Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Mehbooba is playing with fire by making threatening remarks on J&K’s accession

AKB_frame_53438 (002)Former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister and JKPDP chief Mehboba Mufti has stoked a controversy by saying that Jammu & Kashmir’s “relations with India will end” if Articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution, which provide special status and exclusive powers to the state regarding residency, are abrogated.

This comes in the wake of a remark by BJP President Amit Shah, who had said that the two articles of the Consitution “are still our issues. We need full majority in Parliament. By 2020, we will have majority (in the Rajya Sabha)”.

Reacting to Amit Shah’s remark, Mehbooba Mufti said: “If that turns out to be the case, 2020 will also be a deadline from Jammu & Kashmir to the nation. If you remove those terms and conditions on which J&K acceded to India, our relations with the country will also end.”

On Wednesday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley described Mehbooba’s remark as ‘absurd’ and said that J&K will remain a part of India irrespective of what happens to Articles 35A and 370.

“The Instrument of Accession that Jammu & Kashmir’s Maharaja signed in 1947 was not different from the ones other princely states signed when they merged their princely states into the Indian Union. Article 370 came into being in 1950 and Article 35A was incorporated into the Constitution in 1954 and this makes it clear that these subsequent developments were not prerequisites to J&K’s accession to India.”

Jaitley said: “territorial integrity is part of the nation’s basic structure and can never be impacted by changes in the Constitution required by the country’s needs…Will India ever become part of the UK if Westminster were to revoke the Indian Independence Act?”

Political sabre rattling apart, the main issue is that of national unity and integrity. Mehbooba Mufti, Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah are playing with fire by making intemperate remarks. They are aware of the historical facts, but are deliberately keeping the facts away from the people of the Valley. Since it is poll fever time, such remarks are part of the usual routine, and Jaitley has done the right thing in pointing out the legal ramifications.

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Nation cannot accept any dilution of Armed Forces Special Powers Act

akbThe Indian National Congress in its election manifesto released on Tuesday promised to remove the anti-sedition law (Sec 124A of IPC) and review stringent provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act presently in force in Jammu and Kashmir and in several north-eastern states.

In its manifesto, the Congress has said it would “amend the AFSPA, 1958, in order to strike a balance between the powers of security forces and the human rights of citizens and to remove immunity for enforced disappearance, sexual violence and torture”.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley immediately hit out at the Congress, describing the manifesto as “a Charter to Weaken India” and said “it appears some of the points (in the manifesto) have been drafted by Congress President’s ‘tukde-tukde’ friends, when it deals with Jammu and Kashmir and national security….Being involved in terror will no longer be a crime. The party which says this does not deserve a single vote.”

Politics apart, the prime issue is that of national security and the morale of our armed forces. We cannot put the lives and careers of our security personnel in jeopardy in the name of garnering votes. The Congress party may have promised that it would do away with stringent provisions in the AFSPA, but has Rahul Gandhi ever given a thought to what will happen to our security forces battling insurgency in Kashmir and the North-East?

Our jawans and officers risk their lives while fighting terrorists, only for the larger interest of keeping our lives safe and secure, and conversely, it is our paramount duty to ensure that the lives of our jawans and officers are kept secure and they should be spared the agony and harassment of going to law courts to defend themselves for acts that they may have committed in self-defence and in the national interest.

Once a jawan or an officer is arraigned before a law court, he loses the support of the government and his family is left to fend for itself. How can one expect a jawan or an officer to face the terrorists in the face of a law that breathes down behind its neck?

I spoke to many retired army generals who strongly denounced this provision in the Congress manifesto and have alleged that this amounts to compromising national security. Such provisions can lower the morale of our armed forces and will openly give a boost to terrorism.

The nation cannot accept such a situation in any case. We cannot have our jawans and officers fighting the terrorists with one hand tied behind their back.

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Pakistan will face another surgical strike if it carries out terrorist misadventure

akbOn Monday night, India TV reported on its Aaj Ki Baat show, how a large Pakistani unmanned aerial vehicle was sighted across Khemkaran sector in Punjab and Indian Air Force scrambled two Sukhoi-30MKI jet fighters to stop the intrusion. As a panic reaction, Pakistan Air Force then scrambled its F-16 fighters, but since there was no airspace violation from either side, tensions receded soon after. This incident took place on early Monday morning.

