It’s civil war in CBI, credibility crisis deepens

Whether you have in your hands an empire, a tribe, a family, or a servant, you deploy your talent as a tyrant, glorious or absurd: a whole world or a single person obeys your orders. Thus is established the series of calamities which rise from the need, the thirst to excel…We jostle none but satraps: each of us – according to his means – seeks out a host of slaves or is content with just one.

E M Cioran / A Short History of Decay

The Romanian philosopher E M Cioran, known for his philosophical pessimism, never had CBI in mind when he wrote his analysis on humankind’s decadence in 1949. But the agency, which has its birth in 1941 and assumed the latest name on 1 April, 1963 through a Ministry of Home Affairs resolution, went through a “series of calamities” since its inception as the political masters, or those “tyrants” in the South Block where the Prime Minister’s Office is located, deployed those “single person” who obeys their orders from time to time. Ironically, public put a lot of weight behind this “caged parrot that speaks in master’s voice”, as Supreme Court put it in March 2013, from time to time.

It’s nothing new that the CBI is in the midst of controversies, allegations and counter-allegations but agency watchers may be surprised at how it stooped to this nadir so fast. The last ten years or so had seen so many downs in its history. The past couple of years witnessed the CBI even challenging the speed of light in its descent. It saw two of its former Directors A P Shah and Ranjit Sinha, both appointed during Congress-led UPA era, facing FIRs filed by the agency and its current top-two – Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana – nose-dived into leading a factional fight that has further eroded the already fragile credibility of the country’s premier investigating agency.


If Singh and Sinha face cases of corruption and fixing investigations after their retirement, it is curious to note that both Verma and Asthana accuse each other of bribery to settle cases while in office itself. Asthana faces a CBI FIR while Verma is now facing a probe by Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) on a complaint filed by the former. Interestingly, the common thread in all these cases is controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi, who faces multiple probes by investigating agencies like CBI, Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax Department. Incidentally, a perception is gaining ground that the government has put its weight behind Asthana, whom Verma says is being investigated in at least half-a-dozen cases.

The government faces serious questions of inaction and silence as it looked the other way when the top officers fought each other. It need to be known what the government or the CVC did convincingly about Verma’s allegations on Asthana. Despite being the No 2 officer in the premier investigating agency, the government did not find it fit to remove the clouds over Asthana. The public has the right to know whether Verma was right or wrong on Asthana. Had it investigated Verma’s motives in case these allegations were motivated? The government failed in controlling the officers and landed the CBI in an insurmountable situation. It is interesting to note that Verma has taken on Asthana fully knowing he has the backing of the political leadership.

The latest episode of high drama within CBI has its seeds in the succession drama after Anil Sinha retired as CBI boss on 2 December, 2016. The NDA government wanted Asthana, a 1984-batch IPS officer of Gujarat cadre considered a blue-eyed boy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, as the CBI chief. It shunted out Asthana’s senior and potential candidate R K Dutta, who later became Director General of Police in Karnataka, to Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and appointed him as acting CBI Director. This was was immediately challenged in Supreme Court by an NGO Common Cause on the ground that the high-powered Selection Committee of the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and Chief Justice of India was not convened to select the new boss. It also raised allegations of corruption against him.

Government sources then indicated that this was part of the strategy to elevate Asthana and blunt any opposition to his appointment. The irony was that Anil Sinha’s retirement was not an out-of-the-blue event but the government chose not to convene the meeting before his super-annuation. As pressure mounted on the government, it changed its plan and announced the appointment of the then Delhi Police Commissioner Alok Verma as CBI chief. Government insiders claimed that Verma was chosen as he was non-controversial and that they felt he will not rock the boat. They also felt Asthana could run the show with the backing of the Prime Minister’s Office. Incidentally, Congress’ Leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge had opposed Verma’s appointment in the Selection Committee citing his inexperience in CBI.

