Mahabharata 2019 Begins

At the forefront of the opposition is Rahul Gandhi who is leading the exuberant Congress party, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati who have formed an alliance of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party with Rashtriya Lok Dal. West Bengal has Mamta Banerjee, while in other states, regional parties are waiting to play a significant role in national politics.

Voting for 91 constituencies in the first phase of 2019 Lok Sabha elections has already taken place in crucial states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh that are crucial among 20 states and union territories that went to polls on April 11. The BJP facing a tough contest in all the seats due to the alliance of Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal. The Congress is likely to cut into votes of both the BJP and the combined alliance.

In Bengal, 18 candidates are contesting from two constituencies and the main parties are the BJP, Congress, TMC, and Left. Andhra Pradesh, still smarting over the bifurcation of Telangana, was all set for what appeared to be a tight contest for its 175 assembly seats and 25 Lok Sabha seats in the first phase. In Bihar, four Lok Sabha seats had polling.  The second phase would be on April 18.

During the first phase, a man died in violence while glitches in Electronic Voting Machines were reported from several states. Sporadic violence was reported from Andhra Pradesh, where a worker of the Telugu Desam Party died after a clash in Anantapur. The Chief Election Officer of Andhra Pradesh admitted that 362 Electronic Voting Machines were malfunctioning.

The Phase 1 saw polling in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Andaman and Lakshadweep. It witnessed polling in 25 parliamentary constituencies in Andhra Pradesh, 2 in Arunachal Pradesh, 5 in Assam, 4 in Bihar, 1 in Chhattisgarh, 2 in Jammu and Kashmir, 7 in Maharashtra, 1 in Manipur, 2 in Meghalaya, 1 in Mizoram, 1 in Nagaland, 4 in Odisha, 1 in Sikkim, 17 in Telangana, 1 in Tripura, 8 in Uttar Pradesh, 5 in Uttarakhand, 2 in West Bengal, 1 in Andaman and 1 in Lakshadweep.

Besides national parties like Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress, regional parties are also a force to reckon with. To begin with, Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh that has formed an alliance will prove to be a forceful third front in the state. Then there is Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha and Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) in Sikkim that has strengthened their grasp with multiple successive terms in the respective states.

On the eastern front is the formidable Mamata Banerjee’s All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) that are fighting against the ruling party, while there’s Conrad Sangma’s National People’s Party in Meghalaya and Atul Bora’s Asom Gana Parishad in Assam that has joined forces with BJP for the Lok Sabha polls.  In Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena is in coalition with BJP, while Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will fight the ruling party. Another formidable contender in the upcoming elections is N Chandrababu Naidu and his party the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh. In Telangana, K Chandradshekhar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Smithi (TRS) and Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are also forced to reckon with.

The election fever has reached its crescendo with Bharatiya Janta party, the Congress and regional parties raising the poll pitch. Some alliances have been formed and some are on the way but electioneering has already begun on a high note. It is at this time that in his blog post published on March 21, the finance minister, Arun Jaitley wrote, “I have repeatedly maintained that a fundamental difference between truth and falsehood is that truth holds together and falsehood falls apart”. To each fake campaign of the ‘Compulsive Contrarians’ over a period of time, ultimately the truth has prevailed. Either it is the electoral mandate or the judicial process which gives the final verdict.

Important UPA Ministers and leaders coined the vicious theory of ‘Hindu terror’ during the UPA Government. The ‘Compulsive Contrarians’ adopted it. It was an effort to distract attention from Jehadi terror. It was a conspiracy to give a bad name to the otherwise liberal majority community in India. On terrorism, Hindus were drawn into equivalence. Terror is alien to the Hindu culture. In fact, it’s alien to India’s legacy. We are amongst the few successful nations in the world which have managed to overcome terror and insurgency in several parts of the country. Not a single Indian has ever been arrested or killed in attempting a blast or terrorist violence across the border.

In a series of incidents across the country during UPA-1, an effort was made to invent ‘Hindu terror’. In one case, the actual terrorists were arrested. Upon rethinking by the Government, a charge-sheet was filed against a set of individuals belonging to the

Hindu community and completely contradicting the earlier investigation. In the Samjhauta Express blast, the US State Department and the United Nations kept indicating a certain Jehadi organisation and individuals responsible for the 2007 blasts at Panipat. However, it was considered by the then Government as a ‘Hindu conspiracy’. Yesterday’s verdict by the Court has judicially put the last nail in the coffin of the so-called ‘Hindu terror theory’.

Godhra train fire

The burning of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra in 2002 was an attempt to instigate social and communal tension in the State. The accused in the case were identified. There was voluminous evidence available. The accused were arrested at different points of time, charge sheeted, their bail applications were rejected right up to the Supreme Court. Many of the accused were convicted earlier and an accused arrested subsequently has recently been convicted by the trial court.

Many ‘Compulsive contrarians’ who had made a career out of creating social tensions in Gujarat started contending that the burning was self-engineered by either the State or the Kar Sevaks. In the most irresponsible act of the UPA Government, the Ministry of Railways under Shri Lalu Prasad Yadav selected, without consultation of the Chief Justice of India, a retired Supreme Court Justice, UN Banerjee, as a Commissioner for Railway Enquiry.

The Judge willing to oblige the Government and its political interest, submitted a report that there was no burning by the mob and that the fire had taken place from inside the compartment where the Hindu pilgrims were. I regard this subversion of evidence in order to cover up the heinous crime as the worst stigma on the UPA Government and its Prime Minister. Such a report had no evidential value. Yesterday, the trial court, after perusing all the evidence, has convicted one more accused.

Nirav Modi Arrest

Nirav Modi started cheating the Public Sector Banks in 2011. It was a continuing crime. His crime was detected in 2018 by the. Banks and investigating agencies under the present Government. His assets have been frozen, are being auctioned, a criminal prosecution against him have been filed, recovery action for the dues owed to the banks and creditors are being pursued. He is alleged to have been escaped from one jurisdiction to another.

It goes to the credit of our investigating agencies that they were pursuing him. On our request, he has now been arrested and denied bail. There is a strong unanswerable case against him and hopefully, India will get him back. Whoever cheats India and its institutions cannot get away. He will be found out. This also busts the fake campaign that the present Government had anything to do with him.

There is an inherent danger in relying only on fake issues. They crack up and collapse as three of them did yesterday. I hope the manufacturers’ of fake campaign learns some lesson. They don’t seem to be considering their brazen attitude.

In another blog post, Arun Jaitley wrote that conventional print media followed conservative norms.  Every ‘news’ that a reporter brought was checked and verified. Due care and caution was taken. Documents were perused, alternative versions were taken and then a ‘news’ which cast aspersions against individuals, was published. Television liberalised this conventional view. The race for TRPs has led to every news becoming a ‘Breaking News.’ 

Today there is a complete breakdown of ‘Breaking News.’ The social media has discarded these norms altogether. For many in social media, this rule has been abandoned. They believe that norms have become anachronic. Defamation is a right and the ‘targets’ reputation is irrelevant. If the right to publish is a part of free speech, equally the right to live with honour and reputation is an essential ingredient of the Right to Life. Both are Fundamental Rights. One cannot override the other.

Experiments with falsehood

An experiment with falsehood was attempted in the Godhra train burning case. A ‘fire from within’ theory was created. In the Ishrat Jahan case, a successful operation against Lashkar-e-Taiba module mastermind by the intelligence and security agencies was passed on as a political operation. These were the precedents that ‘caravans’ of modern-day falsehood seek to follow. 

They now get ample support from ‘falsehood perpetrators’ from the ‘Liars on the Wires’ and the digital. Their bread and butter depend on falsehood. The campaign in the Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi cases, Rafale and the non-existent loan waivers are prime examples of this in recent days. Jaitley wrote that he was personally saddened when a media organisation which had come out with distinction in Bofors investigations, became a perpetrator of the Rafale falsehood.

From falsehood to forgery

It is evident from media reports that politicians, amongst others, who stocked and distributed unauthorized cash have also been targeted in the campaign against black money. Media had reported that it was a search on a Congress leader which has found detailed notings in his diary. The diary, amongst others, entails the payments made to members of the preferred family of the Congress Party. 

A search on another Congress leader at multiple places made significant revelations. Media reports indicate that his informal accounts dealing with cash were discovered. During the search, as per CBDT statement, photocopies of loose sheets were provided by the Congress leader claiming this to be BSY’s diary. 

The authorities, as per the statement of the CBDT, go to the root of the matter. BSY played it fair and straight. He offered his handwriting and signatures to the authorities for verification. The Congress leader started distancing himself from the documents. He would not authenticate nor confirm its veracity and not part with the original. The documents appear to be a self-serving forgery of the Congress Party and its leader. 

Faced with odds on a daily basis, the Congress Party needed to distract from the self-goal created by Sam Pitroda. He had questioned the Air Force’s targeted attack at Balakot. The ‘caravan’ of falsehood was ready for a ‘Rahul Bailout’.

The forged and fabricated photocopies manufactured and provided by the Congress Party were passed off as BSY’s diary. A channel which claims to have earned the ‘trust with viewers’ endorsed the falsehood. The newspaper which earned credibility with Bofors and lost it with Rafale, headlined the forgeries. Earlier it had sliced and half printed a Rafale document.

