The Asian Age – BJP greedy for power, has put democracy at risk: Mayawati

The BSP chief said the central government had misused its power in a very blatant manner in Gujarat

Lucknow, 29 July 2017. Lashing out at the BJP for its”greed for power”, BSP supremo Mayawati on Saturday said the recent developments in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat have put “democracy at risk”.

“The political developments in Goa, Manipur, Bihar and now in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh are proof enough that the Modi government has put democracy at risk,” she said in a statement here.

“BJP’s greed for power has turned into lust for power.. the manner in which the official machinery and power is being misused is most condemnable,” she said.

The BSP chief said the central government had misused its power in a very blatant manner in Gujarat following which MLAs have been forced to leave their state and move to a safer place.

After forming its government in Goa and Manipur by “crushing democracy”, whatever is happening in Bihar, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh is an example of misuse of official machinery like ED, CBI, income tax etc against opposition leaders, she said.

All this is being done to divert attention from the wrong policies and works of the BJP government, she said.

“The governments in Odisha and West Bengal are also facing ‘official’ terror,” she alleged.

On the resignation by three MLCs, two from Samajwadi Party and one of BSP in Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati said rather than bowing before the BJP, they should have faced the challenge.


The Asian Age – Saharanpur violence: Mayawati slams clean chit to eight Thakurs

The eight had been arrested for allegedly attacking three Dalits on May 23.

Lucknow, 16 June 2017. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing caste violence in Saharanpur has given a clean chit to the eight accused who happened to be Thakurs.

The eight had been arrested for allegedly attacking three Dalits on May 23. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Mayawati slammed the move, saying once again, it proved the anti-Dalit mentality of the BJP.

The SIT moved an application before a local court two days ago seeking their release, saying that they were found innocent during the investigation.

Saharanpur SSP Babloo Kumar said, “During investigation, we found that the eight accused were falsely named in the FIR lodged on various charges including attempt to murder. We had moved an application in the court under section 169 CrPC and requested their release. The court has accepted the application and has also allowed the release”.

Seventeen persons were arrested and sent to jail during a series of clashes in Saharanpur between Thakurs and Dalits last month, of which eight belonged to the Thakur community. With the SIT giving them a clean chit, it is only the Dalit youths, including Bhim army chief Chandra Shekhar and Shiv Kumar (the village head of Shabbirpur village where the clashes took place) that are in jail now.

The SIT has been verifying claims of over 100 affidavits that families of other accused have filed in cases related to the violence.

BBC News – ‘You may as well kill us’: Human cost of India’s meat ‘ban’

Allahabad, 30 March 2017. The government’s crackdown on meat shops in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has left many traders and butchers without much work and money. The BBC’s Vikas Pandey meets them in Allahabad city.

“I have no money since my shop shut two weeks ago. I don’t know how to feed my children and aging parents. Is it because I am a Muslim, or a meat trader?” Shakeel Ahmad, 52, asks.

He is angry with the state’s new chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, who opposes the slaughter and consumption of cows, considered sacred by India’s Hindu majority.

Authorities have closed many slaughterhouses since Mr Adityanath’s BJP party won the state elections earlier in the month. Small shops selling goat and chicken have also been forced to shut, despite the slaughter of these animals being legal.

Most butchers are Muslims and many suspect that they are being targeted unfairly. They allege that their businesses are being shut on technicalities. One meat traders association went on strike, alleging harassment by state authorities.

Mr Ahmad says he understands the crackdown on slaughterhouses which sell beef “because it was one of the BJP’s campaign promises”.

“But why punish small shop owners who sell goat and sheep meat? Most butchers like me earn daily, and don’t have any other skill after being in the business for decades,” he says.

He adds that municipal authorities recently rejected his application to renew his licence.

“They want me to set up a waste disposal unit, but I don’t have the money needed for it.”

Mr Ahmad lives in a small house with nine other family members in a densely populated area, mostly inhabited by the Muslim Qureshi community.

His mother, Fatima Begum, says that the community in this area has traditionally earned its livelihood through the meat trade.

“Men in this community don’t have any other skill. We are already poor, and now we are not sure where the next meal is going to come from. They may as well kill us,” she says.

Ms Begum says she needs regular medication because of her old age.

“I am running out of my medicines, but I haven’t told this to my son because I don’t want to add to his troubles,” she says.