However, the so-far silent Verma felt the heat soon after he joined the agency as Asthana is said to have blocked elevation of some officers as Joint Directors. Verma did not lie low and immediately gave Joint Director A K Verma, another Gujarat cadre officer who is at logger heads with Asthana, the charge of policy division, a crucial unit in CBI. The seeds for the future battles have already been sown. Both sides were looking for opportunities to target each other. Verma’s supporters said Asthana never left any opportunity to belittle his chief. As the battle raged, Verma replugged the allegations against him Asthana. An opportunity was waiting for Verma as the issue of promotions came up before the CVC. Asthana was a contender for the Special Director post, the virtual number 2 in the agency. But Verma has other plans. He submitted a “secret note” to the CVC about the allegations against Asthana, including surfacing of his name in a diary recovered during an investigation which recorded payments made to people. However, the CVC did not find any merit in this and promoted Asthana. Verma had lost this round of battle in October 2017.

The war was simmering and once again in July, Verma wrote to the CVC informing it that Asthana cannot represent the Director in his absence during meetings called to deliberate on induction of officers into the CBI. Sources said one of Verma’s contention was that Asthana was facing allegations and he could not be part of the deliberations on appointments. Verma also took on the CVC for not giving the CBI not enough time to do due diligence checks on officers being proposed for induction.

Asthana was furious. The very next month, he filed a detailed complaint against Verma levelling several serious charges – from taking a Rs two crore bribe from one Satish Sana who is allegedly linked to controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi to attempting to stall a raid against RJD chief Lalu Prasad. The CBI issued an unprecedented press release rebutting the charges and made public that Asthana was facing investigation in at least half-a-dozen cases. Verma retaliated on October 15 by giving nod to register an FIR on charges of forging the statement of Sana. Asthana’s team member DySP Devender Kumar was arrested with the CBI telling a court that extortion is being done at the behest of investigations.

As the ‘civil war’ in CBI spilled over to public domain, the government was at a loss on how to control the situation. Last Tuesday as things were going out of hand, the CVC first met to consider the developments and recommended sending Verma and Asthana on leave. The government machinery went on an overdrive late evening, issuing orders to that effect and appointing an interim chief M Nageshwar Rao, who took over the office in the dead of night and immediately sealing the officers of his superiors and transferring officials probing Asthana. Reports suggested that National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was in the thick of things. While appointing Rao, the government chose to ignore A K Sharma, who has supposedly aligned with Verma. Soon after his appointment was made public, allegations of misuse of office and corruption surfaced against Rao, who is considered close to a senior RSS functionary and a votary of Hindutva politics.

The drama did not end with Verma and Asthana later approaching the Supreme Court. The CVC has also lost a bit of sheen as the Supreme Court has now asked it to complete the probe against Verma within ten days under the supervision of a former Supreme Court judge. The latest incident of Intelligence Bureau officials being picked up by Verma’s Personal Security Officers and claims of snooping have not added to the image of the government or the agencies. The optics are too bad for the government and the CBI.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald’s Spotlight on Oct 28, 2018)

Where are Dalits, Muslims in CPM?

CPI(M)’s failure to include a Dalit in its Polit Bureau during its 54 years of existence has invited charges of deliberate exclusion of a group that makes the bulk of the party, which leaders vehemently deny.

The leaders feel the reason for Dalits, youth or minorities not rising to top tyres of leadership lies in the paltry allowances, which is even lower than Rs 5,000 in some states and that too not paid in time. That is why some of them is raising the demand for a re-look at the pay structure and ensure at least the minimum wages the party demand for unskilled worker for its whole-timers.

The lower representation of these communities in the central leadership and even in Polit Bureau has come up for mention in the Hyderabad Party Congress and the Political Organisation Report castigates the state units for providing inadequate wages for whole-timers.

A senior CPI(M) leader said one could find Dalits and Muslims in leadership positions at the lower level but when it comes to top level, it becomes meagre. The leader claimed at least two-third in the leadership in lower level committees constitute Dalits and OBCs but when it comes to central leadership, it start falling.

