Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

To retain a bungalow, declare it as a memorial

aaj ki baat_frame_8453It has now come to light after a gap of seven years that the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Mayawati had declared one of her residential bungalows as Kanshi Ram Memorial. This was done surreptitiously on January 13, 2011 by the UP cabinet, and it was pointed out by BSP leader Satish Misra when he, with a delegation of BSP leaders, called on Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Friday.

The BSP delegation told Yogi that Mayawati occupied only two rooms in the bungalow 13A, Mall Avenue. The BSP had hurriedly installed a signboard ‘Shri Kanshi Ramji Yadgar Vishram Sthal’ on May 21, after the former CM was served notice on May 17 to vacate it in compliance with a Supreme Court order.

BSP leader Satish Misra also pointed out to Yogi that no notice has yet been given to Mayawati for moving out of her 6, Lal Bahadur Shastri Marg bungalow, which was allotted to her a a former CM. The party has requested that Mayawati be allowed to stay in two rooms of the “memorial”, which includes a library, statues, murals and other artefacts related to the late Kanshi Ram. The party has said that if a notice is issued to vacate the second bungalow, it will be complied with.

The Supreme Court had on May 7 issued an order directing the state government to ensure that all government bungalows allotted to six former chief ministers including Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav, Rajnath Singh, Kalyan Singh, N D Tiwari and Mayawati be vacated. The apex court had pointed out that once a chief minister demits office, he or she comes at par with the common man.

While Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh have decided to vacate their bungalows, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav have sought two years’ time. N D Tiwari’s wife Ujjwala has sought more time to vacate pleading that her 92-year-old husband was in the “last stages” of his life.

As far as the Kanshi Ram Memorial is concerned, the UP cabinet has powers to rescind its decision taken seven years ago. The Supreme Court is keeping a close watch, as it is wary about the intentions of politicians, who try every subterfuge to retain government properties built with taxpayers’ money.

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Fitness Challenge is a welcome campaign, all Indians should participate

akb (1)It all started with a #FitnessChallenge thrown by cricketing star Virat Kohli at our Prime Minister Narendra Modi on social media, which he gladly accepted. Information & Broadcasting Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore chipped in with a similar campaign #HumFitTohIndiaFit . Several Union ministers including Piyush Goyal, Jayant Sinha and Kiren Rijiju, and other MPs, notably Meenakshi Lekhi and Manoj Tiwari, participated.

All that they had to do was to post videos of doing physical exercises on social media. Several sportspersons, film stars and other personalities have started posting videos of their physical workouts. On my part, I posted push-ups that Salman Khan challenged me to do on the sets of Aap Ki Adalat show several years ago. Both of us did push-ups and the audience welcomed it. At that time, Salman had challenged me. Today I want to challenge Salman to post his video of doing physical exercise.

Normally when people ask me the secret of my physical fitness, I say that it is an open secret, known to all, but followed by a few. Waking up on time, keeping control of your diet, doing daily exercises or yoga, and a sound sleep are the main ingredients. By doing this, one can protect oneself from diseases, the trips to hospitals would be fewer, the pressure on doctors and hospitals will be lesser and medical expenses will come down. If all of us take care of our own body, it can eventually take the form of a mass movement, and this will serve the nation in the long run.

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Fear of Modi in 2019 polls has brought non-BJP leaders together

aaj ki baat_frame_686 (002)Leaders of almost all non-BJP political parties came together on Wednesday at the swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka chief minister H. D. Kumaraswamy, who is heading a Congress-Janata Dal(S) coalition government. This has raised the prospect of a Modi versus Rest contest next year during the Lok Sabha elections, but the possibility of the emergence of a viable grand coalition is still nebulous.

There is no doubt that the fear of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brought these non-BJP leaders together on a single platform. These leaders are worried about prospects of Modi sweeping the next LS polls. The formation of a Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka has encouraged these leaders. The Congress appears to be the happiest, and it has been consistently projecting this view that all opposition parties should unitedly confront Modi in next year’s general elections.

However, the views of several other parties appear to be divergent. While TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu spoke about a “united front of regional parties”, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee too spoke about “unity of regional parties (as) the need of the hour”. Mamata Banerjee’s view is that a national party like the Congress had to bow before a regional party in Karnataka, and this development has energized other regional parties. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and RLD chief Ajit Singh are still not sure whether a rainbow alliance would emerge or not.

