Consensus eludes top CPM leaders on Cong

CPI(M) once again failed to reach a consensus on its approach towards Congress party in a stormy Polit Bureau meeting on Monday to decide on the outline for draft political resolution for next year’s Party Congress.

As there was no common ground on having truck with Congress, sources said, the pro-Congress and anti-Congress viewpoints would now be placed before the three-day Central Committee meeting scheduled to begin on October 14.

The meeting saw supporters of General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, who are in a minority in the Polit Bureau and wants a change in party’s political tactical line to accommodate Congress, and Prakash Karat vociferously putting their point. This was the second meeting of the Polit Bureau within a month to finalise the outline.

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The factional feud in the CPI(M) is likely to intensify in the run up to the Party Congress in Hyderabad in April next year and a section led by Karat may object to giving Yechury a second term as General Secretary. With S Ramachandran Pillai crossing the 80-year-old mark, the Karat faction may toy with the idea of replacing Yechury with Brinda Karat or B V Raghavulu.

Yechury was made the General Secretary in 2015 though Karat, the then General Secretary, and his camp were in favour of Pillai.

Sources said the battle has now moved to the Central Committee that would see the Bengal unit, who is for a pro-Congress approach, and Kerala unit, which is vehemently against any tie-up with the main opposition party, fighting for supremacy. Yechury has the support of Bengal unit while Kerala unit backs Karat.

While Yechury camp is arguing that the political situation has changed drastically after the 2015 Party Congress and there is a need for reviewing the line, Karat faction is of the view that all these “possible changes” were factored in while finalising the political line three years ago.

The draft resolution will be finalised by the Central Committee in January next year and put in public domain for discussions before the Party Congress finalises it. During this period, public and party units can suggest amendments while delegates also can suggest changes to the resolution during the Party Congress.

After the last Polit Bureau meeting on September 7, Yechury had said the conditions have changed since the last Party Congress in 2015 and that its analysis and alignment accordingly will change. “The basic essential element of Marxism is concrete analysis of concrete conditions,” he had then said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 3, 2017)

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To change or not: That’s the Q before CPI(M) as PB meets

CPI(M) Polit Bureau will meet here on Monday to see whether the warring factions led by Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat could find a common ground on party’s approach towards the Congress party.

The Polit Bureau is meeting for the second time in a month to finalise the outline for a draft political resolution for the triennial Party Congress in Hyderabad in April next year but there is no sign of a thaw among the leaders on having an electoral truck with Congress party.

While a section led by General Secretary Yechury is of the view that there is a need for joining hands with Congress and other secular parties to take on BJP, the Karat-led faction feels that there is no need to change the political tactical line of keeping Congress at arms length.

Yechury has the backing of Bengal unit that favours a truck with Congress while Karat, who handed over the party’s reins in 2015 Party Congress to Yechury, is banking on Kerala unit’s support that is vehemently against any such move.

“Let us see if we can reach some agreements,” a senior Polit Bureau member said.

Sources said if the 16-member Polit Bureau, where Karat faction has a majority, cannot find a common ground, then the “two approaches” will go to the Central Committee that will meet here for three days from October 14 to finalise the outline. It is to be seen how the Central Committee meeting this month would view the positions taken by the two factions.

The draft resolution on political-tactical line will be finalised by the Central Committee in January next year and put in public domain for discussions before the Party Congress finalises it.

The differences among the factions had come to the fore in the recent past over Bengal unit’s decision to have an understanding with Congress in the West Bengal Assembly elections and on giving Yechury a third term in Rajya Sabha.

After the last Polit Bureau meeting on September 7, it had issued an unusual denial on remarks made by Yechury that hinted at possible changes in party’s line. He had said the conditions have changed since the last Party Congress in 2015 and that its analysis and alignment accordingly will change. “The basic essential element of Marxism is concrete analysis of concrete conditions,” he said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 2, 2017)

Book AIADMK cadres: NHRC

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday asked Tamil Nadu Police to book AIADMK supporters who pierced cheeks of children as part of a ritual for speedy recovery of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

The directions, which included seeking a report from the state government on steps taken to stop such rituals, came after the Chennai Police Commissioner confirmed that such an incident took place on 3 October 2016.

The NHRC also wanted to know from police about the disciplinary action taken against “erring” policemen, who were present at the site and “did nothing to stop the criminal act”.