The party leadership believes that the issue lies in the allowances it pays to the whole-timers and most of them from the Dalit or minority communities not economically well-off, they cannot become whole timers, which is a pre-requisite for rising the leadership ladder. “Are we giving them enough money to sustain? That has to change. Without this, it is difficult for an underprivileged person to rise to the top leadership level. We need to change this situation,” he said.

The issue did come in some of the speeches in Party Congress, which pointed out about the paltry salaries and non-payment for months, and the Political Organisation Report did some plain speaking. It said in some states, wages are not paid regularly and there are arrears in payment.

One of its strongest units, Kerala has decided to increase the wages from Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,500 while Maharashtra unit pays Rs 5,000.


(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 1, 2018)

Myth created by BJP about divided opposition. Where it matters, Oppn is united: Sitaram Yechury

Sitaram Yechury has been re-elected as CPI(M) General Secretary after intense inner-party struggle over the political line his party should take vis-a-vis Congress in the fight against BJP. He has managed to bring the party behind him though the issue of relationship with Congress remained a bone of contention for the past ten months. Yechury talks about present political situation.


India is entering into the election year. Where does the Opposition stands now?

A completely mistaken discourse is taking place now. Election in India is the summation of specifics and not an electoral monolith as a whole. Various parties have various degrees of influences in various parts of the country. It is region-specific and not country-specific. For example in Uttar Pradesh, if SP and BSP come together, neither the Congress nor the Left or anybody else is of much consequence. In Bihar, if the RJD and the Yadav-Muslim combination gel through various political processes, then others are not much of a consequence. In south India, apart from Karnataka, Congress is not the major player. So, what is happening is actually a degree of coming together of various parties at the regional level. You saw the beginning in UP and the bypoll results. You also saw the bypoll result in Bihar. Same is the case with Karnataka. It will be a summation of all these things that is happening at the regional level.

This brings to the question of talks about a Federal Front. How is it different from what you are saying?

We must understand the Indian reality. You look at our own history. I am not going back to the times of Janata Party or VP Singh government. In 1996, the United Front (UF) government was formed after the elections. After the fall of Vajpayee government in 13 days, the UF was formed on the basis of a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) and the Left supported from outside. The Front itself was formed after the elections. In 2004, the UPA came into existence after the elections. There was no UPA before the elections. Again on the basis of a CMP, we extended our support from outside. So that is the Indian reality. It is not mere historical trend.

In such a scenario, who will take leadership role? What role does Congress have?

It depends on post election scenario. In 1996, Congress lost the elections and therefore, it supported the UF from outside. Congress could not enter the government through the back-door. They could not form the government because they did not get the majority. Therefore, others formed the government with Congress supporting from outside. In 2004, Congress was the single largest party among the Opposition. So they led the government. It all finally depends on the numbers. Who will be the leader? It depends on the numbers one gets from the support they receive from people.

Where does CPI(M) stand in these scheme of things?

The CPI(M) scheme of things goes much beyond elections. We are determined to further strengthen our party and our political intervention capacity. Our objective is to consolidate CPI(M) as a revolutionary party with a pan-Indian mass influence. We will work for strengthening the unity of Left forces and forge a unity of left and democratic forces to offer a policy alternative to the people. This will be done through unleashing national popular struggles.

We are clear that the RSS-BJP government has to be ousted. That was the main call of our Party Congress. We have said that we shall not enter into any political alliance with Congress. That has been our historical truth. We were neither part of the UF or UPA governments. As I always said, we do not believe in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), but if at all there is IPR for outside support, it is CPI(M)’s. The question of entering into any alliance does not exist. At the time of elections, appropriate electoral tactics will be worked out to maximise the anti-BJP votes. For example, in Karnataka, we are contesting 19 seats. We will support the candidates of Left parties wherever they have put candidates. Where the Left is not contesting, the call the party has given is to defeat the BJP. It could be Congress, it could be JD(S), depending on the constituency. Then local party unit will decide. But the call is to defeat the BJP. That is one example. Similarly, we will work out our tactics.

