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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is under attack from BJP leaders, from party president downwards, for skipping the meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called for taking stock of the damage caused by the Cyclone Yaas in the State. Party president J P Nadda called it “murder of constitutional ethos and the culture of cooperative federalism” while Defence Minister Rajnath Singh described “this type of behaviour with the Prime Minister” as “painful”. What the BJP leaders will find more painful is to admit that Banerjee has averted an extremely ugly situation by keeping away from the meeting.

The Prime Minister visited on May 28 Odisha and West Bengal, the two States which suffered heavily from the Cyclone Yaas. After visiting Odisha where he held discussions with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on the damage the State has suffered, Modi reached Kalaikuda Air Base in West Midnapore district of West Bengal. He was scheduled to hold a meeting with Chief Minister Banerjee about the State’s losses. Reports say that the Chief Minister kept him waiting for half an hour; then came, submitted a memorandum about the assessment of the damage and financial help required from the Centre and left, “with the permission of the Prime Minister”, as she had another scheduled meeting. She was accompanied by Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay. Within hours Modi displayed his anguish as the Centre recalled Bandyopadhyay to Delhi and asked him to join Department of Personnel and Training.

Prima facie, Mamata Banerjee was wrong as it does not behove the Chief Minister of a State to treat the Prime Minister so shabbily. But here the Prime Minister had himself invited this type of behaviour by his insatiable itch to humiliate Banerjee for the mortifying defeat inflicted by her on the BJP in the recently held Assembly elections in the State. Modi had taken with him for the meeting West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Suvendu Adhikari who, after spending almost his entire life in Trinamool Congress, had defected to BJP just before the Assembly elections and become Modi’s confederate against Banerjee. There is no history that Modi had been taking Governor and Leader of Opposition during his meetings with Chief Ministers of other States to discuss and assess the damages caused by cyclones. Then why in West Bengal?

The presence of the two at the meeting was to provoke Mamata Banerjee who is already worked up with Modi’s frequent resort to devious methods to harass her. Adhikari is a new “Mullah” who would like to fortify his loyalty to Modi by taking on Banerjee. As for Dhankar, he has never displayed the dignity of Governor’ office but behaved like an uncultured bully almost on every occasion. If Banerjee had attended the meeting, there was bound to be an extremely ugly situation. Thus by courting some criticism for showing “disrespect” to Prime Minister, Mamata Banerjee has averted a catastrophe and also foiled Modi’s nefarious design.

Julio Ribeiro, who has held top positions in the police and was Ambassador to Romania, feels that the deep frustration felt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah at BJP’s humiliating defeat in West Bengal Assembly elections has made them  open the ‘cage’ of CBI and direct it to take on Mamata Banerjee. The case which the CBI has taken up – Narada Scam – is seven years old when six Trinamool Congress leaders were caught on tape receiving cash. The case was entrusted for investigation to the CBI in 2014. Even now the CBI has arrested only four of them and left out the other two because they are now in the BJP.

In an article in Scroll.in, Ribeiro  points out that “Suvendu Adhikari, the designated leader of opposition BJP, and Mukul Roy, another of those elected on the BJP ticket, who had crossed over from the Trinamool Congress just before the elections, had also received bribe money and were captured taking the cash on tape. But the governor does not seem to have inquired from the CBI how and why they have been left out of the net when the papers were placed before him for sanction to prosecute. In fact, Adhikari received Rs 5 lakh whereas the others got only Rs 1 lakh.”

There is nothing surprising if the CBI is behaving like the private army of Modi and Shah. It has always acted like this in politically sensitive cases. Here are just two instances to prove the point.

A zealot RTI activist, Shehla Masood was shot dead in front of her house around 11 AM on august 16, 2011. Soon thereafter top police officers, led by then State police chief S K Raut and then Additional DGP (Intelligence) R K Shukla (who recently retired as CBI director) , reached there and were said to have tampered with the evidence. The inquiry was handed over to the CBI which, after spreading a web of lies, got convicted from a pliant judge two ordinary Muslim women for conspiring to murder Shehla. Before the case was handed over to the CBI, a sting operation was conducted by Headlines Today. When D S Tomar, Inspector-in charge of the police station of the area, was asked about the ‘shoddy investigation’ by his team, his reply was, inter alia: ‘Within half an hour, the DGP, IG, SSP, SP, Additional SP, almost everyone was there. We started following their instructions and took only those things which they asked us to and left the rest.’ For disturbing evidence in a murder case, these police officers would have gone to jail with their post-retirement benefits forfeited. It is anybody’s guess who could have given them the assurance that nothing would happen to them. The CBI did not interrogate them nor did it interrogate those influential politicians about whose certain activities Shehla had sought information through RTIs. Special CBI Judge at Indore B K Paloda wrote the verdict as CBI dictated, blatantly in violation of law at places.

