The Indian Express | 1 day ago | 23-09-2022 | 02:50 pm
Focusing on Maharashtra’s Baramati to end the Pawar family’s stronghold as that of the Gandhi family in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi, the efforts of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to capture the Lok Sabha constituency in 2024 and sending Nirmala Sitharaman to create ground for it is not likely to be the same due to the language barrier between the Union Finance Minister and the constituency’s rural base.Sitharaman, who is on three-day tour of the Baramati constituency from Thursday, attended eight programmes during which she met the local party cadres, office-bearers and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) representatives.The programmes were mainly in the urban stretch of Pune city that falls in the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency.The local BJP leadership hopes the repeat of Amethi in Baramati, but the situation is not the same.Amethi was a Hindi speaking belt and Union Minister Smriti Irani has a good command over the language. Besides, she was an established television star, who could easily connect with the people.In Baramati, the people can communicate in Hindi but Sitharaman does not have command over Hindi and neither on the Marathi language. She can communicate in English, but the locals cannot understand the language.The people, who are more comfortable in the Marathi language, are unable to convey their opinion to Sitharaman due to the language barrier. They are trying to reach out by speaking in the Hindi language but still find hurdles as the Union Finance Minister is not much comfortable in it.On being informed about the BJP deputing Sitharaman for the Baramati Lok Sabha seat, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar had last week commented on the communication problems likely between Sitharaman and the locals.Responding to Pawar’s remarks, Sitharaman said: “Baramati citizens are listening to me and acknowledging by clapping to whatever I say. They are able to understand.”It was, however, noticed in her day one tour that the party cadres struggle to convey their point clearly to Sitharaman and were also unable to get everything that she was communicating.A BJP legislator pointed out to her the local cadre is taking on Pawar but the efforts fail when senior leaders visiting Baramati praise the development work when it actually it is not there.Sitharaman said there will be full cooperation from the national and state unit to the local cadre, adding they should prepare for the Lok Sabha elections without hesitation.On the issue of uncertainty in declaring the party’s candidate till last minute, the Finance Minister said there will not be any issue on it now and the BJP’s national unit will provide all help to the locals to strengthen the party.When asked about her responsibility to prepare the BJP to take on Pawar, Sitharaman said that she was in Baramati to strengthen the party and not with an agenda to focus on any family.It would be interesting to note her tour in the rural part and Baramati town Friday. On the second day, she plans to visit the Khandoba temple in Jejuri followed by a meeting with the party’s elected representatives in local bodies.She will visit the primary health centre in Morgaon and the BJP office in Baramati town. Sitharaman will later hold discussions with the social workers, cooperative sector representatives and traders in Baramati. She will also visit the local leaders in some nearby villages in the evening.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said that the rupee has “held back very well” against the US dollar when compared to other currencies of the world.The rupee breached the 81-mark against the dollar for the first time on Friday, before settling at 80.98, as the greenback continued to strengthen against all other major currencies following an aggressive rate hike announcement by the US Federal Reserve.When asked about the all-time low that the rupee hit against the greenback on Friday, she said the Reserve Bank of India and the Finance Ministry are keeping a very close watch on the situation.On the rising inflation, the Finance Minister said the union government was taking all possible steps to check the price-rise situation and ensure that common citizens do not suffer.Sitharaman’s comments came at the end of her three-day tour of Baramati Lok Sabha constituency.Meanwhile, taking on the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance for criticising the new Maharasthra government over the planned Vedanta-Foxconn semiconductor unit going to Gujarat, she said that those questioning the moving of plant after initially being proposed in Maharashtra should first respond on the four mega projects that were stalled during the previous government’s tenure.“One has to ask the MVA first on the four mega projects that were stalled during their tenure and then we will speak about one project that has gone to some other state from Maharashtra,” she said.Sitharaman said it was the slugfest between the ruling alliance and the opposition alliance as those in the previous government want to cover up their failures.“Those who exploited the cooperative sector did not think of setting up a separate ministry for its improvement as their efforts were to use the sector only for political gains,” she said, adding that the Central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is bringing necessary changes to improve it.Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inboxOn her assessment after Baramati tour, where she arrived to strengthen the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) base, the union minister said, “It was focused on meeting with organisational units in the constituency. It is essential for strengthening the party and its unit. Thus, the feedback was gathered from ground onBJP and its service to people.”She said the BJP cadre in Baramati has been providing good service to the public, mainly during the Covid period, adding that the local cadres informed her that only BJP representatives were on the field for service of people in Covid time.
