The Indian Express | 1 week ago | 16-09-2022 | 07:50 pm
A court in Ahmedabad on Friday sentenced Gujarat Congress’s working president and MLA Jignesh Mevani and 18 others to six months’ simple imprisonment in a 2016 case of rioting.The case was related to a road blockade agitation staged by Mevani and his associates.Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate P N Goswami, who also imposed a fine on Mevani and others, suspended their sentence till October 17 to enable them file appeals.The case was registered against Mevani and 19 others at the University police station here in 2016 for staging road blockade to press their demand that an under-construction building of the law department of Gujarat University be named for Dr B R Ambedkar.The First Information Report was registered under Indian Penal Code sections 143 (unlawful assembly) and 147 (rioting) as well as sections of the Gujarat Police Act.One of the accused died during the pendency of the case.Mevani, a prominent Dalit leader, won the 2017 Assembly election as an independent with the support of Congress.The party later made him a working president of its Gujarat unit.
The upcoming Assembly election in Gujarat will be a direct contest between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the ruling BJP, AAP’s co-incharge for Gujarat Raghav Chadha said Saturday, while dismissing Congress as an “aged” party which has failed to win any election in almost three decades.“After a 27-year rule of the BJP, now is time for a change, time for the Arvind Kejriwal model of governance in which the poorest of the poor get world class education, health facilities, operations, medicines free of cost…free electricity and water, financial support to women etc,” Chadha said.He added, “This model is changing lives of the people and therefore people want to adopt it. We will work hard and the way Aam Aadmi Party is progressing, it is quite evident that the 2022 Gujarat election has effectively become an Aam Aadmi Party versus BJP contest and we are ahead in the race.” Chadha was interacting with journalists after landing at the Rajkot airport Saturday.A former minister in the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi, 33-year-old Chadha had also served as AAP’s co-incharge for Punjab in the run up to the Assembly election in that state early this year. AAP had defeated Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP in a three-way contest and formed a government there, the party’s first outside Delhi.Months later, Chadha, who is a certified chartered accountant, was elected to Rajya Sabha from Punjab unopposed. On 18th of this month, AAP had appointed him its co-incharge for Gujarat where elections are due to be held in December. The Rajkot visit was Chadha’s maiden trip to Gujarat after being assigned the state’s responsibility.Incidentally, AAP national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been campaigning hard in Gujarat since July this year and trying to woo voters by promising free electricity, overhauling government schools, good healthcare facilities, unemployment allowance, monthly allowance to women, 10 lakh government jobs etc.On Saturday, Chadha claimed that Kejriwal was the only politician whom God has “given His blessings” to make such things happen. “I often say this: God has given His blessings to only Arvind Kejriwal for providing free electricity. The God has given His blessings to only Arvind Kejriwal for providing world class education to every child, be it son of the poorest of the poor or that of a judge or bureaucrat. This is the reason, people starting from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Guwahati to Gujarat, want to try and adopt the Arvind Kejriwal model,” he claimed.Chadha also dismissed Congress as an aged party which had failed to give a fight to the ruling BJP. “Congress is that tired and defeated party which could not defeat BJP in 27 years. How will the party, which couldn’t give a fight to BJP in 27 years, will do it now. Congress has now become a very aged party and voters of Gujarat no longer look up to it,” Chadha said, adding, “This the reason this (election) has become a contest between BJP and Aam Aadmi Party.”The AAP leader also said that people of Gujarat are fed up with the almost three-decade-long rule of BJP and want a change this election. “With respect to the upcoming Assembly election, there are only three things on people’s mind. They are: change, change and change,” he said.“People are fed up with the BJP rule and want to try Kejriwal model of governance, they want an honest and pro-people government, the way the people of Delhi threw Congress out after a 15-year-long rule, said ‘I love you, Kejriwal,’ pressed the broom (poll symbol) button and never looked at any other party afterwards, the way people of Punjab also threw the Akali Dal and Congress governments of 50 years, said ‘I love you, Kejriwal’ and formed government of Aam Aadmi Party,” Chadha claimed.When asked what will be the party’s election strategy in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and in the backdrop of failure in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh elections, Chadha said that AAP is the only party which keeps its promises.“Aam Aadmi Party goes among the people with its governance model and talks about getting work done. In the entire country, there is only one party which does what it promises and whose all leaders are honest. It is the only party which removes a minister from the council of ministers over allegations of corruption, it is the only party which can give people free electricity, education and good healthcare facilities,” he said.Chadha further claimed that the statement of Jagmal Vala, AAP’s candidate for Somnath Assembly constituency in Gujarat, was being quoted out of context. “Statement of some of our people was quoted out of context and presented after distorting it. When the Opposition has no issue, when the Opposition can’t point fingers at your policies, politics and character, it seeks to try and find its political feet on such issues,” Chadha said, adding the more BJP attacks AAP, the more it will prove that the BJP is “scared”.