Mr Ahmad’s wife, Husna Begum, is worried about her children’s education.

“I want my children to get a good education and come out of poverty. If the government thinks meat shops are bad, then give us something else to do.

“Is it a crime to dream about a good future for your children?” she asks.
‘I am scared’

A few blocks away, I meet Mohamed Shariq who has also shut his shop.

“I have the licence needed to run my shop, but I fear attacks from right-wing groups,” he says.

Mr Shariq’s fear is not unfounded.

Media reports suggest that several meat shops have been attacked in the state in the past two weeks.

Mr Shariq invites me to his house, and asks a question.

“Just look around. My house is already breaking apart. I have to feed 10 people. Is it fair to ban our only source of livelihood?”

His brother P Qureshi and other members of the family also join the conversation.

They are all worried about their future.

“I hope and pray that the chief minister understands our problems and stops people who are misusing his name. We know there is no official ban on slaughtering sheep and goats, but we are still scared,” Mr Qureshi says.

Every house in this community has similar stories.

Abdul Qureshi, who ferries animals in his cycle rickshaw, says the crackdown seems so unreasonable because Hindus too eat meat.

“Most of the customers in this market are Hindus. Even the Indian Army people buy from our shops. I don’t understand how banning a food item proves anybody is more or less religious,” he says.
‘Not just Muslims’

Gulzar Qureshi is the community leader here, and he explains that “people don’t understand that this is not just Muslims’ problem”.

“Most people who rear sheep and goats are Hindus. I know so many Hindus who have come here from their villages to sell their animals and are now stuck,” he says.

Chunni Lal is one of them.

“I am running out of money to feed the five goats I have brought with me. Nobody is willing to buy them,” Mr Lal says.

Gulzar Qureshi says people who believe that the meat trade ban has only affected butchers and slaughterhouse owners are wrong.

“That’s just over simplification. Cattle farmers, middlemen who buy animals and butchers are all affected,” he says.

He adds that even rickshaw pullers who ferry these animals, and tannery workers who need leather don’t have much work these days.

“We are not asking for fancy roads and schools. Just let us earn whatever little amount we make for our children. I think that’s the least a citizen can expect from his government,” he says.

To see the pictures and read the full article :


The Asian Age – VHP demands law to construct Ram temple in Ayodhya

The VHP leader announced schemes for poor Hindus, such as collection of food from affluent families and distributing it among the poor.

Ahmedabad, 26 March 2017. Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia on Sunday asked the Centre to tread the path of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and enact a law to pave way to build Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Addressing a ‘Hindu Sammelan’ held at GMDC ground in Ahmedabad, Togadia asked the VHP cadres to be prepared to march to Ayodhya if the Centre does not make such a law soon.

“The only way to construct Ram temple in Ayodhya is to walk the path shown by Sardar Patel. Instead of engaging in deliberations with Muslims, he just went ahead and constructed Somnath temple with the consent of Central government at that time,” said Togadia.

“The political leaders who just talk about Sardar, need to walk on that path too. To construct Ram temple, the Parliament must enact a law. This is the only way to realise our dream.

“If the government does enact such a law soon, then get ready to march to Ayodhya,” said Togadia, who is VHP’s international working president.

In his address, the VHP leader announced various schemes for poor Hindus, such as collection of food grains from affluent families and distributing it among the poor.

“I also urge the workers to eradicate unsociability from our society by making one friend from Dalit community,” said Togadia, who then gave a slogan “Hindu First.”

Thousands of VHP and Bajrang Dal workers from across the state had converged at GMDC ground to listen to Togadia and many other leaders, including VHP’s joint general secretary Surendra Jain and Bajrang Dal chief Manoj Verma.

Referring to the BJP’s victory in Uttar Pradesh and the subsequent appointment of Aditya Nath Yogi as the state chief minister, Jain said the country is embracing the saffron colour.

“The entire nation wants to see a grand temple in Ayodhya.

We are entering into the saffron era as people who were against Ram temple were defeated,” said Jain.

Togadia also asked the government to enact a law to control Muslim population as he claimed the community members were extended benefits from the taxes paid by the Hindus.

“As per my knowledge, around 95 lakh Muslim students get free education from the taxes paid by us. The Muslim population is also rising. To stop it, a law should be enacted. I am not talking anything communal here, as this law will be applicable to everyone,” said the firebrand leader.

