Times of India | 2 days ago | 25-11-2022 | 06:48 am
Gandhinagar: The office of the chief electoral officer (CEO), Gujarat, has received 3,350 complaints of violation of the model code of conduct (MCC) over a period of 20 days. Of the total complaints, 3,238 have been resolved by the election watchdog.The number of MCC violation complaints has increased substantially over the 2017 assembly election’s figure. Between November 3 (when the election schedule was announced) and November 23, 3,350 complaints were filed. Through the entire course of the 2017 election, only 570 complaints were received by the CEO’s office.Sources in the CEO’s office said that a majority of the complaints have been filed through the c-Vigil application. In all, 2,133 complaints have been filed through the c-Vigil app, 649 filed by email or post, and 157 through social media.A majority of the complaints are about spreading fake news on social media and breaching expenditure limits. Cross complaints have also been filed by rival candidates in several instances.
Officials at the local hospital where the bodies were kept.Ahmedabad: Two paramilitary jawans forces were shot dead and two others injured in the firing by one of their colleagues near Porbandar in Gujarat, where they were stationed for election duty ahead of next month's assembly polls.The men were not on active duty when they got into a fight in the evening that escalated and shots were fired from an AK-47 rifle, it is learnt. They were part of an India Reserve Battalion (IRB) from Manipur and deputed in Gujarat besides the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), said Porbandar Collector and District Election Officer AM Sharma. It's being investigated as to what led to the clash.The two injured jawans — one shot in the stomach, the other in the leg — were taken to the Probandar general hospital from where they were being shifted to a hospital in Jamnagar, about 150 km away, for advanced treatment.The police report identified the accused as Constable S Inauchashingh, and the two men killed as jawans Thoiba Singh and Jitendra Singh. The injured are constables Chorajit and Rohikana. All of them belong to Manipur.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comThey were staying inside a cyclone centre in Tukda Gosa village, about 25 km from Porbandar.Voting in the Porbandar district will be held on December 1 in the first phase, while the second phase is on December 5, and results on the 8th.
The assembly election in Gujarat is likely to shape the future course of Indian politics: It is going to test the Congress’s resolve towards electoral revival, show whether the Aam Aadmi Party’s attempt to expand its footprint is yielding results and whether Brand Modi and Hindutva remain valuable electoral capital for the BJP. Of course, caste-based social engineering is all too prevalent in Gujarat. However, there are a set of factors related to emotional connections that play an important role in influencing election outcomes.The first such factor is “Brand Modi”. The image of PM Modi is synonymous with Gujarati pride. His presence as the prime minister has created a sub-nationalist assertion within the broader framework of Indian nationalism in Gujarat. This emotional thread is going to shape the election outcome more than any organisational or party-centred efforts. The image of Modi is omnipresent — in the media, in rallies, and imprinted on development initiatives promoted by the Centre. It is talked about in the tribal areas of the Dangs as well as in cosmopolitan cities including Ahmedabad and Vadodara. The narrative around Brand Modi has been contested by the Opposition, of course, but it hardly figures in the conversation or does not seem powerful enough to dent the electoral capital it has generated.A second factor is the “Hindutva aspiration” that provides an emotional basis for political connection. The BJP’s efforts to enhance Hindu pride by constructing the Ram temple in Ayodhya, renovation of the Kashi-Vishwanath temple corridor, and other mega symbols of Hindutva pride have a resonance on the ground. The BJP’s ability to do cultural politics is unmatched; its impact in reshaping hearts and minds is often ignored by political analysts. AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal seems to have recognised the import of this aspect, which is evident in his attempts to carve out a niche within this space by demanding that currency notes carry images of Hindu deities, Lakshmi and Ganesha. However, for cultural politics around Hindutva symbols to work, mere hyperbolic assertions are not enough; continuous and deep groundwork is needed for the claims and slogans to sound authentic.A third invisible factor is the political kinship within the cooperative movement. Politics and the cooperative movement were always connected. However, the BJP has now replaced the Congress as the dominant player in the cooperative movement, which provides cadres and influencers to political parties. The BJP rose in Gujarat by