Falsehood and forgeries can never influence a poll.  Just as voters are wiser than politicians, they are also wiser than those who ride on the ‘caravan’ of falsehood and forgeries.

Arun Jaitley questioned, “Is the Congress Party Now Paying the Cost for its Dynastic Character?”  He said that had consistently held the view that dynasties owning political parties is an unfortunate phenomenon which has accelerated in the last three decades. The Congress was the original creator of this concept. Dynasties demolish organisational structures. They are unable to attract leaders of talent or mass following. Since the democratic structure of a dynastic party gets diminished, they become a crowd around a family.

Chaudhary Charan Singh had very appropriately said that world over parties elect leaders. In India, leaders create parties. Wherever the leader goes, the party travels with him.

Dynastic parties have one major drawback. If the current generation of the party is competent, charismatic and enjoys popular confidence, the dynasty can pull-off major victories. There is an incentive in the party to rally behind him. However, if the current generation dynast is lacking in charisma, understanding and popular confidence, the crowd around the family gets increasingly frustrated. Is the Congress Party witnessing that?

The state of the Congress

The Congress Party has been out of power for five years. Its leaders and workers are accustomed to existing with the frills of office. They stare at another possible defeat. They have to live with their leader not relying on political advisors but on some from ‘non-conventional’ ones who are out of sync with the Congress leaders.

Since the last word on any issue belongs to the leader, there is an element of unpredictability. For those familiar with the Congress leaders, some generic statements are frequently heard. A few illustrative ones are mentioned here:

“What can I do? He just doesn’t listen.”

“Wait for the 24th of May, our politics will begin thereafter.”

“I feel like quitting”

“Our campaign planning is lagging behind. I am told Uncle Sam has come to take care of it.”

“Let’s prepare 2024”

The above reflects what one generation of the dynasty can do to a dynastic party.  There are three prominent non-dynastic parties in India.  The BJP has elected, over the last few decades, leaders of the caliber of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani, and Narendra Modi as its front rank leaders.  When the new generation of the Left took over, their dominant faces were men like Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury.

Despite the limited impact of the Left, they had decades of experience and ideological clarity.  After a series of splits and mergers, the Janata Dal (United), another non-dynastic party, elected Nitish Kumar, who will shortly be completing his third term in his office as Chief Minister.  It goes to his credit that he changed the governance culture of Bihar.

Wrongly assessing capacity

Dynasties impose leaders.  These leaders don’t become great – greatness is thrust on them.  Some suffer from what psychologists now regard as the ‘Dunning-Kruger effect.’  Social psychologists Dr. David Dunning and Justin Kruger have given an apt description.  They believe that those who suffer from this effect have a bias of illusory superiority which comes from the inability of low-ability people to recognise their lack of ability.  Without the self-awareness of their limitations, such low ability people cannot objectively evaluate their own competence or incompetence.  This leads to their miscalculation in their assessment of the caliber of highly incompetent ones.    They suggest that poor performers are not in a position to recognise their shortcomings and consequently are insecure and biased against the more competent ones.  There is little place for men of high caliber in dynastic parties.  An insecure leader is scared of the shadow of more talented people.

Is this the reason for the current mood within the Congress Party?  Or is it also the reason which persuades the Congress President to cross the line of decency and dignity when he refers to the Prime Minister? This should suffice as a lesson for the dynastic parties.  They succeed on the strength of some generations of the dynasty.  They sink with the others.

Candidates’ analysis

Assistant Professor of Political Science and Co-Director, Trivedi Centre for Political Data, Ashoka University has analyzed the scenario few weeks ahead of the first phase of polling, as both national parties have declared most or half of their candidates. The BJP has already announced 296 candidates (excluding one independent candidate that it supports), against 218 candidates announced by the Congress.

The BJP’s first list of candidates includes 150 re-running candidates, including 128 sitting MPs.The other 146 candidates are new, including 34 candidates in seats the BJP did not contest in 2014 (mostly in Andhra Pradesh). Contrary to expectations, only 44 MPs are not re-running, , including in five seats given to the JD(U) as part of the alliance agreement in Bihar and including one seat where no by-election took place after the incumbent, Bhola Singh, passed away.

A few veterans, such as LK Advani, Bandaru Dattatreya, Karya Munda and Shanta Kumar, have been left out. The BJP has re-nominated several sitting MPs in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Karnataka, while most candidates who ran in states where the BJP did not perform in 2014 have been changed.

The Congress, on the other hand, is fielding mostly new faces. It has so far nominated 150 new candidates, including 11 in seats it did not contest in 2014. Only 68 Congress candidates who ran in 2014 are contesting, including 22 incumbent MPs. Eight MPs are currently out, including KV Thomas and KC Venugopal in Kerala, and Mausam Noor in West Bengal. The Congress has thoroughly reshuffled its decks in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh.

While we are yet to have complete lists, the trend so far gives a relevant indication as far as women and Muslims representation is concerned.

Space for Women

Both parties have a history of paying lip service to the cause of women representation. In 2014, the BJP fielded only 38 women candidates (8.9 per cent of all candidates), against 60 for Congress (12.9 per cent of all candidates). So far, the BJP has given 36 tickets to women candidates (12.2 per cent), against 26 tickets given by Congress (11.9 per cent). The BJP is doing better than it did in 2014 and the Congress worse, if one considers their report card in 2014, either generally, or within the exact same seats.

Twelve women BJP candidates are re-running incumbents, among whom are Poonam Mahajan, president of the BJP’syouth wing; Heena Gavit, the current Lok Sabha’s youngest member; Pritam Munde; and Hema Malini.

Fourteen BJP women contestants belong to political families.Five of them are contesting in Maharashtra: Poonam Mahajan is the daughter of the late Pramod Mahajan, Pritam Munde is the daughter of former BJP leader Gopinath Munde, Heena Gavit is the daughter of a prominent ex-NCP politician, Raksha Nikhil Khadse is the daughter-in-law of BJP leader Eknath Khadse, and Kanchan Rahul Kul is the wife of Rahul Kul, a turncoat MLA in Daund, a seat previously held by her mother-in-law.

In Andhra Pradesh, DK Aruna, who is to contest from Mahbubnagar, belongs to an expansive political family. Bangaru Shruthi in Nagarkurnool is the daughter of former BJP president Bangaru Laxman.

In Uttarakhand, Mala Rajya Laxmi, the incumbent MP from Tehri Garhwal, is the wife of the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal and daughter-in-law of Manabendra Shah, who is an eight-time former MP from the same constituency. In Odisha, Anita Priyadarshni is the daughter of Ramakrushna Patnaik,a former minister in Naveen Patnaik’s cabinet. In Uttar Pradesh, Sanghamitra Maurya is the daughter of Swami Prasad Maurya, current MLA from Padrauna.

In Gujarat, Poonamben Hematbhai is the daughter of a four-time MLA. In Madhya Pradesh, Himadri Singh belongs to an extensive political family that includes two MPs.

Other women contestants come with strong local political experience. In Assam, Queen Ojha is a former mayor and former Asom Gana Parishad candidate of the 2011 state elections. In Sarguja, Chhattisgarh,

Renuka Singh is a former MLA and a well-known tribal leader. She served as woman and child development minister in the Raman Singh government. Also in Chhattisgarh, Gomti Sai is a tribal leader and first-time contestant. Both candidates in Trithala (Kerala) and Raiganj (Bengal) are former contestants. Other women candidates include Locket Chatterjee, a classical dancer and an actress, president of the BJP women’s wing in West Bengal.

The Congress, which has pledged to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill if it comes back to power, does not seem in a hurry to make gender equality a reality. Eight women candidates are re-running contestants, including Sonia Gandhi, Priya Dutt, Sushmita Dev, S Jothimani, Deepa Dasmunsi, Meenakshi Natarajan and Annu Tandon. One re-running candidate, Savitribai Phule, is a BJP turncoat.

Thirteen of them belong to political families. Sushmita Dev, president of the All India Mahila Congress, is the daughter of veteran Congress leader Santosh Mohan Dev, former MP and Cabinet minister. Her mother, Bithika Dev, is the Silchar MLA in Assam. Shruthi Devi is the daughter of former TDP Union minister V Kishore Chandra Deo. Dolly Sharma in Ghaziabad is the daughter of the local Congress chief; ManjariRahi, running in Misrikh (UP) is the daughter-in-law of former Congress MP and Union minister Ram Lal Rahi. Deeepa Dasmunsi, contesting from Raiganj is the wife of former Union minister and Congress stalwart from Bengal Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi. Shruthi Devi is the daughter of former Union minister V Kishore Chandra Deo (TDP).

Not all Congress women candidates hail from an affluent backgrounds. Remya Haridas, in Alathur, is the daughter of a daily wage labourer. Several non-dynastic candidates also possess prior political experience. Shamimol Usman is a former secretary of the All India Congress Committee. Kaisar Jahan is a former BSP MP, Omvati Devi is a former SP MP from Nagina.

