Gujarat Election News

No date for Wayanad bypoll, EC says 'no hurry... court has given time for remedy'
The Indian Express | 1 day ago | |
The Indian Express
1 day ago | |

The Election Commission, while announcing dates for bypolls in four Assembly constituencies and one Parliamentary constituency, gave the Wayanad seat a miss. The Lok Sabha seat fell vacant after Congress MP Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from Parliament on March 24, a day after he was convicted in a defamation case over his remarks on the ‘Modi’ surname.Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar, while addressing a press conference, said, “There is a six months time period after occurrence of vacancy (to announce polls) and the trial court has given 30 days time for remedy. There is no hurry.”While pronouncing Gandhi guilty under Indian Penal Code Sections 499 and 500, the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Varma had granted the Congress leader bail and suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal in a higher court. Subsequently, Gandhi was disqualified from the Lok Sabha.Section 151A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, states that “bye-election for filling any vacancy referred to in any of the said sections shall be held within a period of six months from the date of the occurrence of the vacancy.”Kumar added that the law also states that if the remainder of the term was less than one year, then the election will not be held. However, for Wayanad, the term is over an year, he said.The Election Commission announced May 10 as the date of polling for Karnataka Assembly elections, and bypolls in Parliamentary constituency of Jalandhar (Punjab) and Assembly constituencies of Jharsuguda (Odisha), Chhanbey (Uttar Pradesh), Suar (UP), and Sohiong (Meghalaya). The counting of votes will take place on May 13.

No date for Wayanad bypoll, EC says 'no hurry... court has given time for remedy'
Amid Rahul Gandhi Disqualification Row, This MP Got Lok Sabha Seat Back
Ndtv | 1 day ago | |
Ndtv
1 day ago | |

New Delhi: In the middle of a huge political row over Rahul Gandhi's disqualification after a Gujarat court sentenced him to two years in jail, the Lok Sabha membership of Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal was restored today after his conviction in a criminal case was put on hold.Sources say Rahul Gandhi's legal team may cite this example before a higher court to try and get a stay on his conviction and restore his Lok Sabha membership.Rahul Gandhi's petition challenging his conviction by a court in Gujarat's Surat may be filed today or tomorrow in a sessions court, sources said. He has 30 days to file his appeal.Though it was widely anticipated, the Election Commission did not announce poll dates today for Wayanad, the constituency that falls vacant after Rahul Gandhi's disqualification. The Congress said it would have challenged the poll body if it had announced elections before Rahul Gandhi's appeal and a decision on it.Mohammed Faizal, an MP of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of Sharad Pawar, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in a case of attempt to murder. He was automatically disqualified from parliament after his conviction.The sentence was stayed by the Kerala High Court in January.Mr Faisal challenged the Lok Sabha secretariat's "unlawful action" in not withdrawing his disqualification as an MP, more than two months after his sentence was put on hold.Mr Faisal claims that a false case was registered against him in 2016 over allegations of an attempt to murder a relative of former Union Minister PM Sayeed during the 2009 elections.The NCP leader was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2019, in the middle of his trial. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison along with three others on January 11. Two days later, the Lok Sabha Secretariat sent him a disqualification notice.On January 18, the Election Commission announced polls to Mr Faisal's Lakshadweep seat on January 27. Two days before the polls, the Kerala High Court suspended Mr Faisal's sentence, forcing the Election Commission to withhold the byelection.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comOn January 30, Sharad Pawar met with Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, to request him to revoke his party leader's disqualification.Met with Lok sabha speaker Shri. @ombirlakota and requested him to revoke the disqualification of Nationalist Congress Party's MP Shri. @faizalpp786 . pic.twitter.com/JGeQgIpJmo— Sharad Pawar (@PawarSpeaks) January 30, 2023The Representation of the People Act, 1951, says that anyone convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more stands disqualified.The rule was invoked when Rahul Gandhi was held guilty by the Surat court in a defamation case linked to his "Modi surname" comments.

Amid Rahul Gandhi Disqualification Row, This MP Got Lok Sabha Seat Back
Why Lakshadweep MP has challenged his disqualification in SC
The Indian Express | 2 days ago | |
The Indian Express
2 days ago | |

The Supreme Court has listed for hearing on Tuesday (March 28) a petition filed by Lakshadweep MP P P Mohammed Faizal challenging the Lok Sabha Secretariat’s “unlawful action” in failing to withdraw its disqualification notice, more than two months after the Kerala High Court stayed the MP’s conviction and 10-year sentence in an attempt-to-murder case.According to Faizal, a “false case” was registered against him on January 5, 2016 at Androth island police station. While the trial was ongoing, he was elected to Lok Sabha in 2019.On January 11, 2023, Faizal and three others were sentenced to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs 1 lakh each by a sessions court in Kavaratti for attempting to murder Mohammed Salih, son-in-law of the late Union Minister P M Sayeed, during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.On January 13, the Lok Sabha Secretariat notified Faizal’s disqualification under Section 8(3) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951, which provides for immediate disqualification of any “person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years”. This is the same section under which Rahul Gandhi was disqualified after a Surat magistrate’s court sentenced him to two years in jail for defamation.On January 18, with Faizal’s appeal against the sessions court order still pending before the Kerala High Court, the Election Commission announced a by-election to fill the Lakshadweep seat.On January 25, two days before the scheduled bypoll, the Kerala HC suspended the conviction and 10-year sentence given to Faizal. The EC subsequently announced that it had decided to “withhold” the byelection in Lakshadweep.On January 30, the Union Territory of Lakshadweep challenged the Kerala HC’s decision in the Supreme Court. On February 20, a Bench of Justices K M Joseph and B V Nagarathna refused to stay the HC order and, issuing notice on the UT’s plea, posted the matter for hearing on March 28.In a fresh petition, Faizal has challenged the Lok Sabha Secretariat’s non-withdrawal of the January 13 disqualification notification.The plea contends that the Secretariat’s inaction violates settled law under Section 8 of The Representation of People Act, 1951, under which the disqualification of an MP ceases to operate if their conviction is stayed by an appellate court under Section 389 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.In its ruling in Lok Prahari v Election Commission of India & Ors (2018), a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising then Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, Justice A M Khanwilkar (retd), and (now CJI) Justice D Y Chandrachud clarified that a disqualification triggered by a conviction will be reversed if the conviction is stayed by a court.“Once the conviction has been stayed during the pendency of an appeal, the disqualification which operates as a consequence of the conviction cannot take or remain in effect,” the ruling had said.

Why Lakshadweep MP has challenged his disqualification in SC
We need to review defamation, raise the bar for disqualificationPremium Story
The Indian Express | 3 days ago | |
The Indian Express
3 days ago | |

With Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from Parliament, many questions pertaining both to its legal and political ramifications have been doing the rounds. I intend here to both clarify many questions being raised and also raise new and significant ones which are consequential not only to the present case but more broadly, to the fate of our parliamentary democracy.On March 23, the chief judicial magistrate, Surat, sentenced Congress MP Rahul Gandhi to two years imprisonment and also imposed a fine of Rs 15,000 after convicting him for the offence of criminal defamation under Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code.The court suspended his sentence for 30 days and granted him bail to enable him to file an appeal in a higher court against its verdict. Following this, the very next day, the Lok Sabha Secretariat issued Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification notification.Congress workers rushed to the streets in many parts of the country, instead of his lawyers rushing to the court in appeal. The solution only lies in the courts. The disqualification can only be reversed if a higher court grants a stay on the conviction or reverses the conviction. After the Lily Thomas judgment of the Supreme Court in 2013, disqualification comes into immediate effect.On October 1, 2013, Rasheed Masood became the first MP to lose his membership of Parliament upon his conviction in a criminal case. After that, over 20 other legislators, including Lalu Prasad, have been disqualified under the same provision.Did the Lok Sabha secretariat act in undue haste as alleged by some? A former Attorney General pointed out that the secretariat has no option. He clarified that as soon as the judge signs the conviction order, disqualification kicks in. He, however, did not mention a violation of this principle that has happened in a similar case from Lakshadweep.The Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faisal was convicted in an attempt-to-murder case and was awarded a 10-year sentence. Two days later, the Lok Sabha Secretariat issued a notification disqualifying him. On January 18, 2023, the Election Commission declared a by-poll for the Lakshadweep seat. However, on January 25, the Kerala High Court stayed Faisal’s conviction. The SC thereafter stayed the by-poll — which the Election Commission had ordered with a similar speed. Even then, to this day, he has not been reinstated in Parliament. What the legal luminary has not mentioned is whether the removal of disqualification also comes into effect the moment the court signs the order suspending conviction. Does this not lend credence to the allegation of selective haste? Besides, doesn’t this wilful disobedience to the orders of the High Court, attract contempt of court? In Lok Prahari v Election Commission of India (2018), the Supreme Court held that once a conviction has been stayed during the pendency of an appeal, the disqualification which operates as a consequence of the conviction cannot take or remain in effect.Some puzzling questions remain that need to be answered. How was it that the petitioner who filed the suit against Rahul Gandhi, sought a stay from the High Court on Gandhi’s trial last year and was successful in delaying the proceedings for nearly twelve months? And what specific circumstances prompted him to seek a vacation of stay when no additional evidence was produced? Why was the magistrate changed last month? No reason has surfaced.Thirdly, did Rahul Gandhi’s remarks come under criminal defamation as opposed to civil defamation? This is what he had said at a rally in Kolar, Karnataka, on April 13, 2019: “One small question, how are the names of all these thieves ‘Modi, Modi, Modi’… Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi…”Did it call for a sentence of the maximum possible prison-term of two years? Incidentally, this is the minimum period of punishment which attracts disqualification under the Representation of People Act 1951.Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly of all: In a political atmosphere such as ours which is being increasingly charged with high levels of hate speech and vitriolic politics, how many of our politicians can truly survive the test of Section 153 (a) and Section 505, conviction under both of which can lead to disqualification under Section 8 of the Representation of People Act, 1951? Both the aforementioned sections deal with the offences of promoting enmity based on religious and linguistic grounds, among others. Therefore, why is there this selective efficiency in disqualifying members of the Opposition while turning a blind eye toward the members of the ruling dispensation? Surely, as the ruling party themselves are stating repeatedly, equality before the law is a cardinal principle and no one is above the law.I believe it is high time that we review and rethink the use and legitimacy of defamation cases in general. Many democratic countries around the world, including the UK, USA and Sri Lanka have decriminalised defamation where it is no longer a criminal offence. It may do us well to follow suit.Finally, in conclusion, it must be remembered that the best and the correct way to proceed from hereon will be through the due process of the courts. The judgment determining the legality of the disqualification cannot be deliberated in the streets. The political fallout of this issue is slowly unfolding and we wait to see where this may finally take us, especially in light of the 2024 general elections.But whatever may be the electoral results and legal verdicts, it is an indisputable fact that a healthy Opposition is imperative for a healthy democracy. We must not allow it to be killed.The writer is former Chief Election Commissioner of India and the author of An Undocumented Wonder: The Making of the Great Indian Election

We need to review defamation, raise the bar for disqualificationPremium Story
From PSL vs IPL to political chaos and a ‘less festive’ Ramazan: What the Pakistani media is talking about
The Indian Express | 4 days ago | |
The Indian Express
4 days ago | |