How does that political picture change with the CPI(M) Party Congress now omitting a clause that said there should be no understanding with Congress party?

As far as post poll arrangements are concerned, there can be absolute clarity that we can extend an issue-based support to a non-BJP government. The ‘no understanding’ clause had left the ambiguity whether we will be able to support if the Congress is there. That is the take-away from the Party Congress. That was a bone of contention for 10 months. In the pre-poll scenario, suppose we are going with a regional formation, which has an alliance with Congress. I am looking at the possibility of a scenario of the past. I don’t know about the future. The past is Tamil Nadu. We supported DMK or AIADMK depending on who is supporting the BJP. Now that particular party is already in an alliance with Congress. So no understanding would have created problems. If we are making electoral adjustments with regional parties, the seats we fight, the seats Congress fights, there will be consultations. No understanding means no consultations. Now that ambiguity is also not there.

Does it mean the doors are open for seat adjustments with Congress in some states?

Now, it is all speculation. There are various possibilities. There could be, let’s say, mutual no-contest. There won’t be any joint campaigning. They won’t be entering into any alliance. But say, we contest two-three seats. They don’t put up a candidate. That is one possibility. I am not saying this will happen.

The Opposition move to impeach Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has been stone-walled. How do you see this situation?

One of the reasons why we are saying that this government should go is that the impunity with which they are destroying all Constitutional authorities and the mechanism that we had in place for seven decades. No confidence motion was not allowed to be tabled and discussed in Lok Sabha itself is a gross violation. For three weeks, it was not allowed. Now rejecting the impeachment motion outright, we think, is a gross irregularity. Because presiding officer of the House does not have the right to decide on the merits of an impeachment motion. That can be done only after an enquiry by a three-member committee as laid down by the Constitution. That committee will give report and if it says that the charges in the petition are untenable, then you reject it. But before going through that process and rejecting it is clearly not merely an overreach of authority but smacks of certain motives. Because once the enquiry committee is put in place and it begins the process, then morally the concerned judge does not have the right to be on a bench or hear a matter.

Only seven of the 18 Opposition parties have signed the impeachment motion? Doesn’t it show that the Opposition is divided?

Division in opposition is again a myth created by the BJP. Where it matters, the opposition is united. SP-BSP is united and it matters in UP. RJD did not sign. Will it stop the unity that is happening in Bihar against BJP. This is also sort of a post-truth society being created. Like creating non-issues as issues of unity and disunity of opposition.

The CPI(M)’s Political Organisation Report placed in Party Congress had said that Tripura results show that CPI(M)’s political, organisational and ideological fight against RSS is “inadequate”. How do you overcome this?

The point is that RSS cannot be defeated through elections alone. If that was the case, for 70 years after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, RSS should have been a completely marginalised force. They would not have survived and comeback with this sort of support. There has to be an ideological offensive against them. We also have to defeat their organisational methods. That can only be done through sharpening people mobilisation and struggles against what they espouse as well as their policies when they are in government. That is of first vital importance. Secondly, we need to actually counter their influence in various levels in which they spread their tentacles. They have a tentacle of organisations through which they continuously spread the virus of communalism. All that have to be combated at all levels.

Today, what is happening in our country. How else will you describe the child rapes and the gruesome murders? Nothing else can explain but the complete dehumanising of the Indian society. It is leading to such an irrational extent when even the lawyers are not taking up cases like it happened in Kathua. The ministers who are being sworn under oath of this very Constitution openly talk in terms of violation of the Constitution and protecting criminals. What is happening is ideological attack of irrationality on rationality, it is an ideological attack of unreason on reason. Now this has to be ideologically combated and defeated. Otherwise, mythology can be passed off as history. That is what they are doing. You and I may think what Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb said is bad. But when people are subjected to such onslaught, they start accepting it. They are seeking to replace the syncretic Indian history with Hindu mythology, replace the rich pluralistic Indian philosophy with Hindu theology. Every single TV serial talk about obscurantism, religions and religiosity. You start believing the absurd. That is the real danger that has to be combated. They are seeking to replace the syncretic Indian history with Hindu mythology, replace the rich pluralistic Indian philosophy with Hindu theology.