weakening the Congress’s influence among the cooperatives. As the Union minister for cooperatives, Amit Shah has been engaging with producers, the market and mandi.A fourth factor that is enabling electoral mobilisations is linked to aspirations — one related to development and the other to dhanda (business). All political parties compete to tap these aspirations but the BJP, by projecting itself as the party of government through its rhetoric on “double-engine”, has been way ahead of its rivals. The AAP is an opening for newcomers interested in a political career — most civil society activists see their political future in it. In fact, civil society actors are helping the AAP build the party organisation. The BJP and Hindutva groups too have made deep inroads among NGOs and sewabhavi groups. Interestingly, the AAP seems to be winning over Congress sympathisers. Earlier, the impression was that the rise of AAP would hurt the BJP.A strong party organisation is necessary to mobilise people around these factors. The BJP political machine is more powerful and efficient than any other. It is good at pooling resources and using all the inputs at its disposal to maximise outcomes. A good mix of seasoned organisers and mass leaders run the party election machine and the campaign. In contrast, the AAP campaign is focused on Arvind Kejriwal while the Congress campaign revolves around state leaders. The absence of Rahul Gandhi in the campaign is mentioned by Congress cadres and sympathisers. The BJP has sought to diminish the anti-incumbency sentiment by replacing a large number of sitting MLAs, including senior leaders.However, elections have a logic of their own and are prone to throw up small and big surprises. In Gujarat, what factors influence the outcome are worth watching.The writer is professor, Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad
From waving at villagers from the sunroof of her SUV to riding pillion at a motorbike rally, Congress MLA Geniben Thakor (46) has her own star value in the Bhabhar taluka of Vav Assembly constituency in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district.“I am in my pihar (maternal village) today,” Thakor says in the village of Mera on Thursday morning as a crowd of women, not interested in what the other leaders at the event had to say, suddenly stand up and rush to listen to what their “daughter and sister” had to say. The firebrand Congress MLA plays to the gallery and goes on to say, “Vote for your daughter. I do not need to give a bhashan (lecture) about the BJP or the Congress in Mera village. Either I win or lose but I am always with you in your happiness or sorrow. There is not a single family in the village I have not personally reached out to during the Covid pandemic.”“She is our daughter, the one who has made us proud,” says 80-year-old Chelaba Thakor, a villager who welcomed Geniben. Rekha Thakor, 15, a Class 9 dropout, remembers seeing Geniben a few months ago for the inauguration of the government high school.The MLA is lauded for being one the few vocal Congress legislators during Assembly sessions and for not shying away from raising her voice on women-related issues. She lost the 2012 election to Shankar Chaudhary of the BJP from Vav by more than 72,000 votes but defeated him five years later by a margin of over 6,600 votes. This time, Chaudhary has been shifted to the neighbouring Tharad Assembly constituency and the ruling party has fielded Swarupji Thakor.Geniben, who is contesting her fourth Assembly election, appeals to the villagers about ensuring that Thakor votes do not get divided. “When two candidates from the same community are contesting the election, be careful that the community (Thakor) votes do not get split. You might, under society or community pressure, agree to give five votes to one candidate and three to the other from the family. I am requesting you to not fall under this trap,” says the legislator.Village after village the Congress leader makes a similar appeal. “In 2012 too, the same thing happened. Chandulal (Thakkar) contested on an NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) ticket and was in the third position with over 30,000 votes. He did not win but wasted 20,000 votes from the community and 10,000 votes went to the BJP. If these votes had gone to me, I would not have lost,” says Geniben.Accusing the BJP of attempting to split Thakor votes, she adds, “The BJP had many leaders from our community but giving the mandate (to Swarupji Thakor) overnight is only for the sake of contesting the election. He has nothing to do with the BJP or elections but only to split votes.”Gujarat State Co-operative Agri and Rural Development Bank member Kesardan P Gadhvi, accompanying Geniben on her campaign trail in Bhabhar, joins in. “Let us support and make Geniben and Jagdish Thakor (Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee President) strong by standing with them. Let us not divide the community votes into two and show them that Thakors are not that fool,” he says.
