Sunday, May 24, 2009

Uttar Pradesh gave early premonition of clear mandate

UP gave early signals of 'clear mandate'. Political observers had written obituary of the Congress party. But, it rose from the ashes, much like the fabled phoenix. Rahul Gandhi is seen as the architect of its victory in the state and the country.

CJ: Arindam Roy, 7 days ago Views:797 Comments:6

UTTAR PRADESH has often been called the microcosm of India. Its popular mood is often paralleled and mirrored in the rest of the country. In the last Assembly elections, political pundits opined that UP Assembly would have a fractured mandate. They were wrong. People gave a clear mandate to Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and its leader, Mayawati. The crux was ‘clear mandate’.

In fact, UP gave a premonition of a ‘clear mandate’ in the last Assembly elections.

In the 2009 Lok sabha elections, as the trends and later the results started pouring in, the popular mood of the country was like writing on the wall, loud and clear. It gave a ‘clear mandate’ to the Congress party and the alliance it heads, the UPA. At the national level, Congress emerged as the largest single party, while UPA emerged as the major alliance with 256 seats, heads and shoulders above its opponent, the NDA, which managed to garner just 162 seats.

Once again, it proved that the various exit and opinion polls, with the exception of one, were terribly wrong. Psephologists and journalists seem to have lost sync with the people.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, no one had predicted the reemergence of the Congress after almost two decades. Political observers had written its obituary. But, it rose from the ashes, much like the fabled phoenix. Congress won 20 odd seats. BSP, which people felt would emerge as the largest party (it was leading at one point, earlier in the day) also got as many seats as the Congress. The Samajwadi Party (SP) emerged as the largest party, just getting three seats more than Congress and BSP, with 23 seats in its kitty.

BJP surprisingly took a terrible beating. It barely managed to win 11 seats and with its pre-poll alliance partner, Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) getting five seats, the NDA (or whatever remained of it in UP) managed to get just 16 seats; with ‘Others’ winning a lone seat, UP gave its verdict for all 80 seats in the 15th Lok Sabha, on Saturday (May 16).

Congress MLA from City North (Allahabad), Anugrah Narain Singh, talking to this scribe, said, “Congress party’s thumping victory in the country and the state, is the victory of its pro-poor, pro-farmers and pro-people policy. Young Rahul Gandhi is the architect of the party’s victory in the state. He represented the humane (meeting poor people, eating with them, etc) and aspirations of the youth. Soniaji’s supreme sacrifice and the PM Manmohan Singhji’s good governance, along with his ability to take a resolute step in favour of the Nuke deal translated into votes.”

He added, “The Left parties were punished for opposing the deal. Land issues and other petty issues, often local or regional added up to its misfortune. The people voted for stability and good governance. Indian democracy has matured. The mood of the smart electorate is illusive for analysts, now.”

Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi won from their respective seats. The other Gandhis, another mother son duo, Maneka Gandhi and Varun Gandhi too won their respective seats on BJP tickets.

Jaya Prada, the damsel in distress from Rampur was all smiles, as she won on SP ticket, humbling Noor Bano (Congress) and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (BJP). The aura of controversy and infighting in the party, with Azam Khan baring Rampuri knives, figuratively speaking, had to eat a humble pie.

The former cricketer Mohd Azharuddin too emerged victorious on Congress ticket from Moradabad.

Murli Manohar Joshi surprised many with his miraculous win from the temple town of Varanasi. He lost the last general election, in 2004, after being returned to the Parliament for three successive terms from Allahabad, where he taught Physics in Allahabad University. Allahabad does not send the same person twice or thrice easily. Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the few exceptions, other than the think tank of BJP, Joshi, to enjoy this feat. He quit Allahabad to contest from neighbouring Varanasi. The gamble paid off favourably for him.

Another Joshi from Allahabad, Rita Bahuguna Joshi is now the Congress MP from Lucknow. She defeated Nafisa Ali (SP). A former teacher of History in Allahabad University, she is the daughter of Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna. Like MM Joshi she too lost an election here and had left the city to try her luck in the state capital. The similarity is uncanny, observe many.

Reoti Raman Singh (Allahabad) and Shailendra Kumar (Kaushambi), both sitting MPs of the SP won, while the Phulpur seat was retained by the BSP candidate Kapilmuni Karwaria, who defeated Shyama Charan Gupta, a bidi tycoon and an hotelier, of SP.


Mayawati punished, national parties favoured in UP

As the two national parties surge ahead, with the Congress-led alliance with an edge over the BJP-led NDA, it's safe to deduce that Mayawati has been severely punished for entertaining the very gundas, whom she had vowed would be put behind bars.

CJ: Arindam Roy, 7 days ago Views:586 Comments:1

IF EARLY trends are any indication, one thing is loud and clear that the people have rejected the regional satraps in Uttar Pradesh. The UPA is way ahead of the NDA with a lead in 228 seats as compares to 160 for the latter, at the time of filing this report.

In the last Assembly election in the state, the polity had rejected the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Mulayam Singh Yadav, as he was seen to be hobnobbing with goons and mafias. Mayawati, the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) chief had assured the people that she would end this gunda raj. The popular slogan was, “Char gundo ki chati par, mohar lagega hathi par.”

Strangely, after her taste of power, she was so heady that she forgot her own slogans and promises. She fielded several goons and mafias, in the Lok Sabha election. Political pundits felt that the fight in this General Election would still be between BSP and SP, with Congress and BJP being non-existent in the state. They were completely wrong as were most journalists.

As the two national parties surge ahead, with the Congress-led alliance with an edge over the BJP-led NDA, it’s safe to deduce that Mayawati has been severely punished for entertaining the very gundas, whom she had vowed would be put behind bars and thus give UP a clean, ‘bhai-mukta sarkar’ (fear free government). She has paid for her sins, just as Yadav did in the recent past.

Another thing is clear. As BSP is being humbled in UP, the prime ministerial dreams of Mayawati have been dashed and she would be a very angry person. This would mean some more transfers of the top bureaucrats and police officers.

Meanwhile, Varun Gandhi, the poster boy of BJP is leading from Pilibhit, while the think tank of the saffron party, Murli Manohar Joshi, is reportedly leading from Varanasi.

Joshi’s lead is a surprise and no less than a miracle. It needs to be pointed out that the people of Allahabad had given him the rare honour of representing them, three times in a row, until they decided to trounce him in the last Lok Sabha elections of 2004. Joshi had to concede defeat to Reoti Raman Singh, a state minister, who was a mere pigmy compared to his opponent.

Meanwhile, Jayaprada the celebrity SP candidate from Rampur was also trailing. Azam Khan’s opposing her from within harmed her more than the challenge she had from her other political opponents, from other parties.


Backstabbing and glamour mark final poll phase in UP

A wronged cine-actress-turned-politician Jaya Prada is defending her honour, while a former cricketer, Azharuddin, is trying his luck in politics. SP's stake is high, while other parties are eying gains in the final phase of polls in UP.

CJ: Arindam Roy, 13 May 2009 Views:393 Comments:1

SLANDER, SLEAZE, knives and backstabbing – these are the five words that capture the ethos of the Rampur Lok Sabha constituency, as polling is on, for 14 constituencies of Uttar Pradesh, in the fifth and final phase, on Wednesday (May 13).

The damsel in distress is the cine-actress-turned-politician Jaya Prada, a high profile Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate. She blamed Azam Khan for circulating her morphed nude pictures. She was in tears, was furious and gentle by turns adding to the melodrama of this constituency. Jaya, the sitting MP’s fight is at several levels, both inter and intra-party clashes, her honour and dignity questioned. It’s sad that the Election Commission took no notice of the terribly disgusting level of politics in this city, well known for its knives.

Noor Bano, of the princely family of Rampur, is the Congress candidate, pitted against Jaya Prada. The infighting in SP may be to her advantage, as Congress openly wooed Azam Khan, while the SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had to handle him with a velvet glove, despite his open spat with Amar Singh. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is contesting on BJP ticket. He may be a surprise winner in this fight between these two ladies, Jaya Prada and Noor Bano, feel political observers.

