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Charges against Narendra Modi deserve proper response, impartial inquiry: Sitaram Yechury

New Delhi: Hitting out at Narendra Modi over his remarks against opposition on note ban, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury on Thursday said such utterances are best “abandoned” after one becomes Prime Minister and demanded an impartial inquiry into the “serious allegations” against him.

Sitaram Yechury. AFPSitaram Yechury. AFP

Sitaram Yechury. AFP

Without making direct mention of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi‘s allegation against Modi that he took money from Sahara and Birla groups when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat, Yechury said that the charges deserve a proper response.

“Serious allegations deserve impartial inquiry and a proper response. This language is best abandoned after becoming PM,” Yechury tweeted.

Speaking at a function in Banaras Hindu University today, Modi attacked opposition for allegedly stalling Parliament over demonetisation, saying they were trying to rescue the corrupt like Pakistan gives cover fire to terrorists.

Addressing a rally in the Prime Minister’s home state Gujarat on Wednesday, Gandhi had alleged that in the Income Tax records there are notings of Sahara officials’ claims that they had paid nine times to Modi between October, 2013 and February, 2014.

Similarly, as per documents with Income Tax department, the Birla group also paid Rs 12 crore to Modi when he was Chief Minister, Gandhi had alleged. BJP had rejected the charges as “baseless, shameful, and mala fide“.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 16:49 IST

CPM slams govt for political interference in appointing new Army Chief

CPM slams govt for political interference in appointing new Army Chief

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New Delhi: The CPM on Monday criticised the government for bypassing the established convention while naming a new army chief and said the military should not be subject to political interference.

“The appointment of the new Chief of Army Staff has been done bypassing the established convention of the senior most General assuming the post,” the Communist Party of India-Marxist said.

“The Modi government’s departure from this precedent has raised questions about the intent and motivation of the government,” it said in a statement.

“The Indian Army should not be subject to any political interference.”

The government on Saturday named Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the next chief of the Indian Army, overlooking the seniority of two senior Lt Generals.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 18:23 IST

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CPM veteran to give Modi’s digital economy campaign a hand up

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Controversial politician and former CPM strongman from East Midnapore, Lakshman Chandra Seth, 70, has raised eyebrows as he has jumped ship to become the face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a digital and cashless economy in West Bengal.”Our PM has given a call for going cashless and I’m trying to follow it. I have got a new smart phone which I am learning to use effectively. I will take the help of my younger son who is a computer engineer to help me with mobile banking and pay for my expenses through various apps,” he told DNA.Asked about his aligning with the BJP, Seth said no party is ‘untouchable’ in today’s world and there was no such thing as Left or Right.”Parliamentary democracy has broken the wall between what was previously called the Left and Right groupings. What matters is your contribution towards addressing key issues such as development, unemployment, health, education and inflation, and helping weaker sections of the society,” he said.Seth, an MP for 13 years—from 1996 to 2009—is also alleged to have been the mastermind of the infamous Nandigram violence in March 14, 2007, which had led to the death of 14 persons in police firing.The stain has led some state BJP leaders to question his induction into the party. A senior state BJP leader on condition of anonymity said, “Seth would be a liability to the party.” However, others seem to have welcomed the veteran politician with open arms. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh and vice-president Jayprakash Majumder claim that Seth’s name had not been mentioned in the charge-sheet filed by CBI regarding the Nandigram violence.”The BJP’s network is not very strong in East Midnapore and his (Seth’s) resources could be used to make inroads in the district,” said Majumder.A look into Seth’s past shows that the veteran’s career has been marked by controversies. Reportedly expelled from CPM in 2014 for ‘anti-party activities’ he maintained that he had quit the party. “CPM has become a party of sycophants. Party leaders have an authoritarian attitude and overlook the issue of development. That is why I had quit,” he added.After severing ties with CPM, Seth tried to float his own political party—Bharat Nirman Party (BNP), in August 2014—without much success. In 2015, BNP had contested the civic elections in East Midnapore district. It fielded six candidates from Tamluk, three from Egra, and one from Contai, but managed to win in only two from Tamluk. Later in the 2016 Assembly elections BNP had pitched about 20 candidates, including 16 from East Midnapore, but failed to win any.Seth later admitted that floating BNP was not a good idea and said it would be a wiser option to join one of the two national parties—BJP and Congress—and wiser still to join the one which was in power. Predicting doom for the Congress, he said the party has lost its foundation in Bengal.

Demonetisation in Kerala: LDF to organise ‘human chain’ protest against note ban on 29 December

Thiruvananthapuram: The ruling CPM-led LDF in Kerala will organise a ‘human chain’ across the state on 29 December as part of its plans to intensify protests against hardships faced by people due to the demonetisation scheme.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The ‘human chain’ would be formed from northern district Kasaragod to state capital in the south, Thiruvananthapuram, LDF convener Vaikom Viswan said.

“Not only party workers and sympathisers but everybody who share the same sentiments on the issue can participate in the human-chain protest,” he said.

Before organising the ‘human chain’, the front would conduct conventions in all panchayats across the state on 20 December while ‘Padayatras’ would be held on 22 December to create awareness among people about the drawbacks of withdrawing high denomination notes, he said.

Party volunteers would also conduct house visits at the booth level on 27 and 28 December in this regard, he said.

Alleging that only corporates have benefited from the demonetisation, Viswan said the decision to withdraw currency was taken by the Centre with “political motives.”

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 15:12 IST

Will Kerala BJP pay political price for Modi’s refusal to meet people’s representatives?

The political storm over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to deny audience with an all-party delegation from Kerala refuses to subside, even a week after the incident.

The delegation, comprising the chief minister, finance minister and MLAs, had planned to submit a resolution that requested the Centre to allow co-operative banks to exchange demonitised Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes and accept deposits like other commercial banks.
The resolution was passed by the state legislative assembly during its special sitting, convened in the wake of crisis in the co-operative sector, on 23 November.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Leaders of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) and opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) have successfully kept the ‘Modi snub’ in the limelight for a long time to corner the BJP.
Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, had launched a scathing attack on Modi for not showing democratic values. “One cannot expect democratic values from a government led by an organisation that consider Hitler and Mussolini as their models.”

Former chief minister and senior Congress leader, Oommen Chandy, was equally harsh in his criticism of the prime minister. “Never before in the history of independent India had the Prime Minister declined to meet the delegation from a State. You had insulted Kerala by denying permission to this delegation. It was an insult to the federal structure of India.”

Dr J Prabhash, a prominent psephologist and head the of political science department at the Kerala University, opined that the prime minister has set a dangerous precedence. “It was an indication that Modi didn’t care about the state of affairs in Kerala. It would affect the centre-state relationship.”

War On Co-Operatives

The BJP began to train its guns on primary co-operative banks after the Reserve Bank of India imposed restrictions on them. The party alleged that co-operative banks are the hubs of unaccounted money and asked the Centre to take stern actions. It was a part of a carefully planned political game as most of the banks were controlled either by CPM or Congress (I).
The tough stand against co-operative banks, which are considered as the lifeline of rural economy, hasn’t gone down well with a large number of party sympathisers. Besides, Modi’s decision to deny permission to the legislators gave them the feeling that BJP is a predominantly North Indian political party.

“Many BJP sympathisers hold accounts in co-operative banks controlled by CPM and Congress. The party took a wrong decision to fight against the rural financial institutions. It eroded people’s confidence in the party. Besides, our rivals have succeeded in portraying BJP as an anti-Kerala party,” said a senior BJP leader on condition of anonymity.
App Vs People’s Representatives

It was an irony that the prime minister had asked people to express their views on demonetisation, albeit through his own app, a day before he denied permission to meet people’s representatives from Kerala.

Modi had urged the people to take part in a survey on the NM App as he wanted to get first-hand view on the demonetisation drive. A day later, he announced that 90 per cent of the respondents believed that black money existed in India, and supported the government to move to eradicate it. “I thank people for the historic participation in the survey. It’s satisfying to read the insightful views and comments,” the PM had tweeted.

Political analysts derided the exercise as a desperate attempt to shore up his waning public support.

Prabhash opined Modi would have understood the pulse of the people had he interacted with the legislators from Kerala. “How can he gauge the mood of the nation through an app survey? How many people in India use mobile phone and application? If he really wanted to know the pulse of the nation, he should have conducted a referendum,” he said.

Unconstitutional resolution?

Before Modi refused the audience with Kerala delegation, the BJP had even tried to term the resolution passed by the Assembly as unconstitutional.

Union finance minister, Arun Jaitley, fired the first salvo when he alleged that Kerala had breached the federalist structure by passing a resolution on a financial issue.

BJP state president, Kummanam Rajashekharan, echoed the sentiment while talking to journalists on November 24 in Thiruvananthapuram. “Only Centre has the right to decide on the country’s currency issues. No assembly in the country can pass such a resolution. So the Kerala assembly resolution is unconstitutional.”

However, legal experts found no substance in the allegation. They felt the accusations were politically motivated.

MA Rashid, co-founder, Live Law, India’s prominent legal news portal, said the Assembly has every right to express concern over issues that affect millions of people. “The assembly didn’t pass a law. The legislators expressed their concern about the crisis in co-operative sector. Expressing dissent on a decision by the union government is not unconstitutional or against the federal structure. Moreover, the constitutionality of demonetisation is yet to be verified by the courts.”

Advocate T Asaf Ali, former director general of prosecutions, opined that Assembly has not done anything wrong, “The assembly convened for a day to request the Centre to ameliorate people’s difficulties following RBI restrictions on co-operative banks. The BJP is trying to politicise the issue.”

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 12:57 IST

As Oppn protests, Government tries to rope in non-BJP CMs into panel on note ban

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On a day when the Opposition held nation-wide protests against ‘hardships’ caused to people in the aftermath of demonetization, the Government floated the idea of setting up a panel of Chief Ministers across party lines on the impact of the exercise.Finance minister Arun Jaitley called up Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu on Monday morning and proposed that the TDP leader, an ally of the BJP, head the committee of five chief ministers, sources said.The others whose names were in the reckoning were JD-U leader Nitish Kumar (Bihar), Congress’s V Narayanasamy (Puducherry), CPM’s Manik Sarkar (Tripura), BJD’s Naveen Patnaik (Odisha) and BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chauhan (Madhya Pradesh).However, there was no confirmation on whether the non-BJP chief ministers had given their nod for the proposal. While Nitish Kumar had backed demonetization, Congress and CPM have opposed the way demonetization was handled by the government. Congress, JD-U and CPM sources said they had no confirmation yet on the proposal.The proposed panel may make suggestions to bail out states which fear decline in revenues. The panel may also study ways to improve digital transactions to minimize the inconvenience of cash curbs, the source added.Ever since demonetization, chief ministers have been raising the issue of cash crunch in their states. Naidu had demanded Rs10,000 crore cash inflow into banks in Andhra Pradesh, while Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and submitted a report on the possible impact on state’s financials due to the cash curbs. Naidu too had expressed his fears and has been in constant touch with the Centre regarding the issue, the source said.Meanwhile, BJP chief Amit Shah has asked his party leaders from across the country to sensitize people on the need for moving towards a digital economy. Shah, who went into a huddle with his party office bearers in a series of meetings through the day at the BJP headquarters, is understood to have acknowledged that people faced difficulties in the aftermath of demonetization but said the Modi government needed to take ‘tough’ decisions.While the Opposition has been accusing government of undertaking the exercise without factoring in its impact on the common man, the BJP has tried to send the message that the move was intended to help the common man by targeting the corrupt. Apparently concerned about the inconvenience caused to people, the BJP is now undertaking an exercise to reach out to them to counter the Opposition campaign.Shah, according to sources, said for a vibrant economy it was necessary to increase budgetary allocations and for this black money should be eradicated and the tax net widened. He said demonetization was one of the tough decisions taken by the Modi regime in the interest of the country.Later, at a meeting with party leaders, Shah said the sweep in the Maharashtra local bodies was a reflection of the mood over demonetization.

Kerala rape case: Police inaction, shoddy investigation make for outrageous miscarriage of justice

By Maya Palitn

“We were made to sit like dogs in the station for four days. I was mentally tortured and decided to drop the case,” a 32-year-old rape survivor told the Times of India earlier this month, speaking about her attempt to register a complaint against her alleged rapists at Peramangalam police station in Kerala.

About two years ago, she was told that her husband had been in an accident, then forced into a vehicle by four of her husband’s friends, taken to an empty house and gang-rapedShe narrated her account to the dubbing artist and talk-show host Bhagya Lakshmi, of how the police officers had taunted her at the time with appalling questions about the incident, such as, “Which rapist gave you the most pleasure?”

Image courtesy: Bhagya Lakshmi/FacebookImage courtesy: Bhagya Lakshmi/Facebook

Image courtesy: Bhagya Lakshmi/Facebook

Lakshmi subsequently publicised the case on social media, which prompted a call from chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who assured her that he would ensure the case would be investigated.

Despite the public outrage and such high-level political intervention, however, the police continue to exhibit shocking indifference to the case; they have been stupendously slow to act, and hadn’t even bothered to interrogate the perpetrators, one of whom is PN Jayanthan, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) committee member and municipal councillor. This has led to the case being mired in what may become a tussle between political parties: Congress MLA Anil Akkara has accused the police of siding with the accused, before the CPM hit back for apparently revealing the name of the survivor. Akkara also urged the state police chief to put a new investigative team on the case, claiming that the CPM had interfered in the probe.

More recently, an investigation team, led by a female police official named G Poonguzhali, stated on Wednesday that it would be impossible for them to summon or arrest the accused because they lack “scientific evidence” of the rape and the necessary information to establish the exact spot where the crime took place. This is directly contrary to Palakkad ASP Poonguzhali’s previous statement, which indicated that the police would also rely on the testimonies of witnesses. The ridiculous demand that a woman who was forced into a moving car must be able to identify the precise location where the crime took place two years ago, is all too obviously a strategy for stalling the investigation.

Bhagya Lakshmi has responded to this illogical argument, saying she had lost confidence in the police investigation. “A woman was forcibly pushed inside the vehicle and subjected to harassment. In such a situation, how could the victim mark all those places? Police say they will take up the case if the victim provides all evidence. If so, why are we seeking the help of police?”

She expressed more hope in the National Commission for Women, which has recorded the victim’s statement and set up a three-member committee to probe the mental harassment inflicted on the victim by the police officer.

A protest march in Thrissur condemning police inaction and calling for Jayanthan’s arrest turned violent on Friday, and was followed up by a hartal a day later, but the police remain adamant that there is not enough information to go forward with the case, even though the probe was initiated almost three weeks ago.

Clearly, political and media attention still provides no guarantee for gender justice in India. After the police faced heavy criticism for its shoddy work, a team of top police officials admitted that there had, in fact, been misconduct and inattentiveness on their part. After further public outcry, the government suspended the officer who had subjected the victim to humiliation during her first complaint. Since then, however, the police’s response has been to dig in its heels, close ranks, and protect each other rather than get on with rectifying their mistakes. Instead of conducting a thorough investigation, they have now challenged the survivor to take the case to court, without which they will not lift a finger.

In the aftermath of the Nirbhaya rape case, several reports exposed how police mistreatment of rape survivors served to discourage them from coming forward, with one claiming that 95 out of 100 victims were subjected to unfriendly procedures or police harassment while reporting their experiences. One article also expressed anxiety about the fact that police lethargy and inadequate protection of victims leaves them at risk of being attacked again, as in the Haryana case this summer, where a Dalit woman was hunted down after three years and raped by her previous assaulters.

It is necessary to revisit these anxieties in cases like the Thrissur incident because its being old and posing technical difficulties is no excuse for the police to decide to not even try to investigate such cases. By refraining from even questioning the perpetrators, the police are blithely continuing their deliberate and outrageous miscarriage of justice.

First Published On : Nov 26, 2016 21:12 IST

RSS slams Manmohan, says Modi looking at next generation, not next election

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has slammed former prime minister Manmohan Singh for his sharp criticism of the Narendra Modi government on the demonetisation move, saying that he should have kept his own house in order as prime minister in the UPA government.

File image of Manmohan Singh. PTI

File image of Manmohan Singh. PTI

Manmohan Singh is considered one of the top economists, but what did he do in the two terms of the UPA government as prime minister? Most of the black wealth was generated during this period, with a series of high-profile scams, and he was at the helm of affairs. Wasn’t that an organised loot of the nation’s wealth?” asked J Nandkumar, Akhil Bharatiya Sah Prachar Pramukh of the RSS.

Breaking his silence after a long period, Manmohan, during the debate on demonetisation move in Rajya Sabha on Thursday, alleged that the NDA government’s plan of scrapping high-value currency notes had led to “organised loot and legalised plunder”.

“There’s no politics behind the action taken by the Modi government against counterfeit currency and black money through this demonetisation move. Modi took this courageous decision not as a politician but as a reformist, who’s looking at the next generation, and not at the next election,” Nandkumar told Firstpost.

The Sangh Parivar has already given its thumbs-up to Modi’s demonetisation move both in its internal meetings and on public platforms.

In an official statement issued by the RSS Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh Manmohan Vaidya (a copy of which is reproduced below) mentions, “The decision taken by the government of India to demonetise high-value currency notes is in national interest and with the honest intention of setting in motion cleaner and transparent monetary transactions and practices in the country. Its impact is being felt everywhere.”

Hailing Modi’s decision of scrapping high-value legal tenders to combat counterfeit currency and black money menace, the RSS has simultaneously appealed to the public to cooperate and support the government in the demonetisation move.

LetterRSSappealonDemonetisation by Firstpost on Scribd

However, the Sangh has also admitted that the move has caused inconvenience to the people across the country.

“I had been with (Mohan Bhagwat) for over a week after the move was announced. He appreciated the demonetisation move, but showed his concern about the problem people have been facing due to the implementation bottlenecks. But, let’s not forget that the magnitude of the move is so big and it’s a first-of-its-kind initiative by the government. So, it becomes very difficult to have fool-proof implementation,” a senior Sangh pracharak closely monitoring the move told Firstpost.

File image of Narendra Modi. PTI

File image of Narendra Modi. PTI

Even Vaidya in his statement said, “We appeal to the people to cooperate and support the government in this noble endeavour, irrespective of the temporary but unavoidable inconvenience being caused.”

Sharply criticising the voices of dissent and without naming anyone in particular, Nandkumar said, “These ivory tower intellectuals, the so-called liberals, who have no connection with the common man have opposed the move. Like in 2014, after Modi became the prime minister, they spread canards against him saying, ‘Bharat is not Gujarat’. Despite facing problems and cash crunches, the ordinary people are ready to suffer temporarily and have supported the decision, unlike those who live in ivory towers.”

Following demonetisation, the nation has witnessed a major hullabaloo over the move both in the public domain and in the Parliament. A single move united the Opposition parties across the spectrum — even forcing die-hard opponents Trinamool Congress (TMC) and CPM to join hands in an unprecedented move to launch a scathing attack against the Modi government.

Interestingly, a day before the prime minister’s monumental announcement (8 November), the Congress-led UDF in Kerala had opposed the ruling CPM-led LDF, when the latter had initiated a move in the state Assembly to audit the accounts in the cooperative banks due to charges of rampant corruption. But the tables turned the very next day and the foes of Kerala found themselves joining hands against Modi.

“LDF and UDF joined hands to protest demonetisation, exposing their hypocrisy,” the RSS deputy chief of publicity and communication added.

However, the RSS has also made it clear that it doesn’t interfere in government policies and decision-making, but supported demonetisation as it’s in the interest of the nation.

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 10:08 IST

Demonetisation: DMK to hold state-wide protests on 28 November

Chennai: With CPM deciding to observe 28 November as ‘All-India Protest Day’, on the Centre’s demonetisation issue, DMK on Thursday said it would stage protests outside central government offices in the state on that day.

Karunanidhi. PTIKarunanidhi. PTI

Karunanidhi. PTI

Party chief M Karunanidhi said ‘opposition leaders’ — the Left parties — had decided to hold countrywide protests against the ruling BJP on the issue and that DMK will protest outside central government offices in Tamil Nadu.

“As far as DMK is concerned, massive protest demonstrations will be held outside central government offices in all the districts with the cooperation of the people,” he said in a statement.

He urged good participation by party workers and asked them to voice support against this “anti-people” move of the Centre.

Karunanidhi also lashed out at the Centre, saying the common man was severely suffering.

He criticised Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu for saying that demonetisation will not be rolled back, claiming it had further “complicated” the situation.

First Published On : Nov 24, 2016 13:08 IST

Kakarala Madhavi is CPM secretary for Andhra-Odisha border: Women at forefront of Maoist ops

The AOB (Andhra-Odisha Border) Committee, a crucial military zone of the CPI (Maoist), which remained headless after the bloody encounter killings of its top leaders including Bakuri Venkataramana alias Ganesh on 24 October in Malkangiri, now has a woman as its chief.

Kakarala Madhavi, the new Secretary of the AOB Committee of the armed rebels will now call the shots at what is considered the last post of the Maoists. This post is a prestigious one amongst the group — it was earlier held by Maoist legends like Devanna and Azad.

Kakarala Madhavi, 34, is a native of Rajamahendravaram of East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, the same area where popular film star and MP Jayaprada hails from. Madhavi was the choice for commander in view of her experience in the region and also her rapport with the local tribals in the border district of Malkangiri.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Madhavi is the daughter of Kakarala Subba Rao, a veteran character theatre actor and a member of the Virasam (Viplava Rachayitala Sangham or Revolutionary Writers’ Association). There is confusion as to whether she is Padmakka or Radhakka, two daughters of Rao, who had both joined the People’s War Group (PWG) before it became the CPI (Maoist). “My daughters were addicted more to Left philosophy and Communist literature than me,” Subba Rao had said in an interview with a TV channel recently.

A college drop-out, Madhavi had joined the movement 10 years ago under the influence of her father’s active involvement in the Communist movement. In fact, she had also played a role in a drama on Lenin, staged by her father, who was a theatre artiste, writer and also a director. She had worked as a deputy commander, commander and also a member of zone committees, finally making it to the central committee now. She had worked not only in the Nallamala and Dandakaranya forests but also in Telangana, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and also in some front organisations — cultural, farmers and youth wings of the CPI (Maoist).

Madhavi is perhaps the six or seventh woman top leader in the hierarchy as of now. Sources told Firstpost that an emergency meeting of the central committee of the Maoists held in the jungles of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh a few days ago had placed on record the contribution of the 31 slain rebels to Left wing extremism. Of the slain Maoists, 11 were women, including two deputy commanders.

The central committee also appointed another senior Maoist woman field operative Pothula Kalpana, 34, as the person in charge of military operations in the area. The Committee had justified the appointment of young women to key posts by saying that this move was to win the confidence of locals and tribals in the AOB region. The highest body of the CPI (Maoist) had said that internal lapses in guerrilla strategy had cost too many lives in the 24 October encounter. “Treachery, gross negligence and overconfidence” had led to the massacre at Janthi village in AOB, said a document of the central committee.

Women in revolutionary groups

Lack of recruitment of educated activists as well as desertion of the movement by aged sick seniors had forced Maoists to recognise the value addition made by women cadres and elevate them in several key positions. “Maoists took the calculated risk as women cadres were more committed, duty conscious and loyal to party hierarchy than men cadres,” said former DGP of Andhra Pradesh Dinesh Reddy, during whose period the AP police struck terror in the Dandakaranya forests in Telangana.

