Why the sudden chorus for Ram temple in Ayodhya?

Why the sudden chorus for Ram temple in Ayodhya?

written by A L I Chougule FPJ- November 9, 1989, was the day when the Berlin Wall was brought down. It ended 40 years of division between the capitalist west and the communist east. The collapse of the concrete and barbed wire divide across the German capital and the broader cold war schism it represented was probably the most important political event of the second half of the 20th century. As the wall came down, the entire Soviet power structure, called the communist ‘Eastern bloc’, started to fall with it. During those early heady days of change as well as the months and years that followed, the near-universal opinion among most western commentators was that the fall of the Berlin Wall was the ultimate triumph of capitalism and liberal democracy. In reality, it hasn’t worked exactly as expected but nearly 30 years later, practically all the post-communist countries lives are richer, happier and longer than they were in the 40 years when the Berlin Wall was in place.

November 9, 1989, is also significant for India when the Shilanyas ceremony for construction of a Ram temple took place in Ayodhya: it transformed the temple-mosque conflict from a marginal strife to a national movement. While on that day, the fall of Berlin Wall led to unification of West and East Germany and integration of Eastern and Central Europe into European Union, paradoxically in India, the Shilanyas ceremony divided the country on religious lines. It became the graveyard of communal harmony, took a bloody toll and rekindled communal tensions in several parts of Uttar Pradesh as well as in rest of the country. The BJP was just a marginal player with only two seats in parliament then. But with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) as its public spearhead, the Sangh parivar successfully put the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation on India’s political centre-stage. Soon the BJP, after dabbling in secularism and Gandhian socialism, returned to its original Hindu moorings of the Jan Sangh days.

Apart from voicing support for the Hindu Rashtra at the Hedgewar centenary rally in April that year, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the so-called moderate with RSS DNA, warned the minorities to either give away their distinct identity, or face the worst. He also declared that the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute was an election issue for the BJP. At its quarterly executive meeting in Palampur in June 1989, the BJP passed a resolution that the ‘nature of controversy was such that it cannot be sorted out by court of law’. In their resolve to defeat the Congress, other opposition parties overlooked BJP’s communal and overtly anti-Muslim political stance and fought the 1989 general election in an alliance with the BJP. The BJP improved its tally from two seats to 85 in the ninth Lok Sabha. With that the political ostracism of the BJP ended.

While the Opposition helped the BJP gain political legitimacy, the VHP and the larger Sangh privar laid the political ground for its ascendance to emerge as a mainstream centre-right party. Since then, the BJP has not looked back and the Ayodhya conflict has assumed ideological proportions. The 1991, 1996 and 1998 elections saw a period of consistent growth for the BJP and its allies. This was largely because of two factors: one, stronger and broader alliances with regional parties and other previously unaffiliated players; and two, the Ayodhya movement which has had its impact on mainstream politics and elections since 1989.

In 2014, the Ayodhya conflict remained on the back burner in BJP’s ascendance to majority in Lok Sabha. But given Narendra Modi’s ideological and controversial political past, his candidature as BJP’s prime ministerial face did keep the debate on the nature and content of Indian nationalism alive. Though he rode to power on a strong anti-Congress and anti-corruption narrative, promising development, jobs, good days and bright future, for BJP and Modi, it was only a tactical retreat from the hardcore Hindutva agenda. Once the election was over, the Hindutva agenda took over: the building of Hindu unity and translating it into an idea of the nation by breaking new grounds of ultra-nationalism, while the government mostly remained silent as the foot soldiers went about hitting new lows of bigotry.

Various opinion surveys over the last one year have indicated that the BJP’s popularity is waning. Modi is the chief vote-catcher for his party, but his popularity has also witnessed a sharp decline. With the assembly polls in five states in November-December not entirely likely to go in BJP’s favour and 2019 Lok Sabha polls not far away, Modi and his party need an issue to build a narrative that will swing public opinion in BJP’s favour. The right-wing party views Ayodhya conflict as a potent issue that may polarise public opinion and salvage its diminishing popularity. Hence, the sudden shrill in demand for the construction of Ram temple in all too familiar language: ‘matters of faith cannot be decided by a court of law’.

What’s difficult to fathom though is the Hindutva brigade’s — the RSS and all its affiliates, including the BJP — double standards: they celebrated over triple talaq verdict but find it difficult to accept the same court’s progressive ruling in the Sabarimala case. Since the Sangh parivar’s idea of justice is different for different communities, it is not comfortable with the idea that the judiciary can intervene in matters of faith of the Hindus and set constitutional precedents. It is why the sudden demand for legislative action to pave the way for an early construction of the Ram temple.