Muslim candidates

In 2014, the Congress distributed 32 tickets to Muslim candidates (6.9 per cent of all candidates), against seven for the BJP (1.2 per cent of all candidates). So far, the Congress has fielded 18 Muslim candidates, mostly in UP (8), Andhra Pradesh (4) and West Bengal (3). The BJP, on the other hand, has given only six tickets to Muslim candidates, three in Kashmir and one in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Lakshadweep each. An initial glance indicates that the BJP Muslim candidates come with far less experience and political credentials.

In J&K, Mohammad Maqbool War is a former candidate. He ran in the 2008 state election in Sopore as an independent and in the 2014 state elections in Langate on a BJP ticket. In these elections, he finished 22nd and 10th, with 93 and 523 votes respectively. Sofi Youssuf is a four-time BJP candidate in state elections from Anantnag. He ended in the fourth position on three occasions.He also ran in the 2004 general elections, again in Anantnag, finishing fourth with less than 5,000 votes.

Khalid Jahangir is a journalist and political strategist, appointed as a local BJP spokesperson in 2014. This is his first election. Jatothu Hussain Naik is a former BJP MLA candidate in Mahbubabad in 2018, where he finished third. In Lakshadweep, the BJP appointed Abduyl Khader Haji as chief of the local party unit in 2017.

In West Bengal however, Mafuja Khatun is a former MLA, and a Communist Party of India (Marxist) turncoat. By comparison, Congress’s Muslim candidates have more experience. Seven of them belong to prominent political families, such as Imran Masood, Zafar Ali Naqvi, Saleem Iqbal Sherwani and Salman Khursheed.

In Bijnor, the Congress has fielded Naseemuddin Siddiqui, former number two in Mayawati’s Cabinet. Kaisar Jahan is also a former BSP UP minister. In West Bengal, Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury, in Maldaha Dakshin,is the only incumbent Muslim MP to re-run . In Maldaha Uttar, the incumbent MP Mausam Noor, who has defected to Trinamool Congress,has been replaced by Isha Khan Chowdhury, the current MLA from Sujapur and member of a prominent political family.

Abu Hena, candidate in Murshidabad, is a five-time MLA from Lalgola and a former West Bengal minister.In the South, the Congress is fielding Sheikh Mastan Vali, current MLA from Guntur East. In Alapuzha, Kerala, the incumbent MP KC Venugopal has been replaced by Shanimol Usman, a former AICC Secretary. Only Mohd Shahjahan Basha, in Rajampet, is a newcomer.

This is still a preliminary picture of the candidature landscape. What can be said so far is that the BJP, contrary to claims made, largely clings onto its sitting MPs, while reshuffling candidates in states where it hopes to expand. The Congress is fielding a larger proportion of fresh faces, which you would expect from a party who was soundly defeated in the previous election. So far, the situation of women representation is disappointing and both parties are mostly going for conventional candidates. The reality remains that most candidates (and many representatives) are expendable to parties, which does not encourage them to invest in their legislative job when they get elected.

BJP campaign stronger

As the election nears, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launched a concerted attack on the Opposition at over 200 rallies across the country as part of a mega opening to the party’s 2019 election campaign, focus on national security and the NDA government’s welfare schemes over the past five years.

BJP president Amit Shah, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, home minister Rajnath Singh, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari, and railways minister Piyush Goyal, among other heavyweights, hit the ground running in the first leg of the blitzkrieg comprising over 450 rallies.

Shah said “There used to be two countries, the US and Israel, which were known for avenging its soldiers. Now India has become the third country to do so under Modi…Only Modi can ensure the country’s security.” He went on to target the Opposition over what he said was the absence of a prime ministerial candidate. “No one is willing to fight the elections. BSP leader Mayawati wants Narendra Modi defeated, but she is not willing to fight elections. Neither is NCP leader Sharad Pawar, West Bengal CM and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee or DMK leader MK Stalin.” In his parliamentary constituency Lucknow, home minister Rajnath Singh, too, spoke of India’s action against the JeM, which claimed the Pulwama attack. “The irony is that there are some political parties in the country which are more worried about the surgical strikes than Pakistan. They are even asking how many persons were killed in the air strike.”

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath kicked off his campaign by offering prayers at a temple in Behat constituency of Saharanpur.

Congress attack

While BJP is attacking Congress, from the Congress, a scathing attack came from K.C.Venuguipal, General Secretary, AICC alleged that ‘The Yedduyrappa Diary’ which supposedly bears the signature of BCC, who said in a statement that S.Yeddyurappa, senior BJP leader and former CM of Karnataka indicates massive corruption of Rs. 1800 crore involving top BJP leaders needs to be investigated as the details mentioned in the diary reveals the fake claim of Modi government’s fight against corruption, AICC General Secretary in-charge of Organisation and Karnataka, K.C.Venugopal MP said in his statement.

“The Prime Minister who boasts about his fight against corruption should come forward and clarify on the content of this diary. Prime Minister, Modi must reveal whether the top leaders of BJP have received the said amount or not. It is also the responsibility of each leader mentioned in this diary to come forward and clarify whether they have received the amount mentioned by Shri Yedyurappa and undergo any investigation required in this matter. We appeal that this must be made the first case to be investigated by the newly appointed Lokpal,” K.C.Venugopal said in his statement. 

Earlier also Yeddyurappa had been caught red handed while offering money to the MLAs in Karnataka to topple the Government. If the details mentioned in the Diary are correct, then the BJP leadership should also answer on the source of this income.

Former Union Minister, Kapil Sibal alleged that BJP’s five years had been a dismal period as 6351 farmers/cultivatorscommitted suicide in 2016- 17 per day. Similarly, farmer protests have increased from 628 (2014) to 4837 (2016), agriculture workers wages has increased by only 2.6 per cent (UPA-8.5 per cent) while 52 per cent farming families indebted; average outstanding loan -1 lakh. During July and December, 2018 MSP increase merely covers input costs; way below Swaminathan commission recommendations.

Between 2010 and January 2019 about 123 cases of cow-related violence. Over 50 per cent of the victims and 78 per cent of those killed were from Minorities. 98 per cent of these crimes took place after 2014 and in 14 states ruled by BJP. In 2018 there were 218 hate crimes. 192 of those were against Dalits and Minorities (Amnesty International Report). He alleged that countless citizens suffered due to Demonetisation, many lost their lives and thousands of small businesses had to close down. Sowing of crops delayed; demand collapsed; impacted farmer’s income and GDP took a hit of close to 2 per cent in the quarter of demonetisation. There were 15 lakh job losses in the first four months after demonetization (CMIE).  Then the multiple GST rates regime one of the most complex in the world. Single Rate-49 countries; Two Rates- 28 countries; Five rates – 4 countries.

About killing of security personnel, Kapil Sibal gave details that in Kathua — March, 2015,(Casualties:3Security Personnel), Gurdaspur — July, 2015, (Casualties: 5 Security Personnel), Pathankot– January 2016, (Casulaties: 9 Security Personnel), Pampore– June and December, 2016 (Casualties: 11 Security Personnel), Uri — September 2016, (Casualties: 18 Security Personnel), Baramulla– October, 2016 (Casualties: 1 Security Personnel), Nagrota–November, 2016 (Casualties: 7 Security Personnel), Sunjuwan — February, 2018 (Casualties: 4 Security Personnel) and Pulawama — February, 2019 (Causalities:49 Security Personnel). More than 60 security personnel have been martyred since Pulwama attack.

Sibal alleged there are certain reports and studies that were not released for public perception including Survey on jobs created under Mudra Scheme, NSSO report on unemployment, Labour Bureau’s 6th employment-unemployment survey and National Crimes Record Bureau’s “Crime in India” report for two consecutive years. (2017 and 2018).

Tough battle ahead

In view of all this, the  2019 battle is expected to be a tough fight for both the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress, and regional parties because 2019 is not 2014. It’s not going to be an easy ride for the BJP as the saffron party looks for the second term.

Also, the failure of the Opposition to join hands and form a “mahagathabandhan” has come as a shot in the arm for BJP. Surprisingly, in 2014, the BJP-led NDA was a conglomerate of around 29 parties; this time it has 41 parties, brought together by the Modi-Shah combine. Ironically, the Congress has an alliance with only 17 parties but BJP has been able to believe all that sole idea of “mahagathbandan” is to corner lone man Modi.

The Pulwama terror attack and the following Balakot airstrikes though have changed the narrative from the issues that the opposition was raised to “rashtarwaad” or nationalism. The Congress’ narrative ‘chowkidar chor hai’ jibe has given the BJP a new slogan ‘main bhi chowkidar’ campaign. All eyes would now be on different phases of voting and the dooms day of May 23 when results would be declared!

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Rise in menace of anti-Romeo squads

Anti-Romeo squads, formed soon after the current NDA Government in Uttar Pradesh took over in March 2017, ostensibly to protect the honour of women, has come to be viewed as a big nuisance verging on state terror to police the moral standards of the country’s youth. It comes on the heels of such squads having worked for years in the BJP ruled Gujarat, where it failed miserably following massive resistance and disenchantment of people.

