On My Radar: Cabinet reshuffle part of BJP’s strategy for coming elections

On My Radar: Cabinet reshuffle part of BJP’s strategy for coming elections

By Man Mohan | 3 September, 2017
PM Modi, JDU, NDA, Amit Shah, Ahmed Patel, Gujarat, Siddaramaiah
Nitish Kumar

Showdown

CABINET RESHUFFLE PART OF BJP’S STRATEGY FOR COMING ELECTIONS

decision at the right time to shake hands with PM Modi before the deadly floods hit us.” “Modiji went to Bihar and announced a big financial help,” he said, continuing that “if the JDU would not have joined the NDA before the floods, we would not have got such immediate attention.” Deaths have gone over 450 in the devastating Bihar floods. More than 1.71 crore people have been affected in 19 districts. The Prime Minister recently conducted an aerial survey of four flood-hit districts and announced an immediate relief of Rs 500 crore.

It is learnt that BJP chief Amit Shah has decided to “rework” the strategy for the coming Assembly elections, especially in Gujarat and Karnataka, and the 2019 general elections. The third Cabinet reshuffle and the party’s reorganisation are being seen in this light. The Prime Minister and the BJP chief don’t want to take it lightly, as they think that the wind can blow suddenly the opposite way, if not controlled. The huge criticism following large scale violence after Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s sentence in two rape cases has also rattled the party leadership.

The BJP defeat in the Bawana Assembly byelection in Delhi by over 24,000 votes by its arch enemy Aam Admi Party, has made the faces of the top leaders red. It is unacceptable, the Delhi BJP leaders have been told. The defeat has come too soon after the cliffhanger victory of Congress leader Ahmed Patel in the Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat.

The BJP seems to be tense about the Karnataka scene as Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is using every trick in his playbook to push home the early advantage for past three months. He is now tapping into the caste cauldron that sets Karnataka apart from its ideologically driven southern neighbours, to set the stage for a Congress re-election. The hard fought campaign that led to the recent bypoll victories were an indicator of Siddaramaiah’s take-no-prisoners style of campaigning. The BJP had seen the defection to its ranks of S.M. Krishna, the once revered Vokkaliga icon of old Mysore, and Dalit leader V. Srinivasprasad, whose hold over Nanjangud was legendary, as well as the huge rallies of BJP’s Lingayat mascot, former CM B.S. Yeddyurappa, which were packed with Lingayats, as a game-changer.

But Siddaramaiah shrugged all this off. The BJP failed to see what Siddaramaiah had—that however much the voters respected Yeddyurappa, the upper caste Lingayats, who had shunned Srinivasprasad for his Dalit antecedents and his anti-Lingayat rhetoric through the five consecutive terms that he had held Nanjangud, were unlikely to shed their deeply held anti-Dalit beliefs and vote for the former Congressman whom they once reviled.

Siddaramaiah’s bag of tricks now includes digging deep into the psyche of “Kannada pride” and drawing on deep-rooted prejudices and a sense of pride in the Kannada language to win more brownie points. All signboards at the Bengaluru Metro stations were originally in English, Hindi and Kannada. Right-wing groups like the Karnataka Rakshana Vedika lost no time in cashing in, blackening the Hindi billboards to boost BJP support. Siddaramaiah’s inner circle of advisers, who include poets and writers like Patil Puttappa, advised him against any move that would invite the wrath of the Kannada revanchists. The CM swiftly announced Congress support for the two languages—Kannada and English—over the three-language formula.

With the language trump card done and dusted, the CM has also thrown a second Kannada revanchist card into play. Neither the opposition JDS nor the BJP saw it coming. Again, it was his closed circle of cultural czars who suggested that he could tap into Kannada pride by promoting the use of a Kannada flag, at all state functions. Few know that he was “stealing the idea” from under the nose of the BJP, and that the last man to raise the issue was none other than Yeddyurappa. The BJP leader was caught napping as the Congress pitched for the yellow and red flag, which has been a regular fixture on Kannada Rajyotsava Day when the state was created in 1956, first as the state of Mysore and then as Karnataka in 1972.

Yeddyurappa had pitched for it to erstwhile Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had rejected the idea on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.

It is Siddaramaiah’s latest card that is worrying Amit Shah—of dividing the hitherto monolithic Lingayat community pandering to the Veerashaivas Lingayats’ demand for religion status, as opposed to the Lingayat Mahasabha, which does not want its primacy questioned in the north where the BJP has always drawn on Lingayat support. It has had the BJP scrambling for a counter strategy. Yeddyurappa’s rivals believe that he is no longer the unassailable Lingayat leader.

Siddaramaiah’s recent launch of low-priced “Indira Canteens” is gaining popularity. He is in his supremely confident new avatar. The CM believes he can upturn traditional voting pattern to win a re-election.

