Archives  >  2019  >  November  >  27th

Maharashtra’s “About-Turn”

1. What’s the story?

The situation in Maharashtra is riveting. As 6 Things had reported here earlier, BJP had pulled off a coup earlier this week — with BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis and a rogue Ajit Pawar from NCP forming the state Government and being sworn in during the wee hours of the morning. Events, however, took another unprecedented turn on Tuesday evening — when Ajit Pawar summarily resigned from his brief stint as a Deputy Chief Minister and went back to NCP — forcing Fadnavis to give up his claim to power. By all accounts, Uddhav Thackarey is set to become the next Chief Minister of the state at the helm of the current Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena alliance. (But one never knows!)

Tell me more.

The month-long saga of Maharashtra’s volatile politics seems to have finally ended on Tuesday

“Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of the Bharatiya Janata Party resigned, just three days after he was sworn in before dawn on Saturday. His announcement came hours after Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, a renegade from the Nationalist Congress Party, stepped down. Fadnavis held a press conference on Tuesday afternoon admitting that he did not have the numbers to form a government in the 288-member house.

Ajit Pawar’s uncle, Nationalist Congress Party founder Sharad Pawar, marshaled his resources and sought support from the Shiv Sena to literally round up his party’s Members of Legislative Assembly. Together, the three parties held a “We are 162” event on Monday, insisting that they had sufficient numbers to go past the 145-seat halfway mark in the Assembly.”

It is also important to remember that BJP has tried this method of gaining power before. And it has generally managed to claw its way back to power even after initial setbacks.

“The experience of two other states is instructive here: in Bihar, the Janata Dal (United) combined with the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress to form a government, only to split up and return to the BJP midway through the term. In Karnataka, though the BJP had egg on its face after Yeddyurappa’s failed attempt to take charge, it clawed its way back to power, bringing enough Opposition MLAs over to its side within a year of the election result.

The BJP, with 105 seats, is a strong Opposition party, one that will pounce on every opportunity to provoke squabbles between the alliance partners and draw support to its side. How long will the coalition last?”

The current U-turn in Mahrashtra’s politics should also clearly be seen as Sharad Pawar’s decisive win against his wily nephew.

“In the past twenty years, Ajit Pawar has raised a rebellion, thrown a tantrum, and even acted in a way that showed him as a sulking leader, but had never taken out the daggers against his uncle.

In that sense, the Saturday midnight coup – in which Fadnavis took oath as chief minister with Ajit Pawar as his deputy – was one heck of an attempt to deny Sharad Pawar a shot at regaining Mumbai. By seeking to take control of the NCP legislature party, Ajit posed a direct challenge to his uncle’s political credibility and writ over the party.

Supriya Sule’s prescient message that morning, (‘a split in the party and family’) summed up the mood, but for Sharad the question of the family split wasn’t all that important – he would deal with it later. The priority was to control the political damage and possibly reverse it.

By late afternoon, just before the NCP legislature party was to meet, he sent his two emissaries to begin a dialogue with Ajit, stem defections, and bring back at least a dozen MLAs. Numbers in-tact, he then removed Ajit from the legislature party leadership’s post, a move that would eventually make Fadnavis’ floor test difficult. He kept his allies in the loop all this while.

For two days, while the BJP took a great risk of banking upon the nephew, the uncle banked upon his own experience and close aides to bring back the bird gone astray.

“I’ve seen it before,” Pawar said Saturday at a joint press conference with Uddhav Thackeray, who looked stressed and worried. It was a calm Pawar who said, “There is no cause for worry.””

 So, what now?

As this past week has shown, the Maharashtra political landscape is anything but predictable. By all accounts, Uddhav Thackarey should be sworn in as the Chief Minister soon — but frankly, anything is possible at this stage.

Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you updated.

2. Where else should I be keeping my eyes on?

Kashmir, that’s where. Affairs in the state, that has been under partial lockdown since August, are still far from normal. And now, ordinary citizens are rightly demanding a relief package for their lost livelihoods. 

 ““Around 30-50 percent of apple orchards in Kashmir have been destroyed completely. Matam ka mahaul hai (There is an atmosphere of mourning),” farmer leader Shiv Kumar Sharma aka Kakkaji, informed reporters at a press conference in Delhi on Tuesday, 26 November.

Following the abrogation of Article 370 in August and heavy snowfall in Kashmir, farmers have been hit by crop damage and are reeling under financial distress.

This was the second press conference to be organised by farmer leaders in the capital in last 10 days. They are demanding that damage to crops in Kashmir be declared a natural calamity by the Centre.

Kakkaji, who had led the 2017 Mandsaur farmer protests, further elaborated on the plight of the farmers,

“No announcement has been made by the government so far. It’s a Taliban state in terms of facilities for farmers. One box of apples that was usually sold for Rs 700 is now being sold at Rs 300. Who will fill in for this loss?”