The state government, rather than sort out myriad problems facing the state, is stretching the police force to protect dignity of women to deflect from the basic issues confronting the people.

Anti-Romeo squads, intended to protect women from stalkers and eve-teasers, comprise police, both men and women, in plain clothes and deployed at public places like schools, colleges, shopping malls, markets, parks, cinema halls and bus stands. The squads have been provided with ward-robe mounted cameras to ensure no one slips from police net.

In 2017 alone, anti-Romeo squads in U.P. questioned 21,37,520 people for keeping out with girls, indicating how far moral policing has gone in today’s India. Worse, it turns out that of those questioned, 9,33,099 were warned and , 1, 706 FIRs lodged against 3,003 persons. These happened in less than nine months following NDA Government’s inauguration in the state.

According to official figures from the state government, anti-Romeo squads checked 34,49,646 persons from March 2017 to July end, 2018. Besides, 2481 FIRs were issued and action taken against 4329 persons. Altogether, 15,69,145 persons were let off with warnings to be careful in future. Squads also checked 12,616,18 public places.

On an average, seven FIRs were lodged and 2,410 persons warned daily by the squads. Guidelines for the squads provide that youth provoking others to join activities aimed at troubling women are provided with counseling. Each anti-Romeo squad comprises one sub-inspector and two constables. It includes women as well. All police stations maintain separate records of crimes against women with weekly review to check such crimes and progress achieved.

Anti-Romeo squads are viewed with skepticism by women activists as assaults on their personal liberty and individual honour. In their opinion, there are enough women centric laws, which if implemented properly, can bring down crimes against women. They maintain that effective implementation of women empowerment laws and sensitive policing could be sufficient to assure women of their safety and deter men from harassing them. Besides, anti-Romeo squads’ action has shrunk public spaces for women and couple.

Performances of anti-Romeo squads, so far, have revealed that Uttar Pradesh has not become any safer for women under the current state government. On the contrary, crimes against women have gone up manifold with worsening law and order. A bad idea from the start, the squad has become notorious for striking terror. People complain of a feeling of state terror among youths as they are harassed, tortured, made to shave their heads and do sit-up for eve-teasing. Trigger happy squads also extort the youths.

Anti-Romeo squads, perceived to legitimize moral policing, amounts to giving state the right to stop man from talking to woman or go for a movie. Women activists have called for disbanding the ant-Romeo squads immediately as it is encouraged by a state which reneges on its Constitutional duty to maintain law and order. It attacks personal liberty and privacy of citizens and the government of the day must be held accountable for assaulting the dignity of the people targeted by the squads and compensate the harassed persons adequately acknowledging that their fundamental rights, guaranteed by the Constitution of India, have been violated.

Allahabad High Court judgment legitimising civilian action if it were to protect women, has further encouraged vigilantism and moral policing. If only the High Court could have directed the state government to present a grievance redressal mechanism both for instances of sexual harassment of women and excesses committed by the preventive mechanism, known as anti-Romeo squads, the commitment of the state towards ending violence against women and not encroaching upon people’s privacy and personal liberty would have been established. It also dilutes the primary role of police to maintain law and order, peace and social harmony and intervene when there is a breach.

The Constitution is the only bedrock of true Indianness engraved therein. We must cherish the freedoms postulated by the Constitution. It is time the country men and women resisted the pernicious menace of the anti-Romeo squads!

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Regional satraps rule the political roost in South

In the ongoing process of elections being held for Lok Sabha in seven phases, with first phase being over on April 11, southern states of India, represented by Tamil region comprising Tamil Nadu and Puducherry accounting for 40 parliamentary seats, Telugu region comprising Andhra Pradesh (25 seats) and Telangana (17 seats); Kannada region represented by Karnataka with 28 seats and Malayalam region represented by Kerala accounting for 20 seats, entail some distinct features that are seldom seen in other parts of India. With the exception of Karnataka where the two national parties — BJP and Congress — are directly pitched against each other with JD (S) as an ally of the Congress, in rest of the southern states, regional satraps rule the political roost.  

Regional parties are more in reckoning in southern states and they have been thriving on strong linguistic and cultural identities and have often served as a potent barrier to the BJP’s Hindutva nationalist discourse. State-specific issues often acquire salience over national issues. Unlike north India where the BJP has seemingly succeeded in evoking emotions in its favour in the wake of martyrdom of over 40 Jawans in Pulwamaand subsequent air strikes, the response of southern states to this jingoism has mostly been lukewarm. Region-wise appraisal can help us in having cognizance of the electoral prospects of different political players on the horizon.

Telugu region

Telugu region comprises Andhra Pradesh having 25 Lok Sabha seats and Telangana having 17 seats and both these states are dominated by regional parties. Many experts opine that the BJP and Congress are not even marginal players here. In Andhra Pradesh the real contest is between Telugu Desam Party (TDP) led by Chandrababu Naidu and Yuvjana Sramika Ryuthu Congress (YSRC) party led by Jagan Reddy. Observations garnered by this author during his recent visit to these states tally with most of the pre-poll surveys predicting 17 to 20 seats for YSRC party and rest for the TDP. Both the BJP and Congress are expected to draw a blank here.  

In Telangana, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), which recently recorded a landslide victory in the state assembly elections, is having a tie-up with the All-India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). And this combination is predicted to sweep all 17 Lok Sabha seats thereby leaving the TDP, Congress and the BJP toiling hard for making their presence felt. while the BJP hopes to continue its flag flying.The projected win for Jagan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh and K. Chandrasekhar Rao in Telangana will provide both the potentially decisive role in the formation of any coalitiongovernment at the Centre after May 23.

Absence of a charismatic leader like Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, better known as NTR, who was an influential figure in the Telugu region and earned the status of a national leader, is widely felt. However, post-poll developments in this region arebound to impact national politics. Under the given situation, governance model in both states is excessively dependent on personality cult.

Tamil region

Tamil region comprising Tamil Nadu with 39 seats and the Union Territory of Puducherry accounting for one seat, together form 40 seats of Lok Sabha. Undoubtedly, the AIADMK is in power in Tamil Nadu; nevertheless, in the aftermath of the demise of Jayalalitha, the AIADMK is bereft of a powerful leader who basked in the glory of charismatic MGR. Currently, the AIADMK, riven with inner dissensions, is a coalition of eight parties, including the BJP. With the recent demise of M. Karunanidhi, the DMK is also bereft of a powerful leader.

The DMK is a coalition of nine parties, including Congress. Both critics and predictions made by many pre-poll surveys project a divided picture about the outcome of the Lok Sabha election in Tamil region. In the wake of AIADMK being riven with internal dissensions and absence of a strong party leader, the DMK-led alliance is expected to call the shots owing to its leader Stalin enjoying salience over his rivals and legacy of Karunanidhi. Some critics have opined that the alliance led by the DMK may secure over 25 seats and play a decisive role in the formation of a next coalition at the Centre. 

Electoral prospects of the BJP in Tamil Nadu, which is the only southern state where it is a part of an alliance, hinge on the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK). In 2014, the BJP could win only one seat and that also by virtue of its alliance with smaller regional parties. Currently, it is contesting for just five seats; nonetheless, in the wake of anti- incumbency against the AIADMK and the latter being ridden with acute factionalism, some experts opine that it might be very cumbersome for the BJP to retain even a single seat that it won in 2014. The DMK-Congress alliance may have a field day on May 23.

Kannada region

Kannada region, represented by Karnataka and comprising 28 seats, presents an interesting example of rivalry between the BJP and Congress. The BJP has the distinction of having won 18, 19 and 17 of the 28 seats in 2004, 2009 and 2014 respectively. However, in the present scenario, the BJP may find it difficult to replicate its previous performance in view of the ruling Congress-JD (S) alliance which is to witness direct contest between the alliance and the BJP in stead of a triangular contest. 

In the wake of BJP facing a direct contest with Congress-JD (S) alliance, some experts suggest that the grassroots arithmetic could be shaky for the BJP. The Congress-JD (S) alliance may help it galvanize caste base to improve parliamentary poll vote share and the combine vote share of the alliance could well be daunting for the BJP. If the alliance arithmetic that recently worked at the grassroots in enabling Congress to wrest Bellari seat from the BJP, is any indication then it can be presumed that if this arithmetic goes well, it could make it difficult for the BJP to touch double digit number. 

Malayalam region

Malayalam region is represented by Kerala and it accounts for 20 Lok Sabha seats.  This region has traditionally witnessed bi-polar political contest between the CPI (M)-led Left Front and the Congress-led United Democratic Front. However, in recent years, the BJP has also been making efforts to make inroads into Kerala and for the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP has tied up with the local Bharat Dharam Jana Sena and Kerala Congress (Thomas), with the hope to wrest the Thiruvananthapuram seat.

In 2014, the BJP ceded the Thiruvananthapuram parliamentary seat to Congress by a narrow margin of 15, 000 votes and this time the BJP is striving hard to win it. In the wake of firmly polarized nature of state politics, until recently it was given to understand that there would be some tactical understanding between the Congress and the Left Parties to defeat the BJP at the national level which could be worked at local level to keep the BJP at bay; Nevertheless, Congress decision to field its president Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad has been criticized by the Left leadership. Despite this development, coupled with the fact of the recent polarization of the Sabarimala issue, some experts rule out the possibility of the BJP of gaining any foothold in Kerala and the Congress is said to be the net gainer followed by the Left. 