At 13, Rajasthan’s Independent MLAs outnumber non-Congress and non-BJP parties and at least 10 of them are Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s supporters.In the CM’s tussles with former deputy CM Sachin Pilot in the past, these MLAs often gave him an edge but they may be now looking at an uncertain future as Gehlot may have to step down if he gets elected Congress president. At least one pro-Gehlot Independent MLA has changed his tune when it comes to Pilot who is said to be the Congress leadership’s choice to take over as CM if the veteran leader moves to Delhi to head the party.The Independent legislators played a crucial role in getting Gehlot chosen as CM after the 2018 Assembly polls that had seen the Congress fall one short of the majority mark of 100. Most of them are former Congress leaders, and even Union ministers, who were denied a ticket but went on to win without the party’s backing. The pro-Gehlot Independent MLAs promised to support a Congress-led government only if the 71-year-old was made the CM. This effectively put paid to Pilot’s ambitions for the top job and he had to settle for the deputy CM’s chair. When Pilot rebelled against Gehlot and the party in 2020, these MLAs again sided with the CM. They stayed in hotels and resorts with Congress legislators while Pilot and his group of 18 MLAs camped in Delhi and Haryana for over a month. The Independent MLAs also voted for the Congress in this year’s Rajya Sabha elections.Given the level of support Gehlot enjoys among this group, it was unsurprising when Sirohi MLA Sanyam Lodha recently said the CM should be allowed to hold on to his post even if he becomes the Congress president. Lodha, who is an advisor to the CM, told reporters, “Indira ji, Rajiv Ji, Narsimha Rao ji, all stayed both Congress presidents and prime ministers. In the context of Rajasthan, I would like to say that Ashok Gehlot sahab has done excellent work in four years. He started schemes for the welfare of the poor, and did unprecedented development work … Only by projecting his face can the Congress benefit from these works. I feel that he should stay the chief minister and lead the Congress.”In an interview to The Indian Express on Thursday, Gehlot said though the “one person, one post” principle laid down in the party’s Udaipur Declaration was meant for nominated posts and not ones for which elections are held, a person holding two posts would not be able to “do justice to the Congress presidency”.Some of the former CongressmenLodha is a three-time MLA from Sirohi. In 2018, he was among the veteran leaders denied an election ticket by the Congress. At the time, Pilot led the state unit and fielded young candidates, some of whom had a background in student politics. But the move backfired.Lodha defeated both the Congress candidate and sitting BJP minister Otaram Dewasi, who headed the first cow welfare ministry, in the election. The other Independent legislators in the Gehlot camp are former Union Minister and Khandela MLA Mahadeo Singh Khandla, Shahpura MLA Alok Beniwal who is the son of senior Congress leader and former Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal, Gangapur MLA Ramkesh Meena, and Thanagazi MLA Kanti Prasad.Of the 13 Independent legislators, three have maintained relations with Pilot. They are Om Prakash Hudla, Khushveer Singh and Suresh Tak. With Gehlot now set to contest the Congress presidential elections and the party leadership said to be in favour of Pilot as the next CM, Dudu MLA Babulal Nagar, who is among Gehlot’s advisors and staunch supporters, praised the former deputy CM.Nagar sparked a controversy last week by saying in a public meeting that anybody chanting slogans other than “Rajiv Gandhi Amar Rahe” and “Ashok Gehlot Zindabad” would be jailed. He spoke a day after shoes and bottles were hurled and “Sachin Pilot Zindabad” was shouted when Congress ministers were speaking at the “asthi visarjan (ash immersion)” ceremony of Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla.But, the Dudu MLA recently told reporters, “Pilot is a young leader of Rajasthan, of India. He has a long life ahead of him. He has a personality and that is why I feel that nobody can reduce his number (marks) or increase it. He has the ability and is doing politics according to it. I have seen him at that time when he was not in politics. I have been a kattar samarthak (staunch supporter) of Rajesh Pilot ji (Sachin’s father), have been his worker.”