Just as in 1989, when the Sangh and its affiliates raised the tempo for temple and the BJP joined in later, the same tactic is being played now: the top leadership of the BJP is silent, while most of the talking is being done by the RSS, its affiliate bodies like the VHP and the fringe elements. So, expect the BJP to enter the scene once sentiment has been polarised. Not that the BJP is entirely silent; some of its leaders like Ram Madhav, Uma Bharti and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath have also joined the chorus for a temple. It is no coincidence that the RSS has suddenly upped its ante on Ayodhya. May be it has timed the temple dispute to make it a core issue for the BJP to ride on in 2019 general elections.

A L I Chougule is an independent senior journalist.

Bhima Koregaon violence : 3 arrested activists sent to 14-day judicial custody

Bhima Koregaon violence : 3 arrested activists sent to 14-day judicial custody

Pune: The Pune Sessions Court on Tuesday sent activists Sudha Bhardwaj, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, who are accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence case, to judicial custody for 14 days. Ferreira alleged in the court that he was beaten up during interrogation in police custody. He further alleged that he was slapped about 8 to 10 times by police officials during interrogation on November 4 and he had to be taken to a hospital due to injuries next day.

Bhardwaj, Ferreira and Gonsalves were arrested by the Pune police on August 28 and were confined to house arrest since the following day till October 26 for their alleged involvement in the violence. On October 26, all three were sent to police custody till November 6. Vara Vara Rao and Gautam Navlakha were also arrested along with the three activists. Rao is still under house arrest and will continue to be so for another three weeks. Navlakha got interim relief from Bombay High Court till November 21.

In the Bhima Koregaon clashes on January 1 this year, one person was killed and many were injured. Earlier, the Maharashtra government, in an affidavit, had told the Supreme Court that the activists were “members of banned terrorist organisation Communist Party of India (Maoist)”.

Amend act that gave birth to CBI

Amend act that gave birth to CBI

written by Olav Albuquerque : Some of the seven sections which comprise the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, (DSPEA)1946, will have to be amended to bring the CBI, under legislative jurisdiction, so that officers like deputy superintendent Ajay Kumar Bassi can probe his superior, special director Rakesh Asthana, without evidence being destroyed.

The Supreme Court order in 2013 to insulate the CBI from interference, has been rendered ineffective. Bassi has approached the Supreme Court to stay his transfer to Port Blair which will stymie his probe into Asthana, such as nine telephonic conversations between Asthana and alleged bribe-givers which were recorded. Asthana was brought into the CBI as he was the favourite of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, who was himself under suspicion when Judge Loya died of a heart attack.

It is only if the CBI is brought outside the purview of the executive that it will regain its credibility despite Vijay Mallya being allowed to flee from India, former finance minister Chidambaram’s being charge-sheeted in the Aircel-Maxis scam after a huge gap, and the Allahabad high court acquitting the doctor couple of Rajesh and Nupur Talwar for murdering their daughter and domestic servant Hemraj.

Never mind other high-profile mess-ups such as those in the Bofors scam and the Jain hawala scam. For what can you expect from an agency which has had two of its former directors charge-sheeted for corruption and abuse of authority? Both A K Singh and Ranjit Sinha were charged with corruption and abuse of authority in February and April 2017. Sinha had an open-door policy when he was the director with top politicians, businessmen and others coming to meet him at his official residence in Delhi to get their cases allegedly closed or diluted.

There have been few directors like Sinha. In 1996, as a DIG in the CBI under the joint director (east), U N Biswas, Sinha was accused of scuttling the probe into Lalu Prasad Yadav’s role in the fodder scam. U N Biswas was the chief investigator, whose progress was monitored by the Patna high court. The original harsh report by Biswas was toned down by Ranjit Sinha before it was submitted to the court. When the court asked why the submitted report did not carry details of the original charges, Biswas told the court that the report had been changed by the CBI director and the original report was more damaging. The court indicted the CBI and ordered Ranjit Sinha be removed from the probe.

In gratitude, Laloo Prasad Yadav ensured that Sinha became the Railway Protection Force chief when the former was the railway minister. Sinha, Biswas and other CBI officers apologised to the privilege committee council of the Bihar legislative assembly, which decided to drop privilege proceedings against them for lodging a complaint against them to the Patna high court. After taking over as the CBI director, Ranjit Sinha transferred four crucial officers investigating the fodder scam after getting the Jharkhand high court’s approval, but the orders were later cancelled by the Supreme Court after a PIL was filed. There can be no doubt that Ranjit Sinha was one of the most sleaziest directors to head the CBI.