There are many states where the regional parties are pitted directly against the BJP. In some states, the Congress and BJP face each other as main rivals to the exclusion of others. Such an alliance may not matter much in these states. But, in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, which witness triangular contests, the Congress and regional parties can join hands and give a strong challenge to the BJP.

 

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Bring petrol, diesel under GST to give relief to common man

aajkibaat_frame_4091Common people, both in the metros and in rural areas, are struggling to cope with the recent continuous hike in fuel prices. There has been a hike in imported crude prices in world market, but people on social media are raising concerns about the high rates of taxes and excise duty on petrol and diesel.

If one goes into the price structure of petrol, the actual price of the fuel is only half, while more than 50 per cent is levied in the form of excise duty and taxes. In some states, it has gone up to 54 per cent. In Delhi, one pays Rs 76.87 for a litre of petrol, out of which Rs 3.50 goes as commission to dealers, and nearly Rs 36 per litre is levied as central excise and state sales tax, and this varies from state to state.

If petrol and diesel are brought within the purview of GST, the highest tax slab could range from 18 pc to 28 per cent, and this could bring about a drastic reduction in fuel prices. But state governments say that the main source of their revenue is from fuel tax. Most of the state governments are unwilling to let go of their right, because much of their budgets depends on this stream of revenue. The state governments have been, therefore, resisting the inclusion of fuel prices in GST.

The time has now come for the Centre to go in for a permanent solution instead of resorting to cosmetic changes. The states will have to be convinced about the necessity of bringing fuel under GST. This could give a big relief to the common man.
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Floor test on Saturday, from where will Yeddyurappa get support?

akb_frame_70606 (002)With the Supreme Court today directing a floor test in Karnataka Assembly on Saturday, the stage is set for a historic trial of strength. The 64-million dollar question is: From where will Chief Minister Yeddyurappa get support to prove his majority?

With 222 elected members in a house of 224, the magic mark is 112. The Congress and Janata Dal(S) combination claims a support of 116 members, while the BJP has 104 elected members. There are two independents.

Some formulae are being floated in the BJP camp. BJP leaders are banking on the support of disgruntled Lingayat members in Congress and JD(S), who do not wish to see H. D. Kumaraswamy as their chief minister. But this is merely a speculation, nothing more, nothing less.

There are also speculations about Kumaraswamy’s brother H.D.Revanna revolting in his party. Revanna’s grouse has always been that his father H.D. Devegowda never gave him preference. This, also, is in the realm of speculation.

It is difficult to assess now who is going to join hands with whom, because such matters are always kept secret. As of this moment, there is an atmosphere of fear in the Congress camp, while the BJP camp is confident. BJP leaders are confident that Yeddyurappa will prove his majority. The biggest reason behind this optimism is that he has done it in the past.

With the Supreme Court today directing a floor test in Karnataka Assembly on Saturday, the stage is set for a historic trial of strength. The 64-million dollar question is: From where will Chief Minister Yeddyurappa get support to prove his majority?

With 222 elected members in a house of 224, the magic mark is 112. The Congress and Janata Dal(S) combination claims a support of 116 members, while the BJP has 104 elected members. There are two independents.

Some formulae are being floated in the BJP camp. BJP leaders are banking on the support of disgruntled Lingayat members in Congress and JD(S), who do not wish to see H. D. Kumaraswamy as their chief minister. But this is merely a speculation, nothing more, nothing less.

There are also speculations about Kumaraswamy’s brother H.D.Revanna revolting in his party. Revanna’s grouse has always been that his father H.D. Devegowda never gave him preference. This, also, is in the realm of speculation.

It is difficult to assess now who is going to join hands with whom, because such matters are always kept secret. As of this moment, there is an atmosphere of fear in the Congress camp, while the BJP camp is confident. BJP leaders are confident that Yeddyurappa will prove his majority. The biggest reason behind this optimism is that he has done it in the past.

