Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Sidhu should be grateful to Capt Amarinder Singh for not being sacked

akbIn fast-paced developments in Punjab, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Thursday stripped Navjot Singh Sidhu of Local Government and Tourism and Cultural Affairs portfolios and assigned him Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources portfolio. Earlier in the day, Sidhu did not attend the cabinet meeting presided over by the CM, and instead went live on social media airing his grievances.

The Chief Minister had earlier alleged that Sidhu’s ‘inept handling’ of the crucial Local Government department resulted in poor Lok Sabha election results for the Congress from urban areas of Punjab.

Countering this, Sidhu replied that he was “being singled out publicly” by the CM. Sidhu claimed that his party fared better in two LS seats that he was entrusted with. Sidhu said, “I always regard him (Capt Amarinder) as my elder. I always listen to him, but it hurts. Where is the collective responsibility? He could have called me and said anything he would have wanted to say. But I was singled out in spite of collective responsibility.”

“I cannot be taken for granted. I have been a performer throughout during 40 years of my life, be it international cricket, or world class commentary with Geoffrey Boycott, TV shows or 1,300 motivational talks,” Sidhu said, adding that he would defend his name, credibility and performance “fiercely”.

I am mentioning all these in detail because I want to say that Sidhu has never been loyal to any body. He has this habit of ditching those who helped him in life. The BJP gave him the utmost respect, and yet he ditched the party. Sidhu is now doing the same to the Congress leadership in Punjab.

It was the BJP which made Sidhu a ‘neta’ (political leader) and he became Lok Sabha member thrice. He was later made member of Rajya Sabha and his wife was made a minister in Punjab. But SIdhu was not content with this. He left the BJP for greener pastures and joined the Congress.

Capt Amarinder Singh was large hearted in accomodating him as a minister in his cabinet and Sidhu was given portfolios of his choice. But Sidhu had his eyes on the Chief Minister’s chair. He was being given prominence in the party by Congress president Rahul Gandhi. With the party high command behind him, Sidhu publicly made remarks against Capt Amarinder Singh.

The Chief Minister complained to Rahul Gandhi several times, but each time it was Rahul who shielded Sidhu. The latter campaigned for his party president in Amethi, and yet Rahul lost the election. On the other hand, Punjab was the only north Indian state, where the Congress managed to save its seats, and credit for this goes to Capt. Amarinder Singh.

The situation was ripe for the Captain to sack Sidhu, but he was large hearted enough not to sack him, and instead changed his portfolio. Sidhu should be thankful to the Captain for this, but it is not in his nature to thank those who helped him in life.
Sidhu has never listened to his Captain, whether in cricket or in politics. He has always played his own game, and he never cared for the team.


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Mamata is neither worried about Muslims, nor Hindus, she’s worried about her chair

AK__B (007)On Eid ul-Fitr day, addressing a congregation of devout Muslims who had performed namaaz on Red Road in Kolkata, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee made a high-decibel political speech. In a thinly veiled warning for BJP, Mamata Banerjee said, “Jo humse takrayega, choor choor ho jayega”.

The Trinamool Congress chief told Muslims to stay united “so that we can fight for you”. She told West Bengal Muslims: “There is nothing to be scared of. …Don’t be scared, the faster they captured EVMs, the sooner they will go away”.

In her typical style, Banerjee said: “Tyaag ka naam hai Hindu, Imaan ka naam hai Musalman, Pyar ka naam hai Isai, Sikh ka naam hai balidaan. Ye hai hamara pyaara Hindustan. Jo humse takrayega choor choor ho jayega. Ye hamara slogan hai.”

I am surprised over Mamata Banerjee’s reactions since the time Lok Sabha election results have come. She seems to be unable to digest BJP hiking up its tally from two to 18 out of 42 Lok Sabha seats in her state.

Mamata Banerjee is an experienced politician and she knows West Bengal politics like the back of her hand. She correctly understands the pulse of the Bengali bhadralok. Yet, at a religious festival like Eid, she pours out her hate for her political rivals. She tries to strike fear in the mind of Bengali Muslims in the name of BJP, and openly speaks out about fighting for Muslims.

This is symptomatic of the depression that Mamata might have been facing since the LS results came out. She is running the government in West Bengal and has concentrated all the power in her hands. How can it be that others can come and threaten Muslims in Bengal?

I agree with Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, when he said that “Mamata is neither worried about Muslims, nor Hindus, the only thing she worries about is her chair.” This, in a sentence, sums up the situation in which Mamata Banerjee finds herself at this moment.


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Why Centre wants to carry out delimitation work in J&K ?

AKB 2On Tuesday, the new Home Minister Amit Shah was given a detailed presentation on Jammu and Kashmir by the Home Ministry officials. Among the many plans of BJP for J&K is the move to set up a Delimitation Commission to determine the number of assembly seats for all the three divisions – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

The BJP had promised in its 2019 Lok Sabha election manifesto that it would work for abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution that gives special powers to J&K, and annulling Article 35A that gives special rights to the people of Kashmir valley. The BJP wants more seats for the Jammu region through the delimitation process. It wants to “correct disparities” with Jammu region and provide representation to all reserved categories.

The Farooq Abdullah government had amended the state consitution in 2002 freezing delimitation of seats till the first census after 2026. Legal experts say that the J&K Governor has powers to strike down the amendment, provided it is ratified by Parliament within six months .

Out of the 87 assembly seats in J&K, seven are reserved for schedule castes, all in Jammu valley, as there are no persons belonging to SC in the Kashmir valley. These reserved seats have not been rotated since 1996. In the state assembly, Kashmir valley dominates with 46 seats, Jammu region with 37 and Ladakh has four assembly seats.

