Venkaiah Naidu’s Sunday Profile: End of Session

The Indian Express | 3 days ago | 07-08-2022 | 05:50 am

Venkaiah Naidu’s Sunday Profile: End of Session

My operation depends on your cooperation, otherwise there will be separation.” As Venkaiah Naidu, 73, demits office as Vice-President of India on August 10, the Rajya Sabha, of which he is ex-officio Chairman, will be poorer for his quick wit and puns, many of which elicited laughter and served to briefly unite the Treasury and Opposition benches at a time of deep discord and distrust between the two sides. His recent “operation-cooperation-separation” remark was in response to frequent disruptions in the Upper House by Opposition members seeking a discussion on price rise.Naidu, though seen as a reluctant Vice-President, had plunged headlong into his Rajya Sabha role, playing referee with elan even if, according to the Opposition, he blew the whistle far too often on them.While his critics say that despite his constitutional role, Naidu’s heart never stopped beating for the BJP, a party he served for several decades before becoming Vice-President, they agree that he is among the most amiable chairpersons the Rajya Sabha has had, with friends on both sides of the aisle. The annual lunches he hosts — with a spread of south Indian seafood and Hyderabadi dishes — is one of the most awaited events in the Capital’s political calendar, with leaders across parties in attendance.Born at Chavatapalem in SPS Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh on July 1, 1949, Naidu had already joined the RSS and was a member of the ABVP by the time he joined Andhra University for a bachelor’s degree in law. His electoral career began in 1978 when he won as a Janata Party MLA from Udayagiri. In 1983, he won on a BJP ticket from the same constituency, and by 1988, went on to become president of the Andhra BJP. In 1993, he moved to the national scene after becoming general secretary of the party.In the BJP, Naidu was seen as L K Advani’s protege. After the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, it is widely known that then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee wanted Narendra Modi to resign as Gujarat chief minister, but Advani was against his removal. Sources say it was Naidu, as BJP president, who conveyed Advani’s decision to Vajpayee. As he did so, “with trembling hands”, Vajpayee half-heartedly agreed.But a decade later, as winds of change started blowing in the BJP, Naidu effortlessly transformed himself into one of the most ardent supporters of Modi.While his contemporaries Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj largely refrained from waxing eloquent on Modi, Naidu was always effusive. Moving the political resolution during the BJP’s national executive meeting in March 2016, Naidu had described Modi as “God’s gift to India”, a “messiah of the poor”, a “decisive leader” and “MODIfier of developing India”.Naidu was in his fourth term as Rajya Sabha MP when he was nominated by the party for the post of Vice-President. As the BJP’s best known face from the South, Naidu’s vast parliamentary experience, impressive stature as a leader and his relatively easy-going nature had gone in his favour.Sources say Naidu, who held several portfolios in Modi’s Cabinet — Parliamentary Affairs, Urban Development and Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation in the first term, and the crucial Information and Broadcasting in the second — was rattled when his name started doing the rounds as the ruling NDA’s nominee for the post of Vice-President. Those close to him had said he “was not very excited” and would have wanted to be an “active politician” till the end of his political career.It was finally a call from the Prime Minister that “reassured” him.Still, Naidu had turned emotional at a parliamentary board meeting, saying leaving the party was like “leaving my mother”.Now at the end of his five-year tenure as presiding officer of the Rajya Sabha, Naidu leaves a mixed legacy. His term often saw him brooking no indiscipline in the