Way forward

The BJP’s strategy of replicating its 2014 performance when it won 21 seats out of 130 in 2019 is seemingly a herculean task. Of the 21 seats it won in 2014, 17 were from Karnataka, 3 from undivided Andhra Pradesh and one from Tamil Nadu.

Apart from the BJP’s limited appeal, ground-level arithmetic in Karnataka and split with the TDP in Andhra Pradesh may limit BJP to less than the double-digit number. The Congress is making efforts to deepen its roots in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The BJP’s hopes of roping in Jagan Reddy and K. Chandrasekhar Rao in NDA also seem to be a far-fetched idea in view of anti-BJP pronouncements of these regional leaders. However, politic like cricket is an unpredictable game where anything can happen even at the last moment.

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May 23: Suspense continues for the saffron party

With the final outcome of the hustings for the Lok Sabha to be announced on May 23, all available indicators at this juncture point out that the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is very unlikely to repeat its 2014 performance owing to its failure to deliver on its promises, especially on eradicating black money, creating 20 million jobs annually, addressing farmers’ distress, building Ram Temple etc.

On the other hand, drastic measures like demonetization and improper implementation of the GST proved instrumental in adding to the people’s socio-economic woes paving way for the growing disenchantment of the masses with the Modi government and the people reflected their angst by voting against the BJP in the three major states of the Hindi Heartland – Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in December 2018.

Towards decline

Ouster of the BJP-led government in three major states in the Hindi Heartland culminated in the emergence of an array of pre-poll surveys in January this year predicting inability of the BJP to garner enough numbers of its own to retain power at the Centre. Adding to the bilked BJP’s woefulness has been the flurry of hectic activity by the non-BJP political parties to foster alliances with regional satraps.

Undoubtedly, efforts for Opposition unity had started gathering momentum in the aftermath of the installation of the government in Karnataka led by an alliance of JD (S) and Congress in May 2018; nevertheless, the BJP seldom seemed to be worried about this development.

Coming together of the SP and BSP in UP and efforts undertaken by West Bengal chief minister Mamta Banerjee in bringing non-BJP political parties together and her hosting of well-attended Opposition rally in Kolkata in January this year did unnerve the BJP, though it didn’t show any sign of embarrassment. Until the closing part of the second week of February this year, most of the pre-poll surveys predicted declining curves of the BJP prospects in the ensuing general elections.

National security

However, the terrorist violence in Pulwama where over 40 CRPF jawans were martyred on February 14 and subsequent airstrike by Indian Air Force inside Pakistan at Balakot on 26 February followed by the release by Pakistan of the captured IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman proved instrumental in changing the national narrative from basic issues like unemployment, agrarian crisis and the alleged Rafale terrorism and national security as key issues, thereby providing the BJP an edge over its rivals in the popularity graph.

At this juncture, many critics opined that it was too simplistic to say that Pulwama and Balakot had guaranteed PM Modi a second term in office. However, in the wake of Pulwama and Balakot fading from the public memory and the persistent standoff between India and Pakistan ending in an embarrassment for India, some analysts opined that this could harm PM Modi in the upcoming elections. With the announcement of polling dates and coming into effect of the model election code, electoral campaigning has got a fillip and not-so-large public attendance in PM Modi’s rallies has been worrisome for the BJP. 

The BJP’s hopes of reaping electoral dividends in the wake of nationalistic fervidness stemming from Pulwama and Balakot that had started becoming diluent received further jolt when the Congress president Rahul Gandhi promised to implement NYAY scheme. According to one critic, PM Modi perhaps understood that the Congress was beginning to seize the initiative by forcing ‘Aay Pe Charcha’ as against the Modi-Shah bouquet of pre-election jumlas.

In order to prop up people’s sagging interest in the nationalistic narrative, Modi in a tweet on March 27 announced that he would be addressing the nation with an important message which was telecast and aired after one hour of the tweet and the intervening one hour kept the people guessing the nature of announcement because Modi is known for springing surprises like demonetization.

Modi’s announcement of India’s prowess in space technology via ASAT, which would have been left to the DRDO, has been dubbed as a move by the BJP to get political mileage from this event. Some critics have pointed out that such an attempt by the BJP makes it seem as if the BJP is itself grasping at straw in the hope of finding something that could connect to the people. Another critic has opined that it can be evidenced from the tone and tenor of Modi presenting the accomplishment that he is worried about the feedback he is receiving from the mood of the electorate.

Dim prospects

Overall prospects for the BJP repeating its performance of 2014 seem dim. Salience of perennial issues of jobs for the youth, agrarian distress and party’s failure in delivering on its promises over the ephemeral nationalistic fervidness and growing surge of the Congress and emerging alliances of regional satraps are likely to dent BJP’s electoral grip. This is also attested to by the recently conducted pre-poll surveys.

The BJP’s prospects in the ensuing Lok Sabha polls are critically linked to repeating its sweep in the Hindi Heartland. In the aftermath of having lost Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the BJP will find it cumbersome to repeat its 2014 performance of winning 62 out of 65 seats. In Madhya Pradesh where the BJP won 27 out of 29 seats in 2014, is likely to incur heavy losses as predicted by Poll Eyes.

In Jharkhand, where the NDA won 12 out of 14 seats in 2014, the NDA is ahead in 5 seats whereas the UPA is ahead in nine seats, as per Poll Eyes survey. In Chhattisgarh, where the Congress registered a landslide victory in the assembly polls in December last year, the BJP is likely to suffer a big jolt. In Gujarat where the BJP won all 26 seats in 2014, is likely to win 16 seats as per Poll Eyes survey.

UP, Bihar, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are significant states for any party to wrest power at the Centre. In 2014, the BJP had swept polls in UP and garnered good number of seats in Bihar and in Maharashtra it contested in alliance with Shiv Sena and secured good number of seats. However, scenario in UP and Bihar has undergone a sea change presently.

Alliance between SP, BSP and RLD has unnerved the BJP and Congress is also fielding its candidates and the cumulative impact can damage the prospects of the BJP. Most of the pre-poll surveys have predicted advantage SP-BSP alliance and rule out replication of 2014 for the BJP. In Bihar, as well, the NDA is projected to yield place to UPA with the BJP cornering less than 10 seats of its own. In Maharashtra, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine is predicted to underperform as compared to 2014.

In West Bengal, the TMC is likely to call the shots with the BJP struggling to save its grace, albeit it may improve its percentage share of votes. In Odisha, the BJD is likely to hold the fort with the BJP making a gain of couple of seats. In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the parties already in power are likely to retain their supremacy giving no space for the BJP.

An identical picture is likely to emerge in Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. The BJP may gain a couple of seats in Tamil Nadu on account of its alliance with AIADMK and in Kerala it may secure one seat, as per average of different pre-poll surveys.  In Assam and other North-Eastern states where the BJP had performed excellently in 2014 is very unlikely to replicate the same performance, especially in the wake of public angst against BJP’s move to impose Citizenship bill. Thus, the overall scenario presents a dismal prospect for the BJP in securing even a bare majority of its own in the ensuing Lok Sabha polls.

Way ahead

Undoubtedly, the final outcome will be declared on May 23; nevertheless, the emerging trends are unfavourable for the BJP to retain its hold on power at the Centre of its own. In case, the BJP is able to secure around 200 seats, then other constituents of the NDA will be in a strong position to dictate their terms to form a coalition government sans Narendra Modi. Admittedly, the BJP is likely to emerge as the single largest party and it will have to elicit the support of other regional parties to be enthroned. In case, other constituents disapprove of Modi’s leadership, the possibility of a split in the BJP is not ruled out. Therefore, such an eventuality is inclined to approve: May 23 may brings an end to the BJP rule.

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Northeast stays cautious as first phase gets over

Northeast India, once known as the region of separatists, has joined the general elections starting from 11 April 2019. Defying the old diktat of armed militants in the far-eastern region, millions of electorate are out to to elect their 25 representatives in Lok Sabha, the lower house of Indian Parliament.

The region, surrounded by Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet (now under China), Myanmar and Bangladesh, gives shelter to over 60 million people in eight provinces (popularly termed as State). Besides the mainstream political parties like the Indian National Congress, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) etc, the region witnesses activities by a number of regional political parties.

BJP led National Democratic Alliance, which is in power at the Centre, has been increasing political influence in the region that was once a stronghold of the Congress. By now the region has no Congress government in any State and the oldest party of India is slowly facing shrinkages in northeastern political space.

Moreover gradual loss of the Congress has turned as the gain of BJP in northeast India. While the party remained in uncertainty over accepting political alliances, the ruling saffron leadership has already sealed electoral ties with a number of regional political parties expecting to succeed in over 20 Parliamentary constituencies of the region.

Assam, centre State of the region, goes to  polls in three phases (11, 18 and 23 April) for 14 Lok Sabha seats, where Manipur and Tripura have two-phase schedule (11 and 18 April) for two seats each. Arunachal Pradesh (two seats), Meghalaya (two), Nagaland  (one), Mizoram (one) and Sikkim (one) have single phase  poling schedule (11 April), outcome of all will be available on 23 May.