This incident clearly indicates the level of high operational readiness of both the armies which are virtually on razor’s edge along the entire border and Line of Control. Fierce shelling from both sides is continuing across the 778-kilometre long LoC in Jammu & Kashmir.

Experts say there is much uneasiness in the Pakistani establishment since the successful Balakot air strike and the shooting down of a Pakistani F-16 fighter by an Indian MiG plane flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. Public opinion in Pakistan is openly against its own armed forces. To counter this, the Pakistani army has resorted to churning out baseless propaganda on social media.

Amidst the chest thumping exercise by the Pakistan army, there are intelligence reports of Pakistan preparing for another terrorist misadventure inside India to shore up its falling prestige. Our army, air force and navy are on high alert and ready to foil any such misadventure.

I have information from top sources in the Indian security establishment that if Pakistan carries out another terrorist misadventure of the Pulwama kind, it may invite swift retribution from India on a scale larger than the Balakot air strike.

Already there are intelligence inputs of Pakistan army regrouping the terrorists and sending them to terror training camps that have been restarted. These terror training camps are being provided army cover, and if any misadventure occurs, the next surgical strikes will be carried out against these terror camps inside Pakistan.

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Extradition of Nirav Modi will nullify Rahul’s slogan ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’

AKB_frame_51537For the second time, a London court rejected fugitive diamantaire Nirva Modi’s bail petition on Friday saying that he was a flight risk and could jump bail.

Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said in her order: “there are allegations of substantial fraud on the banks in India of up to US $2 billion (Rs 14,000 crore). The government of India has, very unusually for a case of fraud, alleged that interference of witnesses has taken place and that evidence has been destroyed. I am conscious of his right to bail but I find the conditions of bail do not allay my fears, so no bail.”

The Indian government’s counsel had argued that Nirav Modi had threatened to kill a witness, had destroyed evidence and even tried to buy citizenship in Vanuatu by paying $ 2 lakh. The counsel said, Nirav Modi threatened to kill a witness Ashish Lad and then offered him Rs 20 lakh to give a false statement.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot said, the bail bond offer of one million pounds was not substantial security in a case where a billion dollars is said to have been lost.

I had mentioned on the day of Nirav Modi’s arrest that he was working as an employee in a diamond jewellery company for a monthly salary of 20,000 pounds, out of which he was paying house rent of 17,000 pounds for an apartment in London. Now his job is gone, and he would not have to pay house rent since he is lodged in prison, and there are slim chances of him getting bail.

There are chances that Nirav Modi may be extradited to India soon, and if the CBI succeeds in its efforts, Rahul Gandhi’s “Chowkidar Chor Hai” slogan will stand nullified. Rahul will have to search for a new slogan to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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Why is Opposition worried over anti-satellite missile test ?

akb28MarchOn Wednesday, India successfully tested an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile to target a live satellite on low earth orbit (300 km), thus joining the exclusive elite club of three nations, US, Russia and China, which have this capability. The three-stage interceptor missile was fired from APJ Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha coast, and soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a televised address, announced the success of ‘Mission Shakti’.

The nation salutes its scientists in DRDO (Defence Research & Development Organisation) for giving India this capability. This is surely a defining moment in our historyl. However, this test in space set off a ground war in the Indian political arena with the opposition questioning its timing.

Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee went to the extent of complaining to the Election Commission alleging violation of Election Code of Conduct. Congress president Rahul Gandhi accused Modi of indulging in, what he called, “political theatre”.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley promptly hit back at the Congress president making a caustic comment with the proverb “when a finger points to the moon, the idiot points to the finger”. Jaitley said the opposition was only making “clerical objections”.

Opposition leaders have praised our scientists for this achievement, but they are worried because Prime Minister Modi has changed the electoral narrative by announcing this historic anti-satellite missile test.

