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NDA rule bolstered diaspora ties, says Sushma Swaraj

Indian minister sushma swaraj

New Delhi: India’s ties with its diaspora have intensified greatly ever under the NDA government, said Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister.

At the 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the annual conclave of the Indian diaspora, Sushma Swaraj said in her speech, ” Contacts with you have strengthened since our government came to office”.

“It is our effort now to reach out to the maximum number of the diaspora”, she said.

She said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken engagements with the diaspora to a new level.

Starting with the Madison Square Garden event in 2014 where Modi addressed a huge gathering of the Indian diaspora after much scepticism, Sushma Swaraj said the Prime Minister has made a number of addresses in public gatherings of the Indian diaspora across various parts of the world.

“Recently, as you all know, when the prime minister went to the United Kingdom, the Madison Square Garden’s record was broken and the number of people who were present at the diaspora event (in Wembley Stadium) was three times that number,” she said.

She said that earlier when Indian prime ministers went to other countries, the diaspora there would get to read about it in newspapers but now, they get to know even a month in advance that the prime minister would be visiting their country.

“The Prime Minister speaks to them. He goes prepared knowing their problems, he listens to them, he listens to their pain and once he returns to India, he resorts to solve these problems and this is the way in fact contact with the Indian community has increased by leaps and bounds after this government came to office”, Sushma Swaraj said.

Stating that overseas Indians now knew that there was someone back home to help when they get into trouble, she said in its short tenure of 19 months, the government faced four major problems.

“It was on May 28, 2014, that we took our oath of office and on June 3, the crisis erupted in Ukraine where 1,000 Indian students had to be evacuated,” she said.

“Five days later, on June 8, the problem in Iraq erupted when 7,500 Indians had to be evacuated.”

Even as the problems in Iraq persisted, the crisis in Libya took a turn for the worse and 3,500 Indians had to be evacuated, the minister said.

From Yemen, apart from 4,500 Indians, India evacuated 2,500 foreign nationals from 38 countries.

Stating that the government issued advisories for Indians when there is any problem in one part of the world or the other, she said unfortunately little heed was paid to such advisories.

She urged all Indians living in countries where trouble starts to follow these advisories.

In this age of social media, Sushma Swaraj said that whenever Indians abroad find themselves in trouble they can always tweet her and she would immediately respond and ensure that the Indian mission in the country concerned came to the person’s help.

She also said all Indian missions have been colour-coded and if a large number of complaints piled up in a particular mission, that mission’s colour would turn red.

Coming to overseas Indians’ contributions to India’s development story, she said the government has launched three flagship programmes — Make in India, Skill India and Digital India — and three programmes that were in the mission mode — clean schools, clean India and the Namami Ganga project.

“There was a time when opportunities in India did not exist to have a good income and people went abroad seeking greener pastures and there was a lot of brain drain”, she said.

“But today, India has changed and there are all kinds of opportunities to earn and make a very good living and the time has come for you to rethink about coming back to India”, the minister said, adding that people can also keep one foot in India and one foot in their country of adoption.

Stating that the time has come for overseas Indians to repay their debt to their motherland, she urged them on the occasion of the PBD to pledge to contribute to the success of all developmental programmes of the country.

Coming to the change in the format of the PBD, she said that earlier the event was an annual three-day “mela” that ended without any concrete results.

“But now we have decided that we will hold this ‘mela’ every two years and in the intervening years, there will be a lot of thinking and a lot of thought process that would go into it.”

“People would study the various issues and come up with various recommendations so that the problems of the diaspora could be solved”, Sushma Swaraj said.

Saturday’s event was webcast live in London, Dubai, Port Louis, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

Sushma Swaraj held question and answer sessions with diaspora members present in those places and discussed their problems and issues.(IANS)

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Come April, government will be more comfortable in Rajya Sabha

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs

Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
  • In April, the opposition may lose its edge over BJP in Rajya Sabha
  • NDA led by Modi has faced many embarrassments in Rajya Sabha in past few years
  • This is expected to change soon

Come April, the opposition in the Rajya Sabha may lose its edge in the numbers game and the power to stall any government bill, as the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition is set to catch up with its rivals, though a clear majority will elude them for a while more.