Criticising Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat who recently visited a madrasa, head of All India Majis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) Asaduddin Owaision Saturday asked if he would visit Bilkis Bano in Gujarat.Addressing a public gathering at Juhapura in Ahmedabad, Owaisi said, “The BJP and RSS are doing a new drama. The Sarsangchalak of RSS, Mohan Bhagwat went to a madrasa in Delhi, where he listened to Quran and met the students. Media reported this beautifully. I am appealing to Mohan Bhagwat sahab… if you can meet Bilkis Bano and assure her of justice.”“Can Mohan Bhagwat meet Bilkis Bano? But he will not meet her. He goes to a madrasa and in Assam madrasas are demolished. In Uttar Pradesh, madrasas and wakf properties are surveyed so that properties of Muslims can be snatched away from them,” he added.Owasi also declared AIMIM candidates on three seats in Ahmedabad and Surat for the Gujarat Assembly elections scheduled later this year. “From Jamalpur-Khadia assembly seat in Ahmedabad, Sabar Kabuliwala (Gujarat president of AIMIM) will represent our party,” he said.He also named Wasim Qureshi who will contest from Surat-East and Kaushika Parmar from Danilimda constituency in Ahmedabad.Alleging that Juhapura is treated as an enemy territory, Owaisi said, “In Juhapura, Muslims get step-brotherly treatment. Being a Muslim area, it is looked at with hate and is described as enemy territory.”He added that BJP, during its two-decade rule in Gujarat, has not been able to open a government school in Juhapura, provide drinking water or tackle traffic snarls.At the event, Owaisi also inducted few Dalit leaders from Vadgam Assembly constituency which is represented by Jignesh Mevani, who is aligned to the Congress party.
Four days after Aam Aadmi Party Convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal held an interaction with parents and teachers at the Preet Party plot in Vadodara, the encroachment removal team of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) reached the venue on Saturday to “demolish” an “illegal construction” on the plot.Terming the move as “political vengeance” by the BJP, AAP party workers obstructed the bulldozers from razing the structure.તાનાશાહ ભ્રષ્ટ ભાજપના રાજમાં લોકશાહીનું પતન!સંસ્કારી નગરી વડોદરા ખાતે @ArvindKejriwal ની સભા માટે પાર્ટી પ્લોટ આપવા ભાજપના ગુંડા નેતાઓની ધમકીઓથી ન ડરનારા નવનીતકાકાના પાર્ટીપ્લોટ પર ભાજપે વગર નોટિસે બુલડોઝર મોકલ્યા!ભાજપના આ રાવણરાજનો જવાબ હવે ગુજરાતની જનતા આપશે. pic.twitter.com/DhhWjT8RXT— AAP Gujarat | Mission2022 (@AAPGujarat) September 24, 2022https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsThe VMC claimed that it had served a notice to the owner, Navneet Patel, who had leased the plot to AAP for the town hall event on education. At the event, Kejriwal had felicitated Patel for the “courage and honesty” for allowing AAP to hold the event at his venue after 13 other bookings had been cancelled at the behest of the BJP, AAP had alleged.After the protest from AAP and an altercation with the owners, the VMC handed over a notice, dated September 22, 2022, to the owners, directing that the “illegal structure in the parking area”, should be razed immediately.The VMC has also served the Patel family notices for two other properties named Navneet and Prasang Party Plot, located close by. The notices also state that the sprawling lawn in the premises is “illegal”, and actually only parking space.AAP workers Saturday laid in front of the bulldozers in support of Patel and chanted anti-BJP slogans.Viren Rami of AAP Vadodara said, “The BJP had forced 13 other venues to cancel the booking made by AAP for Arvind Kejriwal’s September 20 event. When they realized that Navneet kaka was not willing to back off after leasing it out, they turned vengeful… They have sent bulldozers in the pretext of razing illegal construction without serving notice.”According to Patel, the “illegal construction” was temporary toilets made for labourers working on the plot.Patel told The Sunday Express, “I have constructed a kaccha toilet with just a tin roof and unplastered bricks for the labourers. It is true that I did not take permission for it… We have started bringing it down, but the VMC wanted to arm-twist me because I had not paid heed to their top leaders when they offered me Rs 10 lakh to withdraw my venue from AAP event.”ભાજપના માજી બુટલેગર પ્રદેશપ્રમુખને ચડ્યો સત્તાનો નશો!ભ્રષ્ટ ભાજપની આ તાનાશાહીનો આવનારી વિધાનસભા ચૂંટણીમાં ગુજરાતની જાગૃત જનતા મજબૂત જવાબ આપશે! pic.twitter.com/3NNqlLN7xZ— AAP Gujarat | Mission2022 (@AAPGujarat) September 24, 2022https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsBoth party plots and the lawns have been preferred for events by all political parties so far.