Another observation in the Political Organisation Report is that it is discouraging that the representation of Muslims, Dalits, youths in CPI(M) are declining. How do you address this issue?

What we mean by discouraging is the entry into the leadership positions. That is what is declining and not in terms of their numbers in the party. You should correct that distortion. They are coming in large numbers. You will find Dalits and Muslims in leadership positions at the lower level. But that is not reflected in the leadership at higher levels. It is not happening in the way we would want it to happen. We have two women, two Muslims in the Polit Bureau. But there are no Dalits. Why? 70% of the leadership in states are Dalits and OBCs together. Sometimes it is 90% if you add Muslims to it. But the question is why they are not coming up? This is the serious question we will have to address. There are various reasons. One is the question of economic factor. As party whole-timers, how much we pay, whether they are in a position to maintain their family or not. Normally, the whole timers come into this leadership positions. That is a serious point we will have to address. Otherwise we will have this distortion. Why is it not reflected in the higher leadership? We will have to seriously address this issue. We have to see whether there are any other factors. The desire is that they have to come.

There is a perception that though you have been re-elected, the central leadership is still stacked against you. How do you respond to this?

I don’t see this in terms of a fight between numbers or who is on which side. The point is as a Communist, I have the conviction that my own committees and my own comrades will react to the objective situation. What is the objective situation? What is that we decided at Hyderabad? That is there in black and white. Now the question is to actually implement that, take it forward. Now in that if anybody seeks to create a problem, there is no ambiguity left now. Therefore, with the clarity achieved in Hyderabad, I don’t think there is any question of comrades being on this side or that side. That is why when people said you have won and they have lost, I said nobody has won, nobody has lost. Only party has won. That is the bottom denominator. I sincerely believe the party has won.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald print edition and full text in website in May  2018)

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Oppn has to get together with a policy alternative:

Discouraging that Muslims, youth don’t find us attractive to join: CPM

At a time youth and minority communities are up in arms against the BJP, CPI(M) finds it “discouraging” that the Muslim community and the younger generation do not find it an attractive platform to join.

The inability on its part to attract youth and minorities has puzzled the party and it finds a mention in the Political Organisation Report placed before the ongoing CPI(M) Party in Hyderabad, which started on Wednesday. The triennial conference will end on Sunday.

The party has found some traction among tribals, the report said citing that in states like Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh that have substantial tribal population, their representation has increased. In Maharashtra, the membership of tribals has increased from 15.7% to 22.6% while in Chhattisgarh, the rise is from 20% to 28% between 2015 and 2018.

However, the “picture is discouraging as far as Muslim minority representation is concerned”. The report goes on to say that there was “no improvement” in any of the states except West Bengal where Muslim membership has increased from 7.1% at the time of 21st Party Congress in Vishakhapattinam to 11.3% now.

A senior CPI(M) leader described the situation as “worrisome” because it being a secular party, it sends a message that the minorities do not place trust on the party. “The fight is against the Hindutva party BJP and if their main target does not trust us, then there is some problem,” he said.

The report noted that the decision of party’s Kolkata Plenum in 2015 to improve class and social exposition have not been “pursued seriously”, except in a few cases.

The youth front also gave an unimpressive story as there was “no improvement” in the age exposition of party membership in states like Karnataka. . It was decided to ensure more representation for youth below 31 years in states where their representation was less than 20% of the total membership.

“In fact, there is a decline in those below 31 years like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Odisha between 2015 and 2017,” the report said. On a positive note, it said Kerala with the highest membership has relative good youth representation with 23.45% being below 31 years, which is an improvement over 22.7% in 2015.

On social media presence, the report gave a rosy picture saying its campaign on several issues. While its twitter followers was 6,000 and Facebook followers 60,000 during 2015 Party Conference, it rose to 1.71 lakh on Twitter and 3.40 lakh on Facebook.


