Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Nawaz Sharif plays a masterstroke

Aaj-Ki-baat_frame_62779On Friday night, former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam were arrested the moment their plane landed at Lahore international airport from Abu Dhabi. Both of them were whisked away to Islamabad, from where Nawaz will be sent to Adiala jail near Rawalpindi, while his daughter will be lodged in a rest house converted into a sub-jail. Nawaz and Maryam have been sentenced to 10 years’ and 7 years’ imprisonment by the Accountability Court.

The arrest and detention comes at a time when Pakistan will be going to general elections 10 days from now on July 25. Nawaz Sharif, an astute politician, knows that if he and his daughter stayed away from the country after being convicted on charges of corruption, it could end his political career. The former Prime Minister played a masterstroke, which the current Pakistani establishment and army never expected. Nawaz Sharif’s wife Kulsoom is lying in a critical condition in a London hospital. Nawaz Sharif took a big political gamble, leaving his ailing wife in London, and decided to return to his country alongwith his daughter. This political gambit has raised the morale of his partymen, and his party leaders now hope to get emotional support from the electorate. There is a possibility that Nawaz’s party could score good results in the upcoming elections, and this has left the current Pakistani establishment and army flummoxed.

On Friday evening, massive arrangements were made to prevent Nawaz’s supporters from reaching the airport. Internet and mobile services were suspended, and orders were issued to state-run TV channels not to carry any news about Nawaz Sharif. Despite all this, Nawaz managed to convey his message to the Pakistani people through the social media. Politically speaking, this was a success for the former PM, and all eyes are now on the results of the forthcoming general elections.

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Shashi Tharoor raises the bogey of a ‘Hindu Pakistan’

akb (002)The voluble Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor had a jibe at BJP when he said that if the BJP retained power in next year’s general elections, it would alter the Constitution, which, in turn, would create conditions for, what he called, a ‘Hindu Pakistan’. The BJP has demanded an apology from the Congress MP saying that it was nothing but an attack on ‘Indian democracy and Hindus’.

The Congress, on its part, distanced itself from the controversy and advised its leaders on the need for ‘responsible phraseology’. Chief spokesperson of the party Randeep Singh Surjewala said: “India’s values & fundamentals are an unequivocal guarantee of our civilisational role & set us apart from the divisive idea of Pakistan. All Congress leaders must realise this historic responsibility bestowed upon us while choosing words & phraseology to reject BJP’s hatred.”

The surprising thing about Tharoor’s comment is that he quoted remarks made by Veer Savarkar and Deendayal Upadhyay on Hindu Rashtra to justify his stand.

The Congress party is often embarrassed by comments made by its own leaders like Mani Shankar Aiyar and Shashi Tharoor. In such circumstances, the party spokespersons find themselves on a sticky wicket. They have no way out but to distance the party from such individual remarks, and advise their own leaders to think before they speak.

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Parliament must pass law to ban triple talaq

akb 2 (002)The custom of ‘triple talaq’ has become the bane of Muslim women in India. The Supreme Court has already declared triple talaq as unlawful, and the Centre prepared a legislation to stop this social evil. The bill was passed in Lok Sabha, but was held up in Rajya Sabha, because the main opposition parties like the Congress opposed several of its provisions.

On the ground level, triple talaq continues unabated. The cases of divorced Muslim women like Nida, Sabina and Nisha clearly illustrate the torment Muslim women have to go through. On Tuesday in Bareilly, UP, a Muslim woman Razia died of starvation. She was given triple talaq by her husband over phone, but Razia refused to leave her home. She stayed inside her home, and her husband refused to give her food. A month later, she died of hunger.

Such incidents shock all of us when we hear such stories. We should, after all, think about the society in which we live. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government took the initiative to legislate banning of triple talaq, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board objected saying that the government should not interfere in the community’s affairs. The Board had then promised that it would eradicate such social evils on its own. The AIMPLB must now answer what happened to its promise.

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World applauds the daring rescue mission inside a flooded cave in Thailand

Aaj-Ki-baat_frame_62779 (003)Curtains were finally drawn on the 18-day-long ordeal inside a treacherous flooded cave in northern Thailand, where 12 young footballers and their coach were trapped, battling for life. The international rescue mission set an example before the world to prove how bravery and technology can combine to surmount tough obstacles.

We should all praise the coach who kept the morale of his boys high, and showed them how to stay alive in tough conditions. He shared his food with the boys ad taught them lessons in endurance. When the world came to know about this disaster, trained and experienced divers were sent to assist the Thai Navy SEAL divers.

