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Is TTV Dhinakaran the dark horse of Tamil Nadu politics?

Arti Ghargi

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TTV Dhinakaran

 If the RK Nagar by-poll victory of TTV Dhinakaran did serve a message, it has to be a warning sign-not only for ruling AIADMK, but also the opposition DMK.

It was four months back in March when TTV Dhinakaran launched his new party Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK). The launch event of his political party drew a huge crowd. On July 8, TTV Dhinakaran addressed another mega rally in Coimbatore, an electorally significant region. The Codissia grounds in Coimbatore saw a huge crowd, probably even more than the previous one. “The days of Tamil Nadu government are numbered,” said TTV Dhinakaran. For the rest of the speech, he took on the Chief Minister Edapaddi Palaniswamy and Deputy CM O Pannerselvam. He even challenged the present AIADMK government to match his organisational capacity. After all, massive crowd that poured for TTV Dhinakaran’s rally was one of the biggest Tamil Nadu has witnessed recently. From the stage in Coimbatore on July 8, TTV Dhinakaran launched his 2019 Lok Sabha Elections war cry.

Back when Jayalalitha’s death left entire Tamil Nadu wondering who will fill the vacuum, Dhinakaran’s name wasn’t even in the race. Fast forward to today, TTV Dhinakaran has been widely successful in claiming the legacy late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. His claims of carrying “Amma’s true legacy” were consolidated by his victory in RK Nagar by-poll. The constituency was earlier represented by Late Tamil Nadu CM and AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalitha. Little did anyone anticipate that the ousted AIADMK member fighting as an independent will beat the ruling party candidate that too in the party’s bastion.

TTV Dhinakaran

TTV Dhinakaran Rally in Coimbatore

In a historic victory, TTV Dhinakaran beat AIADMK’s Madhusudhanan.E by as much as 40000 votes. Even the percentage of votes polled in favour of AIADMK candidate did not come close to that of TTV Dhinakaran. The bribery charges too couldn’t pull him down from his ever-grossing popularity. If the RK Nagar by-poll did serve as anything, it has to be a warning sign. A warning sign not only for ruling AIADMK but also the opposition DMK.

The infighting within the AIADMK after the demise of J Jayalalitha highlighted that there is no credible leader left within AIADMK. Jayalalitha was the omnipresent leader who kept the party together. But soon after her death the party fell apart and was divided into three factions like leaves falling off branches of a tree.  After much theatrics, the two factions led by EPS and OPS did come together, only to oust the third faction from the party. Not only Sasikala who is facing a jail term but her nephew TTV Dhinakaran who was Party General Secretary was expelled from the party as the EPS-OPS reigned on the top positions.

TTV Dhinakaran

TTV Dhinakaran Madurai Rally

However, both have proved to be incompetent in filling up the void that Jayalalitha left behind. Tamil Nadu always takes pride in its regional identity. Any alliance that challenges this pride is nearly a political suicide. But, under EPS-OPS took patronage under Centre’s Modi government. The resistance against BJP in Tamil Nadu can be well understood by the fact that in RK Nagar By-poll BJP candidate received votes even lesser than NOTA. Even at the peak of the Modi wave in 2014, the party could only secure 1 seat. The widespread perception is BJP is North-Indian, Upper castes dominated the party. By closely aligning with BJP, the EPS-OPS camp invited political death unto themselves. At the same time, both of them are reeling under corruption charges. With the recent Thoothukudi violence and gross mishandling of the situation, it is highly unlikely that current AIADMK government will see another term.

TTV Dhinakaran

TTV Dhinakaran Coimbatore rally

On the other hand, Dravida Munnetra Kazgham working president MK Stalin who thought the demise of Jayalalitha can help him climb the popularity ladder and present him as the alternative has found a political rival in TTV Dhinakaran. Though he still refuses to accept Dhinakaran as main competition above AIADMK, it would be unwise for him to ignore TTV Dhinakaran completely. Stalin who is still reeling under the shadow of Karunanidhi must understand that TTV Dhinakaran is slowly pulling the rug from under his feet.

The new entrants Kamal Hassan and Rajinikanth have big ambitions. Their fan base might as well be huge, but how many of them will support their politics, is still an unanswered question. Kamal Hassan claims to be centrist, but his leaning towards left is widely known. While Tamil Nadu is certainly not right-leaning state, it is not left-leaning either. On the other hand, Rajinikanth’s camaraderie with BJP will turn out to be a setback for him.