It’s Saturday!Get your weekend started with the top 5 stories from today’s edition: Latest on Gujarat Assembly polls, how Rahul was able to rise above Pappu image; what to watch this weekend; and more. 1) Tensions are running high in Gujarat, where the high-stakes Assembly Election is just a few days away. Here are some of our top stories from the poll-bound state: 🔴 The election is set to see many key contests, but the one for minority votes is rather tepid, with major political parties circumspect about fielding Muslim candidates, as always. The Muslim community, which forms approximately nine per cent of the total population of Gujarat, says in one voice that it is “unexcited” about the polls, as “none of the parties” has ever lived up to their pre-poll promises or reached out to the community.🔴 Meanwhile, Isudan Gadhvi, Aam Aadmi Party’s chief ministerial face in Gujarat, speaks to The Indian Express about why his party won’t take its foot off the pedal. 🔴 We join 63-year-old Amit Popatlal Shah, the former mayor of Ahmedabad, as he hits the campaign trail across the Ellisbridge Assembly constituency. Shah is adamant the AAP won’t make a dent at any of Ahmedabad city’s 16 Assembly seats. He is also confident of personally winning by over 80,000 votes. Once elected, he has vowed to resolve all disputes related to the Disturbed Areas Act in the Paldi area of his constituency.2) In her weekly column, Neerja Chowdhury writes on how Rahul Gandhi was able to rise above the ‘Pappu’ image and strike a chord with his Bharat Jodo Yatra: “It goes without saying that the acid test of Rahul’s yatra will lie in winning elections. But, curiously, he has tried to delink the yatra from electoral gains, not to appear power hungry —but this makes little sense. A political party is nothing if it cannot win elections and deliver on its promises.”3) Days after the Jama Masjid authorities announced and then quickly revoked a ban on ‘unaccompanied women’ visiting the mosque, Yashee writes: “When I heard women would no longer be allowed to enter the mosque alone, I felt a personal loss. The questionable logic of the now-rescinded order aside — it wanted to stop girls who “give time to men, do wrong things”; why not ban the men “taking” time from women? — I was also aghast at how little the order seemed to understand Jama Masjid.”4) Express at FIFA World Cup 2022: Two teams locked against each other with a five-man backline is bound to produce a turgid affair, even if both have adequate attacking prowess. So it was only fathomable that the Netherlands and Ecuador produced a colourless, stifled game, in utter contrast to the vibrant colour around the stadium. Several Dutch fans had arrived in their sparkling orange thobes and keffiyeh, Ecuadorians in their flashy yellow t-shirts. Both eked out a point that saw them level with three points, but the result ended all hopes of hosts Qatar progressing to the last 16, after their defeats to Ecuador and Senegal.🍿 What to watch this weekend 5) This week, Shubhra Gupta reviews the latest Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon-starrer ‘Bhediya’: “Varun Dhawan does a good job of aligning with the tone of the film– the horror is pretty much ‘naam-ke-vaaste’, comedy is what it is interested in and does it well.” (3 ⭐)Express Quiz Until tomorrow, Rahel Philipose
Union home minister Amit Shah, who has been campaigning extensively in Gujarat, is confident that the performance of successive BJP governments in the state and the growing affection for Prime Minister Narendra Modi will help BJP score an easy win there. In an exclusive conversation with TOI’s Diwakar and Akhilesh Singh on the campaign trail, he dismissed AAP’s challenge as exaggerated, insisting that Congress continues to be the main challenger but is headed for yet another defeat. Excerpts:What is your assessment on the Gujarat elections?■ The BJP is on a very strong wicket. We shall break all our past records – be it the number of seats or vote percentage – and come to office once again with a thumping majority. You recorded your highest tally – 127 – and highest vote share – 49. 85% – in 2002, the first election fought under Narendra Modi as CM. You hope to surpass that after having been in office for 27 long years?■ Yes. BJP had expressed similar confidence the last time but things did not turn out that way. Congress gave you a real scare and your tally dropped to 99…■ The last polls were an aberration. They were held in the shadow of three intense caste-based movements backed by Congress, which had, working through NGOs it funded, stealthily prepared the background for two years for the campaigns to create divisions among castes. The trick worked in the immediate run and had an impact on elections. But the antagonism that was manufactured and introduced in Gujarat was alien to Gujarat’s ethos. People quickly saw through the divide-and-win game plan. As a result, we won all the 26 Lok Sabha seats just two years later. BJP has since won most of the elections in the state. We hold 90% of seats in local body polls. Today, the party is in office in all districts and all municipal corporations. This clearly shows that the impact of the divisive politics that Congress introduced has worn off. What happened in 2017 was an exception, it could never be the norm in Gujarat. What else has changed since 2017 to make you so confident?