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SC reserves order on CBI Director’s plea against Centre’s decision to divest him of powers

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CBI

New Delhi | The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved judgement on the petition moved by CBI Director Alok Verma, challenging the Centre’s decision to divest him of all powers and sending him on leave.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi concluded the arguments on behalf of Verma, Centre, Central Vigilance Commission and others who were party in the matter.

The court also heard the petition moved by NGO Common Cause which had sought court-monitored SIT probe into allegations of corruption against various CBI officials including Special Director Rakesh Asthana. Verma and Asthana have made allegations of corruption against each other.

Opinion

How Ajit Jogi ensured Congress’ surprise victory in Chhattisgarh

Arti Ghargi

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While Ajit Jogi party pulled some votes from Congress fold, Congress pulled more votes from BJP’s.

“Congress seems to be losing Chhattisgarh once again,” said the anchor on one of the prominent news channel waving his hands across the screen behind him. The exit poll numbers glowing on the screen stated what every pollster believed- Congress stands no chance in Chhattisgarh. There wasn’t even remote possibility. That was December 7. Little did they know, the same Chhattisgarh they struck off Congress’ game would be the first state to giving Congress reasons of celebrations four days later.

Jaws dropped, the numbers flipped and pollsters were left baffled when the numbers started rolling in on December 11. The early trends showed Congress taking a quick lead over the incumbent BJP. Many believed that by noon, the numbers would stagnate giving a clear picture. One of the pollsters sitting on the panel in another news channel’s discussion around election results, casually but rather confidently said, “These are initial numbers and it can change as the more rounds of counting get over.” He then went on to list the reasons why BJP would retain the state. Much to his surprise, the numbers in Congress’ favour only surged while the leads on BJP’s numbers tally plunged as the day proceeded. By 3 PM it was pretty clear that BJP which was ruling the state of Chhattisgarh for the past 15 years, had lost. Not only did the BJP lose the election but also performed poorly in terms of seat share.

The “expect the unexpected” scenario in Chhattisgarh brought some positive news to Congress camp. The Congress state unit which seemed to be staring at the defeat for the fourth consecutive term a few months ago, enthused by the astounding numbers went into celebratory mode.

As much as this victory throws a surprise, it also begs us many questions. How did BJP lose despite the state performing well on economic indicators under the Raman Singh government? How did Congress win proving the exit polls wrong? And lastly, didn’t the Ajit Jogi factor work? Well, let us explain what went wrong for BJP and what went right for Congress in Chhattisgarh one by one.

Anti-Incumbency against BJP:

When Chhattisgarh entered the phase of Election Campaigning, the BJP knew that it will have to battle the anti-incumbency of several years. Despite this realization, the Raman Singh government was quite sure of its victory in the state. The BJP wove its entire campaign around the goodwill of Dr Raman Singh, 66- a leader cut in the mould of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s era who enjoys a corruption-free and untainted image across party lines. So much so that even some of the Congress leaders behind the door accept that the party doesn’t have any leader of the stature of Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh. Apart from Raman Singh’s personal goodwill, BJP also invoked Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s special connection with the state to woo the voters.

Raman Singh

However, even these narratives were not able to overshadow the discontent among masses against the lowest-rung officers or the ‘Sarkari Babus’. The BJP suffered a major backlash from the tribal and Dalit voters. The amendment to the SC/ST acts provoked country-wide protests. According to a report by the government of India, at least 34% are Scheduled Tribes and 12% are Scheduled Castes. The tribal who constitute nearly 34% of the state’s population was clearly angry with the BJP because of land grab by the government for industrial purpose and the government’s failure to implement the PESA Act. The general feeling on the ground was, the benefits of the schemes introduced by the government never reached the masses.

The people wanted ‘Parivartan’ and it is the major reason why despite having Chhattisgarh’s stalwart leader on its side, BJP received a drubbing.

 

How did Congress win?

More people seemed shocked at Congress managing a crystal-clear majority rather than BJP failing and rightly so. Congress did not have any leader who matched up to Raman Singh’s stature, its entire leadership was wiped in a Naxal attack and Ajit Jogi who was considered master strategist had left the Congress fold to form his own party. These factors were expected to affect the elections results as anticipated in the exit polls results.

Bhupesh Baghel

Image Source: Web

However, all the factors that were expected to go against Congress might have brought the party fortunes. Congress’ campaign wasn’t built around a single personality, rather was a combination of abilities of multi-rung leaders from across various communities. Putting foot on the ground and extensive door-to-door campaigning helped in networking with the masses. The farm loan waiver and MSP and employment generation seem to be the biggest drawer of masses to the Congress.

 

The Ajit Jogi Factor:

Ajit Jogi, the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh and popular among the Satnami community left the Congress fold and established his own own party. In the run-up to Assembly election, his party even tied up with Mayawati’s BSP. This alliance was expected to hurt the Congress’ prospect in the state. However, his new party, Janata Congress ended up getting only five seats with 7.6% vote share.

This happened majorly because, instead of cutting Congress’ votes, Jogi’s party ensured that BJP’s voter base shifts to Congress. Apart from SC and ST, OBC’s are the dominant electoral community in Chhattisgarh comprising 50% of the population. OBC community includes Kurmis and Sahus which have had a traditional rivalry with the Satnami community. Over the years, the BJP garnered this OBC base while Ajit Jogi ensured Satnami community votes for Congress. But, the Jogi factor was also the reason why OBCs turned their back towards Congress. With Ajit Jogi now out of the Congress, Satnami votes went with Janata Congress, however, it led to significant OBC votes from BJP camp shifting to Congress.