Mohd. Azharauddin has one thing common with Jaya Prada; they both belong to Andhra Pradesh but have made UP their political battleground. Azharuddin is another celebrity, a former cricket captain of India, who is contesting polls from Moradabad, on Congress ticket. Though a large crowd had been following the cricketer, all during his campaign, it needs to be seen if he can convert his popularity into victory. During an interview to a prominent TV channel, Azhar said that he has asked his voters to think the polling to be a Ten10 cricket match (not even Twenty20), go out early and vote in his favour. He also added that in cricket, selection depends on five persons but in a poll it's lakhs that decide the fate of the candidate. It needs to be seen if Azhar is accepted by the city well known globally for its brassware.

The poster boy of BJP, Varun Gandhi, the new angry young man, is contesting from Pilibhit. His candidature was mired in controversy. Giving him a tough fight is his estranged kin VM Singh, one of the richest candidates, fielded by the Congress. Sources in BJP say that Varun is being seen as a future chief ministerial candidate of UP.

Maneka Gandhi, Varun’s mother, is contesting from Aonla on BJP ticket. She seemingly has no contest and it may be a cakewalk for her.

Saleem Shervani is the Congress candidate from Badaun. A former Allahabad-based industrialist, he quit the SP to contest on Congress ticket. His father MR Shervani was close to former PM Jawaharlal Nehru and the family has had a long history of Congress association. How the prodigal son of Congress fares, needs to be seen.

A new seat, Nagina, has been added after delimitation. In 2004, the tally of 13 seats, going to polls today, show that SP had the lion’s share, with six seats in its kitty. In fact, all others, BJP, Congress, BSP, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), JD (U) and independent had one seat each.

While SP’s stake is highest, BSP is eying a few more seats from this part of UP. This part of UP has large percentage of Muslim voters. Yadav’s hold would be put to test, as it is to be seen if Muslims still support him after his friendly embrace with the Babri Masjid demolition convict Kalyan Singh. If Congress does better, it would prove beyond doubt that Yadav’s gamble did not pay off.

BJP hopes to win the two seats of mother and sin duo from Aonla and Pilibhit. It is also hopeful that Naqvi may spring a surprise in Rampur.

The 14 constituencies going to polls in the last phase are: Amroha, Aonla, Bijnor, Bareilly, Badaun, Dhaurhara, Kheri, Moradabad, Nagina, Pilibhit, Rampur, Saharanpur, Samhal and Sahahjahanpur.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Who'll gain from political gambles & games in UP?

Phase IV has laid bare the various gambles and games of political parties in UP. Underlying the claims, counter claims and various caste combinations of the political parties, one this is clear, voters are a dejected lot. Who wins need to be seen?

CJ: Arindam Roy, 7 May 2009 Views:516 Comments:0

IN THE fourth phase of polling, 18 constituencies in western and central Uttar Pradesh will decide the fate of many stalwarts in state and national politics. Several heads might roll. This phase needs to be watched closely.

Political pundits feel that Maulana Mulayam Singh’s gamble is calculated. He is not robbing Peter to pay Paul. He has embraced Kalyan Singh (a convict in Babri Masjid demolition) to add the Lodh votes to his Muslim-Yadav vote bank. And even if a section of the Muslims were to desert him, he would be more than compensated by the Lodh votes.

Political observers argue that the Samajwadi Party (SP) think tank, Janeshwar Mishra, adoring called Chhote Lohia, in all probability might have reasoned that just as Mayawati’s Dalit voters did not let her down, despite her shift from ‘Bahujan’ to ‘Sarvajan’, the Muslims too would not desert SP.

On Thursday (May 7), Yadav raised the decibel that whichever combine (read party / alliance) sacks the Mayawati government in UP, would get his support (he spoke a la Jayalalitha, who raised a similar demand about removing the DMK government in Tamil Nadu). The reason is simple. He wants to fish in troubled waters. Strangely, the SP is already laying down the pre-condition for support.

This follows Rahul Gandhi’s appreciating Nitish Kumar, Chandrababu Naidu and the Left. Both these leaders kept their options open it seemed. Poll arithmetic has become more important than electoral chemistry. This is perhaps what the 15th Lok Sabha elections would be remembered for.

Meanwhile, Congress sources claim that the voters are tired of the petty politics of Yadav and Mayawati. They now want stability. The Muslims and the backwards were promised the moon by the SP. If anyone gained it was Yadav and some select leaders of his party. They also add that the people had rejected the SP because it had become synonymous with gundaraj because of its alleged closeness to goons and mafias. BSP is not much different. This time the so-called Dalit party has fielded several criminals. That is the reason why the people want to reject BSP too. The gainer would naturally be the Congress party, as BJP is a spent force in the state.

BJP, on its part, is also stating similar arguments in its favour and is blaming the Congress for the various ills in the Centre and Mayawati for her ‘bad company’ in the state.

A lesser player, Ajit Singh, with his Jat vote bank too needs to be watched carefully. It’s to be seen if the BJP would gain from the Jats, who have quite a percentage in these 18 constituencies.

It may be added that in the last Lok Sabha elections (2004), SP gained the maximum of nine seats, while both Congress and BJP won three seats each. Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) won two seats, while BSP barely managed one seat.

The game plan of Yadav is to increase his seat tally in this belt, which is his home turf. Congress too is eyeing this part of UP, hoping that the tipple effect of Delhi would pay off favourably. BSP has to increase its seat tally, if it has to score over Yadav.

Phase IV has laid bare the various gambles and games of political parties in UP. Underlying the claims, counter claims and various caste combinations of the political parties, one this is clear, the voters are a dejected lot in UP. They want a change but are not sure which way the wind will blow, going by the buzz in the state.

In Mainpuri, Yadav is at an advantage. Ajit’s fate hangs in Bhagpat, while Ghaziabad is a prestige issue for the BJP president Rajnath Singh.

The 18 constituencies where polling is on are: Mainpuri, Bhagpat, Ghaziabad, Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Gautam Budddha Nagar, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Hathras, Mathura, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Firozabad, Etah, Farukkhabad, Etawah and Kannauj.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

UP: Petty issues, voters' restlessness palpable

In the absence of national issues, it's petty issues that have surfaced in the third phase. This is a gross failure of two national parties, BJP and Congress. The ground reality is that there is terrible restlessness amongst the voters in UP.

CJ: Arindam Roy, 2 days ago Views:478 Comments:0

AS MAYAWATI is addressing an election rally in Mathura, polling is in progress in15 parliamentary constituencies of Uttar Pradesh, in the third phase, on Thursday (April 30), at the time of filing this report. The UP chief minister is busy campaigning for the fourth phase.

At the time of filing this report, the poll percentage in these constituencies was 15 per cent, till 11am. In these constituencies, 256 candidates are in fray. The total number of voters are 2.25 crore in these 15 seats. In 15,000 polling stations, over 28,000 EVMs will try the fate of the candidates.

The 15 constituencies are: Rae Bareli, Lucknow, Mohanlalganj, Unnao, Kanpur, Fatehpur, Mishrikh, Hardoi, Sitapur, Akbarpur, Jalaun, Jhansi, Hamirpur, Barabanki and Bhairaich.

In the absence of national issues, it’s petty issues that have surfaced in the third phase. This is being seen as a gross failure of the two national parties, BJP and Congress, in UP. The ground reality is that there is terrible restlessness amongst the voters. But, politicians failed to capitalise it. The low turnout of voters is, in fact, a rejection by the body polity in this state, political observers opined.

Taposhi Sen, a school teacher from Lucknow is a little sad. With Atal Bihari Vajpayee not contesting from the state capital, having chosen to retire from active poll politics, it is no longer the star constituency that it used to be. Anukriti Joshi and Sanjay Verma, two first time voters of Lucknow felt that though the Samajwadi Party (SP) tried to bring colour by fielding cine actor Sanjay Dutt initially and later replacing him with Nafisa Ali, Vajpayee’s charisma is being missed by most.

The absence of national issues has exposed the bankruptcy of the political parties. They are more concerned with poll arithmetic and caste composition of these constituencies. The voters, on their part, are focusing developmental issues at local levels. This too has contributed in a low voter turnout.

