Rajya Sabha

One Nation, One Poll: Why Maya, Akhilesh or Owaisi dread it

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

If you were to ask the majority of this country if they want “One Nation, One Poll” the answer would be an overwhelming yes.

People might not have the figures–Rs 6,000 crores on exchequer alone in recent Lok Sabha Polls and many times more by parties and candidates; Or  the numbers on manpower—one assembly seat in Lucknow alone has over 300 polling booths and engages 2000 men on polling day; Or the imagination to guess how many lakhs of police, para-military forces, bureaucracy are pressed into service. Yet, they can sense a gap in their daily lives like a drawn tooth.

The erudites amongst us offer debating points we exhale in the musty air of a bar amidst gathered gentry. So Akhilesh Mishra tells us in Indian Express how it affects Rajya Sabha; how parties can make outlandish promises (Like Arvind Kejriwal on free Metro for women); how at least 15 state elections anyway fall more within a year either side of a Lok Sabha poll.

So what’s the problem?

The likes of Congress, TMC, BSP, SP, AAP, DMK, RJD, AIMIM etc sure have a problem for they stayed away from the all-party meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon on Wednesday. They saw it as an attack on the Constitution, the “federal” character of our set-up; and blurring the local and national issues which could affect a voter’s judgment.

All this is humbug. Indian voters know how to choose in a state or in a Lok Sabha elections. Constitution is for people of India and any measure which is good for them, must come into force. Such Constitutional changes could be made between ad breaks on television. IT TAKES NOTHING. As for the scaremongering on President’s Rule by stealth; what-if-government-in-Centre falls, these are easily fixable issues: E.g get the no-confidence-motion out of the way at the start of a new Parliament. And if I may ask how it has helped democracy when sworn enemies—Congress and JD (S)—joined hands only to usurp Karnataka last year?

The reason likes of BSP or SP, Congress or RJD, TMC or DMK or AIMIM don’t want “One Nation, One Poll” is caste and religion. With national issues delinked, the ones of dalits vs suvarans (upper caste); Muslims vs Hindus; Tamil or Bengali asmita easily gain currency. Narrow parochial issues keep these parties relevant. The faces of Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Asaduddin Owaisi remain in circulation. The nation loses its steam on the tracks of targeted growth.

Just recall the incidents or speeches which happen around state polls. In Delhi, it was fake attack on churches in 2015, Una incident in Gujarat, Bheema Koregaon in Maharashtra: All were intended to sharpen the caste and religious divide. “Ramzaade” vs “haraamzaade” speeches surface. Quota politics come into play. What room is there left to discuss developmental issues threadbare?

In a paper to Niti Aayog last year, Bibek Debroy and Kishore Desai offered an easy way out to the cacophony of whether state assemblies could be dramatically reduced or enlarged so as it coincides with the Lok Sabha polls. They pointed out that 15 state elections anyway fall in and around Lok Sabha dates.  The remaining states could be bunched together around the mid-way mark of a Lok Sabha term. So, one Lok Sabha elections and two for state assemblies in a span of five years, is the way forward.

It’s not to say the road ahead is easy. For, there is also this matter of panchayat elections and its 30 lakh representatives. The matter of getting all political parties aboard.

But then so was the issue with GST. It’s a reality now. There are examples galore around the world where simultaneous elections are held, including in US where a voter not only chooses his President but also 20 different representatives on a single ballot. Sweden has one election and so is the case with South Africa.

The fact is, in early years of Republic of India, elections were held simultaneously in 1951, 1957, 1962 and 1967. It fell into abeyance because assemblies began getting dissolved due to Centre’s interference. The dissolution of Lok Sabha in 1970 was the final nail which broke up the elections in India.

 

Smriti Irani in McDonald: We’re loving it

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Smriti Irani is a formidable opponent. You don’t need Rahul Gandhi to tell you. Anybody who has engaged her in the Parliament, TV debates or open public forum would swear in the name of Allah. Barkha Dutt won’t deny it nor would Rahul Kanwal. You could also ask Rashid Alvi (who? Well Congress). Or a collective opposition who were not safe even in their trenches as she rumbled in Parliament a few seasons ago.

