Political Line newsletter by Varghese K George

Political Line | On the move: Mamata’s national avatar, Kejriwal’s Ayodhya train

(The Political Line newsletter is India’s political landscape explained every week by Varghese K. George, senior editor at The Hindu. You can subscribe here to get the newsletter in your inbox every Friday.)

Mamata on expansion spree

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s expansion drive into other States may not be without strategy, it now appears -- I am revising my views on this issue, after reviewing more facts and arguments. Her outreach to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) patriarch Sharad Pawar in Mumbai recently was significant. Both were once prominent Congress leaders, and they come from the eastern and westerns flanks of the country.  What if these regional parties come together? There is a clear hint in a twitter post by election strategist Prashant Kishor who is coordinating Ms. Banerjee’s outreach. He said the idea and the space that the Congress represent were integral to any opposition politics, but nobody had a ‘divine right’ to be the leader of the Congress. He was obviously referring to Rahul Gandhi. Can there be a Congress without Rahul Gandhi? I raise that question here, against the backdrop of Ms. Banerjee’s new politics.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. File Photo.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. File Photo.  


The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has announced plans to change its constitution in order to fit it with its national ambitions. The bid is serious. In the midst of all this, there is at least one regional party which is moving closer to the Congress -- TRS in Telangana which is spooked by the rise of the BJP in the State. The Congress is in decline in the State, and is now a lesser enemy than the rising BJP.

Away from all Opposition alignment, AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal continues with his solo politics. He has been constantly trying to steal a slice of Ayodhya-Hindutva politics from the BJP, and this week, he flagged off the first train carrying 1,000 devotees to the Ram Temple under the Delhi Government’s Mukhyamantri Tirth Yatra Yojana, “amid slogans of Jai Shri Ram, petal showers, tight security and light classical music….”

Warm send-off: Arvind Kejriwal with passengers to Ayodhya at Safdarjung railway station on Friday. Special Arrangement

Warm send-off: Arvind Kejriwal with passengers to Ayodhya at Safdarjung railway station on Friday. Special Arrangement  

Federalism tract: A Centre that keeps getting stronger…

The passage of the Dam Safety Bill, 2019 by Parliament is being criticised as yet another assault on federalism. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK president M.K. Stalin has condemned the BJP government at the Centre for the new legislation.

A view of the Rajya Sabha during ongoing Winter Session of Parliament, in New Delhi

A view of the Rajya Sabha during ongoing Winter Session of Parliament, in New Delhi   | Photo Credit: PTI

However, according to an expert who has worked on the issue, the Bill will evolve unified policies for dam safety and other issues, which India dangerously lack.

Centralisation is not merely a question between the Centre and the State; there are various questions regarding concentration of power in State capitals, at the cost of peripheral regions and communities within a State. More than one capital is one solution that is touted by some. Andhra Pradesh’s decision to have three capitals for itself has been explained as a measure towards regional parity. In Tamil Nadu, Congress MP Karti P. Chidambaram said recently that more government offices should be located outside Chennai. The High Court has a bench in Madurai, and many government offices could be located in centres outside Chennai, he argued.

Are you what you eat? 

The BJP in Kerala has raised a hue and cry over the spread of halal-marked hotels and food products in the State. The wrangle over halal products, which is very recent in Kerala, could further the divisions between Christians and Muslims in the State, according to some observers. Christians who appear to have a larger stake in the poultry industry in the State see the promotion of halal as an attempt to communally segregate the meat and poultry industry.   

In Gujarat, meanwhile, several BJP-controlled local bodies have stalled the sale of non-vegetarian food on the streets. According to authorities, non-vegetarian food hurts the religious sentiments of people. How vegetarian is Gujarat? Mahesh Langa explores the question here.

Who are coming to, and who are leaving India? 

BSF personnel patrol using a drone at the Line of Control along the Sunderbani area in Jammu.

BSF personnel patrol using a drone at the Line of Control along the Sunderbani area in Jammu.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The extension of the jurisdiction of the Central paramilitary force, the BSF, in the States of Assam, West Bengal and Punjab was protested by the latter two State governments as an encroachment into their policing powers. Now, the chief of the BSF has said its increased powers were in response to changes in the demography of border districts, at least in the first two States. “…demographic balance has changed in Bengal and Assam leading to revolt among the people… voting pattern has changed in the neighbouring border districts … the government thinking was that this notification can help in catching the infiltrators,” he said.

There may be people who want to infiltrate to India, but there are many Indians who are leaving too, it turns out. According to data shared by the government in Parliament, more than six lakh Indians renounced citizenship in the past five years. This year, till September 30, 1,11,287 Indians gave up their citizenship. It is highly likely that some of those highly patriotic outpourings on social media are from some of these former citizens of India! 

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 2:45:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/on-the-move-mamatas-national-avatar-kejriwals-ayodhya-train/article37849010.ece

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