After a series of police-driven media exposures on the plight of women cadres in Maoist groups in the 1990s, the central committee of the PWG had framed guidelines and mandatory approval by the committee for inducting cadres in armed dalam (group), front organisations, the People’s Guerrilla Land Army (PGLA) and also the special military commissions. At a time there were nearly 175-250 women members in the field and also in front organisations, but the number has now dwindled to less than 100, according to police. “Very few women — except those linked to top guns in Central Committee or those married to dalam commanders or dalam members — are continuing. There are no single women,” said a senior police official.

A major reason for teenage girls to join the dalams was to escape from the traditions of early marriage when they were in school or junior college. “I joined the dalam to escape from family pressure to marry and stop my education. Now everything is lost as I don’t have any studies either,” said 19-year-old girl Renuka, a Maoist rebel who met this writer in the 1990s in Karimnagar, Telangana. Two years later, she surrendered and returned home; went back again and was killed in a shootout.

A college drop-out, Madhavi had joined the movement 10 years ago under the influence of her father’s active involvement in the Communist movement

But things have now changed for women activists who are chosen to head crucial committees including intelligence, suicide strike teams and are also key contributors to policy decisions in dealing with the tribals and landless poor. The central committee had acknowledged the role of women cadres in a document released two years ago on how the Salwa Judum domination in Chhattisgarh was throttled and tribals — Khoyas and Kondadoras — were won back to their side.

Women have been an active part of war machinery of the CPI (Maoist) and its earlier avatar, the PWG. The number of women cadre has been on the rise since the late 1990s. Replying to a question in Parliament on 13 July, 2013, then Minister of State for Home Affairs, RPN Singh had said that 40 percent of Maoist cadre were women.

“I was motivated by the fiery, inspiring songs of a visiting Maoist squad sung in my village,” said V Sujata, a 20-year-old Dalit armed activist in the Sircilla belt of Karimnagar, in 2005. Local police had painted her as a “loose girl” and that jeopardised her family efforts to get her married off. She had taken to Maoism to escape from community penalty to the family.

In 2008, Sujata went back to her village as a deputy commander of a dalam and took revenge on the police and also other villagers who had maligned and harassed her. Her dalam had cut the hands and ears of her detractors. Sujata was however killed in an encounter in 2009 near AOB. “But that explains the real reason why teenagers wants to join the Maoist movement — they want to escape from age-old customs and ridiculous social ostracisation,” said Professor Hargopal, a civil rights activist of Telangana.

Changing roles of women in Maoism

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Unlike Sujata, there were many others like Anupuram Anasuya, wife of Anupuram Komarayya, of the North Telangana Special Zone Committee (NTSZC) who went to jungles out of commitment, leaving her infant behind, and who died in a later encounter defending her husband and the movement. Similarly, Polam Bharathi, wife of Polam Sudharshan Reddy, joined the dalam, but quit after her husband was killed in an encounter. Many others like Nelakonda Rajitha alias Padmakka, an undergraduate, had married Sande Rajamouli (a Politburo member and chief of Central Military Commission) and was killed in an encounter in 2002. “Women joined the rebel fold and even went underground, living in exile, to escape from the exploitation of powerful people in the village,” says popular civil rights activist Kancha Ilaiah.

Most women activists like Nirmala (wife of Chandra Pulla Reddy) and Anuradha Ghandy (wife of Kobad Ghandy) were highly educated, urban ideologues and leaders. For instance, Anuradha Ghandy, a Sociology lecturer, had led the all-India women’s movement but died of cerebral malaria in the Dandakaranya jungles.

Police said girl cadets who wanted to become like Madhya Pradesh’s notorious ‘Bandit Queen’ Phoolan Devi, were used as decoys during raids and ambushes. They were also used as errand girls to collect funds, medicines, food from villages and also as personal couriers of the top leaders. While most men cadre ran away fearing the heavy firepower of security forces, women cadres remained on ground and returned fire and often helped the top cadres to escape even at the cost of their own lives. “In order to give women cadres a safe and secure career, the CC had always encouraged them to get married to the men of their choice in the armed units,” says another document of the CPI (Maoist).

The committee also invited women cadets with a minimum 3 years experience to visit Abuj Marh in Chhattisgarh once in two years to undergo special indoctrination and military training to prepare them for higher responsibilities, as many male cadres were deserting the movement due to sickness or family issues. “But the disturbances since the Green Hunt operation had put this exercise on hold,” said another police official.

Women activists have thus become the vanguard of the Maoist operations during the toughest situations. Nirmala Chatterjee, a leader of the Maoist Communist Centre and widow of Sagar Chatterjee, had led the Maoist attack on Chandrapura Railway Police station in West Bengal in 2005. In a recent document, Ganapathi alias Muppala Lakshman Rao, numero uno of the CPI (Maoist) had written — “Women activists, particularly from Dalit and tribal backgrounds, have been a main source of strength for the Maoist movement, and only the functional and organisational deficits of the movement had shortened their utility,” the document quotes.

First Published On : Nov 20, 2016 14:36 IST

Demonetisation takes centre stage in Bengal bypoll campaign

Kolkata: By-elections will be held in two Lok Sabha constituencies and one Assembly constituency in West Bengal tomorrow under the shadow of the Centre’s demonetisation decision.

The by-elections will be held in Cooch Behar and Tamluk Lok Sabha constituencies and in Monteswar Assembly constituency. Ruling Trinamool Congress, BJP, Left Front and Congress have fielded their candidates in all three seats.

Although the Congress and CPM-led Left Front had contested the Assembly polls held earlier this year, the two decided to part company in this round of by-elections.

Demonetisation has become a key issue in the last lap of campaign for the by-polls. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee did not campaign for the by-polls and left it to the other leaders of her party.

Mamata Banerjee. PTIMamata Banerjee. PTI

Mamata Banerjee. PTI

Apart from state BJP president Dilip Ghosh, Union minister Babul Supriyo canvassed for his party.

WBPCC chief Adhir Chowdhury and CPM state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra spearheaded campaign for their party candidates.

TMC MLA and party candidate from Tamluk seat Dibyendu Adhikari told PTI, “Demonetisation move has affected every citizen of this country. The common man is suffering. Demonetisation has also impacted our campaign as we are unable to pay the decorators, sound organisers. In Tamluk, most of the rural areas still don’t have proper banking facilities, what will the poor farmers do?” he asked.

According CPM and Congress leaders, demonetisation has all of a sudden come up as an issue for the polls as they are receiving feedback that people are inconvenienced due to the new decision.

CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty said demonetisation became a prominent issue as the people faced huge problems and added that the situation was much worse in rural areas.

The BJP, on the other hand, said that by-elections would be a litmus test for political parties.

“What TMC, Congress and CPM are saying is not right. People of Bengal are happy with the decision and will give a hands down victory to our candidates,” state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said.

“It’s not a question of black money or white money. All of a sudden if you scrap high value notes how will you meet various expenditures for the campaign,” Congress candidate from Monteswar Bulbul Ahmed Sheikh said.

By-election in Cooch Behar was necessitated by the death of TMC MP Renuka Sinha while the by-election in Tamluk in East Medinipur district was caused by the resignation of TMC MP Suvendu Adhikari who also won the Assembly poll and joined the state cabinet as transport minister.

The bypoll to Monteswar Assembly seat in Burdwan district is due to death of TMC MLA Sajal Panja.

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 11:21 IST

DNA impact: SBI write-off – Opposition questions government

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The expose by DNA on Wednesday highlighting how the State Bank of India (SBI) wrote off loans of 63 wilful defaulters, close to the demonetization move, caused a flutter both inside and outside Parliament.Post the article, the Centre fielded Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to respond to the Opposition’s attack. SBI chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya also sought to downplay the issue saying that efforts were on to recover the loans from the defaulters. In the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley clarified, “the loans are only a write-off from the balance sheets and not a waiver.” DNA’s story also exposed that the loans given to industrialist Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines, who heads the wilful defaulters’ list with outstanding dues of almost Rs 1,201 crore, and 62 others, was not shown in the SBI’s balance sheet. The story was picked up immediately by the Congress, CPM and other parties who used the revelations to question the government on the first day of the Winter Session of Parliament. Even before the session began, Congress splashed the story on social media, especially Twitter in a big way. Congress spokesperson Randeep S Surjewala posted three tweets one after the other, raising question marks on government’s move. “As ModiJi’s blue eyed boy-Mallya gets a Rs 1,200 cr write-off, fighting black money is Political hypocrisy at its worst.” “Rs 7,000 cr write offs of 60 wilful defaulters by SBI proves that #SuitBootSarkar shields big sharks as people languish.” When the story turned viral on social media, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury too raised the issue in Parliament seeking answers from the government.Sharad Yadav from the JD (U) also referred to the issue and sought answers from the government.

Can blame game actually end bloodbath in Kannur?

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Less than an hour’s drive from where BJP’s Koothuparamba candidate Sadanandan Master campaigned during the Kerala assembly elections this year was the home of KV Sudheesh, a CPM activist. Both were victims of Kannur’s bloodthirsty eye for an eye political violence on the same day, two decades ago.While Sadanandan master had lost both his legs, Sudheesh was killed in front of his parents. In the recent spurt of violence after the elections, the scoresheet of CPM and BJP on killings of their workers in Kannur district stand at three each.The nearly five-decade old Kannur bloodbath seems all set to resonate louder in Delhi as the RSS-BJP and CPM spar over the violence and its history. The BJP plans to raise the issue in the winter session of Parliament beginning in November saying it was a “question of threat to life and liberty”. The party has stepped up its campaign against its ideological foe saying killings of BJP and RSS workers had increased in the CPM bastion ever since the Pinarayi Vijayan government came to power. Meanwhile, RSS general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi, along with leaders Indresh Kumar and PVB Menon, visited families of the victims in the state, sources said.The CPM is planning its own counter-campaign. In Kerala, the party is holding “jathas” and carrying out a campaign with pamphlets and history of the violence. Party sources said an exhibition on the violence against its cadre was likely to be brought to Delhi and all state capitals in November.CPM leader Prakash Karat recalled how the violence began with clashes between beedi unit workers and owners in the late sixties. He said owners hired men from Karnataka, where the RSS had a presence. A decade later RSS shakhas came up in Kannur, a CPM bastion.The RSS has its own version of the history of violence. According to RSS, it was in 1940s that it began work in the state and Left cadre disillusioned with communism started joining it. Briefing the media at the RSS meeting in Hyderabad on Monday, J Nandakumar said the first victim was Vaddikal Ramakrishnan, a tailor of Thalassery. He also alleged that chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan was involved in the 1969 murder.The RSS asked the state and central government to take action against the perpetrators of violence and ensure the rule of law in Kerala prevailed.The CPM polit bureau issued a statement on Tuesday saying the RSS has repeated its fabricated charge against the Left.”Our party has said we are prepared to have talks to see that this violence ends,” Karat said.A BJP leader, however, said it was futile to talk to CPM. BJP president Amit Shah has repeatedly expressed concern about “attacks on his party workers in the CM’s home constituency.””We have demanded that government should make efforts to establish peace. We will expose CPM if they do not,” said state BJP leader V Muralidharan.CPM has listed five Left workers “assassinated” since Vijayan’s victory rally in Dharmadam constituency after elections. The BJP has alleged that four of its workers have been killed since then.For the BJP, which has made inroads into the state’s electoral map for the first time, Kerala is one of the states that it has set eyes on in its mission 2019. A state leader said Shah has asked the party to target all 20 seats. A three-member party team headed by General secretary Bhupendra Yadav has submitted a report on Kannur violence from 1968, in which it said 82 of RSS-BJP cadre had been killed.CPM suspects that BJP has a larger political motive of pinning down the LDF government over breakdown of law and order and taking it on in its bastions. Sources said violence had also surfaced in Trishur, where the Left won nine of the ten seats, but BJP got around 20,000 votes in every constituency, eating into the UDF vote.A BJP leader said victims of violence had been mostly those who had changed their affiliations from the Left to the Right.

Kerala: BJP worker attacked by unknown men in Thrissur

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A BJP worker Vishnu Prasad was grievously injured when six people attacked him with sharp weapons in Pavaratty near Thrissur on Friday morning. The victim is the brother of Vijayasanker, who is seventh accused in the murder case of Shihabudeen a CPM worker, at Pavaratty in 2015.The victim was riding his bike and was near Idiyanchira bridge when six assailants in a car attacked him at 10.30 a.m when he was riding his bike. Vishnu’s fingers on his right hand were almost severed in that attack. His also got injuries on his head and legs. He is now in a neuro ICU of a private hospital in Thrissur.An attempt to murder case under IPC 307 was registered against identifiable persons. Patrolling by the police has increased at Pavaratty, which is infamous for CPM-BJP clashes.The BJP took out three rallies in Thiruvanathapuram on Thursday against such killings under LDF rule and asked CM Pinarayi Vijayan to take action over the issue.

Kannur violence: SDPI activist hacked to death, third political killing in four days

Within a day of the death of the BJP worker which spurred state-wide protests and bandh, another political slaying was reported from Kerala’s Kannur district, Manorama online reported. Farooq, 45, a Social Democratic Party of India activist was hacked to death in Kannur at around 11 am on Thursday. Farooq was rushed to the hospital where he was declared brought dead.

The SDPI has alleged that its core rival, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), is behind the killing and the police have apprehended a local in connection with the murder. This was the third such murder in the city in the past 4 days.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Earlier on Monday, a 52-year-old CPM grassroot leader, K Mohanan, was hacked to death by suspected RSS activists on at Pathiriyad in Kannur district. Following this, on Wednesday, Remith, 25, a Bharatiya Janata Party worker was hacked to death in front of a petrol pump in Pinarayi village, which is also the native place of the state’s chief minister.

While on one hand, CPM has alleged that BJP workers were behind the murder of its leader and called for a hartal on Tuesday in Kannur, the BJP on the other hand, accused the CPM-led government of “unleashing a reign of terror over political opponents.”  Last week, two scheduled caste BJP workers were killed in Kannur district of Kerala.

Following the killings, which are suspected to be politically motivated, BJP chief Amit Shah sought a CBI probe and urged political leaders to condemn the killing. “Kannur has been the centre of Marxist violence in Kerala. The continuous violence against people in the native village of the state’s Chief Minister underlines the government’s ideology. We demand that the Kerala government  hand over the probe into the murder to the CBI,” Shah said in a statement. The BJP-led central government has also asked for a report from the Kerala government on the brutal killing of the 25-year-old BJP activist. The Home Ministry has asked the Kerala government to inform it about the steps taken for the security of political workers in the state, official sources said.

According to sources, Remith’s father was also murdered some years ago. TK Devasia in a Firstpost article argues that the killing of CPM leader Mohanan cannot be seen in isolation. It must be viewed in the backdrop of Remith’s father’s murder, who was stabbed to death. What is instructive to note here is that Remith’s death too comes close on the heels of CPM’s accusation that BJP-RSS activists. Clearly, the traditional BJP-Left rivalry remains vitiated and the Kannur region is extremely politically volatile.  Amid this comes a fresh killing of Farooq, the SDPI activist.

The murder of Farooq is the eighth political murder in Kannur after the LDF came to power. Even on the day the votes were being counted (19 May), a 47-year-old CPM activist Raveendran died in a bomb attack on the CPM victory rally. Since then five lives — three CPM and two BJP men — have been lost to the political bloodbath in the region. In addition to this, a BJP worker was killed in an explosion while handling bombs kept in his house near Kadirur in Kannur district.

With inputs from agencies

Kannur violence: Centre seeks report from Kerala govt on BJP worker Remith’s death

Kannur violence: Centre seeks report from Kerala govt on BJP worker Remith’s death

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New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday sought a report from the Kerala government on the brutal killing of a 25-year-old BJP activist in Kannur district.

In a communication, the Home Ministry has asked the state government to provide details of the incident and steps taken to nab and punish those responsible for the crime.

The Home Ministry has also asked the Kerala government to inform it about the steps taken for security of political workers in the state, official sources said.

Kochi: BJP activists staging a protest march in Kochi as part of the state wide dawn to dusk strike on Thursday against kiiling of Ramit, a BJP worker, was hacked to death by alleged CPM workers in Pinarayi town of Kannur district ln Kerala. PTI Photo(PTI10_13_2016_000031B)Kochi: BJP activists staging a protest march in Kochi as part of the state wide dawn to dusk strike on Thursday against kiiling of Ramit, a BJP worker, was hacked to death by alleged CPM workers in Pinarayi town of Kannur district ln Kerala. PTI Photo(PTI10_13_2016_000031B)

BJP activists stage a protest march in Kochi as part of the statewide dawn to dusk strike on Thursday against kiiling of BJP worker Remith. AP.

BJP activist Remith was hacked to death in Kannur district, the hometown of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday, within 48 hours of the murder of a CPM activist and toddy shop worker Mohanan.

The BJP organised a ‘bandh’ in Kerala on Thursday to protest the killing of its party activist.

As a mark of protest, buses and autorickshaws were off the roads on Thursday, keeping in line with the 12-hour state-wide hartal called by the BJP in Kerala to protest against the brutal killing.

This is the second hartal in Kannur district within 3 days as the CPM had observed a hartal in protest against the murder of their worker.

Reacting to the killing, BJP National President Amit Shah had tweeted, “Attacks on BJP karyakartas in CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s home constituency is a matter of grave concern and smacks of political vendetta”.

“Chavassery Uttaman, Remith’s father was similarly killed in 2002, his mother suffered serious injures when his house was attacked recently”, Shah tweeted.

CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury had said the violence in Kerala has been started by the RSS-BJP combine itself and blaming the state’s ruling party for the same is “total fabrication” of facts.

Vijayan had yesterday hit out at the RSS for the growing violence in the state which he alleged was with the support of BJP government at the Centre.

Vijayan, while speaking at a function in Alappuzha, attacked RSS and BJP over the attack on a Marxist worker in Kannur two days ago and accused RSS of spreading violence in the state.

Kannur violence: CPM, BJP trade charges, Kerala Congress calls it law and order breakdown

Barely two months after the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government assumed office in Kerala, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, state secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist) that heads the ruling front, had asked his party men to ensure that those who attack them should not go back as they came.

The murder of a BJP activist two days after a CPM worker was hacked to death in Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s Dharmadam constituency in the politically-volatile Kannur district on Monday is widely seen as a virtual implementation of the party chief’s advice.

Thirty-year-old Remith was attacked with sharp weapons on Wednesday morning by a group of people at a petrol pump near Pinarayi town. He suffered deep wounds on his head and neck and died before reaching the hospital.

The murder of Remith is seen as an act of retaliation against the murder of CPM worker, Kuzhichal Mohanan, on Monday. Mohanan, 52, a CPM branch secretary, was hacked to death by six unidentified masked men at his shop in a busy market area in Valankichal.

Kochi: BJP activists staging a protest march in Kochi as part of the state wide dawn to dusk strike on Thursday against kiiling of Ramit, a BJP worker, was hacked to death by alleged CPM workers in Pinarayi town of Kannur district ln Kerala. PTI Photo(PTI10_13_2016_000031B)Kochi: BJP activists staging a protest march in Kochi as part of the state wide dawn to dusk strike on Thursday against kiiling of Ramit, a BJP worker, was hacked to death by alleged CPM workers in Pinarayi town of Kannur district ln Kerala. PTI Photo(PTI10_13_2016_000031B)

BJP activists stage a protest march in Kochi as part of the state-wide dawn to dusk strike on Thursday against killing of Ramit, a BJP worker. PTI

Accusing the CPM of murdering their party activist, the state unit of the BJP has called a state-wide hartal on Thursday to register their protest against the political violence in the state. The party had taken out a march to the CPM headquarters in New Delhi on Monday in protest against the alleged encouragement given by the CPM to political violence.

The murder of Mohanan is not viewed as an isolated incident. Political observers in Kannur do not rule out its connection with the murder of the father of Remith, Chodon Uthaman, 14 years ago. Uthaman, a bus driver, was stabbed to death inside the bus he was driving, by a group of assailants at Keezhur, near Pinarayi on 23 May, 2002.

The murder of Remith came soon after the CPM alleged the hands of the BJP and RSS behind the murder of Mohanan. The CPM had claimed that the BJP, which failed to win the state assembly elections, was resorting to such violent attacks as an act of revenge.

The murder of Remith is the seventh political murder in Kannur after the LDF came to power. The murder spree that started with the death of 47-year-old CPM activist Raveendran, in a bomb attack on the CPM victory rally on the counting day on 19 May has claimed five lives — three CPM and two BJP men — so far.

In addition to this, a BJP worker was killed in an explosion while handling bombs kept in his house near Kadirur in Kannur district. There have been several attacks on political workers and activists since the LDF government came to power.

According to official statistics, more than 50 political attacks have taken place in the district so far. However, BJP has claimed a total 400 cases of violence in the first four months of the government. BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi had claimed that 200 BJP workers were assaulted, maimed or killed, and 200 homes burnt during this period.

Political violence was a major poll plank of the BJP for the 16 May Assembly polls. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched his campaign by presenting a victim of the political violence. S Sadanandan, who lost both his legs in the CPM attack, was the party’s candidate at Koothuparamba in Kannur district, the hot bed of political violence in the state.

The Prime Minister had taken up the political murders as a major issue when Vijayan called on him first time after assuming office. However, the chief minister left the onus on the BJP saying that he was prepared to bring peace to Kannur if the Sangh parivar was ready to eschew violence.

The CPM had claimed that the BJP, which failed to win the state assembly elections, was resorting to such violent attacks as an act of revenge

The BJP, on its part, accused the CPM of continuing the politics of violence. The national council of the party held at Kozhikode last month took the issue to the national level by compiling the lives of the martyrs and asking the media to debate the issue at the national level.

Pinarayi pleaded helplessness in ending the violence stating that they were being committed by people training by some special groups. He said that some of these groups were also controlling certain political parties.

He accused the Sangh parivar of unleashing violence with the help of the party’s government at the Centre. He said that the violence was part of the attempt by the BJP to consolidate its base in the state by creating communal divide.

The opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front has viewed the chief minister’s statement as an admission of his helplessness in ending the political violence. Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president VM Sudheeran termed the recent murders as a clear indication of the breakdown of law and order in the state.

He has urged Pinrayi to relinquish the home portfolio. Sudheeran said that the police controlled by Pinrayi had failed to maintain the law and order. The chief minister, who controls the home portfolio, is responsible for the breakdown of the law and order, he said.

CPM worker hacked to death in Kerala’s Kannur district

CPM worker hacked to death in Kerala’s Kannur district

Updated: Oct 10, 2016 14:40 IST

#BJP #CPI(M) #CPM #Kannur #Kerala #Mohanan #NewsTracker #Pathiriyad

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Kannur: A CPI(M) worker was on Monday hacked to death by six people at Pathiriyad in Kannur district, police said.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Police said the deceased, Mohanan (40), died on the way to the hospital. The assailants have not been identified yet.

Mohanan, a toddy shop worker, was the CPI(M)’s Paduvilayi local committee member.