In the above instances, Ms. Irani was dealing with hardened ideologues and masters of deception. Politicians who cook facts quicker than maggi noodles. Journalists, those cloak-and-dagger assassins, without a trace of blood on their pen. Yet they froze like rats do when bathed in car flashlights. You don’t test the depth of a river with both feet, do you.

This is a woman who is just not a prima donna in front of cameras. Away from limelight, she walked hundreds of miles in countless visits to uproot the Prophet of Amethi. Door to door, ear to ear, shoulder to shoulder, in grime and dust, scorching sun or raining heavens, lending ears and shoulders in equal measure or corner of her saree to sponge the tears of wailing widows.

When Ms. Irani speaks, it’s difficult to say if her Hindi is better than her English. When words in chaste Urdu are effortlessly slipped in. There is a flow and rhythm, snarl and contempt all constructing a perfect mosaic. You are confronted with a holistic picture, its’ edges secured in the frame of clinching facts. When she performs, it’s often better than her words. It makes material difference to the recipients; and not just aesthetics to its listeners.

We have no evidence where Ms. Irani cut her teeth in the unforgiving world of public gaze. To an unknown, a TV actress would be a guess too wide off the mark.  It’s like somebody telling you he outran an audi. That she was an Alice looking for her Wonderland in a Miss India contest once. That she also once donned checked blue shirt and trousers with apron to greet us in a McDonald cap in Bandra, Mumbai.

Yes, she worked in McDonald once. Clearing tables and sweeping floors. All for a princely Rs 1,800 a month. We wouldn’t have known it but for a textile council securing her Provident Fund employee certificate from McDonald and toying with the idea if its’ auction could come to the aid of a group of women artisans. McDonald was a refuge when she was still nursing her rejection for an air hostess job. She was told she “lacked a good personality.”

This is a woman who has made her own destiny. She prised open the door of TV soap operas and her main lead in “Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi”(Because a mother-in-law was also a daughter-in-law once) is a TV legend like few have been. Apparently her talent was no less than her looks for she was deemed best actress for five straight years. She was a female superstar, if ever there was one, of the small screen.

Maybe stardom helped Ms. Irani in political arena. Maybe not for she was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in her childhood itself even though she joined BJP formally in 2003 only. Her grandfather, a member of the RSS, must have been an early influence. As would have been her mother, Shibani Bagchi (a Bengali) who was a Jana Sangh member. Her father, Ajay Kumar Malhotra, hasn’t anything political known about him. Thus there are no rough edges here: She is an ideologically rounded person. She is married and has three kids and pictures of a happy family are aplenty.

Leaping through the ranks, Ms. Irani became national secretary of BJP in 2010. The same year she was heading her party’s women’s wing: BJP Mahila Morcha. Next year, she entered Rajya Sabha as a parliamentarian from Gujarat. Early in her career, she took on Kapil Sibal of Congress in the 2004 General Elections from Chandni Chowk constituency in the Capital.

In Narendra Modi’s two cabinets, Ms. Irani has held various portfolios. An educated guess is that she has moved between portfolios, particularly in the case of Information and Broadcasting Ministry, because of her combative working style. She is eminently capable of ruffling a few feathers. We all know Narendra Modi would rather have his team concentrate on developmental work than lock horns in public with dimwits. She has relatively quiet and non-controversial ministries of Women and Child Development and Textiles in her latest brief. But all of us know, Ms. Irani would dominate the coming decades of Indian politics. In defeating Rahul Gandhi, she probably has caused the biggest upset not just of 2019 Polls but in an entire generation. Just 43, here is a woman who is a role model for not just millions in her gender but many more in rather ruthless, largely men’s arena called politics.

