STOKES FEDERALISM ISSUE
New Delhi, Jan 21, 2012 : The fiery debate on federalism witnessed in Parliament over the Lokpal Bill has been stoked yet again. This time the player is Gujarat. On Wednesday last, the High Court settled the murky battle between its Chief Minister and Governor. It endorsed Governor Kamla Beniwal’s decision to appoint Justice V.M. Sahai, as the Lokayukta, which Chief Minister Narendra Modi had fiercely contested in the High Court. In his verdict, Justice Sahai not only lambasted Modi for a “constitutional crisis” but noted: “looking at the conduct and irrationality of Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister, the Governor rightly exercised her discretionary powers…” A greatly upset and embarrassed Modi plans to file an appeal in the Supreme Court on grounds that the Governor had acted unconstitutionally in selecting the Lokayukta without consulting the Government. This says his party, the BJP, amounts to “a setback to federalism” because “If a Governor, who is a nominee of the Central Government gets primacy over the State Government on the appointment of Lokayukta, it amounts to Government of India appointing the Lokayukta!.” While, the matter is best left to legal luminaries to decide, at least there is a silver lining: the State will finally have a Lokayukta after a gap of eight years!
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Fiercer UP Campaign
Election campaigning in Uttar Pradesh is geared to get more fierce and murkier. Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and BJP’s fiery orator Uma Bharti has thrown her hat into the poll ring and perhaps may well be its chief ministerial candidate. On Wednesday last, the party ended all speculation on Bharti and announced she would be contesting from Charkhari, Bundelkhand. The firebrand hails from the influential Lodh, and the BJP hopes this would help it consolidate the backward votes. More so, in the backdrop of the OBCs anger against the Congress for deciding to have a sub-quota for the Muslim backwards from the 27 per cent Mandal quota. Additionally, the party hopes that Bharti, who played a key role in the Ayodhya movement, could prove to be a good counter to SP’s Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi and BSP’s supremo Mayawati. Will she eventually become its star campaigner and importantly be able to fulfil the responsibility bestowed on her? Headlines in the coming weeks will provide an indication.
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Quiet Manipur Poll
Strangely, this time around Manipur is devoid of the hustle-bustle of an election. The streets of its Capital, Imphal, are not only rather quiet but very few flags or banners can be spotted or for that matter candidates campaigning door-to door. While polling in the State is on January 28, the election fever is clearly low grade for its 60-member Assembly. The reason could be two-fold. One, the Congress candidates may have got intimidated by the threat of seven underground groups. The groups have declared a ban on the ruling party: Locals have been told not to support Congress candidates (in first place they shouldn’t contest) or hoist the party flag or lend them their vehicles! Two, with polling being held on a single day, the Election Commission has stricter monitoring, including removal of DGP and photographing of each voter. While the Congress admits it’s much quieter than the 2007 poll and denies any link with the ban, it affirms a comeback. If so, aggressive campaigning could be passé.
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Bizarre Southern Winter
It has been a bizarre winter this week. Forget north, the unprecedented cold wave has South India shivering. So far it has claimed 15 lives in Andhra Pradesh (Telangana and Vishakhapatnam) and broken century-old temperature record in neighbouring Karnataka! The Met Department noted that while interior Madikeri, Coorg district registered the lowest temperature in 132 years Monday last with the minimum dropping to 4.8 deg C, Mysore recorded the coldest day in 120 years at 7.7 deg C, Bangalore coldest day in 19 years at 12 deg C and Belgaum coldest at 7.2 deg. The phenomenon is definitely unusual and could be a result of the recent Thane cyclone in Tamil Nadu. The question the South Indians may have is: Should they seriously consider buying woollen clothes, heaters etc like the north Indians?
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States Fudged Enrolments
Government-aided schools in various States are surprisingly showing less student enrolment. And, believe it or not it is a reason to rejoice! Why? The enrolment lists were faked by many such schools to get a bigger share of Central funds. The revelation comes by way of a recent survey by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration which covered 1.36 million schools across the country. Among the States, Bihar had 4.73 lakh fake admissions, Jharkhand had struck off 7.6 lakh students names (only on paper) and in one year Uttar Pradesh’s student enrolment had dropped by over four lakh. Apparently, the Centre was giving funds on basis of enrolment and every extra child in primary schools meant more money from for the mid-day meals. This apart, with schools now required to improve their standard under the RTE Act, the States would need to have better infrastructure. Surely, they can’t expect the Centre to assist them if facilities and students are only on paper.
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Uttarakhand Holy Promise
In Uttarakhand, the BJP’s manifesto has caught the voters fancy, at least, on one score. Among the various promises made for a better tomorrow, the ruling party has vowed to encourage the production of filtered cow urine (Gau Mootra), said to be helpful in treating injuries and diseases of eye and ear, even cancer. The urine would to be filtered and cleaned to produce a concentrated juice ‘ark’ which will do the trick. Further, developing shelters for old and ailing cows and fertilizers from dried cow urine to help farmers has too been promised. For some time now, the party guru, the RSS has been promoting scientific experiments on five cow products, including urine and dung, exploring not only its medicinal properties but even contemplating making a cola! Any takers?
(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)