■ A lot of issues that BJP consistently raised since its Jana Sangh days in the 1950s, and which resonated with large sections in Gujarat, have been resolved by Narendra Modi’s government. The end of the special status for J&K, removal of Section 35A, construction of Ram Mandir, ban on triple talaq, and beginning of the process to enact a Uniform Civil Code by setting up a committee and initiatingtalks: all this has found huge traction with the voter here. There is also appreciation of the Modi government’s effective management of Covid-19. Administering 230 crore doses of vaccines is no small feat and this is acknowledged by the people. Then, we have also ensured food security for 80 crore people who had lost their jobs and means of livelihood during the two years of the pandemic. All this has positively impacted the voter in Gujarat. I have personally sensed this on the ground. Our economy is stronger today and we have jumped from 11th to 5th spot in the ranking of global economies. This has also created a favourable impact for the BJP in a state like Gujarat where commerce and industry matters a lot and which is home to a large number of MSMEs. Few will dispute your success in turning Gujarat into a laboratory of your ideology. PM Modi’s popularity is obviously a big factor, while BJP’s organisation here is a well-oiled machine. Your advantages are evident. But what about the fatigue factor and the inevitable yearning for change? It felled the once-powerful CPM government in West Bengal.■ Yes, change is inevitable. It is the way of life and nobody can stop it from happening. But a party can also evolve to accommodate the desire for change. BJP consistently innovates and adapts to accommodate the yearning for change. In fact, the party has very often been the trigger for change. We keep carrying out changes. This gives people the confidence that the party is alive to their aspirations. Why would they seek to change a government which keeps improvising and innovating to satisfy their changing needs? So, you claim the BJP, despite being in power for close to three decades, is still seen as a change agent?■ Yes. BJP is a living organism, it keeps changing. That is what every party needs to do in order to be relevant, in order to survive. Our foundational beliefs never change, but our manner of working keeps changing according to the needs of the people. Our governments also keep innovating and have carried out multi-dimensional and dynamic changes in order to be more effective. Did you drop Vijay Rupani for the same reason?■ No. After Narendrabhai, we have had three chief ministers in Gujarat. First was Anandiben. We have a rule in our party that a member can be a part of electoral politics until the age of 75. And, accordingly, Anandiben was relieved from her post when she was 74 years and 10 months old. She has now been tasked with a different responsibility. … Vijaybhai also completed his five years. Then came Bhupendrabhai. We are fighting elections under his leadership and he will continue as the CM after the polls. We don’t dump people. There is always uncertainty on whether BJP will continue with the incumbent after the polls. In some cases, you did not declare your choice before the polls while faces were projected in other instances. What has Bhupendra Patel, a first-term MLA, done in such a short time that BJP has decided to retain him in the job and the Narendra-Bhupendra combo is being projected as the double engine of growth?■ In the one to one-and-ahalf years that he has been in office, Bhupendrabhai has followed all the norms that Narendrabhai had set. He has speeded up Gujarat’s development while upholding the party’s ideology. The results of his work can already be seen; even at the grassroots level. Gujarat’s share in overall exports has risen to 30%. Among the states, it has the largest share of MSMEs and startups registered in the past one year. It has successfully implemented the ‘One nation, one ration card’ scheme. The soft-spoken CM has also displayed firmness in dealing with illegal encroachments. And, there has been no controversy about him. Would you agree that playing the challenger is easier? When you are the incumbent, you are forced to play defence.■ As I had told TOI at the time of the UP polls, antiincumbency is relative. It does not apply to all situations and is dependent on how you have performed in office. We have seen parties winning polls because of pro-incumbency sentiments that their performance generated. And with the type of governance we have provided in Gujarat – 24-hour electricity in every house, road connectivity, business investment, FDI, and high export volume – we have no reason to fear anti-incumbency. The term anti-incumbency was coined during Congress rule for its listless performance. However, under BJP, we have seen the emergence of the concept of ‘pro-incumbency’ and that is the dominant sentiment in Gujarat. Isn’t the Morbi disaster a blot on the state’s performance?■ It was a heart-wrenching tragedy. We all – from PM Narendra Modi to the grassroots BJP worker – feel very sad for the victims. However, we shouldn’t rush to a conclusion just because an election is underway. An administrative inquiry is going on. The high court has also taken cognisance and asked Gujarat Human Rights Commission to look into the matter. The Supreme Court is also cognisant and has shifted all petitions to the HC. Let us wait for the HC’s order. I can assure you that the Gujarat government will accept whatever decision the court takes. There is something puzzling about your campaign. Congress is seen as a reluctant warrior. Its senior leaders are not even campaigning. And yet PM Modi and you keep attacking Congress…■ What you said is true of Congress across the country. Congress has been adrift. It neither has issues nor leadership or a programme. It is a confused party. Yet, the fact remains that Congress has always had a base in Gujarat. Since 1990, they have got at least 30% vote share in every election. That’s why we cannot take them lightly in Gujarat. Our fight is with them. A consistent vote share of 30% translates into one-third of the electorate. Does this not reflect on your failure to win over sections of the society?