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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 43 New Delhi October 13, 2018

Silver Lining in the Murky Scenario

Monday 15 October 2018, by SC

EDITORIAL

While the Election Commission has laid out the schedule for the Assembly elections in five States (Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram), the poll campaign has yet to begin in right earnest even if leaders of all political parties, notably BJP chief Amit Shah, PM Naredra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi, have started addressing public rallies in the concerned States in preparation for the polls (whose results would be known on December 11). It is too early to make any solid prognosis of the electoral trends although some reliable pollsters have predicted, on the basis of concrete information from the ground level, that the ruling party at the Centre would be losing the three North Indian States going to the polls.

Meanwhile, the revelations around the Rafale deal, which the Congress has projected as a major plank in its allout drive against the BJP, are placing the ruling party at the Centre in an awkward position. The latest disclosure from France is that the Union Government had insisted on the Dassault Aviation to take the company just floated by Anil Ambani and not prestigious public sector enterprise, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), as its partner in the deal making this a trade-off. The BJP’s high-voltage anti-Congress, actually anti-Rahul, propaganda on the issue is leading it nowhere causing a lot of headache for the Modi dispensation as more disclosures are expected in the coming days.

The Sangh Parivar’s divisive agenda is finding new manifestations with the passage of time. In Gujarat the rape of a 14-month-old toddler allegedly by a migrant labourer at Sabarkantha in late September triggered a spate of mob attacks on migrant workers in the State and these spread from nothern Gujarat to other regions. While the ruling party’s responsibility in this regard cannot be minimised, questions have been raised regarding the involvement of the Gujarat Kshetriya Thakor Sena (GKTS) headed by Congress MLA Alpesh Thakur in the incidents of anti-migrant mob violence. The Congress needs to exercise caution and restrain leaders like Alpesh so as not to imitate the BJP’s polarising tactics.

However, the most striking development of the last one week is the new #MeToo movement against sexual assault on women at workplaces. It first began with actress Tanushree Dutta speaking out against the alleged sexual harassment she faced long years ago at the hands of actor Nana Patekar who has now been booked by the police following her complaint. Thereafter several women journalists came out against noted author-cum-journalist and now a junior Minister for External Affairs, M.J. Akbar, accusing him of similar sexual assault at the workplace with one of them, Ghazala Wahab, giving graphic details in The Wire of what she underwent 20 years ago when the same person was the editor of The Asian Age. Now the pressure is on the Minister to either voluntarily quit his ministerial post or get sacked by the PM (though whether the latter would act that way is a big question at the moment). The Indian Express has aptly pointed out:

Perhaps a new moment arrived in this country when not many were looking. Perhaps the awareness and sensitivity that seemed to flare too briefly after the rape of a young woman in the national Capital about six winters ago has left behind something more precious and abiding. In this new moment, in this new India, it should be intolerable that a man should be Minister who stands accused of preying upon the women whom he was in a position to enable and mentor.

Overall the situation is getting increasingly murky with every passing day. The women’s assertion is, nevertheless, most welcome in the present setting. That is the only silver-lining in the depressing situation all around us.

October 11 S.C.

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