first time after independence, a non-Congress party was given mandate by the public and it was a BJP government led by PM Modi. In spite of getting an absolute majority, we formed the government with NDA members.”

Invoking Mahatma Gandhi and Deendayal Upadhyaya he said that the BJP has worked for the upliftment of the weakest sections of the society. Praising PM Modi he said that before 20114, vote bank politics had ridden the system and nobody was ready to leave their privileges. He reminded the house of former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri recalling that after his request to fast, it was PM Narendra Modi who asked people to give up on something for the poor people. “The PM asked the well-off people to give up their gas subsidies and people responded positively,” said Shah.

Taking a swipe at critics of Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan he said, “Those living in Lutyens Zone will not understand the importance of toilets in every house.” For last few months, Congress has surrounded the government on a number of problems including unemployment. Rahul Gandhi during his speeches had raised the issue too. Shah defending the BJP government said that the Congress ruled the country for over 50 years. “Why couldn’t the Congress find a solution?” Shah asked. He also slammed former Finance Minister for his pakoda seller jibe. He said, “I believe it is better to work hard by selling pakodas rather than be unemployed. What sort of a mentality is it when you compare a pakoda-seller to a beggar?’ Amit Shah.

Talking about GST, he accused Congress of destroying the federal structure. Shah said he had studied GST and claims that small businesses will be destroyed are over the top. Boasting about the surgical strike by the army, he said the world realised that after America and Israel, India is the only country which can protect its soldiers & Army.

Kashmir and the increased instances of stone-pelting remains a main criticizing point of opposition. Shah claimed Kashmir is the safest in past 35 years. Attacking the Congress for stalling Triple Talaq Bill he said the party has to answer the people. Talking about the winning streak of the party, he said: “some parties are now finding victory in losing elections.”

Shah’s speech indeed fiery launched a sharp attack on the Congress who is trying to galvanize the support of opposition ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections. However, from Congress’ side, the leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad took the charge of countering the accusations made by Amit Shah.

He began his speech wondering why Amit Shah didn’t mention Sardar Patel in his speech. With his witty replies to Amit Shah, it seemed that Azad had fully prepared to give tit for tat. Congress after 2G verdict last year had said that it feels vindicated. Azad today said that the UPA government was accused of Himalayan sized corruption but the CBI acquitted everyone under your government.

Taking a jibe at scheme introduced by BJP government, he said, “The Modi is the government is not game changer they are just namechangers.” Reminding Shah of election promises made by his party he said that the only thing the government has changed in last 3.5 years is the name of the country from India to New India.

Azad also targeted state government ruled by BJP. He said the crime rates in BJP ruled states has increased multiple folds.  He said, “BJP ruled states like Haryana has become the hub of criminal activities, gruesome rapes happening with minor and innocent girls.”  He struck a chord with members saying, “What kind of New India are we developing? If this is the new India give us our old India.”

Azad did not spare even Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah. In a veiled dig, he said, “BJP has one original scheme on how to turn Rs 50,000 to over Rs 80,00,00,000 but they don’t share it with us if they do everyone would be happy.” Talking about the budget introduced by the government last week, he said the Government’s promise to double farmer’s income is just a lollipop.

Slamming the ruling Modi government on Kashmir issue, he said that the government does not have a policy on Kashmir. “The maximum number of security personnel, armed forces personnel and civilians have died under your government in last three years,” Azad said. Calling the Modi government, the weakest in 70 years he said, the government failed to bring Massod Azhar to justice.

Replying to accusations on Triple Talaq bill he said the Congress supports the good part of the bill but opposes the part where it criminalises Muslim men. He said the BJP has created a divide between Hindu and Muslims.

Opinion

SHHH…Nobody Cares

Sujit Nair

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“Rape is rape, it should not be politicized” says PM Narendra Modi. Our Honorable Prime Minister seems to have forgotten his statement made on December 2, 2013, when he said: “Congress has made Delhi the rape capital”. I am sure that too was an ‘Election Jumla’ and he didn’t mean what he said.

The question is does anyone in our country truly mean what he or she says when it comes to women’s right or crime against women.  Smriti Irani, Sushma Swaraj, Meenakshi Lekhi… all of them prolifically protested (and rightly so..) the Nirbhaya rape incident, but went cold when it came to Kathua and Unnao. Then perhaps it was the opportunity to oust the Congress government that motivated them more than the brutal rape of the young innocent Delhi girl.

