Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Why was Surjewala made a scapegoat in Jind byelection?

AKB_frame_28217 (002)The BJP in Haryana, led by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, on Thursday got a shot in the arm when the party for the first time in the state’s history won the Jind assembly seat in a three-cornered  battle, relegating the Congress candidate Randeep Surjewala to third position.  

Though the results are out, there is a question lurking in the minds of most of the people as to why Surjewala, who was part of the core team of party president Rahul Gandhi, was made the scapegoat by fielding him in an assembly byelection, at a time when there are hardly nine months left for the Haryana assembly elections. Surjewala is already the Congress MLA from Kaithal, and yet he was fielded in Jind bypoll.  

Surjewala heads the media department of Congress in Delhi and he has carefully cultivated his image on the national level by forcefully presenting the party’s views on major issues. He is supposed to be close to Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, and at a crucial time, when the nation is at the crossroads, waiting for the general elections, he was suddenly fielded in a byelection in Haryana.  

After his defeat in Jind, the former chief minister of Haryana Bhupinder Singh Hoods reacted by saying that normally ruling party win byelections. The question is: then why was Surjewala fielded in Jind bypoll? 

Several Congress leaders attribute this to the internal strife going on in the Haryana unit of the party. They say that the BJP is well entrenched in power, with all the 10 Lok Sabha seats and majority of the seats of the state assembly in its kitty, and Hooda was hardly being noticed at the Centre. On the other hand, the rise of graph in Surjewala’s career was becoming an eyesore for Hooda, who is trying to groom his son Deepender Hooda.  

It was Hooda who gave Rahul Gandhi the idea to contest the Jind byelection by fielding a heavyweight like Surjewala, who had a track record of defeating former CM Om Prakash Chautala (now in jail after being convicted in a scam) twice in the past. Surjewala, being a loyal soldier of the party high command, could not refuse and he was thus made a scapegoat. This begs another question: why couldn’t Rahul Gandhi understand the apparent gameplan behind this idea?

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How Rahul tried to mislead the public after his courtesy call on Parrikar

AKB_frame_28217 (002)On Tuesday, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, without any prior appointment, called on the ailing Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar to enquire about his health, stayed for five minutes and left for Kochi, where, hours later, he told a gathering of party workers that Parrikar has clearly stated that he had no knowledge and he had nothing to do with the new Rafale aircraft deal.

An angry Parrikar then shot off a letter to Rahul Gandhi stating that Rafale deal was not at all discussed with him during his brief meeting. He wrote “paying a courtesy visit and then stooping so low as to make a false statement for petty political gain has raised in my mind questions about the sincerity and purpose of your visit itself”. Late Wednesday evening, Rahul Gandhi sent a letter to Manohar Parrikar clarifying that his references were drawn “from political domain and not from their meeting”.

Rahul may have thought that Parrikar, undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, would not react, but the Goa chief minister immediately wrote the letter and released it to the media, in order to put the record straight. Parrikar also wrote that he would continue to work for the people of Goa and India till his last breath. The Goa CM surely deserves praise for his forthrightness. We should all pray for his early recovery, but what Rahul did was unpardonable.

This is not the first time that Rahul Gandhi has made misleading statements. One should remember how Rahul stood in Lok Sabha and claimed that he had met the French President and the latter had clarified that there was no secrecy clause relating to pricing in the Rafale contract, but the very next day, the French President refuted his statement as incorrect.

Similarly, Rahul Gandhi had secretly met the Chinese ambassador in Delhi at a time when Indian army was in an eyeball-to-eyeball standoff against Chinese troops in Dokalam. His party spokespersons initially claimed that there was no such meeting, but when pictures of the meeting appeared in the media, the lie was exposed.

Rahul Gandhi had gone on a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash near Mansarovar in Tibet, and he had then claimed that he had no meeting with any Chinese minister. A few days ago, Rahul himself admitted in a meeting in Odisha that he did meet Chinese ministers during his Mansarovar trip.

Such misleading statements can be accepted and ignored in the rough and tumble of day-to-day politics, but what Rahul said after meeting Manohar Parrikar was unpardonable, to say the least. To seek political gain out of a courtesy call on an ailing politician goes against the principles of morality and civility.

