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BJP and AGP joins hand in Assam

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Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made an alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) of Assam. This move is said to be an intelligent one which will definitely raise the hold of BJP as the days to the next election to the Assam assembly is closing by.

Although the Assam Pradesh Congress tried its best to keep the BJP and the AGP apart, an identical electoral base of the two parties has forced them not to split each other’s vote which would have brought about a mutual downfall.

Sarbananda Sonowal, the central sports and youth affairs minister and the state BJP president, did not appear to be enthused by the tie-up with AGP, as a section of the party, led by AGP legislative party leader Phanibhusan Chowdhury, is known to be close to the Congress. Members of this section had even met state chief minister Tarun Gogoi, of the Congress, a few days back.

The deal with the BJP, however, was clinched by the more powerful faction of the AGP, led by party president Atul Bora.

An undercurrent of misunderstanding in the alliance was inevitable as both the AGP and the BJP have their primary electoral base among the Assamese Hindu middle class, which controls the politics of the entire upper and central Assam.

In spite of the AGP’s fast dwindling support base, its call for regionalism still holds appeal in large parts of Assam. On the other hand, a vast number of Adivasi tribes working in numerous tea gardens of upper Assam had voted for the BJP in the last parliamentary elections.

As the AGP also enjoys acceptability in upper Assam and good rapport with numerous indigenous communities living on both sides of the Brahmaputra river, mutual contests between the AGP and the BJP would have benefited the Congress.

The Congress has decided to contest the elections alone, for the simple reason that other political outfits have chosen to avoid the Congress.

The Muslims, who constitute almost 34 percent of Assam’s population, particularly the Bengali speaking ones of lower Assam, are now tilting towards the All India United Democratic Front(AIUDF) of Badruddin Ajmal. This time, Congress is not even sure of support from the Assamese-speaking Muslims of upper Assam who had stood by the party during the last parliamentary poll.

A quick journey to the world of statistics will point out to the rising fortune of the BJP in Assam. From one percent vote in the 1985 assembly elections, the BJP has showed signs of ascendancy in 2006 assembly elections by capturing 12 percent votes.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, its share of vote jumped to 16 percent and the party captured four seats. Although in the 2011 assembly elections it experienced a slight reversal of fortunes, the party came out with flying colors in the 2014 Lok Sabha election when it captured 36 percent votes and seven out of the 14 Lok Sabha seats from Assam.

Observers of the northeastern politics think this time the BJP may lose some of its popularity among the Assamese Hindu voters due to its decision to grant the right of stay to immigrants who are minorities in Bangladesh and transfer of land under the Indo-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement. But these two factors may not be enough to shift the ground completely for the BJP.

For the Congress, lower Assam and the Barak Valley are two important areas. While lower Assam has 46 percent Muslim votes, the figure is 37 percent in the Barak Valley. However, in 2014, the Congress could capture only 23 percent of Muslim votes in these two regions.

The appearance of the AIUDF on Assam’s political map has brought about a qualitative change. The Front got 39 percent of the state’s Muslim votes in last polls while the Congress’ share came down to 40 percent.

There has been a 10 percent decline in the Congress’ overall vote share in Assam between the 2011 assembly elections and the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, and a major reason behind it is AIUDF’s poaching into Congress’s traditional vote bank of Muslims and the Bangladeshi immigrants. The AIUDF had won 18 seats in the 2011 assembly elections and led in 24 assembly segments in the 2014 parliamentary polls.

Anti-incumbency factor may go against the Congress this time. Tarun Gogoi is generally considered to be competent but there is a palpable yearning for a new face in the chief minister’s chair.

That the Congress and the AIUDF could not form an alliance is due to the fact that both are trying to outwit each other in order to become the principal face of the Muslim electorate. The AIUDF will contest in 60-odd seats and this does not augur well for the Congress.

The BJP’s small partners like the Boro People’s Front (BPF) with 2.1 percent votes will chip in for its success. The BPF had won 12 assembly seats in 2011 and the Boros have significant presence in 50 other seats.

Arithmetical calculations favour the BJP-AGP-BPF combination. But Tarun Gogoi has many upset victories to his credit. (IANS)

(Amitava Mukherjee is a senior journalist and commentator. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at amukherjee57@yahoo.com)

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CJI faces revolt from four senior most SC judges

The four judges -- Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan B. Lokur besides Justice Chelameswar -- released a letter they wrote to Justice Misra a couple of months ago

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Supreme court went into a frenzy as four senior judges revolt against CJI. Wikimedia Common
Supreme court went into a frenzy as four senior judges revolt against CJI. Wikimedia Common
  • The sudden revolt against Chief Justice of India (CJI) by the four senior-most judges of Supreme Court has sent the whole judicial system into an uproar.
  • The four judges accused the CJI of corruption and breaches in a surprise Press Conference.
  • Judge Loya’s death’s controversy, supposedly, sparked this reaction out of the other judges.