BJP to soon get more comfortable in  Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia commons
BJP to soon get more comfortable in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

As 58 MPs, including three Nominated and one Independent, are set to retire in April, the Rajya Sabha math is going to change. It is set to favour the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the trend may continue in the elections to the Upper House later too with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having solid majorities in a number of state assemblies, especially the ones it won after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

With this, while the Congress-led opposition’s numbers will come down to around 115 from the present 123, the numbers of the BJP, its allies and sympathisers together would climb to around 109 from the present 100-odd members.

And the gap, once wide enough to let the opposition invariably have its say, will keep narrowing further in the coming months.

Of the 55 retiring members (excluding those Nominated), 30 belong to the opposition camp while 24 belong to the BJP and allies. Of them, a large number of NDA candidates are set to return while the opposition will lose a chunk of its members.

As things stand now, the Congress-led opposition has 123 MPs (including 54 of the Congress) in a house of 233 elected members (apart from 12 Nominated), while the NDA has 83 members (including 58 of BJP) plus four Independents who support the BJP (these include MPs Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Subhash Chandra, Sanjay Dattatraya Kakade and Amar Singh).

Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.
Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.

Also, for all practical purposes, the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), that has 13 members in the Rajya Sabha, is also with the NDA. This means the NDA’s effective strength in the upper house of Parliament is 100.

The gap was wider till just a few months ago. This meant that during any battle between the government and the opposition in the Upper House over bills and major issues, it was the opposition that invariably had its way. The recent example was the triple talaq legislation that the opposition stalled in the upper house, demanding that it be referred to a Select Committee.

For over less than four years, the Narendra Modi government had faced quite a few embarrassments in the Rajya Sabha thanks to the majority of the opposition, forcing it often to take the money bill route to avoid a clash in the house. Under the Constitution, a money bill needs to be passed only in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cannot stall it.

Also Read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

However, after April, the NDA will be in a far better position.

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs (including AIADMK). But at least 30 from the NDA are set to get re-elected. So the number will rise to 106. Add three members that the government would nominate to the upper house and the final NDA tally will roughly be 109 MPs.

Further, there are fence-sitters such as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the YSR Congress, which are not virulently against the BJP and would not oppose the government unless for very compelling reasons.

Now, for the Congress and the rest of the opposition, they are set to lose 30 MPs (including one Independent, A.V. Swamy) through retirement and would be left with around 93 members. The Opposition may win roughly 22 seats, which means that its final tally after April is likely to be around 115 members.

Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.
Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.

The gap has clearly narrowed and the government may not be at the mercy of the opposition during crucial votes and can have its way in the Rajya Sabha if it musters its numbers by deftly wooing “floater” MPs.

The three newly-elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members may remain equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress, though the party is friendly with some of the major opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress.

Also Read: BJP MP Seeks Amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill

In an interesting development recently, the AAP actively participated in the opposition’s walkout and the day-long boycott of the Rajya Sabha over long intra-day adjournments of the Upper House by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.

The AAP, which was not welcome at any opposition meetings earlier, particularly those held in Parliament House, was invited to speak at a joint opposition media interaction on the day. But nobody can be sure as to how long this bonding would last.

Partywise tally of those retiring in April-May from the opposition’s side include 13 from the Congress, six from the Samajwadi Party, three of the Trinamool Congress, two each of the Nationalist Congress Party and Biju Janata Dal and one each of the CPI-M, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons
NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

From the ruling side, 17 MPs of the BJP, three of the Janata Dal United, one of the Shiv Sena and two of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are retiring.

In terms of state-wise vacancies to be created in April, the highest number is from Uttar Prdaesh (9), followed by Maharashtra (6), Madhya Pradesh (5), Bihar (5), Gujarat (4), Karnataka (4), West Bengal (4), Rajasthan (3), Odisha (3), Andhra Pradesh (3), Telangana (2), Uttarakhand (1), Himachal Pradesh (1) and Chhattisgarh (1). IANS