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Congress should also have learnt that dynastic politics doesn’t go well with democracy: Kuldip Nayar on 40 years of Emergency

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India is unlikely to see the imposition of another Emergency due to changes made in the Constitution and people being more vigilant, veteran journalist and political commentator Kuldip Nayar has said, noting that the Congress should have learnt the lesson of not pursuing dynastic politics from the period that saw a curb on civil liberties under Indira Gandhi.

Nayar, 91, who spent three months in jail during the 1975-77 Emergency, said that system was still dependent on the goodwill of the ruling party and there should be proportional representation in the Lok Sabha so that the opposition has a stronger voice in the house.

“There should be proportional representation for at least 50 percent of the seats. Still we are dependent on the goodwill of the ruling party and the prime minister. The opposition will get a stronger voice if there is proportional representation,” Nayar told IANS in an interview on 40 years of Emergency.

Nayar, a veteran journalist who has written several books, including a gripping account of the time, “Emergency Retold,” said the country had learnt its lessons from the Emergency that lasted from June 25, 1975, to March 21, 1977, and saw over 100,000 people being put under detention, civil liberties being curbed and imposition of press censorship.

Asked if the Congress had transformed itself after the Emergency, Nayar, a former high commissioner to Britain, said the party was still stuck in the dynastic mould and this was working to the advantage of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Till the time they come out of dynastic politics, what can happen. Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi and her son (Rahul). Then people also talk of Priyanka (Gandhi Vadra). Dynastic politics is now a feudal thing. It does not go well with democracy. The Congress should also have learnt (from Emergency) that dynastic politics does not go well with democracy,” Nayar said.

Indira Gandhi, who imposed Emergency, was widely seen to have worked under the influence of her son Sanjay Gandhi. She was the daughter of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and her other son, Rajiv Gandhi, also served as the country’s prime minister.

Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law, Sonia Gandhi, is the Congress president and her grandson Rahul Gandhi is Congress vice-president.

Asked about senior BJP leader L.K. Advani’s remarks in an interview that forces that can crush democracy were now stronger and a repeat of an Emergency-like situation cannot be ruled out, Nayar said Emergency has become almost impossible because to ratify the measure, a prime minister who tries to impose it will need a two-thirds majority in each house of parliament due to amendments made in the constitution.

“What he (Advani) is saying is that environment is such where power is getting concentrated in one person. Just like at that time it was getting concentrated in Mrs (Indira) Gandhi, now it is getting concentrated in (Narendra) Modi,” Nayar said.

At the same time, he said there were now stronger safeguards for civil liberties in the constitution and its basic structure can also not be changed.

“What he is saying is that an authoritarian system can prevail. An authoritarian system is still possible. Style of governance depends on the person (who is the prime minister). There should be inner-party democracy and I feel that party elections should also be supervised by the Election Commission so that there is independence,” Nayar contended.

Nayar said his advice to the younger generation was that independence, democracy and secularism should not be taken for granted.

“These eternal principles or basics have to be renewed and protected. If there is any tendency (to disturb them), you should get up (and raise your voice). Because if you do not and keep walking, you will suddenly see that a lot of ground has been lost. I saw it during Emergency also that there was initially a response of chalta hai (let it be). This really became a danger,” Nayar said.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at prashant.s@ians.in)

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Delhi Smog: Odd-Even Car Rule May Return; Consider Cloud Seeding to curb Pollution : HC

The court said that though stubble-burning was the "visible villain", authorities should address the "other elephants in the room" such as dust generated by road and construction activity as well as vehicular and industrial pollution.

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Issuing a slew of direction as immediate measures to control pollution in Delhi-NCR, the court banned felling of trees, ordered sprinkling of water on roads to control dust. Pixabay

New Delhi, November 9, 2017 : The Delhi High Court on Thursday said there was an “emergency situation” vis-a-vis pollution in Delhi-NCR region and asked the Delhi government to consider vehicular odd-even scheme and cloud seeding to induce artificial rain.

The court also asked the Centre to hold meetings with Delhi and National Capital Region authorities to bring in short-term measures to control pollution immediately and to submit a report to it on November 16, the next date of hearing.

Issuing a slew of direction as immediate measures to control pollution in Delhi-NCR, the court banned felling of trees, ordered sprinkling of water on roads to control dust and strict enforcement of construction code to ensure that the air was not polluted.

A Division Bench of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva also directed the Chief Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Control to call an emergency meeting with his counterparts in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and pollution control agencies within three days to discuss ways to curb pollution.

The bench said the Chief Secretaries will also consider the feasibility of cloud seeding to bring down air pollution. This, the bench said, was not a very expensive process and Bengaluru had adopted it.

The court asked the Delhi government to consider bringing back the odd-even scheme — under which vehicles of odd and even registration numbers, with exceptions, ply on roads on designated days — to control traffic congestion and unclog the capital.

But the court questioned the government move to increase parking rates by four times.

“If somebody has to go to a hospital or buy important items, he ends up paying four times more for the parking,” the bench said.

The court said that though stubble-burning was the “visible villain”, authorities should address the “other elephants in the room” such as dust generated by road and construction activity as well as vehicular and industrial pollution.

“London has faced this kind of air pollution. They term it as pea soup fog, which is a killer fog. This is a deadly mixture of construction and vehicular dust and other factors,” the bench said.

The court also directed the Delhi government to conduct a survey of all hospitals in the national capital on availability of oxygen to deal with emergency situations with regard to vulnerability of children and senior citizens.