The attack took place this morning when he was inside the shop. Another worker, Ashokan, was also injured, police said.

CPI(M) has alleged that BJP workers were behind the attack and have called for a hartal tomorrow in Kannur district.

Kerala CPM leaders hire family members for PSUs, go against Pinarayi Vijayan’s poll promise

Barely four months into its existence, the Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala that came to power crusading against corruption, has fallen victim to the same weakness that the previous United Democratic Front (UDF) allies were afflicted with.

It’s not yet blatant corruption, but something very close — cronyism, that too involving the families of the CPM apparatchiks.

On Friday, the state’s media reported that the government appointed the son of a former CPM health minister, PK Sreemathi, who is presently a member of parliament, as the managing director of the state-run Kerala State Industrial Enterprises, flouting eligibility criteria. Incidentally, the man in question is also the nephew of the industries minister, EP Jayarajan, whose department chose him.

Representational image. AgenciesRepresentational image. Agencies

Representational image. Agencies

As the controversy threatened to loom large, the government cheekily withdrew the appointment saying that the candidate asked for more time to join, which it had rejected. Reportedly, the appointment was cancelled at the instance of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who had said in the past that his government’s policy was to appoint qualified people to state-run enterprises. Sreemathi was at the centre of a similar scandal during the last Left government as well, when as a state minister she appointed her daughter-in-law as her “cook”, who subsequently became her official assistant.

It’s not just one family member of the CPM, but many that have been chosen to head government-run institutions now. Reportedly, close family members of senior party leaders have been appointed in the Kinfra Apparel Park, Clay and Ceramics Limited and the Women’s Development Corporation. And more are in the pipeline.

Not that the UDF was clean. Under its rule, there was absolutely no control over such postings and they were meant only to employ close associates and party functionaries. The industries department, which managed a number of a public sector units, had the worst record. By the time the last government left the office, majority of them were making losses and their combined loss to the exchequer stood at about Rs 2000 crore. According to the CAG, in 2015, 53 state enterprises alone had incurred a loss of Rs 889 crore.

Although some of them were public utility services such as the electricity board, transport corporation and water authority that are not meant to make profits but serve people, majority were small industrial enterprises that hardly had any relevance to the state’s wealth generation or industrialisation, except providing lucrative backdoor employment to political leaders or their associates, and avenues for kickbacks. For instance, one such unit, headed by a Congress leader, imported inferior cashew from Africa, costing the state a few crores. Similarly, a loss-making state-run cement factory, the Malabar Cements, has made headlines only for corruption scandals.

The eligibility of some of the people who headed such institutions during the UDF regime was laughable. Some of them are now facing vigilance cases.

What’s disappointing about the CPM’s apparent cronyism is that it contrasts with what Pinarayi Vijayan had promised when he came to power in May. He spoke of a grand vision of transforming the industrial landscape of Kerala with ‘Silicon Valley’ type hubs, big highways, high-speed railway lines and a lot of jobs. And his vision couldn’t have excluded the 100-plus government-run undertakings because they are a big drain on the state’s economy and employ a large number of people. Appointing cronies from the party leaders’ families, with or without eligibility, through processes that look rigged doesn’t seem to be a move that befits Vijayan’s vision.

It’s not yet blatant corruption, but something very close — cronyism, that too involving the families of the CPM apparatchiks.

Interestingly, communist China had (and still has) a similar problem of cronyism, in which a club of elites had cornered plum positions in the party, and government and military run institutions. This was one of the major challenges of President Xi Jinping when he became the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2012. Jinping went after the big shots and felled about 50 senior officials in the first two years since launching his anti-corruption campaign. A large number of party functionaries and cronies were prosecuted and punished. The New York Times had noted that

Corruption has penetrated so very deeply into the party-state that it has become the glue that holds it together.

In a minor scale, there’s a similar glue in Kerala’s CPM as well: families of the party leaders need jobs that pay them well. Industrially barren, contracts and kickbacks are hard to come by.

If massive infrastructure development and privatisation opened opportunities to the political elites in China, who over the last three decades had formed an invincible party-state syndicate, in Kerala, the situation appears similar in a much smaller scale. The opportunities before the party are the state-run enterprises and the gates that Vijayan’s industrial drive will open. Going by the early trend, if the people are not vigilant, these opportunities will be cornered by cronies and relatives of the party leaders.

In this 2005 paper in the International Review of Sociology that looks at the cultural context of corruption in communist societies, authors Wayne Sandholtz and Rein Taagepera argue that “communism created structural incentives for engaging in corrupt behaviors, which became such a widespread fact of life that they became rooted in the culture in these societies/that is, the social norms and practices prevailing in communist societies.” No wonder that many of the party leaders and proxies found nothing wrong in party leaders’ family members grabbing premium government jobs.

They had waited for five years while the Congress-led UDF had a free-for-all. Looks like it’s payback time, and the tax payers have to foot the bill this time as well.

Peaceniks like Yechury see Pakistan as just another country, but not as a terror factory

Dear Comrade Sitaram Yechury,

It was nice hearing you on television, talking about having a dialogue with Pakistan. Unsuspecting and ill-informed viewers, no doubt, would have been overwhelmed with joy by your homily. To them, yours might have sounded like one of the few sane voices that are being drowned by the war cries of jaw-for-tooth jingoists. Then you explained later that what you meant was “diplomatic and political moves to defuse tension”.

But the tone of your clarification was as conciliatory as that of your original sermon. Forgive me, Comrade Yechury, for getting a sneaking suspicion that the Left and the Left-leaning journalists of this country are somehow getting left out of the campaign against terror, which is a pretty serious business. And worse, your call for peace seemed suspiciously similar to the empty noises that the Chinese made following the Uri horror. The Chinese too advised India and Pakistan to talk and de-escalate tension.

And I can’t help remembering the India-China war of 1962 either.

Hurry up, comrade. Tension is building, and time is running out

At that time, the leaders of your glorious, undivided Communist Party of India (CPI) supported China, saying it wanted to keep its “ideology above nation”. This forced Jawaharlal Nehru to throw many CPI leaders into jail. One of them was a man called VS Achuthanandan, a central committee member, who was lodged in the Thiruvananthapuram Central Jail. But Achuthanandan was furious with the party’s stand. In jail, he suggested to his other comrades that they should collect blood and donate it to injured Indian jawans. The word reached the ears of a CPI leader called Jyoti Basu, who ordered an “inquiry” into Achuthanandan’s anti-party activity.

As a result, the Kerala leader was demoted in the party hierarchy after he was released from jail.

This is not to question the personal loyalty of either you or other comrades in the CPM and the dozen or so parties into which India’s glorious communist movement has divided itself. I am also, in no way, questioning the motives behind your undying clamour for peace, your sincerity of purpose, your magnificent vision for the future and your kind-hearted altruism, despite the fact that India’s communists are great admirers of the likes of Joseph Stalin, who executed at least three million people in the erstwhile Soviet Union, and Mao Zedong, who killed five million people or more.

File image of Sitaram Yechury. AFP

File image of Sitaram Yechury. AFP

It would be irresponsible of me if I failed to mention your unshakable belief that the Great Indian Revolution is just around the corner to wipe out all the evils confronting this nation, in spite of the fact that CPM’s performance crashed from 5.6 percent of the votes and 43 Lok Sabha seats in 2004, to 5.3 percent of the votes and 16 seats in 2009, to 3.2 percent of the votes and nine seats in 2014.

Accept my apologies for having digressed, and let me return to the subject of ‘talking’ to Pakistan.

It’s indeed a good thing, Comrade Yechury, to have a limitless passion for peace with neighbouring countries. But in the present case, there is a hitch. Pakistan is not a country. It’s a terror factory. It exports terror with as much ease as it does cotton and leather goods. The made-in-Pakistan terror is seen not just in India.

This is what India told the United Nations General Assembly on 21 September, three days after the horror of Uri: “The land of Taxila, one of the greatest learning centres of ancient times, is now host to the Ivy League of terrorism. It attracts aspirants and apprentices from all over the world. The effect of its toxic curriculum is felt across the globe.”

Grieving over the Uri killings, India poured its heart out when its diplomat Eenam Gambhir told the UN: “Pakistan channelises billions of dollars, much of it diverted from international aid, to training, financing and supporting terrorist groups as militant proxies against its neighbours.”

Suppose, Comrade Yechury, thief after thief breaks into your house and walks off with one valuable after another fairly regularly. Would you go in search of the chief of thieves, give him a flying kiss, offer him a cigarette and a cup of coffee and request him not to steal my things? You wouldn’t, would you? You would do something else: You would either thrash him black and blue, or call the cops or talk to all your neighbours and come up with something to stop thieves from visiting the neighbourhood.

You and other peaceniks, who include several Left-leaning journalists, not only make the mistake of treating Pakistan as any other country, but also commit the blunder of believing that this rogue state is a threat to only India on account of Kashmir. Get this right: Pakistan isn’t India’s headache alone.

Most major terror attacks in the world have some Pakistani link. Read this telling Firstpost article by Prakash Nanda, which says: “Pakistan has produced the CIA shooter Mir Aimal Kasi; the 1993 World Trade Centre bomber Ramzi Yousef (born in Kuwait to Pakistani parents); 11 September attacks (9/11) mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; The Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s kidnapper, Omar Saeed Sheikh; and three of the four men behind the July 2005 train and bus bombings in London.”

And don’t brush aside the fears of US democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. She is terrified of the possibility of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of jihadists. She said: “… we live in fear that they’re going to have a coup, that jihadists are going to take over the government, they’re going to get access to nuclear weapons, and you’ll have suicide nuclear bombers. So, this could not be a more threatening scenario.”

Hillary is no ordinary politician, comrade. She is a former US secretary of state and she should have some idea of what she is talking about. And doesn’t that bring out sweat on you?

And doesn’t it worry you that China, a country that you admire so much, is the only major nation that backs Pakistan?

You must also be aware that Pakistan was also known to have peddled not only nuclear weapons know-how, but even related components and materials to such countries as Iran, Libya and North Korea in the past.

Despite all this, Comrade Yechury, you and other Left peaceniks, who are blessed with superior wisdom and intellect and who live in an exalted stratosphere where your ideology has no borders, find Pakistan to be like any other country.

Pakistan is not a country. It’s a terror factory.

Haven’t you noticed that, besides being a terror exporter, Pakistan has no recognisable structure, either that of a classic democracy or typical authoritarianism? It has a prime minister in Nawaz Sharif, yes. But he dances to the terror tunes of his army generals. Besides, both he and the generals are among Pakistan’s richest men, and they are as passionate about exporting jihadists as accumulating wealth. There is something not very right there, comrade. And you want to have a “dialogue” with them? With whom there?

What you must endeavour to understand is that the threat that Pakistan poses to world peace is a colossal one. India can’t make Pakistan mend its ways by carrying out surgical strikes, which have limited utility. Nor can it go to a full-scale war, unless it is forced into it, because that has unlimited consequences of a ghastly kind. So that won’t help. What can help is an international coalition against the rogue state to ensure its complete isolation and surrender. That’s what all peace-lovers must strive to bring about in the interests of world harmony.

May I take the liberty of suggesting you take the first available flight to Beijing, meet Chinese premier Li Keqiang, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and your innumerable friends there and use your good offices and persuade that country to join a global coalition against Pakistan’s terror?

Hurry up, comrade. Tension is building, and time is running out.

The author tweets @sprasadindia

All-party meet ends, oppn unanimously supports Indian Army’s action against Pakistan

New Delhi: Top leaders of political parties were on Thursday briefed by the government about the surgical strike carried out by the Army on terror launching pads across the LoC to foil plans of terrorists to target some Indian towns.

Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said after the hour-long meeting that all political parties unanimously supported the Army action, which was carried at 5-6 important places across LoC along Kupwara and Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir at an altitude of 6,000 feet and some of these terror launch pads were destroyed.

File photo of Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu. PTIFile photo of Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu. PTI

File photo of Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu. PTI

“The Home Minister explained the all-party meeting about the surgical strike which was carried out by the Army to foil attempts by terrorists to carry out attack not only in Jammu and Kashmir but some other important towns,” he told reporters.

The Army action came in the aftermath of terror attack in Uri on 18 September in which 18 soldiers were killed.

Naidu said the terrorists had carried out strike from these launching pads and they had plans to do the same in future too.

“Government and the Army had reports that the terrorists had plans to infiltrate again and create havoc in Jammu and Kashmir and some other places,” he said.

After the successful operation, the Army personnel had returned to their respective bases without suffering any casualty, he said adding further details would be available later.

The Minister said Representatives of Congress, NCP, CPM, BSP, Shiv Sena, LJSP AND TDP complimented the Indian Army action and assured the government of their support in any action in future.

Those who attended the meeting include Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Sitaram Yechury (CPM), Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP) and Ram Vilas Paswan (LJSP).

BJP President Amit Shah, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar besides the Home Minister and Naidu attended the meeting.

Naidu said the surgical strike was carried out as Pakistan was not mending its ways and testing India’s patience. Director General of Military Operations Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh briefed the all-party meeting.

Tripura CPM leader suspended from party over grabbing bidi workers’ land

Agartala: Veteran Tripura CPI-M leader and former deputy speaker of the assembly Subal Rudra was suspended from the party for allegedly grabbing land, a party leader said on Tuesday.

Representational image. AgenciesRepresentational image. Agencies

Representational image. Agencies

“After an internal inquiry of the party about allegation of grabbing land against Rudra, he was suspended from the party for a year,” Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Tripura state secretary Bijan Dhar told IANS.

Dhar, also a CPI-M central committee member, said that party probe found that the accusation of land grabbing against Rudra was correct.

The 66-year-old leader refused to comment on his suspension.

“I have received the suspension letter. I have not yet made up my mind about my future course of action. I would not make any comment at this moment,” Rudra, a CPI-M Tripura state committee member, told IANS over phone.

The Tripura government had allotted 3.2 hectares to the bidi workers in 1993 in Melaghar in Sipahijala district. Half of the land was allowed for housing 45 families while rest was kept for construction of a school and other civic amenities.

Rudra is alleged to have grabbed a portion of this land.

Rudra was elected to the assembly five times since 1978, when the CPI-M led Left Front government first came to power in Tripura

Congress in a spot as Kerala government backs GST

Congress seems to be losing the battle on Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill and may not be able to oppose passage of the bill in the Rajya Sabha during the coming monsoon session of the parliament.A day after Kerala’s finance minister, Thomas Isaac came out openly in support of the GST bill as presented by the BJP government, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, too, said that the state government has no objections to the GST bill.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After attending the state finance ministers’ meeting in New Delhi, primarily called to bring a consensus on the GST bill, Issac had remarked, “I don’t know what made them (Congress) make such an amendment” and that he “did not find any reason to stand in way of GST.”In New Delhi, Vijayan was candid in accepting that there were differences on GST between the state government and the CPM’s party leadership.”CPM had earlier raised some reservations. Kerala government has agreed with the Bill. In Parliament, when it was discussed, CPM has raised certain reservations. But Kerala government has no objections,” Vijayan said.Incidentally, Vijayan is also a politbureau member of the CPM.While the state government is in favour of implementing GST, CPM has some reservations about it and may still put them across in the parliament. But how much the party will be able to hold out against the wishes of the Kerala state government, is yet to be seen.Vijayan is in Delhi to attend the politbureau and Central Committee meetings of his party. CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury has been opposing the Bill on the grounds that it will hamper the federal structure and will reduce the revenues of states.

Kairana migration | We are being defamed: Kandhla’s Muslim residents tell delegation of Opposition parties

​A delegation consisting of opposition parties like JD(U), CPI(M), CPI, and NCP met with the Muslim residents in Uttar Pradesh’s Kandhla city. KC Tyagi of JD(U), Mohammed Salim of CPM, D Raja of CPI(M) and DP Tripathi from NCP met with Muslim residents to discuss the Kairana exodus.Muslim residents told the delegation that the Hindus are moving out of Kairana only due to lack of education and medical facilities. “We have fought alongside Hindus to fight the British. We are being defamed,” said Maulana Badar to the delegation.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>KC Tyagi told dna, “We don’t fight election in Uttar Pradesh, we have come here only to stand against nefarious designs like love jihad, cow slaughter. We are concerned about statements of Amit Shah who wants to make Kairana a national issue.”On Wednesday, a fact-finding BJP team visited Kairana to review the situation over alleged migration of Hindus.RJD leader Manoj Jha said, “We have asked the people to stand up to tough times ahead of the elections. The residents have to stand up to communal forces so that we can defeat them.”

When Kerala Sports Minister and Anadita Patel were trolled for their tributes to Muhammad Ali

Social media can be hilarious, and sometimes unforgiving. It has virtually forced the number two minister in the two-week-old Pinarayi Vijayan ministry in Kerala, EP Jayarajan, to admit that he has indeed goofed up on the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.After memes and trolls rained over his tribute, calling Muhammad Ali ‘pride of Kerala’, the new sports minister and CPM heavyweight admitted to his gaffe on Sunday.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I just heard that Muhammad Ali died in America. He was a prominent sports personality in Kerala. He has won gold medal and made Kerala famous in the world of sports. I express my condolences,” the minister could be heard saying in the video.But the Facebook post he put out on the faux pas too ended up as fodder for those baying for his blood on the social media. They ask how could a minister, who is unpardonably ignorant of great Ali, successfully lead Kerala sports, which has produced an array of sports stars, they ask.The minister, in turn, has put the blame on the TV reporter who sought his reaction. “While I was rushing for a function, I was called by the channel for my comment. They didn’t brief me properly. I was under the impression that the dead Muhammad Ali was a Kerala sports man. For a moment my memory didn’t work. In such situations, channels properly brief ministers. It did not happen my case. I hope people in Kerala and the sports world would realise it. But I admit that mistake is a mistake,” the minister’s Facebook post reads.Another one to be trolled for mistaking Muhammad Ali for a footballer, however, was not so forthcoming as the minister in admitting to her folly. Anadita Patel, who was trending all over for her tweet, “RIP Mohammed Ali. The best footballer of all time better than Ronaldo Maradona and Messi”, even as people were mourning all over the internet, tweeted on Sunday, “To Every1, I mistake Pele with Ali.They almost same.And you all make fun of me and call me dumb.I no change for u All.”

Alliance with Congress in West Bengal was out of tune: CPM politburo

New Delhi:The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) politburo on Monday admitted that the electoral strategy in West Bengal “was not in consonance” with the party’s central committee decision.

“With regard to the electoral tactics pursued by the CPM in various states, the electoral tactics evolved in West Bengal was not in consonance with the Central Committee decision based on the political-tactical line of the party which states that there shall be no alliance or understanding with the Congress party,” a statement from the CPM politburo said.

CPM Genral Secretary Sitaram Yechury. PTICPM Genral Secretary Sitaram Yechury. PTI

CPM Genral Secretary Sitaram Yechury. PTI

The statement was issued at the end of a two-day meet of the party’s highest policy-making body.

The statement added that the CPM state committees in West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Assam will “prepare a detailed review” of the party’s performance in the recent assembly elections.

“On the basis of these review reports prepared by the state committees, the Central Committee will conduct its review at its forthcoming meeting from June 18-20,” it said.

The politburo in its statement lashed out at the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal for “unleashing widespread violence against the cadres of the opposition parties”.

“Many CPM cadres have been murdered and over 600 CPM and mass organisation offices have been ransacked and some set on fire,” it said, adding that the attacks specifically focus on constituencies and areas “where Trinamool Congress lost in these elections.”

“Widespread bomb attacks, arson and extortion of huge amounts of money as ransom are being reported. Those who voted against the Trinamool Congress are reportedly coerced into paying a hefty fine for having exercised their democratic choice,” the statement said.

The party called upon the people of West Bengal “to unitedly resist this murder of democracy and civil liberties in the state”.

On Kerala poll outcome which has brought the Left Democratic Front (LDF) back to power, ousting the Congress, the statement said, “The politburo salutes the people of Kerala for reposing faith in the LDF in a resounding manner in these assembly elections.”

“The LDF government has assumed office with a resolve to fulfill the commitments that it made to the people of Kerala during the polls.”

However, it alleged that “the physical attacks by the RSS against the CPM and the LDF continue,” adding that 41 such attacks have already taken place since the election results were declared.

“Two comrades have lost their lives, with Sasikumar, who was seriously injured in an attack at Engandiyoor in Thrissur on 22 May, succumbing to his injuries on 27 May,” it alleged.

“The CPI-M calls upon the RSS/BJP to respect the verdict of the people (of Kerala) and desist from such murderous onslaughts,” it said.

Pinarayi Vijayan ad blitzkrieg faces flak from friends and foes

The red front page advertisements– showing Marxist Pinarayi Vijayan ahead of being sworn-in as Kerala chief minister– in national dailies on Wednesday morning raised eyebrows. This was not a leader of BJP, Congress or AAP, but that of the CPM which had always spurned personality cult.The unfamiliar image of a Left leader full-page, and in some cases two-page, newspaper advertisements, created a flutter with the Opposition taking digs at the Left and social media going abuzz about the “changing” Left.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With Vijayan’s smiling image and a tagline saying “committed to turn Kerala into a truly God’s own country,” it said the Pinarayi Vijayan government is committed to keep its promises. The advertisement was put out by the Public Relations Department of the state government, and not the party.CPM leaders played it down saying it was a government adverstisement. However, its ally, CPI expressed reservations about projection of an individual instead of the LDF. “This gives the impression that a personality cult is being built up. People voted for LDF and not just one person. It could have been an LDF ad and it was not necessary to spend so much money on it,” said CPI general secretary Sudhakar Reddy.The BJP, which has opened its account in the state but was hoping to wrest more votes from the Left, made the most of the opportunity to take on the CPM. “Looks like CPM is moving away from its ideology. It is following the footsteps of those it criticised,”said BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya.BJP leader R Balashankar took to twitter to pick on the CPM. “How market savvy CPM has become to give 2pg color ads in all national dailies on Pinarayi swearing in.”In another tweet, he said “committed to turn Kerala into a truly God’s own country: CPM ad. So, comrades believe in god?”A television channel quoted CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury as saying that it is a “normal thing” for any new government which is about to form and replace the old one.The ad underlines the Pinarayi-centric strategy that the party has pursued in the run-up to the elections over the past six months. While VS Achuthanandan, Pinarayi’s bete noire in the CPM, did often steal the limelight, the party has set the record straight. Pinarayi, sworn in as chief minister later in the day, is likely to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, when he is in the Capital to attend his party’s two-day politburo meeting.

Left isn’t dead in West Bengal: Mamata is its new face but time is up for CPM

The 2016 Assembly elections have thrown up a popular belief that the Left in West Bengal is in terminal decline. Nothing can be further from the truth. If anything, Trinamool Congress’s stunning victory (where it went alone and bettered even its 2011 tally) proves the relevance of leftist politics. Or at least a stripped-down version of it that reinforces the benevolence of an all-powerful state without the dry theorization and doctrinal rigidity.

And it also proves with some amount of decisiveness that Mamata Banerjee, through her brand of straight-from-the-top socialism, has usurped CPM’s vaunted organizational framework, occupied its political space and snatched away its ideological mooring, leaving the party with just a red flag. A symbol, perhaps, of the bloodshed.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. AFPWest Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. AFP

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. AFP

Make no mistake, this is truly a momentous, existential crisis: not for leftism as an ideology but for CPM, the party that was its erstwhile practitioner. Mamata now represents the new Left in Bengal.