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Modi’s move to return undisputed Ayodhya land will initiate building of Ram temple

aaj ki baat_frame_13770By filing a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking to return undisputed land in Ayodhya to their rightful owners, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has played a significant political card to address his core constituency. There have been growing pressures on his government, particularly from RSS and affiliates, that the Ram temple be built in Ayodhya on a war footing.

With the hearing in Supreme Court on the original dispute dragging, the Centre has sought to initiate the path for building Ram temple by filing this petition. Most of the followers of Lord Ram, particularly sadhus and Vishwa Hindu Parishad supporters, are happy with the Centre’s step. Almost the entire opposition, including the Congress, SP and BSP are silent on this issue, as they are wary of facing the wrath of Ram devotees.

In a single stroke, Prime Minister Modi has effectively replied to his detractors, who were making strident demands for early construction of Ram temple. Nearly 42 acres out of the 67 acres of land sought to be returned, belongs to Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, which can easily start the construction of Ram temple. This will fulfill centuries-old demands and aspirations of Hindus, who had been seeking the return of the birthplace of Lord Ram.

The construction of Ram temple will open up an era of brotherhood and social harmony, and if a favourable SC verdict comes, the centuries-old Ayodhya dispute will be consigned to the pages of history. The famous architect from Gujarat, Chandrakant Sompura, has been working on the model of Ram temple for the last 30 years, and his son Nikhil Sompura, as architect, had been overseeing the cutting and polishing of stones required for the temple.

Work on the outer perimeter of Ram temple can begin with the construction of Lakshman temple, Hanuman temple and Ganesh temple, as provided for in the plan. According to the Centre’s petition, only 0.313 acres of land that constituted the three domes of Babri mosque, is disputed and the apex court’s verdict is awaited.

The beginning of the construction of Ram temple will be a landmark in Indian history. Never had been the enthusiasm at its zenith, since the opening of Somnath temple in Gujarat after Independence by the then President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad and the then Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. It will be a triumph of faith over disharmony, of restoration of justice over centuries of injustice, and of the primacy of the sovereign will of the Indian people over the naysayers.

 

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As pressure mounts, Centre seeks SC nod to return undisputed land to Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas

aaj koi baat_frame_71065 (002)In a significant step ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the Centre on Tuesday filed a writ petition in Supreme Court seeking its permission to return the excess or superfluous land around the disputed site in Ayodhya to its rightful owners.  

In its plea, the Centre has said it had acquired 67 acres of land including 2.77 acres of disputed land in 1991. The petition says, Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas has sought return of excess land acquired in 1991 to its original owners. 

The Centre, in its petition, also said that the Constitution Bench of the apex court had, in 2003 in Ismail Faruqui case, had held that the superfluous area, other than the 0.313 acres of disputed site, can be reverted or restored to its original owners. In its plea, the Centre has now said that it has no objection to returning this excess land to its rightful owners, including Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas. 

The Supreme Court is presently hearing 14 appeals filed against 2010 Allahabad High Court judgement which had ordered trifurcation of 2.77 acre disputed land among three parties – Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. 

Today’s move by the Centre comes in the wake of religious gatherings being held at the Ardh Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj, by different camps of sadhus, where strident demands are being made for early construction of Ram Temple.  

Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati, a pro-Congress saint, held a Dharma Sansad on Monday where demands were made for early construction of Ram Temple. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad will also be holding its Dharma Sansad in Prayagraj on January 31. In the Supreme Court on Monday, the hearing on Ayodhya dispute could not take place due to the absence of a judge on the Constitution Bench.

The common man now feels that the court hearing on Ayodhya dispute may drag for a long time. Only a month is left for announcement of the Lok Sabha poll schedule and the Ram Temple issue is gaining prominence. The faith of millions of Hindus is linked to this issue, and hence, pressures are being mounted by different camps on the government to speed up the construction of the temple. 

The last budget session of Parliament is going to begin, and political watchers believe that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may play his trump card by bringing a bill to pave the process of building the Ram temple. The dice is loaded and the question now is: when? 

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Why Yogi said he can solve Ayodhya problem within 24 hours

aka_frame_71907Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath was the guest at our show Aap Ki Adalat in India TV studios on Friday, and I had asked him a point-blank question: when will the Ram temple be built in Ayodhya? His reply was emphatic.

Yogi said, the Supreme Court should not delay the hearing on Ayodhya dispute, and if it is unable to resolve, let the court hand over the issue to him, and he would solve the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute within 24 hours. “It won’t take 25 hours”, he added for more emphasis.

