NATIONAL POLITICS: Bharat bandh: Gadkari leads BJP campaign – national outrage against Congress’ complacent and wrong policies unanimous ?!!
BY THE PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
New Delhi, July 05, 2010 16:13 IST: NDA leaders led by Nitin Gadkari on Monday held a protest rally and courted arrest here as part of their nationwide strike against price rise, with the BJP chief blaming Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the situation.
Addressing a rally at Chandni Chowk area, Gadkari said, “Price rise has nothing to do with your religion, caste or community. Wrong economic policies and bad governance of the government are the basic reasons of price rise.”
Seeking to unite the whole opposition on the issue, Gadkari said he did not believe in “political untouchability” and was willing to visit the office of any political party to discuss price rise.
He claimed that whenever non-Congress governments came to power, there was no price rise and inflation.
“When they (Congress) came to power, they promised to bring down prices in 100 days but instead of coming down, it has increased by three to four times,” Gadkari said.
The BJP President said NDA would raise the issue of price rise in both Houses of Parliament in the forthcoming session.
Key NDA allies JD (U) and Shiromani Akali Dal were also a part of the rally here.
Gadkari claimed that the basic cost of petrol was only Rs 16.50 per litre but it was being sold for Rs 53 per litre after taxation. The price of petrol was much less in several countries, he said.
Accusing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of being responsible for price rise, he said the money of the poor was going into the hands of the multinationals.
“Unfortunately the Prime Minister and the government are concerned about oil companies, not the common man,” he said.
He also asked why UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi were “silent” on the issue of spiralling prices.
NDA Convenor and JD (U) President Sharad Yadav said this was for the first time in India’s history that all political parties have come together against the government.
“This government has left everything to the market,” Yadav alleged, and asked the Prime Minister to “either bring down prices or leave his chair”.
Former BJP President Rajnath Singh alleged that the government was “dancing to the tunes of America” and warned that the party will not allow Parliament to function during monsoon session beginning July 26 on the issue of price rise.
The NDA leaders, also including Akali Dal’s Harsimrat Kaur, later courted arrest in Chandni Chowk.
As part of the protest, BJP activists blocked traffic and rail services in some parts of the capital. The party workers blocked roads in Laxmi Nagar, ITO, Preet Vihar, Akshardham and Madhuban Chowk among other areas.
Opposition’s Bharat bandh puts India on hold – Consensus clear, Congress in a panic over united opposition – fallout now in Parliament ?!!
From Times of India
NEW DELHI, Jul 6, 2010, 12.13am IST: Opposition parties on Monday joined forces to enforce a countrywide strike against rising prices, in an effective protest that marked the return of a hot-button political issue and is being seen as a wake-up call for the UPA regime.
The success of the bandh varied: from complete shutdown in Opposition-controlled states where official indulgence or indifference encouraged the protesters, to the flop show in Chennai where the DMK government was ultra-zealous in ensuring that normal life was not disrupted. But it was a UPA-ruled state, Maharashtra, that suffered the heaviest economic loss, estimated at Rs 1,000 crore.
In many places, bandh supporters brazenly flexed their muscles as they sought to enforce the “people’s bandh”.
Still, this was easily the most successful bandh called by the Opposition since UPA took control after the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, and should restore price rise to the political frontburner. Life was disrupted in all the big cities, with the sole exception of the DMK stronghold of Chennai.
In the Capital, protests affected the operations of Delhi Metro — the first instance of its kind — and the fleet of thousands of buses of Delhi Transport Corporation as well as private operators were rendered immobile by protesters strategically positioned at important intersections.
Public transport was affected in Mumbai too, notorious for unabashed use of strong-arm tactics for making political points. Operations of suburban trains — lifeline of the city’s commuting millions — were affected in the morning at a couple of places. Mercifully, determined action combined with concession by protesters, obviously wary of annoying the huge population dependent on `locals’, prevented major disruption.
Bombay Stock Exchange functioned, though operation of flights was affected.
Kolkata was the worst affected, with the beleaguered CPM giving it all in what was seen as a last-gasp attempt to stanch the tide against it.
The bandh was complete in large parts of states which have non-Congress governments, like Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa.
The protest appeared to be be effective in many parts of Congress-ruled states as well like in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Goa. BJP succeeded in paralysing activities in large parts of Jharkhand which is under central rule.