Indian Express begins 2019 with Mrinal Pande’s bigotry

I grew up in Lucknow, aware of a Hindi literary icon Shivani who lived in Gulistan Colony, a pristine part of the city which housed bureaucrats and judges among others. Her daughter Mrinal Pande had already begun to make a mark in literary circles. The mother-daughter duo held mirror to everyday life, showing men and matter as they were, without any colour.

The Mrinal Pande of today bears little resemblance to this neutrality. She takes a Congress line which is understandable given the Gandhis afforded her Padma Shri (2006), chair of Prasar Bharati head (2010) and her present position of group editorial advisor, the National Herald Group (Never mind, many of us haven’t seen a copy of its print edition in our lives. The only time we are reminded of its existence is when it’s hauled up in courts for Rs 5000-crore defamation suit by Reliance Group on Rafale lies). The problem occurs when she resorts to lies as in an edit piece today and Indian Express is too happy to lap up to her vomits. That’s how the newspaper and its edit author have chosen to begin the year 2019 with.

Pande is on a bigotry-binge on Yogi Adityanath. She asserts that Yogi is “planning a large statute of Lord Ram as a sort of precursor to building a temple on what is currently disputed land.” If you are not a legal hawk, it would appear that they statue is being planned on the disputed land. That Yogi couldn’t care less about Supreme Court being the sole arbiter of law in this land. The fact is no land in Ayodhya is decided yet on Rama’s statue. In the fantasy world of Pande, the Yogi government would disregard the all-important scientific and technical matter of soil-testing and wind-tunnel testing as long as it could tamper with the disputed land and Supreme Court’s authority.

Pande then rams the lie down the throat of her readers by claiming that Yogi has forbidden “the use of loudspeakers for azaan, citing the disturbance to public peace.” The fact is that it’s Allahabad High Court, and not Yogi acting arbitrarily which has ordered the removal of loudspeakers from religious places in an attempt to curb the noise pollution. In December 2017, state government and UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) were hauled up by a High Court bench for its action on alleged misuse of loudspeakers in religious places. (So madam, it’s not just for Azaan. The court intervention is also against the temples, gurudwara and churches. And if you must blame, blame the HC and not the Yogi government.)

Pande is unstoppable now. She says that Yogi has “banned namaz being performed in any public park in the state.” She ought to be told that no less than Supreme Court in a 2009 order has banned the unauthorized use of public places for religious activities by all religions (and not just for Muslims). And why Namaz, the police has also stopped a bhagwat katha being planned by Hindus in Greater Noida this week. (Rest assured Madam unlike you on Namaz, Hindus wouldn’t make much noise and spread ill-will among communities on the matter.)

Pande further alleges that Yogi has banned cattle SALES to butchers, most of them Muslims. She needs be told that it’s been over a year and half since the rule on ban on sale of animals for slaughter (and not just cattle) has been done away with. If Pande’s sleight of words is meant to point out the ban on cow SLAUGHTER in Uttar Pradesh (and not its sales), she can’t pretend that 19 other states of India have banned cow slaughter. And that it also is not un-constitutional. Article 48 of the Constitution mandates the state to prohibit the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the State of Gujarat vs Moti Qureshi Kassab interpreted the article in consonance with Article 51A (g) of the Constitution, thereby justifying a wholesome ban on bovine slaughter.

And if History interests Ms Pande, it was a Congress chief minister in Uttar Pradesh, decades before BJP even existed, which banned cow slaughter in the state. It was Dr. Sarvshri Sampurnanand who banned cow slaughter in Uttar Pradesh in 1955 with the UP Cow Slaughter Prohibition Act. (So madam, please don’t single out Yogi Aditynath and betray your hatred towards him while ignoring what leaders of the party you serve have done in the past).

Pande also has problem about Yogi Aditanath making a “big noise about saving gau mata at all costs.” It would help her to know that a cow indeed is big in Hindu world. She ought to know of Govardhan Puja (a day before Diwali); and a cow being worshipped on the third day of the Pongal. In neighbouring Nepal, a cow is worshipped as Goddess Laxmi during Diwali; Gaijatra in Nepal is dedicated to cows accompanied with a big procession. Gorakhnath (God Shiva) is the protector of cows. He is called Pashupatinath. God Krishna is called Govinda only because of his affection towards cows.