Three villages of Mishrikh have decided to boycott the polling, as there has been no development in their villages. Roads, power, water have emerged as the central issue for them.

In a telephonic talk, Gaurav Singh, a businessman, from Kanpur, stated, “You can replace one political party with the other. The Congress and the BJP are busy accusing each other. The SP and BSP are no better. SP was rejected by people as it had fielded many criminals and now BSP too has repeated the same. For all political parties, its booth management that is more important than political ideology. In fact, there is acute lack of ideology.”

The saddest thing is that political think tanks of all parties have been pushed into oblivion, stated a senior BJP leader, off the record. He added that is the reason why goons and mafias are more important. They can perhaps manage booths better.

Few constituencies to watch would be Rae Bareli. Sonia Gandhi is sure to win from here. Former PM VP Singh’s son, Ajeya Singh, is contesting from Fatehpur on Jan Morcha ticket. Rita Bhauguna Joshi is no trying her luck from Lucknow, after an unsuccessful attempt on Congress ticket, from Allahabad, in 1999.

The contest in Lucknow is interesting as Nafisa Ali (SP) and Lalji Tandon (BJP) are challenging Akhilesh Das Gupta, the sitting MP of Congress, who switched over to BSP. A four-cornered tussle is on in the state capital.

In all other constituencies, it will be anything from three-cornered to five-cornered contests. Any prediction is therefore difficult. However, the restlessness of UP voters may be reflected in the final results, political pundits feel.

Constituencies and candidates:

Rae Bareli: Sonia Gandhi (Congress), RS Kushwaha (BSP) and RB Singh (BJP)

Lucknow: Nafisa Ali (SP), Rita Bahuguna Joshi (Congress), Lalji Tandon (BJP) and Dr Akhilesh Das Gupta (BSP)

Mohanlalganj: Sushila Saroj (SP), RK Chaudhury (RSP), Rajnan Kumar Choudhary (BJP) and Jai Prakash (BSP)

Unnao: Deepak Kumar (SP), Annu Tandon (Congress), Ramesh Kumar Singh (BJP), Arun Shankar Shukla (BSP) and Umesh Chandra (Apna Dal)

Kanpur: Surendra Mohan Agarwal (SP), Sriprakash Jaiswal (Congress), Satish Mahana (BJP) and Sukhda Mishra (BSP)

Fatehpur: Rakesh Sachan (SP), Vibhakar Shastri (Congress), Shyam Gupta (BJP), Mahendra Pratap Nishad (BSP) and Ajeya Singh (Jan Morcha)

Mishrikh: Shyam Prakash (SP), Om Prakash (Congress), Anil Kumar (BJP) and Ashok Kumar Rawat (BSP)

Hardoi: Usha Verma (SP), Purnima Verma (BJP) and Ram Kumar Kuril (BSP)

Sitapur: Mahendra Singh Verma (SP), Ram Lal Rahi (Congress), Gyan Tiwari (BJP) and Qaisar Jehan (BSP)

Akbarpur: Kamlesh Pathak (SP), Rajaram Pal (Congress), Arun Kumar (BJP) and Anil Shukla Varsi (BSP)

Jalaun: Ghanshyam Anuragi (SP), Dr Baburamdhin Ahirwar (Congress), Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma (BJP) and Tilak Chandra Ahirwar (BSP)

Jhansi: Chandrapal Singh Yadav (SP), Pradeep Kumar Jain (Congress), Ravindra Shukla (BJP) and Ramesh Kumar Sharma (BSP)

Hamirpur: Ashok Kumar Singh Chandel (SP), Siddha Gopal Sahu (Congress), Pritam Singh Lodhi (BJP) and Vijay Bahadur Singh (BSP)

Barabanki: Ram Sagar (SP), PL Punia (Congress) Ram Naresh Rawat (BJP) and Kamla Prasad Rawat (BSP)

Bhairaich: Shabeer Ahmad (SP), Kamal Kishore (Congress), Akshaybar Lal (BJP) and Lalmani Prasad (BSP)


Allahabad: One injured in firing by BSP goons

It is learnt that a Samajwadi Party supporter was hit by bullets in a scuffle, when goons of Collector Pandey, who is reportedly close to the Bahujan Samaj Party candidate Ashok Bajpai, opened fire today (April 23) afternoon.

CJ: Arindam Roy, 23 Apr 2009 Views:264 Comments:0

LAL BAHADUR Pal, a Samajwadi Party (SP) supporter, was brought to the Swarup Rani Nehru (SRN) Hospital this afternoon (April 23), with about 36 bullet pellets in his stomach. It is learnt that Pal was hit by bullets in a scuffle, when goons of Collector Pandey, who is reportedly close to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate Ashok Bajpai, opened fire on Thursday afternoon.

The clash took place in the trans-Yamuna Karchana assembly segment, which is part of the Allahabad parliamentary constituency. Pal is a supporter of the sitting SP MP, Reoti Raman Singh.

Sources informed that BSP goons, who have the support of the local police administration created disturbances at quite a few places.

Karchana, Meja and Bara, three out of the five assembly segments of the Allahabad parliamentary constituency, have been the traditional stronghold of Singh and his family. Bajpai’s muscle men opened fire to disturb polling and create fear psychosis in the minds of the SP supporters.

Other than this firing incident in Karchana, polling was by and large peaceful in Allahabad. A case has been reportedly registered against Collector Pandey’s men. Top police officials were not available for comments.


Number game for kingmaker UP in second phase

Once the citadel of the Congress, UP became the focal point of the BJP. But both the national parties lost ground to SP and BSP. Other than Amethi, everywhere else, there is anything between three-cornered and five-cornered contests.

CJ: Arindam Roy, 23 Apr 2009 Views:1965 Comments:0

POLLING IS on in 17 parliamentary constituencies of Uttar Pradesh, on Thursday (April 23). The state is often referred to as the kingmaker of Indian politics.

UP has given the nation six prime ministers. They are Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Chandrasekhar and VP Singh. Once the citadel of the Congress, it became the focal point of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with the “Jai Sri Ram” slogan and temple issue catching up. After the 'Kamandal' was the 'Mandal'. Both the national parties lost ground to Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), in post-Mandal India.

Other than Amethi, everywhere else, there is anything between three-cornered and five-cornered contests. In most of these cases, the candidates winning would be more by default. The game spoilers (vote katwa or those who eat into the opponents votes) would play a major role. It’s like a huge game of snakes and ladders, a big gamble for any candidate / party.

Whichever party wins about nine to 10 seats in this phase would be in a comfortable position. Congress is eyeing nine seats, but it is riddled with factionalism. BJP has failed to focus on any major poll issue. The SP and BSP’s social engineering (read caste factors) are likely to play a major role, in the absence of any central election issue in this otherwise insipid election. May 16 is much awaited by one and all.

The seven key seats are:

Amethi: The crown prince of the Congress party, Rahul Gandhi has virtually no challenge here. He will surely win for the second time. His sister Priyanka was campaigning for him, while he was away for most of the time, canvassing for the party elsewhere. He is the sitting MP. Amethi has been traditionally with the Congress. The two other candidates in the fray are Ashish Shukla (BSP) and Pradip Singh (BJP). The SP has not fielded any candidate.

Sultanpur: Sanjay Singh(Congress) is hopeful of winning this seat, expecting a ripple effect of Amethi here. He is trying to capitalise on the Nehru-Gandhi family association and legacy. He has a four-cornered contest with the sitting MP Mohammad Tahir (BSP), Ashok Pandey (SP) and Surya Bhan Singh (BJP). Congress is trying to wrest this seat from BSP.

Pratapgarh: This constituency is witnessing the clash of two mafia chieftains. Atiq Ahmad, who had won the Phulpur seat for SP in the last election, was left out in the cold. He was reportedly trying to woo the BSP, according to unconfirmed reports. Lodged in jail, he has locked horns with the sitting MP Akshay Pratap Singh (SP), who has the blessings of Raghvendra Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhiaya. But with Kunda carved away from Pratapgarh due to delimitation, Ratna Singh (Congress) of Kalakankar is hopeful that in this clash of the two mafias, she may get a clear upper hand. Shiv Kant Ojha (BSP) and Laxmi Narain Pandey (BJP) have made it a five-cornered contest, making any speculation difficult.