(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 21, 2018)

CPM opens door to Cong

Junking the line propagated by a faction led by Prakash Karat, the CPI(M) on Friday open doors to an electoral “understanding” with Congress to defeat BJP as delegates found reason with General Secretary Sitaram Yechury’s line.

However, the party will not enter into any political alliance with Congress as per the amended political resolution adopted at the ongoing Party Congress in Hyderabad while allowing seat adjustments with the Rahul Gandhi-led party.

The reversal in stand comes as a huge victory for Yechury, which comes after months of intense inner-party struggle with both the factions pitted against each other. While Bengal unit was supporting Yechury, the Kerala unit was supporting Karat’s line.

The draft resolution, which was cleared by the Karat faction-dominated Central Committee earlier this year, had said that the “main task”of defeating BJP “has to be done without having an understanding or electoral alliance” with the Congress. While not supporting an “alliance” with Congress, Yechury has been arguing that the party should not close its door and be flexible in states where CPI(M) is not strong.

At the Party Congress, the formulation “has to be done without having an understanding or electoral alliance” was omitted. It now reads, “but this has to be done without having a political alliance with the Congress party”.

The scales tilted in favour of Yechury as at least 16 states demanded a secret ballot on political resolution though usually the voting in Party Conference is held by raising of hands. Several delegates felt that many could not vote according to their individual choice as it could go against their state unit’s stand like as that of Kerala.

While delegates from Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Goa, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat stood with Yechury and the demand for a secret ballot, many delegates from Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana too toes this line.

This prompted a section of the leadership to find a middle path following which Karat faction accepted to omit the formulation of the draft resolution.

With the triennial conference ending on Sunday, the next battle will be the election to the Central Committee. With the existing Central Committee and Polit Bureau heavily loaded with Karat supporters, it is to be seen whether Yechury gets a panel that goes by his line.

The Political Organisation Report placed before the conference talked about the differences among Polit Bureau members on the political line adopted and it affected the political and organisational interventions.


(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 21, 2018)

Dalit org gearing up to corner Modi govt

After cornering the BJP-led NDA government on the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, Dalit organisations are now gearing up for another fight for reservation in the higher judiciary.

Certain that their protests will force the government to ensure that the Act will not be diluted in case Supreme Court refuses to change its order, the organisations have decided to launch agitations in the coming days and the first protest could be witnessed in the run up to Independence Day.

Plans are afoot to organise a protest programme starting August 9, the Quit India Day, demanding reservation in higher judiciary, pointing out that it does not reflect the social demography of the country.

Dalit organisations had a successful Bharat Bandh on April 2 had put the BJP on the backfoot and forced the Narendra Modi government to file a review petition against the Supreme Court order that prohibits immediate arrests in the case, which Dalits claimed diluted the law.

Leaders in Dalit organisations believe the government would take the ordinance route and bring in suitable changes during Monsoon Session of Parliament to ensure that the law is not diluted in case Supreme Court does not change its stand.

Amid a perception that Dalits who overwhelmingly voted for BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha polls that catapulted Modi to Prime Ministership are angry and moving away, the leaders feel that BJP would try take steps like taking action to ensure that the law remain the way it was.

“How can you ensure that judiciary represents the interest of Dalits and adivasis? For that, we need reservation. We must have a representative judiciary. Our next battle is representation in judiciary,” a prominent Dalit leader Ashok Bharti told DH.

Dalit groups have got the support of Opposition parties in the fight, as several of the outfits have openly come out against BJP. “In the last four years, they have not delivered. Whatever they got in 2014, they will lose. It is not that previous regimes were pro-Dalit. Then at least we could reach out to the government and explain our position. Somebody used to listen. Now it is not the case,” a senior Dalit leader said.