Let us hope the children who had undergone the traumatic experience will recover soon in hospital and take up FIFA’s offer to watch the World Cup final in time.

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The sordid murder of a dreaded gangster inside a UP jail

akb_frame_40061 (002)A dreaded gangster Prem Prakash Singh aka Munna Bajrangi was shot dead inside a jail in Baghpat, UP on Monday morning, hours after he was brought from Jhansi jail for production in a court.

According to officials, Munna Bajrangi was shot by another gangster Sunil Rathi, who had allegedly procured the .30 bore pistol that was hidden inside a septic tank.

Both were gangsters and were facing charges of heinous crimes. Munna Bajrangi had more than 40 cases of murder and extortion against him. He alongwith his associates had killed a BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai in 2005. Sunil Rathi had cases of murder, extortion and robbery against him.

The moot question is: how was a prisoner killed in cold blood inside a jail? And that too, inside the high-security barracks. The pistol that was used to pump ten bullets into Munna Bajrangi’s body vanished soon, but was recovered late in the evening. It points to a well-planned conspiracy. One hopes the answers to all these questions will be revealed soon and strict action will be taken against the culprit.

Till now, criminals in UP used to seek the safety of jails in order to evade “fake” encounters with police, but this too, has now become elusive. Conditions in UP jails have become worse over the years, and steps should be taken on a war footing to bring reforms in these jails.


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What Mehbooba Mufti said in ‘Aap Ki Adalat’

aaj-kibaatFormer Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti was my guest in the show Aap Ki Adalat yesterday (The show will be telecast on Saturday and Sunday). The gist of what she said during the show was that India will have to restart dialogue with Pakistan if bloodshed in the valley has to end.

In the show, Mehbooba said several times emphatically that talks were the only way out, and there was no other way. Mehbooba’s argument was that it was India which suffered heavily because of bloodshed in Kashmir, and Pakistan suffered less. So the onus on restarting dialogue falls on India more.

She agreed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried to start dialogue with Pakistan, but it had no desired results. Throughout the one-hour show, Mehbooba Mufti spoke repeatedly about former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s police of “Insaaniyat, Kashmiriyat and Jamhooriyat”. Her logic was that only Vajpayee’s path of dialogue and conciliation would solve the Kashmir problem.

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Vijay Mallya is fighting a losing battle in UK

Aaj-ki-Baat 6th julyThe United Kingdom High Court has allowed a consortium of 13 Indian banks to permit enforcement agencies to enter the sprawling estate of fugitive economic offender Vijay Mallya and seize his possessions to recover dues.

The former liquor baron has been staying in his estate in Tewin near London after fleeing India. Mallya owes the consortium Rs 6,203 crore plus interest, which comes to a total of Rs 9,863 crore. The court order clearly says that the High Court enforcement officer or his agent can enter the properties of Mallya and after search, can take possession of goods towards recovery of debts. It has allowed the enforcement officer to use “reasonable force, if necessary”.

Mallya is also facing an extradition trial at the Westminster Magistrate’s Court, and he is due to appear on July 31. India has sought his extradition and has conveyed its request at the highest level.

It appears that Mallya is now fighting a losing battle, and he may not be able to evade the hands of law. He will have to return to India and repay his debts. Mallya had last week written a letter to the State Bank of India expressing his willingness to auction his properties to repay the debts. He has also appealed before the Karnataka High Court. It seems that Mallya and his lawyers were aware of the adverse order that was to come from the UK High Court. The fugitive economic offender will now have to face the full brunt of law, which has been made stringent after he fled India to evade repayment of bank debts.

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Nothing wrong in PM Modi playing the ‘farmers card’

aaj ki baat_frame_5048The Centre on Wednesday hiked the minimum support prices of 14 Kharif crops for the 2018-19 marketing season. This was in pursuance of BJP’s 2014 poll promise to provide farmers at least 50 per cent profit over their cost of production. Prime Minister Narendra Modi later described it as a “historic hike”. This decision will entail a burden of nearly Rs 15,000 crore on the national exchequer, but the catch lies in its implementation.

Farmers have been complaining for the last several years that government procurement centres were not buying their crops in full, and grain merchants were forcing farmers to sell at lesser prices. The Centre will have to strengthen the procurement system in sync with the state governments.

Secondly, the hike in MSPs of farm produce will surely cause inflationary pressures on the prices of foodgrains and pulses. This is bound to affect the budget of common man, particularly the lower and middle classes. The government will have to find solutions to problems relating to inflation that are bound to occur in the short term.

