Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

PM Modi has demolished the wall that had separated upper castes from others

akb_frame_7178The Lok Sabha on Tuesday night passed the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill seeking to provide 10 per cent reservation to people of economically weaker sections who had been kept out of the quota system till now. This is a landmark historic step in the annals of Indian history.

In one stroke, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has demolished the wall of reservation that had separated upper castes from Other Backward Castes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Poverty does not chose castes at the time of anyone’s birth. Till this date, reservation was being given on the basis of castes. Once this bill is enacted, brilliant and meritorious students from economically poorer strata of upper castes can find a ray of hope while seeking jobs or applying for higher education. There are millions of families belonging to upper castes, who are poor, but had been deprived of the fruits of reservation.

It was left to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to answer the question as to why poor youths from upper castes are not given reservation in jobs and education. Most of the political parties, including Congress, used to promise reservation for economically weaker sections in their election manifestos, but they never had the political will to implement it. These parties and their leaders feared backlash from OBC and SC, ST vote banks.

The Constitution Amendment Bill is truly a revolutionary step and it is heartening to see most of the political parties supporting this bill. From now on, poor children from upper caste strata will never complain that they had been facing injustice on account of reservation.

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Upper caste reservation could be a game changer for Modi

aka_frame_71907Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet on Monday approved a Constitutional Amendment Bill which seeks to provide 10 per cent reservation in admissions to educational institutions and central government jobs for economically weaker sections from among upper castes and all other communities who do not enjoy quota benefits.

This move will have a far-reaching political significance in view of the upcoming parliamentary elections. On the face of it, this is a well-considered decision to give reservation in jobs to poor people from all those castes, which had been out of the purview of reservation till now.

There are however two major questions that arise. One, will the government be able to get the Constitutional Amendment Bill passed in both Houses of Parliament by a two-third majority, and can it stand judicial scrutiny? I think most of the political parties will not take the risk of opposing this measure, and the government may manage to get it passed in both Houses.

The second question: what will be the political fallout? Upper castes had been demanding reservation for their economically weaker sections for the last several decades in different states. This bill can serve as a game changer for Prime Minister Modi in winning over their support and give them relief.

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Why Rahul Gandhi is unwilling to listen to logical replies on Rafale deal

A_K_B (1) (003)Towards the end of her two-and-a-half-hour marathon reply on the Rafale debate in Lok Sabha on Friday, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman turned visibly emotional and lashed out at Congress president Rahul Gandhi for calling her “jhoothi” (liar) and Prime Minister Modi “chor” (thief). Sitharaman said, ‘I don’t have a khaandan (dynasty) to boast of. I come from an ordinary background. I come with my honour intact. Our Prime Minister comes from an economically backward family. You have no right to call me a liar and our PM as thief.”
There were reasons for the Defence Minister to become emotional. I listed to her marathon reply in Lok Sabha. She had come with all facts and figures. In spite of continuous interruptions, she replied to most of the points raised by the Opposition.

On his part, Rahul Gandhi also asked direct and logical questions about the deal. It appeared as if the debate was going to be fruitful, but towards the end, the Congress president winked twice at somebody inside the House, and spoiled the seriousness of the debate on an issue that relates to national security. It looked as if he was out to have fun and had little interest in the reply being given by the Defence Minister.

Joking apart, I have said several times in the recent past that the Congress wants to make Rafale an electoral issue, and no matter how many times the government gives clarifications, it is trying hard to let the mud of corruption charge against Modi stick.

Rahul is continuously harping on his allegation that PM Modi has given benefit to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore to Anil Ambani. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had clarified in the Lok Sabha on Thursday that the entire Rafale deal was to the tune of Rs 58,000 crore, out of which 50 per cent, or Rs 29,000 crore comes under offset obligations clause. There are nearly 100 companies under offset obligations, out of which Anil Ambani’s company has got only Rs 870 crore worth business. From where did the figure of Rs 30,000 crore come?