The race in Tamil Nadu is on and over the time more players have jumped in the race. Looking at the prevailing circumstances, the question is will TTV Dhinakaran emerge as the dark horse of Tamil Nadu politics?

Opinion

How the deadly 2013 Maoist attack wiped out entire Congress leadership in Chhattisgarh

Arti Ghargi

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The deadly Darbha Valley attack by Maoists wiped out almost entire Congress leadership in the state of Chhattisgarh.

The campaigning for the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections first phase wound up today. The two primary political parties in the race fired stinging shots at each other on the last day of campaigning. While, Congress President Rahul Gandhi graced the battleground Chhattisgarh on the last day; from BJP, star campaigner UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and party president Amit Shah held the fort.

On Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed his first rally in the state in Jagdalpur.  Lashing out at the Congress, he said that the opposition Congress is trying to protect the ‘Urban Maoists’. “Urban Maoists live in air-conditioned surroundings, move in luxury cars and send their children to study abroad, but ruin the lives of children here. Naxalites kill our Jawans and Congress calls them revolutionaries,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The obvious reference was UP Congress chief Raj Babbar’s remark that Naxalites are revolutionaries who have lost the path.

Raj Babbar

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For the BJP, which is battling anti-incumbency of 15 years in the state, this apparent gaffe by Congress leader came as a handy tool. Having known Prime Minister’s ability to set the narratives it wasn’t surprising that he decided to corner Congress on Babbar’s comment. In the past too, during Gujarat Elections, Mani Shankar Ayyar’s “Neech” comment was used by PM Modi against Congress.

Toeing his line, UP CM Yogi Adityanath and Party President Amit Shah continued hitting the raw nerve and attacking Congress over the issue. While talking to reporters Amit Shah said that Congress which calls Naxalites as revolutionaries cannot think of state’s development; Yogi Adityanath at a separate rally accused that Congress in the state fuelled Naxalism for its selfish motives.

As the tables seem to turn against Congress over the recent row, one must also recall the deadly Darbha Valley attack by Naxalites which wiped out almost entire Congress leadership in the state. Incidentally, the attack had happened a few kilometres away from Jagdalpur.

It was on May 25, 2013, a few days before the 2013 Chhattisgarh Assembly elections that the stalwarts of state Congress were killed in the Maoist attack. The attack caused the death of more than two dozen people of which twelve were Congress leaders and workers. The attack which was termed amongst the deadliest attack killed former state Minister Mahendra Karma, Chhattisgarh Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel and Vidya Charan Shukla a senior Congress leader who succumbed to his injuries two weeks later.

The attack was carried by the Maoists in response to the offensive launched by the UPA government to tackle the Maoist insurgency in the state. Enraged by the mobilisation of security forces in the region, Maoists continuously targeted police personnel and political leaders.

 

Darbha Valley attack:

On May 25, 2013 Leaders of the Congress party were carrying out a Parivartan Yatra in the state, with a convoy of 25 vehicles carrying around 200 Congress leaders and workers. They were returning from a meeting organised in Sukma. Congress was hoping to end the decade-long rule of BJP’s Raman Singh in the state with the crackdown of Naxalism as their main poll-plank. Senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma had even emerged as the prominent proponent of Anti-Naxal operation in the state. The Adivasi strongman from Bastar even launched Salwa Judum- a militia composed of tribal youths to counter the Naxal insurgency. His efforts were also supported by the Chhattisgarh government. Though his anti-Naxal efforts put him in the race of Chief Ministership, it also put him in the hit-list of Maoist.

Chhattisgarh

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When the convoy of Congress leaders reached the deeply forested area of Dharba valley on Jagdalpur-Sukma Highway, it was blocked by trees felled by Maoists. The Maoists triggered an IED near the fourth vehicle in the convoy. As soon as vehicles slowed down, around 250 Maoists hiding in the adjoining hilltops of the Jeerum hills opened fire from both the sides. The personal security officers of the Congress leaders took positions and tried to defend them but the firing continued for over 90 minutes.

The Maoists waited for the PSOs to run out of ammunition before asking the Congress leaders to surrender. The Maoists, however, started firing indiscriminately when the Congress leaders emerged from their vehicles. The eyewitness said that when the Maoists struck, the mobile phones of all the leaders were also taken, as the attackers asked the names of the leaders, shooting some of them while leaving others alone.

chhattisgarh

Salwa Judum leader Mahendra Karma

In this attack, entire Congress leadership along with eight security personnel and CRPF soldiers were killed. Mahendra Karma who was on the hit list of Maoist was shot dead by 100 bullets and stabbed brutally 78 times. Congress leaders Nand Kumar and Dinesh Patel were also abducted. They were found dead a day later with several fatal injuries. Congress worker Yogendra Sharma was also killed.