While most of the senior BJP leaders normally refrain from speaking out on this sensitive issue, Yogi put his point of view in a straight forward manner. The question is why Yogi made this point-blank remark on the longest festering dispute of this subcontinent? To me, it seems there is clarity in Yogi’s mind over this vexed issue.

In his reply, he first appealed to the apex court to deliver its verdict soon, since it was a matter of faith for millions of Indians who worship Lord Rama. But in the same vein, Yogi added, if the Supreme Court finds itself unable to deliver a verdict soon, it should hand over the dispute to his government, and he would resolve it “within 24 hours”. I asked him whether his government would resort to negotiations or use the stick, he smiled and replied, ‘first let the court give us the responsibility, we will resolve the dispute forever within 24 hours.’

Since the Lok Sabha elections are looming on the horizon, I asked Yogi questions relating to his party’s performance in UP, the entry of Priyanka Gandhi in politics, the SP-BSP alliance forged by the ‘bua-babua’ duo, the issue of lakhs of stray cattle in his state, the question of fear in the minds of Muslims, and he replied to each of the questions candidly. You can watch Aap Ki Adalat show with Yogi Adityanath tonight (Saturday Jan 26) at 10 pm on India TV.

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Swami Ramdev’s ideas to curb population growth should be appreciated

AKBYoga guru Swami Ramdev has suggested that voting rights and state-funded benefits should be taken away from couples having more than two children. Speaking at an event in Aligarh on Wednesday, Swami Ramdev said, “in order to put a brake on the fast spiralling population, voting rights, admission to government-funded educational institutions, government jobs and treatment facilities in government hospitals, should be withdrawn from people having more than two children irrespective of religion, caste or economic status.”

His remark has caused a controversy with some leaders from minority community questioning his motives. Population growth is undoubtedly at the root of most of our problems. No matter how many schools, colleges, hospitals and roads we build, they seem to be drops in the vast ocean of our nearly 130 crore population. Most of the political parties and their leaders realize this, but they do not dare to speak about curbing voting and welfare rights of couples who do not adhere to family planning norms. They clearly lack the political will and determination to arrest the growth of population.

One main reason could be the ghost of 1975 from the past. When the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi clamped Emergency, her son Sanjay Gandhi embarked on a massive sterilization drive to curb population growth. There were reports of coercion and forcible sterilization, and the Congress party had to face a rout in the 1977 Lok Sabha elections. No government at the Centre since then had the courage to implement a sterilization drive on that scale.

One should appreciate Swami Ramdev’s concern over population explosion. It is the duty of all Indians to ensure that population growth stays strictly within limits, so that the fruits of growth can be shared equitably by all. If we fail to do this, we would be bequeathing to our future generations a country bursting at its seams. Let all of us put our heads together and ensure that the unmanageable growth in population be curbed.

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Priyanka’s entry into politics will energize the rank and file in Congress party

aaj__ ki baat_frame_73175 (002)On Wednesday, Congress president Rahul Gandhi sprung a surprise by announcing the induction of his sister Priyanka into politics. He appointed her as the party general secretary in-charge of eastern UP.

The announcement was underplayed by the part by mentioning it in the third para of its press release. Nevertheless, the announcement caused jubilation among party ranks who celebrated this decision in different parts of the country.

I consider Priyanka’s entry into politics a mere formality because she had already been working for the party behind the scenes for the last several years. She used to run the ‘war room’ for Congress during UP assembly polls and she used to micro-manage the AICC meetings, deciding who would sit with brother Rahul on the dais.

It was Priyanka who was instrumental in deciding when Rahul should take over as party chief. Priyanka played an important role recently in deciding the names of three chief ministers in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Congress leaders say, Rahul wanted Sachin Pilot to become Rajasthan chief minister, but it was Priyanka who insisted on giving the mantle to Ashok Gehlot.

Priyanka was, and continues to be, much influential in the party behind the scenes. Senior party leaders knew about this development and it was an open secret.

Priyanka is no doubt politically aggressive – but in a different sense. Few people understand her brand of politics and strategizing. She has good knowledge of local politics, and knows the issues that relate to common people. She knows what to say and how to connect with voters. She also knows how to snap back at the opposition. On most of these points, she is ahead of her brother Rahul.