Ambedkar Nagar: Vinay Katiyar ‘Bajrangi’ of BJP is the star attraction here. He has made the contest keen. The sitting MP Shankhlal Manjhi (SP) has been challenged by Katiyar and Rakesh Pandey (BSP) in a three-cornered fight. After delimitation, BSP has an advantage. Mayawati’s influence too is very strong here.

Jaunpur: Mafia-turned-politician Dhananjay Singh (BJP) is in a tight spot, following the mysterious death of the Indian Justice Party (IJP) candidate Bahadur Sonkar. Other than this, a tough, three-way contest is on, with the sitting MP Parasnath Yadav (SP) and Seema (BJP)

Allahabad: Ashok Bajpai (BSP), formerly Congress is giving a tough fight to the sitting MP Reoti Raman Singh (SP). His estranged wife, Ranjana Bajpai, who was with the SP is now in-charge of Allahabad BSP. Yogesh Shukla (BJP) and Shyam Krishna Pandey (Congress) are the other contenders. A three-cornered tussle is on.

Gonda: Beni Prasad Verma (Congress) has locked horns with the sitting MP Karti Vardhan Singh (BSP), Ram Pratap Singh (BJP) and Vinod Kumar Singh (SP). It’s a four-cornered contest. But the delimitation has added a sizeable number of Muslim voters.

Lesser constituencies: Ten other lesser constituencies are:

Banda: Amita Bajpai (BJP), BD Garg (Congress), BP Mishra (BSP) and RK Singh Patel (SP).

Basti: YD Singh (BJP), Basant Choudhury (Congress), Arvind Kumar Chudhury (BSP) and Raj Kishore Singh (SP).

Bhadohi: The carpet belt has Mahedra Nath Pandey (BJP), Suryamani Tripathi (Congress), Mahedra Nath Pandey (BJP) Gorakhnath (BSP) and Choteylal Bind (SP).

Domariyaganj: JP Singh (BJP), Jagdambika Pal (Congress), Mohd. Muqeem (BSP) and Mata Prasad Pandey (SP)

Faizabad: Lallu Singh (BJP), Nirmal Khatri (Congress), Raja Ayohdya (BSP) and Mitrasen Yadav (SP).

Kaushambi: Gautam Chaudhury (BJP), Ram Nihore Rakesh (Congress), Girish Chandra Pasi (BSP) and Shailendra Kumar (SP).

Phulpur: Karan Singh Patel (BJP), Dharamraj Patel (Congress), Kapil Muni Karwariya (BSP) and Shyama Charan Gupta (SP).

Qaisarganj: LP Mishra (BJP), Mohd Aleem (Congress),Surendranath Awasthi (BSP) and Brij Bhusan Saran Singh (SP).

Sant Kabir Nagar: Sharad Tripathi (BJP), Kushal Tiwari (BSP) and Bhal Chandra Yadav (SP).

Shrawasti: Satya Deo Singh (BJP), Vinay Kumar (Congress), Rizwan Zahir (BSP) and Rubab Sayeeda (SP).


What may cause MM Joshi's defeat in Varanasi?

Polling was peaceful in Varanasi. But low turnout of Hindu voters, in contrast to Muslim voters, split of Hindu votes, consolidation of BSP's votes and alleged police help to Mukhtar Ansari, may see him win: An analysis.

CJ: Arindam Roy, 16 Apr 2009 Views:3401 Comments:6

IN VARANASI, BJP’s senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi seems to be at a disadvantage. Low voter turnout, especially in the Hindu dominated areas, opposed to heavy turnout of Muslim and Dalit voters could help the mafia don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari win, rather comfortably, feel political observers.

Though unhappy about the possible defeat of Joshi, they reasoned that on the one hand, the Muslim and Dalit votes have consolidated, while on the other hand, the Hindu votes are split between Joshi, the sitting MP of Congress Rajesh Mishra and BJP’s rebel MLA Ajay Rai, contesting on Samajwadi Party ticket.

To make matters worse, the state police is allegedly supporting BSP’s muscleman Ansari. The central forces are conspicuously absent, other than in polling booths.

Meanwhile, Mishra is fighting tooth and nail to retain his seat, though he has been pushed into a relative oblivion in the limelight of the Physics professor from Allahabad University, Joshi of BJP, taking on the Ansari of BSP.

Ajai Rai, the BJP rebel who has joined the Samajwadi Party (SP), is a muscleman of sorts. He is seen more as the spoilsport in the Varanasi poll. It’s worth noting that Rai is still a BJP MLA from the Kolasala assembly segment, though he is contesting as SP’s candidate for the Lok Sabha. A section of the BJP rank and file is with him, though silently.

The final tally of the poll percentage was 44 per cent at the close of the polling, at Varanasi, at 5pm. It was 36.5 per cent, at 4pm. Polling was brisk in the last hour. It was largely peaceful.

However, the poll percentage was hovering near the 50 per cent mark, in Muslim dominated areas of Varanasi, like Bajardiha, Pili Kothi, Madanpura, Lallapura, Nai Sadak, Dal Mandi, etc.

It’s worth pointing out that there was a clash in Bajardiha locality, in which two persons of the minority community had died in police firing, while eight others were injured. The anger amongst the people was expressed through huge voter turnout, which of course is a good sign in a democracy.

At about 4.45pm, additional force was requested and rushed to two Muslim dominated areas, Khwajapura and Kaji Sadullapura. The rush of voters was so large that the polling parties were finding it difficult to manage them.

Some people feel that SP played a smart card by fielding Rai. They knew that he would damage Joshi and his BJP camp more than help SP. Also, for Rai, it did not matter if he lost, as it is his first attempt in parliamentary election. His ability to damage BJP suited both the SP and Rai.

Ansari was close to SP, before he became Mayawati’s blue-eyed boy. The locals still remember that Ansari had accompanied Behenji (Mayawati) in her open vehicle, when she was the CM, in her earlier tenure, at a function of the Sampurnanand University, Jagatganj.

Also, Ansari has been accused, though not convicted, in the Krishnanand Rai (BJP’s MLA from Gazipur) murder case. That’s the reason why he is lodged in Kanpur jail presently. SP had aided him in the case initially. He is still close to the SP, in all probability, though he is close to Mayawati. Mafia dons of UP often keep good relations with more than one party, even if they are political foes.

So, if Ansari wins, SP would be happy that they managed to keep BJP’s Joshi at bay. For the SP, Ansari is more of an enemy of the enemy like situation. It looks probable, if not possible. “Anything can happen in UP politics,” stated Bageesh Singh.

Meanwhile, it’s worth mentioning that for the Congress it took 15 long years to get back into power in the ancient temple town. It was an oasis in the desert of Congress fortunes, as it had been pushed to fourth place or below, in the rest of Uttar Pradesh.

Earlier, the BJP had retained the Varanasi seat between 1991 and 1999, successively. In the last election (2004), BSP was in the fourth spot, while SP had to be satisfied with the fifth place.

In 1999, Congress was close second, as its vote share was 25.48 per cent, compared to BJP’s vote share of almost 34 per cent. In 2004, Mishra polled 57,000 votes more than the BJP candidate.

The saffron party, BJP’s record of vote share in this Hindu town reveals that it managed to get 41.09 per cent votes in 1991, reaching an all time high of 44.61 per cent in 1996 Lok Sabha election. Though there was a decline in the percentage of votes in the next two elections, BJP managed to retain Varanasi with itself. Its vote share was 42.97 per cent in 1998 and 33.95 per cent in 1999. It eventually lost the seat, in 2004, to Congress.

The intelligentsia of Varanasi is asking, rather sadly, if the Physics professor Joshi can take on the mafia don-turned-politician Ansari, who had been likened to Robinhood by BSP chief Mayawati, in a recent public meeting in his support.

Though most would like to see Joshi emerge victorious, they are not confident of his winning, as the murky ground realities put him at a disadvantage. Even after all this so-called political ‘magaj-mari’ (brainstorming) if the BJP wins, it would be nothing less than a miracle, feel political observers.


