Joining NDA not discussed in party: JD(U) MP

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kunar’s decision to walk out of Grand Alliance and form government with BJP has surprised JD(U) leaders. Rajya Sabha MP Ali Anwar Ansari says the decision will do more harm to the party. I spoke to Ansari in Parliament House.

How do you see this development?

It is unfortunate. It was not discussed in party forum. A meeting was scheduled to be held on July 23 but it did not happen. If it was held and the issue had come, I would have said that it is a wrong move. In the next meeting, I would tell my views.

Do you think Nitish Kumar took the decision as he is an opportunist?

I respect Nitish Kumar. I will not make such comments. That is not right. But I will say this move will do more harm to the party that any gains. He listened to his inner voice (to go to NDA) and I will listen to mine.

Ali Ansari

Why do you have objections because you became an MP when JD(U) was in NDA?

The issue on which we parted ways with BJP still stands and those reasons have become more stronger. When we joined NDA, Nitish Kumar told us that BJP is changing. He said BJP is becoming soft. But when Modi came he said, BJP is getting aggressive. Now what has changed. The aggression by BJP has increased, there is mob lynching, farmers suicide and Dalit atrocities. There is a difference.

What affect this move will have?

People of India had high hopes on Nitish Kumar. That has been dashed. He had managed to dent Narendra Modi’s popularity.

What will be your next move?

I will express my view in party forum.

(The interview appeared in Deccan Herald on July 28, 2017)

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‘JD(U) wanted Cong to play refree’s role but it sided with RJD’

JD(U) wanted Congress to play refree’s role in its tussle with RJD over corruption but the latter “sided” with Lalu Prasad and this miffed Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar leading to the breaking of Grand Alliance, sources said on Thursday.

While the episode brought down the alliance experiment within two years, Congress-led Opposition may also have to face the prospects of JD(U) voting against its Vice Presidential candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi following its support to NDA at the Centre. JD(U) had taken part in the meeting that chose Gandhi as the Vice Presidential candidate.

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JD(U) was keen that Gandhi was chosen as joint Presidential candidate but after NDA chose Ram Nath Kovind, Nitish offered support. JD(U) had then alleged that Congress delayed the decision on Presidential candidate to choose a Congress person and this had forced them to take a stand on Kovind.

However, one of the party spokespersons had then refused to endorse the view that JD(U) would vote for Gandhi, saying it is for Kumar to announce the decision though senior leader Sharad Yadav attended the meeting.

The scenario has now changed with JD(U) deciding to support NDA at the Centre and they may vote for NDA candidate M Venkaiah Naidu, sources said. However, they also pointed out that JD(U) had voted in favour of Pranab Mukherjee in Presidential candidate when they were in NDA and the possibility of voting for Gandhi cannot be fully ruled out.

Sources said JD(U) and Kumar expected that Congress would remain neutral in the issue between JD(U) and RJD over the demand for resignation of Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav after CBI filed a case against him in a corruption case.

They took sides with RJD. That was not expected. Rahul Gandhi was not with Nitish Kumar as media projects. Kumar wanted Congress to intervene but as a referee. During the meeting with Rahul Gandhi, the JD(U) chief did not get any positive response,” a senior party leader said.

Kumar had also given “vague hints” about his plans two days ago when he told a close aide that “there is no point in working like this”. In 2014 when he resigned following poor results in Lok Sabha polls, he remembered Kumar saying that there is no point in continuing after “this infamy”.

He does not say much. It is difficult to decipher but it seems resignation was in his mind,” he said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on July 28, 2017)

CPI(M) stand on Bengal RS polls exposes contradictions

The CPI(M) decision to look for an “acceptable independent” Rajya Sabha candidate from Opposition parties in West Bengal after rejecting demand for renominating General Secretary Sitaram Yechury has exposed the contradictions in the party.

A section in the party also believes that the Central Committee (CC) decision would also weaken the party’s plan to check Trinamool Congress’ growth with the help of Congress.

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Sources said the party has decided not to take the support from Congress but at the same time it has allowed the West Bengal unit to engage with the Sonia Gandhi-led party to find an independent candidate. The rationale is difficult to explain as this engagement could also be seen as going against the Party Congress line, they said.

There is also view that Congress may not be agreeable to an independent candidate when Trinamool Congress is ready with the support for names like Meira Kumar, who was joint Opposition candidate also supported by CPI(M). Names like that of former Prasar Bharti Chairman Jawahar Sircar are also doing the rounds.

In such a scenario, sources said, the one of the junior partners in the Left Front may field a candidate to ensure their presence in the battle field.

The discussions in the Polit Bureau (PB), which twice rejected the Bengal unit’s demand on Yechury, and the CC witnessed heated discussions with a section led by Bengal unit and another by Prakash Karat with the support of Kerala unit opposing each other. The CC meeting also saw unprecedented interventions by PB members as usually they put their views in the PB.