Politics Matters

BIHAR FLOODS FROM JDU PRISM

Even in massive natural calamities, politicians first see their party agenda. A JDU leader from Bihar was overheard in Parliament’s Central Hall telling his “newfound friend”, a BJP Lok Sabha member: “Thank God, our Nitish Babu took the right decision at the right time to shake hands with PM Modi before the deadly floods hit us.” “Modiji went to Bihar and announced a big financial help,” he said, continuing that “if the JDU would not have joined the NDA before the floods, we would not have got such immediate attention.” Deaths have gone over 450 in the devastating Bihar floods. More than 1.71 crore people have been affected in 19 districts. The Prime Minister recently conducted an aerial survey of four flood-hit districts and announced an immediate relief of Rs 500 crore.

Criminal Conspiracy

PAK DRUG MAFIA LINKED TO MAHARASHTRA GANG

In the din of Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s high drama, a major development in London did not reach India. It was the arrest of an international Pakistani drug dealer Muhammad Asif Hafeez, aka Sultan (58), whose tentacles were found spread up to India, along with his men including an Indian.

A massive seizure of 18.5 tonnes of the banned drug ephedrine, valued at Rs 2,000 crore, from the Solapur (Maharashtra) facility of a chemical-manufacturing firm in April 2016 has been found linked with this gang. Hafeez and his men’s arrests were made by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DEA’s New Delhi office played a key role in the investigation, stretching across several continents.

India’s Narcotics Control Bureau is keeping an eye on the case. “Hafeez’s arrest is another win in the fight against global criminals,” said DEA Special Operations Division Special Agent in charge, Raymond Donovan in a communiqué received by The Sunday Guardian. “He has been allegedly linked to a transnational criminal organization responsible for manufacturing and distributing of multi-tonne narcotics like heroin, methamphetamine and banned chemicals.”

Hafeez’s operations were spread from from Kenya and Mozambique to London and New York and India. It is alleged that Hafeez had conspired to import methamphetamine into the US. Hafeez abandoned the plan to establish a factory in Mozambique after the seizure of over 18 tonnes of ephedrine from a Solapur factory last year. Hafeez’s co-defendants are: Baktash Akasha Abdalla, Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla, Gulam Hussein, and Vijaygiri Anandgiri Goswami. Abdalla was the leader of an organised crime family in Kenya (the “Akasha Organization”).

For The Love Of  Cows

‘HOLY’ BATH EYES THE LIMCA BOOK OF RECORDS

Cow protectors in the saffron parivar are excited about an entry in the 2017 Limca Book of Records. It is about a “holy” bath taken at a huge gaushala at a place popularly known as “Ahimsa Tirath” in Jalgaon, Maharashtra. Spread over 26 acres, it has become a tourist spot. The complex houses a unique Goseva Anusandhan Kendra, a gaushala (a shelter for cows) which was opened in 1998 to take care of abandoned, unproductive cows. The inmates live in the gaushala, which has about 2,500 cows. Various products like cow milk, ghee, curd, dung, urine etc., are produced and sold across the country and abroad. What attracted the Limca Book of Records to this place is an interesting bath event that has been taking place here since 2012. Every Sunday morning, about 20 volunteers assemble at the gaushala. Around 10 buckets (14 litres) of cow dung with urine are kept in a corner. The thoroughly mixed paste is applied all over their body, from head to toe. Then a mild massage is done by the boys themselves or with each other’s help. The paste remains on their body for an hour until it dries up. “The environment is jovial. Then they all go to a tube well for a proper bath. They report freshness in skin and body,” Ratanlal C. Bafna, who founded the organisation in 1998, told The Sunday Guardian.

A well known social worker, Bafna promotes vegetarian food, works for the protection of cows and conducts research in producing medicines and fertilizers from panchagavya—a concoction of cow milk, urine, dung, curd and ghee—and several products like toothpowder, soap, etc. Organic farming is a major activity here.

Tiff-Bound         

CHILDREN’S FILM SOCIETY JOINS HANDS WITH PRIYANKA CHOPRA, TAKES PAHUNA TO TORONTO

Dr Shravan Kumar, CEO, Children’s Films Society, India (CFSI) is quite excited these days about sharing the stage with global-fame actress Priyanka Chopra at the 42nd International Film Festival (TIFF) in Toronto starting 7 September. The occasion is the international launch of Pahuna: The Little Visitors, the latest co-production venture of his organisation along with Priyanka’s Pebble Pictures production house at the 10-day TIFF. Set in the Northeast, Pahuna is a story about three Nepali children getting separated from their parents in the Maoist agitation of 2003-2004 and accidentally reaching Sikkim. It has been made in Sikkimese-Nepali language and will be dubbed in all Indian languages. A trailer of Pahuna was shown at the 70th Cannes Film. Pahuna has been written and directed by Paakhi A. Tyrewala, daughter of a late New Delhi-based Hindi journalist.

A 1991 batch IRS (Income Tax) officer, Shravan Kumar, says that “Priyanka had expressed her desire to collaborate with the CFSI. We were delighted as we at the CFSI had undertaken extensive outreach in the NE through our various film festivals and have produced many films around many interesting NE themes.”

In recent years, CFSI has sent many films to TIFF. Several children’s films that have made it to international festivals include Gattu (2012), Ale Galu (2013) Gopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiyaa (2013), Pappu Ki Pugdundi (2015) and Happy Mothers’ Day (2016).

Man Mohan can be contacted at rovingeditor@gmail.com

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