All-party meet: Mamata extends support to govt; RJD, AAP not invited

In an all-party meeting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened to discuss the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LoAC), West Bengal Chief Minister said she was extending her government’s unstinted support to the Centre while, elsewhere, Tejashwi Yadav was sore because the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) was allegedly not invited to the meeting.

While sprucing up its defence preparedness, India is witnessing an urge to arrive at a political consensus for the kind of reply Chinese aggression deserves — a constraint of a democracy that the communist enemy is not bound with. On the military front, the Indian Army has told the government it is fully ready.

The meeting began with a tribute to the soldiers who laid down their lives in the line of duty.

Representatives of 17 political parties including those headed by Sonia Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, Naveen Patnaik, Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar attended the meeting. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh informed the opposition leaders about the deployment of the army at the Galwan Valley. He said that the army was completely ready on the border.

During the meeting, Mamata Banerjee said that she was with the government for the sake of the country’s integrity. She demanded transparency in India’s ways of dealing with China.

Sources said the prime minister took questions from the opposition on the killing of 20 Indian soldiers at the Galwan Valley of eastern Ladakh. Prime Minister Modi himself has reportedly taken the opposition into confidence on the issue of the Chinese attack on unarmed soldiers, explaining why and how the situation arose.

In the all-party meeting conducted via video conferencing, the opposition welcomed the government gesture and appreciated the honouring of a “democratic tradition”.

Prime Minister Modi explained to the opposition leaders his government’s diplomatic and military efforts against China. The government appealed to all parties to “unite against China’s aggression”.

The purpose of this all-party meeting, a source in the government said, was also to project to the world “an image of unity in the nation”. “Our political differences notwithstanding, when there is a question of national interest, the whole of India is one,” the source said.

Like an angry Yadav, Sanjay Singh of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) questioned the government, saying that AAP had a government in Delhi and was the main opposition in Punjab. “But on a vital subject, AAP’s views are not needed.”

The union government clarified that only such parties that had at least 5 MPs in the parliament had been invited to the meeting.


Uttar Pradesh govt kicks out 1,188 recruits of Azam Khan

Special lieutenant of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav Azam Khan suffered another jolt today when the SIT investigating the Jal Nigam recruitment scam in the Samajwadi Party government held him guilty. The Yogi Adityanath government cancelled the recruitment of 853 junior engineers and 335 clerks in the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam, appointed during the tenure of Samajwadi Party MP Azam Khan from Rampur as city development minister.

Azam Khan faces a plethora of civilian and criminal cases already.

Earlier, the Uttar Pradesh government had cancelled the recruitment of 122 assistant engineers.

The Uttar Pradesh government issued an order cancelling the recruitments late on Monday after the SIT investigation found a lot of discrepancies in the recruitments. Azam Khan is alleged to have made appointments in a total of 1,300 posts of the Uttar Pradesh administration, including those for 122 assistant engineers and 853 junior engineers, whose recruitment process was irregular.

Azam Khan is alleged to have made a mess in the recruitment of 1,300 posts as the chairman of the Jal Nigam Recruitment Board in 2016-17. The Uttar Pradesh government cancelled the recruitments of junior engineers and clerks after the preliminary report from the investigators.

Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam recruitment scam

On 18 June 2016, the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam had published an advertisement for direct recruitment to the posts of clerk and stenographer. Accordingly, Messrs Aptech Company of Mumbai conducted the written examinations for 335 clerical and 63 stenographer posts between 5 and 7 August 2016 respectively. In computer-based data, the answer form was uploaded on the website immediately after the general examination so that the candidates could submit their objection, but after the written examination, the answer sheet was not uploaded on the website.

Due to this, candidates could not cross-verify their answers or lodge any complaint. Then the Jal Nigam got the list of candidates for interviews. The corporation did not take cognizance of the glitch of not uploading the answer sheets.