Many senior Congress leaders I spoke to, admitted that Priyanka is the party’s trump card. She has the potential to invigorate the party workers. But I am still surprised, why Rahul Gandhi made the announcement in this manner, and sought to underplay it.

Priyanka’s entry into politics should be seen from a larger point of view. I have information that she has written a book ‘Against Outrage’, in which she has narrated events following her father Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, the changes that came in her and her brother’s life, and in her mother’s life. The challenges and difficulties that her family had to face.

The book is due to be released by Penguin in March this year, and this could create ripples in political circles. The book is being translated from English into several Indian languages in order to get the maximum impact. I personally feel, Priyanka’s entry into politics and her book release during the thick of the election campaign will work to a large extent in energizing the party rank and file.

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Kashi Vishwanath corridor will change the face of Varanasi

A K B (007)Round-the-clock work has begun on a war footing to build Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘dream project’ of constructing Kashi Vishwanath corridor, right from river Ganga to the holy shrine.

The corridor, 400 metres long and 50 feet wide, will cover roughly 25,000 sq. metre of land, for which 270 old buildings are being demolished. An open auditorium will be built between Manikarnika Ghat and Lalita Ghat. A rest house for pilgrims, hospital, visual library, Vedic study centre, toilets, help desk, shops, etc. will also be built. A two-lane pathway will be built from the Ganga river ghat to Kashi Vishwanath temple. Prime Minister Modi has personally checked the model for the entire project.

Those who have visited Varanasi will know how this project will change the face of Varanasi and its river ghats. Till last year, the Kashi Vishwanath temple was not even visible to pilgrims from the ghats. Pilgrims, after taking a holy dip in the Ganga, had to pass through narrow alleys filled with mud and dirt. There were alleys where two persons could barely cross each other. The alleys were full of stray cattle and bulls. Pilgrims used to have a tough time walking through these alleys in order to reach the shrine.

Last week, I had asked the famous Ram Katha preacher Morari Bapu why he conducted his discourse at a crematorium ground in Varanasi instead of the holy Kashi Vishwanath temple. Bapu put a counter question: “Is there any space around Kashi Vishwanath temple to accomodate my audience?” I had no answer.

With the work going on the corridor at break neck speed, we should hope that PM Modi’s dream project will materialize at the earliest. Pilgrims can watch the holy shrine while taking a dip in Ganga, and they would not have to walk through dirty alleys. And there will be enough space near the Kashi Vishwanath temple to organize a Ram Katha, too.

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Let us all trust our Election Commission and our EVMs

aaj ki baat_frame_12087On Monday, a press conference was held in London by Indian Journalists Association (Europe) and Foreign Press Association, at which a person who called himself Syed Shuja, based in the US, alleged via Skype, that electronic voting machines used during 2014 Lok Sabha elections and during the assembly polls in Maharashtra, Delhi and UP were tampered with.

The hacker, partly covering his face and using a fake name, claimed he had worked for five years in Electronics Corporation of India Ltd, that manufactures EVMs. He also alleged that former Union Minister Gopinath Munde was murdered soon after 2014 LS polls, because he knew about EVM hacking. The man also claimed that EVMs, though not connected to internet, can be hacked using a military grade modulator on low frequency. He however refused to display the process live, citing security concerns.

Some Congress leaders may find substance in Syed Shuja’s allegations, but I believe the hacker’s claims are fraudulent. He failed to hack a single electronic voting machine before the media. He named two persons who, he said, got the EVMs hacked, but they are no more alive. Nobody can crosscheck the veracity of this man’s allegations.

The man went to the extent of claiming that BJP won several elections by tampering with the EVMs, but in elections where the Congress and other parties won, he claimed that he and his associates intervened to “stop” EVM tampering. This is totally untenable. Moreover, the presence of a senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal at the press conference in London raises more questions.

I fully trust our Election Commission of India, which had been using the EVMs manufactured by two public sector companies, ECIL and Bharat Electronics Ltd for the last several decades. These EVMs were used in many elections before 2014. The EVMs are not connected to internet, nor can they be intercepted during polling or counting in any manner. The best thing would be to ignore this man’s allegations altogether. His charges do not hold water.