“I personally do not manage the bookings but my plot is always booked for political events by all parties… AAP made a booking and paid Rs 2.5 lakh. The BJP, for all these years, has been using my plot for its own events too. They have never paid me even after assuring that they would,” Patel added.Ronak Patel, Navneet Patel’s son, gave an undertaking to the VMC in writing that the owners would “assess the illegal construction and bring it down”.Even as the VMC Town Development Officer and Encroachment Removal officer remained unavailable for comments, Mayor Keyur Rokadia took to Twitter and said, “AAP has revealed its true face as it interfered in the work of the Encroachment removal team of the VMC…”Denying allegations of political vengeance, Mayor Rokadia said, “The fact is that they (Patels) have created lawns in the parking area of the plots and are charging rent for the same. It is illegal. This is not the only drive against encroachment that the VMC has undertaken… In the case of Navneet party plot, the complaint came to the VMC about two weeks back from the adjacent residential colony regarding the illegal construction of the toilets.”When asked about the timing of the action and the time given to the owners after serving the notice dated September 22, Rokadia said, “When the VMC serves a notice for encroachment removal, the time given is about 24 hours only to remove belongings… After that, the VMC department can arrive and take action.”
Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray’s Saturday protest at Pune’s Talegaon, the site for the proposed Rs 1.5 lakh crore ($20 billion) semiconductor project of the Vedanta-Foxconn joint venture (JV), has signalled a spiralling political row in Maharashtra days after the JV despite being in discussion with the Maharashtra government on the project for years switched to Gujarat.A political slugfest has erupted in Maharashtra since September 13, when the Vedanta-Foxconn signed an MoU with the Gujarat government for their semiconductor project, with the Opposition MVA blaming the Eknath Shinde-BJP government for letting the flight of the big-ticket project to the neighbouring BJP-ruled state.Attacking the Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis dispensation, Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, while addressing a party rally earlier this week, alleged that the government was “lying” on the issue and should be “ashamed” of the project going to Gujarat, even as he offered his support to it to bring the project back to Maharashtra. “Let’s come together and bring it back. I will also come with you,” he told the Sainiks.Cornered over the Vedanta-Foxconn project, which was one of the biggest industrial investments projected to come to Maharashtra, the ruling camp is now desperately looking for a face-saver, with CM and rebel Sena leader Shinde reaching out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah in this regard.Speaking to the Express Group last Sunday, Shinde said his government will announce a mega project for the state very soon.Vedanta-Foxconn project shift furoreAn industrial state like Maharashtra, which has almost all the key elements to attract investors – land, skilled labour, port, road connectivity, water, knowledge ecosystem – has been waiting for a mega industrial investment for years. While the state has seen various investments, from medium to large scale projects, coming to the state in the IT and automobile sectors among others, a mega investment has not fructified over the last decade despite the Magnetic Maharashtra summits and the “Make in India” investors summit in 2015 – when Foxconn had made its first investment commitment of $5 billion to the state.If the wait for Foxconn to invest in the state lasted for 7 years, losing it to a neighbouring state in a matter of two months or a quarter, was set to unnerve the political class and the residents of the state alike.While the continuous flow of new projects in any state keeps its economic growth on track, creates jobs for its people and also enhances social development, mega projects worth $3-5 billion or more give impulse and ripple impact that leads to the building of the ancillary industry, development of service sector and a thrust to the real estate, among other things.The Vedanta-Foxconn project had come as a hope for Maharashtra, which has been reeling under an accumulated debt of Rs 6.50 lakh crore, as the state saw it as a golden opportunity to give impetus to both its sluggish