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People’s President Kalam laid to rest

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picture from- indianexpress.com

Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu): Former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was laid to rest on Thursday here with full military honors in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other leaders.

Photo Credit: oneindia.com
Photo Credit: oneindia.com

The People’s President’s body, draped in the Indian tricolor was brought to the burial site at Pei Karumbu in a flower-bedecked gun carriage, escorted by columns of the three armed services.

A gun salute was accorded to the former supreme commander of the armed forces and a military band played the haunting Last Post.

Modi, who arrived here on Thursday morning, paid his last respects to the country’s youth icon and most popular president by laying a wreath.

Tamil Nadu Governor K. Rosaiah, union Ministers M. Venkaiah Naidu, Manohar Parrikar and Pon Radhakrishnan, Tamil Nadu ministers like O.Panneerselvam, Natham R. Viswanathan and others also paid their last respects to Kalam.

Kerala Governor P. Sathasivam, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy were also present, as was Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and other party leaders also paid their last respects to Kalam – also known as India’s Missile Man.

Earlier the mortal remains of Kalam were taken to the family mosque for prayers.

His family members also reached here.

“All our relatives have also arrived to attend the last rites,” A.P.J.M.K. Sheik Saleem, the former president’s brother’s grandson, said.

The Tamil Nadu government declared a public holiday on Thursday under the Negotiable Instruments Act. Banks, insurance companies, schools and colleges are closed throughout the state.

The government has also ordered closure of liquor shops and bars throughout the state.

Around 30,000 jewelry shops would also remain closed, while petrol bunks stopped sales for an hour between 10-11 a.m. as a mark of respect for Kalam.

Movie-theater owners too have decided to shut down for the day while fishermen have decided not to venture into the sea.

Political parties like the DMK and the AIADMK have cancelled their functions.

Interestingly, the decision of private sector organisations to voluntarily shut shows that Kalam was truly a People’s President.

Born in Rameswaram on October 15, 1931, Kalam, as a boy, hawked newspapers to supplement his family’s income. His father owned a boat and his mother constantly struggled to keep the family sufficiently fed and clothed.

His sister pawned jewellery with a moneylender so that the studious Kalam could carry Rs.600 when he left Rameswaram to join the Madras Institute of Technology.

(IANS)

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Will Congress Party be Able to Survive in Future in Face of Modi Onslaught?

It was India’s “Grand Old Party.” The Congress Party ruled the country for 55 out of 71 years since independence

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congress, modi
From left, Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi, her son and party President Rahul Gandhi, and former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attend a Congress Working Committee meeting in New Delhi, May 25, 2019. VOA

It was India’s “Grand Old Party.” The Congress Party ruled the country for 55 out of 71 years since independence. But following the party’s crushing electoral debacle for a second time, there are questions about its future as the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty at its helm is unable to counter the most powerful leader India has produced in decades: Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Contrary to expectations, India’s mammoth general election turned out to be virtually a no-contest between Modi and Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi as it became a presidential-style battle.

“It is not what went wrong with the Congress, it is more of a story of what went right for Prime Minister Modi. He stood as a tall leader, as an achiever, as somebody who understood people’s aspirations,” says political commentator Rasheed Kidwai, who has authored a biography of Rahul Gandhi’s mother, Sonia Gandhi. On the other hand, “Rahul Gandhi is temperamentally not a power wielder. He is a trustee of power.”

The sixth member of the Nehru Gandhi family to lead the party, Rahul is often seen as a “reluctant politician”, despite his spirited campaign to revive the party and challenge Modi after its rout in 2014.

modi, congress party
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves toward his supporters during an election campaign rally in New Delhi, May 8, 2019. VOA

Gandhi’s rallies drew crowds, but his efforts to project Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party as a threat to India’s secular traditions or to highlight issues of economic distress failed to resonate. His attempts to nail him for corruption in a deal to buy Rafale French fighter jets fell flat. His promise of a minimum wage for India’s poorest families was met with skepticism, even among the poor.

On the other hand, Modi, successfully wooed voters with his message of strident nationalism and subtle appeal to the majority Hindu community. Along with it, there was another theme: he projected himself as the humble son of a tea seller, a self made man who fought all odds to reach the top post in contrast to what he called the “entitled” Gandhi who had inherited the mantle of leadership of the Congress Party. It drew cheers from the country’s emerging middle and lower-middle classes, exhausted with dynastic politics.

The Congress Party’s tally of 52 seats in parliament was only a notch higher than the 44 seats it won in 2014 in the 545-member parliament. The party’s candidates returned empty-handed in half the Indian states and in several others the party only mustered a single digit tally.Modi’s BJP won 303 seats.

The scale of its losses not just crushed hopes the Congress Party would either lead a credible challenge to Modi or return as invigorated opposition – it once again raised questions over the leadership of the Gandhi family.

congress, modi
The sixth member of the Nehru Gandhi family to lead the party, Rahul is often seen as a “reluctant politician”, despite his spirited campaign to revive the party and challenge Modi after its rout in 2014. VOA

Rahul Gandhi has offered to resign, but expectedly the party that has no second rung of leadership has turned it down. “The party will fulfill its role as a strong opposition. We need Rahul Gandhi to lead us in these challenging times,” Congress Party spokesman Randeep Surjewala said after a meeting of the party’s senior leaders on the weekend.

Rahul Gandhi also lost the Amethi constituency the party had held for 50 years in Uttar Pradesh state. In another humiliating blow for the Gandhi family, his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was appointed in a senior post to revive the party, failed to make an impact. Rahul’s mother, Sonia Gandhi, won her party’s only seat in the state.

Rahul Gandhi’s victory in another constituency in South India means he will continue to be a lawmaker. Dynastic politics is not limited to the Congress Party: lawmakers from political families are a routine feature of Indian politics. But political commentators say in an era showing a preference for strong, populist leaders, Modi was the clear victor.

congress, modi
here are questions about its future as the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty at its helm is unable to counter the most powerful leader India has produced in decades: Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons

“There is a new sense of nationalism sweeping across many conventional democracies. There is a yearning for a strong leader that captures the public imagination,” according to political analyst Ajoy Bose. “I don’t really see the conventional Congress Party or the conventional leadership mounting a challenge to Modi. He has completely taken the country by storm.”

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Gandhi tried to give a positive message after the party’s rout. “We have a different vision of India [from Modi]”, said the head of the party that has long projected itself as a defender of India’s minorities, such as Muslims who worry about religious polarization and a rise in hate crimes since Modi came to power. “There is no need to be afraid. We will continue to work hard and we will eventually win.”

But it may be difficult to reinvent what analysts call a “fading party.” They say Modi’s BJP now occupies the dominant political space that the Congress party did for decades. “Congress is going to get reduced to, you know, like the Liberals did in Britain,” says Rasheed Kidwai. (VOA)