His appointment by the Congress was questioned by the BJP which is today in a tizzy because both their present CBI director Alok Verma and their hand-picked special director Rakesh Asthana have been accused of taking bribes to scuttle sensitive probes. On October 6, Alok Verma had met Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former Union ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha who handed him a petition with details about the alleged corruption in the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have none of it which could have been one of the reasons why Verma is today being probed for allegedly taking bribes. Modi has made it clear that any snooping into the purchase of the 36 Rafale jets will annoy him because even during the Congress regime, commissions in defence deals were not unheard of. The CBI filed an FIR against its special director Rakesh Asthana on the statement recorded by Sana Sathish Babu who says Asthana was paid bribes through two middlemen linked to RAW special secretary Samant Kumar Goel who gave inputs about Rajeshwar Singh’s alleged involvement with an ISI agent.

Asthana also allegedly received favours from the pharma firm Sterling Biotech’s promoters Chetan Sandesara and his family during Asthana’s daughter’s wedding. Not daunted by these complaints, Asthana sent a top secret letter to the CVC alleging that Sana Sathis Babu had paid Rs 2 crore as a bribe to his boss Alok Verma. Asthana alleged that when the CBI called Babu, Verma phoned Asthana and told him not to cross examine Babu. But Asthana ignored Verma’s orders. There have also been 18 departmental cases against Group A CBI officers, and 11 departmental cases against Group B and C CBI officers. This is because when the CBI chiefs are themselves allegedly on-the-take, there is no reason why those below them should remain clean. Forget the CBI’s own internal vigilance cell which may not be very effective in monitoring corruption among those who probe the corrupt.

The point here is that the 7,000 strong CBI office is demoralised with 1,328 vacancies yet to be filled. But whether it is allegedly corrupt directors like A K Singh, Ranjit Sinha, Alok Verma or Rakesh Asthana, one can be sure that high profile politicians may be discharged or acquitted because the evidence against them may be diluted. And so we will have a tainted CBI masquerading as the country’s premier investigative agency until the DSPEA is amended to bring the CBI out of the purview of the executive.

Olav Albuquerque holds a PhD in law and is a lawyer-cum-journalist of the Bombay high court.


1987 Hashimpura massacre case: All you need to know about the infamous act of Indian policemen

1987 Hashimpura massacre case: All you need to know about the infamous act of Indian policemen

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sentenced 16 former policemen to life imprisonment for killing 42 people of a minority community in the 1987 Hashimpura massacre case at Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel reversed a trial court’s verdict which had acquitted the accused.

The high court convicted the 16 former Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel for murder, kidnapping, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence under the Indian Penal Code. It termed the massacre ‘targeted killing’ of unarmed and defenceless persons by the police.

The Hashimpura massacre was an infamous event related to atrocities by Indian policemen. On May 22, 1987, about four dozen Muslims belonging to Hashimpura locality in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh were killed by people of security forces. When Hindu-Muslim communal riots started in Meerut on May 19, 1987, several armed officials were called to maintain the law and order situation. It included officials from Army, Uttar Pradesh Police Force, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC).

Three days later on May 22, 1987, some officials of the PAC rounded 644 people from different Muslim localities in Meerut and selected around 42 youths from them. They put all of the youths inside the trucks, most of whom were coincidentally from Hashimpura locality. The PAC officials took them to an unknown place and began shooting them one by one. When others protested, the officials open fired at them. Except five, all the others were killed in the firing. After that, the PAC personnel took the truck to the Upper Ganga Canal in Muradnagar and dumped the dead bodies in the canal.

After this brutal incident, the dead bodies were found after few days. Following the massacre, protests and demonstrations began demanding justice for the victims. The then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Vir Bahadur Singh ordered an inquiry over the matter. The CBI took up the case and produced a report after six years. Eventually, 19 men were accused of having performed the act.

Although government filed a case against the PAC officials and court issued warrants, none of the accused appeared before the court. However, in May 2000, 16 of the 19 accused surrendered and were later released on bail, the other three accused died in the intervening period. On March 21, 2015, all of the 16 accused were acquitted by Court due to insufficient evidence. The Court said that the survivors could not recognise any of the accused PAC personnel. But now, the Delhi High Court has overturned the earlier verdict and all the 16 accused are given life imprisonment for the heinous crime they committed.

With input from agencies

written by FPJ Web Desk 

Ayodhya hearing from October 29

Ayodhya hearing from October 29

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday is likely to start hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict trifurcating the disputed site at Ayodhya into three parts for Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhara and the original Muslim litigant.

The matter would be heard by a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice K.M. Joseph. The top court bench of then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Ashok Bhu-shan and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer by a majority of 2:1 while rejecting the plea challenging the High Court judgment had directed that the matter would be heard by   a three-judge bench from October 29.

The majority judgement on September 27 held that a new constituted bench will commence hearing from October 29 on a batch of petitions filed by both the sides – Hindu and Muslim stakeholders – challenging the 2010 high court judgement. The Muslim petitioners had pressed for hearing the challenge to the High Court judgment by a five-judge bench as the court had relied on a 1994 top court judgment that said that mosque was not essential to Islam for offering ‘namaz’.