PSL success, continuing political chaos and rising Covid numbersThe three prominent domestic issues in the news in Pakistan are the delayed elections, rising Covid numbers and a the successful Pakistan Super League cricket tournament.The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has decided to delay the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elections until October. The Nation (March 24) is sympathetic to the ECP: “The ECP also finds itself in a tough spot given that the Army has said that it will not be available for poll-related duties in light of the security situation.” Express Tribune (March 24) says, “the top court will strike down the electoral watchdog’s decision to postpone election as ‘constitutional overreach’.” Dawn (March 24) heavily condemns this decision saying, “If the ECP does not reverse its decision, the precedents being set are going to damage Pakistani democracy, perhaps irrevocably so.Dawn (March 25) welcomes the WHO’s announcement that “the virus… won’t be viewed any longer as one that is ‘disrupting society and hospital systems’”. But they caution the public saying, “in a country like Pakistan, which has one of the world’s highest rates of diabetes, officials must continue to urge vigilance.” The Nation (March 25) says, “a new wave… is bound to cause irrecoverable damage” for Pakistan, which is “already suffering from a never-ending political crisis and economic turmoil”.The Lahore Qalandars made history by becoming the first team to win the tournament for their second consecutive year. Express Tribune (March 20) began by comparing the PSL to the IPL saying, “It was comforting to learn that the PSL had surpassed the Indian Premier League on digital rating”. News International discussed the highlights — recounting the contribution of particular players and said, “The series was a precursor for a PSL-style women’s T20 league which Pakistan plans to launch next year.” Dawn (March 20) added that the “PSL went on despite the unrest in Lahore, not only showcasing Pakistan’s ability as a cricket host but also helping to divert people’s minds from cantankerous politics.”The ‘elusive’ IMF dealIn economic news this week, the IMF deal and food and fuel crisis — especially during Ramazan – were discussed.On the cost-cutting measures that have caused severe hardship for ordinary Pakistanis, Daily Times (March 25) said, “It is more crucial than ever before to think long-term and establish institutions that can protect vulnerable groups amid all the brutal belt-tightening measures we’ve seen this year”. The IMF has added another measure before signing the deal, which is increasing the interest rate to the recommended 4 per cent. The Nation (March 24) calls the IMF programme a “necessary evil” and says “it is clear that the government is trying its hardest to retain some control over monetary and fiscal decisions… but we are running out of options”. Dawn (March 25) says, “the decision-makers sitting in Islamabad… remain unable to convince the IMF… to bail the country out of its present crisis”. It adds that the IMF too seems to be “acting in bad faith… cynically using the delays in reaching an agreement for political mileage”.The prevailing narrative around the petrol subsidy is that this is a “last-ditch effort” and that “populist solutions to the problems faced by the people always prove untenably expensive for the economy” (Dawn, March 21). News International (March 22) talks about it keeping in mind the general elections right around the corner saying it may be to “sweeten the ballot box” but that “canvassing for votes based on dubious conspiracy theories or ill-conceived schemes masquerading as pro-poor subsidies is a no-no.” Express Tribune (March 21) says, “the desire to come up with subsidies and relief to the neglected and low income segments of the society is appreciated” but the lack of “quantified data to estimate the needful requirement” makes it less effective.The Nation (March 25) says, “With gas in short supply, residents have a hard time preparing for sehri and iftar”. They attribute this shortage to a “lack of care in using our gas reserves”. Daily Times (March 24) says, “purchasing power of the average Pakistani has gone down by 40 per cent this year” and so, Ramazan “this year is less festive”.Amritpal, defamation and Rahul GandhiOn India this week, there was much said about the Amritpal matter, on defamation and Rahul Gandhi.Express Tribune commented on both the Amritpal case (March 22) as well the defamation issue (March 25). It cautioned India against a “return to the 1980s Sikh militancy era” and “the fundamentalist Hindutva movement’s assault on Indian secularism has bred fundamentalist sentiment in minorities” and “if not addressed, the hateful ideology will end up tearing India apart.”On the Rahul defamation issue, Express Tribune says, “the law appears to have been applied vindictively in this case” but it offers “food for thought regarding Pakistan… if prominent leaders actually had to think twice before accusing their opponents”, they “would have to speak on policy strengths and weaknesses, rather than scandal and slander”.Daily Times (March 26) commented on Rahul Gandhi’s case saying, “for a mainstream politician having his career overwhelmed by a conviction that has sent shockwaves in all quarters over its regressive nature… we, at Daily Times, could only offer profound regrets”. It adds that “Modi’s administration has gained considerable notoriety… for using the law to silence its dissidents.” The editorial concludes by saying, “the writing on the wall asks of everyone: beware, beware, for the colonial boogeyman is here.”adya.goyal@expressindia.com

From PSL vs IPL to political chaos and a ‘less festive’ Ramazan: What the Pakistani media is talking about
UPSC Essentials | Weekly news express with MCQs: Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification as MP, Xi Jinping-Putin meet, and morePremium Story
The Indian Express | 5 days ago | |
The Indian Express
5 days ago | |

