Vote for anyone who can defeat BJP in Guj: Kejriwal

Indicating his keenness to be part of the joint Opposition bandwagon, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday asked people in Gujarat to vote for any candidate who can defeat BJP in the Assembly elections.

Kejriwal’s call came at the National Convention at the Ramlila Maidan where hundreds of party supporters have gathered to celebrate AAP’s fifth anniversary.

“I appeal to the people of Gujarat to vote for such a party or candidate, who is best poised to defeat the BJP. Defeating them is very important,” Kejriwal said.

“If somewhere the AAP is winning, then give your vote for AAP. If any other party is winning, give the vote to them,” he said.

The new stand of Kejriwal assumes significance as his party is contesting around two dozen seats in Gujarat where Congress is leading the Opposition onslaught.

While Opposition party leaders like Yadav and Mamata Banerjee had previously attempted to make Congress amenable to accommodate AAP in a joint Opposition platform, it had refused to budge citing the animosity between the two parties in Delhi and Punjab.

Congress accuse the AAP of being a B-team of BJP and its presence in some constituencies could adversely affect the opposition cause. However, with Kejriwal’s latest could be music to the ears of Opposition but it is to be seen whether Congress will walk the extra-mile when it comes to AAP.

Congress has the support of rebel JD(U) faction led by Sharad Yadav whose sitting MLA Chhotubhai Vasava has significant influence in tribal areas. Though it failed to stitch an alliance with NCP for the first round of polls, Congress is not averse to finding a commonground with Sharad Pawar-led party in the second phase.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 27, 2017)

Mumbaikars have more faith in Mumbai than Delhiites have in Delhi

Mumbaikars have more faith in Mumbai when it comes to safety and security than Delhiites have on the national capital, a new survey has found.

Half of Delhiites do not feel secure in the national capital while most of those who witness crime do not report it to police due to lack of faith in system. In comparison, only 17% of Mumbaikars feel unsafe in the western metropolis, which had witnessed one of the worst terror strikes, the 26/11 attack, nine years ago.

Delhi Police stations are also not victim-friendly in people’s perspective, if one goes by the survey. Only 8% respondents in Delhi preferred to visit police station personally to report a crime while Mumbai had 35% such people.


The findings of the survey conducted by Hansa Research for an NGO Praja Foundation forms part of a report ‘State of Policing and Lawe and Order in Delhi’. The survey took responses from 24,301 households in Delhi and 20,317 in Mumbai.

If the overall feeling of insecurity is reported by 50% in Delhi, the proportion rise specific questions like safety of women are raised. In Delhi, 60% feel that the city is not safe for women and elderly as against 25% in Mumbai.

When it comes to travelling, 57% of Delhiites report a feeling of insecurity while this figure is 23% for Mumbai.

The feeling of insecurity in the national capital is at the highest in the tony areas of south Delhi where 56% of the respondents feel concerned about safety.

At least 15% of the respondents in Delhi have witnessed a crime but almost two-third of them did not report it to police.

A whopping 46% among those who witnessed a crime said they did not report it to police because they have “no faith in police/legal system”. Here too, Mumbai fares better as only 15% of the respondents said they do not have faith in the police there.

The report said, “this lack of faith clearly explains the fall in registration of cases for almost all major crimes in Delhi.”

On those who fell victim to crime, the survey said, “one out of 14 respondents encountered crime in Delhi. One out of three respondents who faced crime did not report.”

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

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Proportion of adolescent girls can reduce crime: study

An increase in proportion of girls in the adolescent age-group could lead to a decline in crime, a new study claims.

According to the ‘The Effect of Age-Specific Sex Ratios on Crime: Instrumental Variable Estimates from India’, a sex ratio in favour of women should lead to a reduction in crime as parents of the over-represented gender increase savings and work effort.

The study, which was done for National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) by acadmecians Rashmi Barua, Prarthna Goel and Renuka Sane, arrived at the conclusion by examining sex ratios corresponding to age groups 10-16 years and 20-26 years and national crime statstics.


It says, “an increase in 10-16 age sex ratio by one female per 1,000 males leads to a 1.5% decline in violent crime, and a decline of almost 1% for both non-violent and property crimes…the imbalance in the sex ratio in India between 1961 and 2001 have resulted in a 28.5% increase in violent crimes and 21% increase in non-violent and property crimes.”

The study says an improvement in sex ratio in favour of women not only has direct economic benefits but also leads to lower crime rates.

Finding no “direct” evidence to suggest that shortage of brides leads to rise in crime, the study says that this theory rests on the argument that marriage provides stability to men and lesser number of marriageable women generate conflict and violence among men.

“On the other hand, our results suggest that it is the shortage of adolescent age-group girls relative to adolescent age-group boys that leads to higher crime. Based on existing economic theory, we propose that this result could be driven by the institutional set up of dowry in India that makes parents of girls increase savings and work effort,” Baruah told DH.

Baruah cites two recent studies that argue that as the sex ratio “improves in favour of women among the pre-marital/adolescent cohort, parents of daughters might increase savings (and labour supply) in countries (such as India) where the bride side has to bear a disproportionate share of marriage related expenses”.