Varanasi: Tough fight for MM Joshi; voters gratified

Other than the BJP, all three candidates chose the 'pleasure-gratification-route' to influence voters, last night. With upper caste vote split and administration allegedly helping Mukhtar Ansari, it is tough call for MM Joshi in Varanasi.

CJ: Arindam Roy, 16 Apr 2009 Views:485 Comments:0

SENIOR BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, who quit the Allahabad constituency in favour of Varanasi may find the contest tough. He is pitted against Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) mafia don Mukhtar Ansari, who is lodged in Kanpur jail. Varanasi goes to poll on the first of the five phases, on Thursday (April 16)

Political observers at Varanasi pointed out that on Wednesday night the BSP muscleman’s people were active all through the night. Flouting all electoral norms, wine and money flowed. The state government allegedly misused the administrative machinery. Police jeeps were reportedly pressed into service for distributing money to buy votes, in favour of the BSP’s backstreet tough.

Another source, on conditions of anonymity said that other than the BJP, all three candidates chose the ‘pleasure-gratification-route’ to influence voters. In select hotels, in the narrow alleys of the pilgrim city, ‘special arrangements’ were made. On being asked if women too were pressed into service, he smiled and added, “…anything that one could imagine was available,” without mentioning women directly.

Ajay Rai, the rebel Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA is contesting on Samajwadi Party (SP) ticket, while Rajesh Mishra of Congress is the sitting MP of Varanasi.

Politically, for Joshi, Mishra will eat into the Brahmin votes, while Rai too would erode some of his BJP votes, as he was from the saffron party before joining the SP. Rai will not get the Muslim votes, as they would vote tactically for the BSP candidate Ansari. Further, the district administration has allegedly thrown its weight behind the mafia don, as they dare not irk Mayawati.

Meanwhile, till 11.30am, voting was largely peaceful, barring stray incidents. At Sewa Puri, polling booth No 115, police force was called. At Pindara Block’s Khatura Primary Patshala only one vote was cast till 12 noon. According to available reports, voters on protest of no development had abstained from casting their votes. At Jagdalpur’s polling booth No 3, voting was disturbed by some elements, though it was not clear which political party’s supporters had caused disturbance. Force was sent at these two places as well.

Out of over 24 lakh voters in Varanasi, till 12 noon, about 13 per cent votes were cast, according to available information.


MNNIT Allahabad gets NBA endorsement

Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology(MNNIT) received a five-year endorsement by the National Board of Accreditation. Its four undergraduate engineering courses have received a full five-year endorsement and two for the next three-years.

CJ: Arindam Roy, 4 Apr 2009 Views:868 Comments:1

THE PRESTIGIOUS Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology (MNNIT) has received a five-year endorsement by the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) of All Indian Council for Technical Education (AICTE). Its four undergraduate engineering courses have received a full five-year endorsement and two for the next three-years by NBA.

The B Tech courses that have received NBA stamp for the next five years include the braches of civil engineering (CE), mechanical engineering (ME), electronics and communication engineering (ECE), production and industrial engineering (PIE) and electrical engineering (EE).

The two UG courses that got the accreditation for the next three years include information technology (IT) as well as computer science and engineering (CSE).

It is worth mentioning that a high-level NBA team, led by its chairman and the vice-chancellor (VC) of Bengal Engineering and Science University-Shibpur, Prof NR Bannerjee, had visited the institute on a three-day inspection on January 9, 2009.

During the inspection, the team members had held a series of meetings with top administrative officials, teachers, students and the researchers and had also visited various departments and labs. The visiting panel had also gone through presentations of each department during the visit before finally submitting its report to the government.

The achievement is being seen as a big stride towards academic excellence by MNNIT as the previous accreditation bids had a mixed bag with acceptances and rejections both.

"However, this time around we were determined to highlight our improvements and efforts made towards improving the courses as well as infrastructure that have brought our courses to be at par with the best in the country. Our joints efforts have now brought us this pleasant news," informed MNNIT director Prof Arun Baran Samaddar.

Attributing the success to the recent evolution of a transparent functioning, joint efforts by team of motivated faculty members and the major thrust to research endeavors, Prof Samaddar said that the observations made by the members of the NBA team regarding the transparent selection of faculty members and the mechanism adopted in the entire
process as well as the recent steps towards promoting research among the faculty members that greatly contributed in raising the standards of academic and research on the campus helped attain the success.

MNNIT's dean (planning and development) Prof AK Mishra said that the accreditations of the UG courses would act as a morale booster for both the students and the faculty members. "As an institution on a whole, the development carries a mark of excellence and achievement generally required in the allocation of funds and grants by various funding agencies," he added.


Varun may be arrested following dismissal of petition

A division bench of the Allahabad High Court dismissed the writ petition of Varun Gandhi on Wednesday morning. The petition prayed for quashing the FIR and staying his arrest. With its dismissal, Varun Gandhi may be arrested.

CJ: Arindam Roy, 25 Mar 2009 Views:907 Comments:2

TROUBLE CONTINUES to plague the young MP-aspirant of Pilibhit, Varun Gandhi.

The writ petition of Varun Gandhi under Article 226 of the Constitution of India was for quashing the FIR and for staying his arrest. It was dismissed by the division bench of Justice Imtiaz Murtaza and Justice SP Nigam, of Allahabad High Court, on Wednesday (March 25) morning.

Earlier, the Varun Gandhi case was referred to the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, on Tuesday, by the bench of Justice Amar Saran. The High Court administration referred it to the division bench of Justice Murtaza, on Wednesday morning.

Sources close to Varun Gandhi are disheartened with this move of the Allahabad High Court. They were tight-lipped about their next legal move.

Meanwhile, legal eagles feel that after the dismissal of the writ petition by the Allahabad High Court, Varun Gandhi may be arrested. They suggested that the option left before him is to appeal to the Supreme Court. In case he does not get any relief from there, he may have to surrender before a magistrate in the Pilibhit district court. Thereafter, Varun Gandhi would get an immediate bail, they suggested.

As the BJP bosses and Varun Gandhi’s close aides were reportedly in a close huddle, at the time of filing this report, the political repercussions of his possible arrest would certainly be far reaching, feel political observers in Allahabad.


Varun Gandhi’s case referred to CJ Allahabad High Court

Varun Gandhi’s case has been referred to the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, Justice Chandramauli Prasad, for nominating it to a fresh bench, on Tuesday. Earlier, it was transferred by Justice Sushil Harkauli to Justice Amar Saran’s bench.

CJ: Arindam Roy, 24 Mar 2009 Views:902 Comments:0

IT SEEMS that there is little respite for Varun Gandhi, BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate from Pilibhit, in Uttar Pradesh. The controversial case of Varun Gandhi came up for hearing before the division bench of Justice Sushil Harkauli and Justice Poonam Srivastava, on Tuesday (March 24) morning. The case was earlier slated to be taken up on Monday (March 23).

However, Justice Harkauli and Justice Srivastava’s bench transferred the entire bunch of the Varun Gandhi case to the division bench of Justice Amar Saran and Justice RN Mishra.

Justice Saran declined to take up the case as one of the counsels of Varun Gandhi, Sikandar Bharat Kochar, is his kin. The case has now been referred to the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, Justice Chandramauli Prasad, for nominating it to a fresh bench.

Meanwhile, due to advocates strike on Tuesday, there was no further progress in the Varun Gandhi case. The lawyers of Allahabad are agitated following a firing incident on Monday evening, when miscreants, on a bike, opened fire from close range on two advocates Jagdish Singh Patel and his junior advocate Ram Abhilash, near St Anthony’s Convent. Both the lawyers were seriously injured, according to police sources.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Is media punishing Varun Gandhi for imaginary crime?

Much before legal eagles argue a case in a courtroom, media tries and condemns people. Is Varun Gandhi its latest victim? Is he being punished for imaginary crime? We study three FIRs in one police station in Pilibhit against him and investigate.

CJ: Arindam Roy, 5 hours ago Views:358 Comments:4

VARUN GANDHI, the BJP’s candidate from Pilibhit Lok Sabha constituency has been in the eye of storm for quite sometime. If sources close to the young MP-aspirant are to be believed, he is more sinned against than sinning.

