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BJP’s political influence diluting in West Bengal?

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Kolkata, June 29 (IANS) Intense factionalism, a perceived tilt towards the Trinamool Congress and a flop show in civic polls threaten to confine the BJP to its traditional role of a fringe player in West Bengal – a far cry from the promise it held out after the Lok Sabha election.

Buoyed by its 2014 Lok Sabha performance when it nearly trebled its vote share to 16.8 percent from 6 percent in 2009, the BJP had been talking big about winning next year’s assembly polls in Bengal.

The BJP scored another success in September when its candidate Shamik Bhattacharya became only the second BJP legislator in the state – 15 years after Badal Bhattacharya entered the assembly by winning the Basirhat (South) seat in a by-election.

BJP president Amit Shah and other leaders had since been claiming that the countdown for Trinamool’s departure had begun.

Amid a clamour to project it as the only viable alternative to the Trinamool, the BJP got a rude jolt in the municipal polls when it won just four percent of the state’s 2,090 wards, failing to take control of even a single municipality out of 91. It won only seven of the 144 wards in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.

The BJP garnered nearly 25 percent of votes in Kolkata and took clear leads in 23 assembly segments, including Mamata Banerjee’s constituency Bhowanipore, in the Lok Sabha polls.

Even as BJP leaders blamed the rout in the civic polls to rigging and violence by the Trinamool, political analysts say that the BJP seems to have squandered the opportunity it got to emerge as a major force in the state.

Political commentator Biswanath Chakraborty attributed the BJP’s diluted stand on the Saradha scam as one major reason for its dipping appeal.

“It was the Saradha issue that led to the BJP emerging as an alternative. It is the same scam which has played a lead role in the BJP losing its significance as well,” Chakraborty, a political science professor of Rabindra Bharati University, told IANS.

“BJP’s USP has been its anti-Trinamool stand. But its decision to hobnob with the Trinamool has dented its image,” he added.

While the Central Bureau of Investigation’s probe into the Saradha scam led to the arrest or interrogation of many Trinamool leaders and MPs, of late very little is heard about the progress of the case from the central agency, fueling speculation about a “deal” between the BJP and the Trinamool.

The BJP’s strategy of only harping on Trinamool’s failings has backfired, analysts say.

“Unlike Narendra Modi who came to power on the twin planks of development and good governance, the state BJP has failed to harp on any constructive issue. Relentlessly attacking Mamata could be productive only in the short run,” insisted Chakraborty.

Political analyst Anil Kumar Jana said that the BJP central leaders’ silence on the Saradha scam, about which it was so vocal earlier, reflected their keenness to win over Mamata Banerjee to pass key bills in parliament.

“Moreover, the BJP realises that unless its base reaches the rural belt, it can never be in the reckoning in Bengal. So it is hoping to ride on a tacit understanding with the Trinamool until it has the requisite organisational might,” Jana told IANS.

West Bengal’s ruling party apparently returned the favour by helping the BJP-led NDA pass a number of bills in the Rajya Sabha apart from maintaining a stoic silence when the opposition has been going hammer and tongs over External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s alleged links with former IPL chief Lalit Modi.

In addition, the run up to the municipal election brought out factional feuds in the state BJP into the open as leaders dissatisfied with the selection of candidates created a ruckus outside the state headquarters.

The bickering continued after the polls, with new entrant, actress Rupa Ganguly, attacking central Minister Babul Supriyo for praising the Chief Minister at a time her party workers were under attack by the Trinamool.

The BJP leadership rubbished such allegations.

“The BJP government has been endeavouring to strengthen the federal structure. How can anyone expect Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the home minister to rake up political issues during official visits?” argued BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh.

Singh told IANS that the CBI would soon bring the probe into the Saradha scam “to a logical conclusion ensuring punishment of the guilty”.

(IANS)

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Bofors: CBI to look into Michael Hershman’s Allegations

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Bofors scam
Haubits FH77 howitzer, of the type around which the Bofors scandal centered. Wikipedia

New Delhi, October 18: The CBI on Wednesday said it will look into the facts and circumstances mentioned in an interview of Michael Hershman, the first secret Bofors investigator of the Fairfax Group deployed by the Indian government.