The Indian Express’ UPSC weekly news express covers some of the important and burning topics of current affairs news from this week to help you prepare for UPSC-CSE. Try out the MCQs and check your answers provided towards the end of the article.(The UPSC Essentials Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest updates.Note: Catch the UPSC Weekly Quiz and brush up on your current affairs knowledge.)Why in news?— Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi’s membership of Parliament has been cancelled following his conviction and sentencing by a local court in Surat on Thursday.— A notification issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat on Friday said Rahul “stands disqualified from the membership of Lok Sabha from the date of his conviction i.e. 23 March, 2023 in terms of the provisions of Article 102(1)(e) of the Constitution of India read with Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951”.KEY TAKEAWAYSApurva Vishwanath , Damini Nath ExplainsWhy has the Lok Sabha Secretariat issued this notification?— It is part of the procedure. In a note on October 13, 2015, the Election Commission of India had asked state chief secretaries to issue appropriate instructions to the department dealing with prosecutions to ensure that cases of conviction of sitting MPs or MLAs were brought to the notice of the Speaker or Chairman of the House, and to the Chief Electoral Officer of the state, along with the order of conviction within seven days of the order.— In the case of a disqualified MLA, the notice is issued by the Vidhan Sabha concerned.Is the authority of the Speaker final in this regard?— The Supreme Court in its ruling in Lok Prahari v Union of India (2018) clarified that a disqualification triggered by a conviction will be reversed if the conviction is stayed by a court. “Once the conviction has been stayed during the pendency of an appeal, the disqualification which operates as a consequence of the conviction cannot take or remain in effect,” the ruling said.— The notification by the House Secretariat regarding Rahul will cease to be in effect if and when his conviction is stayed.What is Article 102 of the Indian Constitution?— Disqualification of a lawmaker is prescribed in three situations. First is through the Articles 102(1) and 191(1) for disqualification of a member of Parliament and a member of the Legislative Assembly respectively. The grounds here include holding an office of profit, being of unsound mind or insolvent or not having valid citizenship.— The second prescription of disqualification is in the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, which provides for the disqualification of the members on grounds of defection.— The third prescription is under The Representation of The People Act (RPA), 1951. This law provides for disqualification for conviction in criminal cases.— Article 102 deals with the disqualification of MPs from either house of the Parliament.— Part (1) of the article lists the reasons why an MP can be disqualified. These include, “(a) if he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State, other than an office declared by Parliament by law not to disqualify its holder; (b) if he is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court; (c) if he is an undischarged insolvent; (d) if he is not a citizen of India, or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign State, or is under any acknowledgment of allegiance or adherence to a foreign State; (e) if he is so disqualified by or under any law made by Parliament.”— In Rahul Gandhi’s case, the last point (if he is so disqualified by or under any law made by Parliament) applies. The law under which he has been disqualified is the Representation of People Act, 1951.What is the Representation of People Act, 1951?— The Representation of the People Act, 1951 is an act of Parliament of India to provide for the conduct of election of the Houses of Parliament and to the House or Houses of the Legislature of each State, the qualifications and disqualifications for membership of those Houses, the corrupt practices and other offences at or in connection with such elections and the decision of doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with such elections. It was introduced in Parliament by law minister Dr BR Ambedkar.— There are several provisions that deal with disqualification under the RPA. Section 9 deals with disqualification for dismissal for corruption or disloyalty, and for entering into government contracts while being a lawmaker. Section 10 deals with disqualification for failure to lodge an account of election expenses. A key provision, Section 11, deals with disqualification for corrupt practices.— Section 8 of the RPA deals with disqualification for conviction of offences. The provision is aimed at “preventing criminalisation of politics” and keeping ‘tainted’ lawmakers from contesting elections.First, disqualification is triggered for conviction under certain offences listed in Section 8(1) of The Representation of The People Act. This includes specific offences such as promoting enmity between two groups, bribery, and undue influence or personation at an election. Senior Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan lost his Uttar Pradesh Assembly membership in October 2022 after he was convicted in a hate speech case. Defamation does not fall in this list.Section 8(2) also lists offences that deal with hoarding or profiteering, adulteration of food or drugs and for conviction and sentence of at least six months for an offence under any provisions of the Dowry Prohibition Act.Section 8(3) states: “A person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years shall be disqualified from the date of such conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release.” This is the provision under which Rahul Gandhi has been disqualified.How does the disqualification work?— The disqualification can be reversed if a higher court grants a stay on the conviction or decides the appeal in favour of the convicted lawmaker. Significantly, the stay cannot merely be a suspension of sentence under Section 389 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), but a stay of conviction.— Over the years, the law has changed when it comes to disqualification. Under the RPA, Section 8(4) stated that the disqualification takes effect only “after three months have elapsed” from the date of conviction. Within that period, lawmakers could file an appeal against the sentence before the High Court.— However, in the landmark 2013 ruling in ‘Lily Thomas v Union of India’, the Supreme Court struck down Section 8(4) of the RPA as unconstitutional. This is what has allowed the Lok Sabha Secretariat to immediately disqualify Rahul Gandhi.What does Rahul lose along with his membership of Lok Sabha?— As a Lok Sabha MP, Rahul was entitled to a house in Lutyens’ Delhi. Following his disqualification, he will have one month to vacate his 12 Tughlak Lane home, according to sources in the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry. Rahul had been allotted the house after being elected MP from Amethi in 2004.— The Lok Sabha Secretariat has sent a copy of the disqualification notification to the liaison officer of the Directorate of Estates for further action. The sources said since the bungalow belongs to the Lok Sabha pool of residential properties, the action for its vacation would have to be initiated by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.— Rahul also loses all other perks that a Member of Parliament enjoys.When do the people of Wayanad get a representative back in Lok Sabha?— The Election Commission can announce a byelection to the seat — in Azam Khan’s case, the schedule for the byelection to Khan’s 37-Rampur seat (along with byelections to fill four other vacancies across the country) was announced within a few days.— However, in the more recent case of Lakshadweep MP P P Mohammed Faisal, the EC, which had announced the bypoll on January 18 after the MP’s conviction, had to withdraw the announcement on January 30 after Faisal’s conviction was suspended by the Kerala High Court on January 25.FYI : IPC sections 499 and 500 — Defamation is a wrong that deals with damage caused to a person’s reputation.— In India, defamation can both be a civil wrong and a criminal offence, depending on the objective they seek to achieve. A civil wrong sees a wrong being redressed with monetary compensation, while a criminal law seeks to punish a wrongdoer and send a message to others not to commit such acts, with a jail term. In a criminal case, defamation has to be established beyond reasonable doubt but in a civil defamation suit, damages can be awarded based on probabilities.— Section 499 of the IPC defines what amounts to criminal defamation and subsequent provisions define its punishment. Section 499 elaborates on how defamation could be through words – spoken or intended to be read, through signs, and also through visible representations. These can either be published or spoken about a person with the intention of damaging reputation of that person, or with the knowledge or reason to believe that the imputation will harm his reputation.— Section 500 stipulates imprisonment of up to two years, with or without a fine, for someone held guilty of criminal defamation.(With PTI inputs)(Sources: Rahul Gandhi disqualified: What this means, what happens next? by Apurva Vishwanath , Damini Nath; What are the laws under which Rahul Gandhi has been disqualified?; Gujarat court finds Rahul Gandhi guilty: What is the 2019 defamation case against him?)Point to ponder: Is law of criminal defamation a threat to freedom to speech and expression?1. MCQ:Consider the following statements (2020):1. According to the Constitution of India, a person who is eligible to vote can be made a minister in a State for six months even if he/she is not a member of the Legislature of that State.2. According to the Representation of People Act, 1951, a person convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to imprisonment for five years is permanently disqualified from contesting an election even after his release from prison.Which of the statements given above is/are correct?(a) 1 only(b) 2only(c) Both 1 and 2(d) Neither 1 nor 2Why in news?— Xi Jinping, China’s leader, met with President Vladimir Putin of Russia in Moscow in the most high-profile visit by any world leader to Russia since before the pandemic.— Coming more than a year after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, the meeting was watched closely by Western officials for any indications of how far China may be willing to go to act as a mediator in the conflict. Chinese officials  framed the meeting partly as a mission to promote constructive talks between Russia and Ukraine, even though US officials have been skeptical of Xi’s recent efforts to become a global peacemaker.KEY TAKEAWAYSAccording to New York Times:Are China and Russia allies?— China and Russia are not formal allies, meaning they have not committed to defend each other with military support. But the two countries are close strategic partners, a relationship that deepened during the war in Ukraine as Russia became increasingly isolated from many other countries.— Chinese officials have said the current relationship is at a “historic high.” The partnership is fueled by a shared goal of trying to weaken U.S. power and influence.— The relationship between China and Russia has not always been so warm. The two sides were fierce adversaries in the 1960s and clashed in 1969 over disputed territory along their border, raising fears at the time of a nuclear showdown between the two countries.— The two countries have also been competing for influence in Central Asia, a region the Kremlin has long seen as its turf but is becoming increasingly important to China’s geopolitical and economic ambitions. China is building more railroads, highways and energy pipelines in former Soviet republics such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which still rely on Russia as a crucial security partner.What is the economic relationship between Russia and China?— Economic ties between China and Russia have strengthened significantly since Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, when it annexed Crimea. At the time, China helped Russia evade the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration that were supposed to cut off Russia’s access to global markets.— In the wake of harsher sanctions against Russia following the start of the Ukraine war last year, China has helped to supply many of the products that Russia previously purchased from Western-allied countries, including computer chips, smartphones and raw materials needed for military equipment. Total trade between Russia and China surged last year.What does Putin want from China?— Putin needs China to help bolster his economy, which has been battered by Western sanctions. For the Russian leader, China has increasingly become a lifeline for investment and trade. After Western countries restricted their purchases of Russian crude oil and natural gas last year, China helped offset the decline by buying more energy from Russia.— At the start of the Ukraine war, Russia asked China for military equipment and economic assistance, according to U.S. officials. U.S. officials have recently said that China is considering giving weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine, a claim that China has denied.— China has refrained from condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, even though China’s foreign policy is rooted around the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. Although China has portrayed itself as a neutral party in the Ukraine war, it has endorsed Russian narratives, blaming the U.S. and NATO for starting the conflict.— But China has also hesitated to put its full backing behind Russia. The turmoil and instability stemming from the war could threaten China’s growth and complicate its efforts to strengthen its economic ties around the world.— Last September, after Putin and Xi met in person, Putin acknowledged that China had expressed “questions and concerns” about the war in Ukraine.What does Xi want from Russia?— Xi wants Putin to join him as a like-minded ally in confronting U.S. and Western dominance.— In an article published in a Russian newspaper Monday before the visit, Xi said China and Russia needed to cooperate to overcome challenges to their security, including “damaging acts of hegemony, domination and bullying.”— Xi has pursued a harder stance against what he calls a U.S. effort to contain China’s rise, portraying China as a nation besieged — much as Putin has done in speeches to Russians. Xi has urged Chinese industries to reduce their reliance on Western technology and hailed China’s growth as proof that it does not need to adopt Western political values.— China has been buying more advanced weapons from Russia to modernize its military, and the two nations have increased their joint military exercises. Last year, as President Joe Biden was visiting Tokyo, China and Russia sent bombers over the seas in northeast Asia as a show of force.Jabin T Jacob Explains:Does China want the war to end? Does it have influence on Putin enough to get him to stop?— Beijing is unlikely to want an end to the Russian war in Ukraine for several reasons.— First, being tied down in Ukraine has the effect of weakening Russia militarily, economically, and politically. This is a vacuum that China can step into, especially in Eurasia — in September last year, for example, China offered security guarantees to Kazakhstan during Xi’s visit there, and made Belarus its second “all-weather strategic partner” after Pakistan.— Second, a prolonged conflict in Ukraine means that the West’s, and in particular the United States’, attention and resources are diverted — and this the Chinese see as a good thing. From Beijing’s point of view, it weakens the focus on and reduces the resources for any potential Western intervention on China’s eastern seaboard, particularly in the scenario of a crisis over Taiwan.— Third, a continuing crisis in Ukraine offers opportunities for international messaging about the relative rise in Chinese power vis-à-vis both the Russians and Americans. Clearly, Russia’s regional and global stature has taken a hit from what it has done and what it is unable to do — that is, to prosecute a quick end to the conflict.— Meanwhile, just as China’s role in helping Iran and Saudi Arabia restore diplomatic ties was intended to showcase Beijing’s rising influence and the decline of the US in the Middle Eastern region, the inability of the Ukrainians to expel the Russian invaders despite Western support can be used to send a signal in Europe. There is, therefore, little reason for Xi to try and persuade Putin to stop the war.— If anything, China’s political support at forums such as the United Nations and elsewhere has been crucial to Russia building a case for the legitimacy of the war. We might even see over time indirect Chinese military support to Russia. The agreement between Belarus and China earlier this year has sections on industrial production, joint R&D and defence cooperation — which could well allow for potential weapons production and transhipment to Russia.Are the US and China, too, in talks over the war?— There is no doubt that Washington and Beijing have a conversation ongoing about the conflict in Ukraine, but it is unlikely that they can come to any sort of meeting ground in the foreseeable future.— The two nations have fundamentally different interests on this and other issues, and more often than not, these are opposing interests. These differences are ideological and deep-rooted, and the recent American shooting down of a Chinese surveillance balloon in US airspace suggests that tensions in the US-China relationship are only set to grow.— Even if their interests were to align temporarily, Xi has too close a relationship with Putin — and sees greater value in a Russian bulwark against the West — to try and actively promote Washington’s brief. It is also not clear what the Americans could offer China in return.How does the war affect China?— There is no doubt that the war brings costs to China — not just economic ones but political ones, too, especially from the major Western nations that are also big markets for Chinese manufacturing and sources for high technology.— But these are costs that the Chinese economy appears large enough to bear, especially when it is able to procure oil at deep discounts from Russia, and has had its own version of technological self-reliance programmes underway for decades. China is also able to use its economic influence to carry out trade in its own currency with Russia and other sanctioned regimes — Iran, for example.— But the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on China is not just external and economic but also internal. The conflict confirms Xi’s claims in recent times in several important domestic documents and speeches that China “is facing global changes of a magnitude not seen in a century”. Calling attention to a challenging external environment is Xi’s way of reminding the Chinese people of the perils of “[v]arious ‘black swan’ and ‘gray rhino’ events” and the necessity of supporting the ruling Communist Party and Xi himself to help them deal with these challenges.— An unstable external environment and its economic consequences can also be used to justify both China’s current economic difficulties in the wake of the pandemic as well as Xi’s continuing hold over the reins of power as being essential for national stability and recovery.What are the challenges for India?According to Express View on President’s Xi’s Moscow visit: — The China-Russia tango presents two challenges for India. Delhi’s exercise of “strategic autonomy” over the last one year has been premised on its long-standing partnership with Russia, but Moscow’s cosying up with Beijing is certainly putting pressure on that relationship. Putin and Xi have condemned the Quad grouping of which India is a part. Moscow’s positions on India’s LAC troubles with China fall well below what Delhi would like to hear from a friend, and it is not clear how that can be changed.— Secondly, internationally, the success of India’s presidency of the G20 will be measured on the outcome document, which needs the co-operation of both Moscow and Beijing. As was evident from the meetings of the G20 finance and foreign ministers this month, that could prove difficult.(Sources: Power play in Moscow: What China hopes to gain from Xi’s meeting with Putin by  Jabin T Jacob; Xi Jinping-Putin meet: Why China and Russia are closer than ever by  New York Times; Express View on President’s Xi’s Moscow visit: China-Russia tango is a challenge for India)Point to ponder: China-Russia tango is a challenge for India. How?2. MCQ:China, Russia and India together are not a part of:(a) Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(b) G20(c) Asian Development Bank(d) BRICSWhy in news?— The world is on track to breach the 1.5 degree Celsius global warming limit by the 2030s, which would cause irrevocable damage to the planet’s ecosystem and severely impact humans and other living beings, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an UN-backed body of world’s leading climate scientists, warned on Monday (March 20).— Releasing the final report, known as the Synthesis Report, of its sixth assessment cycle, IPCC added that there is still a chance to avert this mass-scale destruction, but it would require an enormous global effort to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and completely phase them out by 2050.— Earth has already warmed an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius since the industrial age while humans have been responsible for virtually all global heating over the last 200 years.— Speaking to the media during the report’s release, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “Humanity is on thin ice — and that ice is melting fast.” He added, “Our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once.”— The Synthesis Report has come after a week-long negotiation with the approval of 195 countries. It is essentially a non-technical summary of the previous reports, which were released between 2018 and 2022, and sets out possible policies and measures that might help stave off the worst consequences of climate change.KEY TAKEAWAYSAlind Chauhan Explains:— The new report lays out the present impact of soaring global temperature and imminent ramifications in case the planet continues to get warmer.— Due to the current global warming levels, almost every region across the planet is already experiencing climate extremes, an uptick in deaths due to heatwaves, reduced food and water security and damage to ecosystems, causing mass extinction of species on land and in the ocean.— Moreover, “vulnerable communities who have historically contributed the least to climate change are being disproportionately affected,” the report said. It added that more than three billion people live in areas that are “highly vulnerable” to climate change — people living in these regions were “15 times more likely to die from floods, droughts and storms between 2010-2020 than those living in regions with very low vulnerability”.— Things can get worse if the world crosses the 1.5 degree Celsius temperature limit, a target agreed to in the Paris Agreement. This would result in an unpredictable global water cycle, drought and fires, devastating floods, extreme sea level events and more intense tropical cyclones.— According to the scientists involved in writing the report, India would also face these dire consequences of global warming and needs to take immediate action to curb the temperature.— Given the present scale, scope and pace of global action, it’s most likely that Earth would overshoot this critical warming threshold somewhere in the following decade. The report categorically states that despite some advancements towards curtailing the greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, “adaptation gaps exist, and will continue to grow at current rates of implementation.” Some of the barriers to adaptation have been limited resources, lack of private sector and citizen engagement, low climate literacy, lack of political commitment and low sense of urgency.— But there is still hope of arresting the rising global temperature within the 1.5 degree Celsius limit. In his address to the media, Guterres said, “Today’s IPCC report is a how-to guide to defuse the climate time-bomb. It is a survival guide for humanity. As it shows, the 1.5-degree limit is achievable. But it will take a quantum leap in climate action. This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe.”— The Synthesis Report underlines the requirement of climate-resilient development, which is finding ways to adapt to climate change or reduce greenhouse gas emissions that provide wider benefits. It further mentions that to be effective, these measures must be rooted in our diverse values, world views and knowledge around the globe — including Indigenous knowledge.— Apart from highlighting the urgent need of limiting the use of fossil fuel, the report urges governments and policymakers to increase finance to climate investments, expand the clean energy infrastructure, reduce nitrogen pollution from agriculture, curtail food waste, adopt measures to make it easier for people to lead low-carbon lifestyles and much more.(Source: IPCC releases its Synthesis Report: What are the key takeaways by Alind Chauhan)Point to ponder: IPCC report warns global warming will breach critical threshold by 2030. Discuss.3. MCQ: In the context of mitigating the impending global warming due to anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, which of the following can be the potential sites for carbon sequestration?1. Abandoned and uneconomic coal seams2. Depleted oil and gas reservoirs3. Subterranean deep saline formalitiesSelect the correct answer using the codes given below:(a) 1 and 2 only(b) 3 only(c) 1 and 3 only(d) 1, 2 and 3Why in news?— Two weeks ago, negotiators from almost every country in the world finalised a new global treaty meant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources in the high seas. In terms of its significance and impact, this treaty is being compared to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. High seas are open ocean areas that are outside the jurisdiction of any country — the reason why the treaty is commonly known as the agreement on “biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions”, or BBNJ.— Once the treaty becomes international law after ratification by member countries, it will regulate all human activities in the high seas with the objective of ensuring that ocean resources, including biodiversity, are utilised in a sustainable manner, and their benefits are shared equitably among countries.KEY TAKEAWAYSAmitabh Sinha Explains:The laws of the seas— The high seas comprise 64 per cent of the ocean surface, and about 43 per cent of the Earth. These areas are home to about 2.2 million marine species and up to a trillion different kinds of microorganisms, according to the Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI), a network of global experts on oceans.— A number of regional, multilateral and global legal frameworks exist to govern the activities in the oceans, the most important of which is the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS), a 1982 agreement that has near-universal acceptance.— Among other things, UNCLOS defined the rights and duties of countries in the oceans, the extent of ocean areas over which countries could claim sovereignty, and the legal status of marine resources. It also specified a set of general rules for a range of activities in the oceans including navigation, scientific research, and deep-sea mining.— The treaty established exclusive economic zones (EEZ), ocean areas up to 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the coastline, where a country would have exclusive rights over all economic resources such as fish, oil, minerals, and gas. The high seas are the areas beyond the EEZ of any country.— The UNCLOS came into being much before climate change and biodiversity became major global concerns. Though it asks countries to protect the ocean ecology and conserve its resources, it does not provide the specific mechanisms or processes to do so. Climate change is already influencing, and is being influenced by, ocean systems, and is exacerbating the pressures on marine biodiversity from unregulated human activities. It is these specific challenges — a combination of climate change, biodiversity, and pollution — that the High Seas Treaty seeks to address.— The High Seas Treaty will work as an implementation agreement under the UNCLOS, much like the Paris Agreement works under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).What are the key provisions of Treaty?— The High Seas Treaty has four main objectives:* Demarcation of marine protected areas (MPAs), rather like there are protected forests or wildlife areas;* Sustainable use of marine genetic resources and equitable sharing of benefits arising from them;* Initiation of the practice of environmental impact assessments for all major activities in the oceans; and* Capacity building and technology transfer.MARINE-PROTECTED AREAS: MPAs are where ocean systems, including biodiversity, are under stress, either due to human activities or climate change. These can be called the national parks or wildlife reserves of the oceans. Activities in these areas will be highly regulated, and conservation efforts similar to what happens in forest or wildlife zones, will be undertaken. Only about 1.44 per cent of high seas are currently protected, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).In December last year, at the meeting of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) in Montreal, Canada, countries had agreed to put at least 30 per cent of degraded coastal and marine ecosystems under effective restoration by 2030. MPAs can become an important vehicle to achieve that goal.MARINE GENETIC RESOURCES: Oceans host very diverse life forms, many of which can be useful for human beings in areas like drug development. Genetic information from these organisms is already being extracted, and their benefits are being investigated. The treaty seeks to ensure that any benefits arising out of such efforts, including monetary gains, are free from strong intellectual property rights controls, and are equitably shared amongst all. The knowledge generated from such expeditions are also supposed to remain openly accessible to all.ENVIRONMENT IMPACT ASSESSMENTS: The high seas are international waters that are open for use by all countries. Under the provisions of the new treaty, commercial or other activities that can have significant impact on the marine ecosystem, or can cause large-scale pollution in the oceans, would require an environmental impact assessment to be done, and the results of this exercise have to be shared with the international community.CAPACITY BUILDING AND TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER: The treaty lays a lot of emphasis on this, mainly because a large number of countries, especially small island states and landlocked nations, do not have the resources or the expertise to meaningfully participate in the conservation efforts, or to take benefits from the useful exploitation of marine resources. At the same time, the obligations put on them by the Treaty, to carry out environmental impact assessments for example, can be an additional burden.Why is it difficult road ahead for the treaty?— The treaty is the result of more than 20 years of protracted negotiations. The details of all the major contentious provisions, including environmental impact assessments, sharing of benefits from genetic resources, and mobilisation of funds for conservation activities, are still to be worked out. Many issues remain unaddressed, including the mechanisms for policing the protected areas, the fate of the projects that are assessed to be heavily polluting, and the resolution of disputes.— The process of ratification is not expected to be easy. It took UNCLOS 12 years to become international law because the necessary number of ratifications was not reached. The Kyoto Protocol, the precursor to the Paris Agreement, also took eight years to come into effect.(Source: The High Seas Treaty: Key provisions, and the challenges it faces by Amitabh Sinha)Point to ponder: World Meteorological report underlines that challenges posed by rising seas will require interventions at diverse levels — global bodies as well as municipalities. Elaborate.4. MCQ:“Climate Action Tracker” which monitors the emission reduction pledges of different countries is a : (2022)(a) Database created by coalition of research organisations(b) Wing of “International Panel of Climate Change”(c) Committee under “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change”(d) Agency promoted and financed by United Nations Environment Programme and World BankShare your views, answers and suggestions in the comment box or at manas.srivastava@indianexpress.com