He also asked the government to deport illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, saying it will ensure employment to more than 3 crore Indians.

“The government must send 3 crore illegal Bangladeshi immigrants back to their country. If you do that, 3 crore Indians will get employment. Similarly, action must be taken against 1.5 lakh Rohingya Muslims settled in Jammu.

Many of them are now having their Aadhaar cards too,” said Togadia.


The Hindu – Exit polls show BJP ahead in 3 States

Slight lead for Congress over Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab

Special Correspondent

New Delhi, 9 March 2017. Results of various exit polls released on Thursday showed the BJP doing well in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and even Manipur, with the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party locked in a tough contest in Punjab.

However, the numbers given by the exit polls varied widely, suggesting convergences only in broad trends.

In Uttar Pradesh, where five polls, India News MRC, Times Now VMR, ABP Lokniti CSDS, India TV-C Voter and India Today Axis, showed the BJP as leading the race, the saffron party’s projected tally varied from 155 to 279 seats.

The SP-Congress varied from 88 to 169 seats, while the BSP was shown winning just between 28 and 93 seats.

Even as three out of the five polls predicted a hung Assembly with the BJP in the lead, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav extended a hand of alliance to the BSP, saying in an interview to BBC Hindi that none wanted President’s rule in the State.

“Will do anything to keep the BJP out. An alliance with BSP would be better than President’s rule in UP,” Mr. Yadav said.

He said he doesn’t want a situation where the BJP “controls UP through remote control.” After a nasty election campaign and numerous verbal spats, he went to the extent of saying that he “always respected Mayawati.”


The exit polls showed Punjab witnessing a tight contest between Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress, with India Today Axis poll showing the Congress ahead with 62-71 out of 117 seats and India TV-CVoter showing AAP ahead with 59-67 seats. India News MRC and News 24 Today’s Chanakya showed both having exactly the same number of seats.

All polls showed a huge defeat for the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine in the State.


In Uttarakhand, three polls, News 24 Today’s Chanakya, India Today Axis and India News MRC, showed the BJP winning the State. India TV-CVoter showed both the parties tied at 29-35 seats.


The India TV-CVoter poll also showed the BJP surging ahead of the Congress in Manipur, where the Congress has ruled for 15 years and the saffron party has hardly any base. It showed the BJP winning 25-31 of the 60 seats with the Congress trailing at 17-23 seats.

Past trends

In the past, exit polls have often gone way off the mark. In the last Bihar Assembly election, for instance, the BJP-led alliance and the JD(U)-RJD-Congress were seen locked in a close contest by most polls. The results, however, saw the grand alliance winning 178 seats out of 243 and the BJP’s alliance was reduced to 59.


The Hindu – Uttar Pradesh: Why Muslims will hitch a ride on ‘bicycle’

Lawyers in Muzaffarnagar, madrasa students in Bareilly, artisans in Moradabad, tomato farmers in Sambhal back Akhilesh

Smita Gupta

Moradabad, 23 January 2017. A day after the Election Commission (on January 16) awarded the “bicycle” symbol to the Samajwadi Party faction led by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, there was jubilation among his supporters.

As I drove through western UP, Akhileshwadis, as they are called, and Congress workers alike stressed that an electoral understanding between the two parties was now a certainty. But as the week proceeded, and the alliance talks got stuck, jubilation turned into despondency, especially among Muslims, the community that has driven this alliance more than any other.

In Bareilly, barely 24 hours before the SP-Congress alliance was officially announced on Sunday, a young Muslim journalist who writes for local Urdu papers, said: “When Akhilesh got the cycle, there was great excitement; today, there is a sense of hopelessness in the community. The alliance must happen”.

In western UP’s 125 Assembly constituencies, the Muslims are the single largest bloc, roughly 38 per cent of the population (across the State, it is 18 per cent).

For Muslims, the Modi government has heightened its sense of insecurity, with the free run it has given RSS outfits to run campaigns targeted against them, from love jihad and ghar wapsi to cow protection vigilantism. There is a determination, therefore, in the community to use its numbers to influence next month’s poll results.