In the cyclical nature of electoral politics, parties suffer setbacks but they also recover from it. The Left Front has returned to power in Kerala because the party and its ideology still enjoy relevance. Pitted against a moribund Congress and a nascent BJP, the CPM-led LDF could place itself as an alternative. Whatever it might be, the party had a message for the electorate.

But what was its message for the voters in West Bengal? What did it stand for? What difference did it promise to bring in the lives of the people it was wooing? These are not difficult questions. But for CPM, these are very difficult to answer because it had no message, stood for nothing and made no promises. It ran a negative campaign against the ruling party, hoping that the many allegations of graft and violence would be enough to unseat the incumbent.

I have argued elsewhere that corruption is not a deciding factor in Indian elections. Perhaps it is buried too deep in our ethos. Maybe we have become immune to its systemic nature. India’s demographically young voters respond instead to positive campaigns.

Mamata had risen to power in 2011 calling for ‘poriborton‘ (change). Narendra Modi‘s ascendancy on national stage began with his promise of ‘achhe din’. BJP sought to bring development and insularity from infiltration and people of Assam bought into it. The signs are unmistakable. There has to be a message the voters can identify with.

If the CPM failed to float a single positive idea during the long campaign, it wasn’t for the reason that it didn’t try but because Mamata had taken away all its options. When there is virtually nothing to separate two parties in terms of ideological or political placement, then the party with a dynamic leader who enjoys cult status will automatically push its rival into redundancy.

Another point needs to be stressed here. The chief reason why Left Front was thrown out of power after an uninterrupted 34-year-rule was that it sought to tinker with its core ideology and acquire land from farmers. The party, under the then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, took the 2006 election victory as a mandate for rapid industrialisation and took its rural mass base for granted.

Industry requires large tracts of land. Ironically, the land reforms that the CPM had initiated when it rose to power in the 1970s and ran the state for three decades based on the steam it had generated turned its undoing. In absence of huge chunks, it sought to forcibly take fertile land from farmers and in the process, triggered deep resentment which Mamata Banerjee tapped into.

The Rubicon was crossed. Post Singur and Nandigram, Mamata became the new face of grassroot resistance against forces of capitalism. The irony was rich and for the CPM, cruel. It not only ceded political power, it relinquished its mantle of leftist ideology which Mamata happily grabbed with both hands.

This is not to say that CPIM’s idea of industrialisation was wrong. But economic liberalization is not a low-hanging fruit. Its results are richer but take longer to be evident. The fact that there are no big-ticket industries in Bengal naturally means fewer job opportunities for its youth who are forced to migrate. But the CPM failed miserably in getting the message across while it was in power. Little chance does it have now.

But to Mamata’s credit, she didn’t rest on her laurels. Taking lessons from Left Front’s debacle, she aggressively portrayed herself as the benefactor of socialist schemes. Opposition may cry themselves hoarse that Mamata was using central funds or repackaging central projects but for the voters who got rice at Rs 2 per kilo (above 7 crores benefitted), for the students who received free cycles (40 lakh were distributed under Sabuj Sathi scheme), for the girl students (16 lakh) who were brought under the Kanyashree scheme, the Chief Minister was the ‘Kalpataru’ (tree of wish fulfillment).

Around 40000 imams, over a lakh jobless youth and around 60000 local artists and artisans — not to speak of cash doles for local clubs in urban and semi-urban areas — now receive state largesse.

Deliverance of populism is also considered deliverance, more so for a populace battling poverty. It will be unfair to credit Mamata’s mandate on just populism, however. She improved rural roads and infrastructure, brought electricity in the hinterlands, increased government procurement of paddy, doubled tax revenue and diverted that money into large scale social sector spending.

Question arises why the machinery of violence and subversion of government institutions did not take a toll. It could be because the electorate could differentiate little between the machinations of Trinamool Congress of the Left Front before it which saw how it was done. If Mamata ruined University autonomy by installing apparatchiks or made thuggery into a parallel form of administration, she was merely following the trail blazed by the Left.

In sum, CPM has now come to mean a party in Bengal that has the baggage of a violent past and hankers for power by indulging in ‘unholy’ alliance with an equally irrelevant political force. Alimuddin Street now leads to a precipice.

Pinarayi Vijayan to be sworn-in as Kerala CM on 25th May

Thiruvananthapuram: Pinarayi Vijayan would be sworn-in as Kerala’s 22nd chief minister on 25 May, in the state capital .

The CPM led Left Democratic Front (LDF) won the polls on Thursday by winning 91 seats in the 140 member Kerala Assembly.

The date was confirmed by Vijayan on Saturday meeting veteran party colleague V.S.Achuthanandan along with CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.

Pinarayi VijayanPinarayi Vijayan

File photo of Pinarayi Vijayan. PTI

“He (Achuthanandan) has been a chief minister from our party in the past and hence came to meet him. As things stand now, we have decided to have the swearing-in of the new government on Wednesday, 25 May, at the Central Stadium, in Thiruvananthapuram,” said Vijayan.

“Discussions have begun on finalising the ministers in our party and in the coming days, the list will be ready,” he added.

Vijayan was elected to lead his party at a meeting of his party leadership on Friday.

CM post ends Pinarayi’s long wait but Lavlin case can still spoil party

The SNC Lavalin corruption case hanging over his head and a dour demeanour he put up in the public were the major hurdles that kept Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan from parliamentary politics for nearly two decades.

He cleared the first hurdle in November 2013 when a CBI court accepted his discharge petition in the case pertaining to a loss of Rs 374.50 crore the state exchequer suffered from a deal he initiated with Canadian company SNC Lavalin for the renovation of three hydro-electric plants in violation of norms during his term as electricity minister from 1996 to 1998.

He sought to cement his position for the top post by going through an image makeover before the election. The 72-year-old leader changed his tough body language and tried to sport a smile whenever he appeared in television and interacted with people. He also tried to interact with the people by opening accounts on Facebook and other social media forums.

However, the people were not impressed. They gave him a poor ranking in the pre-poll opinion polls. Most of the surveys placed him below 12 points in popularity among the major contenders for the chief minister. Ninety-two-year-old V S Achuthanandan topped the chart in popularity with 35 points. Even solar scam-tainted Chief Minister Oommen Chandy fared better than Vijayan with a ranking of 34.

Pinarayi Vijayan. Image courtesy: Twitter/@vijayanpinarayiPinarayi Vijayan. Image courtesy: Twitter/@vijayanpinarayi

Pinarayi Vijayan. Image courtesy: Twitter/@vijayanpinarayi

This did not matter for the CPI(M) central leadership, which wanted a younger and tougher leader to steer the government and prevent the movement from collapsing at a time when it is facing its biggest crisis in its other bastion West Bengal.

Vijayan’s colleagues in Kerala feel that he is the most suitable leader to become the chief minister as he has already proved his administrative capability as power minister and his organisational abilities by steering the party as state secretary from 1998 to 2015.

Even his critics acknowledge the contributions he made for enhancing the power supply during the three years he handled the electricity portfolio. They see Vijayan as a pro-development leader, who is ready to shake hands with corporates whom the party had alienated with its anti-capitalist ideology for the development of the state.

Many mega projects like a high-speed rail corridor from north to south and the Kochi-Palakkad industrial corridor included in the CPI(M) manifesto are seen as an example of his development vision. Most of these projects were opposed by Achuthanandan during his term as chief minister from 2006 to 2011.

Born on 21 March 1944 in a poor family at Pinarayi in the northern district of Kannur, Vijayan had worked as a handloom weaver before joining politics. He left the job after a year and joined for pre–university course in the Government Brennen College, Thalassery. Subsequently, he completed his degree course from the same college.

The student union activities at the college drew Vijayan into the Communist movement. He started his association with the party by joining the Kerala Student’s Federation (KSF), which is now the Students Federation of India (SFI). Vijayan who served as the president and secretary of the body later became the president of Kerala State Youth Federation (KSYF), a precursor of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI).

During the period, when communists in Kerala were organising the political activities from different hide-outs, Vijayan was imprisoned for one-and-a-half years. He was also arrested during the Emergency and tortured by the police.

Vijayan was noted after he became the Kannur district secretary of the CPM following the expulsion of late MV Raghavan over his deviation from party lines in aligning with communal parties. Within three years, he became a member of the state secretariat.

He was elected to the Assembly in 1970, 1977 and 1991 from Koothuparamba and in 1996 from Payyannur. Vijayan acquired the stature of a state-level leader after he was appointed as the state secretary of the CPM in 1998 following the death of the then secretary Chadayan Govindan.

He used the 17 years he headed the party to cultivate a group of loyalists. He built up his base in the party by eliminating rivals one by one and adding friends from the rival group headed by Achuthanandan, who in fact had promoted him as the state secretary.

Those who showed unwavering support to Achuthanandan were removed from party positions and his loyalists were packed in both the state secretariat and state committee by the time he relinquished the post in favour of his friend Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. This has come in good stead now.

Pinarayi, who perceived Achuthanandan as his rival, had tried to clip his wings by using the brute majority he enjoyed in the state forums. The state committee prior to the last party conference at Alappuzha in February last year even termed Achuthanandan as a leader with anti-party mentality. Vijayan had recalled the state committee resolution even during the present election campaign.

Vijayan’s opponents consider him as a bundle of contradictions. This is because of the contradictory positions he has taken on several occasions. Though he was in the forefront in opposing the self-financing colleges when A K Antony opened up the professional education to the private sector in 2002, he sent his daughter to a self-financing college and his son to a foreign university for higher education.

A palatial house he built in Kannur in early 2010 also remains as an example of his double-speak. His opponents describe him as a proletarian leader with a liking for capitalist lifestyle.

Vijayan’s elevation as chief minister can be embarrassing for the party if the High Court orders re-trial of the SNC Lavlin case. The chances cannot be ruled out as the court had observed that the CBI court’s decision to discharge Vijayan and other accused in the case without trial was legally untenable.

The court has resumed hearing in a pre-election petition filed by the UDF government for speedy disposal of the revision petitions filed by the CBI and others against Vijayan’s acquittal in the case. If the court allows the CBI plea for trial Vijayan may find the going tough.

Assembly elections 2016: Here’s most of what you don’t need to know

India’s 2016 election season, a breakneck schedule of five Assembly polls — one of which was spread across more phases than the CPM won seats in West Bengal (just kidding, but you get the idea) — that began on 4 April, finally came to a conclusion on Thursday.

And what a season it was!

History was made, reputations were strengthened (and in some cases, shattered), tears were shed, killer dance moves were invented and so on. Reams of newsprint, hours of airtime and gigabytes of online content has already been devoted to analysing every little twig of information, insight and implication stemming from the elections, so we decided we’d pass on that. Instead, we thought it would be a far better use of our time to focus on what really matters.

So here then are the five things we predict may or may not happen in the aftermath of these elections:

Congress to undergo surgery

No sooner had the results — crushing results for the Congress unless the party’s sole aim was to come to power in Puducherry — been declared than senior party functionaries began grumbling. With good reason, we’re sure. Party president Sonia Gandhi swiftly issued a call for ‘introspection’.

via GIPHY

This, unsurprisingly, set off plenty of alarms — not to mention references to Groundhog Day — at the inescapable sense of dèja vu. After all, it was in the wake of the Congress defeat in Delhi’s 2013 Assembly election that Sonia announced her party’s resolve to “introspect seriously”. Less than six months later, the Congress was decimated in the Lok Sabha polls and Sonia once again told her party to “introspect on the results in all seriousness and in depth”. Presumably, the first batch of introspection wasn’t deep or serious enough.

And yet, here we are again: Introspecting.

We will introspect into the reasons for our loss and will rededicate ourselves to the service of the people with greater vigour,” offered Sonia on Thursday.
The time for introspection is now past,” blazed Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.
We have done enough Introspection shouldn’t we go for a Major Surgery,” (sic) thundered senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha,” chuckled BJP president Amit Shah (probably).

We decided to lend the Congress a hand and help them with this course of major surgery… after an intensive session of introspection, of course. And here’s what we came up with. It’s time for a complete overhaul, particularly of the party’s image. And what better way to begin image reinvention than by redesigning the party symbol?

Quite obviously, a simple change of symbol will not be sufficient and so, in order to usher in this change, an appropriate party president will need to be appointed. Here are a few suggestions:

1) Appointing Suresh Kalmadi as president will serve three purposes.

The first is the ‘Mohammad Amir effect’ (yes, we’re copyrighting that one), in that he will return rejuvenated and obliterate all his opponents. The second is the message a confident Congress will be sending out by embracing corruption rather than running away from it in vain. And the third is that it will allow the Congress to use this blinged-out new symbol:

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2) Have no fear, the Ranes are here! Or at least they will be if Nitesh and Nilesh are appointed joint-presidents of the Congress. With their trademark heavy-handed approach, their penchant for conflict-resolution by any means necessary and their youth, the Brothers Rane will be an investment for the future of the party founded by Allan Octavian Hume all those years ago.

Best of all, the Congress will get a symbol that will drive the fear of a solid thrashing into its opponents. One tight slap!

02

3) The third option is to bring in a complete outsider (a defector, if you prefer) to change the attitude of the party. Enter Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee aka Mamata’s foul-mouthed nephew. Now there’s a man who won’t let a single jibe, remark or allegation from political parties go unanswered.

But Abhishek’s attitude won’t stop there. It’ll spread to the party symbol in no time.

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Vijayakanth is made for memes, not politics

What else is there to say? Just look at this screen grab from Google Images while the ‘Captain’ figures out how to deal with the loss of his deposit.

captain

Indian politics is learning from Indian tennis

Leander Paes, arguably India’s most successful tennis player, has a not-so-secret recipe to his success. No it’s not his fitness and it’s not his dedication, motivation, focus or any of those words blurted out as often by sportspersons as Sonia speaks about introspection. The key to his success, according to us, has been his ability to mix it up with new partners, having had over a hundred of them in his career.

Coalitions tend to throw up strange combinations, what with the British ruling regime comprising the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, the Afghan government that brought together the Hazara Shia community-backed Adullah Abdullah and the Pashtun Sunni community-backed Ashraf Ghani or closer to home, the BJP-PDP combine in Jammu and Kashmir. The Congress however, is something of a past master at stitching together strange partnerships, and this round of Assembly elections was marked by a couple of pretty notable combos: Tying up with the Left in West Bengal and the DMK in Tamil Nadu.

The BJP isn’t far behind though. Apart from the aforementioned Jammu and Kashmir government, it too struck up a fresh new partnership this election season, opting to go into the Assam polls with the Asom Gana Parishad and Bodoland Peoples Front.

And just last year, the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar brought together Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), Lalu Yadav’s RJD and the Congress.

With three years to go till the next Lok Sabha election, political parties have a long time to identify and get comfortable with new partners. How? By doing some homework. Here’s what Leander told ATPWorldTour.com about how he selects a partner: “I put a lot of homework into choosing a partner, because I like to choose someone whose skill set is my weaknesses and my skill set is their weaknesses… Chemistry is a pre-requisite. I choose partners who are hard-working but laid back; partners who are not only students of the game but are students of life“.

And what better student of life could the Congress hope to find than one who has worked his way through life, taken the hard-knocks and climbed up the political ladder to become the Prime Minister of India.

That’s right. The 2019 Lok Sabha could very easily see the birth of the Grandest Coalition in the World (patent pending)!

Remember, you heard it here first!

modi-rahul-listicle

So while the Congress might well have appointed Prashant Kishor as its strategist, Leander seems to be a much more logical choice. And with rumours doing the rounds that things aren’t quite right between party and Prashant, Leander should probably keep his phone nearby, just in case.

People love free sh*t

People have grown tired of freebies, they said.
People don’t trust a government that hands out freebies, they said.
People value good governance over handouts, they said.
People need more important things than free mixer/grinders, they said.

Well, as it turned out, they were a fair way off the mark.

Whether it was the free electricity, free mobile phones, free laptops (and free WiFi to boot), free gold or free Amma Banking Cards (we don’t know what they are or what purpose they serve, but we simply must have one of those), people lapped up the gifts and gave the AIADMK a historic second consecutive term and party supremo Jayalalithaa a broad grin. Not to mention they fantastic dance moves they gave all of us.

But why are we all so surprised? Everyone loves free stuff. Don’t tell us you’ve never gone to a conference or seminar just for the free stuff! You know, those single drawstring bags, tote bags, pen drives, sometimes MP3 players (it has happened), but rather more regularly, free food and booze.

Bottom line: There’s nothing wrong with social welfare, especially if it comes with a 4G network.

Perhaps, the AIADMK should be invited to join the Grandest Coalition in the World (patent still pending) to ensure free gifts for all of us, and not just those lucky people in Tamil Nadu.

The FP Special Forces budget is limited and doesn’t allow us to shower you, dear reader, with free gifts, so here’s a free GIF of a dog having a lovely bath:

via GIPHY

India’s new prime minister will wash your dishes

Having voiced her ambitions to take Delhi by storm, Mamata Banerjee has sought to shake her political allies (from all over the country) into action.

But this is a bad strategy. Not the prime minister part, but the plans to tie up with the ‘Third Front’. Instead, we feel it would be far more prudent for Mamata and her Trinamool Congress to join forces with the Grandest Coalition in the World (patent sadly declined).

mamta-listicle

Hey, if a one-time teaseller could do it, why not a dishwasher? Just don’t call her a chor.

CPM accepts West Bengal verdict with all humility, says Yechury

New Delhi: CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury on Thursday said his party accepts the “people’s verdict” in the West Bengal Assembly polls with “all humility” and will introspect on the results.

Yechury

Yechury

“We accept the verdict of the people of W Bengal with all humility. Compliments to all comrades, supporters and those who have stood by us.

“As we have always promised, LDF will provide an honest, clean and development-oriented government to take Kerala to greater heights,” he added.

Stating that the party shall introspect on results, “We will introspect on the results. It is a challenge which we shall meet with all our strength. Lal salaam (sic),” Yechury tweeted.

Ruling Trinamool Congress, headed by Mamata Banerjee, has put up an impressive show in West Bengal by bettering its tally over the last elections. The party, which had won 184 seats in 2011 in alliance with Congress, was on Thursday victorious in 9 seats and ahead in 205 seats.

The Left-Congress alliance was not able to make much impact. Among the Left front constituents, the CPI(M) was leading in 25 seats, the CPI in one, Forward Block in two and RSP in one.

TMC leader Tapas Mallick arrested for allegedly lynching ITI student in West Bengal

Diamond Harbour (WB): Local Trinamool Congress leader Tapas Mallick, one of the 10 persons named in the lynching of an ITI student in Diamond Harbour of South 24 Parganas district, has been arrested, police said on Friday.

Tapas, the TMC Upa-Panchayat Pradhan of the area, was absconding ever since his name surfaced in the FIR lodged by the family of Kaushik Purkait who was beaten to death on Monday night.

He was arrested from near Duttapukur in neighbouring North 24 Parganas district late Thursday night, a senior police officer said.

He was accompanied by a youth named Biltu from the car in which they were travelling, the officer said. The youth has been detained.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Four others had earlier been arrested in connection with the murder of the youth, who was mercilessly beaten up on suspicion of being involved in theft of cattle from the area, the officer said.

Koushik, who came to visit his aunt in the area, was roaming around when he was confronted by members of a local club and forcibly taken to a room on Monday night.

He was later rescued by his relatives who rushed to the spot on hearing about the incident and took him to Diamond Harbour Hospital. He died hours later at SSKM Hospital in Kolkata on Tuesday.

The incident triggered a public outrage in the area with a mob vandalising houses of the accused when the youth’s body was taken to the house of his aunt in a procession on Wednesday.

Opposition CPM, Congress and BJP visited the family of the deceased and demanded punishment for those involved and immediate arrest of Tapas, alleging that he was deliberately not being arrested by the police despite playing a key role in the confinement and lynching of the youth.

While the four other arrested have already been remanded to 13-days’ police custody by SDJM court,

Diamond Harbour on Wednesday, Tapas would be produced in the same court later in the day.
Nine others were also been named in the FIR by the youth’s family.

Fine line between advertisement and bribery: Jaitley calls ‘paid news’ an ‘aberration’ in RS

A file photo of Arun Jaitley. PTIA file photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

A file photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

New Delhi: Rajya Sabha members on Tuesday expressed concern over ‘paid news’ and decided to take up the issue for a structured debate.

The issue was raised in the zero hour by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vijay Goel who said paid news has affected the media’s credibility.

He was supported by members across party lines, including Congress leader Anand Sharma, Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav and KC Tyagi, and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) leader Sitaram Yechury.

Leader of House Arun Jaitley said a structured debate on the issue should be taken up. The finance minister said a time should be fixed for discussion on the issue in the current or the next parliament session.

Jaitley termed paid news as an “aberration”, and added that all members are committed to freedom of media.

“Advertising is the right of everyone… But when the government starts excessive advertising, where is the dividing line between excessive advertisement and bribery,” said Jaitley.