But logic has no place in a setting where Rahul Gandhi has a set pattern of dialogues, which he used during the MP, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh elections, and which he is going to repeat during his campaign for the parliamentary elections.

As an opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi has the right to decide on issues that he intends to raise, he has the right not to accept the replies given by the government, but he should trust the Supreme Court’s verdict, which went through the entire procurement process, pricing and offset obligations in Rafale deal, and found no irregularities. All of us should respect the Supreme Court’s verdict.

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Why is Kejriwal trying to forge alliance with Congress ?

AKB_frame_454The Delhi Assembly on Thursday was witness to a sorry spectacle when Sikh MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa was forcibly marshalled out from the House and his turban was forcibly removed. Sirsa alleged that Aam Aadmi Party MLAs egged on the marshals to manhandle him. Sirsa had given notice for removal of the Assembly Speaker, which the latter had rejected.

In his notice, Sirsa alleged that the assembly had on December 21 passed a resolution calling for withdrawal of Bharat Ratna from former PM Late Rajiv Gandhi for giving support to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Sirsa alleged that the sentence was later removed by AAP from the resolution. The Sikh MLA, who belongs to Akal Dal, but has won the Rajouri Garden seat on BJP symbol, yesterday demanded that the names of Gandhi family members be removed from all institutions, schemes and roads, and the House should adopt a resolution stating that “the late Rajiv Gandhi was an accused of 1984 carnage”.

You might wonder why Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his party men did this. Till last year, the AAP leaders had been demanding removal of Rajiv Gandhi’s name from institutions, schemes and roads, but now time has changed. Kejriwal wants to ally with Congress in Delhi and Punjab, since he and his associates have realized that they cannot win elections without Congress support.

Kejriwal and his associates know fully well that if they denounce Rajiv Gandhi, there will be no chance of forging an alliance with the Congress. Morality and principles have no place in such matters. It is a clear case of political opportunism propelled by the lust for power.

In a related development, senior Supreme Court advocate and AAP’s former leader of opposition in Punjab assembly H. S. Phoolka resigned from the party on Thursday opposing Kejriwal’s move for a tie-up with the Congress. Phoolka was the person who doggedly fought in courts for 34 years to give justice to the victims of 1984 carnage. The senior advocate had earlier believed that Kejriwal had sympathy for the 1984 riot victims, but he has now realized that the AAP supremo is guided only by the lust for power. He has now decided to part ways.

You may recall how Anna Hazare, Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav and Kumar Vishwas left AAP one by one because of Kejriwal’s arbitrary style of functioning. H.S.Phoolka is the latest addition to the list. It will not be difficult any more for Kejriwal to join hands with Congress at the hustings.


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Rahul has nothing new to add to his allegations against Modi over Rafale deal

A K BThe Lok Sabha on Wednesday witnessed an acrimonious debate on the Rafale fighter deal, with Congress President Rahul Gandhi initiating the discussion. He tried to stir up a fresh controversy by offering to “play inside the House” an audio clip purportedly between the Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane and a local journalist, in which the former is said to have referred to the Rafale deal. Both Rane and Goa CM Manohar Parrikar have denied this.

Pointedly when asked by the Speaker whether he was ready to authenticate the audio conversation, Rahul Gandhi backed out. It seems he was not sure whether the audio clip was genuine or not. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley later rightly said that Rahul declined to authenticate because he knows that the tape is “false and fabricated”.

In his speech, Rahul repeated the same allegations that he had been making for nearly 600 times in the last six months. He repeated his allegation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a bounty of Rs 30,000 crores to industrialist Anil Ambani, after buying Rafale aircraft at, what he called, inflated prices.

In the last six months, PM Modi, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have explained the Rafale deal in details both inside and outside Parliament, but Rahul continued to repeat his allegations. The matter went to the Supreme Court, where experienced luminaries like Yashwant Sinha, Prashant Bhushan and Arun Shourie took part in the hearing. After hearing all the parties, the Supreme Court gave a clean chit to the deal. And yet, Rahul Gandhi is persistently repeating his allegations.