The Congress has alleged that the ruling party has done this in order to garner the votes of farmers. The BJP is, after all, a political party, and it has been doing politics for the sake of power. There is nothing wrong if it takes steps in order to get the votes of farming community.

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Mumbai overbridge collapse was a mishap waiting to happen

Rajat Sir (002)I would first like to thank Almighty that not a single person died in the sudden foot overbridge collapse at Andheri station in Mumbay on Tuesday. Due to heavy rains, there were only a few people on the overbridge. Last year, the stampede on Elphinstone bridge caused the death of 23 persons.

At that time, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal had taken swift action, and a new overbridge was installed with the help of the army. Goyal had then promised that more attention would be paid towards passengers’ safety.

The question is not of safety alone. There are many such bridges which have become old and rickety. Most of them were built during the British period, and have outlived their tenure and utility. These bridges have already been declared dangerous.

Now that the Railway Minister has ordered an audit of 450 such bridges, to be carried out under the supervision of an IIT Director, one should hope that the replacement and/or repair of these bridges will be taken up on a war footing.

I would also like to praise the steadfastness of Mumbaikars, who carried on with their daily work, despite heavy rains. Mumbai is truly called The City That Never Sleeps in India. It is a tragic irony that the duty conscious and brave Mumbaikars have to face mishaps during rains every year. Last year, a renowned doctor was washed away in rainwater when he fell into an open manhole. There have been mishaps when live wire fell in water causing electrocution. And yet the pace of life in this metro never slackened.

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There is nothing wrong in Pranab Mukherjee attending RSS event

Aaj Ki BBaat_frame_62022 (002)The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has invited former President Pranab Mukherjee to address its cadres in its headquarters in Nagpur on June 7 at the Sangh Shiksha Varg, a third-year training camp of RSS workers. The former President has accepted the invitation and he will be addressing the RSS cadres.

This has raised the heckles of several senior Congress leaders who have been alleging RSS to be a “divisive” organisation. One of the Congress leaders, former Railway Minister C K Jaffer Sharief has sent a letter to Mukherjee requesting him to reconsider his decision.

Pranab Mukherjee is one of the seniormost leaders of Congress, highly experienced and knowledgeable, and a known “troubleshooter” during the UPA regime. I do not find anything objectionable in the former President attending an RSS event.

I would like to remind senior Congress leaders about a few facts relating to RSS. During the 1962 Sino-Indian war, RSS workers played an exemplary role in civil defence, and the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru allowed RSS to send a special contingent to take part in the 1963 Republic Day parade on Rajpath in Delhi. Mahatma Gandhi himself visited an RSS camp at Wardha in 1934 and praised its discipline, and former PM Indira Gandhi had praised the relief activities undertaken by RSS among refugees from erstwhile East Pakistan in 1971.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader and Lalu Prasad’s son Tejashwi has also raised objections over Mukherjee’s Nagpur visit. Tejashwi is young and not experienced. He probably does not know that Socialist party founder Ram Manohar Lohia had praised the RSS, and the late Jayaprakash Narayan had attended an RSS event and addressed its workers. If former President Mukherjee attends the RSS camp, there is nothing wrong in it. If people having different ideologies meet , express their opinions and listen to the views of others, it is a good sign for democracy.


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Election Commission must take up VVPAT snag issue speedily

aaj ki baat_frame_987On Monday, when lakhs of voters in four Lok Sabha and nine assembly constituencies went to cast their vote in the byelections, VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) units attached to EVMs (electronic voting machines) were found malfunctioning in many of the polling booths.

The Election Comission had to use more than 1,200 reserve VVPAT units to replace the defective ones. Repolling may take place in several of the polling stations after the observers send in their reports.

According to EC, 20.8 per cent VVPAT units had to be replaced in Kairana, 19.2 per cent in Bhandara-Gondiya, 13.2 pc in Palghar, 12.4 pc in Maheshtala, and 11 pc in Shahkot constituencies. The EC has asked its engineers to find out whether the sensors malfunctioned due to excessive heat, or was it because polling officers were unfamiliar with the handling of VVPAT units.

Several opposition leaders have alleged conspiracy behind this malfunctioning, but I feel this is not a valid allegation. The only consolation is that such technical snags were detected during byelections, because the Lok Sabha elections are due in May next year, when heat wave will be at its zenith.

It is time that the EC takes up the task of rectifying the problems on a war footing. Speed is of the essence because assembly elections are due in three states, Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh, later this year. There is urgent need to ensure that the trust of the electorate in EVMs and VVPATs is restored, at the earliest.

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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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