UPSC Essentials | Weekly news express with MCQs: Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification as MP, Xi Jinping-Putin meet, and morePremium Story
LS notification may be in conflict with Representation of People Act
The Indian Express | 5 days ago | |
The Indian Express
5 days ago | |

There is a very interesting passage in a Supreme Court judgment delivered way back in 1965 in Kultar Singh vs Mukhtiar Singh, which comes to mind in the context of the conviction and subsequent disqualification of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in the defamation case. The Court was called upon to decide whether the word “panth” used in a pamphlet amounted to an appeal in the name of religion. The Court said, “the document must be read as a whole and its purport and effect determined in a fair, objective and reasonable manner. In reading such documents it would be unrealistic to ignore the fact that when election meetings are held and appeals are made by candidates of opposing parties the atmosphere is usually surcharged with partisan feelings and emotions and the use of hyperboles or exaggerated language or the adoption of metaphors and the extravagance of expression in attacking one another are all a part of the game. So when the question about the effect of speeches delivered is argued in the cold atmosphere of a judicial chamber, some allowance must be made and impugned speeches must be construed in that light.”The above passage contains a very salutary principle that the language used by politicians in a politically charged atmosphere like election meetings etc. should be treated with a little understanding and a spirit of realism. Well, it is for the courts in India to pay heed to the sane advice coming from the apex court.Whether a particular surname used by Rahul Gandhi was intended to defame a whole community of people carrying that surname or whether it was said with no malice or whether it was an innocent off the cuff remark for the purpose of causing a little laugh is for the appellate court to delve into. But the order of the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Surat convicting and sentencing a top political leader of India like Rahul Gandhi to two years imprisonment is unprecedented and in a way a negation of the principle enunciated by the Supreme Court. It is to be noted that two years imprisonment is the maximum punishment provided for the offence of defamation provided in the IPC. Incidentally, this is the minimum period of punishment which attracts disqualification under the Representation of People Act 1951.The order of the CJM has thrown up some important constitutional and legal issues. Under Section 8(3) of the Representation of People Act 1951, a person convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years shall be disqualified from the date of conviction and would remain disqualified for a further period of six years after his release. The effect of disqualification is that he will be barred from contesting any election and also from voting during the period of disqualification.However, there was an exception provided in Section 8(4) in favour of the sitting members of a legislature under which the order of disqualification would not take effect until after three months from the date of that order. If during these three months he filed an appeal, the disqualification order would be kept in abeyance till the appeal is disposed off. This three-month window was knocked down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in 2013 in Lily Thomas vs Union of India. The result is that as soon as a sitting member is sentenced to imprisonment for two years, his disqualification takes effect. Of course, when that member obtains a stay of the conviction and sentence from the appellate court, the disqualification is lifted. But a tricky legal question that arises is whether he ceases to be a member as soon as he is convicted and sentenced.To answer this question, we may have to travel outside the SC decision in Lily Thomas. Article 103 of the Constitution says that if a question arises as to whether a sitting member of the legislature has become subject to disqualification, the question shall be referred to the President whose decision shall be final. But before giving his decision, the President shall refer the question to the Election Commission and shall act in accordance with the opinion of the Commission. Disqualification can arise according to Article 102 in many ways. One of the grounds for disqualification under Article 102 is conviction for any offence and sentence to imprisonment for two years or more. So, the question of disqualification of Rahul Gandhi ought to have been decided by the President as per Article 103 before any further action is taken.In other words, the disqualification can take effect under Article 103 only after the President has taken a decision. It is interesting to note that another judgment of the Supreme Court says that presidential decision is essential before disqualification takes effect and the seat in the house is declared vacant under Article 101(3). The Court says: “However, vacancies contemplated in Article 101(3)(a) will arise only when the disqualification is decided upon and declared by the President under Article 103(1)” (Consumer Education and Research Society vs Union of India, 2009). This judgment was given by a three-judge bench whereas Lily Thomas was decided by a two-judge bench. So, under Article 103, there cannot be an automatic disqualification of a sitting member of the legislature. Section 8(3) of the RP Act 1951 does not provide for automatic disqualification. It uses the words “shall be disqualified” and not “shall stand disqualified”. However, the Lok Sabha Secretariat has issued a notification now stating that Rahul Gandhi stands disqualified which is apparently in conflict with Section 8(3) of the RP Act.The immediate effect of disqualification will be a declaration by the Secretariat of the Lok Sabha that the seat has become vacant. This was perhaps done in the case of the sitting MP from Lakshadweep. But as per the decision of the Supreme Court in the Consumer Education case (supra) this declaration can be made only after the President has announced her decision on the question of disqualification.Defamation as a criminal offence is being done away with in many democratic countries: It is no longer an offence in the UK, USA or Sri Lanka. There is a growing volume of opinion in democratic societies in favour of decriminalising defamation. The Indian society being too much involved in acrimonious, adversarial politics is unable to speak aloud for abolishing this law. It is an irony that the descendents of the mother of democracy are too preoccupied to notice the impact of the criminalisation of defamation.The writer is former Secretary General, Lok Sabha

LS notification may be in conflict with Representation of People Act
Decoding the curious case of BJP’s Annamalai and his pitch against AIADMK alliance for 2024
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

The Tamil Nadu BJP president, K Annamalai, the 38-year-old ex-IPS officer, created ripples last week by making a strong pitch against “corruption and deception of political system” and the “cycle of voters’ bribery” in elections in the state.Annamalai created a stir by holding that the AIADMK was also under cloud in this regard, even as he urged the BJP to sever its ties with its key Dravidian ally ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, claiming that he will step down and work as an ordinary karyakarta (worker) if the party central leadership forces him to be a part of such an alliance.Annamalai stressed on the need for the BJP to contest the elections without the support of any Dravidian party in order to “combat corruption and nepotism and promote good governance”, even charging that the saffron party’s alliance with the AIADMK was tantamount to indulging in corruption and voters’ bribery. Not surprisingly, his remarks not only startled state political circles, but also embarrassed his own party camp, although there has not been any official reaction from any party on his remarks so far.Annamalai might be railing against the BJP’s alliance with the AIADMK for some time, but it is evident that for his party leadership it is crucial to ensure its continuance for the high-stakes 2024 polls. Tamil Nadu accounts for 39 Lok Sabha seats and the ruling DMK is a key ally of the Congress party.Known for being abrasive and volatile, Annamalai has repeatedly sought to claim a high moral ground whilegoing after every major political player in Tamil Nadu. He said he did not resign from the IPS to join politics to commit corruption or bribe voters. He charged that like the ruling party the Opposition also bribes voters in the state, although their scales may be different.Annamalai has also maintained that if his leadership endorses his line seeking clean politics without forming alliances with “corrupt parties”, the people would trust the BJP and support it in various elections in the state.Interestingly, it was only last month that Annamalai campaigned for the candidate of the Edappadi K Palaniswami-led AIADMK in the Erode East bypoll, which was clinched by the Congress.While conceding that Annamalai’s remarks on political corruption are not wrong, a senior RSS leader questioned the campaign expenses incurred on his own election in the Aravakurichi Assembly constituency in 2021 that he lost. He also said that if the BJP leadership takes into account the significance of an alliance with the AIADMK for the Lok Sabha polls, it would “not listen to Annamalai”.Last week, Annamalai alleged that “it costs between Rs 80 and Rs 120 crore to participate in a Lok Sabha election in Tamil Nadu,” claiming that “I don’t want to be in politics if I can only do so by changing myself and sacrificing my values”.His comments have however raised the hackles of many BJP leaders in the state. Asking how could Annamalai “serve as the state BJP chief while demeaning the entire party and all politicians”, a senior BJP leader said, “I am hopeful that our Delhi leadership will address this issue soon. I’ve been told that a senior party leader will be visiting Tamil Nadu soon.”According to a district BJP chief, Annamalai had last month set a “target of Rs 2 crore party fund to be raised by each district unit”. It was however not met, which “upset” him, he said.A top source claimed that Annamalai’s decision to leave the IPS was “originally not meant to join the BJP, but to join mega film star Rajinikanth’s proposed political party that did not fructify”.The source said, “A Tamilian, an ex-IPS officer, an ambitious youth, and a relatively honest image — all worked in Annamalai’s favour. These plans were also known to the BJP. The Covid pandemic however derailed these plans: Rajinikanth decided to abandon his political party plan, and Annamalai eventually joined the BJP.”The source also said: “Annamalai now realises that politics is tough. Not only Tamil Nadu, but also Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka — everywhere there is corruption and voters’ bribery. Annamalai’s words were true but there is a huge mismatch between what he said and what he continues to do, especially since he is BJP co in-charge of its Assembly poll campaign in party-ruled Karnataka, where the situation is no different.”With a section of the BJP and the RSS getting baffled by Annamalai’s stance, a district party president asked: “If it had been any other leader, he would have been summoned to Delhi by now. Even after several days, nothing has happened here. What does it mean?”Annamalai is widely seen as enjoying the backing of BJP national general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh, who is credited with getting him inducted into the saffron party fold. However, his bid to up the ante might have put the BJP leadership in a spot. Some state party leaders close to him say it is “unlikely” that he will resign as the state unit chief if the leadership pushes for a continuance of their alliance with the AIADMK. They also rule out Annamalai forming a new party or embarking on any other course with the BJP being in power in Delhi.“Annamalai only proposed the idea of clean politics, which the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) tried successfullyin Delhi and Punjab,” a leader close to him said. “If he is to resign, he can be appointed as the party in-charge of Karnataka… Or he can be rehabilitated with a Rajya Sabha seat or a Union minister’s post,” said another leader.Meanwhile, all eyes in state political circles would be on Annamalai’s future moves, especially with regard to thealliance front.