The police came in for severe criticism from the NHRC after the Commissioner suggested that children participated in the event with the approval of their parents and were not forced to do so. However, the officer accepted that the incident was a gross violation of child rights and that the police personnel who were at the spot “had been severely warned”.

Rebuffing the Commissioner, the NHRC said that it “fails to understand” how the consent of the parents or that of the children for the ritual “can justify the criminal act of piercing children’s cheeks” with rods. “Admittedly, the police officials, present at the site of the incident did nothing to stop it. Therefore, a simple warning to the erring police personnel is abysmal considering the gravity of the incident,” it said.

Armed with the police report, NHRC said AIADMK supporters forced around 20 children to pierce their cheeks with two metre steel rods as part of a ritual for the then ailing Jayalalithaa’s speedy recovery.

The children were made to walk from Murugan Temple in R K Nagar to Seniamman Temple in Tondiarpet by the supporters of AIADMK and that the children were “very small” and their cheeks were forcibly pierced,” it said.

“A photograph reveals that the children were made to wear a cap with a photograph of Jayalalithaa and with slogan written on it — ‘long live Amma’. One girl is seen caught by some persons for the purpose of piercing her cheeks. The incident makes it a clear case of violation of human rights of children,” it said.

The NHRC directed Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) in North Chennai to register the case under sections of criminal conspiracy, common intention, voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons and wrongful restraint against AIADMK supporters who organised the programme.

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

Inaction led to BHU protests

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday sought a report from UP government and the Banaras Hindu University Vice Chancellor over “inaction” on a complaint of eve-teasing and harsh police action against agitating students.

The NHRC felt that students, who were protesting the eve-teasing and inaction by security guards, were subjected to “inhuman treatment” by police personnel and it amounted to violation of their human rights.

“The university authorities should have acted sensibly as the matter related to the dignity of a woman. The police authorities resorted to rather harsh steps than the situation, perhaps, warranted,” an NHRC statement said.

Taking suo motu cognizance of media reports, the NHRC asked the Chief Secretary and the Vice Chancellor to submit reports within four weeks and provide details about action taken against miscreants and precautionary measures taken to ensure that such incidents do not recur in future.

The NHRC said the media reports are “indicative of lapses” on the part of the university authorities, including the security guards. Instead of taking a quick action into the complaint of eve-teasing, it said, they allegedly indulged in sarcastic comments towards the victim girl.

Students were lathicharged by police on Saturday night after they protested against an eve-teasing incident and response of BHU authorities to it.

Quoting media reports, the NHRC siad when the matter was brought to the notice of Hostel Warden, she instead of taking up the issue with her superiors, asked the girl why was she returning late to the hostel.

This response angered the students who sat on a protest at the main gate of the university demanding round-the-clock security, making security personnel accountable, adequate lighting on roads to girl’s hostel, CCTV network and proper checking at the gates.

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

Citizens’ group for dialogue on JK

Taking a cue from latest statements from government and BJP on Jammu and Kashmir, a high-profile citizens group led by former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday urged the government to initiate dialogue with stakeholders.

In a statement, the Concerned Citizens Group (CCG) said they are reading the statements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP leadership with “much hope” as there is a “positive change in policy towards Kashmiris.

While it is looking forward to a “concrete follow up” on these statements, the CCG said it wants the government to “clearly identify” the stakeholders and announce the name of an authorised interlocutor to “operationalise the well-intentioned statements” that have “so eloquently been made”.

The statement, signed by former National Minorities Commission Chairman Wajahat Habibullah, former Union Minister Manish Tewari and former foreign secretary Nirupama Rao among others, also wanted the government to set a time-frame for the beginning and conduct of the dialogue process and start it as soon as possible.

“Despite deep scepticism that has taken hold of their minds, the encouraging statements by the Prime Minister, Home Minister and others hold promise for the Kashmiris. The present opportunity should not be wasted. And, therefore, it is our fervent appeal to the government to quickly act definitively on the sentiments expressed in a time-bound manner,” the statement said.

Other signatories include Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation Sushobha Barve, former Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak, former Special Secretary V Balachandran, academicians Badri Raina, Ramchandra Guha and Zoya Hasan, journalist Bharat Bhushan and activist John Dayal.

In his Independence Day speech, Modi had said that Kashmiris need a hug not abuses or bullets while Singh had undertaken a visit to Kashmir recently. Senior BJP leader Ram Madhav has said that government is ready to hold dialogues with every stakeholder, including separatists.