BJP has already realigned electoral ties with Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) and put forward candidates in ten Lok Sabha seats in Assam.  Three seats have been offered to AGP and one to BPF, where too BJP general secretary Ram Madhav is expecting success because he argued, Modi (Prime Minister) wave still continued to influence the electorate as like in 2014 national polls.

Anti-BJP forces in the region are trying to capitalize the public uprising against the saffron party because of its mush debated citizenship amendment bill (CAB)  to pave ways for persecuted religious minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh to get Indian citizenship. The anti-CAB movement almost swept the region and a series of public demonstrations were observed until it was lapsed in Rajya Sabha on 13 February.

BJP leadership maintained that it would bring the bill again if voted to power in New Delhi where the Congress president Rahul Gandhi opted for continue opposing the initiative. BJP president Amit Shah, during one of his recent public meetings in Assam, reiterated that his party was committed to grant citizenship to those marginalized asylum seekers.

Once the issue is temporarily over, the saffron party got hugs from the AGP leaders, who in January broke the alliance and three of its ministers in  Sarbananda Sonowal’s cabinet also resigned. But soon after the CAB-lapse Atul Bora (also AGP president), Keshab Mahanta and Phanibhusan Choudhury had rejoined the BJP led government in Dispur and started functioning happily.

Though pretending to be comfortable externally, the BJP leadership has rejected nominations to five sitting MPs including a central minister. The resurgent party, which won seven Parliamentary seats in 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Assam, decided to field young candidates this time including two State ministers.

Even though support bases were reportedly intact, Rajen Gohain, who served as the Railway’s junior minister in Narendra Modi’s Union cabinet, was denied party tickets from (Nagaon or Nowgong) Parliamentary constituency. Similarly Bijoya Chakraborty (Guwahati), RP Sarma (Tezpur), Ramen Deka (Mangaldoi) and Kamakhya Prasad Tassa (Jorhat) were also deprived from party tickets to fight the elections.

BJP’s trusted ally BPF puts forward Pramila Rani Brahma as the party nominee for Kokrajhar Lok Sabha seat in western Assam. The State minister is expected to showcase a good fight to the sitting MP Naba Sarania, who used to be a top leader of Ulfa and fought the last general elections as an independent candidate. The list of candidates for the ST reserved seat also includes Sabda Rabha (Congress) and UG Brahma (UPPL).

Prestigious Guwahati Lok Sabha seat is anticipated to witness a spectacular fight between two prominent ladies namely Queen Ojha (BJP nominee and a former Mayor of Guwahati) and Bobita Sarma (Congress). A senior advocate of the Supreme Court Upamanyu Hazarika is also on the fray as an independent candidate, who is expecting supports from conscious electorate of the fairly urbanized Lok Sabha constituency.

Congress heavyweight and a Rajya Sabha member Bhubaneswar Kalita is fighting for Mangaldoi  seat who faces challenges from young BJP nominee Dilip Saikia. Similarly, a former Union minister and Congress veteran Pawan Singh Ghatowar will be challenged by sitting BJP Parliamentarian Rameswar Teli for the Dibrugarh seat in eastern Assam.

Another sitting BJP MP Pradan Baruah is fighting for Lakhimpur seat, where he may face challenges from Anil Borgohain (Congress), Arup Pratim Borboruah Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Bhupan Narah (Voter’s Party International) etc. Sonowal won the seat in 2014 general elections as a BJP candidate and later relinquished after taking responsibilities as the State chief minister.

Two young Congress sitting MPs namely Gaurav Gogoi and Sushmita Dev have retained their party nominations. Gogoi, son of former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, is understood to face stiff challenges from AGP nominee and a student leader till few weeks back Mani Madhab Mahnata in Koliabar Lok Sabha seat. Similarly, Dev will be challenged by  Rajdeep Roy of BJP in Silchar seat.

Another former leader of All Assam Students Union (AASU) and presently a minister in Sonowal’s cabinet Tapan Gogoi is fighting for Jorhat Lok Sabha seat with the BJP ticket.

He is scheduled to  face visible challenges from popular Congress leader Sushanta Borgohain in the central Assam constituency.

Sitting Congress MP from Diphu constituency Biren Singh Ingti has also received party ticket where the elderly politician will face BJP nominee Harensingh Bey, ASDC leader Holiram Terang, National People’s Party candidate Lien Khochon etc. In Karimganj Lok Sabha seat, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) representative Radheshyam Biswas will be challenged by BJP nominee and State Assembly deputy speaker Kripanath Malla and Congress leader Swarup Das with others.

Interesting fights are waiting in Tezpur Parliamentary constituency, where the Congress has nominated a former bureaucrat MGVK Bhanu against BJP’s young State minister Pallab Lochan Das. More candidates namely Ram Bahadur Sonar (NPP), Mahendra Bhuyan (NCP), Mahendra Orang (VPI) etc also remain on the ground to divide votes in the central Assam Parliamentary seat.

Former State Congress minister  Pradyut Bordoloi has been fielded from Nagaon seat who would be challenged by BJP legislator Rupak Sarma with few other candidates. In Barpeta Lok Sabha seat, the Congress nominee, also a legislator, Abdul Khaleque will face Dipak Das of AGP, whereas the AIUDF president and sitting MP Badruddin Ajmal will face another Congress legislator Abu Taher Bepari in Dhubri Parliamentary constituency.

Elections in Assam and also many parts of the region remain synonymous with violence perpetrated by separatist militant outfits who are fighting New Delhi for decades demanding self-rule to sovereignty. This time, both the factions of United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), have shown reluctance in intervening the polls. The pro-talk ULFA faction led by Arabinda Rajkhowa recently made it clear that they would never be a part of the electoral process. Similarly the other faction led by Paresh Barua also maintained silence over their influence in the electoral battles sweeping the region.

The author is a political analyst based in northeast India

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Congress-NC tie-up makes the going tougher for BJP in J&K

Amid the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, the political atmosphere in J&K is heating up. The parties are busy stitching up pre-poll alliance to strengthen their electoral chances and a new party J&K People’s Movement launched by the former IAS officer Shah Faesal has added a new factor to the charged situation – albeit Faesal has decided against contesting the Parliament election.

On March 20 Congress and National Conference decided to come together by entering into a seat-sharing pact in J&K’s six Lok Sabha seats. According to the arrangement, Congress will field candidates in two parliamentary seats of Jammu. Dr Farooq Abdullah will contest from Srinagar parliamentary seat in Kashmir Valley. Interestingly, the parties will have “friendly contests” in three places — Baramulla, Anantnag and Ladakh constituencies of Kashmir. This has been done to prevent the secular vote from splitting which would have been to the advantage of the BJP.

Although the PDP is not a part of the alliance, the party has also decided not to field candidates from the two parliament seats of Jammu in an obvious attempt not to allow the division of the vote in favour of the BJP.

“The opposition front is not functioning as it should have but we have taken a unilateral decision to not field candidates from these seats so that the secular vote does not get divided,” PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said.

Mehbooba herself is contesting from the Anantnag parliamentary constituency in Kashmir Valley where she will be up against the NC’s Hasnain Masoodi, a retired justice of the J&K High Court.

In J&K, the upcoming Lok Sabha poll is seen as a warm-up exercise for the possible Assembly polls which are expected to follow shortly after. Six parliamentary seats give J&K little political weight at the national level in matters of government formation at the centre. So, parties are more focussed on the Assembly elections which are fiercely fought by them – albeit, boycotted by a significant section of the people in the state.

But winning parliamentary seats in the state will be important for the Congress and the BJP. They will be a brief addition to their national tally. However, in case of the Congress, even if a few of the state’s Parliamentary seats are won either by the NC or the PDP, they are likely to support Congress in Lok Sabha.

For Kashmir-based political parties and also for a majority of the people, the ensuing general elections are of critical importance. There is now a strong undercurrent for a non-BJP government at the centre which is hoped to revise the BJP government’s militaristic policy towards the state. The past five years have seen the situation in the Valley go from bad to worse.

The central government under the BJP has abandoned the political engagement in favour of a muscular policy that believes in killing the way to peace in the state. The policy also abandoned the earlier efforts towards political resolution of the problem in Kashmir and aggressively pursued the assimilation and integration of the state into India. This has involved attempts to remove the legal safeguards guaranteed to the state by the Constitution of India.

The BJP is also perceived to be behind the delay in the Assembly polls in the state which a near-unanimous political and public opinion wanted to be held together with the Parliament polls. This delay is seen as deliberate as it has put the J&K under the central rule leaving New Delhi free to deal with Kashmir as it chooses. And should the BJP return to power at the centre, the people see little chance of an early holding of the Assembly election.

So, the Valley looks forward with trepidation at any prospect of the return of the BJP to power in the country and would rather want a Congress party or a secular opposition to make the new government. But then J&K has little role or political weight to influence in any measure the government formation at the centre, even though the situation in J&K becomes a major poll issue at the national level and does determine to a good extent how people vote.