After the success of the Bharat Bandh, a group of Dalit organisations held a meeting in the national capital last week where they chalked out plans to keep up pressure on the government. It had served an ultimatum to the government asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to spell out the actions taken to safeguard the SC/SC Act during his address to the nation on Independence Day.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 20, 2018)

Attempts to deny Yechury second term as CPM Gen Sec

The CPI(M) is heading to its triennial Party Congress in Hyderabad from Wednesday amid attempts by a faction led by Prakash Karat to deny a second term for General Secretary Sitaram Yechury.
The five-day conference, which would decide on party’s line whether to cooperate with Congress in the fight against BJP as suggested by Yechury, could also see a likelihood of Karat faction suggesting former Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar as Yechury’s possible replacement.
However, projection of Sarkar as an alternative to Yechury could face resistance as it could send a wrong signal to the cadre in Tripura who are “facing attacks” after CPI(M) lost to BJP in Assembly elections. A senior leader said it would be “demoralising” for the cadre, as it gives an impression that he left for Delhi when they are in trouble.
Karat camp’s calculation is that other names likes that of Brinda Karat or B Raghavulu may not cut much ice with the 750-odd delegates but Sarkar, with his no-nonsense approach and neutral image, could swing it for them.
Yechury also had it not easy in 2015 Vishakhapattinam Party Congress when he was elected as General Secretary. Outgoing General Secretary Karat and his supporters had then preferred S Ramachandran Pillai as his successor.
The CPI(M) has always given multiple terms to its General Secretaries so far and Yechury is unlikely to bow down without a fight.
While a section of delegates may seek amending the no-truck with Congress line explained in the draft political resolution and propagated by the Karat faction and dominate the proceedings, Yechury’s opponents would also try to argue that nothing tangible was achieved during his tenure.
The counter may come in the way of citing the leadership taken by the CPI(M) under Yechury in relentlessly building a narrative to counter the BJP government from intolerance debate to independence of campus to farmers and workers’ struggle. The increased cohesion between Dalits and the party will also be highlighted.
On the political line, those who argue for understanding with Congress claims that the opponents were propagating a “fraud distortion” of their position that they want an alliance with the Rahul Gandhi-led party. This section argue that one should realise that there was no point in silent support to Congress in the electoral fight against BJP, claiming that their sympathisers may not return to the party in such a scenario.
“A total chimera is being created that we want an alliance. But we do not want to close the doors also in the way of an understanding in some states,” a senior leader said, claiming that the Congress issue is being highlighted to effect a change in leadership.


(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 17, 2018)

‘Unrestrained’ remarks, ‘talk of revenge’ creating trouble in JK

Amid recent escalation in violence in Kashmir, a high-profile citizen’s group on Tuesday called for dialogue at the appropriate political level to find a solution to the present crisis in the state while blaming “unrestrained” statements by leaders and “talk of revenge” for the present situation.

In a statement, the Concerned Citizen’s Group led by senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said recent escalation in violence in Kashmir has led to “avoidable loss” of civilian lives as well as that of security force personnel. It said what is worse is that the violence shows no signs of abating.

“In fact, it is being stoked further by unrestrained public statements by various actors and the talk of revenge. It is also evident that despite being aware of the futility of picking up arms, an increasing number of desperate youngsters are joining the ranks of militants,” the statement said.

Besides Sinha, those who signed the statement were activist-academician Rajmohan Gandhi, former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A P Shah, former National Commission for Minorities Chairman Wajahat Habibullah, former bureaucrat Vappala Balachandran, former Air Vice Maeshal Kapil Kak, diplomar K C Singh, senior journalist Bharat Bhushan and Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation Executive Secretary Sushobha Barve.

“At this critical juncture, when an entire generation of young Kashmiris finds itself at a cross-roads, we would like to urge everyone concerned to step back from the conflict. While picking up arms by the militants is bound to attract the use of force against them by the State, intensifying the confrontation can only worsen the situation,” the statement said.

“The solution to the present crisis in J&K lies in dialogue at the appropriate political level. Only by winning the hearts and minds of the people can their faith in the political process be restored,” it added.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 11, 2018)

Dalit anger against BJP surging

The Dalit anger within BJP is appears to be surging with its Delhi MP Udit Raj now expressing discontent over the way the issue is handled.

