Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

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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How a Bihar minister was instrumental in circulating fake news

Rajat Sharma Aaj Ki Baat 4th May 2018

Aaj Ki Baat 4th May 2018

On Thursday evening, TV news channels showed visuals of an overturned passenger bus in flames in Motihari, Bihar, alongwith news that 27 out of the 32 passengers inside the bus had perished. What was the source? Bihar’s minister Dinesh Chandra Yadav, who cited ‘local sources’ and gave out this figure. Most of the new channes flashed this death toll and the Prime Minister and Chief Minister of Bihar sent out tweets condoling the deaths. A two-minute silence was observed at a meeting where CM Nitish Kumar was present, and the state government announced compensation.

Late in the night, it turned out that the death toll given out was false. There were hardly 13 passengers inside the bus, and all of them had escaped death. Meanwhile, another Bihar minister Nand Kishore Yadav blamed the media for giving out this figure. The fact is that the earlier minister had hurriedly given out the death toll figure, without verifying it. The minister did not wait for the final report and gave out the death toll figure.

On visual and digital media, the death toll was first given out at 27, it was then reduced to 12, and at around 8 pm, it was reported that six persons had died. I did not share this news on Aaj Ki Baat that night, because of doubts about the veracity of the death toll figure. I can understand the compulsions of the Prime Minister and Bihar Chief Minister, who went on Twitter, to offer their condolences. With the political temperature rising nowadays, the opposition could have blamed them for being insensitive, if they had not reacted fast.

On the whole, this development shows a mirror to the entire system within which leaders and bureaucrats function. Ministers in Bihar should henceforth practise caution before speaking out about death toll in tragedies. They should verify from reliable sources before giving out such figures. They should realize that the words of ministers and political leaders carry weight. I hope this will not be repeated in future.

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Modi’s campaign seems to have changed Karnataka poll scenario

AajKiBaat_frame_54252 (002)On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed three rallies and sharpened his attacks on Congress and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Most of the opinion polls that were conducted till now in Karnataka had predicted a hung assembly, but these opinion polls were conducted prior to Modi’s poll campaign. BJP leaders in Karnataka now believe that Modi’s whirlwind campaign may change the entire scenario.

After noticing huge crowds at Modi’s rallies in the last two days, the party has now decided that the Prime Minister will address 21 public meetings instead of 15, as scheduled earlier. Modi’s rallies have energized BJP leaders in Karnataka, and most of them now claim that the PM has turned the tide in just two days. They expect a huge favourable swing once the voters go to polling booths on May 12.

In the Congress camp, party president Rahul Gandhi is no doubt toiling hard in his campaign. He has changed his style of speech in Karnataka, he is visiting temples and mosques, but those working on his speeches should rethink about the content. If we take one example from Rahul’s speeches: he first said that he would not make personal attacks on Modi, since he is the Prime Minister, but in the next line, he compared Modi with Gabbar Singh. Is this a personal attack or not? Rahul’s advisers should rethink their strategy.


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Stonepelters in the Valley have no religion

aka_frame_17507On Wednesday, a group of stonepelters stoned a school bus carrying 30 to 40 kids in Shopian, one of the hotbeds of militancy in Kashmir. Two school children were injured, and one of them was referred to Srinagar hospital because of his critical condition.

These are really bad days in the Valley. I can only imagine the pain of the parents who had sent their kids to school. If such incidents happen, every parent in the Valley will fear sending children to school. Stonepelters have no religion. Whenever security forces target militants, these stonepelters appear on the scene and indulge in stonepelting in order to divert the attention of soldiers. This has now become almost standard practice.

Three terrorists were killed in Shopian on Tuesday, and, in retaliation, militants killed three civilians. Their sympathizers pelted stones at a school bus carrying children.

Today I want to ask those who raise the issue of human rights in the defence of stonepelters. How can they defend such an inhuman action? These self-styled advocates of human rights must tell the nation what should be done with the stone pelters who threw stones at children studying in Class Two.