Community divisions

Class, educational backgrounds and even caste may divide the community, but an overwhelming majority is rooting for Akhilesh Yadav and a SP-Congress alliance, from lawyers in Muzaffarnagar, to madrasa students in Bareilly, to businessmen and artisans alike in Moradabad, to tomato farmers in Sambhal.

Their reasons vary: if students and young farmers see Akhilesh bhaiyya as emblematic of their aspirations, Urdu scholar Murtaza Iqbal in Moradabad says, “The SP is the flip side of the BJP, with its politics also helping to polarise votes. But Akhilesh, unlike his father Mulayam Singh, is seen as non-partisan. And if the Congress joins the alliance, it will have a moderating influence on the SP”.

For the SP-Congress alliance, there is, of course, one major obstacle, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), that has a major advantage in western UP, the Jataav vote that is about 14 per cent in this belt and which is going to turn out in full strength for it.

In addition, with the most backward castes having largely deserted her, BSP supremo Mayawati has been promoting the idea of a Dalit-Muslim alliance in this election. She has given 97 seats to members of the community, with 36 from this region of the State.

This poses a challenge to the SP, for whom the Muslims are the base vote in western UP. But as I travelled through the districts of Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Saharanpur, Bijnor, Moradabad, Bareilly and Badayun, it was clear Muslims will only vote for the BSP when they find the SP-Congress candidate cannot defeat the BJP.

Of course, there are instances such as in the Swar constituency, where SP strongman Azam Khan’s rookie son Abdullah is pitted against the BSP’s Kazim Ali Khan, the Nawab of Rampur: the Muslim votes could get divided here.

As for the Congress, its eight per cent votes will come in handy for the SP, as it is likely to chip away at the BJP’s upper caste votes.

People are not prepared to give it a starring role in Battleground UP, but feel it will play a competent supporting role.

As a young government officer in Badayun said, “We want a milijuli sarkar (a coalition government); enough of these Hitlers.”


The Asian Age – SP’s cycle symbol may be frozen before the UP polls

If the Akhilesh faction stakes claim to the symbol, the Election Commission will have to hear both sides before making a decision

Lucknow, 2 January 2017. The Samajwadi Party’s symbol, Cycle, faces the threat of being frozen before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls if rival factions stake claim to it in the coming days.

The group headed by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has already authorised him to constitute a national executive, parliamentary board and various state units, as required, and inform the Election Commission of the developments at the earliest.

Sources in the Akhilesh faction said they will approach the EC if the group head by Mulayam Singh Yadav goes to the poll panel.

However, observers believe that it will be Akhilesh’s faction which will have to go to the EC for staking claim over the symbol because the commission’s records will have the names Mulayam Singh Yadav and other office bearers.

If Akhilesh stakes a claim for the symbol, then the commission would have to give notice to the other side and hear both the factions before making a decision.

In case, experts feel, if the EC is not able to come to a decision as to which side should get the symbol for the elections then it could exercise the option of freezing the SP symbol.


The Hindustan Times – Akhilesh Yadav’s tough love: When young CM nudged out father Mulayam

Lucknow, 1 January 2017. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav might have staged a virtual coup in the Samajwadi Party but through the course of his address to party cadre on Sunday, he appeared respectful to his father Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Akhilesh repeatedly declared he continued to regard “Netaji”, as Mulayam Singh is widely known, as the leader, though a national executive meeting called by him replaced the party patriarch with the CM as national president.

“Mulayam continues to hold the highest position for the party and me,” he said.

But the 43-year-old Akhilesh lashed out against his uncle Shivpal Yadav, with whom he is locked in a months-long battle for control of the party.

Shivpal, he thundered, was working against the interests of the party and warned that he would take strict action to curb “anti-party activities”.

“If there’s a conspiracy against the party or Netaji, it’s my duty to act against it.”

Akhilesh’s other uncle and SP national general secretary, Ramgopal Yadav, was on stage, having declared the CM as the party national president and calling for Shivpal’s expulsion.

Akhilesh’s declarations came after his 24-hour-long suspension was revoked by Mulayam, an event that was said to have cemented his position as the most-popular face of the party.

“I am ready to sacrifice everything for Samajwadi Party,” Akhilesh Yadav said. And to another roar from the gathering, he thanked everyone who stood by him in the ugly war within the state’s ruling family.

Akhilesh said he had been given the responsibility of returning the Samajwadi Party to power in the country’s most populous state when it holds fresh elections this year.