It told the Delhi government to strictly regulate the entry of trucks into the city.

The court was hearing a suo motu case it initiated in 2015 to control air pollution in the national capital. (IANS)

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Himachal Polls: It will be do-or-die battle equally for Congress and BJP CM faces

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It will be a do-or-die battle equally for Congress and BJP CM faces (Himachal Polls) (Anonymous Poll Photo)

Shimla, Nov 2, 2017, 1:00 IST:  It’s literally a do-or-die battle for both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief ministerial faces in the upcoming Himachal Pradesh assembly polls. Both veterans — one in his eighties and the other in his seventies — are struggling for their political survival.

One is veteran Congress leader and incumbent Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, who is pushing hard to get to the helm for the seventh time. The other is the BJP’s Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, who is making a strong bid to ensure the party’s victory with a record margin to silence his detractors within the party.

 For almost two decades, both the parties in the state have fought almost every assembly and parliamentary polls under their leadership.

“This time, Virbhadra Singh is fighting on two fronts — one is to establish his son Vikramaditya Singh, who is contesting his maiden assembly election, and the second is to ensure the party’s repeat as he forced the Congress to announce him as the chief ministerial candidate despite all odds,” a political observer told IANS.

For Dhumal, it’s simply the battle for “self-survival” after facing a humiliating defeat in the 2012 assembly polls. Since then, he was almost marginalised by the BJP faction led by Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda.

After thwarting foes within, Virbhadra Singh donned his battle gear much ahead of this arch rival Dhumal, whose name was cleared by the BJP as its chief ministerial candidate just days ahead of the polling for the 68-seat assembly on November 9.

“The announcement of Dhumal as the chief ministerial candidate was part of the BJP’s strategy to boost the morale of the cadres as the party for long was divided in two camps — one led by Dhumal and the other by Nadda,” a senior state BJP leader admitted.

Interestingly, both Virbhadra Singh and Dhumal are seeking re-election from new seats and that is not going to be easy for them.

The Congress leader is in the fray from Arki in Solan district, the BJP’s pocket borough that he chose himself, while Dhumal is contesting from Sujanpur, the seat he was asked to contest from.

The Sujanpur contest seems interesting as the Congress has fielded Rajinder Rana, who knows the Dhumal family well.

Virbhadra Singh knows the assembly poll will be a vote on the performance of his five-year-old government.

“We are seeking votes on the basis of development by our government, especially in the education, health and connectivity sectors,” a confident Virbhadra Singh, who first became the Chief Minister in 1983, told IANS.

The Chief Minister, who has been in active politics for over 50 years, is a regular target of the top BJP leadership, who point to his being out on bail and facing corruption charges in the Delhi High Court during the time he was the Union Steel Minister 2009-11.

But against all odds, he alone tours across the state seeking votes for the Congress. Party leaders said the Chief Minister is single-handedly campaigning and he is conducting 15 to 20 meetings in two to three constituencies every day.

He starts his campaign at 9 a.m. and continues till late into the night. He holds closed-door meetings with party workers in the evening for their feedback.

The only saving grace for the Congress is that its Vice President, Rahul Gandhi, will tour the state on November 6, a day before the campaigning comes to an end.

Contrary to this, the BJP has fielded its entire top brass — from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his cabinet colleagues, including Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and J.P. Nadda.

Even party President Amit Shah is aggressively touring the hill state.

“The Congress has failed to handle even sensitive cases like gang-rape of a schoolgirl. Our focus on coming to power will be eliminating forest, mining, liquor and transfer mafias that are active in the state for long. This will greatly help restoring the faith of the public,” Dhumal told IANS.

Political observers say issues like development have been pushed to the background as personal attacks dominate most of the election rallies.

“Apart from mudslinging, there is no public-specific agenda with both the leaders. They are just trying to woo voters by raking up personal issues,” an observer said.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said Singh is the main “star” of the party campaign in the state.

“Virbhadra Singh is campaigning on the ground and the BJP is baffled at the response he is getting. We don’t have to be loud to impress the people, like the BJP is doing,” Surjewala told reporters in Shimla on Thursday.

Virbhadra Singh is targeting Dhumal by saying he has always worked with a political vendetta against him.

But a confident Dhumal believes there is a favourable wind prevailing for the BJP’s return as the present government has wasted much time in the ongoing corruption cases against Virbhadra Singh and his family rather than focusing on development.

The future of the arch rivals will be pronounced on December 18, the day the votes cast will be counted along with those in Gujarat.

The Congress won 36 of the 68 seats in Himachal Pradesh in 2012 with a 42.81 per cent vote share, while the BJP bagged 26 seats with a 38.47 per cent vote share.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in) –IANS

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Congress is ‘laughing club’, losing everywhere: Modi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia

Kangra(Himachal Pradesh), November 2, 2017: Terming the Congress a “laughing club”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said it was losing its hold in every corner of the country.

 “We all need to look at the Congress. We should appreciate them. Nothing is left for them and they have lost their hold from every part of the country,” Modi said in his first election rally in Kangra ahead of the Himachal Pradesh assembly polls.
“Wherever people have a chance, they have voted for change. They (Congress) have become a laughing club,” he said.
Assembly polls in Congress-ruled Himachal will be held on November 9.
Attacking the Himachal Pradesh government, Modi said Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh was talking of action against corruption when he himself was out on bail on a corruption case.
“Despite the case, Singh ‘saheb’ is claiming there will be zero tolerance against corruption if the Congress is back in power. Can anyone believe him?” asked Modi.(IANS)