Shinde to Uddhav: Have you become secular now?

The Indian Express | 3 days ago | 22-09-2022 | 03:50 am

Shinde to Uddhav: Have you become secular now?

Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Wednesday hit out at Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, questioning hiscommitment to Hindutva while alluding that he had turned secular.“I was criticised for visiting Ganesh mandals during Ganesh festival. I used to visit the mandals even before becoming the chief minister and I continue to do so even today. It was me, who forced others to go for such darshans.But what about you? Have you become so secular that today you do not even call your father Balasaheb Thackeray Hindu Hriday Samrat (ruler of Hindu hearts),” Shinde asked Thackeray while addressing a gathering at the Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi.Shinde was addressing the state unit chiefs of his faction who were called for a meeting organised by Lok Sabha MP Rahul Shewale.Attacking Thackeray, Shinde said that the Sena is not a private limited company but the party that runs on the thoughts of the Sena founder.“We are not gaddar (traitors). We are the true soldiers of Balasaheb Thackeray. You call us a gang who is snatching someone else’s father. Should I call you the one who is selling your father’s ideology by aligning with Congress and NCP?” asked Shinde.The CM was referring to Thackeray’s speech at Nesco ground in Mumbai on Wednesday, where the Sena president taunted Shinde of attempting to snatch his father’s legacy.Shinde said, “Our leader Balasaheb Thackeray had said that if time comes to ally with Congress and NCP, he will close the party (Sena). But the desire for power overrode everything and an alliance was formed with Congress and NCP.”Taunting Thackeray that he never met party leaders in the two-and-a-half years when he was the state’s chief minister, Shinde said that it was his revolt that has made Thackeray talk to Sena workers.State ministers Sandipan Bhumare, Deepak Kesarkar and Uday Samant joined Shinde in his visit to Delhi along with LokSabha MPs who have supported him after his revolt against Thackeray.Shinde called Sena leaders from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Puducherry, Kerala, West Bengal, Manipur and Tripura to Delhi for the gathering at Maharashtra Sadan.

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Seizing on Vedanta-Foxconn row, MVA taps into old faultlines, new rage to turn the tables on BJP-Shinde
The Indian Express | 13 hours ago | 24-09-2022 | 05:50 pm
The Indian Express
13 hours ago | 24-09-2022 | 05:50 pm

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.

Seizing on Vedanta-Foxconn row, MVA taps into old faultlines, new rage to turn the tables on BJP-Shinde
It will be BJP vs AAP in Gujarat polls: Raghav Chadha
The Indian Express | 16 hours ago | 24-09-2022 | 02:50 pm
The Indian Express
16 hours ago | 24-09-2022 | 02:50 pm

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”.

It will be BJP vs AAP in Gujarat polls: Raghav Chadha
Potent weapon in Ashok Gehlot’s arsenal, a dilemma for Independent MLAs
The Indian Express | 16 hours ago | 24-09-2022 | 02:50 pm
The Indian Express
16 hours ago | 24-09-2022 | 02:50 pm

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.”

Potent weapon in Ashok Gehlot’s arsenal, a dilemma for Independent MLAs
Gujarat Polls: Public will decide in Dec if they want their own kids to be prominent, says Manish Sisodia
The Indian Express | 19 hours ago | 24-09-2022 | 11:50 am
The Indian Express
19 hours ago | 24-09-2022 | 11:50 am

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.”

Gujarat Polls: Public will decide in Dec if they want their own kids to be prominent, says Manish Sisodia