Decoding the curious case of BJP’s Annamalai and his pitch against AIADMK alliance for 2024
Why Donald Trump faces arrest, and the probable charges against him
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

Former US president Donald Trump could be indicted by a New York grand jury as early as Wednesday for allegedly covering up hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign. According to media reports, the grand jury has been hearing evidence in connection to the case for weeks, including the testimony of key witness Michael Cohen, who allegedly made the payments to Daniels. Trump has so far denied all the allegations, claiming he was a victim of extortion.On March 18, the former president called upon his supporters to stage protests, saying he “expects” to be arrested on Tuesday. “Illegal leaks from a corrupt and highly political Manhattan district attorney’s office … indicate that, with no crime being able to be proven … the far and away leading Republican candidate and former president of the United States of America, will be arrested on Tuesday of next week,” Trump wrote on social media platform Truth Social. He is yet to be arrested by the authorities.Under New York law, a person expecting an indictment can request a witness to appear on his behalf. The final decision to hear the witness rests with the grand jury. In light of this, Robert J. Costello, who was once a legal adviser to Michael Cohen, appeared before a Manhattan grand jury on Monday, at the request of Trump’s lawyers. Costello provided testimony attacking the credibility of the prosecution witness, while adding, “I told the grand jury that this guy couldn’t tell the truth if you put a gun to his head,” The New York Times reported.Trump could be indicted or formally charged for covering up payments discreetly made to Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign. According to Reuters, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg presented evidence to the grand jury about a $130,000 payment to Daniels in exchange for her silence about a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.A BBC report states that once the investigation is complete, the grand jury votes on criminal charges. But first, the Manhattan District Attorney will decide if charges are to be brought in. If a criminal case is initiated, this would be a first against a former US president. However, the next steps for the grand jury remain unclear.Moreover, the New York case is one of the several cases pending against Trump. Others include the Georgia Election interference probe, federal investigations into his role in the storming of the US Capitol in 2021, and the retention of classified documents after he left the White House.* In 2018, Cohen was arrested by the FBI following raids at his home and office. After this, he pleaded guilty in Manhattan Federal Court to eight counts, including criminal tax evasion and campaign finance violations. According to a 2018 federal court filing in Cohen’s case, it was revealed that Trump had concealed the purpose of the “hush” payments made to Cohen by falsely stating they were for a legal retainer that did not exist.In the present case, Trump could be charged with falsifying business records under Article 175 of the New York Penal Law. A conviction for the felony of bookkeeping fraud involves a sentence of up to four years. However, to prove this, prosecutors require evidence showing Trump caused his subordinates to make false entries in the company record, “with intent to defraud.” For the action to be a felony rather than a misdemeanour, the intention of committing, aiding, or concealing a “second crime” needs to be brought out.The NYT has also reported that the DA’s office is considering invoking the campaign funding violations against him as the intended “second crime”.* Special counsel for the federal Justice Department, Jack Smith, is investigating matters related to “several hundred documents marked as classified” that Trump kept at his Florida club and home, despite leaving office. Moreover, he also resisted efforts by the Justice Department to turn them over, submitting only a few despite a court order. In August 2022, the FBI issued a search warrant and found 103 more documents in Trump’s possession.For this, Trump could face charges of unauthorized retention of national security documents. The FBI’s affidavit for searching Trump’s home also stated Section 793(e) of Title 18 of the Espionage Act as a charge against him, which pertains to “gathering, transmitting or losing defence information”. The stipulated punishment for this is up to 10 years per each classified document. But the prosecution must prove that Trump possessed the documents after leaving the White House and failed to comply when asked to return them. The documents should also relate to national defence and their disclosure should possibly harm the US or aid a foreign adversary.* Following the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, a committee was constituted, which accused Trump of attempted obstruction of an official proceeding under Section 1512 (C) of Title 18, which is punishable with up to 20 years imprisonment. The same law has been used to charge 300 other rioters who participated in the storming of the Capitol. However, in Trump’s case, the situation is complicated since he did not physically participate in the riot himself.The committee also referred to Section 2383 of Title 18, which criminalizes incitement, assistance, or aiding an insurrection against the authority and laws of the federal government, and said that Trump’s refusal to call off the rioters for hours corroborated this.* The District Attorney for Fulton County, Georgia is investigating events relating to the 2020 Georgia state elections, where Trump attempted to “flip” President Joe Biden’s victory, as evidenced by a leaked phone call between Trump and Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger.Although, in the 2021 Georgia Code, most election violations are considered misdemeanours, there are still some charges which can be levelled against Trump, including Section 21-2-603, which criminalizes conspiring with another person to violate the provisions of the election code, and Section 21-2-604, which makes it a crime to make another person commit election fraud.

Why Donald Trump faces arrest, and the probable charges against him
Akhilesh Yadav playing role of mediator for Opposition unity: As of now, anti-Modi formation is all noise and no substance
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

The newest lobbyist for opposition unity to pop up on the Indian scene is Akhilesh Yadav. He met Trinamool Congress founder and leader Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata to try and work out how two ambitious alliance-makers could join forces for what would be a partnership of non-Bharatiya Janata Party and non-Congress small and regional parties.Having trekked through Bihar, where Yadav met Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal family, it looks as though the Samajwadi Party is moving into a political space that is obviously vacant — the honest broker.This role was once played by astute statesmen Harkishen Singh Surjeet, Jyoti Basu, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sharad Pawar. Akhilesh Yadav taking on this task is him following in his father’s footsteps. These elder statesmen firmly believed that with the decline of the Congress that began after the historic defeat of Indira Gandhi in the 1977 Lok Sabha election, the era of alliances had begun. They argued that the responsibility of representing the diversity of voters’ aspirations and ideas could not be monopolised by any one party, regardless of how large or organised it is.While Akhilesh Yadav is new to the role of mediator, the need for more than one mediator is necessary if a unified opposition is determined to fight to defeat the entrenched BJP. The multiplicity of initiatives to give leadership to opposition unity building increases the probability of failure rather than the possibility of shaping a coherent challenge to the Modi regime. Aam Aadmi Party, the Trinamool Congress and the Bharat (earlier Telangana) Rashtra Samithi are all vying for the same role.Unifying the opposition into a viable alliance ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections could be a pipe dream, unless there are leaders willing to serve a larger cause — which is, to bring together principal potential allies, who may as of now be working at cross purposes. With four opposition unity groups working for the same end, there is room for a group of mediators.The anti-Modi opposition, distributed into four camps, has tied itself into knots because the fight, as of now, is a waste. The opposition does not have the luxury of time. The 2024 Lok Sabha election is just about 12 months away.In an imaginary landscape, it is possible to believe, as do Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal and even the two Communist Parties, albeit with some variations, that each party should leverage its local strength to fight the BJP. These wins, in the imaginary universe, would yield sufficient seats to unseat Modi and defeat the BJP. This is nonsense.The reality is that there are six state assembly elections due between now and December. In most of these states, potential allies of the bigger fight in 2024 will transform themselves into arch-rivals and engage in ferocious fights. These fights may well result in the attrition of the commitment and discipline required to build partnerships for the 2024 election battle. Aam Aadmi Party has already begun positioning itself to take on the Congress and the BJP in Rajasthan. The Congress will be engaged in a war with regional parties in Telangana.A regional ruling party may not be equally certain of winning the maximum seats in the state in the 2024 elections. It is entirely likely that potential allies will fight each other to the death and create space for the BJP to win a large number of seats. In the recently concluded state assembly elections in Tripura, the Congress and the CPI (M) were partners; the newly hatched TIPRA Motha fought independently, but helped the BJP win the bare majority of 33 seats out of 60 by splitting the opposition vote. In Goa, AAP and the Trinamool Congress split the anti-BJP vote and bled the Congress. In Gujarat, AAP ate into mostly Congress votes and helped the BJP retain power. The list of such self-defeating exercises by the anti-Modi opposition can be stretched, if an analysis is done constituency by constituency.The party that best recognises why allies matter is the BJP. The necessity of building partnerships with regional and smaller parties — especially micro caste-based parties that represent communities that have emerged — to claim a share of power that coalitions offer as access to opportunity, in advance, is clearly understood by the BJP. Especially in large states like Uttar Pradesh and in the North East, where a different kind of identity politics is the norm.The opposition has very little choice on what its strategy should be, because the BJP has already laid out the board with its pieces well-placed. It has laboured over how specific parties, no matter how small, can increase its chances of winning. Additionally, the BJP is working to keep potential allies divided.For the anti-Modi opposition to take on the challenge of the BJP, the minimum requirement is to negotiate a strategy for how to win constituency by constituency in the 2024 elections. The era of post-election alliances arrived at through interminable consultations with honest brokers working overtime is over. Maharashtra’s recent politics is the best instance of how wheeling and dealing works, even if it rearranges the order of things as mandated in the Constitution.There is a unified core of opposition to the Narendra Modi BJP secreted within at least four separate and independent initiatives. The regulars at more than one of these unified opposition meetings, mostly to decide on floor strategy for turbulent Parliament sessions, are the two Communist Parties, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, and lately the Janata Dal (United), the Janata Dal (Secular), the Nationalist Congress Party and the DMK.The Congress and its long-term allies seem to have a stable but not effective winning combination. It is, therefore, up to Congress and its allies to work out how to add partners instead of antagonising them. A reflection of how potential allies perceive Congress is evident in the theory that Congress should gracefully decline the job of leading an anti-Modi formation. Instead, it should play second fiddle to a smaller party with a charismatic leader, who can be the “face” of the formation.Akhilesh Yadav may not have the heft as yet to mediate with the contentious parties within the opposition space. There are other parties and leaders who could work together to put an allied offensive in place. Whether that exercise would succeed or fall apart is a risk that the opposition may choose to take, if it thinks it can challenge the BJP. Till it does so, the current exercises are all noise and no substance.(The writer is a Kolkata-based journalist)

Akhilesh Yadav playing role of mediator for Opposition unity: As of now, anti-Modi formation is all noise and no substance
Whether in Maharashtra or Jharkhand, governors are unelected – they must stay away from politics
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

