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Opinion

Have Sonia and Priyanka started taking the call for Congress?

Aaryanshi Mohan

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HD Kumaraswamy said he wanted to remove the black spot of shame from his father’s political career; would not join BJP, but is he just acting upon a well put out bait by the Gandhi-Vadra family?

With the election results out for Karnataka, BJP emerged as the single largest party but missed the magic numbers by 8 seats.  This doesn’t give them clear majority but then their close second, Congress was far from hitting the clear majority unless they got the support of JD(S).

Congress in a haste, in order to save itself from ignominy contacted JD(S) after an early indication that they would not come to power with a clear majority. Congress, upon the gradual disclosing of results, promptly contacted JD(S) chief Deve Gowda and discussed terms of a possible alliance with Congress giving JD(S) ‘unconditional’ support.

Congress may have laid low after the early exit polls but had a Plan B ready to stop BJP from coming to power.  Congress was assured that if they made JD(S) an offer they couldn’t refuse; they could possibly stop BJP from getting to power in the 21st state in the country. BJP, on the other hand, was anticipating a clear majority but was denied of the same because of just 8 seats. Congress and JD(S) swiftly came to the conclusion of joining hands with Congress giving JD(S) support from outside.

BJP who had played the coalition card during the Manipur, Goa and Meghalaya election did not anticipate their own trick getting backfired on them. Congress in the past did also make such coalition governments of unconditional support if we look back to Delhi election of 2013. Congress used BJP’s tried and tested trick against them as they joined hands with JD(S) and offered the Chief Ministerial post to HD Kumaraswamy who was waiting for a long time to become the Chief Minister again.

According to sources, the final decision of giving unconditional support to Deve Gowda led JD(S) and head a coalition government was taken at a meeting between Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday afternoon.

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi reportedly called JD(S) HD Deve Gowda and talked about the possible alliance in the state. The party sources said that the UPA chairperson has been constantly in touch with the JD(S) chief. Sources said that at Priyanka’s suggestion Rahul agreed to offer the chief ministership to HD Kumaraswamy despite his party winning just half of the seats of that of Congress.

Rahul had earlier turned down the idea of a pre-poll alliance with the JD(S). He had in February called the JD(S) a “B team involved in an undercover arrangement with the BJP”. He along with Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah, believed they were in pole position in the campaign.

The country under the influence of Modi wave forgot how strong Congress- JD(S) relationships have been in the past. Since the time Deve Gowda became the Prime Minister because of Sonia Gandhi, JD(S) was always indebted to the Congress. Now, when it had the chance to payback and yet stay in power, JD(S) chief stepped up and took the bait to keep BJP out of Karnataka. JD(S) has been given the opportunity to step from the front and take the lead in this coalition. JD(S) MLAs definitely have more power now than what they would have if they were in an alliance with BJP.

The question everyone is asking isthat how will the Congress govern with its president side-tracked and the former president and her daughter taking the highest level of decisions when it comes to the elections?

The turn of events in Karnataka has again put a question mark over Rahul’s ability to stitch together alliances.

Opinion

Is opposition’s display of strength a trailer of 2019?

Arti Ghargi

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The presence of several opposition leaders at Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in is not merely honoring the invitation but a display of opposition unity and making the sides clear. 

 

The swearing-in of the 24th Chief Minister of Karnataka HD Kumaraswamy was a grand ceremony the state witnessed. Unlike the outgoing BS Yeddyurappa who, in a low-key event took the oath at Glass House in Raj Bhavan, HD Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony was held on the flight of stairs that lead up to the Vidhan Soudha. A huge stage was built, the red carpet was laid down and as much as one lakh chairs were placed in front of the huge stage. Indeed, the swearing-in ceremony of the JD(S) chief is going to be a grand affair.

