Bengal, UP Poll Message
TMC UPSET, SP UPBEAT
New Delhi, June 09 : Elections, big or small, can throw up both pleasant and unpleasant surprises. A case in point is that of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. In the former, while Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee can revel in winning four of the six municipalities in the civic polls on Sunday last, she cannot ignore the rebuff from an important section of voters. In fact, the firebrand leader would need to concede she also got a hard knock. The TMC lost the Haldia municipality, the State’s second rich civic body after Kolkata Municipal Corporation, to arch rival, the CPM. Though the party was overconfidently proclaiming a clean sweep in its campaign and decided to fight the elections on its own, sans its ally the Congress, it managed to win only 11 of the 26 wards, with the remaining 15 going to the Left, a reversal of the voting trend in the Assembly polls. More importantly, Mamata must read the writing on the wall—the voter is disillusioned. In Haldia lies the Nandigram area, where the TMC tasted its first victory and where its turnaround began. But sadly there has been no development. The politics of vendetta or being a bully is no substitute for governance. It is time Didi changed her style before the warning grows bigger.
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UP Kanauj Bypoll
As against W Bengal, in Uttar Pradesh, the ruling Samajwadi Party should have no worries. Young Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s wife, Dimple, who is contesting the Kannuaj byelection on June 24 shall have a cakewalk. While the Congress has decided not to field a candidate to show its “goodwill” towards a “friendly” party, the BSP too is not in the contest. It cites no reason. Additionally, Dimple will have no opposition from the BJP either as its candidate for some reason did not make it on time to file papers! This leaves just two Independents in the fray, and there is talk of them withdrawing. If that happens, not only will she create a record of getting elected uncontested to the Lok Sabha but can put behind her defeat of 2009, when she lost to Congress candidate Raj Babbar in the Firozabad by-election. Will the SP need to thank the Congress? May be not, as there is more than meets the eye. The Congress perhaps is making the overtures to the SP, which is only lending outside support to the UPA-II, to ensure that it comes in handy to neutralise its ally, the TMC, if and when need be.
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The nation’s capital, Delhi, continues to have its share of ‘scams’. In its latest revelation, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has noted major irregularities in the works carried out by the Public Works Department in 2010-11. While Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit can rightly claim giving the city new flyovers, foot-over-bridges, better office buildings etc, she would need to concede that these have come for a hefty price—wastage of public money. Apparently, some projects’ costs were wrongly calculated, rather near double the amount and that the officers’ concerned couldn’t be bothered. The works include improvement of the Outer Ring Road stretch (Rs 234 crore instead of Rs 165 crore), wherein the contractors gained; construction of an office building was awarded twice at a higher cost and so was the case with escalators at foot-over-bridges (FOBs) at important intersections. Worse, a number of escalators were found lying idle! Will the guilty be held responsible, is the aggrieved tax payers’ question to Diskshit.
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Bihar Under Probe
Bihar’s ‘good governance’ report card is getting blemished. Law and order and irregularities in land allotment to dalits are Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s latest worry. On both fronts, he has had to bow to the Opposition’s demand of instituting inquiries. On Wednesday last, he recommended a CBI probe into the killing of outlawed Ranvir Sena (private militia of upper caste) chief Bramheshwar Singh. In fact, his administration is on high alert as Central agencies have warned of the possibility of a “bitter caste war” breaking out. The Sena supremo was accused of large-scale massacre of the lower caste and that his supporters had shown signs when they went on a rampage in Patna during his funeral procession last week. While Nitish has asked his State police to be extra vigilant, he has conceded probe into major bungling in his government’s flagship scheme of land distribution to the landless (Mahadalit Vikas Yojana). It comes to light now that the land was being bought from farmers at very cheap rates and sold to the Government at much higher prices! Worse, the land distributed has no approach roads and that the dalits have no roof over their heads. Will the probe help Nitish clear the air and maintain his good marks so far?
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Punjab Revisits Bluestar
Punjab has had to revisit the horror of Operation Bluestar, much to the embarrassment of the ruling combine of SAD-BJP. On Wednesday last, Sikh priests at the Golden Temple, Amritsar laid the foundation for a memorial for those killed during the operation, a code name for the Army’s attack on the Akal Takht in June 1984. The project under the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee and the Damdami Taksal, which observed the 28th anniversary of the operation also bestowed the title of “zinda shaheed” (living martyr) on Balwant Singh Rajoana, convicted for killing former Chief Minister Beant Singh. Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, distanced his government from the project and maintained that its mandate was to maintain peace. However, the Opposition Congress is up in arms and is opposing the construction of the memorial stating that the ugly head of militancy could come up again. Notwithstanding its commitment to peace, the State government will need on guard.
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Tamil Nadu Elated
Tamil Nadu is not all about political rivalry. There is also a magnanimous side to its Chief Minister J Jayalalitha. On Wednesday last, she sought to ensure that the State acknowledges the feat of world chess champion Viswanathan Anand and gifted him a cheque of Rs two crore for his victory over Israel’s Boris Gelfand. The Grandmaster, who had called on her at the Secretariat, described the meeting as “incredibly nice.” Importantly, Jayalalithaa has also been advocating that the country bestow the highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna on Anand. Will her arch rival, the DMK and former Chief Minister Karunanidhi, join in? —INFA
(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)