Divisions in the Supreme Court burst out in the open on Friday when four senior-most judges took an unprecedented step of addressing the media to accuse Chief Justice Dipak Misra of breaching rules in assigning cases to appropriate benches, with one of them pointing to the plea regarding the mysterious death of Special CBI judge B. H. Loya.

The hurried press conference was called to reveal CJI's corruption. Pixabay
The hurried press conference was called to reveal CJI’s corruption. Pixabay

At a hurriedly called press conference at his residence, Justice J. Chelameswar and three other colleagues said the Supreme Court administration was “not in order” and their efforts to persuade Justice Misra even this morning “with a specific request” failed, forcing them to “communicate with the nation” directly.

The four judges — Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan B. Lokur besides Justice Chelameswar — released a letter they wrote to Justice Misra a couple of months ago, conceding that he was the master of roster but that was “not a recognition of any superior authority, legal or factual of the Chief Justice over his colleagues”.

Asked specifically if they were upset over reference of the matter seeking a probe into the suspicious death of Judge Loya, Justice Gogoi said: “Yes.”

Judge Loya's death is said to have happened due to a conspiracy. Pixabay
Judge Loya’s death is said to have happened due to a conspiracy. Pixabay

Judge Loya, who was hearing a case relating to the killing of gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh in an alleged fake shootout in which BJP chief Amit Shah was named an accused (later discharged), died of cardiac arrest in 2014. His family has raised doubts over the circumstances in which Judge Loya died and have sought an independent probe into it.

Plea’s seeking probe came up for a hearing in the Supreme Court on Friday when the top court expressed concerns over it and said it was a “serious issue”. It asked the Maharashtra government to produce all the documents related to the case before January 15.

In a seven-page letter, the four judges said they were not mentioning details of the cases only to avoid embarrassing the institution because “such departures have already damaged the images of this institution to some extent”.

The clash among the judges in the highest court also comes in the wake of a controversial order in November in which Justice Misra declared that the Chief Justice “is the master of the roster” having exclusive power to decide which case will go to which judge.

The CJI called himself 'master of roster' further enraging other judges. Pixabay
The CJI called himself ‘master of the roster’ further enraging other judges. Pixabay

The CJI had given the order a day after a two-judge bench headed by Justice Chelameswar had passed an order that a five-judge bench of senior most judges in the apex court should be set up to consider an independent probe into a corruption case in which bribes were allegedly taken in the name of settling cases pending before Supreme Court judges.

Holding that the Chief Justice was only the first among equals, the four judges contended that there were well-settled and time-honoured conventions guiding the Chief Justice in dealing with the strength of the bench required or the composition thereof.

“A necessary corollary to the above-mentioned principle is the members of any multi-numbered judicial body, including this court, would not arrogate to themselves the authority to deal with and pronounce upon matters which ought to be heard by appropriate benches, both composition-wise and strength-wise with due regard to the roster fixed,” they wrote in the letter.

They said any departure from the two rules would not only lead to “unpleasant and undesirable consequences of creating doubt in the body politic about the integrity of the institution” but would create “chaos”.

The four judges also touched upon another controversial issue, the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) on the appointment of judges over which the Supreme Court had locked horns with the government.

The four judges also touched upon other problematic issues. deliason.files.wordpress.com
The four judges also touched upon other problematic issues. deliason.files.wordpress.com

The government, the letter said, had not responded to the communication and “in view of this silence it must be taken that the MoP has been accepted by the government on the basis of the order of this court”.

Justice Chelameswar told the media that they were “convinced that unless this institution is protected and maintains its requirements, democracy will not survive in the country or any country… The hallmark of a democracy is independent and impartial judges.

“Since all our efforts failed… Even this morning, on a particular issue, we went and met the Chief Justice with a specific request. Unfortunately, we could not convince him that we were right.”

Justice Gogoi said they were “discharging the debt to the nation that has got us here”.

The government appeared to distance itself from the controversy, saying the judges should sort the issue themselves.

Minister of State for Law P. Chaudhary said: “Our judiciary is one of the known, recognised judiciaries in the world. It is an independent judiciary. At this stage, I think no agency is required to intervene or interfere. The Chief Justice and other members should sit together and resolve. There is no question of panic.”

the matter should be resolved among the judges themselves, says P. Chaudhary.

The Supreme Court split had an immediate political fallout, with CPI leader D. Raja saying after meeting Justice Chelameswar that Parliament will have to devise methods to sort out problems like this in the top judiciary.

Two judges, Justice S. A. Bobde and Justice L. Nageshwar Rao, are understood to have called on Justice Chelameswar. IANS