Kerala elections 2016: In North Kerala’s red stronghold, BJP fires up memories of a bloody past

There is a slight limp when Sadanandan Master takes the stairs, but his calm face bears no sign of the scars of the brutality of 1994 when he lost both his legs below the knees. “We want peace and harmony here. As a victim of political violence, I can convey this message to voters,” said Sadanandan, the BJP’s candidate in Koothuparamba in Kannur district, a Left stronghold, which has been the hotbed of an eye for an eye bloodbath involving the CPM and RSS.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tall, smiling and determined, “mashe” (master in Malayalam) as he is called, is undeterred by the past or his artificial limbs. It has only strengthened his resolve of taking on his political foe, which was allegedly responsible for chopping off his legs. Recalling that day in January 25, 1994, Sadanandan, who was a 30-year-old Sangh activist then, said “I was returning home around 8 pm after visiting my uncle. When I got off the bus, just two kms away From my home in Mattanur. Some people threw bombs scaring away the crowd in the market. They then caught me, pinned me down and cut off both my legs below the knees with an axe. They left me there and ran away. The police came after 15 minutes and took me to the Thalassery hospital and later to Kozhikode medical college.”He underwent treatment for two months after which he went to Bengaluru to get artificial limbs. A year later, he married Vanitha Rani, also a teacher, who had stood by him. “Even when she is not here physically, she is with me,” he said. They have a daughter Yamuna Bharti, a B-Tech student. After working as a sub-editor in Janmabhoomi for a while, he got back to teaching in a school in Thrissur, which he still does. As a student, Sadanandan, whose father was a Communist, was in the SFI, the CPM’s student wing. In 1984, he joined the RSS “inspired” by its ideology of cultural nationalism. He is now Kerala state vice-president of the National Teachers Union and member of the Bharatiya Vichara Kendram, an intellectual wing of the RSS.The electoral arena is new to him. “The Sangh pranth pracharak asked me to contest. I obeyed… Our aim is to win,” he said. Admitting its a Communist bastion, he said the BJP had organisational strength in the area and was strong in three-four panchayats. The CPM, which has fielded Shailaja Teacher, is trying to recapture Koothuparamba from the UDF, which has put up its MLA KP Mohanan. “I cannot move freely to every nook and corner, but my mind is free,” said Sadanandan as he began his door to door campaign. He took the blessings of 87-year-old Lakshmi Kutty Amma and then went on to the house of another party sympathiser, before he set off for his road show.The road from Panoor to Koothuparambu has been the nerve centre of political violence in the region. Around 30 kms from Koothuparambu, in Peralassery, is the trail of another gory killing- that of KV Sudheesh, an activist of the SFI, the student’s wing of CPM- on the same night that Sadanandan was attacked.In a small two-bedroom house, his parents–Nalini and Narayan– both of whom were witness to their 26-year-old son being savagely hacked to death, lead a quiet life. There is photograph of Sudheesh on the wall in front of the entrance. Other than that there is a stoic silence about the incident that tore their life apart.Narayanan, who had a car mechanic’s workshop, goes down to the library nearby to read the newspapers and books.CPM sources said Sadheesh was a charismatic leader and not associated with politics of murder. They said unlike the BJP, the CPM party did not want to make violence an issue during elections. Peralassery falls in Dharmadam constituency from where CPM politbureau member Pinarayi Vijayan is taking on M Divakaran of Congress. The Left is trying to recapture its electoral control over Kannur, the origin of the Communist movement in the state and birth place of leaders like AK Gopalan. In the last election the UDF wrested five of the 11 seats in Kannur.The CPM and RSS blame each other for the violence, which has reportedly taken around 70 lives from both sides since 1999.Message of peace and harmonyParty candidate Sadanandan Master, whose legs were cut off in political violence in 1994 in Mattanur in Kannur, where the CPM and RSS have indulged in bloodthirsty revenge, wants to send a message of peace and harmony. Just 30 kms away from the constituency, live the parents of Sudheesh, the SFI student who was hacked in front of their eyes the same night that Sadanandan was attacked

Flyover collapse, High Court stay on civic police recruitment point to Bengal’s fatal malaise

Two apparently disconnected incidents point to the depths of hopelessness that a demographically young West Bengal has been forced to plumb faced with nearly four decades of ruinous rule. One, a decision by the Calcutta High Court on Thursday to issue an interim stay on recruitment of civic police volunteers across the state. Two, the collapse of the Vivekananda Road flyover in Kolkata on 31 March.

A view of the portion of the under-construction flyover that collapsed on Vivekananda Road in Kolkata on Friday. PTIA view of the portion of the under-construction flyover that collapsed on Vivekananda Road in Kolkata on Friday. PTI

A view of the portion of the under-construction flyover that collapsed on Kolkata’s Vivekananda Road on 31 March. PTI

Why did HC term govt’s job scheme a ‘scam’?

Dealing a body blow to Trinamool Congress government’s quick fire job solution, that too flush in the middle of Assembly polls, Justice Sanjib Banerjee of the Calcutta High Court on Thursday issued an interim stay order on the recruitment of civic police volunteers, calling the move “a great scam”.

Civic police volunteers are youth who have been inducted into the state’s police force to aid the cops and administration. The scheme, which was launched almost as soon as Mamata Banerjee took over the reins of the state in 2011, has been instrumental in recruiting well over a lakh of youth. It is one of the most popular projects in a state where jobs are as scarce as water in Marathwada.

Trouble is, most of the recruitment was done in an ad-hoc manner. There have been long-standing allegations that party members or sympathisers are preferred over more eligible candidates. In a petition filed last month in the Calcutta High Court, 10 youth from Bankura (one of the seven districts in the state’s Burdwan division) alleged irregularities in the appointment and submitted that they have been discriminated against despite being eligible for the job.

On being directed by the court, the state government filed an affidavit on Thursday admitting that instead of proper procedures, appointments were made only on the basis of oral interviews conducted by a five-member committee set up by the district SPs comprising additional SP, deputy SP and three cops from the local police station. Incidentally, recruitment in the police force involves mandatory clearance of physical and written tests.

The court observed that hiring youths who would serve in police stations on the basis of just an interview was a scam. It directed the state to file a detailed report by 9 May.

“The process adopted by the government during the recruitment of civic police volunteers was not only illegal, it seems to be a scam. The government had adopted pick-and-choose policy… I want to know the details about the criteria for recruitment and the actual process adopted by the state.

“The government is directed not to recruit any civic police volunteer in the state until further orders,” a report carried by The Telegraph quotes Justice Banerjee, as saying.

The green-clad volunteers, about 1.3 lakh of whom were appointed on a contract basis between 2011 and 2013, drew a salary of just over Rs 2,000 per month. It was subsequently revised to Rs 5,000 last year. There have been allegations that the criteria for these jobs were party connection, not competence and that these were handed out as doles to TMC workers.

TMC took cash for jobs, says CPIM

Calling the high court decision the latest “in a series of slaps” on the face of Mamata Banerjee government, CPIM MP and politburo member Mohammad Salim said the ruling party is cavorting with the future of Bengal and its youth force.

“Mamata Banerjee has said people should slap her if she has committed mistakes. The high court has delivered a series of slaps. This is the latest,” Md Salim told Firstpost on Friday.

“But the TMC regime is shameless and has failed to draw a lesson. In its magnitude and deviousness this is right up there with the Vyapam scam. Instead of taking exams while recruiting the civic police volunteers, the TMC distributed quotas among its leaders and raised money through it. Jobs were handed out in exchange for cash.

“The government is playing around with the future of the state’s youth. We will see to it that action is taken against those who paid up to get appointed,” the CPM leader said in a telephonic conversation on Friday.

Truth behind the collapsed flyover

According to a report carried in Times of India on Friday, the steel used in the collapsed Vivekananda road flyover was of inferior quality, different from the type mentioned in the tender.

A police investigation into the incident, which happened on 31 March and caused the death of 28 and injured 67 others, reveals steel frames of 28mm thickness were used instead of 32mm.

Reports had emerged earlier how the flyover construction was being carried out by unskilled labourers supplied by TMC’s feared ‘syndicates’ who had been charging for trained personnel.

Shuttering and binding — construction of the scaffoldings on which concrete slabs are laid, which according to engineers are a specialised job, were being carried out by untrained workers, according to a recent report by The Telegraph.

What these two developments tell us

At the heart of the two seemingly disparate incidents lies a common theme — lack of jobs.

Mamata Banerjee was forced to recruit lakhs of untrained youths in state’s police force via a perfunctory interview because she needed a quick solution to the debilitating joblessness plaguing the state. Over three decades, the Left front slowly but surely destroyed the state’s educational institutions, filling them with party apparatchiks, celebrating mediocrity and putting indoctrination over merit. Mamata inherited these and made it worse.

Every year lakhs of youth are injected into the system, mostly untrained and crippled by a rotten paradigm. In absence of even a single big-ticket industry, there are no jobs and consequently, it is this aimless workforce which then forms an easy platform for the ‘syndicate raj’ to thrive.

Bidhannagar mayor Sabyasachi Dutta, who was caught in a Times Now sting owning up to his links with TMC-controlled syndicates, later brazenly admitted his links. He defended his stance, saying that he will always stand by unemployed youths.

The statement is also a staggering admission of the state’s failure to secure the future of its youth. The ‘job scam’ and collapsed flyover are its inevitable side effects.

Assembly polls: Attack on a three-year-old proves West Bengal is no longer a functional democracy

A political worker’s three-year-old granddaughter was also beaten up when goons raided his residence late in the night and thrashed the members of his family. Why? To keep them from voting the morning after.

For a moment though, forget the political affiliation of the henchmen or the victim. The incident is a chilling reminder of two axiomatic truths in West Bengal. One, violence is the norm, not aberration during polls. Two, since violence replaces ideas and ideologies as the key to power, the ruling party uses every trick in the book to perpetrate it.

A strange perversion takes place in the order of polity. Lawkeepers are blamed for trying to maintain law and order and creating an atmosphere of safety for voters to cast their ballots. Goons in tow, party leaders take umbrage at not being allowed to break the rule.

Adult suffrage is the cornerstone of democracy. But only when it is free and fair. If the rules of the game are cynically subverted, question must be raised whether merely holding elections is proof enough of a functional democracy.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

To be fair to the ruling Trinamool Congress party, it did not pioneer the state’s culture of violence during polls. The Left Front, now at the receiving end of own medicine, had for decades perfected the art. Its armies of local toughs, henchmen and cadres would go about threatening voters, eliminating them if necessary and rig polls with such élan that a term called ‘scientific rigging’ was added to Bengal’s voting lexicon.

If anything, the job has become tougher for the party in power. There is the omnipresent media with a battery of reporters and video journalists. The Election Commission is armed to the teeth via a constitutional statute and has shown that it is ready to bare fangs. In fact, so tight was the vigil on Monday during Phase 4 of the Assembly elections that many TMC leaders were extremely peeved with the EC for “acting as CPIM agents and creating terror”.

That doesn’t mean that the ruling party was found wanting in effort.

Hoodlums, allegedly associated with Trinamool Congress, threatened the family members of CPIM polling agent Tito Samajpati on Sunday night in Barendra Nagar area of Halishahar, a constituency in North 24 Parganas which went to vote on Monday. The family’s mistake was to dial the number of local CPM candidate Rabindranath Mukherjee who alerted the cops. A team of local police and central forces arrived to meet the family.

No sooner did they leave, however, goons returned, this time allegedly armed with revolvers. They barged into the rooms, beat up the unwell Samajpati, his daughter Debashree and also didn’t spare the little Sayantika who took some blows on her tender arms. The toddler’s feed was kicked around and the rooms ransacked. Debashree’s 16-year-old son and husband were thrashed too.

Bijpur MLA Subhrangshu Roy, son of TMC heavyweight Mukul Roy whose name has been linked to the Narada sting, was quick to deny his party’s involvement.

“What has happened is extremely unfortunate and despicable. I condemn it. No link has yet been established between the attackers and TMC. Police are conducting an inquiry. We, too, are looking into the incident at the party level. Anyone found guilty must face strict punishment,“ Roy was quoted, as saying in Times of India.

If the attack was aimed at intimidating the voters and sending a message, then the goons failed in their task as the spirited Debashree, under the supervision of an EC team who took suo motu cognisance of the incident, took the baby in the crook of her arms on Monday and exercised her democratic right.

The question, though, is this. In Monday’s fourth phase, voting was held across 49 seats involving 1.08 crore voters in about 12,500 polling stations. Is it possible for the EC to keep a close eye over every booth in every constituency?

“No,” says Tanmay Bhattacharya. The CPIM candidate from Dum Dum north bled from deep cuts in his hand when alleged TMC goons threw stones at his car, smashing the windshield and injuring him.
“The EC and central forces have done a commendable job. But it is not possible for them to scan all lanes and bylanes of every ward. The goons play hide and seek with security personnel. They lie low when a vehicle passes and spring a mischief the moment law enforcers are out of sight,” Bhattcharya was quoted as saying in TV channels on Monday.

The question, therefore, is one of intent.

The EC and its army of 90000 forces (including state police) performed a mini miracle on Monday. They chased away outsiders, lathicharged on troublemakers, clamped down on illegal assembly, tried to remove false voting, and generally kept the local toughs and goons on their toes. Central forces scanned media vehicles, ambulances and even police vans. A total of 229 arrests were made on Monday alone out of which 207 were preventive. The police, too, marked a dramatic improvement in their performance, a far cry from 2015 when they stayed as mute spectators and gangs took control of civic body polls.

Faced with such pro-activeness from security personnel TMC were thoroughly disgruntled, led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

“The EC is preventing people from voting by clamping Section 144. This is uncalled for. Has a curfew been imposed? Our flags, party offices have been demolished by central forces. Why just stop at 6 phases, why not hold voting over 294 phases in 294 seats,” the TMC supremo said at a rally in Patuli on Monday evening.

Taking a cue from her, TMC ministers fired salvo after salvo against the EC. Outgoing finance minister Amit Mitra, agriculture minister Purnendu Basu and marketing minister Arup Ray complained that due to the “terror” launched by central forces, “people were not allowed to vote freely and fairly”. Basu even went on to say that this was an “undeclared emergency”.

Bucking the usual trend in polls in Bengal, there was no miraculous spike in voting percentage in the late hours of Monday, the most telling indication that “ghosts” were not able to haunt the polling booths.

Undeclared emergency indeed.

Anand Sharma, eight other members take oath in Rajya Sabha

New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma and eight other members recently elected or re-elected to the Rajya Sabha on Monday took oath or affirmation of allegiance to the Constitution.

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma. PTI

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma. PTI

Sharma, Deputy Leader of the Congress party in Rajya Sabha, was recently re-elected to the Upper House from Himachal Pradesh.

He took affirmation of allegiance to the Constitution in English and then went to Chairman Hamid Ansari who warmly shook his hands and said “welcome back.”

Others who took oath included Pratap Singh Bajwa, Congress leader from Punjab who was accommodated in Upper House by the party after Amrinder Singh was made head of party in the state. Bajwa sweared in the name of God in English.

Naresh Gujral (SAD), who too was re-elected to the Upper House, took oath in English.

Besides Bajwa and Gujral, others who were elected from Punjab — Shamsher Singh Dullo (Congress) and Shwatt Malik (BJP)– also took oath.

From Assam, Ripun Bora and Ranee Narah (Congress) took oath in English, swearing in the name of God.

K Somaprasad (CPM) who was elected to Rajya Sabha from Kerala, too took oath. Jharna Das Baidya (CPM), re-elected to Upper House from Tripura, also took oath.

Members after taking oath or affirmation of allegiance to the Constitution went up to Ansari to shake his hands and respectfully bowed to members of the House and greeted them.

Ansari said he, on behalf of the House and himself, extended a cordial welcome to the re-elected and newly elected members of the House.

Extending his felicitations, he said he looked forward to their valuable contribution to the functioning of Parliamentary democracy.

West Bengal polls: Violence leaves a father dead as goons run amok amid daughter’s wails in phase 3

“Please stop this vote,” she blurted out in between her sobs. “I cannot stay without my abba. He used to put me to sleep every night,” said the girl, weeping. “Now who will put me to sleep? Tell me?”

The camerapersons and journalists gathered around her to take the sound bites, of course, had no answer. Their story of the day was done. One dead in West Bengal poll violence, the headlines will say and we shall move on.

Central Force jawans check the voter cards of voters during the 3rd phase of assembly elections in Kolkata on Thursday. PTICentral Force jawans check the voter cards of voters during the 3rd phase of assembly elections in Kolkata on Thursday. PTI

Central Force jawans check the voter cards of voters during the 3rd phase of assembly elections in Kolkata on Thursday. PTI

But the journey of life has ended for Tahidul Islam and shall remain suspended for the members of his family. The CPM worker was hacked to death in Jitpur village of Domkal constituency, which falls under the state’s troubled Murshidabad district.

A Congress stronghold, Murshidabad was identified as one of the very sensitive areas with Election Commission fielding three police observers, a departure from the usual practice of one for every district. According to reports in local TV channels, Jitpur in Domkal saw heavy bombings since voting started at 7 am. ANI report says Tahidul had stepped out of booth No. 173 when a crude bomb was hurled at him by alleged Trinamool Congress workers.

The injured CPM agent was then dragged to a spot nearby and slashed with sharp weapons which caused his death. His leg was also broken in apparent signs of torture, said TV channel reports.

An inconsolable Tahidul’s daughter and irate villagers blamed local TMC workers, a charge reiterated by CPM leader Anisur Rahaman. The finger of suspicion was pointed at one Kamarujjaman, the panchayat pradhan’s husband who earlier used to be a CPM activist but had recently defected to the TMC, but the ruling party would have none of it.

TMC’s Domkal nominee Soumik Hossain denied the charges, blaming the death on infighting between the Left Front and Congress. “There is no alliance here. They know they will lose even their deposit in this seat which is why out of frustration they have indulged in violence which led to the killing,” Hossain was quoted as saying in 24 Ghanta. Later in an election rally, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, too, refuted the charges, saying her party “had nothing to do with the murder”.

Following the incident, however, Kamarujjaman is on the run.

The report submitted by Murshidabad SP to the Election Commission, however, says Tahidul was not a CPM agent and nobody is suspected of carrying out the murder, blaming the death on ‘unknown persons’. The report says the killing has nothing to do with polls.

Domkal emerged as the hotbed of violence with news of three more people injured in clashes, following the death of Tahidul. CPM workers Akhtarul and Rintu were shot at by alleged TMC goons in Shiropara area while TMC’s Shariful Islam also took a bullet in fresh outbreak of violence. The injured, among which one is said to be critical, have been admitted to Murshidabad Medical College hospital, according to reports.

In other instances of violence, in Kalyani, a Kalna Polytechnic College professor suffered fractured hands when alleged Trinamool Congress activists attacked him while he tried to cast his vote, according to Kolkata TV. Shibu Das’s wife Tultuli was also attacked while the couple stepped out to exercise their democratic right.

“Some TMC workers threatened us last night not to step outside during the day of the polling. We still didn’t think it’d come to such a pass. Just as we neared the polling booth, some TMC goons attacked us and tried to hit me on the head with bamboo sticks. I tried to save my head and took the blows on my hands. Both my hands are fractured,” Das was quoted, as saying by the TV channel. Das’s wife said she was also not spared.

“They tried to beat me up too but I made a lucky escape,” she said. The couple are yet to file a police complaint, however, fearing more attacks.

In Kolkata, journalists were roughed up as goons tried to snatch away their cameras when they went about doing their jobs in Beleghata area. In Cossipore, local TMC leader Anwar Khan was arrested after day-long drama. Khan, a local tough with murder charge against his name, had recently been released from bail. He was caught on TV camera badmouthing the Election Commission and inciting party workers right in the front of the police.

Funnily enough, when the EC ordered his arrest, he managed to give cops the slip though he was supposed to be under round-the-clock surveillance. The TMC leader was finally caught after a four-hour operation by five special Kolkata Police teams from the same area from where he had apparently “disappeared”.

As polls came to a close, there were many reports of injuries and clashes from different parts of the state. CPM workers were beaten up in Chakdah and Ketugram and in each cases, TMC was blamed though the party denied the charges.

In Nadia district’s Gayeshpur, ETV News Bangla showed reports of villagers being threatened if they step near the polling booth. Reports also emerged of two CPM workers suffering head injuries in clashes.

The tradition of violence continues unabated. The day’s proceedings were a stunning contrast to Trinamool Congress’s full-page advertisement in morning newspapers which portrayed West Bengal as an idyllic state which has hit top spot in all benchmarks. The poor is now out of penury, youths have jobs, there is peace and prosperity all around after the dark days of violence under Left rule. The TMC missive asks voters to choose between “development or destruction.”

Caught between the devil and the deep sea, voters in West Bengal have little to choose from.

West Bengal polls: Birbhum boils in Phase 2 as Anubrata Mondal keeps EC on tenterhooks

Don ka intezar to gyarah mulkon ki police kar rahi hain, lekin ek baat samajh lo, Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, naamumkin hain.

It is not known whether Anubrata Mondal is a fan of Amitabh Bachchan but when asked if the Election Commission’s order to put him on round-the-clock surveillance on polling day has inconvenienced him, the Trinamool Birbhum district president delivered a dialogue that reminded one of the 1978 Amitabh Bachchan-Zeenat Aman cult classic, Don.

“I am under no surveillance,” said the TMC leader whom Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee loving calls by his nickname, Keshto. “Nobody can put me under surveillance.”

And he was right.

Just as the Don kept eluding the police, Mondal forced a deputy magistrate, eight paramilitary personnel and a videographer — who were supposed to tail him 24×7 — to chase thin air as he pillion rode a motorbike to a booth in Bolpur to cast his vote during the second phase of polling on Sunday in West Bengal Assembly elections.

Anubrata Mondal. Image courtesy: IBNLiveAnubrata Mondal. Image courtesy: IBNLive

Anubrata Mondal. Image courtesy: IBNLive

Across 13,645 polling stations in seven districts, 383 candidates’ fate was on the line on Sunday and as curtains fell on second phase, 56 Assembly constituencies recorded 79 percent attendance, said provisional EC data, among a voter base of nearly 1.22 crore.

Six of the seven districts — Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, north Dinajpur, south Dinajpur, Darjeeling and Malda — are in North Bengal where polling remained by and large peaceful. All the action was centred around the sole south Bengal district, Birbhum, and the TMC president remained the centre of all attention among a spate of reports of violence, voter intimidation and rigging from different parts of the area.

Earliest report of violence came from Bolpur in Birbhum, Mondal’s lair, where a BJP agent suffered head injury in clash. Unrest then spread in Ilambazar area where CPM agents came under attack. Altogether, there were reports of 6 BJP and 2 CPM workers getting injured in clashes and TMC activists were blamed for each of these incidents. Four have been arrested so far.

Mondal set the pace with his Houdini act in the morning when he stepped out of the house and reached booth No. 186 and cast his vote with his daughter in tow. Even as he barged into the booth with a TMC logo dangling on his chest, in clear violation of polling norms, the EC’s surveillance team was nowhere to be found.

The deputy magistrate later told a local TV channel, ABP Ananda, that they failed to tail Mondal since he was riding a motorbike and there were too many media vehicles around him. With a look of despair writ large on his face, the deputy magistrate and his crack team cooled their heels at TMC’s party office, waiting for the man, who they were supposed to shadow 24×7, to arrive.

Mondal was in a belligerent mood though. Even as reports came pouring in of trouble from different parts of the district, the TMC strongman suggested that the incidents of violence were all rubbish.

“Vote has been very peaceful, free and fair,” a confident Keshto said, showing no signs of being under pressure.

“There have been no incidents of violence. The one in Ilambazar was only exception, but it wasn’t TMC’s fault. The person who suffered head injury tripped, fell and hurt himself,” Mondal was quoted, as saying in ABP Ananda.

The EC has reportedly filed an FIR on account of Mondal’s violation of polling norms by sporting party symbol while casting his vote. The TMC leader first dismissed the reports saying he didn’t and that local TV channels were misleading people by showing “old footage”, but he later changed his statement.

“I know I am not supposed to. I did not notice it. It was an unintentional mistake. All my kurtas have this party symbol. But the presiding officer could have stopped me. He could have reminded me when I stepped into the booth,” said Mondal, brushing aside the allegation as Don does those who dare who confront him. Incidentally, many polling booths in Birbhum had no rival agents, including the one where Mondal exercised his democratic right.

“That’s not my problem,” said the TMC Birbhum chief. “What can I do if BJP, CPM and Congress fail to install their agents in polling booths,” said Mondal, who is well known for his organizational skills, strong-arm tactics and vitriolic speeches which have led to the EC acting against him.

A security official keeps vigil as voters wait to cast their votes at a polling station  in South Dinajpur on Sunday. PTIA security official keeps vigil as voters wait to cast their votes at a polling station  in South Dinajpur on Sunday. PTI

A security official keeps vigil as voters wait to cast their votes at a polling station in South Dinajpur on Sunday. PTI

On Sunday too, TV footage showed Mondal boasting of how “dhakis (drummers) have been placed at different pandals for Dashami celebrations”, an apparent euphemism for voter intimidation.

Though EC had sought to put the TMC strongman on a leash, it became clear as the day progressed how little an effect it had on the overall “polling arrangements” for “free and fair elections”.