 

Chhattisgarh Congress’ leadership crisis:

The first phase of the Chhattisgarh assembly election is to be held on November 12 in Bastar and other Naxal-affected areas of Chhattisgarh. Despite a strong anti-incumbency of fifteen years, Chief Minister Raman Singh is expected to gain an edge and retain his position.

Bhupesh Baghel

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Congress, on the other hand, which lost out on the alliance with Mayawati’s BSP is still in a lurch of leadership that can take on Raman Singh. Since the attack wiped out some of the strongest leaders of the Congress, a party couldn’t develop even a single leader who can challenge Raman Singh’s legacy. Though in the last assembly elections, the difference between the vote share of Congress and BJP was just 0.7%, many polls have predicted it to be widening this time.

With the current leadership entangled in conflicts and controversies, the party may find it difficult to come to power despite favourable conditions.

 

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Opinion

Why Urjit Patel may not resign despite rift with Modi and Co.

Arti Ghargi

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urjit patel

If Urjit Patel would have resigned, the confidence of foreign investors in the Indian Economy would take a serious hit.

 

The shake-up in India’s apex financial institution RBI and the Modi government came to a defining turn on Wednesday as the reports expressing the possibility of RBI governor Urjit Patel stepping down started doing rounds. CNBC TV18 first reported that the RBI governor may consider resigning from the post as the split between the central bank and ruling Modi government became more apparent in the recent days.

The government and the RBI came to loggerheads after the deputy governor Viral Acharya hinted in a speech on Friday that the government is trying to hinder the independent working of the institution. Stressing on the importance of autonomy of the RBI, Acharya warned that undermining a central bank’s independence could be “potentially catastrophic”. His warning came amidst the reports that government is pressurising RBI to relax its policies and trying to reduce its powers.

RBI

Viral Acharya, RBI Dy Governor

In a speech to top industrialists, he even cited Argentina’s 2010 economic crisis as an example. Acharya recalled Argentine government’s meddling in its central bank’s affairs led to a surge in bond yields which in turn hurt the South American economy. Reportedly, the government officials were hurt that Viral Acharya chose to talk about the rift between the government and the central bank in public. Many also believe that the RBI governor Urjit Patel too, shares the same views as that of Acharya.

The spat became more public on Tuesday when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley blamed the institution for “lending spree” during UPA era. While speaking at an event in New Delhi, Jaitley said, “The central bank looked the other way when banks gave loans indiscriminately from 2008 to 2014.”

demonetisation

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According to a CNBC TV18 report, a source said that there is an “irreversible breakdown between RBI governor and the government”. However, by afternoon the doubts surrounding Patel’s resignation were put to rest. RBI governor called for a board meeting on November 19 clearly indicating that there is no resignation on cards as of now. The Finance Ministry too issued an official statement for the first time to clear the air. “The autonomy of the central bank, within the framework of the RBI Act, is an essential and accepted governance requirement. Governments in India have nurtured and respected this,” the statement read.

Though the full-blown confrontation between the government and RBI has deferred, for now, it doesn’t mean that the differences between the two have been buried. Moreover, it certainly doesn’t indicate that all is well with RBI and government. However, there are many reasons why despite the strong disagreement with Modi government, Urjit Patel has chosen to stay or as it seems.

The economic crisis India is witnessing is becoming more and more apparent though, the government has been reluctant in accepting that there is a crisis in the first place. In such a scenario, a war of words playing out between the Finance Minister and Deputy Governor of the Central bank indeed sends a wrong signal. If Patel resigns now, the confidence of foreign investors in the Indian Economy will take a serious hit. Though it may not lead to drastic impact such as investors pulling out of India, however, it does give a bad impression and raises the question on the credibility of the institution.

On the other hand, for Urjit Patel quitting now is like leaving the ship to sink. As HW Business and Finance Editor Akhilesh Bhargava points out, “A commander will not leave the battle even if he is going to retire the next day. The situation for Urjit Patel is somewhat similar. If he quits amid the government-RBI standoff, it will adversely impact the stock market, the rupee will weaken and interest rates will soar.” For any banking professional economic crisis credited to him/ her is bound to bring minus marks on the report card. Urjit Patel certainly would not want that especially in the last leg of his tenure as 24th RBI governor.

