Oppn fear: Will BJP run away with Prez poll victory?

The Presidential race is slowly heating up with the Opposition creating a buzz about a common candidate but CPI(M) fears that the ruling BJP will run away with the cake if it manages to align with a non-NDA party.

Though they are ready for a fight on the President’s seat, the opposition however harbours no hopes for the election to Vice President’s post as the BJP-led NDA has a clear majority in the electoral college.

The calculations in the opposition camp is that the BJP-led NDA would need another 2% votes to cross the Presidential hurdle and that is why it wants all non-NDA parties to be together.

If one goes by the past experience, there is no guarantee that the opposition remain on a single string. In 2002 election, opposition was divided and CPI(M) fielded INA veteran Captain Laxmi against the eventual winner A P J Abdul Kalam. In 2012, Shiv Sena broke ranks with the then opposition leader BJP to support Pranab Mukherjee against P A Sangma.

This fear was expressed candidly by CPI(M) top leadership during the Central Committee (CC) meeting here last week when it pointed out the BJP-led NDA needs just 2% more votes to emerge winner.

“Currently, in the electoral college that elects the President of India, the BJP with its NDA allies is marginally short of around 2% of the votes. Any understanding with any non-NDA regional party by the BJP will easily ensure the victory of its candidate as the President,” the Report on Political Developments adopted by the CC meeting held on April 18 and 19.

It points to the fear of a Sangh Parivar nominee entering the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the report said, “we should make all efforts to try and forge unity of all secular parties in this effort to ensure a non-RSS President of the Indian Republic.”

The prescription by the CPI(M) is that the united opposition find a non-political figure for the post. “The forthcoming elections to the post of President of India should be utilized by us to try and find a common candidate preferably belonging to no political party around whom the opposition parties can rally around,” the report said.

However, sources said, the party is open to support a political heavyweight like Sharad Yadav or Sharad Pawar in case the opposition rallies around such names. CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury already had first round of deliberations with Congress President Sonia Gandhi last week.

The electoral college for the Presidential polls include MPs of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and MLAs of state Assemblies. At present, BJP-led NDA has around 48% of the votes.

However, the Left party has left the Vice Presidential polls out of its ambit, saying, the electoral college for the Vice President of India is limited to only members of both houses of parliament where NDA allies has a “clear” advantage. “There is thus little scope for seeking to find a consensus candidate for the post of Vice President,” the report said.

Asked about the deliberations on Presidential polls in July, Yechury had told reporters after the CC meeting that his party was for a common Opposition candidate for the post. “Secular supervision is very important for Rashtrapati Bhavan as opposed to communal supervision. We are for a consensual candidate acceptable to all,” he had said.

(Apr 25, 2017)

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Coastal Security: MHA misses deadline

After failing to complete second phase of Coastal Security Scheme, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) got a four year extension till 2020 but a Parliamentary panel suspects it may miss that deadline too.

The slow pace of procurement of boats and other security gadgets have led the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs led by Rajya Sabha MP and former Home Minister P Chidambaram to believe so.

The 2015-16 budget allocation and expenditure would give a picture of the state of coastal security preparedness. While Rs 710 crore was initially allocated, it was reduced to Rs 160 crore during revised estimates but at the end only Rs 48.89 crore were utilised. The reason cited was non-finalisation of procurement of boats.

The same reason recur in 2016-17 for reduction of Rs 770.89 crore in budget allocation while the MHA itself admit that the lower allocation in 2017-18 is due to lesser estimate of boat price.

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** Phase I of Coastal Security Scheme was started in 2005-06 and ended in March 2011.

** During Phase I, 73 Coastal Police Stations, 97 check posts, 58 outposts and 30 barracks were set up besides procurement of 204 boats, 153 jeeps, 312 motor cycles and 10 rigid inflatable boats.

** Second phase was to end in March 2016. Now extended to March 2020.

** 131 more coastal police stations, 60 jetties and 10 Marine Operation Centres to be set up besides buying 225 boats among others.

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The memories of the Mumbai attacks, when terrorists used the vulnerabilities in coastal security to enter, appears to have prompted the committee to “caution” the Ministry that foolproof security on 7,516 km coastline is “sine quo non (indispensable action)” for the country.

While the Phase I of Coastal Security Scheme ended in March 2011, the second phase started in April 2011 and was extended for four years in March 2016 following non completion.

Pointing out that the time has now been extended till March 2020, the panel said, “this is total failure on the part of the Ministry” and this is compounded by the under utilisation of funds again this year.

If the Ministry keeps procrastinating on the implementation of security related projects and does not procure items on time, it may not be able to complete this phase of CSS even within extended timeline,” the panel said, fixing September as the deadline for completing the pending procurement.

Earlier also, Parliamentary panel had highlighted problems in coastal security. In one of the reports in 2015, it quoted an Intelligence Bureau report to say that several ports in India are sitting ducks on security front and that 75 out of 203 smaller ports have no security force even for namesake to guard them.

Another report had said that the country still does not have adequate training facilities for marine policing.

(Apr 10, 2017)

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