On my Radar: Margdarshak Joshi hosts Diwali, Chhat milan

On Wednesday, at his Raisina Road residence, 83-year-old Murli Manohar Joshi organised a Diwali and Chhat Milan for the media. Asked why he was late for the Diwali party, Joshi said, “Diwali is a continuing festival after the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after his 14-year exile, and, I thought, linking it with Chhat puja may be a good idea.”

Maybe, because of age, Joshi—a Lok Sabha Member from Kanpur—was hardly audible during his conversation with journalists. Only those sitting just opposite him, could hear what he was saying. 

Asked about India’s economic situation, Joshi said that he had observed on several occasions that many high-profile economic advisors and senior officials from different ministries were at a loss before the Parliamentary committees when asked to explain how the statistics they had submitted had benefited the people at large. As the BJP is leaving no stone unturned to “must win” in coming Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly polls, there was bound to be a question for Joshi about this. Asked whether as a “Margdarshak Mandal” member he had been invited by his party to guide or visit the two poll-bound states, Joshi smiled and said, “Marg ban raha hai, ban jayega to darshan denge…Abhi to darshak hein.”

Politics over Pm visit to Kedarnath

The recent visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Kedarnath shrine in Uttarakhand, is turning into an “election issue” in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. The Congress has expressed surprise over the way PM addressed a “political rally” there. The Congress is also upset over Modi taking credit for undertaking redevelopment projects, which they say were put into operation by the UPA government after the devastating floods four years ago. After the floods, Uttarakhand faced the 2014 Lok Sabha and the 2017 Assembly elections. The BJP captured power from the Congress in the Assembly polls. It seems that there is a greater urge among parties to keep alive the issue of reconstruction around the Kedarnath shrine.

The ruling BJP in Uttarakhand wants to take all the credit for the reconstruction activity, while Congress says much work had already been done by the previous regime.During his Kedarnath visit, Modi said that as Gujarat Chief Minister, “I was not allowed to carry out the redevelopment work at the shrine by the UPA government.” The Manmohan Singh government at the Centre and the Harish Rawat government in Uttarakhand had said, “This is our job.”

Political pundits are of the view that the issue of reconstruction at Kedarnath perfectly fits in with the BJP’s Hindutva agenda at a time when Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh are in an election mood. And the 2019 Lok Sabha polls are fast approaching.

During this Diwali, Ayodhya—where the Uttar Pradesh CM lit diyas on the Saryu riverbank—and Kedarnath shrine (because of Modi’s visit) were in news. Both Ayodhya and Kedarnath are important Hindu pilgrimage destinations and strengthen the image of the BJP in the eyes of the people.The BJP is claiming that Modi will revisit the Kedarnath shrine in 2018 during Dussehra to inaugurate the reconstruction projects. In the Assembly elections, the Congress was decimated. But the BJP could not win the Kedarnath seat. The Congress candidate, Manoj Rawat, a rank outsider, bagged the seat. “We should stop politicising Kedarnath,” Manoj Rawat told this writer over telephone. “I am the local MLA but the ruling BJP did not have the courtesy to invite me during the PM’s visit.”

93-year-old learns to read, write

A 93-year-old illiterate man, Madhav Lal from Jammu and Kashmir has just finished learning to read and write. Hailing from a remote Khellani Bhala village in the Doda district, Lal achieved this due to a good initiative taken by the Bhaderwah campus of the Jammu University (JU). 

The scheme is called ‘Each One Teach One.’Lal’s “teacher” was his grandson Manjeet Singh, a BEd student. The pupil, between 2015 and 2017, learnt to read and write Urdu and English words.“I can also do a little bit of hisab (maths)— addition and subtraction—and can use my mobile phone without anybody’s help,” he proudly told this writer over telephone. Jammu University Rector G.M. Bhat had given the task to BEd students “to teach one person during their two-year course”. Lal’s grandson chose his grandfather to be his student—the oldest man in the village. “Lal had never been to school throughout his life,” says Bhat. 

“I am happy to see an interesting transformation taking place in Lal at this age. He is excited about the knowledge that he has gained. He can read big fonts of Urdu and English newspapers and loves to haggle with the local shopkeeper.”Eighty three people were taught during the initiative, their age ranging from 12 to 93 years. 

Man faces son-in-law in Himachal

Politics is a strange game. In the eagerness to win, close friends, associates and even relatives become bitter opponents. One can see many such examples in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh, which is going to the polls on 9 November. The BJP, in a Shimla constituency has created a fight within an erstwhile royal family, from which hails Pratibha Singh, wife of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh. In Solan, the contest is between a Congress nominee and his son-in-law. In Sujanpur, the match is between a guru and his disciple. In Nagrota, two friends have turned foes.

At Kasumpti constituency, the Congress candidate is Anirudh Singh, the “Rana” of the erstwhile Koti princely state. Facing him, the BJP nominee is Vijay Jyoti Sen, who is the wife of Veer Vikram Sen, the “Raja” of the erstwhile Keonthal princely state. Strangely, Prithvi Vikram Sen, the younger brother of Veer Vikram Sen, has filed nomination papers as an independent candidate from Kasumpti, taking everyone by surprise. Both Veer Vikram and Prithvi Vikram are the brothers of Pratibha Singh, wife of Congress CM Virbhadra Singh.

To counter Colonel (Retired) Dhani Ram Shandil, the Congress candidate in Solan, the BJP has fielded his son-in-law, Dr Rajesh Kashyap. Describing the contest as “a strictly family affair,” the locals are jokingly saying that “whosoever may win will be from within the family; it is a win-and-win situation”.

In Sujanpur constituency, the fight is between BJP’s former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and his political disciple Rajinder Singh Rana, who is the Congress candidate. During the BJP regime, Dhumal had made Rana his media adviser. But later both parted ways. 

Spoof posters galore

Only Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat may be going to the polls in November and December, but social media is bursting with creative humour about all the northern states. In this, there is a spoof poster series. In one of the posters, traders have been shown sleeping. It declares that they have no other business but to sleep after the government rolled out the GST. A number of posters depict BJP leaders—when they were in the opposition, protesting for causes which they have changed their minds on as part of the government. Another poster declares, “Jab Daray Nahi Goron Se, Toh Kya Darengay Choron Say?” The Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s picture is above the slogan’s first line. And in the end, there is a poster showing African children. In one, they are asking, “Kahan Hai Kala Dhan?” The BJP has hit back by saying that it is racist.


Man Mohan can be contacted at rovingeditor@gmail.com

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