The most worried politician seems to be Rahul Gandhi, who had been going to town with his ambitious Rs 72,000 a year minimum income guarantee promise for the last two days. The Congress president probably thought that his NYAY (minimum income) scheme would overshadow the narrative worked out by the BJP after the IAF air strike and Kisan Samman Nidhi plan, implemented by the Modi government.

While addressing his party workers on Wednesday, Rahul Gandhi said that the Prime Minister “was looking worried” in his televised address because of the minimum guarantee scheme.

The Congress president is free to make his own assumption but the fact remains that it was Prime Minister Modi, who had the political will to approve this missile test that has made India a world space power. The lesser we politicize this issue, the better.

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Why BJP leadership decided not to field Dr M M Joshi in LS polls

akbVeteran politician Dr Murli Manohar Joshi is 86 and he is part of the Marg Darshak Mandal of BJP. In the last Lok Sabha elections, Dr Joshi contested and won from Kanpur constituency. The party leadership had given him subtle hints several times in 2014 and 2019 to stay away from active politics and even offered him a Rajya Sabha seat, but the old veteran insisted that he would contest.

On Monday, Dr Joshi released a statement saying that the BJP organisation secretary Ram Lal has asked him “not to contest election from Kanpur or anywhere else”. The statement itself was cryptic.

In the afternoon, BJP announced that Satyadev Pachauri, a minister in UP government, will be fielded as party candidate from Kanpur. Joshi thus joins the list of party veterans L K Advani, Shanta Kumar, B C Khanduri and Bhagat Singh Koshiyari who have been denied party tickets due to old age.

It could have been better if Dr Joshi had himself offered not to contest. This could have saved embarrassment both to him and the party leadership. There is no denying the fact that Dr Joshi spent almost his entire life in building the party, he became party president, he was HRD Minister in Vajpayee’s government and he headed the party manifesto drafting committee several times. He contested and won LS seats from Allahabad, Varanasi and Kanpur.

As far as I know, neither the party had any ill feeling towards him, nor did he had any towards the party leadership. The only obstacle was his age and the party leadership has taken a correct decision in asking him to stay away from electoral contest.

The party leadership had to take into consideration the winnability issue for each and every seat in UP, because of serious challengers from the SP-BSP alliance, and the caste and community factors. The main battles of LS elections will be fought in Bihar, UP and West Bengal and the party leadership cannot afford to take risks.

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Winnability was the foremost factor in selection of BJP candidates

akbThe BJP announced its first list of 184 candidates for Lok Sabha elections on Thursday and the most important announcement was: Party president Amit Shah will contest from veteran leader L K Advani’s Gandhinagar constituency in Gujarat. Amit Shah is not new to Gandhinagar because he had been looking after Advani’s election for the last many years.

The suspense remains about another veteran leader Dr Murli Manohar Joshi. The candidate from Kanpur seat was not named on Thursday because there are reports that Dr Joshi wants to contest elections, and the party leadership does not want to tell ‘no’ to its veteran leader. Dr Joshi has not spoken to anybody so far, but there are indications that he may be persuaded to accept a Rajya Sabha seat, and excuse himself from the rough and tumble of Lok Sabha polls.

The list of 184 candidates clearly indicates the meticulous planning that went into deciding the names of contestants. Party chief Amit Shah obtained performance report cards for each and every MP, and this exercise was done in secrecy by professionals. These secret reports formed the basis for selection of candidates. I have seen a copy of the reports that give a clear indication of how the winnability factor of a candidate was decided.

The party leadership clearly went by the winnability factor and it cared the least about whether those who were denied tickets would become dissident or leave the party.

The second factor that worked behind preparation of the list was the clear division in the ranks of opposition. In UP, the SP-BSP alliance has kept the Congress out, in Bihar the ‘mahagathbandhan’ is still struggling to decide about the seats to be contested, in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress has already declared its list of candidates and the Left-Congress alliance too has collapsed.

Clearly, the first round has gone to the BJP, and the Lok Sabha poll campaign may revolve only around the persona and achievements of Narendra Modi.