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Halting security operations in Kashmir during Ramzan is a welcome step

aka_frame_244The Centre on Wednesday unilaterally announced that security forces will halt counter-insurgency operations in the Kashmir valley during the Islamic holy month of Ramzan. This is the first such step in the insurgency-torn state for more than 17 years. The NDA government under the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had similarly announced ceaseifre with militants in 2000 during Ramzan. That step had opened doors for peace moves at that time, but they could not fructify due to various other reasons. The people of valley still remember those peaceful days.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh has said that the decision to halt operations was taken “to help the peace loving Muslims observe Ramzan in a peaceful environment”, but he has cautioned that the security forces would retaliate, if attacked.

Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has been appealing to the Centre since a long time to apply the healing touch, and on Wednesday, she was the first among politicians to welcome the Centre’s move. National Conference leader Dr Farooq Abdullah has also welcomed this step and has expressed hope that Pakistan will reciprocate.

Let us hope that good sense will prevail on the minds of separatists and an atmosphere of peace will return for at least a month. Enough blood has been shed, and it is time to give peace a chance.

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Murder of democracy in West Bengal during panchayat polls

aka_frame_25451 (002)At least 12 people, mostly political activists belonging to various parties, died in widespread violence that rocked the state of West Bengal on Monday during panchayat polls. India TV showed visuals of a state minister slapping an agent of another political party inside a polling booth. Similarly a couple, said to be political activists, was burned to death hours before polling began.

One thing is clear: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress tried all sorts of tricks to win the panchayat elections. It began with forcibly preventing political activists from filing their nominations, and the High Court and Supreme Court had to intervene. TMC activists openly threatened and intimidated voters and supporters owing allegiance to rival parties. And on polling day, there were instances of booth capturing, firing and bloodletting too.

Trinamool Congress may sweep the panchayat polls, but this victory has no meaning, if the mandate does not carry the moral sanction of the people. This victory would be self-defeating, because in the entire process, democracy has been decimated.

TMC MP Derek O’Brien’s remark that deaths have occurred in the past too during poll violence, does not hold water. If a leading member of the ruling party tries to publicly justify political killings, it will be a sad day for democracy, and this deserves unequivocal condemnation. Even the death of a single individual during poll violence is unacceptable.

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Supercop Himanshu Roy’s suicide is a great loss to Mumbai Police

Aaj Ki Baat:  11 May 2018Former Maharashtra Anti-Terrrorist Squad chief Himanshu Roy shot himself in the mouth with a licensed revolver at his Nariman Point home in Mumbai on Friday sending shock waves among the entire Mumbai Police force and his friends in Bollywood. He was battling cancer since 2000, was undergoing treatment.

A fine police officer, he impressed one and all not only with his fine physique and swagger, but also with his sterling performance in investigating many high profile cases. He investigated journalist J. Dey murder case in which underworld don Chhota Rajan was recently given life imprisonment. He also investigated actress Laila Khan, 26/11 terror attack cases, Shakti Mill rape case, Malegaon blast case and Pallavi Purkayastha murder case, apart from the IPL spot fixing case.

Himanshu always took care of his fitness level, but fate willed otherwise. When it was found that his cancer had relapsed two years ago, he was given medical leave and was made Additional Director General (Home Guards) of Maharashtra Police. He was on leave for the last two years. He left behind a suicide note saying that he was taking this extreme step due to prolonged illness and depression.

Whatever may be the reason, this suicide by an able and highly decorated police officer has caused a great loss to Maharashtra and Mumbai Police.

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Karnataka poll result could go either way

akb 2At the end of a month-long hectic campaign, BJP president Amit Shah on Thursday made three predictions: (1) BJP will get more than 130 assembly seats in the Karnataka assembly, (2) B. S. Yeddyurappa will become the next Chief Minister, and (3) Yeddyurappa will complete his term for five years. On the other hand, Congress leader and Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah predicted that his party would get a “clear majority”.

The entire campaigning from both sides were marked with heated innuendoes and accusations, and as the days progressed, the focus of the campaign was more on Rahul vs Narendra Modi, instead of the two main contenders, Yeddyurappa vs Siddaramaiah. It was Prime Minister Modi who infused energy into the BJP poll campaign by addressing rallies, which noticed huge turnout of voters.

If one compares the crowds at the rallies of BJP and Congress, the former seems to be ahead, but nobody can predict with certainty, which way the wind will blow. Most of the opinion polls have predicted a see-saw battle with no clear winners, but those who keep an ear to the ground in Karnataka say, there is no discernible undercurrent in favour of any camp. The final results could go either way. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the polling on 12th and the counting on 15th May.

