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Martyrs’ day and its nuggets: Mamata Banerjee admonishes BJP and CPI(M)

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Picture credit: hindustantimes.com
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By Arnab Mitra

On the eve of the age-old martyrs’ day celebration, Mamata Banerjee kicked off her election campaign for the forthcoming state assembly elections.

Picture credit: indiatoday.in
Picture credit: indiatoday.in

On the 21st of July 1993, 13 people were shot dead in a police firing owing to their incessant demands to make voter ID card as the sole document to exercise one’s right to vote. It was Mamata Banerjee who started off with this annual affair; a day to commemorate the sacrifices of the martyrs at Shahid Minar.

In an effort to save her party from the string of criticisms dogging her and her party members, she lambasted the media and the opposition parties, “the media and the opposition parties are working hand in glove to shatter the image of the Government, but the people are stronger than media and they will judge our performance”.

Reiterating her distrust in the Modi government, she says, “ Don’t teach us how to deal with corruption, better see yourselves.” Criticizing Modi’s flagship programmes like Swach Bharat Abhiyan and Beti Padao aur Beti Bachao Andolan, she added, “Modi ji work, don’t say.”

Picture credit: indiatoday.in
Picture credit: indiatoday.in

Fleshing out her government’s progress report, she added that Nadia district has been declared as India’s cleanest district by UNESCO. Further, shedding light on the state government’s initiative to up the status of girls in the state, she also restated that Kanyashri Prakalpa – a state-run program to support and empower adolescent girls- has 22 lakhs adolescent girls under its wings, the number being the highest amongst the states.

Refuting the media furore about her joining hands with the BJP in the upcoming assembly elections, she said, “Trinamool Congress will fight alone and win all the assembly seats in Bengal”.

Giving an inkling of her party’s strength and intent, she lashed out at her predecessors, “ For 35 years CPI(M) failed to develop the state, and when we are trying to bring forth development, they are feeling jealous. In 2016, the CPI(M) party will totally be removed from the state”.

Besides applauding her party members for the amount of hard work they have put in, she also ensured the youth of the state that they will soon be bagging coveted employment opportunities. According to her, the government will soon hire two lakh people in different sectors.

Rolling out her schemes exclusively meant for the poor, she said the state government will be providing ration on a monthly basis to three lakhs poor people in Bengal.

Further, the government will be giving scholarships to students hailing from the minority communities and will be building 22 multi-specialty hospitals and five new universities in Bengal.

 

indianexpress.com
indianexpress.com

Mamata Banerjee also gave a strong message to her party workers. She said, “To be a Trinamool party member, you have to follow five Ds- Discipline, Dedication, Determination, Devotion and Development”.

Painting a pro-poor picture of her party, she said Trinamool is a party for the poor people and not for the businessmen.

In an attempt at sporting her support for a party bereaved of corruption, she warned her party members involved in syndicates or illegal mining activities of grave repercussions. In addition, she asked the young generation to respect their elders and teachers.

As a last nail on the coffin, she congratulated the people of Kolkata for their recent victory in the elections to the Kolkata Municipal corporation and promised the people that she will arrange a victory party in Kolkata after Bengal becomes green in the 2016 assembly elections.

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BJP Offers Christians a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Is Religious Pilgrimage A New Playground For The Political Parties?

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community

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In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
  • The political parties (BJP and Congress ) are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage in the coming local elections of the eastern states of India
  • The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively
  • After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022

The Campaign promises during the elections times are quite bizarre nowadays, from “I’ll cut your taxes,” to “vote for me, and I’ll set you free.”

In the coming local elections in the Christian- majority state of Nagaland in India the agenda by the rival BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and Congress parties are unique: “Vote for us and get either a free or a heavily subsidized pilgrimage to Jerusalem.”

Yes, you read it right. The political parties are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage. The offer has been put up by the Prime Minister Modi- led BJP for the upcoming elections. Even the local partners of the Congress party are treading up the same path.

Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons
Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons

The BJP has not made it clear yet if it is offering the scheme to all of India’s Christians, or only to Christians in the northeast, or only to Christians in Nagaland. The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively. Nagaland is one of smallest states of India, with the population of just under two million people.

Also Read: Muslim women can now travel for Haj without Mahram

As per the Tourism Ministry figures, around 58,000 Indian tourists came to Israel in 2017, a 47% increase from 2015.

The elections are scheduled for the February 27 in three northeastern states – Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura – later this month.

The AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi also tweeted on the double standard of the government and lashed out at the government for its discriminatory decision, ending Haj subsidy but allowing subsidies to continue for Hindu pilgrimages like the Mansarovar Yatra.

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community. But recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. The government cited the reason for the subsidy withdrawal as they wanted to utilise the funds saved from withdrawing the subsidy for the education of minorities, particularly girls. After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022.

Also Read: Government ends Haj subsidy as part of a new policy

The scheme is a clear cut example of hypocrisy and opportunism, especially considering the cancellation of Haj subsidies. It seems quite contrary, on the one hand, the government is cutting down the benefit scheme for one section of the society and on the other hand, some other community is been offered the same thing. Such moves bring out the double standards of the political parties just for the sake of vote bank. In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented.

In 2011, Nigeria also did something same as that of India. For many years, their government financed a trip to Mecca for Muslims, leading to some 42,000 Nigerians visiting the country. But with the change in the government, subsidies have been cut considerably and now a 12-day pilgrimage costs around 2000 dollars. The change in stance has resulted in 78% decrease from 2011.