Tanwir Ahmed Dar explained how the lockdown affected the transportation of apples and why the farmers in Kashmir are in dire need of a relief package,

“There was no phone connectivity so anyone who was in touch with contacts in Delhi didn’t know where to send the apples. This led to the delay (in transport). This should be considered as a natural disaster and our loans should be waived.” ”

3. What more?

In an important development for gender rights in the country, the Rajya Sabha has passed the controversial “Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 by a voice vote, without any amendments. The Lok Sabha had passed this Bill on August 5, in the monsoon session of parliament.”

“Transgender activists have widely criticised this Bill, arguing that it is likely to further discrimination and stigma in the name of protecting rights. It talked about gender in a fixed binary, they have said, which goes against what both the trans rights movement and the feminist movement have been arguing.

Activists had also argued that the Bill was not opened up for consultation with the affected community, even though it was supposedly meant to further their rights.

Just on Sunday, the Pride Parade in Delhi was also used as a protest march against the Bill. However, it appears that MPs decided to go ahead with passing the Bill instead of listening to what trans people had to say about it.”

4. Anything else?

Winter is coming. And even though more than 200 million Indians are currently below the poverty line, Uttar Pradesh wants to spend its money on cows instead

“Which is why, in the city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, state authorities have now decided that all cattle in the city absolutely need coats to protect them from the bitter assault of winter in northern India.

To do that, the Ayodhya Municipal Corporation will stitch up special coats for cows and bulls in the holy city, starting with 1,200 cattle in the Baishingpur shelter.

“Generally, cows are given jute bags to save them from the cold. But [the coats] keep falling off,” Rishikesh Upadhyay, the city’s mayor and BJP leader told The Indian Express. “So we thought of getting coats stitched for the cows. We are first going to get a few samples made of such coats. If they work, we will order more. A farmer, Rajju Pandey, has been given the contract to get these coats stitched

These coats are being stitched at a price of Rs 250 to Rs 300. But in keeping with Orwellian philosophy, the local government seems to have decided that while all animals are equal, some are more equal than the others. So, it has been decided that while cows will get a slick two-layered jute coat with an inner lining to keep them covered, bulls will only get one made from jute.”

5. Is that all?

Bolivia is in chaos. And no one knows when violence might erupt again. Though a fragile peace has been established over the past few days, citizens and experts fear the explosion of fresh violence at any time. “Protests and deadly clashes have convulsed the nation after a disputed election in October and the resignation of long-term leader Evo Morales.”

“On Monday, anti-government protesters in Sacaba, a city in the mountainous region of Cochabamba that has been hit hard by violence, held a moment of silence for nine people killed in clashes with security forces this month.

“May there be peace in Bolivia and no more massacres,” said Gregoria Siles, an indigenous mother of five whose 26-year-old son was killed in the clashes, weeping as she showed a framed picture of him to journalists and others. “He was my only son.”

At least 33 people have been killed since the Oct. 20 vote, 30 since the interim president, Jeanine Áñez, took office nearly two weeks ago.

The deaths have raised pressure on Añez’s interim government, with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission visiting the country to investigate potential human rights violations.

Bolivia, which Morales led since 2006, spiraled into chaos after the October election was mired in controversy amid evidence it had been rigged in the leftist leader’s favor. Morales was forced to resign amid widespread protests and after police and the military withdrew their backing.

Morales’ Nov. 10 resignation, however, sparked a violent and volatile period as his supporters blockaded strategic routes to stop the flow of fuel and food to major cities, and the military was mobilized against them.”

6. Before you leave…

Take a look at the fascinating food habits of modern families in the Arctic — “…from an $18 box of cookies to polar bear stew.”

“In the most northerly Canadian territory of Nunavut, grocery shopping is expensive.

Like, really expensive.

So much so that residents regularly post in a Facebook group called Feeding My Family to share photos of high prices at their local stores.

A package of vanilla creme cookies: $18.29. A bunch of grapes: $28.58. A container of baby formula: $26.99.

Leesee Papatsie, founder of the Facebook group, says she spends at least $500 a week on food for her family of five — and that’s just for basics in the capital of Iqaluit, a city of some 7,000 residents.

Because it costs a lot to fly goods into communities in remote regions of the Arctic Archipelago, there’s not much that can be done to drastically reduce prices, she explains. But that’s why — in a territory where about 84% of the population identifies as Inuit — “country food” is still the preferred source of sustenance.

These traditional Inuit foods include arctic char, seal, polar bear and caribou — often consumed raw, frozen or dried. The foods, which are native to the region, are packed with the vitamins and nutrients people need to stay nourished in the harsh winter conditions. The parts of the animal that aren’t edible, like the fur and skins, are used to create clothes and other products that hunters can then sell to make a living.”

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