Till Tuesday, Rahul had been alleging that the government was running away from a debate inside the House, but on Wednesday, he was given full freedom to make his points in the debate. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley later succinctly replied to each and every allegation levelled by Rahul Gandhi. In the evening, Rahul again addressed a press conference and repeated the same allegations. He had nothing new to add.

The question now is why Rahul Gandhi is doing this. There seems to be one valid reason. In the last 2014 parliamentary elections, the BJP had decimated the Congress at the hustings on the issue of corruption. Prime Minister Modi says, there has not been a single major charge of corruption against his government in the last four and a half years.

By repeating his allegations, Rahul is trying hard so that at least one corruption charge against the Modi government could stick. I personally know several senior Congress leaders who have confided to me in private that the Rafale controversy is having no effect on the electorate, and it would be difficult to make any corruption charge stick against Modi. They want a change in the party’s poll strategy.

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PM Modi has set the tone for Lok Sabha elections

Aaj-Ki-Baat_frame_1798 (002)Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his wide-ranging interview given to ANI, spoke on all major issues and did not duck a single question. He has practically set the tone for the crucial Lok Sabha elections that will take place after a few months. There were many who said that the PM did not look aggressive in the interview, but I personally feel that Modi was only giving an account of what his government has done so far. While doing so, he did not refrain from attacking the Congress, and his tone was certainly aggressive.

On Ram temple, Modi said, Congress should withdraw its lawyers from Supreme Court, who were delaying the hearing; on CBI, RBI and the judiciary, he explained how the Congress weakened these institutions in the last 70 years; on farmers’ issues, he alleged how Rahul Gandhi’s farm loan waiver idea was a fraud on farmers who are loaded with debts; on cross-LoC surgical strike, Modi reminded how Rahul tried to politicize the army action; on issue of corruption, the PM recalled how Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are out on bail. All these remarks were made aggressively.

In the next 100 days, the Prime Minister will be going to the people to explain how his government has provided LPG and electricity connections to poor families, gave lakhs of crores worth loans under Mudra scheme, held a tight leash on inflation and helped the middle class. In the same vein, Modi will be targeting what he called ‘doublespeak’ and duplicitous stands taken by the Congress. Modi already seems to have started his campaign with this wide-ranging interview and he will now be addressing 100 rallies to convey his message to the masses. His message to the anti-Modi opposition is clear: this is just the beginning.

And now, each of the major issues on which the PM spoke.

One, Ram temple. Modi’s supporters, BJP workers, RSS volunteers and devotees of Lord Ram had been asking, if the temple cannot come up with Modi at the Centre and Yogi in Lucknow, then when will it be built? RSS leaders Mohan Bhagwat and Bhaiyyaji Joshi had been demanding an ordinance to clear the way for building the temple. Their argument was: if an ordinance for banning Triple Talaq can be brought, then why not on the temple? Only Modi could have answered this question. He said, the law banning Triple Talaq was brought after the Supreme Court gave its verdict. And any step to fulfill the wishes of millions of Hindus can be taken only after the judicial process in the apex court is over. Modi made it clear that he would not be going to do things in a hurry, but he will keep the aspirations of devotees of Lord Ram in mind.

Two, on Pakistan and cross-LoC surgical strike. Modi did not speak on how to deal with Imran Khan’s government in Pakistan. Presently, this would have been certainly immature. What he said was, It will be a huge mistake to believe that Pakistan will mend its ways after one conflict, and it will take a lot of time to make Pakistan mend its ways. Modi explained in detail how the surgical strike decision was not taken in a hurry, though it was a huge political risk. The PM reminded how Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal tried to politicize the issue by raising doubts about the surgical strike and using language which suited Pakistan.