The final result was released on 24 December 2016, after which the authority cancelled the examination as none was successful in the examination for stenographer posts.

A case was registered against former city development minister Azam Khan, city development secretary SP Singh, former MD of Jal Nigam PK Asudani and the then chief engineer of the Jal Nigam Anil Khare. The SIT has questioned all the officials.

Now the investigation process of SIT is complete. Azam Khan has been found guilty. The SIT investigation found the recruitment process to be completely faulty. It has submitted its report to the government.

Apart from the clerks of Jal Nigam, Aptech Limited Mumbai conducted examinations for the posts of Assistant Engineers and Junior Engineers. The unsuccessful candidates complained to the Allahabad High Court that the examination system was not transparent. After this, by the order of the High Court, the authority conducted a separate investigation with two officers of the chief engineer rank of the corporation.

The SIT got to investigate the entire case. The team found anomalies in the recruitments. The SIT report to the current government spoke of a criminal conspiracy to destroy documented evidence of the recruitment scam.

The candidates who succeeded or failed in this faulty examination cannot be considered authentic, the SIT held. It is also not possible to separate the candidates of the two categories when the original data are missing it said.

The report, therefore, recommended that the government declare all the said appointments void on 24 December 2016. That salary allowances etc the appointees received so far will not be recovered.

Earlier, the government had cancelled the appointments of 122 assistant engineers for mismatches in their records.

The troubles of the then city development minister Azam Khan may increase, with the Uttar Pradesh government acting on the basis of the SIT probe result.


Rampur court jails Azam Khan, wife, son to for 3 days

The additional district judge court of Rampur today sent Samajwadi Party (SP) MP Azam Khan, his wife Tazeen Fatima and son Abdullah Azam Khan to jail until 2 March.

Khan and his wife are accused of making a fake birth certificate of their son Abdullah.

Khan had arrived in Rampur ADJ court today to appear with his family. He is still in the court premises with his family.

Khan had been disregarding summons from the court for a long time. Due to non-attendance, the court had issued bailable and non-bailable warrants against Khan, his wife and son.

So far, 88 lawsuits have been filed against SP MP Khan.

Today, Abdullah Azam was tried in two cases. Today the Khan family reached the court to file a bail application. The court decided to send the three to judicial custody, postponing the hearing on the bail application.

Khan can move the high court against this order of Rampur ADJ Court. If the family does not get relief from the high court, they would have to remain in judicial custody till 2 March.

Earlier, the court of Rampur had served a notice to Azam Khan, his wife Tazeen Fatima and son Abdullah Azam to appear in the court. After the notice, several warrants had been issued against Khan due to continuous non-attendance. Despite this, Azam Khan and his family did not appear before the court.

The court had asked Khan to appear for the last time on 24 January. It was a proclamation, yet Khan ignored the order until 26 February when he appeared for bail with his family.

Rampur, other courts hearing 80 cases against Khan

Khan has 80 legal cases against him related to land encroachment and criminal intimidation. He found support from party leader Akhilesh Yadav who claimed the cases were politically motivated even as Khan and his son lost their memberships of the Uttar Pradesh assembly.

Rampur SP Ajay Pal Singh investigating one of the cases of land grab confirmed that claims of the complainants about the looting of household items, jewellery and domestic cattle were true.

There are several cases of land grab registered against the NGO Jauhar trust founded by Khan. In January 2020, the Rampur local administration initiated the return of occupied land to the rightful owners with around 17 bigha of land being handed over to six farmers (1 bigha = 0.40052356 ac).

In January 2019, a case of forgery was lodged against Khan, his wife Tazeen Fatma and son with respect to the birth certificate of his son Abdullah at a local police station in Uttar Pradesh. However, in March 2019, the Allahabad High Court stayed their arrest until the probe was completed by the police.

In January 2020, the court declared the three, Abdullah and his parents, to be absconders for failing to appear in the court during the hearings of the case. Following this, the Enforcement Directorate will attach the properties of Azam from the first week of February onward. On 26 February, he was sent to the jail along with his wife and son for making fake birth certificate of his son.