House, which had the Opposition complaining that he bowed to the government.His tenure, which coincided with relations between the government and Opposition hitting a new low, saw the Rajya Sabha often turning into a political battleground. The Upper House witnessed chaotic scenes over the passage of the farm laws and the Bills to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir, and led to the suspension of Opposition MPs.According to Rajya Sabha records, the 13 sessions that Naidu presided over were chaotic. “During the last 13 sessions, 141 of the 248 scheduled full sittings (or 57 per cent) were disrupted partly or fully,” Naidu himself said at the beginning of the Monsoon Session, his last as presiding officer.The session also turned out to be a standout one for all the wrong reasons, with the turmoil in the Upper House leading to a record 23 Opposition MPs being suspended.His supporters, however, say that with hardly any meeting point between the Opposition and the government, there was little Naidu could have done. “When the Opposition demands a discussion on a particular issue, it’s for the Government to agree; the Chairman cannot do much,” said a source close to him.Opposition leaders accept the argument, but point out that attempts to break the stalemate or deadlock should have come from the Chairman, and that Naidu could have used his stature to persuade the government to listen to the views of the Opposition. “He is the custodian of the House. The job of the presiding officer is to run the House. He should have facilitated dialogue between the government and the Opposition. He used to do it earlier, but of late, there has been no dialogue for days on end,” an Opposition leader said.His critics also point out that while in his role as Rajya Sabha Chairman, Naidu often threw the rule book at the Opposition, during the UPA’s second innings, when the Manmohan Singh government was buffeted with charges of corruption, Naidu, seated in the front row with his late friend Jaitley, never displayed any unease when BJP backbenchers disrupted session after session.Yet, several leaders in the Opposition admit that Naidu holds no malice, with many holding him in high regard. Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh recently suggested that the government should create a post of ‘Chairman Emeritus’ as a token of acknowledgement of Naidu’s contributions to the Upper House.A sign of his accommodative nature were his annual luncheons, both for their spread and their guest list. At the height of the beef controversy, Naidu once said, “Some people keep saying such things (that the BJP wantts to impose vegetarianism). It is people’s choice to eat what they want.”He is fond of narrating how, as a young student in Andhra Pradesh, he was reluctant to join the RSS fearing he would have to give up his favourite non-vegetarian food, but was glad no such demands were made of him.Known to be a family man, Naidu is often accompanied by his wife Usha. He once joked: “I neither want to be rashtrapati (president) or uprashtrapati (vice-president). I am happy to Usha’s pati.” His son is a businessman while his daughter Deepa Venkat runs the Swarna Bharat Trust, which is involved in skill development and healthcare, at Muchintal village near Hyderabad.Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inboxNow, as Naidu joins a long list of his predecessors (barring S Radhakrishnan and Hamid Ansari) who did not get a second term in office, many point out that his reluctance about the V-P role was not misplaced. Asked what the party has in mind for Naidu now, a top leader of the BJP said: “He will continue to be our margdarshak. Having been in a constitutional post, he cannot take up any other role. The party will keep getting his advice.”As Jairam Ramesh said in a tweet, “So it is curtains for Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu-garu. His humour and wit will be missed. On many occasions, he got the Opposition all agitated, but at the end of it, a good man exits. He may have retired, but I know he will not be tired.”