“We conjecture, based on existing literature, that this could explain the decline in crime as the income associated with increased work should reduce the motivation to commit crime for economic benefit,” Baruah says.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 27, 2017)

Guj: Sharad faction to fight six-seven seats with auto as symbol

The Sharad Yadav-led faction of JD(U) will contest six-to-seven seats with the symbol ‘autorickshaw’, as they concluded the discussions on seat sharing with Congress.

While an announcement about the seat sharing arrangement is likely to made by Congress soon, sources said their nominees will contest mainly in tribal dominated constituencies where sitting MLA and Yadav faction president Chotubhai Vasava has considerable clout.

The Nitish Kumar-led party, which the Election Commission on Friday recognised as “real” JD(U) following a petition by Yadav faction, is contesting around 12 seats in the state and will fight against BJP, its alliance partner in Bihar.

It will be a show of strength by both factions as JD(U) has fielded candidates in tribal areas where Vasava, who voted in favour of Congress’ Ahmed Patel in Rajya Sabha elections ignoring Kumar’s directions, has a following. Kumar and Yadav had parted ways over the former’s decision to join hands with BJP in July.

While Yadav faction does not see any impact of Kumar’s candidates in the fray, it could lead to splitting of votes in the socialist bloc.

Sources said Congress has also reached an understanding with Sharad Pawar-led NCP and they would get a couple of seats. Congress is still upset with NCP over its MLA voting against Patel and may not accede to all its demands.

Senior Congress leaders and Vasava were holding discussions for the past several days. “Auto-rickshaw is our symbol. We will not fight on Congress symbol…We had our talks with Congress. Congress will now announce the seat sharing arrangements,” Yadav told reporters.

Yadav said the BJP will bite the dust in Gujarat and the party is trying to mislead people using reports by credit agencies like Moody’s which does not understand the pains of people.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 19, 2017)

Jignesh Mevani on Gujarat polls

Gujarat is going through interesting times, politically. An Assembly election is days away. The ruling BJP is facing a tough challenge from the opposition ranks. Three youths — Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani — have stirred the political pot and caught the imagination of people. Will BJP bite the dust in Gujarat where it is ruling for an uninterrupted 22 years? Can opposition get its act together? The trio believe so. Mevani, a Dalit leader who rose to limelight after the incident of flogging of Dalits in Una last year, was in Delhi on Nov 16, 2017 and spoke to a group of journalists about BJP, Gujarat and the upcoming Assembly polls. Excerpts:

Why is Gujarat Assembly elections so bitterly fought this time?

Gujarat is witnessing a historic poll. The progressive, pro-poor forces have come together. If Indian Constitution and democracy have to survive, we have to stop the BJP-RSS fascist forces from winning in 201. If you have to stop them in 2019, it is important to defeat BJP in the Gujarat polls. We are in that project and doing whatever needed to achieve that objective.

In what the BJP calls a ‘Vibrant Gujarat’, 14 lakh more people have fallen below poverty line between 2000 and 2014. Malnutrition is rampant in state. Gujarat has fallen in several human development index. Gujarat model is a farce. It is not an inclusive model. If Gujarat model was a success, youths, farmers, labourers and others would not have hit the streets protesting. There is widespread dissatisfaction in Gujarat.

The BJP is shaken and desparate. We can see it when they are talking about the sex life of a 24-year-old Hardik Patel. They cannot beat us and speak about development. That is why they have raised this sex CDs and Ram v/s HAJ (Hardik, Alpesh, Jignesh) in a bid to communalise the polls. They should counter us on development and ideology.


You three youths represent different sections of the society and are together against BJP. But the communities you three represent have interests which are contradictory to each other. How will you address these contradictions?

One has to understand that there are 97-98 types of untouchability between OBCs and Dalits. Within Dalit sub-castes, there are 99 types of untouchability, according to an earlier study. Despite all this, when flogging of Dalits happened in Una, all sub-castes stood together. I agree there are internal contradictions between Patels and Dalits, other OBCs and Dalits and so on. But we have identified that our principle contradiction is with BJP and not with others. We have identified our common enemy and it has become a unifying point.

At a later stage, I agree, these contradictions within our groups have to emerge. But now farmers, landless people, youth and many other sections are against BJP. There is an unprecedented dissatisfaction in Gujarat. Post Una, there is a substantial consolidation of anti-BJP forces. In rural areas, we are well ahead. I don’t have a concrete answer for urban areas. But BJP which won 55 of the 58 seats in urban areas last time, will have to settle with 35-40 seats this time. My prediction is that BJP will not get more than 80 (out of total 182 seats).

What about your talks with Congress? How many seats you have demanded? Will your supporters contest on Congress symbol?

This is election time and I am a face of the protest. I have met Rahul Gandhi. Media has made our meeting a high profile event. I had then said that we will maintain our exclusive, independent space. I do not extend support to any party. We will continue to ask them to make clear their stand on our demands. Why should we extend support to somebody or go with some party. We have not asked for any seats. If at all we fight elections, it will be as independents and not on anyone’s symbol.

