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Mainstream, VOL LV No 45 New Delhi October 28, 2017

Need of the Hour

Monday 30 October 2017



At long last the dates for the Gujarat Assembly polls have been announced.

Yesterday Chief Election Commissioner A.K. Joti disclosed to the media that voting for the crucial electoral contest in the State will take place or December 9 and 14—the polling will be held in the first phase for 89 seats across 19 districts, and in the second phase for 93 seats in 14 districts—and the results will be out on December 18.

With the announcement of the poll schedule, the Model Code of Conduct has come into immediate effect. However, hours before the EC announce-ment the Gujarat Government rained in massive sops to beat the model code.

As was underscored in today newspapers,

Hours before the EC announcement, Gujarat rained more sops to beat the model code. In Vadodara, its Mayor laid foundation stones for three government works in the city while his counterpart in Rajkot announced a Rs 95-crore housing scheme for municipal employees and laid foundation stones for two water distribution projects.

In the run-up to the release of the poll schedule, the BJP Government in Gujarat has announced several poll sops...

The EC’s decision not to impose the Model Code of Conduct in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh on the same day—on October 12, it announced polls for Himachal Pradesh but not Gujarat—drew criticism from several quarters including former CECs. The Opposition Congress alleged that the dates were delayed to give the ruling BJP an advantage.

Although some of the poll surveys have predicted a comfortable win for the BJP, analysts and observers hold a different view. The Hindustan Times points out that “with the economy still reeling from last year’s cash clampdown and the bumpy implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, the party appears to have lost, for the first time since its resounding national victory in 2014, some of its confidence”. It quotes Sebastian Morris, Professor of Economics at the IMM, Ahmedabad:

It’s not going to be easy for the BJP. The job market has all but collapsed... Scheduled Castes have started organising themselves. People are unhappy.

And Ahmedabad-based political analyst Hari Desai informs:

For the first time in three decades, the Congress is calling the shots and the BJP is reacting. But it remains to be seen if the support gets translated into votes.

Meanwhile, the BJP hotheads continue with their anti-Muslim tirade. Thus BJP lawmaker Sangeet Som’s attack on the Taj Mahal as a “blot on Indian culture” built by “traitors” has not evoked any protest from the ruling dispensations in UP and at the Centre. The State CM has, however, made a series of different pronouncements but not in any way contradicting Som. Nonetheless, his (Yogi Adityanath’s) visit to the Taj today has provoked former UP CM Akhilesh Yadav to mock and say that it must have been a “miracle of Bhagwan Ram” which brought the Yogi to the monument of love.

It is in this context that one needs to pay heed to a Western academic’s thought-provoking observation:

...the Indian state is the de facto custodian of the historical sites contained within the nation’s borders, including Mughal monuments. Recent politically-charged statements and actions designed to erode the crucial role of the Mughals in Indian history raise the question of how much longer the Indian state will serve as a responsible caretaker for monuments that are much beloved across the world.

In the midst of a series of such sectarian and authoritarian actions by those in charge of administrations at the Centre and in the States—like the highly controversial legislation in Rajasthan to muzzle the press and shield judges and government servants from investigations into any wrongdoing, something which has been thankfully ultimately sent to cold storage (a Select Committee)— the situation is becoming increasingly bizarre and warrants an unequivocal denunciation from the people at large.

October 26 S.C.

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