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Explained: The PESA Act, and the reason behind parties trying to woo tribals in Gujarat
The Indian Express | 2 hours ago | 10-08-2022 | 05:50 am
The Indian Express
2 hours ago | 10-08-2022 | 05:50 am

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal Sunday (August 7) declared a six-point “guarantee” for tribals in Gujarat’s Chhota Udepur district, including the “strict implementation” of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act.The PESA Act was enacted in 1996 “to provide for the extension of the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution relating to the Panchayats to the Scheduled Areas”. Other than Panchayats, Part IX, comprising Articles 243-243ZT of the Constitution, contains provisions relating to municipalities and cooperative societies.Under the Act, Scheduled Areas are those referred to in Article 244(1), which says that the provisions of the Fifth Schedule shall apply to the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in states other than Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram. The Fifth Schedule provides for a range of special provisions for these areas.The PESA ActThe PESA Act was enacted to ensure self-governance through Gram Sabhas (village assemblies) for people living in the Scheduled Areas. It recognises the right of tribal communities, who are residents of the Scheduled Areas, to govern themselves through their own systems of self-government.The Act empowers Gram Sabhas to play a key role in approving development plans and controlling all social sectors. This includes the processes and personnel who implement policies, exercising control over minor (non-timber) forest resources, minor water bodies and minor minerals, among other things.Ten states — Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Telangana — have notified Fifth Schedule areas that cover (partially or fully) several districts in each of these states.After the PESA Act was enacted, the Union government circulated model PESA Rules. So far, six states have notified these Rules.PESA in GujaratGujarat notified the State PESA Rules in January 2017, and made them applicable in 4,503 gram sabhas under 2,584 village panchayats in 53 tribal talukas in 14 districts.This was announced in Chhota Udepur by then CM Vijay Rupani ahead of the last Assembly polls.Five years later, current CM, Bhupendra Patel, Tuesday told a rally in Dahod that all tribals had been covered under the Act and empowered under its provisions.Legal experts, however, say the Act has not been enforced in letter and spirit.Implementation gapsIn November 2020, Gujarat notified the Statue of Unity Area Development and Tourism Governance Authority (SoUADTGA) to administer villages around the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel statue in Narmada, a tribal district.This gave SoUADTGA powers to override panchayat decisions.Simultaneously, the district administration issued an order based on a central notification to declare forest area in 121 Narmada villages of as ‘eco-sensitive’. The district revenue department also moved to include ‘state government’ as the ‘second owner’ of land in these villages.After stiff opposition, including from BJP’s Bharuch MP Mansukh Vasava, authorities decided to drop the “second owner” mention.However, the eco-sensitive zone notification remains in force. The SoUADTGA has also taken charge of its command area that includes six tribal villages.In March this year, the Centre was forced to scrap the Par-Tapi Narmada (PTN) river linking project as tribals held protests.Tribal votebankGujarat is among the 10 states that have Schedule Areas, and accounts of 8.1% of the ST population. The tribals are concentrated in the eastern districts, along the Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra borders.There are 11 major tribes in Gujarat, the largest being Bhil which is nearly 48% of the state’s total tribal population.The tribals have been a loyal voters of the Congress. In 2017, of the 27 reserved ST seats, the BJP won eight, Congress got 16, and its alliance partner, the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) bagged two. One Congress rebel won as an Independent. Since then, Congress’s three tribal MLAs have joined the BJP. The Independent MLA was disqualified, and BJP won the bypolls in 2021. This time AAP is also targeting this constituency and has allied with the BTP.However, the BJP does not see the implementation of the Act as an election challenge as several Congress states are yet to implement it.

Explained: The PESA Act, and the reason behind parties trying to woo tribals in Gujarat
How to talk to India’s unique digital polity of first-time, non-English internet-using voters
The Indian Express | 2 hours ago | 10-08-2022 | 05:50 am
The Indian Express
2 hours ago | 10-08-2022 | 05:50 am

