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BJP euphoria ebbing away with allegations of leaders’ proximity to Lalit Modi

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By Amulya Ganguli

Till the quicksand of indiscretions enveloped Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had the advantage over its principal rival, the Congress, of not being the victim of any major scandal.

Hence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had the chutzpah of telling an audience abroad that while he was associating India with “skill”, the previous government had shamed the country with the appellation of “scam India”. Only a few months after this display of effrontery which ignored the tradition of not raising domestic issues on foreign soil, the Modi government has had its comeuppance.

Instead of focussing on ways to emerge from the “prudent gradualism”, in economist Jagdish Bhagwati’s words, of the reforms, which the government’s critics interpret as a dragging of the feet, the prime minister and his government are immersed in an episode which, according to the Congress, is marked by “nepotism, abuse of authority and violation of procedure”.

Notwithstanding the attempts to emphasize the Good Samaritan aspect of the external affairs minister’s intervention on behalf of the former Indian Premium League (IPL) administrator, Lalit Modi’s ailing wife, the fact that Lalit Modi is a fugitive from Indian justice has undermined Sushma Swaraj’s acts of “good intentions”, as finance minister Arun Jaitley has said.

To make matters worse for the BJP, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has joined Sushma Swaraj in demonstrating her proximity to Lalit Modi. Their explanation for their camaraderie is that Modi is a family friend. But the acts of hobnobbing recall the adage that a person is known by the company he or she keeps.

Interestingly, the BJP is seemingly keener on standing by the external affairs minister than the chief minister, who has apparently been left to fend for herself over an allegation that she endorsed Lalit Modi’s application for immigration to Britain on the condition that the Indian authorities should not know about it.

Although the document bears no signature, the chief minister and her party will have considerable difficulty in wriggling out of this instance of playing hide and seek. Further complications have been caused by the charge of dubious business links between Lalit Modi and Raje’s son, Dushyant, which has made the BJP’s critics dub Dushayant as its Robert Vadra, the controversial son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Scams are not only about thieving as the scandals involving the 2G telecom spectrum, the allocation of mining blocks for coal and others during Manmohan Singh’s tenure suggest. They can also damage a party by showcasing the subterranean links between powerful ministers and sleaze operators.

Considering that Narendra Modi had once taunted Congress leader Shashi Tharoor for having a Rs.50 crore girl friend because of Sunanda Pushkar’s IPL deals, the reports about how prominent BJP leaders have gone out of their way to help the tainted former IPL czar cannot but be an embarrassment for the prime minister.

The BJP rode to power not only on the basis of promising economic growth but also by stressing its commitment to a clean public life.

Now, both the pledges have failed to materialize. Unless Narendra Modi demonstrates his fabled capacity to act decisively, the daily unfolding of the bonhomie between ministers and a person under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate will only provide more juicy grist to the Congress’s mill.

Taken together with the disquiet among farmers about the proposed amendments of the land acquisition law, and among ex-servicemen over the delay in implementing the one-rank, one-pension rule, the Sushma Swaraj-Vasundhara Raje-Lalit Modi saga can have damaging consequences for the BJP on two fronts.

First, the inevitable stalling of parliament on the issue will be a further setback to the prime minister’s reforms agenda. Secondly, the BJP will not find it easy to launch an effective election campaign in Bihar when its hands are not clean and when it faces various disaffected groups.

Moreover, in view of the attacks from multiple fronts, the BJP seems to have lost some of its fighting instincts. Otherwise, it is not clear why it backed off from attacking the Congress on the affairs of Ottavio Quattrocchi and Warren Anderson after a few initial forays.

Though several years old, these issues still have the potential to embarrass the Congress, and particularly the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. If the BJP has erred by befriending a virtual absconder, the Congress had committed a worse sin by allowing Quattrocchi, an Italian friend of the dynasty, and Anderson, the Union Carbide chief, escape from the country without facing the consequences of their offences in the Bofors howitzer deal and the world’s worst industrial disaster in Bhopal.

Instead of raising these issues, the BJP has chosen to opt for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into a disproportionate assets case against the Congress’s chief minister in Himachal Pradesh, Virbhadra Singh, presumably to show that its rival is also not squeaky-clean.

The move will appear all the more to be a tit-for-tat exercise considering that the government has stopped the CBI for pursuing the inquiries into the Ishrat Jehan fake encounter case apparently in view of the likelihood that an investigation can turn the needle of suspicion towards senior BJP leaders.

For the BJP, the euphoria of May last year must now seem far away.

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at amulyaganguli@gmail.com)

 

 

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India condemns support systems for terrorists in South Asia, expresses concern over North Korea’s nuclear program

Sushma Swaraj’s statement assumes significance as it comes after the unprecedented BRICS Summit joint statement earlier this month in which Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa unequivocally named Pakistan and the terror groups based there

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Sushma Swaraj talks about support systems of terrorists in South Asia
External affairs minister of India, Sushma Swaraj. Wikimedia
  • India on Thursday condemned support systems for terrorists in South Asia while expressing concern over South Asia’s nuclear program
  • Sushma Swaraj’s statement is significant since it comes after the BRICS Summit where many countries unequivocally named Pakistan and the terrorist groups based there
  • Sushma Swaraj also sought cooperation for early conclusion of negotiations and adoption of the India-initiated Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism

New York, Sep 22, 2017:  In an obvious reference to Pakistan, India on Thursday condemned support systems for terrorists in South Asia while expressing concern over North Korea’s nuclear and weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

“The horror of terrorism continues to haunt global peace and security. Terror groups draw sustenance from support systems in South Asia,” Sushma Swaraj said while speaking at the BRICS Ministerial Meeting on the margins of the UN General Assembly Session here.