Three, on Rahul Gandhi’s favourite issue Rafale, Modi spoke. Rahul Gandhi had been going around the country levelling charges and challenging Modi to speak. The PM said, he had already given details about the Rafale deal in Parliament, and the Supreme Court went into the nitty-gritty of the deal before issuing a clean chit to the government. Modi said, questioning each and every defence deal tends to lower the morale of our jawans. He alleged that for the last 70 years, middlemen had been active in most of the defence deals, and this can end only with the ambitious Make in India plan.

Four, on demonetization and economic offenders, Modi said, the decision to demonetize currency notes in 2016 was not taken in a hurry. For one whole year, people hoarding black money were given opportunity to come out with disclosures, and the decision to demonetize was taken as a last resort. Modi said that prices of real estate fell drastically because of demonetization. On economic offenders, Modi explained how efforts are afoot to extradite Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya, who had taken thousands of crores from banks as loans and had fled India. He described the extradition of Agusta Westland middleman Christian Michel as a big achievement, and pointed out that Michel’s sensational disclosures are surely going to hurt the Congress.

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The shocking story of UP gangster ex-MP Atiq Ahmed

aaj ki baat (002)The nation should wake up to the fact that the rot has set in deep inside our judicial custody system, where a gangster in UP has the gumption to get a Lucknow businessman kidnapped, brought to Deoria jail, and thrashed by his goons inside the gangsters’ barracks. Nobody can even imagine about a gangster hijacking a jail administration in this manner. Earlier we had seen how gangsters in some jails manage to get VIP facilities and organize parties inside their barracks, but this one takes the cake.

Let me recapitulate from the beginning. Former Samajwadi Party MP and Allahabad gangster Atiq Ahmed was in Deoria jail, facing multiple cases of murder and other heinous crimes. He got a Lucknow real estate businessman Mohit Jaiswal kidnapped on December 26, brought to Deoria jail the same day, and his henchmen beat him black and blue in front of other inmates and jail staff.

According to Mohit Jaiswal, he was forced to sign on blank papers and cheques, and his finger bones were broken. He alleged that policemen and jail staff stood silent, when he was being brutally beaten up. He was let off with a warning from the gangster asking him to either pay up or face death. According to the businessman, Atiq Ahmed told him that he could have eliminated his entire family, had he been staying out of jail.

After he was let off, the businessman went to the police and filed his FIR, and it was then that senior police officials sat up and took notice. Mohit Jaiswal also submitted audio recordings of his conversations with Atiq Ahmed over phone prior to the kidnapping, in which the don was heard threatening to eliminate his entire family.

According to the businessman, Atiq Ahmed had demanded money from him two years ago, and at that time he had paid the extortion money. Two months ago, two of Atiq’s henchmen again demanded extortion money, but the businessman refused. The henchmen forcibly took possession of his office, and forced Mohit and his sister to give digital signatures to ‘approve’ the inclusion of the names of the henchmen in his company.

On Sunday, the DM and SP of Deoria went with more than 200 policemen to the jail, and searched every nook and corner for evidences. It was found that all the CCTV cameras placed inside the jail were working on the day of the raid, but were found switched off on the day the businessman was beaten up inside the barracks. The DM said that the remaining CCTV footage that was available had been tampered with. The Deputy Jailor, Head Warden and two other jail staff were suspended, and Atiq Ahmed was shifted from Deoria to Bareilly jail. The Jailor has been transferred and departmental action has been initiated against some other staff.

Atiq Ahmed is notorious for indulging in heinous crimes like murders, extortion and kidnapping, whether he stays inside the jail or outside. He has been an MLA and an MP. He was earlier in Samajwadi Party and later joined the BSP. He fought the Phoolpur byelection as an independent, but lost.

Atiq Ahmed entered the world of crime at the age of 17. The first case filed against him was that of a murder. There are more than a dozen cases slapped against him under Gangsters Act. Once inside the jail, the gangster secured help from jail staff to run his network. The manner in which he got the businessman abducted, then brought to jail and thrashed in front of him, speaks volumes about the rot that has set inside our system. Time to ponder.

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