Last month, a CCG delegation had visited Kashmir and said “simmering anger” over Article 35(A) is leading to an “increasing distance” between Kashmiris and the rest of India and the “sense of dismay and despondency in the people had grown” compared to their previous visits.

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

‘Modi has a modest rise in assets’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assets grew by around Rs 27 lakh in 2016-17 compared to previous fiscal, according to assets details made public.

Besides Modi, only 16 of the 76 ministers in the Union Council of Ministers have submitted the details of their assets so far though the deadline set by the Prime Minister has passed on August 31. Of these, nine ministers were sworn in earlier this month only while six had quit following reshuffle.

According to the details, Modi has assets a little above Rs two crore as on March 31, up from Rs 1.73 crore reported in 2015-16 and Rs 1.41 crore in 2014-15.

He has Rs 1.49 lakh as cash in hand while his fixed deposits rose by around Rs 39 lakh in the last fiscal. His savings account showed a decline from Rs 2.09 lakh to Rs 1.33 lakh.

An interesting disclosure is that the Prime Minister did not earn a single penny as royalty on books in the last fiscal compared to Rs 12.35 lakh he earned in 2015-16. Otherwise, his jewellery collection (four gold rings weighing 45 grams) remained the same.

The assets details of spouse Jashodaben is marked “not known”.

** Modi did not get royalty for any books in 2016-17

** Ashok Gajapathi Raju still owns a 1982-model jeep

** Sadanand Gowda has licenced weapons

**Ramvilas Paswan’s family owns a petrol pump in south Delhi

Asset details of several senior ministers like Rajnath Singh (Home), Nirmala Sitharaman (Defence), Piyush Goyal (Railway), Ravishankar Prasad (Law), Ananth Kumar (Chemicals and Fertilisers) and Smriti Irani (Information and Broadcasting) are yet to reach the public domain. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was one the early birds in declaring assets.

Most of the ministers have invested in jewellery with Jaitley reporting that he and his wife own jewellery worth around Rs 1.5 crore. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj owns jewellery worth Rs 27 lakh while Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has gold and silver worth 52 lakh.

Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju still owns a 1982-model jeep now valued at Rs 15,000 and a Nano car of Rs 1.30 lakh while his cabinet colleague Sadanand Gowda has declared that he has licenced weapons. Gowda in one of his earlier declarations had said that he has a .32 revolver he bought in 2002 for Rs 55,000 besides a gun he bought for Rs 5,000 in 1989.

Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan, a doctor, has shown his clinic’s assets at Rs 9,399 while Consumer Affairs Minister Ramvilas Paswan has said that his family owns a petrol pump in south Delhi. 

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

Ritabrata may face the axe

CPI(M) may further shrink in Parliament as the party is mulling disciplinary actions, including expulsion, against Rajya Sabha MP Ritabrata Banerjee for his latest remarks against a section of party leadership.

The West Bengal party Secretariat is meeting on Wednesday to take a “call” on Banerjee’s remarks in a TV interview that included the description of a committee led by Polit Bureau member Mohd Salim to look into allegations against him as a “kangaroo commission”.

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Following complaints of a series of misconduct, including his lifestyle, Banerjee, a 38-year-old MP, was put under three month suspension from June 2 pending enquiry. A Commission led by Salim had recommended his demotion to district committee from state committee pending approval from the central leadership.

If party decides to expel Banerjee, its numbers could come down to seven in Rajya Sabha as he can remain in the House as an unattached member. Even if he resigns, the CPI(M) does not have the strength in West Bengal Assembly get its own member elected to the Upper House.

Last month, the party was reduced to eight in the Upper House after General Secretary Sitaram Yechury term ended and was denied a third term though Congress offered support to get him re-elected.

When contacted, a defiant Banerjee told DH that party is not the fiefdom of anyone. Asked if CPI(M) takes any action against him, he said, “I will remain as a Left voicing the demands of the Left. Red, till I die.”

Banerjee has angered the party with his interview to a Bengali channel in which he said he had been victim of jealousy in the party since he was vocal and very active in Parliament.

“I cannot forget the judgement of the kangaroo court which found me guilty. The commission was set up three months after my suspension by the party. I was punished before the judgement. It was nothing but revenge against me, as on occasions I spoke the truth,” he was quoted as saying.

On speculation about him hobnobbing with BJP and Trinamool Congress leaders, he said, “Time will tell about my future plan.”

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

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