Mulayam comes out in support of Azam Khan

Lucknow: Samajwadi Party patron Mulayam Singh Yadav on Tuesday alleged that injustice was being meted out to senior party leader Azam Khan and said a protest will be launched by party workers against it. Khan is facing land grab allegations. Authorities have claimed that the gate of the Mohammad Ali Jauhar University is allegedly being built on government land.

Sirf News had reported on 31 July that Azam Khan‘s MLA son had been detained for allegedly obstructing officials during a raid at Mohammad Ali Jauhar University in Rampur, triggering a protest by party workers. SP MLA from Suar Abdullah Azam has been detained for obstructing the raids and creating hurdles in the government work, Rampur SP Ajaypal Sharma said. His father Mohammad Azam Khan is the founder and chancellor of Mohammad Ali Jauhar University.

Sharma had said over 2,500 rare stolen books were recovered from the university’s library till now. “The raids which started yesterday (Tuesday) are continuing. Rare books have been recovered there,” Director General of Police OP Singh said.

Coming out in support of Khan, the SP patriarch said at a press conference today, “Injustice is being meted out to Khan and SP workers will launch a protest against it.” To a question, he said if required, he would take up Khan’s case with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“If needed, will meet the prime minister to convey to him the injustice to Khan,” the SP leader, who has appeared before the media after a long time, said.

The Lok Sabha member from Rampur has been accusing the BJP government of committing “atrocity” to win the upcoming by-polls in the state, in reference to raids conducted at the varsity. “They (Uttar Pradesh government) want to destroy the University,” he had recently alleged.

Earlier in June, following the drubbing of the Samajwadi Party (SP) at the Lok Sabha election, patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav had taken over the command of the party to rejuvenate his organisation. Yadav, along with senior party leaders, was continuously taking feedback on this defeat.

The Yadavs had also made a strategy for the road ahead. However, SP leaders were avoiding saying anything on this.

The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister was seen in action once again, with his son Akhilesh Yadav marginalised to a certain extent. Mulayam was visiting the party office on a daily basis where he met with the party workers and leaders and spoke to them. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Mulayam had made the party office his home.

Party sources said that Mulayam Singh Yadav had prioritised meeting such leaders who had been sidelined in the party under the reign of Akhilesh. A source in the party had said, “I met him recently. Netaji was worried about the present situation of the party. After our defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, he is concerned also about the future of the party. I think that he must have conveyed this to Akhilesh after taking feedback from the old leaders.”


Yadav accuses UP Police of staging encounters

Firozabad: Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav on Wednesday accused the Uttar Pradesh government of misusing police for implicating people in false cases and killing them in staged gun fights.

The SP chief made the allegation while addressing a public meeting here on the occasion of the inauguration of a building of the local AK College. He also accused the government of removing Value Added Tax (VAT) from diesel and petrol before the elections to get votes, but reimposing the same after the elections.

“Today, there is a big fight. The injustice has broken all boundaries. Innocent people are getting killed in encounters. The police is framing people in false cases,” said Yadav. “We had dreamt of making Uttar Pradesh an Uttam Pradesh, but the BJP has turned it into a hatya pradesh,” he added. He said the BJP was trying to strip people of their constitutional rights.

“Everything is being privatised and the jobs are being outsourced. The BJP people are very sharp-minded. They are ahead (of others) in misleading people,” said Yadav. “To get votes during elections, they had removed VAT from diesel and petrol, but after elections were over, the VAT was imposed again,” he said and added that the BJP government has virtually destroyed the country.

“The government decisions indicate the country is in a grip of recession. The companies are getting closed, and job losses are being reported from every sector. Most of the sectors, be it textile or automobile, are going downward,” Yadav said.

