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O Allah! It is for us that we have gathered here and it is for us that we are breaking the fast: A reloaded Iftar

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By Sreyashi Mazumdar

Picture credit: hindustantimes.com
Picture credit: hindustantimes.com

 

While paging through the withered pages of past, one might have run into a string of Ramdan fiestas hosted by Vajpayee when he was at the helm of affairs. Generally considered as a friendly gesture to address the largest minority of the nation, which kicked off with Jawaharlal Nehru’s close-knitted Iftar banquets, the ceremony over the period of time has hit a crooked path.

The pure spirit of Iftar has shriveled up. With the kind of grandeur demonstrated by the Iftar parties, the political maneuvering being exhibited and the paparazzi predominant during such parties, Iftar has somewhere down the line parted ways with its real essence – a customary which encompasses brotherhood and sodality.

Starting from the much celebrated Aam Aadmi, Arvind Kejriwal, to that of Congress’s chief, Sonia Gandhi, every who’s who in the political circle is trying to play their best cards through their customized versions of Iftar politics. Kejriwal’s Iftar was nothing less than a show-stopper in the midst of a political labyrinth. His foeman, Najeeb Jung and his much talked of predecessor Sheila Dikshit were found sharing candid snapshots with him, they were all smiles and hugs in the party. Even though the new found bonhomie might have raised millions of eyebrows, it clearly commemorated the true meaning of Iftar, especially when it has been emblazoned with political colours.

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Picture credit: dailyo.in

If this wasn’t enough, Mrs Gandhi’s Iftar party served a plushy platter of both fodder (politically propelled scoops) and food. Even though the party didn’t have a handful of political mavericks, her party fleshed out Congress’s preparation for the forthcoming monsoon session. The generally media-uncouth Rahul was found palling up with media persons. Taking a pot shot at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, “I will speak in parliament, even if PM speaks or not,” as quoted in an India Today report. If one would have to summarize the entire Congress’s Iftar episode in a more flamboyant and hammy way, SRK’s much celebrated Om shaanti Om dialogue- “Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost” – wouldn’t have refuted the core essence of their intent.

The Iftar saga would have been incomplete without President Mukherjee’s banquet. The fete wouldn’t have garnered currency and the kind of brouhaha it kicked off across media houses, hadn’t it been for Narendra Modi, who decided to snub the ceremonial.

Since Modi started off as the Prime Minister of the nation, he hasn’t done enough to address the largest minority of the country. Last year, he fended off wearing a skull cap, passing it off as a form of tokenism rendered by the Congress. However, without fail, our beloved Prime Minister’s pink slip to president’s Iftar party reinstated his coldness for the Muslim community.

A proper introspection of the Iftar saga leaves one baffled. With the holy month of Ramdan coming to a close, Indian politics has taken off to a different level. Despite the banquets orchestrated with never-found bonhomie and unusual handshakes predominating the Indian media and political circles, reflecting brotherhood with the festival of Eid knocking at the door, Iftar has turned into nothing less than a political circus wherein every inmate of the circus is trying his or her best to reap benefits.

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Brazil’s President Bolsonaro Faces First Defeat in Congress

The defeat on the floor of the house came one day after Bolsonaro fired a senior minister amid a scandal.

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Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro arrives at the inauguration ceremony of the new president of the Parliamentary Front of Agriculture (FPA), at the Clube Naval, in Brasilia, Jan. 19, 2019. VOA

Brazil’s lower chamber handed right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro his first defeat in Congress on Tuesday, the day before his government presents its most important legislative proposal to rein in a gaping budget deficit and spur growth.

The house voted overwhelmingly to suspend an executive order by the Bolsonaro government that altered Brazil’s freedom of information law to broaden the number of officials allowed to designate data and documents as secret or ultra-secret.

Lawmakers voted 367 to 57 to fast-track a bill overturning the secrecy measure and government whips were unable to muster votes to avoid defeat.

The bill must still be voted on by the Senate, but the reversal showed that Bolsonaro, who took office on Jan. 1, has not yet been able to organize a coalition in Congress to back his legislative agenda.

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro will send to Congress his plan to overhaul Brazil’s generous and costly pension system that eats up more than half of federal spending and is the main factor behind an unsustainable budget deficit.

Brazil, Bolsonaro
FILE – Gustavo Bebianno in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sept. 29, 2018. VOA

Approval of pension reform is vital for the recovery of investor confidence in Latin America’s largest economy.

The defeat on the floor of the house came one day after Bolsonaro fired a senior minister amid a scandal involving campaign financing for some of his party’s congressional candidates in the October elections.

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The ousted minister, Gustavo Bebianno, was instrumental in getting Bolsonaro elected but had a run-in with one of the president’s sons, triggering the weeks-old government’s first cabinet crisis.

In a note to clients, analysts at Eurasia Group said the scandal indicated the administration’s political team was in disarray, but they still expected the pension reform to get passed, albeit in a less ambitious version. (VOA)