Will you contest?

I am not contesting. Why should I confine myself when I can play a bigger role.

You said you will not announce support to any party. Without naming whom to vote for, will it end up in splitting anti-BJP votes?

Don’t try to make me name a party. My gut feeling is that people won’t make that mistake again (of splitting anti-BJP votes). People have made up their mind. Nothing is going in BJP’s favour. We are not asking for a third option now. Message has gone to the people that BJP has to be defeated. There is no confusion in my stand as people in Gujarat understands who is to be defeated. People of Gujarat knows whom to vote for to defeat BJP. We are contributing to that mood of the people.

The BJP argument is that once Prime Minister Narendra Modi hits the campaign trail, the narrative will change. Do you think so?

Modi has been visiting Gujarat at least thrice a month in the recent times. But nothing has clicked for the saffron party. They had started this Ram v/s HAJ to communalise the campaign. Then they came up with the CD. Out of desperation they are reaching bedrooms of opponents. But nothing has clicked so far. So they will rake up communal issues. We will counter them. If they are going to raise issues like Ram temple or Pakistan, we will keep asking questions on price of petrol, why ‘dal’ is being sold at Rs 120? If they raise love jihad, we will ask why not inter-caste marriages and we will say ‘Pyaar, Ishq Mohabbat Zindabad’. We will ask the Prime Minister about his promise of generating two crore employment per year. I challenge Modi, Amit Shah and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani for a public debate with me, Hardik and Alpesh on development. Time and place, it is their choice. 

(Nov 17, 2017)

Screened at int’l fests, YouTube takes ‘Penile Code’ down

A short film ‘Penile Code’, set against the backdrop of re-criminalisation of gay sex in India and screened at several international festivals , has now been taken down from Youtube citing violation of its nudity or sexual content.

Filmmaker Sharat Chandra Bose (29) is now approaching the Youtube seeking restoration of his debut film on the platform. Bose is now working on his second shortfilm ‘Mundan’ (Tonsure) that looks into the lives of a North Indian couple vacationing in Kerala.

Short film Penile Code

Made in 2014, Penile Code has been streaming on the Youtube for almost two years. It was viewed more than four lakh times before it was taken down. Its removal from a platform like Youtube is quite understandable in today’s time and age. But it is a blatant violation of freedom of cinematic expression,” Bose told DH.

Bose said he came to known about the removal while searching for the link on Youtube for a purpose related to ‘Dialogues: Calcutta International LGBT Film and Video Festival to be held from November 23 to 27. The shortfilm has been selected to this festival.

Shot in surrealistic method, the short film explores the troubles of a young lesbian couple in an Indian city where gay sex is banned, violence in their relationship and their struggle with society. Bose explains that Penile Code tries tries to look into the dynamics of the relationship during the time in India when religious lumpiness is on the rise.

While his first film is tries to explore relationship in the present political times through a homosexual couple, the second one is trying to interpret it through a hetro-sexual couple.

Short Film Penile Code 1

The 14-minute short film Penile Code was premiered at the Kinofest International Digital Film Festival-2014 in Romania. Besides being selected to the Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner and International Festival of Cinema in Italy’s Campania, it also won Innovative Film Award at the YOUKI International Youth Media Festival-2014 in Austria.

“According to me any kind of censorship is not acceptable. Censorship is real threat for those who are aiming at public exhibitions like theatre release and govt controlled film festivals etc. It is the outcome of the fear and ignorance of the state mechanism,” Bose said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 13, 2017)

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AAP’s Rajya Sabha troubles

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) can win all the three Rajya Sabha seats falling vacant in January but intense factionalism appears to be tying its hands to nominate partymen and force the leadership to look for outsiders.

Speculation is rife that AAP may approach former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan with an offer to send him to the Upper House as sources said an informal decision has been taken to deny tickets to any of its leaders.

Though some leaders are claiming that such a move to nominate eminent people would enhance party’s image at the national level, sources said intense lobbying for the posts is one reason why the party leadership is looking at such an option.

Kumar Vishwas, who has positioned himself against Delhi Chief Minister and party chief Arvind Kejriwal, has already indirectly staked claim for a seat while his detractors are in no mood to give him a free hand. Senior leaders Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh and Dileep Pandey, whom Vishwas claim are against him, are among the other possible faces.

However, sources said selecting three from the senior leaders would be a difficult task and it could expose the faultlines in the party once again. The party had just re-grouped after the electoral reverses in Assembly elections and Delhi civic body elections.

AAP, with 65 seats in a 70-member Assembly, can get all the three candidates into Rajya Sabha.

Sources said choosing any top leader could also send a wrong message to the cadre as it be projected as cornering plum posts by a coterie around Kejriwal. Vishwas has been amplifying this aspect that a coterie is trying to fix him while a section has already approached Kejriwal against any move to promote the poet-turned-politician.

After his rebellion earlier this year, Vishwas was made in-charge of Rajasthan but he is yet to get back his clout in the central leadership. At the National Council meet here earlier this month, he was not given a slot to speak.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 9, 2017)

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