A yearning for Assembly polls

Kashmir is hoping for a change of the government at the centre which would pave the way for Assembly election in the state and which is where all the action will take place.

So far, it is the National Conference which is appearing as the favourite to win Assembly polls. Not because there is some popular groundswell in support of the party but because it has become the default option for the people considering the endemic anger against the PDP following its disastrous coalition government with the BJP. And should the NC win the largest number of seats in the Assembly if not a majority, its preferable choice for a coalition would be the Congress.

In many ways thus the. PDP’s bitter experience with the BJP has once again made the Congress as the natural coalition partner of the mainly Kashmir-based parties like the NC and the PDP. Congress ruled the state from 2002 to 2014 as part of the two coalition governments – first one with the PDP and another one with the NC.

The party is now readying itself to be a part of a probable new coalition government with the NC. Hence an alliance between the parties for the Lok Sabha. Though the NC leader Devendra Singh Rana has said that the alliance with the Congress is specific to Lok Sabha polls, the arrangement is likely to be replicated for the Assembly election. The PDP is also pitching for a broader opposition alliance but has been miffed by the lack of reciprocity from the NC.

But should such an alliance come through during Assembly polls, it will make it exceedingly difficult for the BJP to retain its 25 seats in Jammu province, paving the way, in all probability, for an NC-Congress government in the state.

However, much also depends on which party comes to power at the centre following the general elections. A BJP government would put the J&K BJP once again on a stronger footing. And a Congress-led or backed coalition at the centre would make things relatively easier for the local Congress and the regional parties as they would be more open to being a part of it..

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Gambhir, Mufti trade barbs on Kashmir

It seems raking up Kashmir and reacting to the developments in the state or statements of its leaders has become the favourite pastime of the cricketer-turned politician Gautam Gambhir. Soon after joining the BJP, his Twitter spat with the major J&K leaders Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba  Mufti has brought him a generous media attention, an incentive, perhaps, for him to tweet and talk more about the state.

Gambhir’s latest brush with Kashmir began with his response to Omar’s demand for restoration of the posts of ‘Wazir-e-Azam’ (Prime Minister) and “Sadr-e-Riyasat” (President) for J&K. Former J&K Chief Minister said it in the context of the BJP’s policy to revoke Article 370 and Article 35A which grant the state special position under India’s constitution and the power to define citizenship laws respectively.

The demand for the Prime Minister and the president for Kashmir was vehemently opposed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an election rally. But Gambhir took the debate forward. In a tweet addressed to Omar, he mocked him for his comments “Omar Abdullah wants a separate PM for J&K and I want to walk on oceans! Omar Abdullah wants a separate PM for J&K and I want pigs to fly! More than a separate PM Omar Abdullah needs some sleep followed by a strong coffee! If he still doesn’t understand then a green Pakistani passport.”

Omar tweeted back: “Gautam, I never played much cricket because I knew I wasn’t very good at it. You don’t know very much about J&K, it’s history or the role of @jknc_ in shaping that history yet you insist on displaying that ignorance for all to see. Stick to stuff you know about, tweet about the IPL.”

Gambhir wasn’t  discouraged. He followed the argument with Omar up with Mehbooba over her tweet that India’s constitution would no longer apply to J&K if Article 370 were to be scrapped. She also warned that all Indians will have to pay for the BJP’s folly of withdrawing Article 370 and Article 35A. Mehbooba’s tweet followed after a petition was filed in Delhi High Court urging the court to bar Omar and Mehbooba from participating in polls for their alleged anti-national statements.

“Why waste time in court? Wait for the BJP to scrap Article 370. It will automatically debar us from fighting elections since the Indian constitution won’t be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir anymore,” she tweeted in response, adding: “Na samjhogay tho mit jaoge, aye Hindustan walo. Tumhari dastaan tak bhi na hogi dastaano mein (O people of India, you will be erased if you do not understand. Even your tales won’t be written in history)

In response, Gambhir  retorted saying “This is India not a blot like you that it will disappear”. This drew sharp reaction from Mehbooba who blocked him on Twitter.

Ever since, Gambhir also visited J&K to campaign  for the BJP and in his speeches too, he took on Omar and Mehbooba. Addressing a rally at Udhampur, Gambhir once again slammed Mehbooba for her “anti-national remarks”.

“Mehbooba Mufti blocked me on Twitter but how will she block 125 crore patriots. Her dream to break India will not be successful,” Gambhir said while talking to reporters after addressing an election rally here.

He also slammed Omar. However Gambhir’s Kashmir fixation is not new. Earlier too, he has sparred with people over Kashmir and reacted controversially to the developments in the state.  In April 2017 he called for mass murder in Kashmir in retaliation for the heckling of the CRPF jawans by a group of Kashmiri youth, whose video had gone viral.

Gambhir had then tweeted, “For every slap on my army’s Jawan lay down at least a 100 jihadi lives. Whoever wants Azadi LEAVE NOW! Kashmir is ours. #kashmirbelongs2us”

Last year, Gambhir had slammed Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi following his tweet on Kashmir saying that Afridi “is, as usual, celebrating a dismissal off a no-ball”. Pakistani cricketer, in a tweet, had condemned the then killings in Kashmir  and had urged the UN to intervene to stop the bloodshed.

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Why PoK brides want to go back?

This group of women in Kashmir occasionally holds protests in Srinagar, the last such protest was held on February 3 on the eve of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state. Their demand: “send us back to our families in Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir”.

The women came to Kashmir in the years after  2010 as part of the rehabilitation policy announced by the then state government for the Kashmiri youth who had crossed over to Pakistan or PoK for arms training and wanted to return to a normal life in the state. These women are the wives of these former militants. In their protest they carried banner which read in Urdu “We’re Pakistani. Send us home”.

They complain they are being treated like criminals in Kashmir even though they are not infiltrators or intruders. One of them Kubra Gillani, 27, who hails from Domel area of PoK has been divorced by her husband Muhammad Altaf Rather.

Around 450 youth had returned, many of them with their wives, under the rehabilitation policy. The state government had opened “channels” for them to return without arms and resume normal life. Government had selected four entry points — Poonch-Rawalakote (Poonch), Uri-Muzaffarabad (Uri), Wagah (Punjab) and Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi from where the youth could  enter the state following necessary clearance. But after the 2014 takeover of the  BJP government at the centre, the plan was all but shelved. This, despite the fact, that the then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti  who headed a coalition government with the BJP had suggested “legalising Nepal route” for those Kashmiri youths who have now shunned the path of violence and wished to return to their homes.

But the wives of these youth have since been disallowed to return to Pakistan and PoK, even on an occasional visit. They complain of having no travel documents and also that their children are not being admitted in local school as they hail from the other part of Kashmir.

There are women like Shahnaz and Raheela who are without documents and can’t visit their families.  In case of Shahnaz, her father in PoK passed away two years ago, but she says that she learnt about it one year after the death.

“Now my mother is ill,”  she says and I can’t even go. Shahnaz is also concerned about her ailing husband Mohammad Yusuf Bhat. “What will happen to me if something happens to him”.

 But this is a fate that has already befallen Sumaira who lives in Shopian. Sumaira and her two sons and three daughters were denied the share in property after her husband’s death. She got it only after the villagers intervened on her behalf.

Also, many of these women live in miserable conditions after being divorced by their husbands. This has left them without any property and documents. According to an estimate, around fifty of these women have been divorced by their husbands. One of them is Posha who lives at Handwara in a rented room with her three children after being divorced by her husband Abdur Rashid. She has now approached the office of the office of Muslim personal law board to plead her case.

The women have approached Kashmir’s grand mufti Nasir-ul-Islam to seek his intervention on their behalf. So far, seven divorced women have approached Mufti Nasir which has left him worried. He has urged the state government to consider the cases of these women on compassionate grounds. He wants the government to either send these women back to Pakistan or rehabilitate them properly “as envisaged originally under the rehabilitation policy”.

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Losing the way in Kashmir

There is outrage in Kashmir over the Government ban on the movement of civilian vehicles along the state’s only highway for two days a week. On Sundays and Wednesdays, only security vehicles are allowed to travel along 270 kilometre stretch of National Highway 44 between Udhampur and Baramulla districts.

An April 3 order from the state’s home department said that the highway will be completely barred until May 31 for civilian traffic on the two days from 4 am to 5 pm to “facilitate the movement of security forces convoys” into the Valley. On the said days, not only is the highway made out of bounds for the people but many link roads connecting to the national highway are also blocked using barbed wires, preventing access of civilian vehicles on to the highway.

The government logic is that the ongoing Parliament elections in the state entail an intensified movement of the security vehicles in the state, rendering them vulnerable to attacks by the militants on the pattern of February 14  Pulwama bombing which killed over 40 CRPF personnel and triggered India, Pakistan skirmishes. More so, after the aborted second attempt along similar lines on a CRPF bus near Banihal. This time, mercifully, no security personnel was killed even though the car carrying explosives blew up and was reduced to charred remains.

There is thus an apprehension that more such attacks could be  mounted on security vehicles along the highway, resulting in the loss of the lives of the security personnel. And if the attack is believed to have originated from Pakistan, it can once again trigger geo-political consequences. So, the government doesn’t want to take any chances.