The recently released IAMAI Kantar, Internet in India, ICUBE 2021 study has some interesting findings on how the country is fast emerging as one of the world’s largest markets for internet-based apps and services. The report was released around the same time India witnessed significant bidding for the 5G spectrum. At the intersection of both of these lies perhaps the world’s most unique digital polity of first-time, non-English internet users who think, act and transact “mobile first”. Their numbers will soon reach a billion as India focuses efforts on expanding rural 4G access and high-speed internet. With anywhere between two to eight hours of daily usage, the Indian internet user is the ideal test case for any platform or app-based service looking to tap a global audience. Little wonder that we have witnessed over the years intense efforts to sway the Indian internet user through borderless activism in the name of “saving the internet”, “online free speech”, and “data surveillance”.With the Narendra Modi-led NDA government withdrawing the earlier proposed Personal Data Protection Bill, the stakes have become even higher for borderless activism seeking to influence how India regulates the internet-based economy.The reasons for the high stakes in internet regulation in India become apparent when one looks at the demographic shift in the country — the statistics revealed by the IAMAI report also underline this shift. As per the UN’s estimates for births in India, the cohort born between 2002 and 2006 is one of the largest, with yearly births having peaked in the country between 2001 and 2002. This makes the cohort of nearly 150 million first-time voters in the 2024 General Elections a sizable and distinct digital constituency. As India’s largest cohort that has been “Digital First” from the cradle, this generation of first-time voters has experienced all the significant digital shifts in their formative years. Having been born around the same time as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, this generation came of age with the touchscreen revolution. Their teen years witnessed an explosive growth in smartphone usage. This is also the generation that had the highest exposure to online education due to Covid-19 vastly increasing their screen time and use of internet tools and services.While the IAMAI report does not reveal much on the age-wise demographic split of the various kinds of internet users, it was interesting to note that online gaming has nearly five times the number of users relative to those using the internet for online education. Internet-based gaming is the mainstay of this cohort with new-age interactive platforms such as Twitch and Discord emerging as hubs of their peer groups. The divide with earlier generations of voters is quite stark as this cohort barely reads newspapers or watches conventional television. While YouTube and WhatsApp are most likely their primary sources of news to them, Facebook and Twitter are already legacy social media platforms belonging to an earlier era. Indicators of this inter-generational schism are already visible the world over with older users of services like Instagram unhappy with the shift towards tik-tok style short videos and algorithmic feeds.The unique digital characteristics of this demographic of first-time voters will require creative approaches for political engagement ahead of the 2024 elections. The Election Commission of India recently announced further liberalisation of the voter registration process with 17-year-olds being able to register a year ahead of being eligible to vote, apart from opening up the voter registration process once every quarter. Creative engagement of this digital-first generation would perhaps require interactive live streaming on platforms like Twitch apart from volunteer engagement efforts through “servers” on Discord. How India approaches digital regulations would be of utmost importance to this cohort. It will necessitate a sustained dialogue on the government’s approach to techno-nationalism as a counter to the borderless activism that has sought to skew digital policy debates in India.India is not alone in its pursuit of techno-nationalism. We are already witnessing a wave of regulatory moves from Indonesia on not just controlling online gaming apps and services but also actively promoting indigenously developed gaming apps. While China requires licences for online games by a dedicated gaming regulator, Indonesia requires formal registration to be compliant with local laws governing what are called “private electronic systems”. From Kenya to Brazil we are also witnessing preemptive actions to insulate the electoral processes of their respective democracies from the spread of viral fake news and disinformation on WhatsApp.While the 2009 elections saw the advent of blogs in the political debate, the 2014 elections were the first time internet streaming played a significant role in disintermediating broadcast media. The 2019 elections were marked by the extensive role played by social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp. With the unique demographic characteristics of first-time voters, perhaps the 2024 elections will see algorithms and gaming apps and services play an influential role.From securing semi-conductor supply chains to regulating data flows, techno-nationalism is on the political agenda of western democracies and eastern nations alike. Over the next two years as the government seeks to put in place a comprehensive digital regulatory framework governing data, privacy, apps and algorithms, engaging the first digital generation of new voters on techno-nationalism will be crucial at every step.The writer is former CEO of Prasar Bharati, India’s Public Broadcaster