The Godhra train burning case and its aftermath resulting in a massacre, in which both Modi and Shah were involved, were investigated by the CBI and also by high-profile retired Supreme Court judges forming part of Inquiry Commissions. Till today we do not know how Modi had promptly identified the 58 ‘Kar Sevaks’ whom he claimed were burnt inside S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express and announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the family members of each of them because those travelling in that coach did not have reservations barring a few. Besides, it was claimed that the train was stopped at Signal Falia , at a little distance from Godhra station, where some people poured petrol inside S-Coach thorough its windows and set it afire. However, Government Forensic Science Laboratory at Ahmedabad probed the matter thoroughly and came to the conclusion that fire was ignited by someone from inside the coach.  The CBI never tried to find out who had lighted fire inside the coach and at whose behest.

The defeat of BJP candidate Rahul Singh Lodhi at the hands of Ajay Kumar Tandon of the Congress in the Damoh Assembly by-election (held in April-May) has brought to the fore the deep-rooted dissensions within the State unit of the party. The State leadership suspended from the primary membership of the party half a dozen Mandal presidents and issued a show cause notice to Jayant Malaiya, blaming them for Lodhi’s defeat. Malaiya had won from Damoh constituency seven times and had been a member of the Council of Ministers of Uma Bharti, Babulal Gaur and Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Malaiya was defeated in the 2018 Assembly elections by less than 700 votes by Rahul Singh Lodhi who was then in the Congress. This time Lodhi lost by over 17,000 votes. The Mandal presidents suspended from the primary membership include Malaiya’s son, Siddharth Malaiya, who was also convener of the Prashikshan Prakoshth (Training Cell) of BJP’s district unit.

Early this year Rahul Singh Lodhi was enticed to join BJP after resigning from the Congress and the Assembly. He was rewarded with the chairmanship of MP Warehousing and Logistics Corporation, a State enterprise with over 250 branches and huge resources at its disposal, as well as the promise to give him the ticket for the by-election caused by his resignation from the Assembly. As the ticket was being decided, some senior BJP leaders conversant with the ground-reality of Damoh constituency, were reported to have met the Chief Minister and told him that Lodhi had no chance of winning from there as the people were not happy with his performance as MLA. Even after the ticket was announced, efforts were reportedly made to persuade Chouhan to replace the candidate if the party wanted to wrest the seat. CM Chouhan and State BJP president V D Sharma were, however, said to be adamant on Lodhi.

A couple of days after getting the show cause notice, Malaiya slammed the party leadership for being partisan and one-sided. In an interview to a newspaper, Malaiya said that it was wrong to say that Lodhi had lost in his (Malaiya’s) ward only. In fact, he got fewer votes in his own ward, as well as in the ward where Union Minister and Lok Sabha member from Damoh Prahlad Patel resides; he lost heavily in urban areas and also in rural segments. It was, according to Malaiya, because of Lodhi’s arrogant nature that had made the people of the constituency turn against him. Malaiya also accused Lodhi of not doing people’s work until his palm was greased.

Party MLA from Patan in the adjoining district of Jabalpur and former Health Minister Ajay Vishnoi has tweeted that those responsible for distribution of ticket and the in-charge of Damoh constituency for the by-election should own up the responsibility for Lodhi’s defeat – indirectly blaming CM Chouhan, State party chief V D Sharma and Bhupendra Singh, who is a confidante of Chouhan and a minister. He was entrusted with the task of supervising the by-election.

Similar widespread discord in the party was also seen when the 22-odd former Congress MLAs were given the tickets from their respective constituencies during by-elections in October-November last year. Chouhan had, however, pacified the party men by claiming that the defection of 22 Congress MLAs was engineered at the behest of PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah as it was necessary for toppling the Congress government. Now the dissenters in the party are asking why Lodhi had to be induced to defect as the BJP government in the State already had a comfortable majority. Appointment of Lodhi to a lucrative post in preference to old party leaders is also a sore point with the dissidents.

September 2021

Modi’s major failures

Declining economy, rising unemployment and inflation, and Covid-19 mismanagement — Congress


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