Anita Katyal | Questions on role of Shukla in HP

Prawn excuse for Sandeshkhali grab

Reports of factionalism in the Himachal Pradesh unit of the Congress had been pouring in well before the party’s humiliating defeat in the recent Rajya Sabha election.

Chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu had been under constant attack not just from his detractors in the party but also those who had supported his candidature for the top job as they were unhappy with his style of functioning. It now appears the disgruntled leaders were not taken seriously and their grievances were treated as one more case of infighting, which is a routine matter in most state units of the Congress. Realising that their voices were going unheard, the rebels chose to strike during the Rajya Sabha election ostensibly in protest against the nomination of an outsider for the lone seat from the state.

As the Congress battled hard to save its government last week, questions were being asked about how Rajiv Shukla, the party’s Himachal Pradesh in-charge, failed to take timely steps to put down the rebellion. Others believe Mr Sukhu was being protected by the party’s central leadership as he is known to be Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s choice. Party insiders were also bemoaning the lack of experienced crisis managers like the late Ahmed Patel and estranged Ghulam Nabi Azad who could be depended upon to foil the Bharatiya Janata Party’s machinations.

Prawns are the flavour of the season in West Bengal. It has been revealed that the land which was forcibly taken from tribals in Sandeshkhali by local Trinamul Congress leaders was for the primary purpose of converting farmland to prawn farms. According to ground reports, everyone, including the local panchayats, was in on this land-grab as prawn cultivation was considered more lucrative. Though land grab has been at the heart of public anger in Sandeshkhali, this issue has been pushed to the background as more serious charges of rape of Scheduled Caste and tribal women have grabbed headlines with the Bharatiya Janata Party coming down heavily on the state government. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee finds herself on shaky ground following these allegations, especially since her political slogan has been, “Ma, Maati, Manush” (Mother, Land and People). The state government has, therefore, moved fast to deal with the confirmed cases of land grab. It has identified the original patta holders and owners, returned the land to them and reverted land conversion. At the same time, allegations of sex slavery are being investigated and the chief accused, Sheikh Shahjahan, was finally arrested and suspended from the party last week after being on the run for nearly two months.

With Bahujan Samaj Party head Mayawati withdrawing into a shell, her party cadres are a disheartened lot these days. While some have already made tracks for other political parties, others are seeking inspiration from unexpected quarters. A few BSP leaders are learned to be impressed with Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge primarily because of his caste identity and that he speaks Hindi. They are said to have conveyed to Mr Kharge’s office that the Congress chief address a series of meetings in the reserved constituencies of Uttar Pradesh as also those having a substantial Dalit population in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. It has been further suggested that if any BSP leader joins the Congress, he or she will be admitted to the party in Mr Kharge’s presence. The Dalits in Uttar Pradesh, who are anti- BJP, are disillusioned with Ms Mayawati as they believe she has a tactical understanding with the saffron party. Feeling lost, they are on the look-out for alternate Dalit leaders for direction.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party succeeded in persuading the Congress to part with the Bharuch Lok Sabha seat thanks to the competing claims of the late Ahmed Patel’s children. Patel, who had represented Bharuch in the past, was being claimed by both his son Faisal and daughter Mumtaz. In fact, Faisal’s supporters called up media-persons to underline how he was a better candidate since he had been spending time in the constituency, connecting with the people, while his sister was an occasional visitor and was visible only on social media. Besides, it was said, Faisal is a Patel while Mumtaz’s married name is Siddiqui. With the Congress in a fix, its leadership decided to go along with the AAP’s argument that a tribal be fielded from this seat.

The government was in a tizzy recently following the publication of several anti-China reports in the media. For instance, there were stories on China being described as a bully by the defence secretary and there was another on how India was raising a new corps to counter China. Though India has taken a hard stand on Chinese aggression, which has strained relations between New Delhi and Beijing post-Galwan, the government does not want to aggravate tensions. Plus, it does not want Beijing to know about the moves India is making to counter China on the Line of Actual Control. The face-off between India and China in Eastern Ladakh has been continuing for the past three years despite prolonged diplomatic negotiations between the two sides.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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