 

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Unlike Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi’s extradition to India may be faster

AKB_frame_375London police on Tuesday swooped down on fugitive Nirav Modi at a local bank where he had gone to open an account. He was produced at a London court on Wednesday where the magistrate rejected his bail application and sent him to custody till March 29. The magistrate termed Nirav Modi as “a flight risk”, meaning that he could jump bail and flee the UK.

The fugitive diamantaire has been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to conceal criminal property. Nirav Modi will now appear before the chief magistrate on March 29. CBI and Enforcement Directorate officials believe that the process of Nirav Modi’s extradition will be faster compared to the long drawn-out exercise currently going on for Vijay Mallya’s extradition.

The two cases are not similar. Fugitive industrialist Vijay Mallya had gone to the UK on a valid passport and his passport was revoked later. Nirav Modi travelled to many countries and entered the UK illegally on a revoked Indian passport. Indian government’s requests for extradition of both these fugitives are pending before the UK authorities.

Both the CBI and ED have filed detailed charge sheets listing documentary evidence on bank forgery for issuing fake LoUs (letters of undertaking), e-mail conversations, bank transfers and use of shell companies for laundering money in at least 15 countries, including the UK. In their charge sheets, the CBI and ED have documented illegal laundering of nearly Rs 6,400 crore out of Rs 7,000 crore allegedly siphoned off from Punjab National Bank. Nirav Modi’s properties in India are being attached.

The arrest and the process of extradition of Nirav Modi will surely add a feather to the cap of Prime Minister Modi, who will be campaigning across the country. The message that will be conveyed to the people is that the ‘chowkidar’ is doggedly hunting down the ‘chors’ (thieves). This, in effect, may take the wind out of the sail of Rahul Gandhi’s slogan ‘chowkidar chor hai’.

 

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Advani, Joshi offering not to contest LS polls is a step in the right direction

AKB_frame_51537India TV reporters have filed stories on the decision of senior BJP leaders Lal Krishna Advani (age 91 years) and Dr Murli Manohar Joshi (age 85 years) offering not to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. I think, this is a step in the right direction. Both these stalwarts are part of the Margdarshak Mandal of the party, and they have now offered to stay out of active politics.

During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Advani, M M Joshi and former Himachal Pradesh CM Shanta Kumar (age 84 years) were requested not to contest. They were offered Rajya Sabha seats, but all the three leaders had then opted to contest. This time, both Advani and M M Joshi have offered not to contest and the party leadership has reportedly accepted their request.

It is a historical fact that stalwarts like Advani, Joshi and Shanta Kumar had toiled hard for most of their life in building the edifice of Bharatiya Jana Sangh (later BJP). They worked among the masses and spread the message of the party at a time when it was on the sidelines of mainstream Indian politics.

It was under Advani’s leadership that the BJP organisation spread far and wide across the length and breadth of the country. It was during his tenure as party chief that leaders like Narendra Modi, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and Sushma Swaraj rose on the political horizon.

And now times have changed. The party wants to field new faces and wants to give its old stalwarts a rest from the hustle and bustle of electoral politics. India has a burgeoning base of young and energetic voters and the new generation needs a fresh line of politicians. Any vibrant and dynamic party, in order to sustain itself, needs fresh infusion of young politicians and the time has now come to bid farewell to the older generation.

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India seeks FBI help in extraditing Dawood from Pakistan

akbIndia TV on Monday night in its show ‘Aaj Ki Baat‘ gave details of how terror fugitive Dawood Ibrahim has shifted from Karachi and is now staying in an ISI safe house in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.These and all other info are being shared by Indian agencies with two senior FBI officials from USA, who are presently in New Delhi to assist the government in extraditing the underworld don.

India’s case is that Dawood Ibrahim and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin are of Indian origin, and they can be put on trial only in Indian courts, unlike Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Saeed and Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar, who are of Pakistani origin.

A 280-page dossier on Dawood Ibrahim has been prepared and shown to FBI officials, according to this report. Dawood is wanted in 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts and several other terror attacks. India will hand over this dossier to the Pakistani High Commissioner in Delhi and demand that Dawood be extradited. The underworld don is now 64 years old, and he has undergone major plastic surgery. A sketch of Dawood based on his last known photographs has been prepared.