“The agency has learnt of the matter pertaining to Bofors aired on a certain TV Channel containing interview of Michael Hershman. Facts and circumstances as mentioned in the interview will be looked into as per the due process by the CBI,” CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said in a statement.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) move comes a day after Republic TV’s interview with Hershman, wherein he made several revelations regarding Bofors and named some powerful politicians in India linked with the deal signed between the then Rajiv Gandhi-led government and Swedish company Bofors in 1986.

The deal for 410 howitzers was completed in March 1986.

The alleged corruption in the Bofors guns deal had created a scandal in 1989, leading to the fall of Rajiv Gandhi government. Kickbacks were alleged, but no evidence was found.

In 1986, the then Finance Minister V.P. Singh ordered an investigation. To do so, Singh got in touch with private investigation group Fairfax.

Hershman, who first found the Bofors papers, was the secret investigator of the Fairfax Group, deployed by the Indian government.

Now, a six-member Public Accounts Committee’s sub-committee on defense, headed by Biju Janata Dal MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, is looking into non-compliance of certain aspects of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report of 1986 on the deal. (IANS)

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Durga Puja in Bengal to showcase its cross-cultural and trans-boundary influences

Months of protests and violence in the Darjeeling hills has failed to dampen the spirit of the Nepali population in Siliguri and in state capital Kolkata

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Durga Puja in West Bengal
Durga Puja. Wikimedia
  • Durga Puja in West Bengal has evolved into a platform of its cross-cultural and trans-boundary influences 
  • Months of protests and violence in the Darjeeling hills has failed to dampen the spirit of the Nepali population in Siliguri and in state capital Kolkata
  • In Kolkata, the Nepali consulate is expected to host around 100 to 150 members of the community from different parts of Bengal on Dasain

Kolkata/Siliguri, September 22, 2017: From goddess Durga draped in traditional Nepali attire for the grand celebration of Dasain, to the resplendent White Temple of Thailand to glimpses of London and the US — Durga Puja in West Bengal is not only a showcase of the state’s artistic heritage but has also evolved into a platform of its cross-cultural and trans-boundary influences.

Geopolitical tensions notwithstanding, slices of soft diplomacy and globalisation are on show in a clutch of pandals (marquees) in the state.

Take Dasain celebrations in Siliguri, for example.

Months of protests and violence in the Darjeeling hills has failed to dampen the spirit of the Nepali population in Siliguri (located at the base of the hill) and in state capital Kolkata where they are gearing up to celebrate the Nepali version of Durga Puja with pomp and splendour.

Recognised by the splotches of vermillion, rice and curd (“tika”) on the foreheads and the prominent sprigs of barley sprouts (jamara) tucked behind one’s ear, Dasain or Vijaya Dashami — Nepal’s biggest festival — has been observed in Siliguri for 25 years by its oldest social organisation, Bhanu Bhakta Samiti.

“Dasain is celebrated with the participation of all communities: Nepali, Bengali, Marwari, Bihari and others. Everyone is welcomed and people, cutting across political party lines, join in the revelry. The Bengalis even offer ‘anjali’ (floral offerings). The Gorkhaland issue is a political one and we do not let it affect our celebrations,” Krishna Lama (Pemba) of the Samiti told IANS.

“We have been having the Durga idol since the last three years. From Sashthi (September 26), we will begin the worship of the protima (idol). She will be dressed in traditional attire and we have roped in designer Alka Sharma for the costumes. Jamara (pot with wheat sprouts) is indispensable to the festival,” Lama said.

Parents and older members of the family apply tika and place the jamara as blessings for the younger ones. The jamara also signifies “shakti”.

In Kolkata, the Nepali consulate is expected to host around 100 to 150 members of the community from different parts of Bengal on Dasain.