But the Jammu-Srinagar national highway of which the banned stretch is a part is the only road connecting Kashmir with the rest of India. So, the two days bring Kashmir to a grinding halt, massively inconveniencing the people and disrupting the businesses. People have to seek permission and have to have a solid reason for the movement and which is not humanly possible for the thousands of people which need to use the road.

In one case, a family whose wedding was scheduled on a Sunday had to seek permission for the movement of the groom’s baraat which has since gone viral on social media. “Shri Danish All s/o Showket Ali Bhat r/o New Qazi Bagh Anantnag District accompanied by 12 persons be allowed to move from Anantnag to Doda along with vehicles ——– in connection with marriage ceremony on 06-04-2019 and back on 07-04-2019 after proper frisking, security check. The permission is valid for 02 days only,” the order issued by the District Magistrate of Anantnag read. The order, however, was “subject to the Srinagar-Jammu NHW (National Highway) road clearance”.

In another case a man was granted permission to travel by a duty magistrate by stamping and writing on the palm of his hand, the picture of which  trended on the social media with people criticising the ban. The ban order has become emblematic of New Delhi’s  new harsh approach towards the state. It has also invited comparisons with Polish government order during German occupation of Poland in December 1939 which prohibited Jews from entering or using pathways, streets and public squares from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Kashmir is thus angry. Political parties have termed the ban unacceptable. Former J&K Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have  held protests against the ban and

issued strong statements against it. “Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris. We can’t be banned from our own roads,” Mufti said during a protest against the ban. She also appealed to people to not  accept the ban and defy it. “This is Kashmir, not Palestine. We wont allow you to turn our beloved land into an open air prison,” she said.

Similarly, Omar termed the ban “mindless”. “Driving to Uri I’m getting to see first hand the extent of disruption & inconvenience that is being caused to people because of the mindless highway closure order that is in place today,” he said.

People’s Conference leader Sajad Lone said the ban was “turning into a humanitarian disaster”. “Flooded with calls from across the state. People in dire need to travel in order to tend to their day to day needs of survival stuck in a state of helplessness. @jandkgovernor urgently needs to scrap the inhuman order,”  Lone tweeted.

However, this outrage has made little redeeming difference on the ground. Troops from police, CRPF and the army are posted along the national highway at every 500 to 1000 metres to enforce the ban. Some senior officers are also placed on the road to issue passes to the people in case of emergency. But it hardly helps lessen the hardships faced by the people.

“An elderly man with his ailing child pleaded with the magistrate to let him go at HMT crossing. He was simply turned back and asked to find some other route,” posted a journalist on social media along with the picture.

The move has also created some unease within the security establishment with some press reports quoting unnamed security officials debunking the ban order. In fact, the former Army chief General V P Malik has termed it a dumb idea.

“Kashmir Ban on move of civ vehs on NH twice a week is a dumb idea 1. Goes against core object of winning hearts & minds. 2. Civil Adm must weigh pros & cons 3. Instead of strengthening local police & int, & improving move security, shows forces becoming over defensive”, former Army chief tweeted.

However, the government, both in the state and at the centre, has shown no signs of revoking the ban. “Keeping in view the security of our forces and nation, we won’t succumb to any pressure and will not roll back the decision,” Singh said referring to the highway ban decision. “I am sure that this must have reached to the quarters concerned and they should now stop making hue and cry over this”.

Facing criticism for closing down the national highway connecting Jammu with Srinagar, the Union Home Ministry took refuge in statistics stating the total duration of prohibition is for 24 hours out of 168 hours in a week, which amounts to only 15 per cent of the time. “The state government…has already clarified in unambiguous terms, that out of seven days in a week, only reasonable restrictions have been imposed, that too for 12 hours, two days in a week,” the MHA statement said.

On the other hand, a group of twenty-six academics, analysts and former government servants including former Kashmir interlocutor Radha Kumar have written a letter to Singh to express their “deep distress at the continuing and indeed intensifying alienation of Kashmiris from the rest of India”. They have said that the moves like highway ban and the proscription of the parties like Jamaat-i-Islami and the JKLF undercut India’s “democratic credentials” and add to “disaffection” in Kashmir.

A petition has also been filed in the J&K High Court challenging the traffic order. The court has issued a notice to the union ministries of home and defence and the state government to furnish reply by April 19. But it seems unlikely that the government would revoke the ban until the election is over. The centre has so far been immune to the protests and inconvenience faced by the people. “At one level, this sad state of affairs is a comment on the BJP’s handling of Kashmir  over the past five years. The situation has now gone so far out of control that the centre has chosen to secure the land and forget about the people,” an editorial in a local daily states. “But the question is whether this policy is sustainable. And whether alienating and invisibilizing  the people from its outlook on Kashmir would usher in the peace?”

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Man beaten up, ‘forced to eat pork’ for selling beef

A Muslim man was allegedly beaten up and forced to eat pork by a group of people for allegedly selling beef in Assam.  Shaukat Ali, 48, was assaulted at the Madhupur weekly market in Biswanath district on April 7. He was hospitalised.

A case was registered with the Biswanath Chariali police station on the complaint of the victim’s brother Sahabuddin Ali. Biswanath Chariali, headquarters of Biswanath district, is about 240 km north-east of Guwahati.

A video of the incident went viral on the social media. It showed a dazed Ali surrounded by a crowd demanding to know where he had come from and whether his name figured in the National Register of Citizens that intends to weed out illegal migrants.

Sahabuddin said sale of meat of any kind was never an issue in the bi-weekly market of Madhupur. “Our father started running a rice-meal eatery at the Madhupur market every Thursday and Sunday more than 40 years ago. I took over from him and later let my younger brother Shaukat Ali ran it,” said Sahabuddin.

The district authorities, he was quoted as saying by a media outlet, assured him that action would be taken within 24 hours. On the night of April 8, the police arrested two people identified from the video of the assault that was uploaded on social media. On April 7, the day of the assault, the police picked up five people, including two market committee leaders, in a bid to disperse a mob. They were let go after signing a good behaviour bond under section 107 of Code of Criminal Procedure.

Sahabuddin, who lives in Kalakati village 15 km from Biswanath Chariali, admitted that the eatery has had beef on the menu for decades while letting customers bring home-cooked meat too. “No one told us we could not sell meat. They could have served a notice instead of

attacking my brother, and could have taken action officially if we did not comply,” he reportedly said, adding that the mob mostly comprised people from adjoining areas.

In his complaint, Sahabuddin reportedly said some members of the mob threatened to force-feed pork to his brother, who stays in the town behind the local police station.

District Deputy Commissioner Pabitra Ram Khaund said the authorities swung into action soon after the complaint was lodged and arrested two people connected with the assault. “We took the victim to the hospital and provided treatment. He is now out of danger.”

Khaund said the district administration had summoned leaders of local organisations, including the All Assam Minority Students’ Union, for a meeting toward normalising the situation. “We have made it clear peace must be maintained under any circumstances with the Lok Sabha election a few days away,” he stated.

Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Mukesh Agarwal meanwhile said the police had organised a joint vigil by people of both communities to maintain peace. “High visibility and domination of security forces are in place.”

Biswanath Chariali falls under the Tezpur Lok Sabha constituency, which went to the polls with four other seats in Assam on April 11. Ten candidates are in the fray but the contest is expected to be between Minister Pallab Lochan Das of the BJP and retired IAS officer MGVK Bhanu of the Congress. The constituency is currently held by the BJP’s Ram Prasad Sarmah, who was denied ticket by the party.

Ali, who owns a food stall, claimed he was force-fed pork by the assailants. “We have also heard about that. It is a matter of investigation. A man arrested in connection with the incident was being questioned,” Superintendent of Police Rakesh Raushan was quoted as saying. Ali claimed he had been selling beef at the market for over three decades.

The group also beat up 42-year-old Kamal Thapa, a contractor, for allowing Ali to sell beef dishes. The SP said raids were on to apprehend others involved in the incident. In August last, a man was beaten to death and three others were critically injured when villagers assaulted them on suspicion of being cattle thieves in Biswanath district, which is part of the Tezpur Lok Sabha constituency.

There were huge protests over the incident. All India United Democratic Front’s wing United Democratic Student Front (UDSF) Hojai district committee staged a massive demonstration at the district headquarter at Sankardev Nagar in Hojai, in front of the deputy commissioner’s office. The demonstration was held in protest and demand the arrest of the culprits involved in the vicious attack on Ali.

UDSF Hojai district committee president Atikur Rahman and general secretary Habibur Rahman along with their members handed over a memorandum to deputy commissioner of Hojai district which was received by ADC Gauri Shankar Das. In the memorandum, UDSF has demanded immediate apprehension of the culprits involved in the merciless crime and also demanded stringent punishment for those involved in this brutal incident.

Through Hojai DC, one copy each of the memorandum has been forwarded to chief minister of Assam, director general of police, Assam and the human rights organisation. UDSF has further stated that if stern actions are not been taken within 24 hours, they will be obliged to hold massive demonstration lawfully all over the state.

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