However, all of mentioned above about the swearing-in fails to draw as much attention as the guest list for the swearing-in ceremony. From the alliance partner Congress President Rahul Gandhi to the new political entrant of Tamil Nadu- Kamal Hassan, the guest list includes a score of opposition leaders. What is more surprising is, most of them, 11 to be exact are thronging the swearing-in ceremony.

opposition

Image Source: Twitter

The guest list is prepared by HD Kumaraswamy’s father and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda.  Reportedly, the party patron also personally invited each of these opposition leaders. The guest list includes as much as five Chief Ministers- Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Pinarayi Vijayan (Kerala), Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi), KC Rao (Telangana) and Chandrababu Naidu (TDP). The opposition party leaders being invited to the swearing-in include Rahul Gandhi (Congress), Sonia Gandhi (UPA Chairperson), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Tejaswi Yadav (RJD), MK Stalin (DMK), Akhilesh Yadav (SP), Mayawati (BSP), Farooq Abdullah (National Conference), Ajit Singh (RLD), Kamal Hassan (MNM). While most of the guests have confirmed their presence; Stalin, Kamal Hassan, KC Rao and Sharad Pawar will not be attending the event. However, they have reportedly sent their best wishes to Kumaraswamy.

opposition

BSP Chief Mayawati and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi sharing a light moment at HDKs swearing-in ceremony.

Though, bitterly fought Karnataka Election attracted the national headlines, the major reason why HD Kumarasamy’s swearing-in has turned eyeballs is the number of opposition leader attending the event. The retaining of the state was crucial for the existence of Congress and its post-poll ally JDS. However, the repercussions of the outcome were not limited to the state politics. With just a year to go for 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Karnataka Election outcome was deemed as a semi-final. It was also speculated that it would set a tone for 2019 for the opposition. With Congress-JDS government being formed in the state, the opposition has come out from behind the curtain and seems to take concrete steps towards the idea of larger Federal Front. Thus, the presence of several opposition leaders at Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in is not merely honoring the invitation but a display of opposition unity and making the sides clear.
The idea of Federal Front which was floated after the Gorakhpur and Phulpur By-poll defeat of BJP received a nod from TMC Chief Mamata Banerjee and Telangana CM K Chandrashekhar Rao. Mamata Banerjee even pitched for regional party unity and a third front. However, political experts opine that keeping Congress out of the front will only narrow the prospects of opposition. The get-together of opposition leaders at today’s swearing-in indicates that the regional parties are ready to open the doors of talks to the Congress.
opposition

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How will it affect the number game?

The united opposition aims to take on Modi and BJP which won the absolute majority in 2014 Lok Sabha election with the hope of improving the number tally in the lower house. So let us find out, given the current number of seat parties have in Lok Sabha, is it possible for the opposition to pose a strong challenge in front of Modi-Shah in 2019?
According to the latest figures, the BJP after losing several by-polls stands at 272 i.e. exact majority mark. On the other hand, Congress improved on 4 seats and has reached to 48. TMC has 34 seats while TDP and TRS have 16 and 11 seats, respectively. CPI(M) at present has 9 seats whereas Samajwadi Party has 7 seats. RJD and AAP both have 4 seats. The Janata Dal-Secular which came into the picture of the possible coalition after Karnataka Election has mere 2 seats. NCP has 6 seats. BSP, RLD, NC, and MNM have no representatives in Lok Sabha. The sum total of the seats is 141, which is still far below the majority mark.
However, there are several factors that may boost the prospect of opposition. The coalition with regional parties in every state may help the opposition to spread its base to the lowest denominator across the country. The coalitions like that of SP-BSP in UP or JDS-BSP in Karnataka will help consolidate the vote banks. With the opposition begins laying cards, today’s display of opposition strength is certainly a trailer of 2019.
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Opinion

Is “misjudgement of people’s anger” reason enough to see so many deaths?

Aaryanshi Mohan

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How does a protest that went on so peacefully for 99 days, face a violent turn on the 100th day?

Yesterday, was another shameful day in the history of India. Peaceful protestors in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi were subjected to open firing by the police who were over-looking the protest. The incident took place when protestors from various parts of the area gathered to protest against the expansion of the Sterlite Copper plant that is in the possession of Vedanta Limited. The protestors, mostly locals were stopped by barricades put up by the police. The Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi has remained a controversial one with several activists and environmentalists expressing their concern over the threat the project poses to the environment. For long, the local residents have been complaining about the air pollution in the area which could lead to a lot of health issues. Yesterday, people marched ahead breaching the barricades and entering the Collectorate. However, little did they expect that the police force which is supposed to protect the people will open fire indiscriminately on them. As many as 11 people were killed in the protest.

Protests of similar kinds were happening in the state for the last 99 days. So what happened on the 100th day that police had to resort to taking such drastic measures?

What does the police have to say…

The police, who have been on the receiving end of massive backlash had another story to tell.