“Every year, for over 25 years, we have a Nepali Durga puja in front of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation building. Cultural programmes are organised and representatives of around 32 samitis (clubs) across Bengal join in,” an official of the consulate told IANS.

Also readDurga Puja Pandal Decoration Catches Cinema Style, Baahubali Palace Will Be In Cruise This Year In Kolkata

Meanwhile, the Deshapriya Park committee, which registered the highest footfall for a pandal last year with five million visitors, has in store a slice of Thailand — a popular tourist destination for travellers from east India, served well with 2.5 hour-long flights.

It has recreated the 20th century Wat Rong Khun temple (or the White Temple) located just outside Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. The detailed all-white exterior with mirror trimmings stands out in stark contrast against the grassy park lawns.

Organisers have also replicated the temple’s piece-de-resistance: A mural depicting the burning Twin Towers as Angry Birds, Michael Jackson, Spiderman and other pop culture icons look on.

At Bhowanipore 75 <https://maps.google.com/?q=Bhowanipore+75&entry=gmail&source=g> Palli puja in south Kolkata, a stone’s throw from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s residence, a 40,000 square feet area has been converted into a typical London street. The theme is aligned to Banerjee’s vision of transforming Kolkata into London.

With 2017 being the Indo-UK Year of Culture, the club has tied up with the British Council and London Sharod Utsav.

“Big Ben and Westminster will also be replicated in the area. The idol is crafted from mahogany and brass and decorated with dokra art. Post-puja we are planning to install the idol permanently in any one of the famous institutions of the UK like the British museum or University of London,” Club Secretary Subir Das said.

The Star Spangled Banner is prominent at Badamtala Asar Sangha in south Kolkata. The club is calling its celebration ‘West Wind’ in consonance with the Year of US-India Travel and Tourism Partnership.

“Visually the pandal resembles a street in a hi-tech American city at night. The design is complete with skyscrapers and multi-hued buildings and lights,” said Snehasish, one of the artistic heads. (IANS)

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Crimes Against Women Perpetrate in Every two Minutes: NCRB Analysis

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Crimes against women in India
Father, left and mother, center of the Indian student victim who was fatally gang raped on this day three years back on a moving bus in the Indian capital join others at a candle lit vigil in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. VOA
  • Any kind of physical or mental harm towards women is deemed as  “crime against women”
  • Domestic violence is the most dominant crime against women
  • Andhra Pradesh state is the highest to report crimes against women in the period of ten years

Sep 20, 2017: A report released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) suggests that crimes against women have increased violently in the last ten years with an estimated figure of  2.24 million crimes. The figure is also suggestive of the fact: 26 crimes against women are reported every hour, or one complaint every two minutes, reports IndiaSpend analysis.

The most dominant crime against women with 909,713 cases reported in last decade was ‘cruelty by husbands and relatives’ under section 498‐A of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

‘Assault on women’ booked under section 354 of IPC is the second-most-reported crime against women with 470,556 crimes.

‘Kidnapping and abduction of women’ are the third-most-reported crime with 315,074 crimes, followed by ‘rape’ (243,051), ‘insult to modesty of women’ (104,151) and ‘dowry death’ (80,833).

The NCRB report also listed three heads, namely commit rape (4,234), abetment of suicide of women (3,734) and protection of women from domestic violence (426) under which cases of crime against women have been reported in 2014.

Andhra Pradesh has reported the most crimes against women (263,839) over the past 10 years.

Andhra Pradesh state is the highest (263,839) to report crimes against women in the period of ten years. Crimes reported for insult (35,733) ranks first followed by cruelty by husband relatives (117,458), assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty (51,376) and dowry-related deaths (5,364).

West Bengal (239,760) is second most crime against women state followed by Uttar Pradesh (236,456), Rajasthan (188,928) and Madhya Pradesh (175,593).

Abduction increased up to three folds over the recent years,  with Uttar Pradesh being the worst affected state. Cases rose from 15,750 cases in 2005 to 57,311 cases in 2014.

Prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter @Nainamishr94


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