In Nanoor a town in Bolpur subdivision of Birbhum, villagers blatantly refused to step out of their homes, fearing trouble. This, after central paramilitary forces had assured them of all help.

“Come out and vote,” an officer was heard speaking to villagers in Nanoor. “Cast your own vote. Don’t be scared. We are all here to help you,” he added.

ABP Ananda footage showed unconvinced villagers still fearing for their lives.

“‘They have warned us not to vote today,” a voter said. “I have been casting my vote for a very long time. This has never happened before. I shall not step out of the house to vote today,” she added. “Tomorrow the central forces won’t be there, you (pointing to the media personnel) won’t be around too. Who will come to our help if they attack us,” she asked before walking away.

Mysterious are the ways of Don.

Indo-US Logistics Support Agreement is anti-national: Congress, Left slam Modi govt for move which ‘will hit India’s independence’

New Delhi: Attacking the Modi government over its decision to sign the Logistics Support Agreement with the US, Congress on Wednesday said it is “disastrous” and will hit the independence of India’s foreign policy while Left parties termed it as “dangerous and anti-national”.

“NDA government’s decision to sign Logistics Support Agreement with the US is the beginning of the end of the independence of India’s foreign policy and strategic autonomy.”

“It is a disastrous decision. Government should retract the decision and should not sign this agreement and other foundation agreements”, senior party leader A K Antony, who was Defence Minister in the UPA regime, told PTI.

Left parties also lashed out at the government for its “in principle” agreement for a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the US, terming it as “dangerous and anti-national” move and demanded that it “immediately retract” from inking the agreement.

Accusing Government of “crossing line” with the move, which the parties said “no other government” had taken since independence, they charged the Narendra Modi dispensation of converting India into a “full-fledged” military ally of Washington and “compromising” country’s strategic autonomy.

The communist parties also claimed that there is “no transparency” in what the Union Government does with regard to “such critical policy matters” as Parliament is not taken into confidence and sought to know why the dispensation is “desperate” to “please” US by taking the step “voluntarily”.

“Modi government has taken the dangerous step…In doing so, the BJP Government has crossed a line which no other government has done since independence – converting India into a full-fledged military ally of the United States,” the CPM noted in a statement.

India and the US had on Tuesday agreed “in principle” to the logistics exchange agreement to enable both militaries to use each other’s assets and bases for repair and replenishment of supplies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and visiting US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter had, however, made it clear that the agreement, which will be signed in “weeks” or “coming months”, does not entail deployment of American troops on Indian soil.

Antony insisted that by signing this agreement, India would be gradually becoming part of the American military bloc.

“When UPA was in power, India had all along resisted such proposals. India had traditional relationship with Soviet Union, now Russia from the very beginning. Of late, we are steadily improving our relations with the US also. We always resisted pressure from everybody to be part of a military bloc”, he said.

By inking such an agreement, India will allow the US Military, mainly Navy and Air force, to use its facilities for their smooth operations, Antony said.

“They can refuel their warheads, their ships and aircraft etc and if necessary keep their military equipment on Indian soil,” he warned.

Contending that India rarely operates beyond its shores, the Congress leader said, “This agreement practically gives very little advantage to it, but gives enormous opportunity to US Military.”

This is especially true at a time when the US has announced that in the next three years, 60 per cent of U S Marines will be placed in Asia-Pacific region, he said.

“It means gradually India will become one of their major facilitator. It is a dangerous game. It will become part of military conflicts. It will affect our strategic autonomy. In eyes of the world, India will become part of the U S military bloc,” Antony added.

The CPM accused the government of “compromising” national sovereignty and the country’s strategic autonomy of the country with the decision and urged all political parties and “patriotic” citizens to oppose Centre’s “surrender” to the US.

“The (NDA) Government must be told that these anti-national steps do not have the support of the people. It should immediately retract from signing the Logistics Agreement,” the party insisted.

It described LEMOA as “just another name” for the Logistic Support Agreement (LSA) that US enters into with military allies like Philippines, South Korea and Japan.

The party cautioned that “unlike what” Parrikar says, refuelling, maintenance and repair facilities for American ships and airplanes will require stationing of US armed forces personnel on Indian soil on a regular basis.

“Along with this agreement, the Defence Minister has indicated that two other agreements are on the anvil, Communication and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA). These will make Indian armed forces command and control structure integrated with the US armed forces,” it said.

CPI national secretary D Raja said there is “no transparency” in what the Union Government does on “critical” policy matters and asked it to explain why it is “desperate” to please Washington.

“Earlier, there used to be tremendous pressure on India from the US to have access to our ports for refueling and such things. Now India is voluntarily offering all help to the US. Why is India so desperate to please the US? This Modi Government will have to explain,” the Rajya Sabha member said.

Condemning the decision, JD(U) said it “compromises” national security, and appealed to all the opposition parties to come together to oppose the move.

“This is a clever conspiracy of the US to strengthen its military set up in Asian countries and India is not going to be benefited by this. Janta Dal (United) condemns the central government’s move to deepen military tie-up with the US.

“This step of the government has not only compromised the national security but also brought India into a military alliance with the US like other military organisations such as SEATO and NATO,” the party’s spokesperson K C Tyagi said in a statement.

No previous government took such a decision and India has been a non-allied nation since its independence, he said.

JD(U) will also raise this issue in the coming Parliament session, Tyagi said.

Kollam temple blaze: Not only fireworks, Kerala is key supplier to bomb-makers

The Kerala temple tragedy has brought into sharp focus a startling fact: Indian Mujahideen (IM) has been procuring a key ingredient in the bomb-making from Kerala for several years.

Mujahideen operatives have been getting vast quantities of ammonium nitrate from Kerala to make the bombs that they have used to carry out several terror attacks across India, officials in Kerala and Karnataka told Firstpost.

“Kerala has a free-for-all kind of situation for all sorts of explosive substances whether they are used in making firecrackers, bombs or used for quarrying,” a state police official said.

The arrest of Yasin Bhatkal, the Karnataka-born founder-leader of IM, in August 2013 and his interrogation later gave the first hints to investigators that Kerala was an important source of explosive substances.

Officials stand by the bodies of those killed in the fireworks incident. AFP

Officials stand by the bodies of those killed in the fireworks incident. AFP

Yasin,who had become the sole India-based leader after his brothers — Iqbal Bhatkal and Riaz Bhatkal escaped to Pakistan in 2008 — was instrumental in carrying out blasts in Hyderabad in 2007, in Ahmedabad in 2008, at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru and German Bakery in Pune in 2010, and at the Delhi High Court and in Mumbai in 2011.

“Kerala is a prime source of ammonium nitrate for Mujahideen,” Gopal Hosur, former Karnataka intelligence chief, confirmed to Firstpost.

Hosur said that the substance is “easily available” in Kerala and the state is teeming with Mujahideen modules. He described Kerala as a “hotbed of terrorism” that the IM used as a launchpad to carry out attacks in other parts of India.

He said if the terrorists were efficient, they just needed a kilogramme of ammonium nitrate to make one lethal bomb.

In fact, the ammonium nitrate that has been seized in the recent post in Kerala and Karnataka from people illegally transporting it amounted to several tonnes. Officials said this was just a tip of the iceberg.

“Huge quantities of the substance — amounting to several tonnes — is reported missing,” admitted an official.

Terrorists are known to either illegally buy it or steal it from those making ammonium nitrate for legitimate uses. One legally permitted use of ammonium nitrate is in the blasting of quarries. But many quarry owners procure more than the quantity they are licensed to buy. They use the additional quantities to either carry out illegal quarrying or divert it to the IM.

On 11 November, 2013, officials seized 6,750 kg of ammonium nitrate at Muthanga on the Kerala-Karnataka border and. Two persons, Hakeem and Ishaq, were arrested. They said they were carrying it to a quarry in Kozhikode district in Kerala.

On 26 March, 2014, the Karnataka police seized around 6,200 kg of ammonium nitrate costing Rs 1.3 crore, 50,350 detonators and 19,250 metres of safety fuse wires from three desolate houses in remote villages in the Udupi district. Police identified Biju of Kerala and Annamalai of Tamil Nadu as the owners of the stock. Biju had a licence to store only 500 kg of ammonium nitrate and supply it to quarries.

Smaller quantities of the substance are periodically seized in not only the southern states, but elsewhere in India.

Asked about it, Sudharshan Kamal, the Chief Controller of Explosives of the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organsation (PESO) said he was unaware of the seizures. He agreed that it was a “serious matter” if ammonium nitrate was falling into the hands of terrorists.

Kamal said that the stringent provisions of the “Ammonium Nitrate Rules” that the Central government had formulated, came into force only in 2013.

Kerala

‘Anti-nationals’ behind the temple disaster?

While hearing a petition demanding a ban on fireworks displays at places of worship, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday pointed out that Paravur — where 113 people were killed in a fireworks show at a temple on Sunday morning — had the sea on one side and a lake on the other. Considering this, the court said the state government should probe whether ‘anti-nationals’ were involved in the explosion.

Meanwhile, the high court’s directive that rules banning bursting of crackers after sunset must be strictly enforced has put the parties in a fix.

The ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the BJP are against any such restrictions. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has called an all-party meet on Thursday to discuss the issue. The parties are wary of antagonising Hindus and Christians.

Both temples and churches resort to firecracker shows on certain festival days. The court will resume its hearing right after the all-party meet.

Jammu and Kashmir firing: NC, Cong, CPI(M) demand action against guilty in Handwara

Srinagar: National Conference, Congress and CPI(M) on Tuesday demanded action against those involved in the firing in Handwara in Kashmir Valley in which two youths were killed and said the guilty be brought to book without any delay.

NC President Farooq Abdullah and Working President Omar Abdullah said the onus was on Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to ensure that the truth comes to the fore without any delay and the guilty are brought to book.

They expressed grief and sorrow over the incident and conveyed their solidarity with the families of the two youths, a party spokesman said in Srinagar.

A file photo of Omar Abdullah. PTIA file photo of Omar Abdullah. PTI

A file photo of Omar Abdullah. PTI

Condemning the firing by security forces, Congress and CPI(M) demanded a probe into the killing of two youths.

“Expressing deep shock and grief over loss of two precious lives in Handwara, JPCC President G A Mir has strongly condemned the firing by army personnel,” a PCC spokesman said.

He said the “unfortunate incident could have been avoided” and demanded a probe into the incident, “so that the truth comes out and the guilty personnel are punished”.

CPI(M) MLA from Kulgam Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami also condemned the firing in Handwara town and demanded a time-bound judicial probe into the incident.

“The alleged incident of molestation of a girl and subsequent killing of two youth in firing during protests is highly condemnable and heinous act which cannot be tolerated in any civilised society,” Tarigami said.

He demanded that the authorities take action against those involved in the incident.

Hardline Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani called for shutdown across Kashmir tomorrow to protest
the killing of the two youths.

Moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also condemned the firing by security forces.

West Bengal polls: Ghostbuster EC under scanner in season of ‘tacit understandings’

Election is a strange animal. During the poll season, the usually surefooted political leaders start suffering from sudden insecurities. They see Banquo’s ghost at dinner table, strange apparitions haunt them during even daytime and spirited netas spend most of their energy fighting against the ghouls — real and imaginary.

Suffering the throes of an unpredictable Assembly elections, West Bengal is also witnessing an invasion of phantoms. They are looming large and affecting leaders and ballot boxes as rival parties suddenly accuse each other of hitherto unheard-of “tacit understandings”.

Narendra Modi flew in and landed punch after punch on Congress for rivalry with Left in Kerala and ‘dosti’ in West Bengal. That still is an explicit embrace.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

But then he twisted the knife into Mamata Banerjee, accusing her of bonhomie with Congress President Sonia Gandhi and posing for joint photographs during visits to New Delhi. So if Congress and Left were already in an alliance and if the TMC has one hand still in Congress’s pocket, then the entire election in West Bengal is one huge tamasha of Goliath proportions and BJP is the only David that can slay it, indicated the Prime Minister.

“Sab miley hue hai ji,” said Modi, in an apparent Arvind Kejriwal moment.

The Left and Congress, in turn, accused the BJP of “tacit understanding” with the ruling TMC ostensibly because Union home minister Rajnath Singh, during a rally in Bankura on 6 April, didn’t focus on the Narada sting videos in his speech.

“Only bomb-making industry has flourished in Bengal,” Rajnath had said, focusing on terror modules active in Bengal. Though he was followed by the Prime Minister who launched a scathing attack on the ruling party and touted TMC as “Terror, Maut, Corruption sarkar” before Arun Jaitley came and accused it of being a “mirror image” of the Left, that still didn’t impress CPM and Congress.
They dismissed these barbs as “mere theatrics” and said, firm in belief, that the match is fixed between TMC and BJP. Evidence, or no evidence.

“Whom are they trying to fool? People have already understood that the so-called fight between Mamata Banerjee and Narendra Modi are shadow fights to fool the masses. Their policy is that they will have a friendship in New Delhi and stage a fight in Bengal,” CPM state secretary and Opposition leader Surya Kanta Mishra said recently.

It suits the Left and Congress to paint the BJP and TMC in the same corner because they are desperately hoping for a consolidation of anti-incumbency votes and are terrified of BJP eating into their pie. But if this ghost is of the imaginary kind, the one haunting the ballot boxes, polling booths and affecting the voting percentages is not and it shows the Election Commission in poor light.

One of the main reasons why polls in West Bengal are spread over an unprecedented six phases is the state’s history of electoral violence. That the TMC in just five years has perfected Left Front’s three-decade old practice of violence and large-scale rigging during polls became clear last year when reports of widespread violence emerged during 2015 municipal elections.

TMC goondas and henchmen jammed polling booths, abused and attacked rival party leaders, voters and didn’t spare even members of the media. Things came to such a pass that the state election commissioner, Susanta Ranjan Upadhyay, was forced to resign after he was believed to have been intimidated by the ruling establishment into making a U-turn on the poll process in three corporations where fraud and violence were reported, said The Telegraph.

Against this backdrop and fearing a rerun of the hooliganism, the Central Election Commission this time vowed strict measures to control law and order during the Assembly polls and started off by ordering the immediate transfer of 35 officials including four superintendents of police (SP) and a district magistrate last month.

Ghosts, however, are resilient creatures.

It became clear during Part 1 one of the first phase when 18 constituencies ushered in the Assembly polls that the EC’s ghostbusters have failed to banish the specter from raiding ballot boxes. During the first phase of polling on 4 April, many booths saw a mysterious spike in the number of votes and in some cases, 100 percent voter turnout was recorded.

In Booth No.18 of a West Midnapore village in Binpur constituency, all 331 voters cast their ballots. While the belief of the villagers in democratic process is commendable, it is hard to explain how one dead man and at least three absent residents managed to exercise their voting rights.

Local TV channels showed footage of central forces catching a moment of rest under the shadow of trees to counter the hot summer as state police, whose presence in the booth is expressly forbidden, going at their job with admirable sense of duty.

There were reports that in some booths, police were either accompanying voters, taking records or even facilitating their entry in clear violation of EC’s electoral norms.

Predictably the opposition raised a stink forcing the EC, which was coming increasingly under the scanner, to announce even stricter measures as voting kicked off for Part 2 of first phase on Monday.

As Left Front and Congress announced their displeasure over the EC’s handling of affairs on 4 April, the panel on Sunday announced a slew of steps including appointing 23 general observers, eight police observers and 1,519 micro observers. The EC said some booths will have webcams and CCTV cameras for better surveillance. There were reports that 176 companies of central forces will be deployed in “sensitive booths” of West Midnapore alone, leaving 160 for other two districts.

That was the promise, at least.

As polling began in 31 constituencies spread over three districts in Part 2 of the opening phase in Bengal where 70 lakh voters will decide the fate of some heavyweight opposition leaders including state CPM leader Surya Kanta Mishra, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh and Congress heavyweight Manas Bhuiyan, the familiar scene of violence returned.

Till about 1.30pm in the afternoon, reports of violence kept pouring in from different parts of the state amid 60 per cent voter turnout.

In Bankura’s Sonamukhi constituency, an unidentified man was seen roaming around with an open revolver; live crude bombs were recovered from Jamuria in Asansol; a CPM polling agent in Gopalpur was hospitalised after he was beaten up in Gopalpur area of Chandrakona and in Ghatal, state cops were once again seen presiding over in booths with central forces nowhere to be found.

In just three hours of polling since 7 am in the morning, the EC received 573 complaints of electoral malpractices and violence. The number would obviously go up till voting is concluded.

These incidents raise uncomfortable questions about the role of EC and what seems as its failure so far to rein in violence, rigging and ensure free and fair elections in a state notorious for bloodshed despite the might of central forces at its command.

West-Bengal

Inevitably, this has also led to the opposition seeing another phantom. Central forces are extremely organised, disciplined units, they say. If the forces are not being able to their job properly, that can only mean that their hands were tied. Who tied their hands, they ask. Is it not true that by going soft on TMC, the BJP stands to gain in Parliament where they need Mamata Banerjee’s support, they pose.

Bengalis love their fish, sweets and ghosts.

BJP finds a new Sardar in Kerala’s Naryana Guru

In Kerala, the battle for the Ezhava vote is also reflecting in the political fight over the legacy of social reformer Sree Narayana Guru.As the BJP, which is striving to make inroads into Kerala, reaches out to Ezhavas, the largest Hindu segment in the state, it is trying to appropriate another icon–Narayana Guru, who had led a movement against casteism.The saffron party has now found representation in the Sreenarayana Global Mission, which is planning a cultural movement on the life of the social reformer. The socio-cultural organisation, initiated in New York in 1982, is planning a 201 feet statue and research centre at Thiruvananthapuram, world class university in Delhi or Mumbai and a picture of the guru in Parliament House.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The statue would be built with five metals (panchaloha) collected from the people of the state, on the lines of Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s statue in Gandhinagar.”Our idea is to popularise the reformist approach of Sree Narayana Guru among the masses and make him relevant in the 21st century for the larger mission of building a strong and united nation,” said BJP leader R Balashankar, who is now on the list of directors of the mission, an organisation of the Ezhava community which falls in the OBC category.Party sources said this was an indication of the BJP, so far seen as a Brahmin party, getting acceptance in the Ezhava community. In Narayana Guru, who was born into an Ezhava family, the BJP is seeing a parallel with the RSS on reforming Indian society. “The BJP will try its best to connect to the community and devotees of Sree Narayana Guru because our ideology is close to the philosophy of the Guru. We have big plans to popularise him as an icon of new India,” said Balashankar, former editor of the Sangh mouthpiece “Organiser”.The BJP, having aligned with the BJDS, a party floated by Velapally Natesan’s Sree Naryana Dharma Paripalana Sangam (SNDP) yogam, is hoping to wean away the ezhava votes from the Left. The reformer was confined to an ezhava icon but the party wants to ensure wider acceptance for the early 20th century reformist, philosopher and multi-dimensional personality, sources said. Meanwhile, the Mission is also planning an international conference in October.Four months ago Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the Sivagiri Mutt, a spiritual centre established in by Narayana Guru.Opposition parties have accused the BJP of “communalising” his teachings. Congress President Sonia Gandhi, without naming any party, had said attempts were being made to “capture” the legacy of the reformer by “communal ideologies and individuals” for political gain. The CPM had castigated the SNDP for its ties with BJP, saying the Guru had taught them about one caste, one religion and one God for mankind. Senior CPM leader MA Baby said people were discussing the “opportunism” of Natesan and how an organisation which has been fighting upper-class suppression was joining hands with BJP.

Around 20 percent turnout recorded in initial hours during second phase of polling in Bengal

Kolkata: Sporadic incidents of violence occurred as around 20 percent electorate cast their vote in the initial hours during polling in 31 Assembly seats in West Bengal on Monday.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The turnout in seats spread over three districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Burdwan districts in the second part of the first phase was was 19.95 percent till 9 am, election officials said.

Voting began at 7 am with a large number of people turning up to avoid the scorching sun as day time temperatures are crossing 40 degree Celsius.

Five-time CPI-M MLA from Narayangarh and Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra was among the early voters.

Two bags containing bombs were found near booth number 35 in Jamuria by the police.

In the same constituency, a CPI(M) agent was injured after he was allegedly beaten up by Trinamool Congress workers and obstructed from entering a polling booth.

Around 70 lakh people are eligible to cast their votes today. The fate of 163 candidates, including 21 women, will be decided.

Repoll in two booths of Bankura and West Midnapore districts, where polling was held in the first part of the first phase poll on 4 April, is also being held today.

Five more phases of polling will be held in the state till 5 May.

Besides TMC and the Left-Congress alliance, the BJP, which has only one MLA in the outgoing Assembly, has also fielded candidates from all the seats in the hope of making it a triangular fight.