After the massacre took place and the police went on record, they had something else that they brought to light. The police blamed the mob and said that the protestors became violent during the peaceful protest. According to the police, after the people entered the Collectorate, they set fire to stationary police vehicles and the ones parked in the premise. The police said a group of miscreants was also seen pelting stones at the collector’s office. The Tamil Nadu government in its official response said, “About 20,000 people took out a procession towards the district collectorate and the copper plant with the intention of picketing them, demanding for its permanent closure, and resorted to violence.” The statement further read that charging of batons did not work and thus, orders of open firing were made under “unavoidable circumstances”

Why did the Sterlite plant spark a controversy

The controversy surrounding the Sterlite plant dates back to 1994 when the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) issued a No Objection Certificate asking Vedanta to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, considering the ecological sensitivity of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere reserve put a condition that the factory should be located 25 km away from the Gulf of Mannar. However, Sterlite not only failed to submit the EIA but also violated the condition and set up the factory within 14kms radius of Gulf of Mannar.

Soon, the complaints about the pollution from the plant started pouring in with women workers from a nearby factory falling sick and many fainted due to a gas leak.

On August 20, 1997, the staff at Tamil Nadu Electricity Board’s sub-station located across the Sterlite factory complained of headaches, coughing and choking due to smoke stemming from the plant.

The locals also complained that TNPCB was acting in agreement to defend the Sterlite. Soon the protest took the shape of a mass movement. With the activist and environmentalists joining the movement, the matter reached the Supreme Court. In its order dated April 2nd, 2013, the apex court agreed with all accusations against Sterlite but refused to shut down the company.

The apex court also levied a hefty fine of Rs. 100 crores expecting that amount to be a sufficient deterrent.

What could have happened differently in the protest

The protest, primarily peaceful was agitated by a mob of miscreants who did in fact toy with the roots of the whole protest.

In situations like these, where the protestors go out of control, the police force is expected to take up stern enough actions that would not essentially cause any permanent physical damage.

Under circumstances like that of a violent mob, the police are expected to practice maximum restraint against the protestors. If the protestors do not pay heed to continuous warnings by the police to maintain the “sanctity” of a “peaceful” protest, the officers may resort to the use of water cannons or batons charging on the crowd. If the police are ordered to disperse the crowd, then they are allowed to fire shots in the air. What happened in Tamil Nadu was a sheer act of police brutality. police, in its haste to control the mob, randomly shot at the protestors, rather than identifying the miscreants and taking necessary action against them. The death of 11 people who were only fighting for their right to clean environment could have been avoided.

Yesterday’s incident will go down in history as a very unfortunate event where so many protestors lost their lives.

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Opinion

Why BJP is losing out on By-polls?

Arti Ghargi

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 It must be noted that out of 23 bypolls since 2014, BJP has managed to win only four. Whether this reflects the anti-incumbency, in general, is a different issue. 

The clouds of uncertainty around who will form the government in Karnataka have faded. On 19th May, BS Yeddyurappa who had taken oath as the 23rd CM of Karnataka just two days ago resigned from the post even before the floor test. The BJP which emerged as the Single Largest Party failed to gather the number to reach the Majority mark. While the post-poll defeat of BJP already comes as an obstacle in the saffron surge that has swept 20 states in India, the party has incurred more loss than the Karnataka defeat alone.

For BJP, the stakes in Karnataka were much higher. While the party was fighting to clean the slate of its past administerial records in the state which was mostly tumultuous, it had trusted BS Yeddyurappa to head its chariot. Though Yeddyurappa’s name tainted in the infamous mining scam, he still remains a popular figure and a heavyweight leader of Lingayat community. The party cleared at the beginning of the campaign that it will fight under the guidance of its CM Candidate Yeddyurappa. Thus, the party made him resign from Lok Sabha and filed his nomination from Shikaripura Assembly seat.

By-polls

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The case of B Sriramulu, however, was different. Srirramulu who considers the infamous Reddy Brothers of Bellary his mentors resigned from Lok Sabha and filed his nominations from Badami against former CM Siddaramaiah. Sriramulu who is quite popular in Gadag-a district adjacent to Badami was confident on his win. So much so, that he even went out to say during a rally that he will become the Deputy CM if BJP wins. However,  he lost his Badami seat to Congress heavyweight Siddaramaiah.