The move for delimitation has drawn strong reactions, as expected, from political leaders in the Kashmir valley. JKPDP chief and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah have opposed the move to remove the freeze on delimitation.

Those criticizing the move should note that the delimitation work cannot be done within two months. On Tuesday, the Election Commission of India indicated that it would decide on dates of state assembly elections after the Amarnath Yatra is over in August. If assembly polls are held in October, delimitation work cannot be completed by that time.

The delimitation process involves preparation of a report, setting up of a commission, submission of report by that commission, and then Parliament will have to approve that report. Following this, the Governor will have to annul the amendment made by Farooq Abdullah government putting a freeze on delimitation till 2026. All these will take time.

Naturally, the assembly elections later this year in J&K will be conducted within the current framework. The Centre will, of course, try to speed up the delimitation work, but it would be politically incorrect to level the charge that a move is afoot to install a Hindu chief minister in J&K. Political leaders should avoid making loose remarks on such critical issues.

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Both Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav failed to gauge the mood of voters in UP

akbOn Monday, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati hinted at a review meeting with party functionaries that her alliance (Mahagathbandhan) with Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal was almost over, though she did not say this in so many words. According to leaders present at the meeting, Mayawati asked her party leaders to prepare to fight byelections for 11 assembly seats on their own.

The BSP supremo, according to sources, said at the meeting that Akhilesh Yadav could not even win his family seats, and his wife and cousins lost the elections. She reportedly said, the SP failed to transfer Yadav votes to her party candidates, while Ajit Singh failed to transfer Jat community votes to her party. Mayawati reportedly said at the meeting that though she would not be announcing the end of Mahagathbandhan now, yet the party should prepare to fight the 11 assembly byelections on its own.

Mayawati may be right when she says that she finds no point in continuing with the alliance. In politics, a party gains clout only at the expense of the other. Her party had drawn a blank in 2014 LS elections, while this time it has won 10 LS seats. So, it would be incorrect on her part to say that the BSP did not benefit from the alliance. She could have said that her party did not win as many seats as it had hoped.

In my view, neither Akhilesh Yadav nor Mayawati are wrong. Both these two top leaders sat together and worked out poll arithmetic by adding the vote shares of their respective parties based on caste. But the ground reality in 2019 in UP was different. Voters had shunned caste based vote bank politics, and were openly rooting for Narendra Modi. Both Akhilesh and Mayawati misjudged this by saying that this was only a fake atmosphere being created by TV news channels.

Akhilesh is young and he lacks experience. I hope after this electoral drubbing he must have realized his mistakes. When Akhilesh suddenly announced the alliance with Mayawati at the beginning of election campaign, his father Mulayam Singh Yadav had then remarked that Akhilesh was inexperienced since he has given life to ” a dead elephant “.

Mulayam Singh’s words proved true. Family members of the Yadav clan lost the elections, SP lost much of its vote share and it was Mayawati’s party which upped its tally from zero to ten.

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History has taken a new turn with Modi 2.0 cabinet formation

AK__B (007)On Thursday evening, when I witnessed the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, I realized that history has taken a new turn as far as cabinet formation at the Centre is concerned.

Gone were the days of hectic lobbying to become ministers.New MPs used to take the help of industrialists, senior leaders and even journalists to get plum posts.Not a single MP or minister lobbied this time for plum posts, nor did anybody try to push forward recommendations. Not a single person present at the swearing-in ceremony, except of course the PM, knew who was going to get which portfolio.

I had been closely observing politics for the last 45 years, but I never witnessed such suspense. Most of the speculations about portfolios were later found to be incorrect.

The ground reality is: lobbyists in the corridors of power in Delhi have now become unemployed, thanks to a single man, Modi. The real credit, however, goes to the voters of India who gave Modi a massive mandate as a strong Prime Minister. The results will be there for all to see in the coming five years.

The biggest surprise was the induction of S. Jayashankar, former Foreign Secretary, as India’s External Affairs Minister. Modi had appreciated Jayashankar’s work as foreign secretary, when he used to accompany him on foreign visits to meet world leaders like Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Modi has appointed him EAM because he works quietly, thinks out of the box and is a great strategist. India has big trade issues coming up with the US and India under Modi has to forge strong relations with the US, China, Russia, Japan and other powers. Since Modi is already in the elite group of world leaders, he needs men like Jayashankar to assist him in matters relating to world affairs. If India is to become a world power, it needs strategists and diplomats of the calibre of Jayashankar.

Those who think that Nirmala Sitharaman as Finance Minister will prove to be a poor substitute to Arun Jaitley are going to be proved wrong. They do not know much about her calibre. She took charge of Defence portfolio, and performed with aplomb. She replied to Rahul Gandhi’s charges on Rafale deal in Parliament with conviction. She had good counselling from Arun Jaitley during this period.

As far as Finance ministry is concerned, she had already held the Commerce and Corporate Affairs portfolios in the past. You may recollect that Arun Jaitley, who is presently recovering from treatment, had written to the Prime Minister, offering help to the party and government, even while being confined to his home. At the swearing-in ceremony, I was told by many that they sorely feel the absence of Jaitley, but I know he is not a person to sit idle at home. Even if doctors advise him to take complete rest, he is surely going to remain active, and Nirmala Sitharaman should have nothing to worry about.

About other ministers, I can only say that Modi is a man who always tries new experiments, has new ideas and gives chances to new persons to take up new challenges. Normally big leaders do not take such risks, but Modi is totally different. Modi assigns work to those ministers whom he believes they can perform. There were expectations that Modi would give chance to more MPs from Bengal to become ministers, but since most of them are first time MPs, he wants them to understand the working of the system in Lutyens zone first.

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