In the ongoing disqualification proceedings against Maharashtra MLAs in the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, heading the five-judge Constitution bench, dropped a bombshell with his hard-hitting remarks about the role and powers of a governor.In the course of the arguments, the CJI severely criticised the Maharashtra governor’s actions and raised questions about the legitimacy and limits of a governor’s role in this case, though as obiter dicta. The CJI observed that the “governor should not enter the political arena”, adding that a governor “cannot enter into any area by which his action would precipitate the fall of a government” and that unless this principle is maintained, it would be “very, very serious for our democracy”.The crucial issue at hand is regarding the procedural and constitutional powers conferred on a governor. A governor who is expected to be non-partisan cannot function in a way that precipitates a crisis and leads to the toppling of a duly elected government. Furthermore, being an executive appointee, the governor has no role to play in legislative issues, and if at all he does, we need to delineate the circumstantial constraints and exceptions that will legitimately allow his interference.While the argumentative and circumstantial nuances specific to the particular case concerning the Maharashtra crisis are sub judice, we can not lose sight of the highly significant underlying issue — the role and scope of the office of governor.In India in recent years, there have been a spate of controversies about governors across the country from Jharkhand and West Bengal to Tamil Nadu and Kerala. This issue has gotten to such a worrying level that many governors are being called “agent provocateur of the Centre”.We only have to take the very recent case of R N Ravi, the Tamil Nadu governor. Exceeding his powers, he skipped certain parts of his speech, omitting words such as secularism, Periyar and B R Ambedkar. He further made denigrating remarks stating that the Dravidian model is regressive politics, and in a gathering of civil aspirants, he advised them that in matters of dispute between Centre and State, they should always undoubtedly take the side of the Centre. He went on to show the impertinence of changing the name of the state of Tamil Nadu itself!Likewise, former Jharkhand governor (now Maharashtra governor) Ramesh Bais withheld the opinion of the Election Commission in Hemant Soren’s office of profit case and did not act on it, thereby causing chaos and destabilising the House. In fact, by keeping the EC’s verdict a secret, despite repeated requests by both Chief Minister Soren and the ruling UPA, he violated Article 192(2) of the Constitution, which says that he “shall act” according to such opinion. Thereafter, in a move that casts serious aspersions on his bonafides, Bais claimed that his delay in revealing the EC’s report was due to his taking a “second opinion”. Second opinion? Even by a charitable interpretation, it was not only facetious but betrayed his utter ignorance of the Constitution. The “opinion” in this case is a quasi judicial order of the Election Commission, where a governor (or even the President in the case of MPs) cannot change even a comma and has to implement it in toto. The Constitution has mandated the word of EC to be final in the matter of disqualification in an office of profit case.The act of the governor keeping to himself the “opinion” of the EC is a mystery. If the EC found Soren guilty of holding an “office of profit”, the governor should have lost no time in sacking him. If the EC’s verdict was “not guilty”, he should have made it public to remove the uncertainty hanging over the government. The suspense was enough for an exodus to start from the government, which is presumably what the governor intended. Soren’s act of seeking a vote of confidence preempted that but even he probably didn’t know the law. If the EC had found him guilty, no vote of confidence could have saved him. The vote was irrelevant. All this political drama would have been avoided if the governor had not kept EC’s opinion close to his chest. It was not his personal property to sit over. Article 192(2) clearly says that the governor “shall act” according to the opinion. By not acting, he was clearly in violation of the Constitution.As an unelected appointee of the Centre, the governor is expected to not get involved in political controversies or ideological rifts. He must display non-partisan statesmanship, not turn confrontational and meddlesome in legislative matters. It is also necessary to restrict the discretionary powers of the governor because a politically-active and partisan governor would be usurping the power of elected representatives.The question mark on the role of governors is not a new phenomenon. Demands have been raised ranging from restricting their discretionary powers to even abolishing the post. Their questionable role in the wake of an election to invite a leader to form the government has often been observed. A hung mandate becomes a fertile ground for some governors who are happy to play the puppet in the hands of an overbearing Centre. Laying down a clear procedure in cases of a hung mandate would do great good to Indian democracy.The Justice Sarkaria Commission, set up in 1983 to examine the relationship and balance of power between state and central governments, had recommended the following order to be followed by a governor in cases of a hung assembly: One, an alliance of parties that was formed prior to the elections; two, the single largest party staking a claim to form the government with the support of others, including independents; three, a post-electoral coalition of parties, with all the partners in the coalition joining the government; four, a post-electoral alliance of parties, with some of the parties in the alliance forming a government and the remaining parties, including independents, supporting the government from outside. Two decades later, Justice Punchhi Committee (2007) reiterated the recommendations, but successive governments have not bothered to take it seriously.History has shown that constitutional morality and values are too serious to be left to the discretion of governors. We must design institutional safeguards to ensure that governors do not cross the Lakshman Rekha. The Sarkaria and Punchhi commissions have dealt with the subject at length. To strengthen our democracy and its federal structure, we need to act. And, urgently.Quraishi is former Chief Election Commissioner of India and the author of An Undocumented Wonder: The Making of the Great Indian Election

Whether in Maharashtra or Jharkhand, governors are unelected – they must stay away from politics
Some answers from UP village where asking questions led to arrest
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

A majority of homes without toilets, no connectivity to the main road, and sewage spilling onto the streets. In Budh Nagar village of Sambhal district in Uttar Pradesh, the problems are many.The village made headlines earlier this month when a local journalist was arrested, soon after asking a state minister questions about lack of development works.Sitting in her home, 80-year-old Shivdei says she doesn’t have hopes of using a toilet in her lifetime. Hers is one of the many homes in the village of roughly 1,000 people without a toilet.Local leaders say Budh Nagar is one of three villages governed by a single panchayat, and the largest one, Khandua, managed to corner a majority of funds for building toilets inside homes, so much so that some homes there have more than one.“It is even worse for people of my age, going to the fields day and night to relieve ourselves,” Shivdei said.Birpal Singh (45), another resident, said election promises have barely translated into palpable changes on the ground. “People we voted for have gone on to become MLAs, ministers, MPs, but we have remained where we were. Netas making claims about open defecation-free villages should visit this place,” he said, adding that all 10 members of his family use the fields to relieve themselves.“There are other problems too. You won’t be able to walk during the rainy season. There is no pucca road, no drainage system, the sewage flows where we walk, and there’s no concept of waste disposal,” Singh said.Questions on the lack of a public toilet, marriage hall and a proper road were also posed by the journalist, Sanjay Rana, to Gulab Devi, UP’s Minister of State (independent charge) for Secondary Education, when she visited the village on March 11 for an event. She is also the local MLA.After the event, local BJP leader Shubham Raghav, the BJYM district general secretary, filed a police complaint alleging that Rana interfered with government work and also assaulted him. Police arrested Rana under Section 151 of CrPC, intended to be used to prevent the commission of cognizable offences. He was let out on bail later.A journalist with Moradabad Ujala, Rana said he was in custody for 30 hours. “I do not know about the complainant; I never met that person. They handcuffed and paraded me in front of villagers as if I had committed any crime. You can see for yourself if I asked the minister anything wrong. We have voted for her, we have the right to hold her accountable,” he said.When The Sunday Express contacted Gulab Devi, she said a road had been sanctioned from her MLA funds and would be constructed soon.“There is a requirement of a drain in the village; that too will be constructed soon from the Zila Panchayat fund. There is also a need to make a boundary of the school in the village. I will see if this work can be done with MLA funds. It has come to my notice that there are few toilets in the village. A survey will be conducted regarding this and a toilet will be built for those who do not have one,” she said.Sanitation is a key crisis facing the village. There is just one safai karamchari for three villages, and while some internal roads have been built, they lack a proper drainage facility, because of which sewage overflows and accumulates near the primary school.“Last year, during the election, Gulab Devi promised a road to connect our village to the main road, but work has not started so far. Under such circumstances, are people really wrong for asking questions to its representative?” said Khempal Singh (60), a farmer who also works as a labourer to make ends meet. “There is no pond, no marriage hall. These aren’t big demands.”Another farmer, Charan Singh, 42, said many villagers are struggling to get a house under the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awas Yojana, or old-age and widow pensions they are entitled to. “When we ask officials, they just say ‘will let you know when the money arrives’. They do not tell us if the application has been accepted or not,” he said.Mahendra Singh, husband of the village pradhan Bhagwan Devi, said a drainage line is being constructed and will be completed soon. “We are continuously writing to authorities to sanction the funds, so these works can be done soon. Government land has been identified for the construction of a pond,” he said.

Some answers from UP village where asking questions led to arrest
Split by Senas, linked by MIDC row: Uddhav loyalist Subhash Desai & 'rebel' son
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

As his son Bhushan Desai joined Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena Monday, Subhash Desai, a close aide of ex-CM Uddhav Thackeray and former industries minister, sought to put up a brave face, saying his son’s move was “painful” for him but it would not make any difference to the Uddhav-led Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray).“My son has not been active in the Shiv Sena or politics. Therefore, his joining any party will not have any effect on Shiv Sena (UBT). My loyalty to the Shiv Sena, venerable Balasaheb, Uddhav saheb and Matoshree for more than five decades will remain unwavering… I am going to continue my work along with many other Shiv Sainiks till complete justice is served and the Shiv Sena regains its past glory,” Subhash said.A veteran Sena leader, Subhash, 80, is known to be a close lieutenant of Thackerays. He had been an associate of Bal Thackeray since the latter founded the Sena in the sixties.Subhash is among the rare old-time Sena leaders who managed to retain his position in the inner circle of Uddhav when he took control of the party more than a decade ago. Known as a strategist, he was one of the few leaders from the Sena’s old guard, who managed to keep himself relevant and close to Uddhav following the demise of Bal Thackeray in November 2012.A three-time MLA, Subhash has not won any Assembly election since 2009, but he was still inducted as a Sena minister and allotted the crucial industry portfolio in the BJP-Sena government during 2014-2019 as well as in the previous Uddhav-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.Hailing from Goregaon, considered to be among the Sena strongholds, Subhash lost the 2014 election from the constituency to the BJP’s Vidya Thakur, when both parties had contested against each other. The Uddhav-led Sena then got Subhash elected as an MLC, even as the party named him as one of its nominees in the cabinet, headed by the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis, as the industries minister.A low-profile businessman, Bhushan, in his late 40s now, is not known to be active in political or social spheres. He runs two companies, of which one is related to food industry and the other to infrastructure.Bhushan however figures on the website of Goregaon’s Prabodhan organisation, where his name is mentioned as an executive committee member without a photograph. Prabodhan was founded by Subhash Desai.Bhushan was also in the news a few years ago after he bought an apartment worth Rs 33 crore in a Juhu highrise in Mumbai.Known for operating from behind the scenes, Bhushan had been on the radar of the then principal Opposition BJP during the MVA regime. The BJP then used to allege that Bhushan was calling the shots in the industries department headed by his father.About three months after it was formed following the collapse of the Uddhav government, in September 2022, the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government stayed over 191 Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) land allotments made during the MVA regime when Subhash was the industries minister. While the new dispensation later lifted the stay, it was then said that the government was probing alleged irregularities in these land allotments.During the winter session of the state Assembly in December 2022, BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar was among the ruling party’s MLAs who had raised the demand to probe Bhushan.“Around 4,14,000 square metre land of the MIDC  reserved for industrial use was converted for residential purposes, which is illegal. It cost Rs 3,109 crore to the state exchequer, which is the market value of these lands. This was done during Covid-19 period when people were searching for beds, oxygen and remdesivir. We demand an inquiry against Bhushan Subhash Desai, who did this. It should be probed as to whether the money involved in this reached Matoshri?” Bhatkhalkar had then alleged while speaking to reporters outside the Assembly.Bhatkhalkar also said the current industries minister Uday Samant had announced that he will probe the matter. Samant is one of the key aides of CM Shinde, whose rebellion toppled the Uddhav government with the support of the BJP.However, barely three months down the line, Bhushan joined the stage with CM Shinde and took a saffron flag as the latter welcomed him into his party fold.“Seeing the constructive and progressive work we are doing, he (Bhushan) joined us. Everyone has their own opinion. He joined us on his own. There was no pressure on him,” Shinde told the press conference.On his part, Bhushan said, “It is Shinde who is taking forward Balasaheb’s thoughts and dreams. I trust him and I have experienced how he works. I have taken the decision after seeing him and being inspired by his functioning.”When asked whether there was any pressure on him as he faced allegations of corruption in the MIDC when his father was the industries minister, Bhushan said it was his “personal choice” to join the Shinde Sena.However, now the Uddhav Sena fired salvos at Bhushan and the Shinde-Fadnavis dispensation over the MIDC row.Sena (UBT) MLA and Uddhav’s son, Aaditya Thackeray, in a veiled reference to the MIDC corruption charges against Bhushan, said: “Those who want to go to the washing machine to get themselves cleaned, must go. But Subhash Desai is still with us and will not leave us come what may. Bhushan was not with us and he can join whoever he wishes to.”Another Uddhav Sena MLA, Vaibhav Naik, said, “Bhushan must be under pressure as there could be probe initiated against him for misusing his father’s ministership for himself. He did no work for the party or Sena MLAs.”