Earlier in July, taking cognisance of incidents of mob lynching, including those by cow vigilantes, the Uttar Pradesh Law Commission had submitted a draft Bill recommending up to life imprisonment for the crime.

Commission Chairman Justice (retd) AN Mittal had submitted a report on mob lynching, along with the draft Bill, to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday.

The 128-page report cited various cases of lynching in the state and recommended the immediate enactment of law as per recommendations made by the Supreme Court in 2018.

The commission said the existing laws to combat incidents of lynching were not sufficient and asserted that there should be a separate law to tackle them. It suggested a punishment ranging from seven years in jail to life imprisonment for the offence.


Priyanka questioned for ‘criminals roaming in UP’ comment

Lucknow: After Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra Saturday hit out at the Yogi Adityanath government alleging that criminals were “roaming around freely, doing whatever they wish” in Uttar Pradesh, the comment drew a quick retort from the police, the State government, members of civil society, fans of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and supporters of the BJP.

Uttar Pradesh Police claimed there was a decline in crime rates in the State. Replying to Gandhi’s tweet, the State police tweeted, “UP police has initiated strict action in serious crimes. In the past two years, 9,925 criminals were arrested and 81 killed. In action under NSA (National Security Act), property worth Rs 200 crore was seized. There has been a decline in incidents of dacoity, murder, loot and kidnapping.”

“Visible policing, strong monitoring, effective action against hardened criminals & public interaction has enabled us to win the confidence of people. Crime under all major heads is down by 20-35%. We are committed to the safety and security of citizens of the State,” the State police added.

State Law Minister Brijesh Pathak, when asked about Gandhi’s remarks, asserted that since the formation of BJP government in the State, the network of criminals has been broken.

The UP minister said, “The network of criminals has been broken in the State. Our government is acting tough on criminals. There are incidents of crime due to enmity and prompt action is taken by police wherever crime is reported.”

Academic-activist Madhu Purnima Kishwar drew a pot-kettle analogy to say on Twitter, “Sure enough criminals and seamsters are roaming free. Pity that Sonia-Vadra given bail by courts.”

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi had earlier written on Twitter, “In entire Uttar Pradesh, criminals are roaming around freely, doing whatever they wish. Incidents of crime continue to happen but it has fallen on deaf ears of the BJP government. Has the Uttar Pradesh government surrendered before criminals?”

Gandhi-Vadra also tagged along with her tweet news headlines of different crime reports in the State.

Priyanka gets support from Akhilesh

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav joined the Congress general secretary in attacking the Adityanath government. “The government is manipulating data to drive home the point that crime is declining,” Yadav said.

The Samajwadi Party chief said the State government’s claim of crime control was “hollow”.

“The UP government’s claim of crime control is hollow. Everyday loot, murder and rape is happening in the State, but the government is mum. Police are taking law into their hands and harassing people,” Akhilesh Yadav said. He alleged that a teenager accused of theft was tortured in the State capital. “If such is the situation in Lucknow, one can imagine the State of affairs in other districts,” he said.

After a video of two inmates flashing a countrymade pistol in the State’s Unnao jail went viral on social media, the Samajwadi Party had termed the incident an “open challenge” to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

The party alleged that jails in the State were in the pocket of criminals.


Mayawati says BSP will fight all polls alone, SP takes gloves off

Lucknow: BSP president Mayawati on Monday declared her party in the future will contest all elections “small and big” on its own, signalling the end of the much-discussed Bahujan Samaj Party-Samajwadi Party alliance forged for the Lok Sabha polls.

Hours after Mayawati announced her plans of going solo in future elections in a series of tweets, a senior SP leader accused her of “weakening” the fight for social justice.

Mayawati’s announcement came a day after she held a meeting with party workers to review the BSP’s performance in the recent Lok Sabha polls. “Everyone is aware that forgetting everything of the past as also the anti-BSP and anti-Dalit decisions like reservation in promotions and bad law and order during the SP rule in 2012-17, the BSP adhered to the ‘gathbandhan dharma’ with the Samajwadi Party in the interest of the country,” she tweeted in Hindi.