All the glitterati protests, candle marches, how many of these are actually heartfelt and real? Not one follow up action, no PILs, no answers sought from the administration, no relief or support for the bereaved family… just an upmarket media studded ‘roadshow’. A few hashtagged handwritten posters (the current social media trend) some emotional dialogues and protests registered. Good to go for the next social engagement. Matter closed.

Lastly, what a weak and timid opposition, at least the BJP had protested with their might and force in 2013 for Nirbhaya…whatever the reason. The current opposition including the Congress put up a half-hearted, half-baked, I really don’t care.. type of a protest for Katua and Unnao victims.

It’s the common men and women of India who are silently fighting for the rights of the little girl from Kathua or against the power drowsed MLA from Unnao unnoticed by the rest of the world and celebrity struck media. God bless India…God bless our daughters.

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Are Congress and BJP in love?

Arti Ghargi

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The two national Parties-Congress and BJP have started wiping off their differences and seemingly have adopted the policy of imitation.

 

The politics today is showing a new shift in its discourse. The politics that we knew earlier, were all about political parties striving to convey to the people how they are “different” from that of the opposition. The BJP always maintained that they are different from the “minority-appeaser” Congress. Congress always asserted that the party is “secular” as opposed to the BJP. The CPM differentiated itself on the lines of Anti-Capitalism. The differentiating lines were clearly defined.

However, today the line seems to be blurring. The two national parties have started wiping off their limitations and seemingly have adopted the policy of imitation. Now, the race is not to differentiate from each other but to prove who is better using the similar grounds. Take, for example, temple hopping during elections. The temple visits by BJP president Amit Shah and Congress president Rahul Gandhi seem more about proving who is better Hindu than the other.

Similarly, there are several examples where both the parties seem to imitate each other.

  • Aggressive one-liners:

Until 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was considered the best among all politicians to come up with witty and edgy one-liners that would incite a favourable response from the audience during rally or speech. But, recent speeches of Rahul Gandhi prove that he is soon catching up with PM Modi. Though a little late, the transformed Rahul Gandhi is receiving a lot of response from the crowd. The clever take on development with “Vikas went Crazy” was an instant hit and Rahul Gandhi did not forget to repeat it at almost all the rallies that followed during the Gujarat Assembly Elections.

The Rahul Gandhi 2.0 not only surprised the people but those within the political circle as well. A number of write-ups were written on how Rahul Gandhi has found the key to take on PM Modi by following the footsteps of Modi himself.

 

  • Temple Run:

It was the constant temple run of Rahul Gandhi that almost made it certain that in a run-up to 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress will toe the line of BJP. The temple run that started since the Gujarat Assembly Elections continues even till Karnataka Assembly Elections. The agenda was to counter the BJP’s “Hindutva” pitch by creating greater acceptance for the Congress with the Soft Hindutva. From Janeu-dhari Hindu to Lingayat-sympathiser- the Congress did it all to try and keep the majority happy.

 

 

 

Congress

Rahul Gandhi visiting a top lingayat seer along with Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah

 

  • SC/ST Act:

It is not a secret that BJP traditionally is a party that has Upper Caste Hindus as its voter base. This voter base is so far the most loyal to the BJP. This voter base has stayed with BJP for so long because it despises the minority appeasement and the BJP has successfully cashed in on the sentiment. However, the picture isn’t the same anymore. The religion-game has taken a backseat and the caste-game is gaining importance once more. Now the Dalit votes are more important for BJP more than ever. Thus, the party has followed the lines of Congress declaring its unanimous support to the SC/ST Act. Not only the party leaders but Prime Minister Modi, BJP National President Amit Shah and several Union Ministers have come out to assert party’s commitment to upholding the SC/ST Act.

Amit Shah

Amit Shah promised to uphold the SC/ST Act during the BJP foundation day Melava

  • Day-long fast:

Now, after following many policies of each other, the BJP is following Congress and observing a fast to protest the impasse in the parliament during the budget session. Congress on April 9 had observed a day-long hunger strike to protest the Dalit atrocities across the country. Now, the BJP has announced that Prime minister Modi and several other ministers along with the BJP members will be protesting the logjam in parliament by observing a day-long fast. BJP President Amit Shah will conduct a sit-in dharna in Karnataka’s Hubbali where he is on the campaign trail.

 

Ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, we will definitely get to see more such incidents. Seeing the two parties imitating each other, however, has left us confused. The day may not be far when we might confuse BJP for Congress or confuse Congress for BJP.