In an exclusive talk with Merinews, a highly placed source, on conditions of anonymity, informed that the disputed CD, which shows Varun allegedly mouthing venom against the minority community, has 18 patches, which is clearly indicative of someone tampering and ‘doctoring’ the CD.

This scribe was also provided with copies of three FIRs against Varun. Strangely, all three FIRs were registered in police station Bar Khera, district Pilibhit, between August 1, 2008 and March 17, 2009. A deeper study and perusal of these three FIRs reveal mysterious similarities. But, we will get to these later.

Let’s sample these FIRs, beginning with the most recent one, on March 17, 2009. The case crime No is 255 of 2009. The FIR was lodged for an incident on March 8, 2009, nine days later.

Strangely, this FIR was not lodged by any media person, member of any political party or any individual of the minority community. Instead, the said FIR was lodged on the basis of a verbal complaint of the sub inspector (SI) of the same police station to his senior, the station house officer (SHO). This FIR also does not name the source that shot and recorded the disputed CD. No media channel or individual was named in the FIR.

A sentence on the third page of the March 17 FIR is important, as the crux of the entire FIR hinges on the sentence, “En tathyo ki pushti janch ke madhya LIU dwara prashit report tatha sambandhit CD dekhne se aaj huyi hai” (These charges were established during the investigation on the basis of LIU report and the concerned CD, today). The million dollar question is how did the ‘janch’ (investigation) begin before March 17 FIR was lodged? Also, can any FIR be lodged as an afterthought, after viewing the evidence (CD) nine days later? Can such a serious charge, which raised so much storm, be lodged merely on the basis of a junior official’s (SI) verbal complaint to his senior (SHO)?

The sections mentioned in this FIR are 155-A, 188 IPC and Section 125 of the Representation of People’s Act 1952 (it should be 1951, not 1952, as mentioned in the FIR).

“Prima facie, the said FIR is flawed. Further, according to the FIR, Varun addressed a meeting at about 2pm, on March 8, while the FIR was lodged at 12.05pm, on March 17, 2009,” confirmed Sikandar Bharat Kochar, counsel of Varun, in Allahabad High Court, in reply to a question.

It’s strange that no one, who attended the March 8 meeting complained. Was there not even a single member of the minority community in the market, where he addressed the public meeting, Kochar asked.

He added that Varun is an educated young man. He did his B Sc Economics from the London School of Economics and his M Sc Sociology, from the School of Oriental and African Studies, Harvard University. It seems to be a case, where he is being set-up and framed, possibly due to political motivation.

Interestingly, two earlier FIRs, dated August 1, 2008 (crime case No 712 of 2008) and December 16, 2008 (crime case No 1222 of 2008), were also lodged in police station Bar Khera district Pilibhit.

The August 1 FIR was lodged by Bharatveer Gangwar, who alleged that Varun Gandhi and others had beaten him up. He had stated, “Mujhe kafi chot ayi hai” (I suffered lots of injuries). But a medical doctor, on examining him, mentioned that there were no external injuries. An X-ray was also taken, which too did not show any evidence of internal injuries, informed sources close to Varun. The sections mentioned in the FIR are Sections 452, 323, 504, 506 and 352 IPC.

In the December 16, 2008, FIR, the complainant was Bechey Lal Maurya. It mentions that Varun Gandhi and 20 others tore off flags of one BM Singh (a distant kin on Maneka Gandhi and a small time leader of the farmers, from the Congress party) and threatened him. The sections mentioned in the December 16 FIR are 147, 148, 323, 504, 506 and 427 IPC.

A common pattern in the two 2008 FIRs were that Varun Gandhi and his accomplices were named for alleged crime. Though the police submitted the charge-sheets in these two cases, only Varun Gandhi has been framed, while all his accomplices in the alleged crime find no mention. The lacuna is startling!

Is there a practice of year-long or two-year long campaigning in any parliamentary constituency? Why were party flags displayed and put up as far back as August and December 2008? And how come Varun Gandhi was allegedly threatening and mugging up people, even before he was declared the BJP’s candidate from Pilibhit?

Meanwhile, attempts to contact Varun failed, as he was out of Delhi, said sources close to the young MP-aspirant.

The question is why is Varun being framed in false cases? The motive is to malign his image and project before the people that he is a hot-headed, ill-tempered person. And that he is criminal and communal. If sources close to Varun are to be believed, there is much more than meets the eye.

Varun Gandhi’s case would be argued in the Allahabad High Court on Monday (March 23). Irrespective of the verdict of the honourable court, more drama will unfold in the political arena.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

How 'sound' is your bike?

The challenge to understand the strange 'engine ki bhasha' goaded scientists of IIIT-A to develop an intelligent hardware and software tool, capable of diagnosing the engine's health on the basis of its sound quality. It's an amazing innovation.

CJ: Arindam Roy, 1 day ago Views:736 Comments:0

A VERSATILE, intelligent tool developed by scientists of the Indian Institute of Information Technology-Allahabad (IIIT-A) will decipher the health of your bike’s engine, just by the sound of its engine.

Allow me to digress a bit. A well known engine oil company has developed an advertisement campaign (beamed on TV channels), where a mechanic tells the customer the secret of understanding ‘engine ki bhasha’ (engine’s language).

Let me elaborate it a little more. You may have noticed what your neighbourly mechanic – he may be a Laddan Mistry, Raju Ustad or Ismail Guru, as these auto mechanics are fondly known in north India – do when you take your faulty bike to them. Whenever your bike has a problem with its engine, these mechanics listen to the sound of the engine carefully. Soon, these otherwise uneducated experts know more about the health of your engine, by the quality of the sound than the smart software engineers or MBAs that ride these swanky bikes.

The challenge was to understand the strange ‘engine ki bhasha’ that goaded the scientists of IIIT-A to develop an intelligent hardware and software tool, capable of diagnosing and deciphering the sound of an engine, by translating and processing the pattern of sound as the input and in spelling out all its trouble in detail.

The versatile intelligent tool has been developed, under the ambitious Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) project- Quality Assurance, Condition Monitoring and fault Diagnosis, using Intelligent Control Methodology, by IIIT-A scientist Dr Vrijendra Singh and a group of researchers and scientists working under his direction.

These scientists succeeded in developing an intelligent algorithm and hardware capable of detecting the faults in engines on the basis of the quality of audio, its pitch and the frequency.

“The unique and intelligent device has multifaceted operations and benefits. It will now help the manufacturer and mechanic to ensure the high quality and good health of the engine. Now, even a common person may understand the cause of the trouble with his vehicle’s engine without much technical hazards and equipments,” said IIIT-A director Prof MD Tiwari.

Prof Tiwari said that intelligent software and device comprise ingeniously designed software and equipments. IIIT-A scientists have successfully developed algorithm, which help in processing the audio data, followed by production of detailed inferences.

“The intelligent tool will reduce the mechanical operation required in detecting the faults in engines. This means longer life and efficient functioning of engines,” explained Prof Tiwari. He said that the project of the TIFAC-Core Group for Automotive Research, worth Rs 5.26 crore, was entrusted to Dr Singh of IIIT-A last year.

The principal investigator of the TIFAC project, Dr Singh said that ground work for the ambitious project was prepared in the first phase. This included the compilation of feedback from motor mechanics about the pattern of sound generation from engines in particular condition of fault. Profuse data related with engine’s sound was also provided by TVS Motors. On the basis of audio data, the team began working on developing algorithm and programmes for the software capable of processing the sound inputs so as to identify the problem and later give its details as the output.

The intelligent tool contains highly sophisticated and high-performance sensors, microphones and other audio data acquisition device Dr Singh said that indigenously developed software and intelligent tool that has been tested at laboratory stage will now be used and tested at TVS Motors’ plant, near Bangalore. The company will use intelligent methodology to test the engines of the factory’s bikes before final delivery.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Uma Bharti supports Advani as PM

Uma Bharti, the firebrand leader of BJS, said her party will not contest the general election in support of Advani. He has the capabilities of solving the grim crisis India is passing through by becoming its PM: Breaking News

CJ: Arindam Roy, 1 day ago Views:351 Comments:2

UMA BHARTI, the firebrand leader, who formed the Bhartiya Janshakti (BJS) Party, after breaking away from the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has come full circle. Talking to the media persons, she said that she reposed trust in the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Lal Krishna Advani.