“But the SP’s attitude after the elections has forced the BSP to think, will it be possible to defeat the BJP in the future? This is not possible,” Mayawati said.

“Therefore, in the interest of the party and the movement, the party will contest all small and big elections on its own strength,” Mayawati said. She did not elaborate on what she meant by the SP’s attitude.

Soon afterwards, SP national general secretary Ramashankar Vidyarthi told journalists in Balia that Mayawati was speaking against the SP in haste because of the Dalit support to his party and its leader Akhilesh Yadav.

“She is weakening the fight for social justice,” he said, adding that Dalit society is getting connected with the SP and Akhilesh Yadav in a big way.

People know about the reality about what the ‘malkin’ of the alliance has done, he said.

The Rashtriya Lok Dal, a minor partner in the grand alliance, said it had nothing to do with Monday’s developments.

“Our party has nothing to do with the BSP,” Uttar Pradesh RLD president Masood Ahmad told PTI.

He said the RLD was in alliance with the Samajwadi Party and not the BSP. “… and our alliance is intact,” he said.

“Today’s development concerns the SP and the BSP and they have to decide,” Ahmad said, adding it will not impact RLD’s alliance with the SP.

The BSP-SP-RLD alliance in Uttar Pradesh for the Lok Sabha polls failed to make an impact in the politically crucial state.

The BSP won 10 seats, a big gain from the zero in 2014, but the SP just managed to maintain its tally of five seats though it faced humiliating defeats in Badaun, Kannauj and Firozabad where its sitting MPs and family members. The RLD drew a blank in all the three seats it contested.

Commenting on the development, Congress spokesperson Dwijendra Tripathi said commitment is most important in politics.

“Commitment with the people as well as among political parties is very important… if people feel that politicians cannot keep their words while dealing with each other, they will not be able to keep their promises made to the people,” Tripathi said.

The problem that we are seeing now is an outcome of lack of commitment, he remarked.

An inkling of what was to come was available immediately after the Lok Sabha poll results were out.

Mayawati then said her party would go it alone in the upcoming by-polls to a dozen Assembly seats in UP.

Mayawati, according to party sources, had said the alliance was useless and Yadav votes were not transferred to the BSP.

For the record, however, she said at the time that electoral ties with the SP would continue.

In a statement 10 days after the defeat of the alliance in the Lok Sabha elections, Mayawati had said she can work with the SP in future if Yadav is able to “fulfil his duties”.

The often mercurial leader has patchy loyalty record with her party known to make and break alliances with more than one party.


Encephalitis deaths: What Nitish Kumar may learn from Yogi Adityanath govt

Patna: The  Nitish Kumar government has looked clueless in checking the death toll and spread of Japanese encephalitis in this North Bihar district and its neighbourhood.

Almost 100 children have died of Japanese encephalitis in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar. These all are the reported deaths, however, the local people claim the actual toll could be higher.

Currently, Bihar’s Muzaffarpur is at the epicentre of Japanese encephalitis but only a couple of years ago Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh was in the grip of this disease, which killed thousands of children over four decades.

When Yogi Adityanath government took over from Akhilesh Yadav, Japanese encephalitis was the biggest health challenge in eastern Uttar Pradesh in 2017.

More than 500 children had died of Japanese encephalitis that year in Gorakhpur and its neighbourhood. Altogether 14 districts of the region were in the grip of this disease.

In August 2017, many children admitted for treatment of Japanese encephalitis and acute encephalitis syndrome (AES), died at the BRD Hospital of Gorakhpur leading to the huge political furore.

Pushed against the wall, Yogi Adityanath government opted for desperate measures and launched Action Plan 2018 in collaboration of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef for containing AES and Japanese encephalitis.

A massive vaccination drive was launched for Japanese encephalitis. A robust health and sanitation campaign was launched.