After Wednesday’s stonepelting incident, most of the Kashmiris have started saying that such stonepelters, who defy all canons of human values, have no right to live. By their action, these stonepelters have soiled their hands with the blood of innocent children. Security forces need not handle such stonepelters with a soft approach, but I am worrying about those who will stand up with posters and placards whenever a severe action is taken again stonepelters.

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Why PM Modi adopts aggressive mode during poll campaigns?

Aaj-Ki-Baat_frame_68480 (002)Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday launched his election campaign in poll-bound Karnataka by daring Congress President Rahul Gandhi to address rallies for 15 minutes without taking help of notes. He also dared Rahul Gandhi to utter the word ‘Vishveshvaraiya’ at least five times publicly. The Congress president while recently addressing an election rally had fumbled while remembering the great engineering icon, on whose birthday Engineers Day is celebrated all over India.

The Congress is worried over the strident posturing of Modi. Some political pundits say, the Prime Minister should be careful about the tone and tenor of his language, while some question why PM Modi becomes so aggressive during poll campaign.

Whenever Modi speaks on stage as Prime Minister, his speeches are well modulated and dignified, but at election rallies, Modi does not speak as a Prime Minister. He speaks as the star campaigner for his party, and there lies the difference.

As a campaigner, Modi adopts a strident language, which can hurt sometimes. Modi attacks Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi directly, but whenever elections are over, Modi is on record of having said that all leaders should leave behind the bitterness of poll campaigns.

The fact is that, neither he forgets, nor he lets other forget. That is Modi’s speciality, and this puts him apart from other leaders. You will find more and more aggression in Modi’s speeches as the campaign continues in Karnataka.


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Politics over Lalu Prasad’s discharge from AIIMS

aajkibaat_frame_600 (002)There was drama at the AIIMS hospital in Delhi on Monday, when RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, presently undergoing imprisonment in a fodder scam case, was discharged by doctors and preparations began for taking him in a Rajdhani Express to Ranchi. Lalu Prasad alleged that this was being done as part of what he called “a conspiracy”. There were protests by some RJD workers at AIIMS, and police had to lodge an FIR. Lalu Prasad was taken to Ranchi amidst tight security.

There is no dispute about the fact that Lalu Prasad is unwell and he deserves better treatment. He fell ill in Ranchi, and he was shifted to AIIMS Delhi for treatment. AIIMS doctors now say, Lalu Prasad has recovered and he can be sent back. One should trust the opinion of the AIIMS medical team, because doctors at AIIMS do not take decision under any pressure.

However, a political twist was given when Congress president Rahul Gandhi visited Lalu Prasad in AIIMS on Monday. BJP president Amit Shah and JD(U) leader K C Tyagi reminded about the draft ordinance paper that was publicly tore up by Rahul Gandhi in 2013 during the last days of UPA regime. The ordinance was prepared to negate the Supreme Court verdict which had struck down a provision in electoral law which allowed a convicted MP or MLA to continue in their post if they make an appeal to a higher court within three months. Rahul Gandhi had then described the draft ordinance as “complete nonsense”, and the Union Cabinet of the then PM Dr Manmohan Singh had hurriedly withdrawn the draft ordinance.

The entire drama in 2013 was enacted in order to convey a message to the public on the eve of 2014 Lok Sabha polls that Rahul Gandhi was against corruption and he was not in favour of allowing a convicted MP like Lalu Prasad to contest. The cat was out of the bag later when the then President Pranab Mukherjee revealed that he had already rejected the draft ordinance, and there was no need for Rahul to tear up the draft ordinance paper. Since people were then unaware about the President’s action, the message that went down the line was that Rahul Gandhi was against Lalu Prasad’s corrupt dealings.

Now the times have changed. Since Lalu Prasad is one of the founding members of the opposition front that is taking shape against PM Narendra Modi, and Rahul Gandhi is one of its members, the Congress president has now changed his track, and he went to meet Lalu Prasad in hospital.

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