“They continue to find support and shelter in countries which use terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

“We must condemn efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, sustain and sponsor terrorism against other countries,” she added.

Sushma Swaraj’s statement assumes significance as it comes after the unprecedented BRICS Summit joint statement earlier this month in which Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa unequivocally named Pakistan and the terror groups based there.

“There is need for collective efforts to disrupt terrorist networks, their financing and movement,” she said, calling for terrorist funding, their weapons supply, training and political support to “be systematically cut off”.

Sushma Swaraj also sought cooperation for early conclusion of negotiations and adoption of the India-initiated Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism (CCIT) in the UN Security Council.

On North Korea’s recent offensive military posturing, she said: “The action and rhetoric of North Korea has been a source of growing global concern.”

Also read: Baloch Activist Bugti hails Sushma Swaraj for her speech against Pakistan Atrocities at UN General Assembly

She also touched on climate change and referred to Indian Prime Minister Narendra’s Modi’s suggestion of an alliance between the India-initiated International Solar Alliance and the New Development Bank, a multilateral development bank established by the BRICS nations.

“I hope we can work together to give this ambitious agenda practical shape in coming months,” she said.

The International Solar Alliance, launched at the UN Conference of Parties (CoP) climate summit in Paris on November 30, 2015, by Prime Minister Modi and then French President Francois Hollande, is conceived as a coalition of solar resource-rich countries to address their special energy needs and provide a platform to collaborate on dealing with the identified gaps through a common, agreed approach.

It is open to all 121 prospective member countries falling between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. (IANS)

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Kerala Catholic Priest Tom Uzhunnallil Abducted by ISIS Rescued from Yemen: Sushma Swaraj

The priest's release was achieved through the intervention of the Oman government

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Kerala Catholic priest Tom Uzhunnallil
Kerala Catholic priest Tom Uzhunnallil. Sushma Swaraj Twitter handle

Thiruvananthapuram | New Delhi, Sep 13, 2017: Kerala Catholic priest Tom Uzhunnallil, abducted by terrorists in Aden in March last year, has been rescued from captivity from an undisclosed location in Yemen.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted about the release of the Catholic priest, who was abducted in March last year.

“I am happy to inform that Father Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued,” she said.

The priest’s release was achieved through the intervention of the Oman government.

According to reports reaching Kerala, after his release the priest was flown from Yemen to Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman.

He has left Oman on a chartered flight — either for New Delhi or for the Vatican, reports said.

The media in Oman confirmed the news of the release of the priest and posted a picture of him — standing in a room with the picture of the Oman king in the background.

He will be flown to Kerala later in the day.

Expressing happiness at the news, the priest’s brother Mathew Uzhunnallil said their prayers have been finally answered.

A spokesperson of the church Fr C. Jimmy told the media that the news has been received with a great sense of happiness.

In March 2016, militants barged into a care home for the elderly set up by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Yemen’s Aden and shot dead many people, including four nuns of the charity organisation, among whom one was from India.

After the shooting, the militants took away the Catholic priest. Since then, other than a few videos released from time to time, there has been no news of his whereabouts.

Uzhunnalil’s ancestral home in Ramapuram in Kottayam district is presently shut as two of his brothers live abroad, while another lives in Gujarat. (IANS)

 

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‘You Never Lamb Alone’: Indian Christians Raise Objections to Ad Campaign by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) Featuring Gods to Sell Meat

The advertisements feature Lord Ganesha, revered in India, Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, Thor, Zeus and others seated at a table enjoying what is a sumptuous non-vegetarian feast

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Meat and Livestock Australia MLA)
Unite Over The Meat More People Can Eat | You Never Lamb Alone advertisement by MLA. Youtube

Mumbai, Sep 12, 2017: The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) on Monday raised strong objections to a new Australian advertising campaign featuring revered Hindu and Christians gods and other mythical figures to ‘sell’ its red meat and meat products.

CSF Founder-General Secretary Joseph Dias said the latest advertising campaign by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) is “bad in taste and offensive to all” and sought boycott of MLA and a ban of their products.

The advertisements feature the elephant-headed God, Lord Ganesha, revered in India, Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, Thor, Zeus and others seated at a table enjoying what is a sumptuous non-vegetarian feast.

The ads have reportedly made an oblique reference to Prophet Mohammed, who is not pictured but is heard excusing himself from the party through a mobile phone call since he has to pick-up a child from daycare.

What has hurt Christians is that the caricature of Jesus Christ who performs what is termed as a ‘reverse miracle’ by turning wine into water so a Grecian goddess, who is a ‘designated driver’ can drive home safely, Dias said.

“We have written to Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj to take note of these ‘insensitive advertisements’ and raise the issue with the top authorities in Australia immediately. We also demand that MLA Chairman Michele Allan and MD Richard Norton withdraw the ads and tender an apology,” Dias told IANS.

Besides writing to Sushma Swaraj, the CSF has shot off emails to Australian Deputy High Commissioner in Mumbai Martin Huber, Indian High Commissioner to Australia Harinder Sidhu and other top officials raising serious objections to the MLA campaign.

“The CSF has always protested against commercial exploitation of religious figures for profit, irrespective of which religion the figures belong to. The MLA ads have hurt not only followers of different faiths, but atheists and agnostics all over,” Dias pointed out.

He termed the campaign as ‘culturally insensitive’ to vegans and communities like Hindus, Jains or Buddhists and said Lord Ganesha is a vegetarian and meat is never offered to him, as depicted in the MLA ads.

Dias warned that unless MLA yanks off the offensive ad campaign and apologises, the global Catholic community would be compelled to boycott its products as “there are many alternatives available worldwide”. (IANS)