It is not accidental that Mrinal Pande chooses to address Bhagwan Ram as Lord Ram throughout her piece. She chooses a western manifestation on a man who is a “maryada-purshottam” to millions of Hindus. Let her try this trick with other religions and she would know the consequences. In passing, it must be mentioned that Ms Pande in the past had tweeted an image of a donkey to wish PM Narendra Modi on his birthday.

There is another irony which is not lost on readers of Indian Express. The day it chose to make a lead headline of the opposition’s reject of the Triple Talaq Bill in the Rajya Sabha, Ms Pande extols Pt Nehru for the good work he has done in “incremental” changes in the society. Is his party Congress stalling or going for “incremental” change in the status of women in the society? Especially for women of a religion for which Ms Pande’s heart so palpably beats.  Was Shah Bano a case of gender justice or gender denial?

So these are you “credible” men and women. The “credible” newspapers. The toxicity which poisons us everyday. With blatant lies and manipulations.  Are these so-called men and women of letters worthy of any respect from us?

Aadhaar Act: SC may have to take another call

The Aadhaar issue is far from settled despite Supreme Court ruling on its validity and necessity under the Constitutional norms on Wednesday.

The ruling Modi government would go at breakneck speed in firewalling the data protection so it could approach Supreme Court again on removing the ban on private companies from accessing the users’ data. The opposition Congress, through its protagonist P. Chidambaram, in all probability would challenge the Aadhaar Bill being introduced in SC as a Money Bill in order to bypass the Rajya Sabha.

On Wednesday, Supreme Court has cleared the Aadhaar Act but barred private companies, such as banks and telecoms, from accessing the users’ data as was enabled by Section 57 of the bill. Supreme Court had also ruled that decision of (Lok Sabha) Speaker to certify Aadhaar Bill as Money Bill is open to judicial review.

Supreme Court clamping down on Section 57 wouldn’t please the ruling NDA government. The Supreme Court ought to have asked for a stronger privacy and data protection measures rather than bar private companies from mining Aadhaar. All the world’s technology giants, be it Facebook or Google, Alibaba or Tencent, have been empowered by their governments to control global businesses. India’s only chance is with Aadhaar: after all it enabled a newcomer like Reliance Jio to build a 200-million users’ base for its telecom operations. India’s UPI, RuPay and Bhim platforms are today earning world’s respect only because of users’ Aadhaar being available to them. Supreme Court ruling makes Aadhaar cost-effective but not profit-enabled.

As for the Money Bill part of the Aadhaar ruling, Congress would be encouraged by the dissenting note of Justice Y. Chandrachud who declared it a Constitutional fraud and illegality. (If one could ask, what’s so Constitutionally upright about Collegium System where judges choose judges?). Chidambaram and his ilks are unlikely to let go the opportunity of Aadhaar as Money Bill being open to “judicial review.”

Readers must also remember the dichotomy of Congress/Opposition position vis-à-vis Aadhaar. It was alright for them—and the Lutyens’ Media—to allow Right To Information (RTI) where the privacy of a petitioner is compromised. The privacy and dignity of an individual doesn’t matter to them on RTI. But they have used it as a handle to obstruct the march of Aadhaar.

And if one could ask, what about the private data of millions which UPA collected without committing themselves to Aadhaar in pre-Modi era? Wasn’t it foul, fraud and illegal given that it hadn’t obtained a judicial consent?