The Gujarat Assembly elections in December will decide whether the public wants BJP leader Amit Shah’s son, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son or their own children to become a prominent figure in the future, said Delhi Deputy Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Manish Sisodia in Patan district of North Gujarat on Friday.On the third day of his six-day Gujarat tour, Sisodia, who is campaigning for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), said “For BJP workers, I want to tell you that only (AAP convener and Delhi CM) Arvind Kejriwal ji can give you good schools for your children and good hospitals.”Addressing a public rally at Balisana in Patan, Sisodia said, “This time’s change is not a change of party but rather a change for your household. Till now, the only change that has been happening is either make Sonia Gandhi’s son a big man or make Amit Shah’s son a big man. First time, Kejriwalji is coming and saying that you vote, and your child will be a big man…”He added, “Making your child a big man is not something that the Congress, the BJP or the AAP can do… Only a school and college can… There is a Mehsana BJP leader, who I won’t name since you know it. This leader, before coming into politics owned a four bigha land, today he owns 1,000 bighas. Here leaders become rich.”In his second public address at Unjha, Sisodia continued, “If you vote for the BJP, then Amit Shah’s son becomes a big man. If you vote for Congress then Sonia Gandhi’s children become big.”Continuing with education as the primary plank of his campaign, Sisodia said at Balisana, “The Gujarat government has not created a post for computer teachers in government schools in the 21st century. If someone in the world hears that there is no computer teacher in a state in India, they will laugh at us. If you are not teaching children in the 21st century about computers, what are you teaching them? If you don’t have posts for computer teachers in the 21st century, then shame on such education and shame on such government. I am worried.”Sisodia also visited the Umiya Mata Temple at Unjha in Patan and addressed a second public rally at Unjha“I’m seeing politics change. I started working in 2013 and today we can’t believe that we are seeing a day when we are talking about schools from a political stage,” Sisodia said.Meanwhile, Isudan Gadhvi, AAP national joint general secretary, who has been accompanying Sisodia in his Gujarat tour so far, met protesting mid-day meal workers outside the Patan collector’s office.Speaking to media persons outside the collector’s office, Gadhvi said, “They are demanding higher wages, lower gas cylinder rates, and it is only natural that their demands are met. I promise that within two months of AAP coming into power in Gujarat, we will fulfil all their demands, will get them the right vegetables,…we will ensure to bring children out of malnutrition by providing quality food.”
