NATIONAL POLITICS: Mumbai on edge over Delhi language stand

NATIONAL POLITICS: Mumbai on edge over Delhi language stand –stand, what stand – Delhi’s HM only complacently sits over everything ?!!

P Chidambaram's earlier resignation - should have been accepted for incompetence ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU

New Delhi/Mumbai, July 7: The Congress-led Centre’s blow-hot, blow-cold approach to statehood and territorial disputes has led to the threat of street violence in Maharashtra, months after aggravating the Telangana movement.

The government today refused to cede four Karnataka districts to Maharashtra just because they had a Marathi-speaking majority, telling the Supreme Court that language was never the sole criterion for the reorganisation of states.

The stand, corroborated by legal experts but at odds with accepted political wisdom, prompted angry comments from the Shiv Sena as it looked to exploit a half-century-old emotive issue that has triggered violence in the past.

Sena boss Bal Thackeray slammed the Nehru-Gandhi family as “Maharashtra haters” while his party leader Sanjay Raut said provocatively: “People are bound to lose their cool… do we have to become terrorists to demand justice?”

Maharashtra parties are especially furious because the Centre, which initially appeared to back the state’s claim before backtracking following protests in Karnataka, has now gone to the opposite extreme of demanding the court dismiss Maharashtra’s petition and impose “exemplary costs”.

Worried at the reaction back home, Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, who was in New Delhi, met Sonia Gandhi and home minister P. Chidambaram this evening.

The Centre’s stand will have consequences also for other states locked in boundary disputes over language, such as Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. Even the statehood demand in the Darjeeling hills has a linguistic-cultural component though it involves other factors, such as economic issues, too.

“(The) language of the people has been one of the criteria, but not the sole criterion, for inclusion of any area… in a state,” an affidavit filed by the Union home ministry said.

“Both Parliament and the Union government had considered all the relevant factors while considering the States Reorganisation Bill, 1956, and The Bombay Reorganisation Bill, 1960, and decided the village, taluka, municipal areas, towns, etc, which were to be included in the concerned states.”

Constitutional expert P.P. Rao told The Telegraph the Centre was right that the States Reorganisation Act of 1956 did not make language the sole criterion. Sources said some of the other factors considered were size and access to resources.

Maharashtra accepts this but argues that the 1956 Act is unconstitutional because it fails to protect the right of linguistic minorities. It claims that Article 3 of the Constitution makes linguistic and cultural homogeneity, and the wishes of the people of the affected areas, paramount in re-drawing state boundaries.

The state has been demanding 865 villages and towns inhabited by Marathi speakers in Belgaum, Gulbarga, Karwar and Bidar districts of Karnataka.

These villages were merged with Karnataka (then Mysore) when Maharashtra was carved out in 1960. The Maharashtra government filed a court petition on February 12 last year challenging the 1956 Act.

“If language is not going to be the criterion for states, then why not dismantle all states?” Thackeray said sarcastically.

“The Nehru-Gandhi dynasty is infamous for being anti-Maharashtra. Motilal Nehru once said Maharashtra was a rotten part of India and should be chopped off.”

Ironically, the Maharashtra government that filed the petition is run by the Congress and ally NCP while Karnataka, which greeted the Centre’s statement with joy, is ruled by Sena ally BJP. The Maharashtra BJP too joined the Sena in slamming the Centre’s stand.

The embattled Chavan said: “We will present our view in the court on July 12 when a discussion on the issue is scheduled.”

He refused to explain why Congress-led governments in the state and the Centre were taking different stands on the subject. “It’s better that you clarify it from the (Union) home minister,” he said.

MEANWHILE

Pawar gamble on Sonia food bill – politics with human essentials over failed policies, Pawar’s attempt at ‘more stifling power’ while Sonia capitulates ?!!

Sarad Pawar - first the food price rises, then IPL, then ICC - now taking on most essential "food security issue", politics of more 'paawar'?!!

BY RASHEED KIDWAI

New Delhi, July 7: Differences are said to have cropped up within the UPA over Sonia Gandhi’s ambitious food security bill.

Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar’s request to the Prime Minister to reduce his work is being seen as a pretext while the right to food bill is being perceived as the target.

Sources said Pawar was opposed to some of the radical provisions of the bill and communicated to Manmohan Singh that, if passed, the proposed legislation would affect food procurement and send fiscal discipline haywire.

The Prime Minister is said to have sought 10 days to get back to the farm minister. Pawar is said to have insisted that he would prefer to be relieved of the food portfolio before the commencement of monsoon session of Parliament, scheduled for July 25.

The Nationalist Congress Party chief’s view is that universal entitlement of food security is not feasible, given the cost of grain subsidies. Moreover, he feels that it is neither necessary nor desirable to extend food subsidy to the billion-plus population.

Pawar reportedly cited the Suresh Tendulkar Committee’s observation that the number of families below the poverty line (BPL) total an estimated 37.2 per cent of the population.

Pawar is credited with the view that the quantity of foodgrain needed to meet the demands of the right to food bill will be difficult to procure if one goes by the current rate of around 50 million tonnes of rice and wheat.

Supplying 35 kg of grain per household will not be feasible without imports which, the farm minister thinks, will erode the country’s overall food security.

The Sonia-led National Advisory Council (NAC) had deliberated for hours recently to extend the food subsidy not only to BPL families but to some segments above the poverty line.

While no decision was taken, Pawar’s own assessment is that the Congress chief is keen on the food security bill covering various segments that need not be in the BPL category, such as nursing mothers, children, the aged and the physically challenged.

The Pawar camp has also expressed surprise that the NAC wanted to provide 35kg of grain a month at Rs 3 a kg instead of the 25kg mentioned in the Congress manifesto and the UPA’s common minimum programme.

Sources close to Pawar said the agriculture minister had made his reservations clear at a cabinet meeting and a meeting of the empowered group of ministers that was attended by P. Chidambaram, A.K. Antony and Mamata Banerjee.

The Congress’s assessment is that Pawar has raised the work reduction “bogey” to bring the food security bill in sharp focus and exploit the sentiments of those who are for “targeted subsidies”, instead of liberal inclusion of more people above the poverty line.

A view exists in the Congress that Pawar may settle for a climbdown on the bill if his daughter Supriya Sule is accommodated in the council of ministers. Even then, Pawar is unlikely to continue as the minister in charge of food.

The NAC is scheduled to meet on July 14. Sonia is unlikely to relent on provisions such as multi-layered classification of target groups that goes beyond the standard BPL definition.

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