Kerala Elections 2016: Poll predicts an LDF win, see full list of the Left front’s candidates

Kerala’s LDF had announced its list of candidates last week and in an opinion poll conducted by CVoter-India TV it looks like the CPM-led LDF could come to power this time round. The Indian Express reported that the state’s tradition of alternating between the Congress and the Left front governments after every five years will hold good this time as well.According to the poll, the CPM-led LDF is poised to win at least 86 seats. This would be a comfortable majority in the 140-member state assembly. Congress is predicted to fare badly with its alliance mustering just 53 seats. This would be down from the 72 seats it had won in 2011. The BJP-led NDA is not going to fare well as per this poll, winning just one seat. If it wins this seat, it will a first in the state’s electoral history.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The poll projected a vote share of 44% for LDF and 41% for UDF. For NDA it estimates a vote share of 10%. These numbers indicate heavy anti-incumbency which the Congress is facing as Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has found himself in the midst of several scams.List of CPI (M) candidates:1. Manjeshwaram – C H Kunjampu2. Uduma – L Kunjiraman3. Trikkaripur M Rajagopalan4. Payyannur – C Krishanan5. Thaliparampu – Jaims Mathew6, Kallyasherry _ T V Rajesh7. Dharmmadam – Pinnarayi Vijayan8. Mattannur – E P Jairajan9. Koothuparamb – KK Shailaja10. Peravur – Binoy Kuryan11. Thalasherry – A N Shamseer12. Manathavadi – O R Kelu13. Sulthan Batheri – Rugmini Subramanian14. Kalpatta – CK Shashindran15. Kuttiyadi – KK Lathika16. Perambra – T P Ramakrishnan17. Balusherry – Purushan Kadalundi18. Koilandy – K Dasan19. Kozhikide North – A Pradeep Kumar20. Beppur – V K C Mammadkoya21. Thiruvampadi – George M Thomas22. Malapuram – K P Sumathy23. Vengara – PP Bashir24. Vandur – K Nishant25. Perunthalmanna – V Shashikumar26. Mankada – Rashid Ali27. Ponnani – P Sriramakrishnan28. Thrithala – Subaida Isahaque29. Tharur – A K Balan30. Alathur K D Prasenan31. Nenmara – K Babu32. Shornoor – PK Shahi33. Ottappala, – P Unni34.Kongadu – K V Vijayadad35. Palakkad – NN Krishnadas36. Malampuzha – V S Achuthanandan37. Kunnamkulam – A C Moideen38. Chelakkara – U R Pradeep39. Manalur – Murali Perunelly40. Guruvayoor – K V Abdulla Khadir41. Puthukkadu – C Ravindra Nath42. Irinjalakuda – K U Arun43. Chalakkudy – B D Dewasi44. Vadakkancherry – Mery Thomas45.Alwey V Salim46. Perumpavur – Saju Paul47. Kunnathunadu Shiji Shivaji48. Vyppin – S Sharma49. Kalamasherry – A M Yusuf50. Eranakumal – M Anil Kumar51. Kochi – K J Maxy52. Trikkakara – Sebastian Paul52. Thrippunithara – M Swaraj54. Piravam –M J Jekab55. Devikulam – S Rajendran56. Udumbanchola – M M Mani57. Ettumanur – K Suresh Kurup58. Kottayam – Reji Zachariya59. Puthupalli – Jaik P Thomas60. Aroor – A M Arif61. Alapuzha – T M Thomas Issac62. Ampalapuzha – G Sudhakaran63. Kayamkulam – Prathibha Hari64. Chengannur – Ramachandran Nair65. Mavelikkara – R Rajesh66. Ranni – Raju Abreham67. Aranmula – Veena George68. Konni – R Sanal Kumar 69. Kottarakkara – Aisha Potti70. Kundara – J Mersykutty Amma71. Iravipuram – M Naushad72. Kollam – Mukesh73. Varkalla – V Joyi73 Attingal V Joyi74. Attingal – B Satyan75. Vamanapuram – D K Murali76. Kazhakootam – Kadakampally Surendran77. Vattiyukav – T N Seema78. Nemam – V shivan Kutty79. Kattakada I B Sathish80. Aruvikkara – A A Rasheed81. Neyyattinkara – K Ansalan82. Parashala – C K Harindran CPI(M) Independent83. Azhikode – M V Nigesh Kumar84. Kundamandal – P T A Rahim85. Koduvally – Karat Razak86. Kondatty – K P Beerankutty87. Thannoor – V Abdul Rehman88. Thirur – Gafoor P Lilis89. Nilamboor – PV Anvar90. Thavanoor – K T JaleelCPI candidates:Kanjangadu – E ChandrashekharanIrikkur – K T JoseNadapuram – E K VijayanThirurangadi – Niyas PuliyikkalathuMannarkkadu – K P Suresh RajPattambi – Mohamad MohasinThrishoor – V S Sunil KumarNattika – Geeta GopiOllur – K RajanKayippmangalam – E T Tyson MasterKodungalorr _ V R Sunil KumarParavoor – Sharada MohanMoovattupuzha – Elodo AbrahamPeerumedu – E S Biji MolVykoo, – C K AshaKanjirappally – V B BinuCherthala – P ThilothamanHarippadu – P PrasadAdoor – Chittayam GopakumarKarunagapally – R RamachandranChathanoor – G S JayalalChadayamangalam – Mullakkara RathnakaranPunaloor – K RajuChirayankeezhu – V ShashiNedumangadu – C DivakaranCongress (S) candidate:Kannur _ Kadannapally RamachandranKerala Congress (Scaria) candidate:Kaduthurathi – Zachariya ThomasINL candidate:Kozhikode South – A P Abdulla VahabJanadhipatya Kerala Congress candidates:Idukky- K Fransis GeorgeThiruvananthapuram – Antony RajuChanganasherry – K C Josephoonjaru – P C JosephRSP (Leninist) candidate:Kunnathur – Kovoor KunjumonKerala Congress (B) candidate:Pathanapuram – K B Ganesh Kumar

Trinamool’s win in 2011, if read as a defeat of leftist politics in Bengal, is a misjudgement

The now-legendary fall of the CPI(M)-led Left Front government in West Bengal was read by many as the final nail in the demise of left-wing ideologies in West Bengal. For many, it was the moment when a certain unthinkable happened – and this feeling was not limited to the supporters of the Left Front. However, for many years before its fall, far-away from the distant and hence reality-divorced political chatter of Delhi, the Left Front had been facing a different kind of criticism inside West Bengal. That the CPI(M) was moving away from its leftist credentials. While hot-talk about imperialism and stances of communalism kept certain Delhi lobbies assured about the CPM’s leftist pedigree, the realities unfolding in Bengal were very different. This is why the victory of the Trinamool Congress in 2011, if read as a defeat of leftist politics in Bengal, is a misjudgement.

Leftist politics can only be judged by actual practice and not by theory. In actual practice in the subcontinent, this translates into policies that put people’s rights before corporate interest, protection of public sector services and production, expansion in social sector spending along with an anti-communal and anti-imperialist, pacifist outlook.

If anything, in 2009 parliamentary elections and 2011 assembly elections, the Trinamool challenged the CPI(M) from a more ‘leftist’ stance. Mamata Banerjee was quite consciously of the electorate she was dealing with and the fact that “communism” isn’t a dirty word to many in Bengal. She famously said that she makes a difference between CPM and communists. While communists may not need a certificate of authenticity from Mamata Banerjee, it shows that it’s a real constituency. In fact, during her rapid rise in the wake of the Singur Nandigramk agitation, it was the ideological heft provided by a section of the left intellectuals who were critical of the CPM that gave her broader legitimacy among the urban middle-classes. Leftism or speaking in a ‘leftist’ voice mattered and still matters in Bengal.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. PTIWest Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. PTI

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. PTI

In fact, it is the CPM which has abandoned the Marxist slogans that were so evident on the walls of West Bengal through most of their rule. Marxbad shorbosoktiman karon iha sotyo (Marxism is all-powerful because it is true) is not something that even the CPM places high on its slogan-writing agenda. This shift had started during the last CPM regime under Buddhadeb Bhattacharya when it had pursued the ‘capitalist’ road. This shift started long before, after the fall of the USSR, when the pull of socialism or communism as a world-scale alternative for the entire human race got a severe jolt – something from which it is yet to recover. The smaller left-wing parties (parties like the SUCI(C) or the many Naxalite splinters including some relatively large ones like CPI(ML)-Liberation) have not grown but have not seen a steep decline either. Add to this the periodic spurts in Maoist politics in the western districts of West Bengal and the state of leftism in West Bengal appears more complicated. While in parts of Latin America and Europe, left-wing politics have experienced a marked revival and upswing in popularity in the last 20 years, that phenomenon has passed by the leftist political groups of Bengal who have not been able to reinvent themselves with the changing times so as to attract the young to their core ideological commitments about people’s welfare and emancipation. While the post-Manmohan urban middle-classes are the most vocal and generally it is their view that is represented as the view of West Bengal, their whole-hearted welcome of private investment and privatization at any cost as the favoured antidote to the state’s employment crisis, evokes, at best, mixed feelings.

West-BengalWest-Bengal

When it comes to differences between Trinamool and the CPI(M) on a leftist stance on policy issues, we find a mixed bag. Trinamool has been long opposed to Special Economic Zones (if only against the actual term SEZ) while CPI(M) promoted SEZs in West Bengal while rhetorically opposing it in theory. Trinamool is among the few state governments which has been against GM seeds and the Monsantos of the world have limited power over the present West Bengal government. On the question of nuclear power plants, CPM has never been opposed to it as a matter of policy in West Bengal while Trinamool opposes setting up of a nuclear power plant in Haripur of West Bengal. However, in the Rajya Sabha, Trinamool has sided with the BJP (where the government is in a minority) on the Coal Bill that opens up this important public resource for commercial profiterring by private entities.

In West Bengal, the Trinamool has not followed up on its commitment of releasing all political prisoners and has in fact abolished the category of political prisoners from the jail code – something that is as far away from leftist ideology as can be. Trinamool’s increased social sector spending based on much -increased revenue has been severely criticized as being ‘handout’ politics. But such ‘handouts’ are among the very few things that the poorest among the public ever get from the public exchequer. These attract much more criticism than handouts to corporate entities or thousands of crores in corporate tax breaks ever do. While in this election season, the Trinamool is under severe fire for corruption, few among her opponents are criticizing her schemes to providing huge number of scholarships to girls, religious minorities and talented artists and artisans practising their traditional craft, 40 lakh bicycles to school students, setting up of several “fair-price” medicine shops, and a huge expansion in the proportion of population that gets rice at Rs.2 per kilo. Whichever is the new government, these schemes are set to continue. These are the policies through which the leftist commitment to people’s welfare is visible in public politics and on that question, the CPM and the Trinamool, are not appreciably different and stand miles apart from the Congress and the BJP.

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Kolkata flyover tragedy turns political slugfest as opposition mounts attack on Mamata

Kolkata: The collapse of a flyover that killed at least 18 people turned into a massive political slugfest in poll-bund West Bengal as the opposition mounted a united attack on the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government.

A large chunk of the under-construction Vivekananda flyover collapsed in the crowded Posta area crushing people and vehicles. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said 18 people were dead and at least 78 were injured.

An aerial view of the site where an under-construction flyover collapsed on Vivekananda Road in Kolkata on Thursday. PTI

An aerial view of the site where an under-construction flyover collapsed on Vivekananda Road in Kolkata on Thursday. PTI

The toll was likely to rise with many people feared trapped beneath the massive rubble.

Even as she said the “time was not for indulging in politics but to save lives”, the Trinamool supremo did try to shift the onus of the tragedy on the Left Front, pointing to the fact that the foundation for the flyover was laid in 2008 and work began in February 2009 when the Leftist coalition was in power in the state.

“The construction began during CPM time and not during our time. It’s not the time for politics, our focus is to save the people,” said Banerjee, who rushed to spot cancelling her scheduled poll rallies in West Midnapore district.

She also promised “stringent action” against those “guilty for the very, very unfortunate tragedy”.

The opposition, however, was not impressed and squarely blamed “corruption within the Trinamool” which incidentally has been under severe pressure over a sting operation allegedly showing several of its leaders accepting bribes.

“The CM by blaming others can’t pass the buck and misguide the people. We demand immediate arrest of the state urban development minister (Firhad Hakim) and the city mayor (Sovon Chatterjee). I will also file a public interest litigation seeking a probe in the matter,” said Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of the Congress.

The Congress MP, who visited the site, also claimed police came “late to the spot” and lambasted the administration for not seeking timely help of the army.

Holding the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) responsible for the tragedy, Left Front chairman Biman Bose strongly condemned Banerjee’s “attempt to evade responsibility”.

“We have heard that the chief minister, astonishingly, has held responsible the Left Front as the construction of the flyover began during our time.

“But the question that arises is, which portion of the flyover collapsed — one which was constructed under the Left regime or that which came up under the Trinamool,” said Bose.

“We strongly condemn the chief minister’s attempt to evade responsibility by showing such excuses,” he added.

CPM leader and former urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya put the blame on Hakim.

“The present urban development minister has to shoulder responsibility. There should be a high-level inquiry,” said Bhattacharya.

Describing the incident as an example of the “corrupt ways of the Trinamool”, the Bharatiya Janata Party demanded a probe, preferably by the CBI.

“It’s an example and proof of the corruption by the Mamata government. People of the state will not forgive her. There should be an immediate probe into it,” said BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayavargiya.

BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha after visiting the side demanded a CBI probe.

Meanwhile, Governor KN Tripathi sought a report from the Banerjee government on the incident and suggested carrying out proper supervision of all under-construction flyovers and bridges across the state at the earliest.

Kolkata flyover collapse: With politicians passing the buck, did the dead lose their lives in vain?

If there’s one thing that embarrasses politicians it is being seen to be playing politics. Especially when faced with a horrific tragedy like the crash of a flyover in Kolkata on Thursday. So the favourite phrase prefacing the reactions of politicians to Thursday’s disaster was: “This is not the time to play politics, but…” and never has a ‘but’ been more eloquent. Because finally it is all about politics, of course, all the more so at election time.

A file photo of the collapsed Vivekanand flyover. PTIA file photo of the collapsed Vivekanand flyover. PTI

The collapsed Vivekananda flyover in Kolkata. PTI

The first thing Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said after rushing to the accident site was: “It is a disaster, no one should indulge in politics over it. But the project was initiated in 2007 and construction started in 2009 (i.e., during the Left regime).The contract should not have been given to a company that was blacklisted.”

The retort came swift and sharp. At the CPM headquarters in Kolkata on Alimuddin Street, party MP Mohammad Salim said, “This is not the time for politics but the Chief Minister has left us with no choice. It’s no different from the way she behaved over the death of children soon after coming to power.” (Salim was referring to Mamata Banerjee’s response to a spate of simultaneous deaths in a government-run children’s hospital when she said, “Remember these children were conceived during the earlier regime.”)

At the Centre, which too has a role to play in the making (and hence in the unmaking too) of the flyover as it is a JNNURM project, that is partly funded by Delhi, junior urban development minister Babul Supriyo said, “While I don’t want to bring politics into this, this was a joint venture of the UPA at the Centre and the CPM government in Bengal.”

Since the Centre can only vet the projects and release the funds, monitoring being limited to sending reminders and pushing for compliance if the states fail to implement them, Bengal’s sole BJP minister in the Capital did not forget to add, “It is the failure of the state government. It is responsible.”

The flyover may never come to be. Many experts are now voicing doubts over the choice of the location itself, narrow, busy, built-up, congested streets in the heart of the city. And the local people’s objections, who had never welcomed it, are now getting a hearing.

Whatever its fate, the imminent question playing on many minds is, will it have played its historic role by becoming an election issue, touched as it is by all the leading players in this state? Surely it should, there ought to be some accountability somewhere and the polling booth is the ultimate court of appeal. Otherwise, all those innocent people will have lost their lives or limbs in vain.

The political bosses are not quite sure which way the people will go or whether they will all be blamed equally and thus cancel each other out. So they are taking no chances.

The ruling Trinamool Congress has understandably most to lose. There were troubling signs on Thursday when city mayor Sovon Chatterjee and local MLA Smita Bakshi, both candidates in the imminent elections, were booed and heckled by the crowds during their visit to the accident site.

The air rang with cries of “chor hai, sab chor hai.”

The mayor is one of the people shown to be taking money in the Naranda sting videos. No other TMC leader other than the Chief Minister visited the area on Thursday. Friday morning saw local MP, TMC’s Sudip Bandopadhyay, standing amid the debris, reading out a list of disasters that took many lives during the Left Front’s years.

Mamata Banerjee gave the cue last night when she lashed out, even while making sure of adequate supply of floodlights and drinking water for the rescue workers that, “Dirty politics is being played over blood. I will not allow this. We have enough blood. There is no need for a blood donation tamasha. If blood is needed there are enough of us around. I just have to give a call, one lakh people will turn up to give blood.”

The provocation for her outburst: the overwhelming response to blood donation camps organised last evening by Left student unions at one of the city’s Central Blood Banks for the disaster victims. It was not long before TMC’s all-powerful doctor-MLA Nirmal Majhi put a stop to it, accusing the Left of coercing people to donate blood.

“Utterly meaningless,” he said, and demanded an explanation from the blood bank authorities for taking what was tantamount to tainted CPM blood.

Meanwhile, the Left is busy performing its own deflecting manoeuvres. Siliguri mayor and former urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya, whose Siliguri model is the blueprint for the current Left-Congress electoral alliance, has a heavy cross to bear.

He had commissioned the flyover and given the job to the Hyderabad-based infrastructure company IVRCL. He is screaming hoarse that “the company was not blacklisted when it was given the project. It got blacklisted two or three years ago. I would ask why Firhad Hakim (the current urban development minister) did not get rid of the company after it got blacklisted. “We suspect there was compromise on the quality of materials.”

He was hinting at Trinamool’s already much-maligned building materials supply syndicates.

According to Bhattacharya, “The bulk of the construction began in 2013. By pointing fingers at us, they are trying to evade their responsibilities.”

The cry for the head of urban development minister Firhad Hakim is growing louder by the day. Hakim is also the chairman of the Kolkata Municipal Development Authority, an agency of the urban development ministry which was directly responsible for the implementation of the flyover. Hakim is also part of Narada’s sting videocast.

The BJP, the Congress and the CPM have all demanded his resignation. But Mamata Banerjee usually puts huge storage by loyalty. It’s the people’s loyalty in the time of disaster that she needs to worry about.

Kolkata flyover collapse: Was construction of bridge halted and restarted with an eye on Bengal polls?

The Vivekananda Road Flyover collapsed at 12.25 pm on Thursday killing at least 18 and injuring 78 in north Kolkata’s Girish Park area. Several people, who are still trapped under the debris, are awaiting to be rescued. Eye-witnesses fear at least hundreds are still trapped. The flyover is located in a densely populated wholesale market, Barrabazaar, with a busy traffic and vehicles of goods passing all day under it.

The flyover has been under construction since 2009 and has missed 9 deadlines till now. The first deadline was due in August 2010. After 65 months of the first deadline, only 65% of the of the 2.2 km long flyover finished. The repair works has been delayed since 2009 but keeping the West Bengal Assembly Election in mind, the Trinamool Congress government had told the builders to finish the construction work soon.

In November 2015, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had assured completion of the flyover by February 2016. In March 2016, Chief Minister postponed the deadline till August 2016.

There are several reasons behind the delay. The major challenge was the road between Posta Crossing and Howrah Bridge where the traffic is heavy and blocking the road for the completion of the work would complicate travel for passengers. To add to this, Kolkata Port Trust delayed providing permission to Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA)  for the construction work in the area. KMDA specified that in order to finish the construction work within August the work needed to continue for at least 10 hours a day differing from the earlier plan of 6 hours a day. For that, the traffic from Posta Junction to Howrah Bridge needs to be bifurcated which again adds to the complication.

At least 18 people lost their lives in Thursday's collapse. PTIAt least 18 people lost their lives in Thursday's collapse. PTI

At least 18 people lost their lives in Thursday’s collapse. PTI

According to sources at KMDA, after Mamata‘s assurance that the project will be completed by August the construction work had resumed with much gusto. It is possible that this sudden rise of activity on an otherwise delayed project might have impacted the situation and caused Thursday’s crash. Experts say that the ‘dead-load’ of the flyover was disrupted because of the sudden revival of the construction work. The pressure of the ‘dead-load’ is supposed to be divided equally throughout the entire stretch of the flyover. Any imbalance gives more room for accidents.

On Wednesday, the repairing work of the construction began and it continued through a heavy-traffic day till Thursday afternoon. While the repair work was on, authorities did not make any efforts to stop the heavy inflow of traffic. An eye-witness said, “The work is on since morning. And the vehicles have been moving. The roads were not blocked. We could see that an accident was waiting to happen.”

Mamata assured that her government will take serious action and shifted the blame to the previous CPM government. She said, “The flyover was tendered in 2008 during CPM rule.” She also added that she had asked for the blue-print of the bridge construction plan from the IVRCL authority over and over, which got the tender of the flyover, but they failed to provide her with that. The important question here is: Why didn’t the CM then stop the construction work?

Mamata’s current statement echoes a previous one by the Trinamool Congress after the collapse of the Ultadanga flyover which happened early in the morning on 3 March 2013. The 2013 flyover collapse was not fatal but clearly Mamata’s government did not take any lessons from the accident.

The Chief Minister had said that 30 years of CPM rule had been the reason for the Vivekananda Road flyover collapse. It’s election again and a massacre like this is horrible to digest.

It is also disconcerning that the two parties and their blame-game is the only answer to the families who lost their loved ones in the fatal collapse of Thursday.

Tamil Nadu: Transgender seeks AIADMK ticket to contest Assembly elections

The Transgender community on Thursday sought All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) ticket to contest the upcoming assembly elections.On behalf of the Transgender community, Sudha applied for a nomination ticket from the AIADMK Head Office.”I came here to the AIADMK head office to file nomination for the upcoming assembly election. We transgender have come here to get our seats from amma ( J. Jayalalitha) . Our Chief Minister has done a lot for us. We have faith that we will win this election.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tamil Nadu will have single phase assembly elections on May 16, and the results will be announced on May 19.Tamil Nadu’s 15th legislative assembly is ruled by Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK.It has 234 assembly seats. In 2011 assembly elections, AIADMK had won 150 seats, DMDK-29, DMK-23, CPM-10, CPI-9 and Others-13 seats.

Left demands JPC into TMC bribery matter

High voltage election politics played out in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday with members of the Left parties vociferously demanding a joint parliamentary probe (JPC) into the alleged bribery scam of Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders.Crying “match-fixing” between the BJP led central government and Trinamool Congress, CPM members created pandemonium in the upper house over a sting that purportedly shows several TMC MPs taking bribe in stashes of hard cash.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Trooping into the well, they sought from the deputy chairman PJ Kurien to take cognisance of the “very serious” matter and institute a JPC inquiry.As the Zero hour began, Kurien said announced that two notices on the issue have not been admitted by the Chairman but allowed Derek O’Brien of TMC and Sitaram Yechury of CPM to speak on the issue.Refuting the allegations, O’Brien said that before alleging anything the veracity and authenticity of both the sting operator and videos should be checked.Alleging that such insinuations are being deliberately planted because of elections, O’Brien said, “The sting…its credibility needs to be checked.”Charging BJP government for not doing anything in such a serious matter, Yechury demanded investigation into the video.”Why is the government not ordering an investigation? It looks like they are also complicit…,” Yechury said, adding there was “match-fixing going on between the two (government and TMC).”This led Kurien to remark that CPM members “have a reputation of not coming into the Well of the House but they are breaking that tradition.””We came into the Well as we want to uphold the integrity of the House. Our members are caught taking money. House Committee should investigate. Let there be a JPC,” said Yechury reminding the Chair that the chair referred the Vijay Mallya case to the Ethics Committee why it cannot be done in this case.To this Kurien said that then the House was unanimous. Now the House is divided as one side believes the video and the other says it is doctored.