Split by Senas, linked by MIDC row: Uddhav loyalist Subhash Desai & 'rebel' son
SC’s Election Commission judgment upsets a delicate balance
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

Indian democracy and its constitutional ideals have been served well by the nation’s Supreme Court over the years. Its judgments have expanded the frontiers of human rights and deepened Indian democracy. On some occasions, however, its decisions, although inspired by high purpose, have been criticised for their questionable logic and non-deference to the boundaries of judicial power. The Court’s recent decision in Anoop Baranwal v. Union of India, popularly known as the Election Commission judgment, is with utmost deference to the Law Lords, a case in point.The judgment holds that hereafter, and until such time as Parliament enacts a law contemplated under Article 324(2), appointments of the Chief Election Commissioner and election commissioners shall be made by the President on the advice of a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition of the Lok Sabha and in case no Leader of the Opposition is available, the Leader of the largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha in terms of numerical strength, and the Chief Justice of India.The judgment is questionable on several grounds. The Court erroneously locates the constitutional intent behind Article 324(2) in the Constituent Assembly debates, contrary to its plain language and settled principles of statutory interpretation, which posit that a speech made in the course of a legislative debate is at best indicative of the subjective intent of the speaker and cannot prevail over the plain words of a constitutional text. The language of the provision is self-explanatory and reads thus:Article 324: “The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix and the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other election commissioners shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf by Parliament, be made by the President…”To read the words “subject to the provision of any law to be made by Parliament” in Article 324(2), not as a parliamentary option but a constitutional command to Parliament to peremptorily enact a different stand-alone law, is a fraught exercise in stretched constitutionalism.Indeed, the absence of law contemplated in Article 324 (2) for the last seven decades represents a conscious legislative rejection of a special law on a subject covered by the constitutional provision. Such a decision is entitled to judicial deference premised on cooperation between the three organs of the State which share a “fractured” constitutional power and responsibility. The election watchdog’s generally appreciated discharge of its plenary remit under Article 324, some exceptions notwithstanding, could have dispelled the Court’s apprehension that the extant system of appointments to the election body cannot yield appointments of persons capable of ensuring the commission’s institutional independence.In the facts of the case, the Court’s rightful refusal to grant a writ of mandamus does not sit well with its operative directions, which indirectly serve the same purpose and betray a structural inconsistency in its logic. Also, an unprecedented direction of the Court regarding the contours of a proposed future law is a fatal jurisdictional error, being wholly inconsistent with the philosophy of parliamentary democracy predicated on the law-making function as an exclusive preserve of the legislature.Notwithstanding Justice Cardozo’s cited caution, the Court allowed itself to pursue “its own ideal of beauty or of goodness”, disregarding a salutary principle of democratic constitutionalism that courts cannot invent a moral norm to limit an express constitutional intendment or to justify a preferred interpretation. The judgment also does not sit well with Jethro Brown’s wisdom, that “…often there are no gaps…” and that “we shall have a false view of the landscape if we look at the waste spaces only and refuse to see the acres already sown and fruitful…”It is submitted that the institutional integrity of the Election Commission in a functional democracy can be best secured through processes that recognise the bounds of constitutional power. Constitutional change is a function of parliamentary processes and democratic politics in action. A virtual judicial rewriting of Article 324(2) in Anoop Baranwal by imagining an absence of law is a foray into dangerous territory. It can fuel intra institutional conflict and infract “inter-branch equality”, thereby upsetting the delicate equilibrium of power dispersed between the designated organs of the State. Indeed, the unambiguous articulation of constitutional intent in Article 324 (2) does not admit of “judicial valour”. Only by recognising the limitations of judicial power can we ensure a continuing interpretative finality vested in the highest Court. The Court may wish to ask itself whether, consistent with the stabilising function of judicial restraint and to secure comity between constitutional institutions, it could have avoided a scathing censure of the executive and legislative branches for a perceived “legislative lassitude”, for which, with apologies to their Lordships, the governorship of the nation by “the brethren in black robes” can hardly be our answer.Indisputably, a steadfast commitment to balanced constitutionalism is an absolute imperative to reinforce the foundations of our constitutional democracy.The writer is Senior Advocate, Supreme Court and former Union Minister for Law and Justice

SC’s Election Commission judgment upsets a delicate balance
For Karnataka Elections, BJP Won't Go With Gujarat Formula: Sources
Ndtv | 2 weeks ago | |
Ndtv
2 weeks ago | |

The BJP has plans to deal with MLAs who cross over from Congress and HD Kumaraswamy's JDS.New Delhi: The BJP is making a break from its usual election model for Karnataka, giving recognition to a different polity and manner of voting. Sources indicated that the departure from norm -- currently at play in the Hindi heartland and in Gujarat -- is expected to work in the southern state, where the party is hoping for a second consecutive term. Assembly elections are due in the state in May.Sources said the party will field most of its existing MLAs, in view of the fact that most leaders have their own vote bank and support groups, no matter to which party they belong to.Elsewhere, the BJP has always sheared down its existing MLAs, leading with new faces and later, a new team of ministers to avoid any anti-incumbency. Accordingly, there have been demands that the same model be followed in Karnataka. Relatives of MLAs also should not be given tickets, many leaders have demanded.But the party's think tank has pointed out that the political situation in Karnataka is different from that of Gujarat. There are more than 120 seats where leaders win elections with their personal influence. In case they are denied tickets, they will have no scruples about changing parties, sources said. At the most six or seven MLAs can be dropped in the 224-member house, former Chief Minister BS Yeddiyurappa has said. Some are close to 75 years in age and a few are not keeping well. They may be denied tickets. but will have their say in the candidate selection, sources indicated.The BJP's Gujarat election formula had some serious after-effects also. After dropping 42 sitting MLAs in Gujarat and 11 and Himachal Pradesh ahead of the recent assembly polls, the party faced revolt in both states.There are also elaborate plans to deal with MLAs who cross over from other parties ahead of elections, especially from the Congress and HD Kumaraswamy's Janata Dal Secular.  Anyone crossing over will be fielded from their current seats, sources said.The BJP is banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as the personal hold of its state leaders in their respective constituencies to return to power. The key strategist will still be Mr Yeddiyurappa, who has promised to work hard to ensure that PM Modi stays in the post after the 2024 elections.Mr Yeddiyurappa is not contesting the election this time and will work behind the screens. His younger son BY Vijayendra may contest from his seat Shikaripura. The BJP has been unwilling to give Mr Vijayendra ticket or party post so far to ward off allegations of dynastic politics.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comPM Modi, who has visited Karnataka six times so far this year, is expected to visit the state twice this month. He is expected to address a big rally in Davangere on March 25, concluding the four Vijay Sankalp rallies. Before that, there may be a state tour over government programmes on March 19 or 21.Home Minister Amit Shah will be in Karnataka on March 23-24. BJP President JP Nadda will also visit the state, sources said.

For Karnataka Elections, BJP Won't Go With Gujarat Formula: Sources
BBC documentary timing is not ‘accidental’, it is ‘politics by another means’: EAM Jaishankar
Times of India | 1 month ago | |
Times of India
1 month ago | |

NEW DELHI: "Actual politics" is being conducted "ostensibly as media" by people who do not have the "courage to come into political field," External affairs minister S Jaishankar told ANI, alluding to the controversial BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Terming the furore as "politics by another means," Jaishankar, in an interview with ANI, said, "Sometime politics of India doesn't even originate in its borders, it comes from outside.""We are not debating just a documentary or a speech that somebody gave in a European city or a newspaper edits somewhere -- we are debating, actually politics, which is being conducted ostensibly as media -- there is a phrase 'war by other means' this is politics by another means -- I mean you will do a hatchet job, you want to do a hatchet job and say this is just another quest for truth which we decided after 20 years to put at this time," he said.Coming a year just before the Lok Sabha polls of 2024, the external affairs minister questioned the timing of the documentary."I mean, come on, you think timing is accidental! Let me tell you one thing - I don't know if the election season has started in India, Delhi or not, but, for sure it has started in London, New York," he added.The BBC, in January, released a documentary film titled 'India: The Modi Question," that features the Gujarat riots of 2002. The film caused a controversy for alluding to PM Modi's role in the riots whereas disregarding the Supreme Court clean chit to Narendra Modi."I mean, do you doubt it? Look who the cheerleaders are. What is happening is, just like I told you -- this drip, drip, drip -- how do you shape a very extremist image of India, of the government, of the BJP, of the Prime Minister. I mean, this has been going on for a decade, " said Jaishankar when asked about some western media's bias against PM Modi in India.The EAM said that the motive behind planting such stories abroad is to further the anti-India agenda."Let's not have illusions about it..., there is an echo chamber, it will be picked outside and then they will say it is being said outside, it must be true. Then you will say it inside. There is a ding-dong going on, look this is a globalized world, people take that politics abroad," said the EAM.He further asked, "Why suddenly there is a surge of reports and attention and views? I mean, were some of these things not happening earlier. Many things happened in Delhi in 1984, why don't we see a documentary on that? If that was your concern, you suddenly feel one day, "I am very humanistic, I must get justice for people who have been wronged, " said Jaishankar.He further advised to not get fooled by such agendas and challenged the propagator to come in the political field."This is politics at play by people who do not have the courage to come into the political field. They want to have that teflon cover saying that I am an NGO, media organisation etc. They are playing politics," Jaishankar asserted.The EAM in his various interactions on multiple platforms abroad has hailed India's democracy as a guiding force not just for the country but for the world to emulate. In the interview with ANI, the minister said that the people's verdict will quell all the misconceptions."Among other things in a democracy - don't you trust the ballot box, people's verdict to be the final opinion? I do. I know there are certain people who believe that their view supersedes elections. Look, I like you, you win election--great democracy. I don't like you win election. What are you -- 'electoral autocracy'. That's reserved for people whom you don't like to win elections. This is politics," said Jaishankar.

BBC documentary timing is not ‘accidental’, it is ‘politics by another means’: EAM Jaishankar
CPM moves EC as Assam, Gujarat cops reach poll-bound Tripura
Times of India | 1 month ago | |
Times of India
1 month ago | |

NEW DELHI: CPM on Friday moved the Election Commission of India raising concerns over the deployment of Gujarat and Assam police forces in election-bound Tripura, instead of paramilitary forces. In a letter to the poll commission, CPM member Nilotpal Basu referred to the deployment as “unusual”, and pointed out that Gujarat and Assam police had replaced the Border Security Force in some places. Demanding that only central para military forces should be deployed, Basu’s letter drew the commission’s attention to Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sharma “virtually camping” in Tripura ahead of the assembly elections, and added that the appearance of the Assam police, in this context, “causes concerns”.“We have been given to understand that detachments of Assam police and the Gujarat police have been deployed for maintaining law and order, in some cases replacing Border Security Force units, whose conduct was inspiring the confidence of the people. The deployment of the other state police forces is unusual. More so, as this is not a general election; and implicitly requiring far less security forces which should normally be required in addition to central security forces,” Basu said. He added, “The deployment of Gujarat police from the other corner of the country to this tiny northeastern state is bound to be perceived as an extraneous factor for influencing the poll outcome. We, therefore, urge you that the conduct of a free and fair poll is also seen as such and ensure that only central forces are deployed.” CPM also drew EC’s attention to the “chaotic situation” in conducting of postal ballots, citing instances of gross mismanagement.

