New Delhi: Coming down heavily on the erstwhile Congress-led UPA government for ignoring the tourism industry, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stressed on the need to formulate policies for rejuvenating the sector.
“I regret to say that earlier governments didn’t make policies which could have increased tourism in the country. In fact, they framed such policies that made the tourism sector weak,” Jaitley said after laying the foundation stone of a new building of the tourism ministry.
Despite India having the potential to lure tourists, policies are needed to improve the industry in the future, said Jaitley.
Mentioning that India boasts of the longest sea shore, huge forests, religious places and culture, to attract tourists, he emphasized on the need to build more infrastructure, especially airports. “India should increase its airline capacity from 5 to 10 per cent to cater to more foreign tourist in the country,” he added.
Highlighting the role of states, Jaitley said for creating strong tourism infrastructure, it was important to take the help of states.
“The new Paryatan Bhawan will now provide a base for working on all aspects of tourism and increasing the potential of tourism in India,” he said.
Union Minister of State for Tourism Mahesh Sharma said, “the government fully understands the importance of tourism. It is possible for people to discover the cultures of different countries and cultivate respect for them via the medium of tourism,”
“Tourism is the engine of economic growth and we need to increase India’s share in world tourism from 0.68 to 1 percent by 2020 to realize the full potential of this sector. Tourism helps in women empowerment and youth employment,” he added.
Sharma also said that naming the new office complex of the tourism ministry after Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay was a real tribute to the visionary leader who talked about integral humanism.
Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhayay Paryatan Bhawan is a tourism ministry project housing a multi-level car parking-cum-office complex.
“The new building will have three storeys apart from the ground floor and two basements meant for stacked car parking. The project is estimated to cost around Rs 150 crore,” an official release said.
The Gujarat elections have brought the BJP and the Congress into a close contest over the seats.
The exit polls predict a victory for BJP.
The counting of votes will begin at 8.00 A.M. on Monday, December 18.
The Gujarat elections, which were carried out in two phases on December 9 and December 14, will finally come to its culmination on Monday, December 18, as the counting of votes will commence from 8.00 A.M. The Gujarat polls, over which seasoned BJP politicians such as Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have locked horns with the newly appointed president of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi, have been subjected to numerous speculations and predictions, ever since the two political parties have launched themselves into relentless campaigning for the various constituencies.
Congress vs. BJP: Who will Win the Gujarat Elections
The campaign for the Gujarat assembly elections has been a vehement one for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has extensively referred to the growth index and other statistical details while enumerating the virtues of the BJP government. His developmental policies, such as the Ujjwala Yojana through which free LPG gas facilities were provide to households below the Poverty Line, have made him immensely popular among the women of Gujarat. Modi’s appeal as the ‘son of the soil’ has earned him support in the urban and commercial hubs of Gujarat, in spite of the brewing discontent over demonetisation and the imposition of GST. The BJP has also succeeded in securing the support of the tribal people of Gujarat, who were previously considered as a stronghold of the Congress. However, with the trio of Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani, Rahul Gandhi seems to have infused young blood into the Gujarat elections, and has thereby attracted a significant number of young voters. Hardik Patel, with his political acumen has become a potential threat for the BJP, as multiple scandalous tapes of him as well as his aides have not decreased his popularity. In North, Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch, people seem to be disappointed with the BJP government, since the much-applauded ‘Gujarat Model’ has failed to solve basic issues in their lives, such as shortage of water.
Gujarat Elections: The Exit Polls
The Gujarat Polls of 2017 have often been hailed as one of the closest competitions faced by the BJP government during its 22 year long tenure as speculations are rife regarding who will win the Gujarat elections. However, in spite of the unyielding campaign by the Congress and Rahul Gandhi, the speculations hint towards another victory for the BJP in the state. An aggregate of nine exit polls in Gujarat show that the BJP is expected to secure 162 seats, while 65 seats may be secured by the Congress.
Rahul Gandhi was elected to the position of the President of Congress after his mother Sonia Gandhi stepped down in his favour on December 16, at a ceremony in the AICC Headquarters in Delhi. In an event attended by sister Priyanka Gandhi, brother in-law Robert Vadra and veteran politicians such as ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi became the sixth member of his family to have ascended to the position of the President of Congress, after a significantly long period of apprenticeship as the Vice-President.
Sonia Gandhi Steps down
In an emotional farewell speech, Sonia Gandhi thanked all the party members who had supported her in the initial days of her 19 year-long tenure as the President of Congress, as she nostalgically recounted how she had never intended to join politics, but was thrust into it by the tragic circumstances. “Meeting this challenge was not the achievement of one individual but the continued efforts of all of you,” said she, addressing the crowd for the last time as the President of Congress. Sonia Gandhi, whose election to the post was preceded by the assassination of her mother in-law Indira Gandhi as well as her husband Rajiv Gandhi, expressed her confidence and pride in the spirit and resolve of her son, stating that his training as Vice President has made him “Stronger and unafraid”. Sonia Gandhi’s speech, however, was constantly interrupted by the noise of firecrackers, which were being burst by some members of the party, who were celebrating the much-awaited election of Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi becomes President of Congress
The 47 years old Rahul Gandhi, who until recently was engaged in an active campaign for the upcoming state elections at Gujarat, was awarded the Certificate of Election by Mullapally Ramachandran, the President of the Central Election Authority of Congress. “Politics belongs to the people, it is their greatest weapon in dismantling the structures that oppress, silence and disempower them,” stated the newly elected President of Congress, calling himself an ‘idealist’, who looks forward to better days. Rahul Gandhi’s fiery speech was met with much applause and appreciation, especially from the younger members of the party. In 2013, the ascension of Rahul Gandhi as the Vice President of Congress was followed by a loss in nine state elections, and a victory in three. The election of the president comes at an interesting point of time, with the upcoming elections in 16 states, as well as the national election in 2019.
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 email@example.com) –IANS