 

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Centre should wait for SC hearing before taking any decision on Ram temple

aka_frame_71907The renowned Ram Katha preacher Morari Bapu was my guest in Aap Ki Adalat show (will be telecast on India TV this weekend) and I asked him several questions relating to some controversies. On the Ayodhya dispute, Morari Bapu was emphatic. He wanted a temple to be built at the Ram Janmabhoomi, and appealed to the Supreme Court to deliver its verdict at the earliest.

The RSS, of late, has been creating pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to bring an ordinance to acquire the disputed land in order to start building of the Ram temple. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has clearly said that the government must bring an ordinance soon, since the hearing in the apex court was dragging on and there seems to be no sign of an early verdict. The RSS chief is clearly not happy with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that the government would wait for the final SC verdict before taking any action.

For the government, there is no easy way out. BJP MP Dr Subramanian Swamy, while mentioning a cabinet resolution taken by former PM P V Narasimha Rao’s government, has suggested that the Centre can legally acquire the disputed land without waiting for the SC verdict, and compensation can be given at a later date if the verdict is to the contrary. This, he argues, will pave the way for early building of the Ram temple.

At a time when the issue is pending before the Supreme Court, any big decision on part of the government could anger the apex court. It would be better for the Centre to wait till January 29 when the hearing is expected to resume in the Supreme Court.

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SP-BSP alliance will pose a major challenge to BJP in UP

AKB_frame_9453 (002)The pre-poll alliance between the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh is going to pose a serious challenge to the ruling BJP. The combination of caste factors between Yadavs, Muslims and Dalits is going to make the alliance a formidable change, though BJP president Amit Shah said on Friday that in politics, chemistry matters more than mathematics.

SP supremo Akhilesh Yadav knows that his party on its own cannot achieve electoral success without the help of BSP. He is therefore ready to accept all the demands made by BSP leader Mayawati. It was on the insistence of the latter that Akhilesh Yadav agreed to keep the Congress out of the alliance.

Mayawati’s BSP had not won a single seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and yet Akhilesh has agreed to give 37 seats to the BSP. You can call it a strategy mixed with politics. If he had not done that, the forging of the alliance would not have been possible.

The BJP leadership understands the enormity of this challenge in UP, but in order to keep the morale of its workers high, its leaders have been saying that the alliance would turn out to be as hollow as the one Akhilesh had forged with Rahul Gandhi during the assembly elections. Time will tell.

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Why CBI chief Alok Verma was removed

AKB_frame_516Fifty four hours after the Supreme Court reinstated Alok Verma as CBI director, and left the matter to be decided by the Selection Committee headed by the Prime Minister, the CBI chief was removed from the agency again by the high-level committee on Thursday. The committee comprised PM Narendra Modi, SC judge A. K. Sikri representing the Chief Justice of India and the leader of Congress party in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge. Kharge gave a dissenting note and sought extension for the CBI chief.

The selection committee, according to official sources, felt that a detailed investigation, including criminal investigation, was necessary in some cases”. Under such circumstances, the continuance of Alok Verma as CBI chief was untenable.

In the last two-three months, the premier investigating agency has been witnessing the strange spectacle of the CBI Chief and the Additional Director Rakesh Asthana levelling charges of taking bribes against each other. Both had gone to the extent of recording statements of middlemen and filing cases against each other. The allegations were widely discussed in newspapers, television and social media, and the image of CBI built over the last several decades had been sullied.

There was no option left before the government but to remove both Verma and Asthana from their posts. The Central Vigilance Commissioner went through the allegations and gave its report to the government. The matter went to the Supreme Court. Soon after being reinstated by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Verma took over and carried out large-scale transfers, bringing his own men to key posts. Clearly, the CBI was facing another round of charges and counter-charges, and the government had to wield the stick again.

The other important point was that Alok Verma appeared to have become a convenient tool in the hands of those opposed to PM Modi. Congress president Rahul Gandhi had given statements in his favour, and Modi baiters, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan had defended his case in the Supreme Court. These were the individuals who were, in the same breath, demanding autonomy and independence for CBI. The question is: how can CBI get autonomy and independence, when its two top officers level charges against each other in an atmosphere surcharged by politics?
It needs to be mentioned here that Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge had filed a petition in favour of Alok Verma in the Supreme Court. Hence he was actually an interested party in the Selection Committee. Contrast this with the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who had heard petitions in the Alok Verma case, and therefore preferred not to go himself, but sent Justice Sikri to the Selection Committee meeting.

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