While Patel avoided the disaster by not resigning, the government has a lot of answering to do. Why did Finance Minister belittle RBI- the apex financial institute of the country at an event that was attended majorly by the foreign audience? Though it was Viral Acharya who had publicly given a hint about RBI’s rift with the government, Finance minister could have found out a better way to handling the dispute. His statement only further fuelled the fire instead of dousing it.

Urjit Patel

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Secondly, it also raises questions on the policy decisions taken by the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister. Earlier, former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan was said to have differences with the Modi government over a policy matter. Same was the case with Arvind Pangaria, first NITI Aayog VC and Arvind Subramanium, Chief Economic Advisor. Both of them stepped down before their tenure came to completion. Though the government said both of them left due to personal reasons, the pattern certainly cannot be ignored. The economic experts deserting the Modi government begs an important question of whether or not the Modi govt’s policies are flawed?

While it casts a shadow on the functioning of Finance Minister, the RBI crisis affects PM Modi the most. The CBI vs CBI and later the CBI vs government fight was not enough already, the Modi government is hit with another institutional crisis. PM Modi’s image as a leader in control has seriously been dented due to this. The two crisis have rather placed Modi as a leader with no control while the apex institutions are either dealing with infighting or are in a stand-off with his own government.

As of now, Urjit Patel’s decision of not quitting the post has avoided the catastrophe. Will the government be able to find a way to successfully deal with the RBI crisis or will it prove to be a calm before the storm? All eyes are now on the November 19 RBI board meeting.

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Sri Lanka crisis: A catch-22 situation for India

Arti Ghargi

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Sri Lanka

India’s response to the Sri Lanka crisis has been guarded. Certainly, India doesn’t want to get dragged in Sri Lanka’s domestic issues.

 

The turmoil in Sri Lanka’s domestic politics has had its Asian neighbours holding their breaths. The power struggle between Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa for the leadership of the country is unprecedented in the world history and the chances that one of them would budge are very bleak. Though the power struggle appears an internal political turbulence, it is also bound to reverberate on external front- especially in South East Asia. Perhaps, the crisis is serving as a warning sign of change in the geopolitical scenario in the Asian region. India, therefore, is rightfully concerned about the fast deteriorating conditions in its neighbouring country. However, India’s approach has remained somewhat cautious.

On October 26, in a shocking development, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena appointed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new Prime Minister of the country unseating his ally in the government Ranil Wickremesinghe. Rajapaksa was sworn in at about 7 p.m. in the presence of the representatives of the navy, air force and army who stood in the room and quietly watch the hasty ceremony unfold. The move widely termed as an “undemocratic coup” came after the months of strained relations between the ruling coalition.

sri lanka

Sri Lankan president Sirisena swearing in Mahinda Rajapaksa as PM

While Sirisena has ceased all the privileges to Wickremesinghe as a Prime Minister, the ousted leader insists that he is still the PM of the island nation. On the other hand, newly appointed PM Rajapaksa has promised to appoint a new cabinet soon. The political shakeup sparked several protests by the supporters of both the leader in a show of power. The protest took a violent turn with the death of one person in a brawl outside Petroleum Minister Arjun Ranatunga’s office. As of now, security forces have been deployed in many parts of the country while the clouds of uncertainty hang over Colombo.

Sparks had started to fly between President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe from quite a sometime, souring the alliance. However, it is the Indian twist that may have ignited the full-blown political battle between the two. The first spark was set off from Wickremesinghe’s side. Two weeks ago, Wickremesinghe was on his official visit to India. He met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss bilateral ties. However, it was the statement released by the Sri Lankan counterpart that raised the eyebrows. The statement quoted Modi as “unhappy” and disappointed with the delays that various Indian projects are facing in Sri Lanka, especially the East Container Terminal in Colombo port.

Sri lanka

Image source: Web

The statement read, “ Mr Narendra Modi has expressed his concern over the implementation of Indo-Sri Lanka joint development projects in accordance with the MoU signed between India and Sri Lanka in 2017…Mr. Modi said he was not satisfied with the response he had received from the Sri Lankan government to his overtures.” Incidentally, the statement released by the Indian side did mention that the talks over the subject took place between the two leaders, however, the supposed disappointment of Modi did not find any mention. Back in Sri Lanka, the statement was seen as a disguised jibe at the President who changed the terms of the deal with the bidders to keep the Indians investors away. Wickremesinghe, on the other hand, was in favour of handing over the functioning of the port to an Indian company.