Early vaccination was pushed. Drive to segregate pigs from affected habitation was launched. Immediate response teams were put to work for fogging.

The information campaign was launched to convince parents not to let their kids sleep on mud floors, to use India Mark-2 water pipes or hand pump for drinking water and to immediately reach out to ambulance helpline 108 in case of any early symptoms.

These measures seem to have worked for Uttar Pradesh. The cases of Japanese encephalitis and AES have dropped by about two-thirds in 2018 compared to a year ago.

UP Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh, in February this year, informed the Assembly that 187 deaths occurred due to Japanese encephalitis and AES in 2018 against 557 in 2017.

The total number of cases of Japanese encephalitis and AES dropped from 3,817 in 2018 to 2,043 in 2017 in the affected 14 districts.

The fewer number of patients of Japanese encephalitis and AES reaching hospitals meant that the doctors could take better care of those admitted resulting in a drop in mortality rate. While one in every seven patients of Japanese encephalitis and AES died in 2017, this came down to one in 11 last year.

Till February this year, no deaths due to Japanese encephalitis and AES were reported despite 35 cases in the region, the minister had told UP Assembly.


Mulayam takes reins back from Akhilesh as another dynasty fails

Lucknow: Following the drubbing of the Samajwadi Party (SP) at the Lok Sabha election, patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav has now taken over the command of the party to rejuvenate his organisation. Yadav, along with senior party leaders, is now continuously taking feedback on this defeat.

The Yadavs have also made a strategy for the road ahead. However, SP leaders are avoiding saying anything on this. What is known for sure is that Mulayam’s role will be to strengthen the party?

The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister can now be seen in action once again, with his son Akhilesh Yadav marginalised to a certain extent. For the past few days, Mulayam is visiting the party office on a daily basis. Here, he meets with the party workers and leaders and talks to them. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that Mulayam has now made the party office his home.

Party sources say that in the last few days, Mulayam Singh Yadav prioritised meeting such leaders who had been sidelined in the party under the reign of Akhilesh. A source in the party said, “I met him recently. Netaji was worried about the present situation of the party. After our defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, he is concerned also about the future of the party. I think that he must have conveyed this to Akhilesh after taking feedback from the old leaders.”

Mulayam to make Shivpal return

Another SP leader said, “Both father and son (Mulayam and Akhilesh) have met with party leaders in Lucknow. Netaji is first trying to unite the family. He is a veteran leader and will benefit the party.”

SP sources said further that Shivpal Yadav, who was separated from the party after serious differences with his nephew Akhilesh, recently met Netaji. “Although I cannot say what has happened between them, Netaji is surely bringing Shivpal back in the party.”

Akhilesh to travel across the State

Another SP leader said, “Akhilesh Yadav is busy in reorganising the party, too. An Eid meeting has been organised by the SP this Sunday.” It is believed that all the party leaders will gather and the strategy ahead will be decided during this time.

Party sources said that it is likely that Akhilesh Yadav will undertake a yatra all over Uttar Pradesh to interact with the people directly.

Like Sonia-Rahul in Congress

Recently after the Congress Working Committee meeting, it was decided that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi will be back as the head of the Congress Parliamentary Party. Simultaneously, Congress president Rahul Gandhi decided to step down, a decision most leaders of the party do not agree with. However, neither a replacement of Rahul has been found nor has he changed his decision to quit as the party president, ignoring the pleas of his colleagues.

Unlike in the SP, the seniors in the Congress have been held responsible for the poll debacle. Rahul Gandhi, of all people, told them as much at the CWC. Like the SP, on the other hand, the dynasty of the Congress has lost its public appeal.