The fact is that because of Aadhaar, no longer the beneficiary receives only 15 paisa of the Rs 1 allocated to him. The Modi government has already saved upwards of Rs 90,000 crores from leakages and frauds in the benefit schemes. As per a World Bank report, Aadhaar could save upwards of Rs 11 billion in exchequer’s outflow of funds to the really poor—and not fill the coffers of ghost and duplicate entities. Today, the dole-outs are auditable. Fake ration cards and MGNREGS job cards are no longer working, saving the tax-payers’ hard-earned money. If Chidambaram could explain, how could benefits be paid without identifying the beneficiary?

As for Justice Y. Chandrachud’s critique, just a mere suspicion of constitutional and legal impropriety is not enough to overturn or jeopardize countless schemes and billions invested in enabling technology. If other Judges had gone along with Justice Y. Chandrachud, it would have caused chaos and havoc, not to mention billions of taxpayers’ money going down the drain. Judiciary needs to uphold laws and Constitution but not when its’ at odds with the larger interest of poor and society. Laws are for the citizens; not the other way around.

 

Congress and its’ Soz and Karra; and why India is worried

Saifuddin Soz is no ordinary Congress leader. Since 1980s, he’s often been in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha either on National Conference or Congress representation. A multiple-time Union minister, the last time under Manmohan Singh’s UPA between 2006-2009, he was one of the front-runners for the post of Vice-President in 2007 and 2012.

Soz draws his heft because of his influence in the Kashmir Valley. He surely has had access to separatist leaders of the state: A US diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks claimed he was a go-between contact between the Indian government and secessionist forces. Indeed, the leaked cable of US Ambassador to India David Mulford to US State Department described Soz as a long-standing “contact” of the US Embassy’s political section.

Soz is now in news because of his new book. By claiming that the first choice of Kashmiris is independence, a stance similar to terrorists and secessionists for three decades now, he has put the glare on his party. Congress is also under the lens because the dreaded terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) run by Hafiz Saeed from Pakistan soil, has come out in praise of Congress.

In case the readers need a reminder, LeT has been banned as a terrorist organization by US, UK, European Union, Russia, Australia and of course India. Its stated objective is secession of Kashmir. A traumatized India has accused LeT for its involvement in the 2001 Indian Parliament and 2008 Mumbai attacks. Hafiz Saeed, as its founder in 1987, had received funding from Osama bin Laden.

Congress has further earned the ire of millions of Indians because one of its senior leaders, Ghulab Nabi Azad, once the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, has accused Indian army of planning a  “massacre” in the Valley. Congress’ dug the knife deeper with its insensitive attempt to defend Azad, As millions see it, Congress is rubbing shoulders with the secessionists and are deep in trenches with them against the Indian army.

Congress may yet take action against Soz or slap the wrist of Azad. But discerners see no sign from them on standing next to the brave and beleaguered Indian army. Their human rights begins and ends on Kathua; there is never a word of praise when our jawans gun down a terrorist; never a drop of tear for their martyrdom or wailing widows.

On June 22, our security forces killed 4 terrorists identified with Islamic State (IS) in Anantnag district. In view of the oncoming Amarnath Yatra, starting this week (June 28), it was a laudatory achievement. The whole nation stood up as one to applaud the action. But how did Congress react???

I looked for reactions on Congress’ official stand on the matter and how its’ leaders have reacted. The Congress’ twitter handle has nothing on Soz or Azad or terrorists tackled: all it has is a retweet of PC Chidambaram and his concern “Will-there-be-a-war-with-Pakistan?” This time-tested tactics is to weaken the resolve of Indian state, peddle appeasement which in turn is an invitation to secessionist forces for the next strike.

Rahul Gandhi’s tweets? No mention. In any case the Congress supreme tweets once in two days. And when he does it is to run down Modi and his government. Shashi Tharoor? Blank.

And what about the partners Congress’ could be in bed with for upcoming elections? That mahagathbandan to “save democracy” in the country? Mamta Bannerjee? Blank. Akhilesh Yadav? Blank. Sitaram Yechury? Blank. Arvind Kejriwal? Blank. None of them have anytime for our forces; the sacrifices they make; the goals they achieve; the threats and cost they pay to themselves and their families. It is no different to the length these forces went to deny the “surgical strike.”

