INDIA THIS WEEK (April 18-25)

Wrap up of important India news during last week by Politicalbaaba with inputs from Akanksha Nishat.

1. Modi addresses BJP MPs on govt.’s welfare schemes for the poor

After return from 3 nation tour, Modi addressed a workshop held by the party to educate MPs on govt. welfare schemes and programs. The govt. is facing strong opposition from a united Janata Parivaar and a recharged Congress after the return of Rahul.

The entire opposition has trained its guns on the govt. on land bill for farmers and other issues. This has made BJP nervous. BJP top brass fears that it has not been able to effectively communicate the benefits of the bill and various other programs to the farmers. This it fears could snatch a big vote chunk in upcoming state elections.

BJP has always been considered as a pro middle class / pro rich party and the poor voted against Vajpayee govt. to give a shocking defeat to BJP in 2004 despite India Shining. The party is fully aware of this and is making efforts to portray itself as a pro poor party. That’s why the pitch to MPs to go out in their constituencies and tell people about the good work done by the govt. BJP has failed in the recent past to effectively communicate its achievements and has blamed media instead.

Modi even stated that strong opposition in Parliament is beneficial. Of course it is, it keeps govt. on toes. BJP has realized that despite having absolute majority in Lok Sabha it is not easy to implement policies because of minority status in Rajya Sabha.

2. Facing criticism Govt. puts controversial Income Tax return forms on hold

Income Tax authorities announced last week several additional information that would be required to be filed along with the IT return for assessment year 2015-16 including:

  • Details about foreign travel, foreign assets and income from any source outside the country,
  • Details of all bank accounts held in India at any time during the previous year,
  • Details of any foreign trip undertaken including the expenses borne.

The new proposed form was 14 pages long. There was severe backlash against the proposal on social media, internet and in the media.

Around 4 crore people pay income tax in India. Approximately half consisting mostly of professionals – doctors, lawyers etc. – pay negligible tax. This leaves 2 crore honest tax payers mostly consisting of the salaried class.

The govt. through this move was trying to squeeze further the honest tax payers. Do only tax payers go for foreign travel? In-fact, govt. should follow / seek information from people who go abroad for holidays but don’t pay any tax. What a pity, instead of trying and finding ways to bring more people in the tax net it is finding ways to harass the miniscule taxpayers.

The govt. gauged public mood, moved swiftly to contain the damage and decided to put the new form on hold. All’s well that ends well!

3. Rahul re-launches himself through farmers anti land bill rally

The Congress vice-president made his first public appearance after a 58-day sabbatical as he held a grand farmers rally to declare Congress party’s opposition to the bill.

Projecting the govt. as “pro industrialist”, Rahul declared full scale war against BJP govt. He even accused Modi of bringing ordinance to pay back ‘loan’ taken from industrialists to fund party’s election campaign.

First of all let me make it clear that no political party in India cares for the farmers and treats them like a vote bank. The Congress wants to make a comeback riding on the land bill and terming it anti farmer. Neither is Rahul nor anybody in his party a real farmer to know their problems. Where was he when thousands of farmers committed suicide in his party ruled state of Maharashtra in the last 15 years? Would have been better if he had conducted such rallies then, if he is real messiah of farmers.

BJP did get jitters from this rally with full army of spokespersons out to deflate Rahul’s claims. Whatever said and done, Rahul looked aggressive and confident. He was able to capture the entire media space with BJP seen on the defensive. Well done Rahul, good comeback!

4. Yechury elected CPM boss after internal struggle

Sitaram Yechury, 62, took over as the 5th general secretary of CPM as the unanimous choice of party’s new 91-member central committee. He took over from Prakash Karat. He was seen lagging in the race behind 77 year old Ramchandran Pillai backed by Karat camp. However, he was able to turn tables with help of comrades from Kolkata.

It’s a wise decision I feel for the communists who are on oxygen. Having lost Bengal, they are in power only in Kerala and Tripura. Going by the trend of elections in Kerala, they might lose even this state when it goes to polls next year. Their Lok Sabha strength has reduced considerably.

Yechury is the most visible and well known comrade with age on his side. Frankly speaking I had never heard of Pillai. He has a big challenge ahead to resurrect the Left Front nationally. The first step he might take is to announce some sort of alliance / tie up with the newly created Janata Parivaar. All the best to Yechury!