Bonhomie in Rajya Sabha as 17 members are given farewell

In a departure from sparring and clashes, political parties in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday presented a picture of bonhomie as the House bade farewell to 17 members who spoke about their experiences and reinforced the message of strength of India’s deep-rooted democracy despite divergent views on issues.Chairman Hamid Ansari led the House of Elders in appreciating the rich and significant contribution of the retiring members, saying their unique association will be cherised. He was followed by Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, Leader of the House Arun Jaitley and Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad in paying accolades, irrespective of party lines, to their fellow members whose membership is coming to an end during the recess of Budget session from March 17 to April 25.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Subsequently, the retiring members narrated their experiences, with some of them becoming emotional.Among those retiring are Balchand Mungekar (Nom), Ashwani Kumar (Cong), M S Gill (Cong), Mani Shankar Aiyar (Cong), Avinash Rai Khanna (BJP), Javed Akhtar (Nom), Jaishree (Nom), K Balagopalan (CPI-M) and T N Seema (CPI-M). Leading the way, Ansari wished “happiness and all success” in the future endeavours of five nominated members and 12 members from Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Tripura and Punjab.He said the House will miss those who are not re-elected and the experience at Rajya Sabha has been “intimately personal and intensely political.” Kurien said, “change is unchangeable thing” but added that since “every member is this House is a politician”, no one was retiring as no politician retires. Terming it an occasion to celebrate, Kurien said the members’ “contribution in the annals of Rajya Sabha history will be painted in golden words”. He wished luck to members.Jaitley and Azad hail contributionJaitley, the Finance Minister, said membership of the House is an honour as the members are part of ‘history in the making’. Members of this House bring wisdom with them and are not carried away with impulses, he said, adding the Upper House has high quality of debate and “despite political differences, the atmosphere has always been of mutual respect.” Azad equated the clashes and sparring among members in the House to ‘saas-bahu’ (mother-in-law and daughter-in-law) fights. “Often people ask me that ‘in the House you (ruling and opposition party members) fight but outside you are seen hobnobbing’. I reply that you should not take our fights seriously. It is like ‘Saas-Bahu’ who fight but live in the same House…,” Azad said drawing laughter from members.Thanking the retiring members, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said, “I can only say they have retired but not tired. They will be active in local sabhas. I hope respective parties will renominate them and hope friends who have retired will come back.” Javed Akhtar, noted film personality-turned-MP, made an eloquent speech, saying that “adjournaments” and “polarisation” will not take the country forward as he pleaded with both the government and Opposition to work together without thinking about the next elections.Reaction of the retiring membersHailing the essence of India’s deep-rooted democracy, he said it must be preserved at any cost while learning from the fate of those countries where one religion was given importance, an apparent reference to Pakistan.Underlining that there cannot be democracy without secularism, Akhtar said protecting secularism is not about protecting one community or the other. “We need to protect secularism because there cannot be democracy without it. I believe this is our greatest achievement.” On religious freedom, he said, “These days, they call fringe, it is growing day by day. This is not required.” Akhtar, who was nominated during the UPA tenure, said there are capable leaders in the Modi government who can do good work but those making extremist comments, including some ministers, need to be reined in.He also slammed, in a veiled manner, AIMIM leader Asaddudin Owaisi for saying he will not chant ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ because the Constitution does not ask him to do so. Taking objection to Owaisi’s remark, Akhtar said, “the Constitution even does not ask him to wear sherwani (dress) and topi (cap)… I don’t care to know whether saying ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ is my duty or not, it is my right.” He then chanted ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ a number of times. At the same time, he condemned those right-wing extremists also who say Muslims should go to Pakistan.Congress member Bhalchandra Mungekar, while hailing the vibrant democracy of India, compared it to Pakistan where people regret that they lacked such democratic vigour as they did not have a leader like BR Ambedkar.M S Gill said though he had served as Chief Election Commissioner as well as Secretary in Government of India, membership of Rajya Sabha has been the highest achievement for him.He said the youth watches the proceedings of Parliament and if MPs did not perform, the message would not be good.Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar said he was legally nominated to the House which startled many who tried hard to find lacunae in his induction. Aiyar said during his first visit to Parliament as a student in 1960 he had witnessed communist leader SA Dange lashing out at PM for dismissing EMS Namboodiripad government in Kerala, which he faced with silence and dignity. “Likewise, 36-year-old Atal Behari Vajpayee could call on PM in India in the middle of India-China war demanding debate… PM granted it and on November 8, 1962 listened to young Vajpayee,” he said.He regretted that such tradition was vanishing and that past six years had been disillusioning. Seeking restoration of such traditions, Aiyar said the talent in Rajya Sabha matches anywhere in the world.Aiyar said when he was bestowed with outstanding MP distinction in Lok Sabha despite being known for “notoriety”, he promised himself to abstain from sloganeering and going into the well. In lighter vein, he said he rarely made a speech when Chair was not obliged to expunge at least half-a-dozen words and added that he admired Chairman for his ability to cool down tempers running high in the House.MP from Karnataka and Punjab B Jayshree and Balwinder Singh said it was rich experience for them. Avinash Rai Khanna (BJP) apologised to members for any hurt he may have caused to them knowingly or unknowingly. Sharing the experiences she gained as a member, Bimla Kashyap Sood (BJP) suggested her colleagues to be present in the House all the time. She also urged members to “rise above party lines and caste-based politics” and support the Prime Minister to ensure the country progresses.K Balagopalan (CPM) recalled important passage of important bills including Lokpal and impeachment of former judget of Calcutta High Court Soumitra Sen among others The CPM leader also expressed concern over money bill route taken to pass certain important policies. “If money bill route comes often, existence of council of states will be in question. Both Opposition and government should discuss this issue,” he added.He also shared that the issues related to rubber farmers was raised many times in the House but remained unsolved.T N Seema (CPM) suggested the Upper House should be treated more importantly and called for more women participation in both Houses for which she sought passage of the bill for 50 per cent reservation.

Why JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar has a great future in the Congress

By Prakash Nanda

Over the last three days, the national media has extensively reported on Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of the Jawharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU), who has come out on conditional bail from the Tihar jail after being charged by the Delhi Police with sedition charges. On the night of the release, he gave a mesmerizing speech that was telecast live by almost all the TV channels. The next day, he addressed a live media conference. The print media has not remained behind in both news and views, giving an impression that India is Kanhaiya and Kanhaiya is India.
I too heard Kanhaiya speaking. He came out as a forceful orator, one of the best I have heard. No wonder why a nonpolitical retired civil servant friend (who had occupied high positions as an IAS officer), my senior in my university days, says: “I was greatly impressed to hear Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech live after his release from Tihar. I liked his fluent oratory, conviction and commitment to social democracy. He has appealed to a vast majority of the people perhaps because he is superb in Hindi. And his thought process is amazingly coherent, bereft of vindictiveness. Certainly a role model for the nextgen politicians of the country. I wish him a long and fruitful political career ahead.”

This is the best observation on Kanhaiya that I have heard from my colleagues, friends and critics. There cannot be any second opinion on his oratorical skills. As far as political communication is concerned, he is as good as, if not better than, former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and present Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Kanhaiya is every inch a politician. But he, and here many “bhakts” of Kanhaiya will not agree, has no scholarly touch. A research scholar that he is in India’s premier university, Kanhaiya does not appear to have any intellectual depth, if his speech was any indication.

Kanhaiya Kumar. File photo. PTIKanhaiya Kumar. File photo. PTI

Kanhaiya Kumar. File photo. PTI

Let us have a look at the content of his speech. It was full of “kranti” (revolution) within the confines of the Indian Constitution (obviously it is because of this Constitution that a person of his background could study in JNU); menace of capitalism; caste exploitation; communalism, particularly spread by RSS; evils like Modi and Smriti Irani, particularly their ‘conspiracy” against the downtrodden etc.

Now, what is new in all these points, particularly coming from a person with communist leanings (Kanhaiya’s father has been a follower of Communist party of India and Kanhaiya belongs to the AISF, the student wing of the CPI)? Day in and day out, he must have heard and practiced all these “krantikari” (revolutionary) talks. “Lal Salaam”, “RSS murdabad”, “capitalism murdabad” , “imperialism murdabad” and America murdabad” have been the staple slogans of every Leftist in the country ( RSS-bashing of course has been a little more broad-based to include the Congress party as well). I have been hearing all these my childhood and I heard them most recently from Kanhaiya the other day.

This brings me back to the student politics in JNU and some of the JNUSU presidents who have opted for politics as their careers and made marks in national politics. Let me reveal that I was a student leader in JNU and member of JNUSU. From my experience, I can talk of Prakash Karat (I heard him during election time only as he had already left the campus by the time I came to the JNU), Debiprasad Tripathi, better known as DPT and Sitaram Yechury as presidents and late Divijay Singh(one of my closest friends) as general secretary.

I came to know from DPT (who has always treated me with love and affection as an elder brother) the other day that Congress leader Ashwini Kumar (a cabinet minister under the prime ministership of Manmohan Singh) is also a JNU alumnus. Then there is my contemporary Nirmala Sitaraman, who, like me, was not aligned with any political party as such, though she did not contest elections to enter the JNUSU.

Karat, DPT and Sita were outstanding speakers, but unlike Kanhaiya, they were (and are) great intellectuals. Had they opted for academics, each one of them would have been a great scholar of international fame. Kanhaiya can be said to be in Divijay’s mould – fluency in Hindi with contents that could appeal a bigger general crowd than smaller intellectual gatherings. Of course, Kanhaiya will have an edge over Divijay when it comes to manner of speech delivery.

Now, let us see the careers of these leaders. Karat became the chief of the CPM, India’s largest Communist party that believes in parliamentary democracy. Sita is CPM’s present chief; in addition, he is also a Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha, having been elected by the West Bengal Assembly. DPT is also Rajya Sabha member, but he has come through the  Maharashtra assembly, thanks to the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party of which he is also a General Secretary. Ashwini Kumar, again a Rajya Sabha member, represents Punjab. Divijay, who came to both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha at different times, represented JD(U), then an ally of the BJP (though his last stint in the Lok Sabha was as an Independent after he was denied a ticket by Nitish Kumar). Nirmala is a BJP member in Rajya Sabha, courtesy BJP’s ally Telugu Desam in Andhra Pradesh.

If we go a little deeper, we can see from the above that for any JNU student leader to do well in national politics, he or she must have an established political party for support. The bigger the party or the party’s alliance is, greater is one’s achievement. A party like CPM or NCP will make you a MP at the most; but for becoming a minister, you need to be from a bigger national party like Ashwini Kumar from the Congress, Divijay from a BJP-ally and Nirmala from the BJP.

So where does Kanhaiya, who, going by the predictions or impressions of his “bhakts” inside and outside the media, will be the nemesis of none other than Modi, stand in reality? His party, the CPI, is literally living on the oxygen supplied by the CPM in Indian politics. In other words, Kanhaiya does not have any political future at the national level if he sticks with the CPI, that too at a time when the CPM is battling hard to regain its past glory. Kanhaiya cannot go the BJP, given his strong ideological provenance. I think Congress is a party that he should look forward to. I will love to see Kanhaiya as a Congress MP or minister.
But then, there is every possibility of Kanhaiya spurning my unsolicited advice. He could well say that for him, principles and loyalty matter more than opportunism; he could give a wonderful lecture on why he will love to be a pauper in CPI rather than being a king in Congress. And my respect for him will further go up if he says so. However, I have a problem with his “bhakts”. Addressing a gathering of 3000 students (at the most) in JNU before TV channels is one thing but winning an election to enter Parliament as a direct challenger to Modi (now, one feels sad for Arvind Kejriwal, who was only comparing himself with Modi) is a different ball game. But the “bhakts” are adding to Kanhaiya’s ego that Modi has not been doing anything of late other than conspiring against him, day in and day out. That is the surest way of ruining a very promising political talent, who, otherwise, should be nurtured to enliven and reinforce Indian democracy.

CPI(M)’s ‘civil rights’ are for JNU students: RSS workers? Sorry, they deserve to die

By Srinivasa Prasad

Even as CPM leaders were busy crusading for the rights of JNU students in Delhi, a bunch of the party’s thugs hacked to death an RSS worker at Kannur in Kerala on Monday.

That the CPM’s fight for civil rights is limited to Left sympathisers and India-baiters is nowhere as clear as it is in the northern Kerala, where the party’s workers kill RSS-BJP supporters with amazing regularity.

A screengrab of RSS worker PV Sujith who was murdered in Kannur. Courtesy ibnlive

A screengrab of RSS worker PV Sujith who was murdered in Kannur. Courtesy ibnlive

The Sangh Parivar has, of course, never been found wanting in matching brutality with brutality in the region that has come to be known as Kerala’s “killing fields”.

Kannur residents are bracing themselves for another bout of Sicilian-type vendetta that often sparks a chain of savage killings. The proximity of elections, just three months away, only keeps the nerves on edge.

Monday’s murder of the 27-year-old PV Sujith was the latest in serial killings that have intermittently rocked Kannur for four decades. On Monday night a gang of assailants, whom the police later arrested and identified as CPM workers, stormed into Sujith’s house in Aroli and attacked him with sticks and knives before his old parents and a younger brother.

Sujith’s crime? He had vigorously campaigned for the BJP in the recent local body elections in Aroli and the party had polled a substantial number of votes. Intolerance for political adversaries has been the motive in all CPM’s killings in Kannur which began some 40 years ago when the RSS began to flex its own political muscles there.

Article XI, Section (k) of the CPM’s constitution asks its members “to defend the Party and uphold its cause against the onslaught of the enemies of the Party, the working class and the country.”

The loyal party cadres find that the easiest way to do it is to bludgeon all such “enemies” to instant death.

The RSS would like us to believe that it was the killing of its mukhyashikshak Vadikkal Ramakrishnan by the communists in 1968 that started it all. The CPM says it’s rubbish. The party claims that its heroic efforts to protect Muslims in the Hindu-Muslim riots in Thalassery in 1971 had left the RSS in a vengeful mood. Whoever or whatever sparked it, the killings continue unabated.

Just as Indiana Jones told “Panama Hat” in ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ that the world was “too small” for the two of them, the CPM and the RSS seem to tell each other that Kannur is too tiny a place to have both of them. One must annihilate the other.

And like cameos in films, members of the Congress and the Muslim League occasionally pop up, beating up a Marxist here or lynching a Marxist there. But it’s the CPM and the RSS-BJP that are the key players in Kerala’s blood sport. And by all accounts, the CPM is the current champion.

For the CPM, the hammer and sickle are not just part of its election symbol. They are potential tools of murder. Swords, axes, knives come in handy for both sides. Crude bombs, made at homes with the same ease as appams and mutta curry, are a common feature.

The CPM has many “party villages”—a euphemism for KGB-style “safe houses” where perpetrators of mayhem can hide. Over time, the BJP too followed suit with its own “party villages”. Outsiders can enter such places only with dire consequences, which may include a one-way ticket to hell.

Like the KGB, Kerala’s CPM has zero tolerance for defectors. In a murder that shook the state in 2012, CPM workers killed TP Chandrasekharan, who had broken away from the party and launched his own outfit, by hacking his face with knives beyond recognition.

The killings are always savage. Like Sujith of RSS last week, KV Sudeesh of SFI was hacked to death in 1994 in front of his parents. The SFI says Sudeesh was stabbed 37 times by “RSS fascists”.

In 1999, KT Jayakrishnan of BJP, a schoolteacher, was killed in the classroom with blood spilling on his sixth standard students. The terrified children had to undergo psychiatric treatment.

The precise number of political killings in the region is hard to get, though the police claim that the number is no more than 200 in last 40 years. An RTI petition revealed that 56 people had died in political violence during the 10 years between 1997 and 2008.

The RSS claims that it’s the worst victim of “communist terrorism”. But the swayamsevaks evidently do not subscribe to the philosophy that when one is slapped on one cheek by the enemy one must turn the other cheek too. The CPM claims that more than 300 of its activists have been eliminated by “RSS criminals” since 1980. The party’s website lists many of these “martyrs”.

But this week’s murder of Sujith came at a particularly embarrassing time for the CPM’s state and central leaderships. And it was not just because the party’s leaders were tirelessly talking about freedom and democracy in the JNU context.

Only three days before Sujith was killed, P Jayarajan, the Kannur district secretary of CPM, surrendered to a court to face trial for the September 2014 murder of RSS worker Elanthottathil Manoj.

CPM workers threw home-made bombs at the car in which Manoj was travelling and, when the vehicle lost control, stabbed him.

Manoj’s crime was that he had unsuccessfully tried to kill Jayarajan in 1999. The CBI, which was asked to probe the case, said Jayarajan was the “kingpin and mastermind” behind Manoj’s murder as well as “several other brutal crimes”.

Jayarajan had earlier been arrested for the murder of Muslim League worker Abdul Shukoor. Earlier this month, the Kerala High Court ordered a CBI inquiry into Shukoor’s killing after the police said the CPM’s “intimidatory tactics” had prevented them from conducting a proper investigation.

After Manoj’s murder, Jayarajan had said that the Congress and the Sangh Parivar were colluding to implicate CPM in false cases to make his party look like a “terrorist outfit.” But nobody was convinced.

Jayarajan’s bluff was called by his own son Jain Raj, who boasted on a social media site that the killing was “long awaited”, which prompted the police to slap a case on the son as well.

This was not the first time that CPM boasted of its killings. In 2012, senior CPM leader MM Mani made a chilling confession at a public rally that the party had methodically eliminated its rivals in the Idukki district in 1980s. He was arrested.

At the root of this mindless violence has always been the perception of threat from political adversaries. The CPM has always been in a panic over RSS taking away its supporters. This fear only strengthened in the last five years, and that’s not surprising.

The BJP increased its vote share from 4.75 per cent in the 2006 assembly elections to 6.06 in the 2011 assembly elections, to 10.3 per cent in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and an all-time high of 13.3 per cent in the 2015 civic elections.

Kerala has been calm since Monday’s killing. But a peaceful Kerala makes people more tense than a tense Kerala. During tension, one knows whose murder is causing it. During peace, one has no way of knowing who will be next.

Since Modi has come to power universities are under siege: CPM’s Prakash Karat slams BJP’s ideological hegemony

New Delhi: CPM on Monday attacked the Narendra Modi Government alleging that it “directed the crisis” at JNU and was attempting to impose ideological hegemony on varsities in the country.

“Ever since the Modi government came to power, universities across the country have been under siege. There have been constant attempts to impose ideological hegemony on universities,” former CPM general secretary Prakash Karat said during his visit to protest-hit JNU.

CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat. Image courtesy: FirstpostCPM General Secretary Prakash Karat. Image courtesy: Firstpost

Former General Secretary of CPM Prakash Karat. Image courtesy: Firstpost

Karat, also ex-JNUSU president, added, “This crisis at JNU has also been directed by the top government machinery…RSS has always called JNU a den of anti-nationals.”

The communist leader was at the campus to express solidarity with JNU students who are on strike demanding release of Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar.

Kanhaiya was arrested last week in connection with a case of sedition and criminal conspiracy over holding of an event at the varsity during which anti-India slogans were allegedly raised.

His arrest has triggered widespread outrage among students and teachers and drawn severe criticism from non-BJP political parties.

PTI

Delhi Police searches for links between JNU students and Afzal Guru

Slogans in favour of arrested student leader Kanhaiya Kumar reverberated across Jawaharlal Nehru University on Sunday as teachers and students came together in a massive show of strength to oppose the recent police crackdown in the campus. The support comes even as the south Delhi police requested to transfer the case to special cell claiming the matter needs probe regarding links between JNU students and Afzal Guru.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Faculty members, JNU alumni and students from varying political groups, (excluding the ABVP) formed a human chain comprising of close to 2,000 people demanding the release of Kanhaiya who was arrested and booked for under sedition charges for allegedly organising anti-national activities on campus.In a letter sent by south district police to senior Delhi police officials the Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) is quoted as, “The matter needs probe regarding the links between JNU students and terrorist Afzal Guru as the students were against the sentence of Afzal Guru.”The arrest came after a complaint by BJP MP over a campus event organised in support of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. BJP and it’s youth wing ABVP had claimed that slogans in favour of Pakistan were raised by students present at the venue.”The arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar and the subsequent crackdown of police is completely arbitrary. The students are being targeted simply because of the claims of the BJP MP,” said Ajay Patnaik, President of the JNU teachers association. Patnaik added that the matter should have been looked into by the university first instead of roping in the police.”This is not the first time when there has been such incidents inside the campus. We have set up inquiry committees and taken appropriate action against erring students. If we would have spared those guilty of anti-constitutional activities then the government could have intervened. Why does the government believe that we would not have cooperated with the investigating agencies,” Patnaik said.He added that government’s attempt to stifle the culture of debate, democracy and dissent will not succeed.The JNU teachers association and student bodies also received support from Hyderabad University and FTII who all critiqued Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement in which the senior BJP leader claimed that JNU incident had backing of Jamaat-ud-Dawa Chief Hafeez Saeed.”If they want to politicise the issue we can do the same but we don’t want that. Otherwise we could have filled JNU with our DU cadres,” said ABVP leader Gaurav Jha. Other members of the right-wing group told dna that their next move was to file an FIR against persons uploading a doctored video which purportedly shows ABVP supporters shouting Pakistan zindabad slogans during the confrontation on February 9.CPM office attacked Three youths were detained by the police for vandalising the CPM office in the national capital. The attackers were identified as Sushant, Vedprakash and Rocky Chauhan who of being members of Aam Admi Sena. They claimed that CPM leader’s daughter was involved in the anti-national sloganeering at JNU Confirming the attack, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said “they tried to write slogans like Pakistan Zindabad at our office board. They were pursued by our comrades and one of them was caught and handed over to the police.”

RSS worker murder: CPM leader surrenders, sent to judicial custody

Kerala Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Kannur district secretary P Jayarajan, who is an accused in the murder of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker Kathiroor Manoj, was on Friday sent to a month’s judicial custody after he surrendered before the district sessions court at Thalassery.The development comes in wake of Kerala High Court’s rejection of the anticipatory bail plea submitted by Jayarajan in the murder case, after which he surrendered before the court. The CPM leader was booked by the CBI for conspiracy, under section 18 of c, in the murder of Manoj. The CBI had earlier claimed that Jayarajan, the 25th accused in the murder of RSS leader Manoj, is the brain behind the case.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A division bench comprising Justice K.T. Sanakaran and Justice K.P. Jyothindranath asked the CBI to produce the case diary and mark the relevant portions showing the role of Jayarajan, if any, in the case. Manoj, a district functionary of RSS, was hacked to death at Kathiroor in Kannur district on September 1, 2014 allegedly by a group of CPM workers.

In Mamata turf, BJP to focus on non-aggressive campaign, soft Hindutva, fair polls

After the Bihar experience, the BJP is likely to refrain from overexposure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the West Bengal elections. A party leader said Modi will not address more than 10 rallies in the multi-phased election in the state and so far only seven have been planned.At the same time, the BJP may not have a chief ministerial candidate in the state and will fight the election projecting the Prime Minister, the leader said. Modi had held around 30 rallies in the Bihar election last year.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Modi will be attending a function in Kolkata on February 21 at the Goudiya Muth, a Hindu muth that was set up to spread the teachings of Saint Chaitanya. BJP sources said that when Modi honours the saint, there would be an unsaid message of reaching out to sects like Goudiya Muth and Ramakrishna mission, a humanitarian organisation founded by Vivekananda. While the Goudiya Muth has 75 lakh followers, the Ramakrishna Mission has one crore.The sources said these spiritual missions are peeved with chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s “minority appeasement”, which the BJP would counter with its subtle message and a non-aggressive campaign.The BJP is of the view that the CPM was also toeing the same line as TMC of reaching out to minorities by projecting party MP Mohammad Salim. A party leader said this “double impact of both Left and TMC playing minority politics” would give an advantage to the BJP, which is counting on the anti-Left voters who are disillusioned with the Trinamool Congress.While the party is pinning its hopes on what it sees as a disillusionment in the state with both the TMC and CPM, the BJP is banking heavily on the election commission ensuring there would be no booth capturing in the state. According to EC sources, presiding officers during the elections would be from central forces and not the state to ensure free and fair election in the state.The BJP sees more traction for the party in rural areas where the law and order problem is acute, sources said. Taking on Banerjee, the party is focusing on law and order, opium farming, fake currency, women’s security, unemployment and minority appeasement with slogans like “parivartan ya patan? (change or decline?)” and “ma, mati, manus theeno surakshit nahi (mother, soil, people- all three are unsafe”). BJP sources said the party would take a positive approach in its campaign by spelling out solutions to problems while castigating the TMC and Left. It would also cash in heavily on social media in the state, where of the six crore voters, one crore have smart phones and 3.7 crore have mobile phones.

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