The message that goes across is alarming: that secessionists are acceptable but not our soldiers; that a terrorists’ life is valuable while the ones of soldiers is not; that India-breakers have unconditional support while those for India-Unity can go and jump from the Himalayas.

You may have a like or dislike for Narendra Modi; you may feel elated or cheated on account of his term so far; but you can’t be standing in support of secessionist forces. Those who want to rule India can’t be seen in sync with India-breakers.

(Post-script: While the readers ponder over the piece; it’s worth dropping a line on Tariq Hammed Karra who is a “Pakistan proxy” and “recently joined the Congress in the presence of Smt. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi,” as Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad lashed out in his press conference on Friday.

While you rush to google the man called Karra, keep this in the back of your mind that Lutyens Media more or less blanked out Prasad-on-Karra comments. But more on this, some other day, some other time).

 

Paradise Papers: BJP MP hauls Indian Express up!

(This is a reprint from NewsBred)

Bharatiya Janata Party Rajya Sabha MP, Ravindra Kishore Sinha, has sought Privileges Proceedings against top brass of Indian Express, namely, (a) Vivek Goenka, chairman; (b) Rajkamal Jha, chief editor; (c) Ritu Sarin and (d) Shyamlal Yadav on its “motivated attempt to tarnish his reputation” via expose on “Paradise Papers” on November 6, 2017.

In a letter written to Venkaiah Naidu, Chairman, Rajya Sabha, published as an advertisement in newspapers on Wednesday, Sinha has accused Indian Express of “unethical journalism…in the name of freedom of the press.”

Indian Express had alleged that Sinha was “illegally associated with (a) an offshore company, viz SIS Asia Pacific Holding Limited (SAPHL), incorporated in Malta; (b) that his nomination papers of Rajya Sabha election in 2014 didn’t declare his interest in offshore entities.

In his detailed letter/advertisement, Sinha has pointed out

  • Malta has an approved jurisdiction of full Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with India and doesn’t amount to “tax evasion, money laundering or any malafide intent”;
  • His holding company recently underwent “in-depth scrutiny by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)…covering all regulations, including the Companies Act, Income Tax Act, SCRA, Stamp Act, FIPB, FEMA etc…no deficiency was found in terms of compliance.”
  • Rajya Sabha nomination form requires only “provisions of details of Assets and Liabilities of which I am the owner or direct beneficiary” which is not true in Sinha’s case (see the full advertisement in pic).

Sinha’s anguish stems from a clearly “vested interest” of Indian Express in publishing the report—and a sneering a mocking version of it online—which he termed as “misleading and devoid of facts,” despite Sinha having shared the details with Indian Express !

Over to Sinha:

“These facts were transparently shared with the Indian Express team prior to publication of the news report. Despite that, they have carried the misleading report devoid of facts and indulged in reputation assassination for vested interests.”

“If the Indian Express claims to be the beacon of independent journalism, why are they not targeting other reputed public figures such as Sachin Pilot, P. Chidambaram, Pinarayi Vijayan etc who have all been named in the ICU Paradise Papers?”

“The Indian Express report is unethical journalism in the name of freedom of the press/freedom of speech and is motivated attempt to tarnish my reputation built over decades. It is extremely sad to see the high standards of neutral and independent journalism set by Ramnath Goenka being destroyed under the current editorial leadership.”

In one word: Damning!!!

One doesn’t know if Sinha tried to put this advertisement in Indian Express for it’s not in its today’s edition. Or, if he did and failed in his attempt. Still, the matter is now in public domain and Express would’ve to come up with an explanation.

At least the Privilege Proceedings against Indian Express is being sought for. Whether Editors’ Guild of India reacts to it is a guess as good as yours as mine. Press Council of India, a Central Statutory Authority, under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting—Mrs Smriti Irani being at the helm—surely should step in as Fake News in Mainstream Media—Lutyens’ Media—is more rampant than ever.