Secondly, the assassination plot of Sirisena made the matter even worse. According to a report in The Hindu, Sirisena allegedly said in a cabinet meeting that Indian intelligence services (RAW) had hatched a plot to kill him, keeping Modi in the dark. The report prompted a quick rebuttal from both India and Sirisena. Later, Sri Lankan police too held a press conference to clarify that there was no evidence of such a conspiracy. However, the matter kept simmering as Sirisena felt the Wickremesinghe government is not doing enough to investigate the assassination plot against him and is not taking the threat seriously.

Sri lanka

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This seemed to have pulled the plug on the coalition. Sirisena in his address to the nation on Saturday also cited the same to justify his acts. “[Because of] the strong plot to assassinate me, the only alternative open to me was to invite former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and appoint him as the prime minister to form a new government,” Sirisena said. As the political crisis in the country has deepened, the possibility of early solution seems bleak as Sirisena has suspended the parliament till November 16.

On the external front, the situation has evoked sharp responses. The U.S. State Department called on Sri Lanka’s president on Sunday and asked to “immediately reconvene parliament.” The statement said, “Allow the democratically elected representatives of the Sri Lankan people to fulfil their responsibility to affirm who will lead their government.”

India’s response to the crisis came three days later. In its lukewarm statement, Indian external affairs ministry said that it is watching the development “closely”. Briefing the media, external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “As a democracy and a close friendly neighbour, we hope that democratic values and the constitutional process will be respected. We will continue to extend our developmental assistance to the friendly people of Sri Lanka.”

Sri lanka

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There is legitimate reluctance in India’s lukewarm and guarded response to the crisis. Certainly, India doesn’t want to get dragged in Sri Lanka’s domestic issues. However, the changes in the island nation will also reflect on India-Sri Lanka relation in the upcoming days. On the Sri Lanka crisis, India is in a diplomatic quandary and has little space for manoeuvring. There are two factors of consideration before India to frame its future response as the crisis unfolds.

First is, China factor and the second is Tamil ‘Eelam’ factor. India took a sigh of relief in 2015 when Sirisena defeated Rajapaksa to become the President of Sri Lanka. In his tenure as a president for 10 years, Rajapaksa grew very close to China. The massive Chinese investment in the country was also hailed as a textbook case of “debt trap diplomacy”. Being unable to repay the debt, the island nation had to hand over its Hambantota port and nearly 15,000 acres of land around it to China on a 99-year lease. The port is strategically located and gives China military upper hand in the region. For India, it is no less than a great cause of worry. Especially as India is grappling to counter China’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific region. In recent times, China has spread its tentacles in the countries neighbouring India. Thus, India needs to take a careful approach to Rajapaksa’s reclaiming power. On the other hand, some also believe that it may not be a cause of worry for India as Rajapaksa seemed to have brokered peace with India. His visit to India in September this year hinted at it. He met the opposition leader Rahul Gandhi and former Prime minister Manmohan Singh as well.

Sri lanka

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Another worry for India is the Tamil population in Sri Lanka. The country has suffered the scorching heat of the civil war between majority Sinhalese and minority Tamilians for over 25 years. Mahinda Rajapaksa who was elected in 2005 led the Lankan govt’s all-out war against the LTTE (the terrorist outfit fighting for Tamil liberation). He has been even accused of ethnic cleansing and rights violation during this period.

Thus, India’s approach to Rajapaksa is ought to affect Tamil politics back home. The developments in Sri Lanka have already created ripples in Tamil Nadu politics. E Palaniswami, the CM of the state has demanded to declare Rajapaksa as a “war criminal”. “The government, which is following in the footsteps of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, has not changed its stand on Mr Rajapaksa, who killed Sri Lankan Tamils,” he told the reporters in Chennai.

Sri lanka

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For the Modi government, it is a catch 22 situation. It must frame its strategy to deal with Rajapaksa in future without upsetting the Tamil population back home. AIADMK has emerged as an ally for the BJP in recent times. It has 37 seats in Lok Sabha and is a strong force in Tamil Nadu. For BJP AIADMK can prove useful in 2019 amidst the faltering NDA allies.

For now, India along with other world leaders has to watch the developments from distance. However, it has to carefully draft a foreign policy towards Sri Lanka in accordance with the future developments without compromising on the interests of people back home.

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