The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) ruled by the BJP decided to whitewash public walls painted with election symbols of lotus, hand and broom, six months after party state president CR Paatil launched a campaign to paint lotus symbol on public walls, leading to the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) following suit and painting almost all public walls, pillars of the metro rail and public toilets with party graffiti.The campaign was launched by the BJP leaders on March 13 from Ahmedabad and Surat, but rapidly taken up in all citiesacross the state. After a public outrage on social media over the defacement of public properties, the Gujarat Metro Rail Corporation (GMRC) was the first to paint over the symbols on metro pillars.The AMC also decided to impose a penalty on those defacing walls repeatedly. AMC standing committee chairman Hitesh Barot stated that “removal” of these symbols has been initiated across all 48 wards of Ahmedabad city.“After the Metro Rail Corporation removed these political party symbols, the AMC, too, started whitewashing the walls in all wards,” Barot told The Indian Express. However, this has resulted in white patches on the red brick boundary wall of the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad. After the launch of the BJP’s lotus campaign, where every symbol was numbered, the Congress responded initially by painting LPG cylinders with its rates, alongside the lotuses in Ahmedabad, Jamnagar, and Himmatnagar (in Sabarkantha district). In Ahmedabad, the BJP launched the wall painting campaign from the Airport Circle in Shahibaug where Paatil and party vice-president Gordhan Zadaphia and general secretary Pradipsinh Vaghela, wrote, “Modi nu Gujarat and Gujarat na Modi (Modi’s Gujarat and Gujarat’s Modi)”, “Gujarat chhe makkam, BJP sathe adikham (Gujarat is firmly with BJP)” and“Sauno Saath, Sauno Vikas, Sauno Prayas, Sauno Vishwas (everyone’s collaboration, development, effort and trust)” along with the lotus symbol, on the walls.The Congress then painted its hand symbol next to the BJP symbol on public walls near Gandhi Ashram in Sabarmati, Shahibaug, Ellis Bridge and other areas in Ahmedabad. The AAP followed suit soon and painted brooms in a yellow backdrop with the slogan “Ek Mauko Kejriwalne (One chance to Kejriwal)”.Barot told The Indian Express that the AMC did not have a record nor was it conducting a survey of how many walls were covered with such political symbols. “How many walls have been painted with these symbols is not surveyed. So, the cost for removal is not estimated. Neither have we allocated any amount for this,” he said adding that political party painting the symbol again will be served a notice followed by a fine.“We have not decided the amount of fine yet. First they (the offenders) will be served a notice,” he said.Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) spokesperson Manish Doshi said, “Congress was not in favour of painting the walls with party symbols but were forced by the BJP that started defacing public walls and even government premises. In response to BJP’s misusing of power, Congress workers demanded to give them a befitting reply. But we did not paint any government wall.” BJP’s campaign to paint its symbol on public walls also met with criticism from the Mission Smart City Trust, an NGO, in Rajkot that has been painting walls in the city since 2015. They took objection to the BJP painting over its artwork at the city’s Kisanpara Chowk. After the organisation complained to the city mayor, municipal commissioner, and the BJP’s city presidents, the ruling party whitewashed the walls where the lotus symbols had been painted over the NGO’s artwork.
Around 12 Congress MLAs, including independent legislator Jignesh Mevani, were suspended following which their party colleagues staged a walk out from the Gujarat assembly Thursday after Chief Whip CJ Chavda demanded a 30-minute discussion on OBC reservation in local bodies.Chavda demanded that the Assembly discuss OC reservation in local bodies and the Commission formed by the state government to fix the community’s reservation in local bodies. He stated that the figures of castes being presented before the OBC Commission would create discrepancy. Following this, senior Congress leader Amit Chavda, too, spoke on the issue. However, the Congress demand was not accepted by Speaker Nimaben Acharya and got his words expunged from the record of the House.The Speaker did not allow the Opposition demand stating they did not have any prior discussion with her and she cannot suddenly allow the same. Amid all these, a number of Congress MLAs and Mevani rushed to the Well of the House holding placards demanding caste-based census.Soon after, the Speaker ordered the suspension of the opposition members who were protesting in the Well of the House following which the marshals evicted Mevani, Baldevji Thakor, Rutvij Makwana, Raghu Desai, Vikram Maadam, Rajesh Gohil, Vimal Chudasama, Chandanji Thakor and Bharatji Thakor, among others.To fix OBC reservation in local bodies, the Gujarat government has appointed a commission headed by a retired High Court judge, K S Jhaveri. Earlier, Gujarat had 10 per cent OBC reservation in local bodies. However, the dedicated Commission was formed following a Supreme Court order to fix the issue.