Now that, two of them resigned from the Lok Sabha, it has necessitated by-polls in their respective Lok Sabha constituencies. With this, the seat tally of BJP in the Lower House has come down to 272- the exact majority mark. It is noteworthy that in 2014, the BJP won whopping 282 seats with a historic majority. Since then, BJP has lost as much as 10 Lok Sabha seats in by-polls.

Rajasthan By-polls:
In a major morale boost for the Congress- ‘The Grand Old Party’ of India resurrected on all three seats that went for bypoll in the state of Rajasthan earlier this year. The two Lok Sabha seats and one assembly seat in Rajasthan that went for polling were earlier held by the ruling BJP. The Congress managed not only managed to snatch the crucial Alwar and Ajmer Lok Sabha seats but also showed an upward swing in its vote share. The by-poll defeat surely came as a major blow for the ruling BJP as the state will, later this year, go for assembly elections.

bypoll

In Alwar, Congress’s Dr. Karan Singh Yadav registered a sweeping victory by defeating ruling BJP’s Dr. Jaswant Singh Yadav with a margin of 1,96,496 votes. In Ajmer, BJP’s Ramswaroop Lamba faced a drubbing with Congress’ Raghu Sharma winning the seat by a margin of 84,414 votes. In a state where Congress couldn’t even open its account on any of the 25 Lok Sabha seats, the vote shares of the party increased from 33.71% in 2014 to almost 58% in 2018. On the other hand, BJP’s vote share fell down from almost 60% in 2014 to 40% in 2018.

Madhya Pradesh By-polls:

Yet another state ruled by BJP for years where the party lost by-poll is Madhya Pradesh. The anti-incumbency is already building around Shivraj Chouhan government. The farmer’s anguish has fuelled the fire more. In 2015, the Ratlam Lok Sabha seat went for by-poll which was held by BJP’s Dileep Bhuria. However, Congress snatched the seat from BJP with its candidate Kantilal Bhuria winning by the margin of whopping 88,800 votes.

Madhya Pradesh

The recently concluded assembly by-polls on Kolaras and Muungaoli seats were seen as a prestige battle between Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Jyotiraditya Scindia of the Congress. The Congress went on to win both the seats.

Uttar Pradesh By-polls:

Though BJP had been losing a number of Lok Sabha by-polls, it was the Uttar Pradesh by-poll defeat that sent BJP caused BJP to worry. Gorakhpur which was the Lok Sabha constituency of UP CM was won by the coalition of once arch-rivals Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samajwadi Party. As a matter of fact, it was rather the defeat of BJP than Samajwadi Party’s win that took Yogi Adityanath by surprise considering that he has been winning for five consecutive terms (in 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014 elections) at a stretch from the very two same regions. It made his party’s win in the state so far an unperturbed one.

Mayawati

Image Source: Web

However, the SP-BSP coalition successfully consolidated the Yadav and Dalit votes against BJP. The formula may also threaten BJP’s prospect during Lok Sabha polls of 2019.

Palghar and Kairana by-poll:

Winning the upcoming by-polls in Maharashtra’s Palghar and UP’s Kairana is now of more significance for BJP. For Kairana, the voting will be held on May 28 and counting of votes for both the constituencies will be held on May 31. The Kairana caste equation poses the major challenge for the BJP. While the Muslim population is about 5.5 Lakh, Dalits make up to 2 Lakhs of the entire population. The Jat, Saini, Prajapati, Kashyaps make up to 4 lakh while Gurjars make up to 1 lakh and 30 Thousand of the populace.

However, BJP is mainly focusing its core voter base of Gurjars and Upper caste Hindus. On the other hand the opposition, SP-BSP-RLD is banking upon the Dalit, Backwards castes and Muslim vote bank.

In Palghar, the straight fight is between BJP and Shiv Sena. The sitting Palghar MP died Chintaman Wanga died in January after which the By-polls were necessitated. Shiv Sena claimed that the BJP did not bother to take care of Mr. Wanga’s family and that none of its central leaders turned up during his last rites. The Palghar by-poll has brought the frenemies face-to-face. The stakes are so high that UP CM Yogi Adityanath will be campaigning for BJP in Palghar.

It must be noted that out of 23 bypolls since 2014, BJP has managed to win only four. Whether this reflects the anti-incumbency, in general, is a different issue. However, the reduction numbers are definitely a warning bell for the BJP. With opposition aiming to unite a federal front, the eyes will be on the Palghar and Kairana by-polls, where BJP if wins, will get a respite.

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