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Arrested Pakistani LeT terrorist thanks Army for not killing him

aka_frame_5269 (002)Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist, Aijaz Ahmed Gojri alias Abu Umair, arrested by security forces alongwith two of his associates in Baramulla district of Kashmir, has, in a video, thanked the army for not gunning him down. He has appealed to Kshmiri youths to give up arms and return to the national mainstream.

Aijaz was arrested alongwith two others in Baramulla district, after army gunned down three Lashkar terrorists in Chhatabal. The arrested terrorists were produced before the media on Wednesday in Srinagar. In the video, Aijaz says that he is alive because the army held fire during the encounter, and did not fire at him even as he himself fired at the jawans.

Catching terrorists alive is a big achievement for the security forces. They share important information about their group and provide vital clues about the line of thinking of their handlers. Four days ago, an assistant professor of sociology from Kashmir University, joined the last remaining terrorists of Burhan Wani’s group, and remained holed inside a house with them even as security forces appealed to him to surrender. Security forces called in his father and brother, who appealed to the assistant professor to surrender, but he was warned by terrorists that he would die if he went out and surrendered. He was advised to die fighting. The assistant professor toed the terrorists’ line and was ultimately gunned down.

I still hope misguided youths in Kashmir valley will listen to Aijaz’s appeal and return to their families after laying down their arms.

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Stone pelters killing tourist is a shame on Kashmiriyat

Aaj-KiBaat_frame_68290The death of a 22-year-old tourist from Tamil Nadu, R. Thirumani, due to stone pelting by a mob at Narbal on the Srinagar-Gulmarg highway on Monday has come as a shock to the tourism industry in Kashmir. In the stone pelting incident, two members of Thurmani’s family, including his mother, were also injured. Nearly half a dozen vehicles carrying tourists were attacked by stone pelters.

The people of Kashmir valley are known the world over for their excellent hospitality. Kashmiris always welcome tourists, and there had been not a single instance of violence against tourists till date. This unfortunate incident on Monday has come like a bolt of blue from the sky. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and all senior political leaders have condemned this attack. Tourists provide the backbone to the tourism industry in the Valley. People who run shikaras, cabs and hotels in the Valley are dependent on tourists, while common people get employment in the form of guides and cab drivers.

Monday’s incident is a clear case of desperation on part of the militants, who work on directions from across the border. They should know that they are harming their own Kashmiri brethren by resorting to such senseless acts.

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SC verdict quashing bungalows for ex-Chief Ministers a welcome step

akb (002)The Supreme Court, on Monday, in a scathing judgement quashed the law enacted in Uttar Pradesh allowing former Chief Ministers to retain their official bungalows. The apex court said, “a former chief minister is only a commoner and not a special class of citizen, who can enjoy privileges, perks and official bungalows at taxpayers’ expense for his entire lifetime.

In its verdict, the apex court observed that the Constitution recognises only “one single class of citizens with one singular voice (vote)”. The exceptions to this rule, it said, is confined only for the protection of backward classes, women, children, SC/ST and minorities. “A special class of citizens is abhorrent to the constitutional ethos”, the court said. The apex court had expanded the petition to cover all the other states.

On the face of it, it seems strange that former chief ministers should be allotted official bungalows in the state capital for the rest of their lives. I want to cite one example. Ramnaresh Yadav was chief minister of UP for two years from 1977 to 1979. He became the Governor of Chhattisgarh in 2014. Later he was given charge of Governor for Madhya Pradesh, but he continued to retain his official bungalow in Lucknow.

Ramnaresh Yadav used to stay in the Bhopal Raj Bhavan, while his son used to stay in the official bungalow in Lucknow. Similarly, two former CMs father-son duo Mulayam and Akhilesh Yadav live in adjacent official bungalows in Lucknow. Former CM Mayawati went to the extent of amalgamating three government bungalows to make one official bungalow for her use. Former CMs Rajnath Singh and Kalyan Singh also retain official bungalows in Lucknow.

With the Supreme Court giving its verdict, all these former chief ministers will have to vacate their bungalows. I hope this will be enforced in other states too.

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