investments and channelise it towards job creation after the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.Terming the Vedanta-Foxconn project loss as a major setback for Maharashtra, a top economist, who has been closely watching the state’s progress over more than three decades and has been involved with various governments in the state with regards to its development, said, “It takes a long time for mega projects to fructify as a lot of home work has to go into it and bureaucrats, political class are involved. So in that sense the loss of Vedanta-Foxconn is a big setback. Also when I take a closer look, I don’t see a mega project in the vicinity and so it is both loss of time and opportunity.”While the state had also announced a Rs 3 lakh crore refinery project in Nanar in 2015, which promised to generate over 1 lakh jobs, it has failed to see the light of the day. The new government is, however, hopeful to revive the project.As regards the past mega investments in the state, the two that made their mark were the $3 billion Enron power project announced by the US major in 1992 and the $13 billion Jaitapur nuclear power project for which the agreement was signed with the French company in 2010. While Enron ran into trouble and also resulted in financial loss for the state, its debacle led to a power crisis, with the state running into power deficit for several years as power producers stayed away from committing investment in the power sector in view of the expected big capacity addition of 2,000 MW through Enron’s natural gas-based Dabhol power project. Also, the Jaitapur nuclear power project has not been able to take off in the manner it was envisaged.The politics of economyWith the latest big investment opportunity gone, the Maharashtra government is now hoping for a bigger project and is counting on the BJP-ruled Centre’s blessing. However, even as Shinde exuded confidence in pronouncing that Maharashtra will bag a major investment in the coming days, Deputy CM and senior BJP leader Fadnavis has exercised caution warning that “Maharashtra will have to initiate concrete steps to rebuild the confidence of the investors.”The government is also hopeful of benefiting from a “double-engine” government — a BJP government both in the state and at the Centre. While the Vedanta-Foxconn project might have been lost due to the lack of the Centre’s intervention (CM Shinde’s July 26 letter to Vedanta chairman Anil Agarwal showed that Vedanta had asked the state government to get the “Central Government alignment”), the current government still hopes to capitalise on a “favourable” central government. This “alignment” has already led to breakthroughs in some key infrastructure projects in the state such as the land acquisition approvals for the Mumbai Ahmedabad bullet train project, clearance for the metro car shed land in Mumbai, and the Dharavi redevelopment project. These projects could not move ahead during the previous Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government, comprising the Sena, BJP and Congress, as the state and Central governments used to be locked in a recurring tussle over them.While the state government has redoubled its efforts to clinch a big-ticket project ahead of the crucial Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls, slated for late 2022 or early 2023, it is working on multiple fronts, including the revival of the Rs 3 lakh crore refinery project. At the Mumbai industrial conclave last week, Fadnavis indicated his government’s resolve to revive the refinery project. He said, “The refinery project is high on our plate. But the inordinate delay has made it difficult to match the same scale. Even if it is taken to its logical end it will be on a smaller scale.”Another project under process and being discussed on priority is Wadhawan Port at Raigad. With access to natural deep draught the project when completed will have the potential to anchor even the biggest ship across the world.Concerned over losing the the Vedanta-Foxconn project to Gujarat, Shinde and Fadnavis seem to be hopeful now that they will get the Centre’s backing for these critical large projects in Maharashtra.It is also important that the state improves its record over the conversion of signed MoUs into real investments on the ground. In the past 7.5 years the state hosted two major investment events — Magnetic Maharashtra and Magnetic Maharashtra 2.0. The first Magnetic Maharashtra was held in 2018 under the then Fadnavis-led BJP-Sena coalition government. At the end of the three-day conclave, the state had then signed 4210 MoUs with promised investment of Rs 