Political Line | Loyalists versus reformists

(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.)

As they say, a week is a long time in politics. I have to admit that in last week’s PL, I overstated the potential implications of Rahul Gandhi’s boldness in booting out Captain Amarinder Singh in Punjab. Developments since then have put him on the defensive and emboldened his critics, inside and outside the Congress. In an unprecedented move, the reformist group in the Congress have openly questioned the Gandhi family. Kapil Sibal has said the Congress does not have a president -- Sonia Gandhi is only the acting president -- and nobody knows who is taking decisions. In fact, everyone knows, and that is what he actually meant. The loyalists in the Congress organised a mob that created ruckus at Mr. Sibal’s residence. That it may not be a decent way of settling this issue is an understatement.

Former Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh during his visit to New Delhi.

Former Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh during his visit to New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: PTI

To pick Navjot Singh Sidhu to lead the party unit in Punjab was an unwise decision to begin with. “No knight in shining armour can help the Congress unless it nurtures its roots and respects its workers. The disastrous Punjab experiment underscores that elementary fact,” our editorial on the crisis in the Congress said.

The thoughtless actions in Punjab have boomeranged on the Gandhi family, and could have ripple effects in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. The Chief Minister of these States, Ashok Gehlot and Bupesh Baghel, were unnerved by Mr. Gandhi’s boldness in Punjab, but they may be able to breathe easy, at least momentarily. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi believes Mr. Gehlot has a lot of trust in him!

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Cooperation or confrontation?

The establishment of the Union Ministry for Cooperation in July was seen as yet another instance of the Centre expanding its powers at the cost of States. Cooperatives are a State subject. The Centre might now make constitutional and other legal amendments to deal with the anomaly, according to Home Minister Amit Shah, who also happens to be in charge of the Cooperation Ministry. The newly created Ministry will work in tandem with the States and “there will be no friction,” he has said.

Kite-flying on caste count?

Amid the clamour for a caste census in the country, the BJP and the Centre had remained silent. Now, there is an official position from the Centre, in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court on September 23. Prime Minister Narendra Modi who met a delegation of Bihar parties in August heard them out, but did not reveal his cards. The Union government has now categorically ruled out conducting a Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC), stating that a caste census (except that for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes done traditionally) was unfeasible from an administrative point of view. Whether or not this will remain the position of the Centre and the BJP in the future remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra is embroiled in a debate over quotas for OBCs in local bodies. In March, the SC struck down the reservation for OBCs. The SC then rejected a review petition by the Maharashtra government, which has now issued an ordinance to ensure 27% reservation for OBCs. What is the controversy all about? This explainer is helpful.

What is Owaisi UP to?

A file picture of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi

A file picture of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi   | Photo Credit: BASHKARAN N

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi gets active in poll-going States from one end of the country to the other, championing the Muslim cause. He is frequently in Uttar Pradesh these days. He is trying to dismantle the Muslim-Yadav social combination that is the axis of anti-BJP politics in U.P. Many of his critics see his politics enabling for the BJP, but a Shiv Sena take on him this week was particularly sharp. Mr. Owaisi is nothing but a “behind-the-scenes facilitator” of the BJP, the party has said. The Sena accused him and his party of functioning as a 'contract team' of the BJP.

Communalism, not so sugarcoated

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. File

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. File   | Photo Credit: AP

U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, meanwhile, is trying to cover his flanks by drumming up Hindu consolidation. As it has become a pattern of Hindutva political economy, all measures of the State are packaged in a Hindu hue. The U.P. government recently announced a hike in sugarcane prices, which will be helpful particularly for the Jat farmers in the western parts of the State. The Jats, who had supported the BJP in recent years, are now angry with the party. They have even proposed a social coalition with Muslims, reversing a trend of tensions between them that has risen along with the BJP. Mr. Adityanath is now reviving memories of communal tensions between the two communities. He recalled the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar in 2013 and stressed that the “sons of farmers” had died then. On another occasion, he alleged that previous governments restricted celebration of Hindu festivals but now under the BJP along with a dargah, a temple also gets developed.

Patriotism and regional nativism, the Kejriwal way

The Delhi government led by the Aam Aadmi Party thinks people need to have more patriotism and is doing everything it can to promote that. The latest is the launch of a ‘patriotism curriculum.’

There is more happening to promote mass devotion for the country, among them, huge national flags across the capital city. “When we see the Tiranga, we get goosebumps and our hearts are filled with love and pride towards the nation. In all, 500 similar Tirangas will be installed all around Delhi, so that when you leave for office, one or two Tirangas can be seen by the time you reach office. If you see Tiranga even once, then patriotism and love towards the country would be reignited,” said Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, in his Independence Day speech.

The Aam Aadmi Party leader said only his party can give a stable and honest government in Punjab.

The Aam Aadmi Party leader said only his party can give a stable and honest government in Punjab.   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

As he is trying to expand the AAP footprint to other States, Mr. Kejriwal is also fanning regional nativism, without any irony. In Punjab, Goa, and Uttarakhand in recent weeks, the Delhi CM promised fixed quotas in jobs for local people. Do you wonder, how can both lines be pursued simultaneously? Then, that is politics!

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 2:08:41 PM |

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