Pathetic opposition refuses to learn what India needs

The editorial response of the mainstream media to the wreckage of the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance falls far short of the point the likes of not only Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati but also Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, MK Stalin, Pinarayi Vijayan, N Chandrababu Naidu et al ought to learn to give Indian democracy a real, strong opposition. Whether caste is past its sell-by-date is not the point. In its primary folly, the entire opposition since 2014 has raised an issue that nobody beyond the Lutyens’ zone and some predictable communities found credible: that society had suddenly turned intolerant. Secondarily — this is a marketing point — they all spoke in one voice, thus dividing the votes of those who disagreed with the Narendra Modi-led BJP government’s style of functioning. There were problems galore in that methodology: keeping taxpayers burdened with the liability of sick PSUs, not going after those who stashed Indian black money in tax havens abroad, irrefutable unemployment, a large, unwieldy bureaucracy that is a parallel government unto itself, investors’ disinterest, etc. While the Congress did raise the issue of unemployment, its idea of fighting it was an uninspiring filling up of vacancies in the Union and State government offices. This problem with the otherwise steadily growing economy crossed the minds of the Congress’s thinking heads in only in the final year of the previous NDA government. No other predicament was either rightly identified or accompanied with a solution that Modi did not try out. What they asked the prime minister to do instead was something he was doing already: turning more leftist than the left!

No doubt, Modi’s welfare schemes have been different from his predecessors’. The DBT approach plugged the transmission leaks even as collectors, block development officers, tehsildars with ill-gotten money got arrested by the dozens — optics that the have-nots relished as much as seeing the filthy rich suffer in the immediate aftermath of demonetisation. If the November 2016 decision followed by the July 2017 introduction of the GST almost cost the BJP the Gujarat election (while Uttar Pradesh had thought notebandi was fun), the ruling party promptly began pushing the council for the new tax regime for constant downward revisions. GST ceases to be an issue anymore despite the existence of the 18% and 28% slabs, as very few commodities remain in these upper brackets. The opposition missed the bus, with the Congress first demanding an unthinkable law to cement the tax slabs and then Gandhi proposing asinine dumping of all goods and services in one slab. On GST, the Modi dispensation had been so responsive to public concerns that even the unofficial opposition — the NGO brigade, feminists, socialites, etc — could not raise hell over the cost of sanitary pads as the GST Council defied economics to make the product tax-free, even though no answer could be found as to what would happen to the value-added taxes levied on the ingredients that together made a napkin.

On the social front, even as the Congress president funnily embarked on a temple run, he did not have the foggiest idea what the Hindu community was aggrieved about. The poor show of any opposition party in the Lok Sabha election notwithstanding, the Congress had indeed come up with a manifesto better, albeit marginally, than that of the BJP. It offered a greater degree of economic freedom to the citizens, thanks to the last-minute inputs from economists like Raghuram Rajan, Thomas Piketty, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Abhijit Banerjee. But even they did not realise that the largest community in the country needed freedom from the state too. Hindus, as a collective, almost rebelled against Modi rule on the question of violation of the sectoral traditions of Shani Shingnapur and Sabarimala. The community was as angry when its festivals were singled out by the judiciary and the National Green Tribunal for harsh treatment. Sensing that Lord Ayyappa could upturn the fortune of the ruling party, Sabarimala was the only issue where the RSS-BJP revised its position. But so did Kerala Congress, reaping electoral benefits in the State. When Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis celebrated the end of a tradition in Shingnapur, the opposition had an opportunity to rake up the caste angle as the deity in question is largely guarded by lower-caste priests. When the ilk of Trupti Desai barged into the sanctum, it occurred to no opposition party that this could be a bid to alienate the lower strata from the larger Hindu family. The silence of the lambs when the Supreme Court and NGT frowned at crackers proved that the BJP’s rivals lacked both the ingenuity that makes one stand out and the political intelligence that urges one to grab an opportunity. With parties that impress on neither economic nor social front, Modi-led BJP is set to rule the country unchallenged as long as, figuratively speaking, Bhishma willed to stay the guardian of Hastinapura. And that is bad news for Indian democracy.