The success of the protest was facilitated by the coming together of BJP-led NDA and the Left. Both sides maintained a safe distance to deny Congress an opportunity to accuse CPM of connivance with “communal” BJP. But that the two sides took to the streets the same day led to a Right-Left pincer, enlarging the spread of the protest and amplifying the message.
The growing conviction of the Opposition that price rise may have finally regained the resonance it enjoyed till the 1990s played the bigger role: encouraging their cadre to enthusiastically enforce the bandh as they felt convinced that the grievances over inconvenience was not going to crystallise into a huge resentment against those behind the bandh.
For the Congress, it was like a shot fired across its bows. The party has so far weathered Opposition’s protests over inflation to win Lok Sabha and assembly elections. But with Monday serving evidence that the unease over prices may have reached the tipping point after the recent hike in petrol prices, it is sure to find its manoeuvre space hugely shrunk.
It responded to the bandh by accusing the BJP of being an irresponsible Opposition, and by accusing the CPM of hobnobbning with the saffronites. It also made a conspicuous effort to align itself with the middle class sentiment against politics of bandh by highlighting the harassment it caused to people and losses suffered by business. But as the day wore on, there was a grudging acknowledgement that it was time party chief Sonia Gandhi leaned hard on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to rein in prices.
FM says no to rolling back hike in duties on petrol, diesel – protest registered, impact not yet felt, inaction and apathy to follow ?!!
From The Economic Times
NEW DELHI, 4 May 2010, 1845 hrs IST, (PTI): Rejecting the Opposition demand, the government on Tuesday ruled out rolling back the hike in fuel prices, saying the fiscal situation did not permit it.
“Sorry. It is not possible as the situation is very difficult, please bear with me and let us wait for better days,” Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on the demand for withdrawal of duty hikes in petrol and diesel.
He was responding to the debate on Finance Bill in Rajya Sabha after which it was returned to the Lok Sabha. With this, the nine-week budget exercise was completed.
Mukherjee had in the Budget for 2010-11 raised excise and customs duty on auto fuels to garner Rs 26,000 crore. The hike in duties had resulted in petrol price being increased by Rs 2.71 a litre and diesel by Rs 2.55 per litre.
The Opposition has been demanding roll-back of the duties saying the fuel price hike hurt the common man and added to inflationary pressures on food items.
On rising inflation, which is near 17 percent, the Minister admitted that food prices are high and hurting the common man but asserted that the Public Distribution System (PDS) needs to be revamped and made effective to blunt the impact.
“PDS must be in place. It must be functional. Sitting at the Centre, it is not possible to run PDS. Primarily, it is the responsibility of the states,” Mukherjee said.
Asserting that there was adequate foodgrains’ stock available, he said the government has decided to offload the stocks to the states at prices at which the Centre has procured.
It is not possible to provide subsidy across the board as the Centre has been providing subsidised foodgrains to different vulnerable sections of the society.
Under Antayodya Scheme, the government is providing rice at Rs two a kg, for BPL it is available for Rs 12 per kg and for certain sections of APL, rice is being sold at Rs 6.80 a kg.
Rahul nudged to reveal stand on Bihar – a can of political worms yet to be opened ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY RASHEED KIDWAI
New Delhi, July 4: If the Congress wants to improve its seemingly modest prospects in the Bihar elections, it must quickly spell out who its possible post-poll allies might be, reports reaching Rahul Gandhi have said.
The reports say there is substantial “goodwill” in Bihar for the Congress and the UPA, but among the obstacles to this being translated into votes is the lack of clarity on the party’s stand on the likes of Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan.
Or on the possibility of a tie-up with Nitish Kumar in the improbable scenario of the Janata Dal (United) dumping the BJP.
The feedback is the result of Rahul directing about 40 young MPs, including junior-Union ministers, to visit as many parliamentary constituencies in Bihar as they can and hand in objective, Assembly seat-wise assessment reports.
Some ministers and MPs who have already toured the state have briefed Rahul that the party’s prospects are not too bright despite the “goodwill” it enjoys, sources said.
Among the reasons are organisational weakness, the long power struggle between former Bihar unit chief Anil Sharma and former All India Congress Committee point man Jagdish Tytler, and, of course, the lack of hints about post-poll allies.