Ajit Jogi

Image Source: Web

If we look at the numbers, in the 2013 Assembly elections, Bharatiya Janata Party won 49 seats claiming the CM post while Indian National Congress won 39 seats. The difference of vote share between Congress and BJP was even less than 1%. This gap was easy to bridge for the Congress with Jogi out of the picture.

The vote shares clearly spell out the phenomenon. While Congress managed to increase its vote share by just 3% the seats it drew were more. On the other hand, BJP’s vote share dropped 33%. Which means, while Ajit Jogi’s party pulled some votes from Congress fold, Congress pulled more votes from BJP’s.

Well, now the real challenge in front of the Congress party is to choose a Chief Minister candidate.

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Is she not happy? Congress questions Mamata Banerjee’s silence on Rahul Gandhi

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Mamata Banerjee

Kolkata | After its good show in the assembly elections, the Congress Wednesday asked if Trinamool leaders were having “sleepless nights” fearing their dream of Mamata Banerjee becoming the prime minister may not be fulfilled.

At a rally in Kolkata, Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi also questioned why Mamata Banerjee has not given credit to Rahul Gandhi for the massive victory. “When the entire country has congratulated Rahul Gandhi and the Congress for its victory in three states, only Mamata Banerjee has not. Is she not happy with the victory of Congress?,” Gogoi said.

Although, the West Bengal chief minister had congratulated the winners, she had stopped short of naming either Congress or Gandhi. The Congress won three Hindi-heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where BJP was in power.

Senior Congress lawmaker Adhir Chowdhury said the Trinamool is having “sleepless nights” as victory of Rahul Gandhi in the three states has put a big question mark on the party’s “dreams of Banerjee becoming the next prime minister has gone for a toss”.

“Now their (TMC leaders) dreams are shattered as they know that Rahul Gandhi will be the next prime minister. That is why they are not ready to give Congress and Rahul Gandhi their due credit,” Chowdhury said.

Criticising the “political duplicity” of the Trinamool, Gogoi said TMC speaks against the undemocratic attitude of BJP but itself functions in an “undemocratic and authoritarian way” in Bengal.

“This political duplicity will no longer work. On the one hand TMC speaks of democratic values when it goes to opposition meets in Delhi and when it comes back to Bengal it tries to throttle the voice of opposition parties in most undemocratic ways. The Congress high-command is very well aware of the double standards of TMC,” Gogoi said. Several senior Congress leaders addressing the rally blamed the ruling Trinamool and its policies for the “growth of communal forces” in the state.

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BJP has become ‘party of the dead’: Yashwant Sinha

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Yashwant Sinha

Pune | Former Union minister Yashwant Sinha on Wednesday slammed the BJP saying it has become a “murdo ki party” (party of the dead), where only two leaders were ruling the roost, while the others were “scared” to challenge them. He ruled out the possibility of a change in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) leadership after its losses in the recently concluded assembly polls.

Sinha was here to speak at J S Karandikar Memorial Lecture organised at the Pune Union of Working Journalists on ‘Current Political Scenario in India and Media’. After his address, he fielded questions from the media and others.

Responding to a question, he said, “There will not be any change in the leadership (of the BJP) because everybody is scared.” “Some people in the BJP would often criticise the Congress and dub it as ‘murdo ki party’, but today the BJP has become ‘murdo ki party’…Only two people hold all the power in the party,” he said in an apparent reference to party chief Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Sinha rejected speculation that Union Minister Nitin Gadkari would be projected as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for 2019 Lok Sabha election.

“Yes, there are speculation and theories that are making rounds that if the BJP gets less numbers in Lok Sabha polls, Gadkari will be the option before it…but I reject the theory as those who are making these speculation or theories viral, they are forgetting that two people have such a hold on the party that a third person cannot come in front of them,” he said. “No one has the courage to go against them, so the theory is rejected that Gadkari has an opportunity,” he added. Sinha took a dig at Modi saying, “Generally the prime minister is first among equals in Parliament, but today the situation is that he is the boss.”

When asked what if Urjit Patel had resigned as RBI Governor a month ago, he said, “It would have been better had he resigned when the government started the process to invoke Section 7 of the RBI Act, but that time did not come.”  Section 7 of the RBI Act empowers the government to give directions to the central bank’s governor on issues of public interest. Patel, who had a run in with the government over autonomy of the Reserve Bank of India, unexpectedly resigned Monday.

“The economic condition of the country is very bad and it is in danger…it would be good if we grasp the situation as soon as possible. But the government is painting a good picture, calling India the fastest-growing large economy. “But the situation is bad and since there is no money left, neither with the government nor in the market, they are seeking funds from the RBI,” the former finance minister said.

On the appointment of Shaktikanata Das as the new RBI Governor, Sinha claimed he has been sent to the central bank with a purpose. “I hope he does not succumb to the pressure of the government and give away the money,” he said.

The former BJP leader also alleged that the Centre took all key decisions like demonetisation, Rafale deal with France and imposing Governor’s rule in Jammu Kashmir, without consulting the concerned ministers. Sinha praised Congress president Rahul Gandhi saying he made a “responsible statement” after the results of the assembly polls came in and the BJP leaders would now “think twice before calling him ‘pappu'”.

Asked if Gandhi will be a strong contender in 2019 elections, he said the Congress’ track record had not been good. “We cannot forget their track record includes the Emergency also. However, the leadership of Rahul Gandhi is different from the previous one and I do not think he would toe the same line,” he said.

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