Yechury, who expressed his desire to quit soon after taking over as General Secretary in 2015, is understood to have said in the PB that how can the Bengal unit engage Congress when a decision is there to not have any electoral understanding with Congress. To this, one of woman Polit Bureau members said that some names have been floated and they could discuss it.

Later, he told the CC meeting that they cannot take Congress support and cited norms like General Secretary not taking up Parliamentary role and the two-term norm for Rajya Sabha MPs.

West Bengal Secretary and PB member Surya Kantha Mishra also explained in the CC the Bengal unit position. He said Yechury was the most acceptable face and it is their understanding that even Trinamool Congress would not put an extra candidate. He also suggested that an unopposed contest would mean there is no question of Congress support.

This was countered by Karat, who said that not voting against is also part of an electoral understanding that tantamount to violation of party line. Even if they do not vote, they will not vote is also part of an understanding, Karat is learnt to have told the CC.

(July 26, 2017)

No third RS term for Yechury, fissures deepen in CPI(M)

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury will not return to Rajya Sabha for a third term after party’s Central Committee (CC) on Tuesday rejected a demand to get him elected from West Bengal with the support of Congress.

Four hours of acrimonious discussion in Central Committee and subsequent voting exposed deep fissures in the party after Bengal unit vociferously brought the issue to CC even as Polit Bureau (PB) twice rejected the proposal.

While around 45-50 CC members “raised their hands” against fielding Yechury in the Rajya Sabha polls during an unprecedented voting, around 25-30 supported the idea after Bengal leaders argued that if they do not use this opportunity, the party would go unrepresented in Rajya Sabha from West Bengal after three years.

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They also argued that if Yechury is elected unopposed, then there is no question of taking Congress votes. Another argument was the prominence Yechury getting in Opposition politics and they believed that his presence in Parliament would further enhance the party’s position nationally.

A senior leader described the decision not to field Yechury as “another historic blunder”, alluding to Jyoti Basu’s description of the 1996 decision not to allow him to take the Prime Ministership in the United Front government.

A section led by Polit Bureau member Prakash Karat was adamant that they should not go ahead with getting Yechury elected with the support of Congress. They argued that it was also not proper that the party General Secretary himself getting elected with Congress support, violating Party Congress decision not to have electoral understanding or alliance with that party.

Yechury, whose term ends on August 18 along with five other MPs from West Bengal, told both the PB and CC hat he is not willing to contest as it is against the party norms of not allowing more than two terms. On Sunday, the Polit Bureau had again rejected the proposal of Bengal unit to renominate Yechury for a third time.

Elections to six Rajya Sabha seats would be held on August 8 in which Trinamool Congress can win five seats but CPI(M) does not have enough MLAs in West Bengal Assembly to win the sixth seat on its own. Congress has expressed its willingness to support if CPI(M) fields Yechury.

Sources said leaders like Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar were of the view that even if it is necessary to send Yechury to Parliament, it should be from Kerala or Tripura where the party is in power.

Asked whether the Left would fight the Rajya Sabha elections, a senior CPI(M) leader told DH that the Left Front leaders in Bengal would take a call.

Sources said what stand the party would take if the Left decides not to field a candidate and Congress choose Meira Kumar, the joint Opposition candidate the party, as its nominee from West Bengal. “After voting in favour of Kumar in Presidential polls, how can we not support her if we are not fighting?” they said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on July 26, 2017)

Will Yechury get a 3rd term in RS?

Renomination of General Secretary Sitaram Yechury to Rajya Sabha will come up in the CPI(M) Central Committee meeting on Tuesday after the party’s Polit Bureau refused to endorse the Bengal unit’s recommendation for him.

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An acrimonious discussion is expected in the central panel where the Bengal unit will forcefully push their case, which may even see an unprecedented voting in the Central committee.

The Bengal leaders are of the view that if they don’t jump on this opportunity, they would go unrepresented in Rajya Sabha from 2020.

Sources said the Bengal unit may get more support in the Central Committee compared to the meeting when the issue of electoral alliance with Congress in the state Assembly elections.

On Sunday, the Polit Bureau had again rejected the proposal of Bengal unit to renominate Yechury for a third time. It is expected to inform the Central Committee about its rationale for arriving at such a decision though Congress has offered support to the party in case the General Secretary is fielded.

Yechury, whose term ends on August 18 along with five other MPs from West Bengal, has already said in Polit Bureau that he is not willing to contest as it is against the party norms of not allowing more than two terms in Parliament and may communicate the same in the Central Committee.

The CPI(M) does not have enough MLAs in in West Bengal Assembly to win the sixth seat and Congress has expressed its willingness to not field any candidate for the August 8 polls. The last date of nomination is on Friday.

One of the contentions by a section of central leaders in Polit Bureau led by Prakash Karat is that the party should not take Congress support to win a seat in Rajya Sabha. Leaders like Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar are of the view that even if it is necessary to send Yechury to Parliament, it should be from Kerala or Tripura where the party is in power.