How to talk to India’s unique digital polity of first-time, non-English internet-using voters
Nitish dumps BJP, returns to Grand Alliance, stakes claim
The Indian Express | 2 hours ago | 10-08-2022 | 05:50 am
The Indian Express
2 hours ago | 10-08-2022 | 05:50 am

Five years after he resigned as Chief Minister and walked out of the Mahagathbandhan when RJD leader and Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav refused to step down in the wake of an alleged corruption case, JD (U) leader Nitish Kumar returned to the Mahagathbandhan and Tejashwi.On Tuesday, Nitish ended his alliance with the BJP, resigned as the coalition Chief Minister, only to stake claim again hours later with Tejashwi as his deputy. He is all set to form a new government with the support of the RJD, Congress, CPI, CPI (M-L) and HAM (S) and an Independent — they together make a team of 164 MLAs in a House of 243.Before Nitish submitted his resignation to Bihar Governor Phagu Chauhan in the afternoon, the JD(U) and RJD held separate meetings with their MLAs. The RJD reposed faith in Nitish’s leadership and did not put any pre-condition for extending him support to form a government. The Congress and CPI (M-L) had already offered their support to Nitish on Monday.Nitish met the Governor again in the evening along with Tejashwi, carrying signed letters of support from all allies to form the next government. The Governor is yet to decide on a date for the swearing-in ceremony.After emerging from the Raj Bhavan, Nitish said, “I have nothing much to say on how suffocated we felt in the NDA… There was a dominant view in the party about snapping ties with BJP. Now, the Grand Alliance has seven parties.”Taking a swipe at the BJP, he said, “Everyone knew what kind of an atmosphere was being built. We will continue to work for BIhar.”Asked if he aspired to become a PM candidate, he said, “I have a mandate to work for Bihar.”Tejashwi said, “In the entire Hindi heartland, the BJP has no ally now. It is all because the BJP tries to finish its ally… Hamare purkhon ki virasat koi aur lega kya? (Can someone else hijack our legacy?)… I am happy Nitish Kumar decided to come back to us. We thank Lalu ji. He is the one who stopped L K Advani’s rath. We will not allow the BJP to fulfill its agenda.”He called Nitish “the most experienced CM in the country”. Asked if Nitish will be a PM candidate in the 2024 polls, he said: “I leave this question to Nitish Kumar ji… Bihar will continue to move forward under his leadership… We are chacha-bhatija, we fought each other and we are together again.”Earlier, as Nitish’s car moved inside Raj Bhavan, a small group of JD (U) supporters, waving party flags, chanted slogans of “Desh ka Pradhan Mantri kaisa ho, Nitish Kumar jaisa ho.” He returned from Raj Bhavan within 15 minutes and made a brief statement to the media that he had tendered his resignation to the Governor.Sources said Tejashwi will be the lone Deputy CM in the new government. Although the Congress also hopes to get a Deputy CM position, Nitish is unlikely to agree, sources said, adding that there could be too many power centres.Dumped by Nitish a second time, the BJP pointed to his “habit” of political somersaults. BJP leader and Union Minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey said, “Nitish Kumar is a perennial ‘Paltu Ram’ (turncoat). No one can trust him now. People of Bihar are going to see another round of jungle raj.”Neither the BJP’s central leadership nor its state unit tried to dissuade Nitish from ending the alliance. Nitish had snapped ties with the NDA in June 2013 but had returned in July 2017 after being in power with the RJD for 20 months.Several BJP leaders called the break-up with Nitish “good riddance”.PTI adds: At a press conference in Patna, former Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused Nitish of inconsistency in beliefs.“You talk about communalism but you aligned with us in the 1990s when the Ayodhya movement was at its peak. You fought with us against Lalu Prasad on the issue of his involvement in fodder scam. In 2013, your personal dislike for Narendra Modi made you leave us and join hands with the RJD president,” Prasad said.“You left the RJD in 2017 after Tejashwi Yadav’s name cropped up in a corruption case. You are now pushing Bihar back into the era of lawlessness and corruption which you claimed credit for bringing the state out of,” alleged the Patna Sahib MP.Speaking at the same press conference, state BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal alleged that Kumar was a “habitual betrayer” (‘aadatan dhokhebaaz’) who will be punished by the people of Bihar for betraying the “mandates of 2019 (Lok Sabha polls) and 2020 (Assembly elections)”.

Nitish dumps BJP, returns to Grand Alliance, stakes claim
New industrial policy soon in Gujarat, sops likely
Times of India | 3 hours ago | 10-08-2022 | 04:43 am
Times of India
3 hours ago | 10-08-2022 | 04:43 am

GANDHINAGAR: With the state assembly elections just a few months away, the BJP government has planned to make significant changes in key industrial policies. Three new industry-related policies - MSME, mega industries and large industries - are expected to be announced shortly to address pending issues like GST compensation and demand for other financial incentives. Industries have been demanding resumption of financial incentives related to taxes, which had been discontinued after the introduction of goods and service tax (GST) regime. A top source involved in the key decision making process in the state government said, "After wide consultations with various stakeholders and departments, the state government has decided to accept the long-pending demand for GST compensation on the lines of reimbursements applicable during the VAT regime." Sources confided that industries will get GST compensation or reimbursement of up to 50% of their capital investment. The upper limit of availing GST reimbursement on capital investment in different sectors is still being worked out. According to highly placed sources in the government, MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises), large industries and mega industries will cumulatively be offered about Rs 10,000 crore worth of direct and indirect benefits under the proposed scheme."Moreover, the state government has decided to grant up to 7% capital subsidy against interest paid by industries for various business activities," added sources. "Under the proposed new policies, the state government has also decided to reimburse Re 1 for every unit of electricity consumption by industries. This will be one of the key incentives for the industries. This incentive will be available for the first five years since the commencement of projects," sources said. Large projects are those where the proposed investment is over Rs 1,000 crore and mega projects are those where the investment is in excess of Rs 5,000 crore. "MSMEs, large projects and mega projects will get all other incentives which have been assured under the dedicated industrial policy. Mega policies will have the additional option of customised benefits, like the ones given to automobile majors," sources said. The state government plans to add new sectors in the proposed policies. The state government has also planned to consider the government of India's industrial incentives separately, which will add to financial incentives to industries.

New industrial policy soon in Gujarat, sops likely