She disclosed that she has written a letter to ‘Advaniji’, as she wants him to the next Prime Minister of the country. Though her disclosure came as a surprise to the media, her intention was unquestionable.

She wrote in no uncertain terms that because she wanted him to become the prime minister, her party (BJS) was not contesting the 15th Lok Sabha elections.

Describing Advani as a ‘simple’ and ‘incomparable’ (bemisaal), she felt that he stood the tallest amongst all other contenders for the post of prime minister in the country.

Bharti added that she asked him, in the letter, to be the PM, as only he had the capabilities of solving the grim crisis that the country is passing through, at present.

Political observers feel that with Bharti’s support would act as fresh blood for the BJP, as some of its senior leaders are not in good terms.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Who pays for the government’s jingoism through ads?

The traditional hulla-gulla (noise and din) that was associated with electioneering is passé now. The focus has shifted to ads in major national dailies. But there is a catch. GoI ministries are not loosening their purse strings for these ads.

CJ: Arindam Roy, 7 hours ago Views: 164 Comments: 2

THE CONGRESS-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has been splurging full page and half page advertisements in major national dailies in New Delhi and Mumbai.

“Though all political parties have every right to speak of their achievements, they also need to be sensible about the plight of the masses,” said Eshna, who works with an event management company in Mumbai.

She added, “The government is screaming about its achievements from rooftops, despite recession and economic slowdown. There seems to be a total disconnect between the political parties and the people.”

These ads are released by various ministries of the government of India. The peg seems to be Bharat Nirman. Sample some headlines:

• Coal - the mainstay of India’s energy security, issued by the ministry of Coal
• Five glorious years of growth, issued by the ministry of New and Renewable Energy
• Foundation stone of new integrated terminal building of the airport at Vadodra, issued by the Airport Authority of India
• Inauguration of new terminal building of the airport at Surat, issued by the Airport Authority of India
• Five years of sunrise sector
Needless to add these ads feature photographs of the respective ministers, local MPs, MLAs, other than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

There is a major catch. Though several ads are appearing on behalf of the ministries, the payments for these ads are not being made by any ministry, informed two senior bureaucrats, on conditions of anonymity. They are working with two ministries, in New Delhi.

In a telephonic interview, one of them said (ministry’s name withheld on request), “Our ministry received complaints under the right to information (RTI) from some applicants. The complainants asked questions like, with whose permission these ads are being released, who finalised the designs, who decided whose photographs must be published in these ads, etc.”

He added that the complaint was possibly a protest against publishing Sonia Gandhi’s picture, as one complainant even mentioned her name. “The process of reply would take its time (all RTI complaints have to be dealt within a fixed time-frame), but the fact is that no ministry is making any payment for these ads.”

When asked to clarify, he just mentioned, laughing, “Sorry, you are being too nosey.”

The second bureaucrat, after initial hemming and hedging explained that he would give a hint. “All economic ministries (which have PSUs, etc under them) are asked to ‘arrange’ these ads. If you look at the Civil Aviation ad, you may see small inserts of various private airlines in it. Rest I leave for you to decide....”

Thus, it’s clear, from his oblique admission that PSUs and private players pay for the government’s achievements. He clarifies, in a matter of fact way that these PSUs and private players have been funding elections, one way or the other, all these years.
Meanwhile, the Congress MLA from City North, Allahabad, Anugrah Narain Singh, in an exclusive interview, explained that ad war is a common feature in the run up to the election, as well as during the polls. In the recent past, the ad spend of major political parties has been on the rise.

“The traditional hulla-gulla (noise and din) that was associated with electioneering is passé now. Ever since the election commission (EC) has tightened its noose, banned rampant postering, defacing of walls – a welcome change, certainly, the focus has shifted to the media. Press conferences, space selling by newspapers have replaced the tamasha on the roads,” he explained.

Singh added that the EC allows the government to speak of its achievements. Party manifestoes too find a place in the ads. Defending the UPA government, he said, “There is nothing wrong with such ads. Congress does not twist facts.”

Replying to the possible date of the model code of conduct coming into force, he informed, “Thursday (Feb 26) is the last day of the 14th Lok Sabha. The EC may announce the model code of conduct, coming into force, from any day, in the first week of March, this year.”

He pointed out a full-page write-up with photographs, published in a local Hindi daily, speaks eloquent about a Brahman Maha Sammelan, at KP Ground, of Bahujan Samaj Party, on Wednesday (Feb 25).

The full page matter is a cross between an advertisement and an editorial report. Though a little shabby, it’s nothing short of an advertisement. It’s worth pointing out that while Times of India mentions such insertions as advertorials or ‘Response feature’, several other newspapers, including large publishing houses, often flout these norms with impunity.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My chapter in a book on Communication Management

Religious Events as Tools of Communication: A Case Study of Kumbha Mela at Allahabad , By Arindam Roy (chapter 4.7, pp 331 to 336)

Title : An Introduction to Branding & Marketing Communication Management

Author : Ujjwal K. Choudhary & Rupak Ghosh etc.

Publisher : Manak Publications Pvt Ltd, Delhi

YOP : 2007

Pages : 361

ISBN : 81-7827-153-2

Price : 700.00


My EPW report quoted in ILO, Geneva paper

Bonded Labor in India: Its Incidence and Pattern

My report on Kol tribal (Roy, Arindam, “Breaking the Shackles: Kol Tribal Labourers”, Economic and Political Weekly, Feb. 5, 2000) has been quoted in a prestigious study: Bonded Labour in India: Its Incidence and Pattern, By Ravi S. Srivastava, Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour; DECLARATION/WP/43/2005


[Please see pp 17-18 of the Working Report of Ravi S Srivastava ]

5.2 Bonded Labour Systems among Tribals

The Scheduled Tribes belonging to Orissa, Chhatisgarh, Harahan, Madhya Pradesh,
Southern Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and
Gujarat, who have suffered a gradual erosion of access to traditional livelihood systems, have long been subject to exploitative debt relations leading to loss of land and bondage to non-tribals. The National Commission on Rural Labour devoted some attention to this issue.

Prasad (2001) has reported that in Dakshin Kannada and Udupi districts in Karnataka, the Koraga tribal community of nearly 10,000 people suffers under a system of bondage called Ajalu. The Malekudiya tribal community in Belthangady Taluk of Dakshin Kannada district has been held in the plantations of the masters called Hebbars. The community is denied mobility or the freedom to have their own gardens which could give them some economic independence.

In Orissa, a survey by the NGO Action Aid and twenty other organisations in Malkangiri district, carved out of Koraput, identified 704 bonded tribal labourers. The organisations concluded that there were possibly thousands of tribals from thirteen different tribes working as bonded labourers to landlords in the district (Mander, 2003). The tribals, who had lost most of their land to non-tribals, lived on the brink of subsistence and had no option but to take loans from landlords. In exchange, they or their children were required to work for the landlords for little more than food and some other minor perquisites. Their low wages were adjusted against the interest on the loans they had taken.

The NHRC examined a number of complaints regarding the status of Kol tribals in the districts of Chitrakoot (Madhya Pradesh), Allahabad and Mirzapur (Uttar Pradesh).
These have stated that due to dispossession from land, loss of rights to forest produce, illegal quarrying and control of mafias over mining, the Kols were living in bondage and were denied minimum wages. Many of these complaints were upheld by the Commission, which also took the view that the existing system of auction of mining rights, which gave a virtual monopoly to dominant economic interests and prevented tribals from bidding through their self-help groups (SHGs), was totally unjust and led to the exploitation of the tribals (NHRC Annual Report 1999-00).

The NHRC set up an Expert Group in 2000 to examine the problems of the Kol tribals and to develop measures for their social and economic upliftment. According to their
Report (NHRC,2000),the system of bondage was widespread in the Shankargarh silica and sandstone mining region of Allahabad. The silica lease rights for 6 villages were placed with one feudal landlord who mined the area both legally and illegally with the help of contractors. Although a large number of bonded labourers had been released after the promulgation of the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act, very few had received rehabilitation grants. The system of bondage still persisted in the area. In some villages, SHGs formed by tribals had been given sandstone mining rights, leading to a tripling of their income (Roy, 2000; NHRC, 2000).