They also argue that if there are only six candidates for six seats, then the question of voting by Congress would not raise. They also flagged the coordination one sees in Parliament at present and the Left support to UPA to keep the BJP.

A senior leader said it would be a repeat of the “historic blunder” committed in 1996 when Jyoti Basu was not allowed to become Prime Minister if the party now decides not to field Yechury.

Another argument put forward by those who support the idea of a third term is that Yechury has managed to push its candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi for Vice Presidential polls. His presence in Parliament would further enhance the party’s position nationally.

(July 24, 2017)

Law and Order much better: JK to Centre

The law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir is now “much better” than the previous year, the state government has told the Centre citing official figures of incidents.

However, the attempts to create trouble in the Valley is on a rise as infiltration attempts have more than doubled and terror incidents this year have not decreased compared to last year.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed the Parliament last week the government is keeping a constant watch on all developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard it.

“As reported by the State Government, the law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir is much better than the previous year as 583 cases have been registered during the current year till date against 2897 cases of previous year,” Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir replied to a written question in Lok Sabha last week.

It also noted that the number of civilians killed this year was 21 while last year saw 85 civilian deaths. In comparison, it was 112 in 2010.

The state government told MHA that 12,650 miscreants or separatists were either arrested or bound down under substantive and preventive laws since year 2016. Separatists and trouble mongers have been kept under close surveillance to check their activities.

According to statistics provided by the MHA, there were 664 incidents of stone-pelting incidents this year till July 9 while there were 2,808 in 2016 and 2,794 in 2010. Stone-pelting and other protests had intensified in Kashmir after the encounter killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani in July last year.

While there was a decrease in terrorist incidents in the past couple of years but it rose to 322 in 2016 and this year till July 9, there were 172 incidents in which 12 civilians, 38 security personnel and 95 terrorists were killed.

There were 42 infiltration attempts on the Line of Control during the past six months of this year as against 19 during the same period last year.

The MHA said the government “regularly reviews” the security situation in Kashmir and necessary directions are given from time to time.

In Parliament, the MHA made it clear that government’s policy on Kashmir is “same as was unanimously adopted by Parliament” on 22 February 1994 through a resolution, which said Jammu and Kashmir “has been, is and shall be an integral part of India and any attempts to separate it from the rest of the country will be resisted by all necessary means”.

“India has the will and capacity to firmly counter all designs against its unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity and demands that Pakistan must vacate the areas of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, which they have occupied through aggression and resolves that all attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of India will be met resolutely,” the 1994 resolution had said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on July 24, 2017)

‘With a tinge of sadness, rainbow of memories’, Pranab leaves Parl

President Pranab Mukherjee turned nostalgic in his last speech in Parliament on Sunday, which he made exactly 48 years and one day after he first attended a session in “this living institution”.

In his farewell speech to Parliamentarians in the Central Hall, he remembered that he was only 34 years when he first entered the portals of this “hallowed institution” as a member of Rajya Sabha from West Bengal.

“My election to Rajya Sabha took place on 4 July and the first session I attended began on 22 July, 1969,” he said as he travelled back in time.

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However, he said, “as I retire from the Office of the President of the Republic, my association with the Parliament also comes to an end. I will no longer be a part of the Parliament of India. It will be with a tinge of sadness and a rainbow of memories that I will be leaving this magnificent building today.”

He remembered that when he entered Parliament at a time when Rajya Sabha was full of experienced parliamentarians and leaders of the freedom movement, many of whom were brilliant speakers. He referred to MC Chagla, Ajit Prasad Jain, Jairamdas Daulatram, Bhupesh Gupta, Joachim Alva, Mahavir Tyagi, Raj Narain, Bhai Mahavir, Loknath Misra and Chitta Basu and many more.

“In fact, Bhupesh Gupta was truly a legend in the Rajya Sabha. Dahyabhai Patel and Maniben Patel, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s son and daughter, represented Swatantra Party in the Parliament,” he said.

He said he was further enriched by the wisdom of P V Narasimha Rao, who brought back him into prominence after political wilderness for some time. He also acknowledged the oratory skills of BJP stalwart A B Vajpayee, cryptic one-liners of socialists Madhu Limaye and Dr Nath Pai, wit and humour of Piloo Modi, poetic discourses of Left leader Hiren Mukherjee, razor-sharp repartee of CPI’s Indrajit Gupta, calming presence of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, mature advice of BJP stalwart LK Advani and passionate support of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on social legislations.

Though his Parliament membership ended in July 2012 after he took over as President, he said, he still continued to have a “tenacious link” with this institution and became an integral part of it as the President of Republic, as per the Constitution.

“In these five years, my principal responsibility was to function as the guardian of the Constitution. As I had said on oath, I strived to preserve, protect and defend our Constitution, not just in word but also in spirit,” he said.

As he took leave of the MPs, he said, “I leave with a sense of fulfilment and happiness of having served the people of this great country through this institution- as their humble servant.”

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on July 24, 2017)

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