■ There was a time when the entire country wasn’t with us. Now a large section of the population believes in our vision. We hope that those who are still not supporting us would come around after seeing our work. People say the ‘Gujarat model’ is just hype, a marketing trick: it has only glitter, no substance…■ You can’t see the substance if you have blinkers on. You will be able to see if you take off your goggles of biases and prejudices. What about the criticism that there has been excessive focus on highways and the industrial base, and the social sector has not got adequate attention?■ Another baseless criticism by those blinded by bias and who don’t care to even look at the figures. Gujarat is among the top three states on all parameters. Going back to 2017, the BJP performed poorly in tribal-dominated areas. Are you expecting an improvement this time?■ I am convinced we will do better. . . In every election, we have improved our vote share from tribal areas. And this time I am convinced that we will succeed. There is appreciation in those areas of the way we managed the pandemic; how we have expanded infrastructure and welfare benefits right to the doorsteps of individuals. I am sure people will acknowledge this. The alienation of Patels was another factor. Have they come back to the fold?■ As I said, after 2017 we’ve had two elections. One Lok Sabha, where all sections voted for us and we swept. We have also won the polls forlocal bodies. This could not have been possible without the support of all sections. Everyone has understood that what Congress did in the couple of years preceding 2017 was low-level politics which resulted in the disruption of mutual harmony. Is Hardik Patel’s coming to BJP a testament to this?■ It is not about an individual. It is about the masses… That explains everything. It is said that your principal rival is AAP and you are attacking Congress because you want to shore them up so that there is a split in anti-BJP votes.■ Every party has the right to fight an election. But if you look at Gujarat’s political history, it has largely been a bipolar polity and a third party has never been successful. Be it Chimanbhai Patel, Shankarsinh Vaghela, or Keshubhai Patel, Gujarat has always seen a two-party fight. I feel that the battle is between BJP and Congress. Congress has a lot of baggage and so it is easy for you to blunt their attack. AAP is a new player in Gujarat and is free of that handicap. Besides, a new player that also casts itself as an underdog has its own appeal. Do you agree?■ This is a never-ending debate. It seems you have made up your mind. I cannot convince you if you have already reached a conclusion and are looking for statements to fit that. Let us wait for the votes to be counted, doodh ka doodh aur paani ka paani ho jayega. AAP has unleashed a bagful of freebies. This has worked for them in Delhi and Punjab. Don’t you think this can have an impact in Gujarat as well?■ They made similar promises in Uttarakhand and in Uttar Pradesh; in Maharashtra too. People are not fools. Gujarat has a budget of Rs 2. 42 lakh crore and the cost of implementing the promises that have been made would come to Rs 3. 6 lakh crore. Do you really think that people cannot see through this? They are smart, trust me. Does your confidence have to do with the ethos of Gujarat which values industry and enterprise?■ I don’t want to get into a meandering debate on this. But the fact is that we have given every home in Gujaratelectricity, toilet and gas cylinder. We have given every poor home an Ayushman Bharat card with health coverage up to Rs 5 lakh. And we have also given free rations as help during Covid-19. As against this, people make promises which are unrealistic and can never be kept. Making promises is one thing but what is crucial for winning people’s trust is whether you keep them. Our track record speaks for itself. There are reports about dissension over distribution of BJP tickets. So much so that you had to camp here to firefight.■ This is not new. But I don’t call it firefighting. Reaching out to a party colleague who is unhappy is not firefighting. It is an act of solidarity and camaraderie for someone who has been with you for years. It is my duty to hear them and assuage their feelings. It takes about 20 years to build a dedicated party worker. If a few of them are unhappy that their claim was not heeded, then it is our duty to put a hand on their shoulder and share their grief. And this is what takes BJP ahead. Many people say that the perception about BJP being the overwhelming frontrunner has its flipside too. It will lead to complacency and low turnout.■ Our booth-level presence is the strongest in Gujarat and our workers maintain constant rapport with people. The people of Gujarat have always participated in elections. I am confident that we will have a good turnout as in all elections, and BJP will score a massive win. Then why give a ticket to Payal Kukrani, whose father was convicted in the Naroda Patia violence?