While Raj chose not to write a letter unlike others, the North-East Delhi MP took to twitter to bring the attention of problems faced by Dalits after the April 2 bandh, which witnessed large-scale violence, especially in BJP-ruled states.

“Reports are pouring in that those Dalits who participated in agitation on 2 April are being tortured and it must be stopped…Dalits are tortured at large scale after 2 April country-wide agitation. People from Barmer, Jalore, Jaipur, Gwalior, Meerut, Bulandshahr, Karoli and other parts (are) calling that not only anti-reservationists but police (are) also beating and slapping false cases,” he said in tweets late night on Saturday. All the places mentioned in his tweets belonged to BJP-ruled states.

Raj, an IRS officer who resigned to join politics in 2003, followed it up with another on Sunday afternoon, which appeared as a clarification but left with scope for interpretation with some suggesting it exposed the anti-Dalit stand of the party.

“My tweets are misconstrued that its harming BJP rather it strengthens that at least there are people like me in BJP who are concerned with Dalit atrocities after April 2 agitation. It will convince Dalits and they will remain with party. Government will check anti-Dalit officers/people,” he said.

The anger over the way Dalit issues are handled were manifested in an agitation organised by BJP MP Savitri Bai Phule in Lucknow on April 1 and letters written by three other Dalit MPs — Yashwant Singh, Chhote Lal Karwar and Ashok Kumar Dohrey — from Uttar Pradesh writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi post April 2 Bharat Bandh.

BJP MPs from the Dalit community where up in arms against the Supreme Court order diluting the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Attrocities Act and had put pressure on the government to file review petition against it.

While Phule organised a ‘Save Constitution’ protest, Karwar wrote to Modi alleged that he was thrown out by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and that he was facing discrimination by the administration in his constituency.

Singh on his part alleged that Modi government had done nothing for the Dalits in the past four years. Dohrey said UP Police was harassing Dalits and framing them in baseless cases for vengeance.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 9, 2018)

‘Give more powers to RS Chair to deal with unruly MPs’

With disruptions leading to Bills getting stuck, a proposal has been mooted to give more powers to Rajya Sabha Chairperson to suspend unruly members by amending the existing rules.

Sources said a senior Rajya Sabha functionary has supported the proposal of amending the Rule 256 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Rajya Sabha to take action against against disrupters to prevent a repeat of the washout witnessed during the Budget Session.

Top Rajya Sabha leaders who met Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu soon after the Upper House was adjourned sine die suggested that he should convene a meeting of the General Purposes Committee of the House to deliberate on the action to be taken against such MPs who persistently indulge in sloganeering and disruption.

One of the proposal under initial stage of consideration is amending the Rule 256, which deals with suspension of unruly MPs. At present, after the Chair names the MP or group of MPs, the government has to bring a motion to suspend them. However, sources said, it is a time-taking process and the need of the Hour is to empower the Chair to take on the spot decisions.

That is the reason why the Rajya Sabha leadership is looking at best practices across the world. “We are not rushing into it. We need to build a consensus. We will have to study the practices in other Parliaments,” a senior functionary said.

The discussion on the need to amend the rules gathered some attention, as Deputy Chairman P J Kurien could not go ahead with voting on the consideration of Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill following disruption. After two Trinamool Congress MPs demanded a ‘division’ following a voice vote, Kurien had called for voting.

“I regret that the Bill could not be passed. But I have no option but to go ahead with division. As per rule even if one MP asks for division, that has to be done. If the chair does not do it, it will be subverting the rules,” Kurien said.

The government side wanted the Bill to be passed in the pandemonium and cited the passage of the bill amid din to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh. However, Kurien, who was in the Chair then too, pointed out that none sought a division in that case and he could go ahead with passing.

“One has to see whether there is a broad consensus on the bill. If it is there, then even in din, sometimes you can pass the bill. In the latest case, there was no consensus,” he added.


(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on April 7, 2018)

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