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Is Congress trying to be a better BJP?

Arti Ghargi

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If the Congress accuses BJP of communalising the society, then what Congress is doing along the caste lines is not any different from what BJP has been doing so far. 

Several states across India on April 2 witnessed bloodied Bharat Bandh protests. The protestors opposing the recent amendments introduced by the Supreme Court in SC/ST Act turned violent torching factories, cars and several other vehicles. The violence grew so much that a child was hit & injured by lathis by the protesters in Muzaffarpur’s Maripur area. The violence left as much as 10 people dead. While the Dalit outrage was at its peak, the government was drawing criticism from all the corners of the nation.

The SC/ST Act amendment issue has turned out to be a golden card for the opposition especially Congress who is trying every possible way to cash on it. The Dalit outrage seems to have come to the front of the country’s politics again with even BJP not failing to mention its support to the community in every major speech. A closer look at all of the recent developments raises the question, is Congress turning into another BJP?

BJP and communalism:

BJP has always been accused of using communalism as a tool to polarise the society to build its vote bank. The party leadership does not forget to assert the Hardline Hindutva ideology ahead of every election. Last year, during the UP Assembly Election, Prime Minister Modi at a rally in Fatehpur on February 19, accused the ruling Samajwadi Party of spending crores on constructing boundary walls around cemeteries while neglecting Hindu crematoriums. Recently, UP CM stoked controversy asking the Karnataka people to make a choice between those who worship Hanuman and those who worship Tipu Sultan. There are countless such examples. While appealing its Hindu majority vote bank, it portrays the opposition Congress as Anti-right, Anti-Hindu and Pro-Muslim.

 

Congress and Caste Politics:

While BJP depends on division along religious lines to build its vote bank, Congress, on the other hand, is countering it with more divisiveness- using the caste politics. During Gujarat Assembly election, the Congress weaved a caste alliance of Hardik Patel(Patidar), Alpesh Thakore(OBC) and Jignesh Mewani (Dalit) to take on the incumbent BJP which was ruling the state for 22 years. Though BJP won the elections, the Caste alliances paid off for Congress as the party improved its tally with impressive numbers.

Repeating the same strategy in Karnataka, the party supported the separate religion demand of Lingayat community-which is a powerful community in the state, both-socially and politically.

Continuing on the same line, the focus is on the Dalits where the party is invoking the legacy of Ambedkar. The party’s support for the Bharat Bandh protest and a day-long fast to protest the Dalit atrocities is a step further in the direction to consolidate the Dalit votes in favour of the party.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Bandh protest, tweeted, “To keep Dalits at the lowest notch of Indian society is in the DNA of RSS/BJP. Those who challenge this thinking are hit by violence. Thousands of Dalit brother-sister are taking it to the streets today seeking to protect their rights from the Modi government. We salute them.”

It is clear that Congress is trying to assert a picture of BJP as Anti-Dalit and Anti-Minority.

The divisive politics is not new to Indian political sphere; be it division along religious lines, caste lines or linguistic lines.

If the Congress accuses BJP of communalising the society, then what Congress is doing along the caste lines is not any different from what BJP has been doing so far

Is Congress turning into BJP?

Since the Gujarat Assembly Elections, Congress went under major revamping. This revamped Congress has rigorously been trying to shed the image created by the opposition. However, in the process of doing so, the party is following the lines of BJP. The soft Hindutva approach is one of the examples.

Late last year, just ahead of Gujarat Assembly Elections, Congress started its rigorous campaigning in Modi’s home state. While attacking Modi’s Gujarat model was the strategy of Congress, the core strategy also included wiping out its own party image as an Anti-Hindu party. The temple run that followed has not stopped since then. As the state of Karnataka stands on the edge of Assembly elections in the upcoming month of May, the Congress party is trying to reinforce its image as a pro-Hindu party. Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat asserted his Hindu identity as Janeu-dhari Hindu while in Karnataka Siddaramaiah started asserting his Hindu identity recalling the “Ram” in his name. All this quest is to appease the moderate Hindus while still holding onto the Dalits.

However, between the race for raising the vote bank on the religious and caste lines, the ‘Vikas’ seems to have lost the path. The Gujarat Assembly Election had shown a ray of hope bringing the development issue in the light again, but as the Karnataka Assembly elections are nearing, the election discourse is back to revolve around communal and caste politics. Meanwhile, the people are still waiting for the ‘Vikas’!

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