My sincere advice stay away from Congress if you want to be a potent Third force.

5. Rahul attacks Modi’s ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’ in Parliament

Rahul Gandhi carried his Ramlila Maidan rally’s good form to Parliament. He spoke confidently with his batteries re-charged after vipassana durig his sabbatical. He mocked the Narendra Modi regime as a “suit-boot” government, a reference to the PM’s monogrammed suit.

Rahul alleged the BJP government had frozen minimum support price for crops and squeezed agricultural credit flow. He also accused the Centre of not helping farmers hit by unseasonal rains and diluting the land acquisition law to weaken farmers.

The speech touted to mark the comeback of Rahul as a serious politician (he has made only 5 speeches in his 11 year-long parliamentary innings) was a mixture of rhetoric and facts. He seems to have learned from Modi that it’s all about perception and not actual work / true facts which matters in elections.

His speech was lapped up by media and he did manage to get a lot of attention. Will he be able to revive the sinking fortunes of the Congress party? Will he now be able to assert himself in the party and impose his authority? Will he be able to get rid of old dead wood? Only time will tell…

To note only 16 / 44 Congress MPs were present in Lok Sabha to hear his speech. Even Sonia was absent! Does it indicate anything?

BJP hit back at Congress saying that it ran a suitcase govt. referring to the various scams during UPA 1 & 2.

Rahul also caught the govt. unawares when we pressed for a discussion on net neutrality issue which is very close to the youth of the country. Here also BJP was seen responding to accusations and on back foot.

Allegations / counter allegations have become the norm of the day in Parliament. One thing for sure Rahul has made BJP respond to allegations & halt it’s otherwise free run!

6.AAP finally expels Prashant Bhushan & Yogendra Yadav

PB & YY were finally expelled from AAP last week. This ended the internal strife in the party for the past 2 months since their govt. was formed in Delhi. This also makes Kejriwal’s control in the party complete / supreme.

This has no impact on AAP govt. in Delhi. No split in AAP is likely. It’s interesting to see what PB & YY do next? Will they form a new political outfit? They can but will miss a mass base leader like Kejriwal.

7. AAP’s nautanki carried too far, in an unfortunate incident farmer commits suicide in AAP rally against land acquisition bill

After Congress bid to woo farmers with an agitation against the Centre’s proposed land acquisition bill, AAP organized a massive farmers’ rally addressed by Arvind Kejriwal.

In an unfortunate incident one farmer was killed during the rally. It’s still not clear whether it was a suicide or an accident. Conflicting reports have emerged. Police has filed a FIR. It seems that AAP had called on this person (Sisodia spoke to him as per his family) to attend the rally and create some nautanki / drama of suicide to show farmer’s plight, but unfortunately the person died due to strangling in a freak accident.

At first AAP spokespersons made some insensitive remarks like what could have Kejriwal done, climb the tree to save the person. After facing criticism, the same Ashutosh broke into tears on national television apologizing for the death. Even Kejriwal in his usual style sought apology for continuing with his speech even after farmer’s death. He knows his blind supporters in Delhi would again forgive him.

A blame game among politicians has started on this incident. One thing is clear. AAP is not a party with a difference. In-fact it was clear long ago, this incident has only re-iterated this point forcefully.

Many questions remain unanswered, what was police doing? Is its duty only to guard politicians, why didn’t it intervene? What was media doing, why didn’t it do something to save Gajendra or raise an alarm, instead of just covering the death?

It’s also a lesson for people like Gajendra to beware of tricks of politicians / political parties and not fall in their trap.

May god give strength to family of Gajendra to pass through this phase and may his soul rest in peace.

8. Modi govt. carries out another commendable evacuation of Indians this time from Nepal

Nepal was struck by a devastating earthquake yesterday. Over 1,800 people were killed till last count. The Indian govt. swung into action and has already brought back 100+ people from Nepal. This is the 2nd effort of MEA after good show in Yemen to bring back Indians. Whatever you say about Modi govt. one thing you have to appreciate is its disaster management efforts. We saw it in Yemen and now in Nepal. Though Modi has taken all the glory in foreign tours and is seen driving India’s foreign policy initiatives, MEA Sushama Swaraj is quietly doing her work very well without any limelight.

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