[Please see p 34 of the Working Report of Ravi S Srivastava ]

6. Elimination of Bondage: Nature and Scope of Interventions

The existence of bonded labour is an affront to basic human dignity. There has been some change in the nature and incidence of bonded labour in India as a result of various factors, including the impact of social change and social movements, economic modernisation and State intervention. While these processes have impacted positively on the unfree status of labour in traditional agriculture and in some other sectors, the incidence of bonded labour still remains high in some segments of unorganised industry, the informal sector and in the relatively modern segments of agriculture in some areas.

The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act created a legislative framework for the elimination of bonded labour in 1976. But, as both the Supreme Court and the NHRC have shown, its implementation by the States has generally remained weak.
The Supreme Court of India has, in a series of judgements, given directions to improve the situation and since 1997, under its direction, the National Human Rights Commission has been directly involved in monitoring the situation and making reports to the Court. In its order of November 11, 1997, passed in the writ petition No. 3992 of 1985 – PUCL vs State of Tamil Nadu and others, the Supreme Court has entrusted to the NHRC the responsibility of monitoring the directions of the Court issued from time to time and the implementation of the provisions of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act.

The NHRC started monitoring the implementation of the Act in 13 states identified as Bonded Labour Prone states. These are: Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar,
Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. The Commission has appointed two Special Rapporteurs, Mr. Chaman Lal and Mr. K. R. Venugopal, who have been constantly reviewing the situation in bonded labour prone states and sectors.

The Special Rapporteur in the Northern States has focused on the carpet belt of Uttar
Pradesh consisting of the districts of Varanasi, Bhadohi, Mirzapur, Jaunpur, Sonbhadra and Allahabad, where most of the children employed are migrants from the state of Bihar and Jharkhand, working under extremely oppressive conditions against some petty advances paid to their parents. Their cases are invariably found to be attracting the provisions of the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act (Chaman Lal, 2003). The Special Rapporteur has also focused on the problem of Kols in the Pathar area of Uttar Pradesh and has held regular review meetings with officials in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. He has also been assisting the Commission in monitoring and reviewing the situation in other North Indian States and in ensuring that rehabilitation of bonded labourers, especially migrant labourers, takes place on a long-term basis.

In the Southern states, the Special Rapporteur, Mr. K. R. Venugopal, has tried to move in a convergent direction by involving and influencing a number of departments and by including policy making within the ambit of his work. He has particularly highlighted the issues of bonded quarry workers in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and bonded labour in silk weaving and powerloom industries in Tamil Nadu. He has held regular meetings with officials in the States of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

The Special Action Group constituted by the NHRC and the institution of the Special Rapporteurs has breathed some life into the legislative system and has given support to the grass-root NGOs that have been involved in taking up issues of bonded labour. Further, in September 2000, the NHRC constituted an Expert Group headed by Mr S.
R. Sankaran, to make an assessment of the Bonded Labour situation in the country, examine the extent and effectiveness of the Bonded Labour Laws and enforcement mechanisms and review the functioning of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme for the rehabilitation of the released labourers. The Commission has also constituted groups to study the problem of bonded labour and child labour in a number of areas, including the Kol tribals in Uttar Pradesh and the lock makers of Aligarh.

The identification of bonded labourers continues to present difficulties, and only a small number of bonded labourers are actually identified, almost always due to the persistent efforts of NGOs (NHRC Annual Report, 2000-01). But among those labourers who have been identified and released from bondage, the NHRC finds that the rehabilitation of migrant labourers is being totally neglected (Chaman Lal, 2003).

This is also the view of the Supreme Court of India.49 There can be no doubt that effective prevention of bondage amongst vulnerable groups and the rehabilitation of freed child and adult bonded labourers are complex issues, requiring sustained action from governments, NGOs and the international community.

The Ministry of Labour, Government of India had initiated a Centrally Sponsored Scheme under which Rs 4,000 was initially provided for the rehabilitation of each bonded labourer, to be equally contributed by the Federal and the State government. The amount has since been gradually raised, reaching Rs. 20,000 in May 2000. The Central government also provides assistance for surveys, awareness campaigns and evaluations. Released bonded labourers are given priority in a number of government programmes, such as the distribution of government land, and some States have initiated specific programmes for their rehabilitation. But, by and large, the process of rehabilitation is frequently delayed, particularly in the case of inter-state bonded migrant labourers, and the degree of concerted convergent action required on the part of the administration is rarely forthcoming. Prosecution of employers is also weak.

Since the bonded labourers are very poor and assetless, some can relapse into bondage, while others may experience only a very marginal increase in income. Not being from an entrepreneurial background, bonded labourers may not be able to earn significantly higher incomes or even retain their assets (Mutharayappa, 2002). The National Human Rights Commission has been trying to make the states undertake rehabilitation of the bonded labourers through convergent action, and through helping the bonded labourers form groups or cooperatives which can take up economic activity on a sustained and viable basis. As discussed earlier, in Allahabad district, the Commission has supported the granting of mining leases to SHGs of Kol tribals and opposed a system of action which excludes these groups from bidding for the mining rights.

Since bondage results from severe deprivation arising from lack of assets and adequate livelihood opportunities, a key focus of rehabilitation has to be on providing assets and means of livelihood to the bonded labourers. Efforts to do this are more likely to succeed if the poor are empowered and collectively organised, and if they have the capacity to undertake new activities. Vidyasagar (2001) notes that the distribution of land to 44 bonded labourer families in Kodaikanal was successful because the labourers were given other infrastructural facilities and were supported in their endeavours by an NGO. More importantly, the labourers were used to cultivating land in a similar ecological setting. In another case, cited by Vidyasagar, bonded labourers who were working in stone quarries in Pudukottai district were released by the district administration during the early ‘90s, which also took the initiative in rehabilitating them. The workers were organized into co-operative societies which were provided with quarrying contracts. The rehabilitation money was pooled together to purchase trucks for transportation. Women were given authority within the societies and provided proper training to enable them to fulfil their functions. The Tamil Nadu Government amended the rules under Section 15 of the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, 1957, to allow the grant of stone quarrying leases to the released bonded labourers. This became one of the very successful cases of rehabilitation of bonded labour in Tamil Nadu (Murthy 2001).

In the case of the Kol tribals engaged in quarry mining in Shankargarh district of Allahabad, a protracted process of empowerment and organisation led to formation of groups and to demands for lease rights. Due to a supportive district administration and the arduous work of organisations like Sahyog, Sankalp and Mahila Samakhya, the kols gained mining rights in a number of villages, were able to overcome the opposition of contractors and nearly treble their income over a short period of time, drastically reducing bondage in the area.50 However, crucial issues of building managerial capacity and cohesiveness among the self-help groups still remain important.51

Similarly, eleven Sahariya families freed from bondage in a quarry with the help of
an NGO, Bandhua Mukti Morcha, were given lease rights to a 70-bigha quarry in
Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh. This has resulted in higher incomes for the labourers and high royalties for the government. The district administration started a number of convergent schemes to help the released labourers, including the opening of a school and the grant of land. When the contractors refused to pick up the stones, the families were given a tractor and trolley for transport (Bal, 2003). The district, according to BMM, has over 15,000 bonded labourers still working in the stone quarries.52

50 Roy, 2000. Interview with Justice Amar Saran, a former member of the Vigilance Committee in Allahabad, and member of the NHRC Group formed to investigate the condition of the Kols in the Pathar area of Uttar Pradesh.
51 Interview with Sheba Jose, Convenor, Sahyog.

52 For more details, see the CEC submission to the Planning Commission. (CEC 2001b)

[Please see p 41 of the Working Report of Ravi S Srivastava ]



Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Condition
of Service) Act, 1996, Ministry of Labour, Government of India. Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition), Act, 1970, Ministry of Labour, Government of India. Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, Ministry of Labour, Government of India
Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service)
Act, 1979, Ministry of Labour, Government of India
Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Government of India
Bonded Labour System Abolition Act (1976), Government of India

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