The Hindustan Times – A devious strategy: Using development projects as poll carrots is self-centred

Op/Ed, 24 December 2016. The Panna Reserve Forest in Madhya Pradesh is easily one of India’s best tiger reserves. I have been there a couple of times but it was only during a recent visit that I had the opportunity to visit a British-era dam built on the River Ken that flows through the forests.

The interesting aspect of the structure is that you can enter its belly and walk from one end to the other. The walk is delightful: One can hear the water crossing the barrier and falling on the other side, and also watch the non-stop ‘water curtains’ through its windows.

At one end of the tunnel is a plaque with some details about the ‘Gangau Dam and Reservoir’, which was built in 1915 by Messrs Ford and Macdonald Ltd. There are a few other details on it: The names of the construction agent, the chief engineer, executive engineer, the supervisor and other who built the structure.

While we were reading the names, a colleague commented: “No names of politicians, can you believe it?” I couldn’t. It was incredible indeed; in India, we seldom see structures that have the names of those who toiled to build it; it is always a bureaucrat or a politician who runs away with the honours, making sure that people feel indebted to them forever.

This desire to make people feel indebted to the politician surges before elections: For example, look at what’s happening in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Recently, UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav launched 5,500 projects in six hours in a bid to woo voters.

Among the projects he launched (his name will etched on the plaques for sure) there are schools, bridges, mandis, roads etc.

A few days later, several newspapers carried an advertisement issued by the Uttar Pradesh government, announcing a 382-km six-lane expressway, the longest in the country (until now the Lucknow-Agra expressway is the longest), which will pass through Azamgarh, Mulayam’s parliamentary constituency, to reach Ballia, on the Uttar Pradesh-Bihar border.

In Punjab, things are no different: In one week, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal doled out Rs 40-crore developmental grants during his favourite ‘sangat darshan’ exercise in three reserved segments—Nabha, Chamkaur Sahib and Bassi Pathana—where the party has fielded fresh faces.

Almost every week, the Badal cabinet is meeting and taking plethora of populist decisions. Sources say every financial resource is being squeezed, including loans from banks.

The Punjab Infrastructure Development Board, that funds most of Badal’s pet projects sought the nod for more loans stating that its financial health had collapsed. “This carpet bombing of sorts (read inauguration spree) is aimed at building positive public perception and deflecting negative public opinion,” an aide of Sukhbir Badal told HT.

Last week, the chief minister’s daughter inaugurated Rs 102-crore bridge over the Sutlej river in Tarn Taran. The construction of the bridge, which links Tarn Taran and Ferozpur districts and lessens the distance between many areas of Majha and Malwa regions, began in 2011.

Its foundation stone was laid by Badal Senior, with an eye on the 2012 assembly elections. It was to be completed within two years. However, even after more than five years, the project is still incomplete.

Then, of course, the queen of pre-poll gifts to voters was the late Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa: From mixer-grinder to free phones to free gold, Amma’s kitty had it all.

The excessive use of freebies has even led the Supreme Court (the judgment in S. Subramaniam Balaji vs Government of Tamil Nadu & Others on July 5, 2013) to intervene and ask the Election Commission to frame rules regarding what political parties can promise in their manifestos.

Do these freebies work? It’s unclear. A research by the Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, US, shows that these policies have little effect either on voter turnout or on support for a party.

First, if populism (quotas or freebies) won elections, incumbent parties and their candidates would be less likely to lose, argues the study. There is overwhelming evidence that suggests that incumbents face a big disadvantage in India, that is, their chances of re-election are lower than non-incumbents.

Despite there being no definite link between freebies and wins, sops have become are part and parcel of Indian elections. But what I find devious and extremely self-centred of politicians is the manner in which they hold on to critical infrastructure projects till the end because they want to reap poll benefits.

These projects, bridges, schools, roads, shouldn’t be even called sops because they are actually necessities and shouldn’t be put on hold for any reason.

Isn’t it sad that instead of building school infrastructure as and where required with the education cess you and I pay, politicians use them as carrots for votes?

The way politicians hand out these crucial development projects, which should have been done elections or no elections, only goes to show that India has a long way to go before becoming a democracy in letter and spirit, “free and fair polls” notwithstanding.

With politicians/State, we still continue to have a patron-client relationship.