CPM moves EC as Assam, Gujarat cops reach poll-bound Tripura
Once Jodo Yatra ends, Rahul to focus on Karnataka
Times of India | 2 months ago | |
Times of India
2 months ago | |

Bengaluru: Former All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Rahul Gandhi is likely to shift his attention to assembly elections in Karnataka and will campaign extensively after his Bharat Jodo Yatra ends in Srinagar on Monday (January 30). The Wayanad MP did not spend much time campaigning during the assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh because of the Kanyakumari to Srinagar walkathon, but he is expected to be more active in the run up to assembly elections in Karnataka. “We have requested Rahul to lead the campaign during the last leg of the ongoing Prajadhwani Yatra, and he has agreed,” said Saleem Ahmed, Karnataka Congress working president. “He will visit Karnataka at least thrice a month until the campaign ends.” BJP has been going all out on the campaigning front, with national leaders such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister, and party president JP Nadda visiting the state almost every other week and holding rallies. Congress believes Rahul’s campaign will counter that effect to some extent and bolster its poll prospects. AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had recently visited the state and addressed a women’s convention. The Karnataka Congress unit has already lined up several activities to prepare the ground for Rahul’s arrival. It is aiming to complete the process to select candidates before Rahul’s arrival. The state unit received some 1,400 applications for tickets and the state election committee (PEC) will meet on February 3 to prepare the first list of potential candidates. This list will be referred to the screening committee, which will prepare a shortlist and send it to the central election committee (CEC), which will take the final call on candidates. KPCC is expected to constitute the screening committee by the end of this month, and the entire process could be completed by mid-February. “The plan is to complete the preliminary process and have clarity on candidates before Rahul begins to campaign,” said R Dhruvanarayan, KPCC working president. Rahul is also likely to make more poll promises during his campaign. When Priyanka visited, she announced a poll promise of monthly cash assistance for homemakers. Before that, state Congress president DK Shivakumar and legislature party leader Siddaramaiah will lead separate bus yatras from February 3 as a follow-up to the ongoing Prajadhwani Yatra. Siddaramaiah will launch his yatra from Basavakalyan in Bidar and cover north Karnataka, while Shivakumar will begin his campaign from Kurudumale Ganapathi Temple in Kolar and cover south Karnataka.

Once Jodo Yatra ends, Rahul to focus on Karnataka
Congress suspends 38 for anti-party activities
Times of India | 2 months ago | |
Times of India
2 months ago | |

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) on Friday said that 38 members have been suspended from the party for six years for anti-party activities during the assembly election in December.The disciplinary committee of the Gujarat Congress met twice this month and received 71 complaints against 95 people, its convener Balu Patel told reporters.“We suspended 38 workers for anti-party activities. Action will be taken against others as well. Eight workers have received warnings,” Patel said.Surendranagar district president Raiya Rathod, Narmada district president Harendra Valand and former Nandod MLA P D Vasava are among the 38 persons suspended from the party, he said.A three-member fact-finding committee of national leaders was in Gujarat earlier this week to interact with candidates of the assembly election, to identify the causes of the party’s worst election showing in the state. Earlier this month, state BJP president C R Paatil named members of the state disciplinary committee of the BJP, stating that a zero-tolerance policy would be adopted towards anti-party activities. Former party MLA Vallabh Kakadiya has been named chairman of the committee. In the run-up to the December 2022 assembly election, as many as 19 BJP leaders were suspended for anti-party activities. They filed their nominations for the election and were contesting against official candidates of the party.

Congress suspends 38 for anti-party activities
The Numbers Game | BJP, Congress: As go the votes, so go the notes
The Indian Express | 2 months ago | |
The Indian Express
2 months ago | |

As per the annual reports of political parties released by the Election Commission (EC) Tuesday, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has shown total receipts of Rs 1,917.12 crore and expenditure of Rs 854.46 crore in Financial Year 2021-’22. It received contributions through electoral bonds to the tune of Rs 1,033.7 crore.The Congress in its annual audit report for Financial Year 2021-22 has shown its expenditure at Rs 400.41 crore and receipts of Rs 541.27 crore. It has shown grants, donations and contributions to the tune of Rs 347.99 crore.The 2019 to 2020 financial year, which saw the previous Lok Sabha polls, saw the highest income and spending by parties over the last five years. In this period, the BJP’s income touched Rs 3,623.28 crore, as per the Election Commission reports. That year, it declared its expenditure as Rs 1,651.02 crore. The Congress also saw its income go up to Rs 682.2 crore, while its expenditure was Rs 998.15 crore.Analysis of data over the last five years shows that there has been a fluctuation in the incomes and expenditures of the two parties. Besides the poll year, the BJP’s income in the year 2017-’18 was relatively high at Rs 1027.3 crore. The following financial year, 2018-’2019, it was the lowest at Rs 241 crore.A look at how the two parties income and expenditure fared in the previous years:BJP Income over the yearsCongress income over the years

The Numbers Game | BJP, Congress: As go the votes, so go the notes
All eyes on BJP as party is yet to decide on candidate for Kasba bypoll
The Indian Express | 2 months ago | |
The Indian Express
2 months ago | |

With more than a month to go for the Kasba Assembly bypoll in Maharashtra, all eyes are on the BJP, which is yet to announce its candidate. The bypoll was necessitated due to the demise of sitting BJP legislator Mukta Tilak. While a few local BJP leaders have demanded that the party field a member of the Tilak family to enable an unopposed election as a tribute to Mukta Tilak, a former Pune mayor, other aspirants are waiting in the wings.After Tilak succumbed to cancer last month, BJP leader Ujjwal Keskar publicly made a statement urging the party to consider her husband Shailesh or son Kunal as their candidate for the bypoll scheduled on February 27.“The Kasba bypoll should be unopposed as a tribute to Mukta Tilak and the party should support a member of the Tilak family. Thus, a request has been made to BJP leaders to provide a ticket to a Tilak family member,” said Keskar.According to BJP sources, while the party is yet to take a decision, the Tilak family is not averse to contesting the election if a family member gets a party ticket.However, as the Tilak family members lack political experience, this has raised hopes among other aspirants, including Ganesh Bidkar, Hemant Rasane and Dheeraj Ghate. The name of Medha Kulkarni, former BJP legislator from Kothrud Assembly seat, is also making the rounds. She was asked to refrain from contesting elections to make way for then state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil to contest from the Kothrud seat, which was considered to safe seat for BJP. Kulkarni had registered her protest but was later pacified and made vice-president of the national unit of the BJP women’s wing.From the Opposition, Congress leader Arvind Shinde, the city unit chief who lost to Mukta Tilak in 2019, said he has already conveyed to the party that the local unit was ready to contest the seat. The Congress also has another aspirant, Ravindra Dhangekar, who contested the seat as a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) candidate in 2014 and lost to Girish Bapat.Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Rupali Patil Thombare, who recently switched sides from MNS, has also expressed her wish to contest the Kasba bypoll if her party permits. Thombare had pointed out that the BJP has been fielding candidates in bypolls for seats that were vacated due to the demise of other politicians. However, she was pulled up for going public with her wish to contest.Local Shiv Sena (UBT) leaders have also conveyed their readiness to contest the Kasba bypoll.The Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance is likely to come up with a strategy for the bypoll elections. They are presently contesting state Legislative Council seats as an alliance.

All eyes on BJP as party is yet to decide on candidate for Kasba bypoll
No anti-incumbency in Madhya Pradesh as govt works 24x7: VD Sharma
Times of India | 2 months ago | |
Times of India
2 months ago | |

BHOPAL: Two days after the conclusion of the BJP national executive in Delhi, state BJP president VD Sharma on Thursday claimed that the historic victory of the party in Gujarat will be repeated in Madhya Pradesh in the upcoming assembly elections in November. “At the national executive, BJP workers of nine states going for elections this year have taken a pledge to win. In Gujarat, we transformed 27 years of anti-incumbency to pro-incumbency, the reason why the party secured 53% votes in the assembly elections,” he said.Addressing a press conference at the state BJP office, Sharma claimed that when a party gets 53% votes, it is proof that it works for people welfare. “Opposition’s negative politics has been defeated. The Gujarat election management team gave a presentation at the national executive on how they won the elections,” Sharma said.For Madhya Pradesh, he said that the party’s strategy is to reach out to people with government’s welfare schemes and connect with the beneficiaries. “The image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, implementation of Central and state government schemes and the strength of our organization at every booth will ensure that the massive support whichBJP got in Gujaratwill be replicated in Madhya Pradesh,” he saidAsked about the Gujarat BJP model of sudden and massive change in September 2021 when chief minister Vijay Rupani was asked to step down along with his entire cabinet by the party high-command to beat anti-incumbency, and such a move is likely in Madhya Pradesh, the state BJP chief said, “Whatever change is required in the BJP today will be decided by the central leadership under Narendra Modi. There is a unit in the central BJP which reviews if any change is needed in order to win an election. However, our job here is to strengthen the organization and ensure that the government’s welfare schemes reach beneficiaries.” Sharmasaid that in Madhya Pradesh, there is no anti-incumbency. “Anti-incumbency occurs when a government does not work. In Madhya Pradesh, the government and the party works 24x7, 365 days for the benefit of the people. Here, we can only have pro-incumbency. Implementation of welfare schemes of our Union and state governments together with our organizational system are our strength. On these strengths, Gujarat-like storm in favor of BJP will also blow in Madhya Pradesh. History of BJP victory will be created in the state in the 2023 assembly elections and we will win more than 200 seats,” Sharma said.

No anti-incumbency in Madhya Pradesh as govt works 24x7: VD Sharma
Decision 2023: After massive gains last time, task cut out for BJP in coming Northeast polls
The Indian Express | 2 months ago | |
The Indian Express
2 months ago | |

The coming elections in the Northeastern states of Tripura, Nagaland, and Meghalaya will see the BJP fighting to keep hold of the gains it made in the region in 2018. While the BJP is in power in Tripura, it is a part of the ruling coalitions with the National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) in Nagaland and with the National People’s Party (NPP) in Meghalaya.The term of the three assemblies, which have 60 members each, is set to end in March. Tripura will vote on February 16 and Meghalaya and Nagaland on February 27. Votes will be counted on March 2.A look at how the previous elections panned out and what is at stake now:The Nationalist Democratic People’s Party (NDPP) and the BJP contested the elections together. While the BJP won an unprecedented 12 seats, the NDPP’s Neiphiu Rio became the Chief Minister.This year, the state will again see an election in the shadow of the long-awaited final settlement to the Naga political question. It was in hope of this that all parties here joined hands in 2021 to form the UDA.The Naga People’s Front (NPF), which once ruled the state, has announced that it will be contesting the election alone and against the NDPP-BJP coalition. Like in 2018, both parties have announced a pre-poll alliance, with the BJP set to contest 20 seats and the NDPP the remaining 40.NPF – 26 (38.78%)NDPP – 17 (25.30%)BJP – 12 (15.31%)Independents – 1 (4.28%)JD(U) –1 (4.49%)There are fissures between the BJP and the National People’s Party (NPP) led by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma. In the 2018 election, Sangma’s party was backed by the BJP and the regional parties but contested 53 of the 60 seats on its own. The impression that the BJP is anti-Christian has been hard to shrug off, with misgivings of the community further strengthened after the surfacing of a letter by the Assam Police Special Branch seeking information from local police stations in BJP-ruled Assam on religious conversions and the number of churches in the state.The most vocal Opposition party against the BJP in the state is the Trinamool Congress (TMC), a new entrant in Meghalaya. In November 2021, 12 of 17 sitting Congress MLAs, led by former Chief Minister and six-time MLA Mukul Sangma, switched over to it. Mukul Sangma, a popular leader, can help the party, especially in his home turf of Garo Hills, which sends as many as 24 MLAs to the 60-member Assembly.BJP – 2 (9.63%)Congress – 21 (28.50%)Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) – 2 (5.35%)NPP – 19 (20.6%)United Democratic Party – 6 (11.61%)Khun Hyniewtrap National Awakening Movement – 1 (0.9%)The BJP came to power in the state for the first time in 2018, ending a 25-year reign of the Left Front. On May 14, 2022, in an abrupt change, the BJP dropped Biplab Deb and brought in the relatively low-key Manik Saha as CM. The Congress and CPI(M) are trying to put up a fight together, and there is increasing talk of an alliance between the two, while the tribal TIPRA Motha party, formed in 2021, may take away tribal votes of BJP’s ally IPFT. TIPRA Motha may end up being a decisive factor in the elections.BJP – 35 (43.59%)CPI(M) – 16 (42.22%)IPFT – 8 (7.38%)

Decision 2023: After massive gains last time, task cut out for BJP in coming Northeast polls