FBI has been told by Indian agencies that Dawood may have become old but his ‘D company’ is still active and he is helping Jaish-e-Mohammed in setting up ‘sleeper cells’ inside India. Indian agencies have given numbers and details of at least five passports issued by Pakistan to Dawood under assumed names. Addresses and details of Dawood’s residences in Karachi have also been shared in this dossier.

India and the US are presently engaged in intelligence sharing to counter terrorism, and the Indian government hopes that the US would exert pressure on Pakistan government to hand over India’s most wanted criminal.

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The inside story of how IAF launched its daring air strikes on Balakot

AKB_frame_16_MarchIndia TV on Friday night in its programme ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ telecast details about the meticulous planning that went into the daring IAF air strikes at the Jaish terror facility located in Balakot inside Pakistan. The actionable intelligence included details of the rooms inside the campus where the terrorists, their trainers, handlers and ISI army officers were staying. For the first time, these details have been made available to the media for the benefit of those who still doubt whether the air strikes were successful or not.

The idea of air strikes had originally come from Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal B. S. Dhanoa, who was himself a fighter pilot. He had a major role to play during the air strikes during 1999 Kargil conflict.

Air strikes nowadays are carried out only when detailed layout and plan alongwith info about specific targets are made available to the fighter pilots. Laser guided smart bombs are designed to hit specific targets only. The entire layout was mapped from satellite surveillance.

There were already info about terrorists’ trail through dense forests to the hill top where the Jaish facility was located. There was also info from intelligence that nearly 300 terrorists had gathered at the campus and the Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar was expected to come in the next 2-3 days. But our Air Chief decided not to wait, and went in for the air strike.

When the air strike plan was prepared for our Mirage-2000 jets, the main worry was how the Pakistan Air Force would react. The Prime Minister had given clear instructions that there should be no casualties on our side.

Our strategists found out that the Pakistan Air Force command would take 13 minutes to make their aircraft airborne to counter our fighter planes. Thus, our Air Force had a 13-minute window to enter the enemy airspace, carry out the strikes and return safely. The air strikes took place at 4:02 am and all our aircraft returned safely. By the time the Pakistani F-16 aircraft took off to counter the air strikes, it was too late.

Already the IAF had other jet aircraft ready to provide cover to our Mirage-2000 aircraft. Had the PAF F-16 aircraft come in hot pursuit into our air space, they could have been shot down. Pakistan Air Force has admitted that their aircraft withdrew when they found a strong squadron of our aircraft waiting for them.

One vital point: The Pakistan army was expecting a surgical strike on land either across the Line of Control or near the international border. It was because of this reason, Jaish terrorists were withdrawn 50 km away from the LoC and stationed at Balakot deep inside Pakistani territory.

The Pakistani army did not have an inkling that the IAF would carry out air strikes on Balakot camp. It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who revealed at a public rally that the enemy had expected a surgical strike on land, but the strikes were carried out from air.

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Accountability must be fixed for Mumbai CST foot over bridge collapse

AK(002)On Thursday evening during rush hour traffic, the concrete slabs of the foot over bridge linking to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus fell 35 feet below crushing people underneath. Till Friday morning, six persons died and 38 others were injured, many of them critical. The casualty figure is bound to rise.

Local people along with police and fire brigade rushed to the spot and saved several commuters.

This is not first such bridge collapse in Mumbai. On September 29, 2017, a stampede took place after the Elphinstone over bridge collapsed causing heavy casualties. Twenty three people lost their lives. Army help was taken to rebuild the foot over bridge. An audit was conducted for all foot over bridges in and around Mumbai, and the CST foot over bridge was given a clean chit by the engineers of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

Local leaders Raj Purohit, Milind Deora and Waris Pathan visited the spot and demanded action against the erring officials who were in charge of maintenance. Two Maharashtra ministers Vinod Tawde and Subhash Desai promised action against the officials. The accountability lies with the BMC, but the BMC Commissioner came to the spot to inspect and went away without speaking to the media.

Since it is election time now, the demand for action against officials may be overshadowed in the din of poll frenzy, but accountability for this mishap must be fixed at all costs, and the erring officials must be punished.

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