Rahul is not inclined towards striking pre-poll alliances and wants the Congress, which has just 10 members in the 243-seat House, to go it alone. The reports, however, say that unless the party clarifies its stand on the Lalu Prasad-Paswan combine, it is unlikely to do well.
However, this is not necessarily a veiled suggestion to strike alliances with the duo. The reports have cited Bihar’s complex caste equations to caution that if the Congress, Lalu Prasad and Paswan come together, some castes would go out and if the party decides to go it alone, it will lose out on other possible pockets of support.
The Congress observers have claimed that Bihar’s Muslims are eyeing the party with a great deal of interest. Similarly, most backward and weaker communities, and even sections of the upper castes that have traditionally been Congress supporters, want to back the Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh-Rahul Gandhi troika.
The observers’ reports note with satisfaction that educated and informed circles see the Congress as the best option, considering that it is not as tainted by criminalisation or divisive politics as its rivals. However, this section of society makes up a very small part of the electorate, a Union minister of state has observed in his lucid report.
Pawar wants his burden reduced – clearly shirking responsibility, should get out of the kitchen if one can’t stand the heat – just the politics of more power for Pawar, bowled over now with Lalit Modi ?!!
From The Hindu
By Gargi Parsai
NEW DELHI, July 5, 2010: Union Agriculture, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Sharad Pawar has requested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to “reduce his [ministerial] burden.”
“I have met the Prime Minister today and asked him to reduce my burden. I want to devote time to my party work,” Mr. Pawar told journalists here on Monday.
Mr. Pawar did not specify whether he wanted helping hands as Ministers of State or if he wanted to give up any portfolio or whether he would like a portfolio to be given to a member of his Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). “That is for the Prime Minister to decide. It is his prerogative,” he said. At present K.V. Thomas is the only Minister of State to assist him with the three portfolios.
Asked if took the decision after becoming the president of the International Cricket Council last week, he said: “Anything… I have not been suddenly elected the president of ICC. I have been president-elect for two years. In fact I have been after the Prime Minister for the last six months to relieve me.”
The Prime Minister said that he would discuss the matter with him at an “appropriate time.”
Asked whether this meant a Cabinet reshuffle was on the cards, he said: “Don’t know about that. I went to see Dr. Manmohan Singh about my personal matter.” Mr. Pawar said this year he would complete 44 years in parliamentary (and Assembly) career and 25-26 years in government. “There is nothing left.” (more to enjoy *?!!)
FURTHERMORE DAILY NEWS & ANALYSIS ADDS
Reduce my burden, ICC president Sharad Pawar tells PM Manmohan Singh – while greedily gobbling up more lucrative positions of power by Pawar & family and all clear of the IPL scandal ?!!
New Delhi, Tuesday, July 6, 2010 1:06 IST (DNA): Just as talk in town about Sharad Pawar was how he has too much on his plate after taking charge as president of the International Cricket Council (ICC), here comes news from the horse’s mouth.
“I met the prime minister today and asked him to reduce my burden. I want to devote time to my party work,” the Union minister of agriculture, who is also the chief of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), told reporters on Monday.
A source said Pawar wants to retain agriculture, but shed the portfolio of consumer affairs, food and public distribution. Also, he is reportedly seeking an additional ministerial berth for his party, which is probably meant for his daughter and political successor Supriya Sule.
Pawar’s request follows his taking over as ICC president, but for long he has been criticised by several Congress leaders for his failure to stem rising food prices. On Monday, through the opposition’s Bharat Bandh, the Congress also got a foretaste of rising popular discontent on prices. The question remains if Pawar, 70, is feeling cornered and seeking a way out.
Reputed for his win-win strategic moves, Pawar had just last week scoffed at former ICC CEO Malcolm Speed’s criticism that as a minister in the Indian government, he (Pawar) would have no time for the ICC job. Pawar argued that the ICC headquarters are in Dubai, and as it works on Saturdays and Sundays, he would not have any problem managing his time.
The Congress, too, said it does not have a problem with Pawar taking up the ICC assignment.
Following his meeting with the prime minister, the Congress downplayed his request. “Whatever is his wish… politics should not be brought in here. It (the statement) has to be seen from a human angle about a person who recently underwent a surgery,” a senior Congress leader said.