■ But what’s wrong about this? She’s a well-educated young woman; a doctor. She has been a hard-working member of the party. True, her father was convicted and has served his sentence. But what has that got to with the daughter? Does she not have a life of her own? You have pronounced her guilty because she is someone’s daughter. But you would never criticise AAP or NCP for not removing their ministers even when they are behind bars. Isn’t it a case of double standards? You have campaigned extensively, what is the feature of this election that has struck you the most?■ The nation has witnessed good governance under Narendrabhai’s leadership in the last eight years. Narendrabhai’s leadership has won laurels and glory for the country. Simultaneously, BJP’s ideological commitments have also been fulfilled. This has had a very positive impact on the people. Modiji was always loved by the people. But I can seethat the affection for him has grown because of the way he has stabilised the economy and strengthened national security. This is true of the entire country. But people here share a special bond with him because he is from Gujarat. His popularity is at its peak and will help BJP score a record win. What is your assessment of Himachal Pradesh?■ We are coming to office with a thumping majority. Over the years, BJP has made many promises in its manifesto. Some of them have been fulfilled, but others, like the Uniform Civil Code, remain on paper. Even CAA is in limbo because the rules have not been framed.■ You are mistaken. CAA is now the law of the land. It has to be implemented and we will do that… We just have to formulate the rules which we could not do because of the pandemic. We shall start working on this, now that the Covid situation has eased. As far as UCC is concerned, it is not just a part of our manifesto since our inception, the Constituent Assembly also directed the legislatures to enact one at the appropriate time. We are alive to our commitment and the task assigned by the framers of the Constitution. Your decision to ban the PFI has led to a backlash of sorts. We have seen serious terror plots being sought to be executed in Coimbatore and Mangalore.■ All challenges to internal security need to be strongly dealt with. We need to proceed against all such dangers, and while we need to analyse all the factors involved, the fear of risks should not deter us from taking on the threat itself. PFI, in many states, had become a danger to our unity and diversity, and our internal security. We watched them push our youth towards terrorism. I believe that the decision to ban it was correct and was taken at the right time. And if there is going to be any reaction, we have all the means and the intent to quell that. What is your assessment of the situation in J&K? When can we expect assembly polls?■ The entire world knows J&K is in very good shape. So far, investments worth Rs 56,000 crore – the highestever – have been committed in the state. Some 30,000 sarpanches have been elected and are working on local body polls. The roots of democracy have spread and gone deeper. People belonging to the backward classes who had been denied benefits available to their counterparts in other states have now been availing of reservations. Women have got their rights. All languages of J&K have got due recognition. And, for the first time, the public is getting a taste of what development actually means. As far as elections are concerned, the Election Commission has finished delimitation, grievances have been redressed. Now, constituencies have been delineated. Electoral rolls, which were riddled with irregularities, are being checked. The EC will announce the dates once the exercise is over. Very often, the judiciary does not seem to be in sync with what the government considers to be imperative for national security.■ There have been such instances. In our Constitution, the roles and responsibilities of the legislature and the judiciary have been very clearly defined and demarcated. We are keeping a close watch on the developments. We shall see how things move. We hope that everyone, including the judiciary, works within their remit. You have been cast as someone who is trying to impose Hindi. Regional parties have attacked you for this. However, you have also argued for regional languages to be used as a medium of education, including for higher and technical courses. What exactly is your position?■ We have championed the use of all Indian languages since the time of Jana Sangh. I am of the firm opinion that we have been able to utilise only 5% of the country’s intellect and talent as a section considers English as the only suitable medium of education and this prevents large sections from accessing quality education and training. The argument that a child will not get good education if he is not taught in English is rooted in misconception, steeped in bias and contrary to the findings of pedagogical studies. I have nothing against English as a language. But it is established that a child learns better and faster if he is taught in his mother tongue. If he is forced to switch to another language because of the hierarchy drawn by elites, his learning process is disrupted. We should be proud of our languages… We have the oldest language, the oldest grammar and the oldest literature. As I said, I am not opposed to English, but we have an excellent pool of Indian languages, which should not be wasted. It is directly linked to the country’s progress and growth.