16 lakh crore, of which around Rs 12.1 lakh crore was investment from private industries and Rs 3.9 lakh crore was a proposal signed between the Centre and state governments. However, only 50 per cent of the total proposed investments, which were signed, could be realised and have been since at various stages of implementation.The second Magnetic Maharashtra was held under the MVA government in 2020 when Vedanta-Foxconn had committed their semiconductor project to the state, subject to the approval from the Centre.Although the Vedanta-Foxconn project’s departure from the state has now given the Opposition MVA a handy weapon to score points against the BJP-Shinde regime, nobody is disputing the state’s ability to “overtake” Gujarat.The Leader of the Opposition and NCP leader, Ajit Pawar, said, “We had promised a 1,000 acres land parcel to the company in Talegaon. If Vedanta-Foxconn has buckled under political pressure to relocate the project it is a sad comment on politics.”Taking up the political challenge, Fadnavis has pledged to outstrip Gujarat in coming days. At least two projects show promise and are cited to show the BJP’s success — the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) complete with two nodes, Shendra-Bidkin Industrial Area and Dighi Port Industrial Area, and the Aurangabad Industrial City (AURIC). While Shendra-Bidkin Industrial Area is being developed as a large-scale industrial cluster, the Dighi Port Industrial Area will become a port as well as an industrial hub. On the other hand, the AURIC is a greenfield smart industrial city spread across 4,030 hectares with investments of Rs 5,500 crore with the state government estimating that it can generate more than three lakh jobs over the next 15 years.The politics of rivalryThe creation of Maharashtra and Gujarat on the same day, May 1, 1960, through reorganisation of states was not a smooth affair. Mumbai (then Bombay) was the bone of contention between them. To ensure Mumbai remains in Maharashtra, a long-drawn agitation, Samyukta Maharashtra Movement, was launched in 1956. About 105 people lost their lives in this movement. In this background, Maharashtra versus Gujarat has always been a fraught discourse.Despite the co-existence of both Marathi and Gujarati communities in Mumbai, the faultlines remain. And following the switch of the Vedanta-Foxconn project to Gujarat, the Opposition has again brought this debate to the centre stage of Maharashtra politics. Confronted with the in-house challenges following a major split within, the Uddhav-led Sena seems to have got a major political issue on a platter that it hopes would cut ice with the people besides helping the party to hit back at the BJP. This assumes more significance as the BMC polls may be held over the next three-four months, which will settle the key question whether the Uddhav Sena would be able to retain its hold over the BMC that it has been able to do successfully over the last 25 years.The BJP-Shinde alliance, on the other hand, has been sensing an opportunity in the upcoming BMC polls to bring an end to the Sena rule from there and deal a body blow to Uddhav’s party. It, however, reckons that if Maharashtra versus Gujarat narrative gains traction, it might be “politically fatal” and hence they are going all out to quell the controversy and promise a mega industrial project for the state soon.Even as the BJP-Shinde combine has set higher electoral targets for the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls — in the previous 2019 polls, the BJP had won 23 out of 48 Lok Sabha seats and 105 out of 288 Assembly seats in the state — a polarisation along Maharashtra versus Gujarat lines might undermine it. Demographically, 65 per cent of the Maharashtra population is youth with an average age of 27. No political party can overlook the youth aspirations given its presence and potential to make or wreck the electoral results in the state. And the departure of a mega semiconductor project — which is regarded as the industry of the future — from the state makes for bad optics, both in the eyes of the state political class as well as its youth.The NCP’s youth leader and Karjat-Jamkhed MLA, Rohit Pawar, says, “We are not against any state’s development. But the question is why sacrifice Maharashtra youth. Why should our next generation pay the price?” Now, this may be question, which cannot go unaddressed for long as it is not just about employment and financial implications but also the aspirations of youth, whose vote base could play a big role in the electoral outcome.
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”.