The three-judge bench while rejecting the plea had on September 27 said, “We are of the considered opinion that no case has been made out to refer the Constitution Bench judgment of this court in Ismail Faruqui case for reconsideration.” “We again make it clear that questionable observations made in the Ismail Faruqui’s case … were made in the context of land acquisition. Those observations were neither relevant for deciding the suits nor relevant for deciding these appeals,” the majority judgement had said.

In his minority judgement, Justice Nazeer had said that the “questionable” observations in the Ismail Faruqui ruling were arrived at without undertaking a comprehensive examination. He had said a Constitution Bench must decide what constitutes essential practices of a religion and thereafter the Ayodhya land dispute should be heard.”

Pakistan: 26/11 attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s outfit JuD, FIF no longer banner terror outfits’ list

Pakistan: 26/11 attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s outfit JuD, FIF no longer banner terror outfits’ list

Islamabad: United Nations designated terrorist and 26/11 attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) are no longer mentioned in the list of banned outfits after a presidential ordinance that prohibited them under a UN resolution lapsed.

In February, former Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain promulgated an ordinance amending the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, thereby banning terrorist individuals and organisations that were listed by the UN Security Council. The JuD and FIF were proscribed under this ordinance.

According to a petition filed by Saeed, his counsel Raja Rizwan Abbasi and Sohail Warraich told the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday that the ordinance had lapsed and was never extended by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, The Dawn reported.

The globally designated terrorist challenged the ordinance under which his organisations, the JuD and FIF, were blacklisted for being on the watch list of the UN Security Council. In his plea, Saeed had claimed that the ordinance issued was against the sovereignty and the Constitution of Pakistan.

The counsel informed Justice Aamer Farooq of the IHC that the ordinance was neither extended by the current government nor it was tabled in the Pakistan Parliament to convert it into an act.
Subsequently, the judge said that Saeed’s plea was no longer effective as the ordinance was not extended by the government. The Pakistan government had banned terror organisations and individuals from making donations to JuD, FIF, and others on the UN Security Council sanctions list. The UNSC sanctions list includes the names of terror organisations such as al-Qaeda, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, JuD, FIF, and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

written by Asia News International 

Are you ‘unhappy’ together?

Are you ‘unhappy’ together?

Washington:  People continue to stay in unsatisfying romantic relationships because they believe that leaving would be bad for their partners, a study suggests. Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the study explored the possibility that people deciding whether to end a relationship consider not only their own desires, but also how much they think their partner wants and needs the relationship to continue.

“The more dependent people believed their partner was on the relationship, the less likely they were to initiate a breakup,” said Samantha Joel, who was an assistant professor at the University of Utah in the US at the time of the research. Previous research shows the amount of time, resources and emotion invested in a relationship can be factors in deciding to end a romantic relationship. Studies also show that a person may opt to remain in an unfulfilling relationship if the alternative

Being alone, the available pool of partners, etc – seems less appealing. In those cases, deciding to stay or go was based on self-interest, Joel said. However, the new study shows the first evidence that decisions about an unsatisfying romantic relationship may involve an altruistic component. “When people perceived that the partner was highly committed to the relationship they were less likely to initiate a break up,” said Joel, now an assistant professor at Western University in Canada. “This is true even for people who weren’t really committed to the relationship themselves or who were personally unsatisfied with the relationship. Generally, we don’t want to hurt our partners and we care about what they want,” said Joel.

In making that choice, the unhappy partner may be hoping that the relationship will improve, Joel said. Deciding to stay based on a partner’s perceived dependence on the relationship could be a double-edge sword, Joel said. If the relationship improves, it was a good decision. However, if it doesn’t, a bad relationship has been prolonged.

UN Security Council asked to hear from UN mission on Myanmar atrocities

UN Security Council asked to hear from UN mission on Myanmar atrocities

United Nations: The United States and eight other countries on Tuesday requested a UN Security Council meeting on Myanmar to hear from a UN fact-finding mission that has accused the country’s military of atrocities against Muslim Rohingyas.
The request is likely to run into opposition from China, which has friendly ties with Myanmar’s military and has sought to shield Myanmar from action by the Security Council.
In a joint letter seen by AFP, the nine countries said the mission’s chairperson should brief the council to allow it to “receive further information on this situation and its implications for international peace and security.”

The UN fact-finding mission released an explosive report last month that called on the council to refer the Myanmar situation to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, or to create an ad hoc international criminal tribunal, as was done with the former Yugoslavia.

The fact-finding mission said that Myanmar’s top generals, including Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing must be investigated and prosecuted for genocide in Rakhine State.
Myanmar has rejected accusations that its military committed atrocities in the crackdown last year that forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee over the border to Bangladesh.

– Myanmar objects –
In a separate letter to the council, Myanmar’s Ambassador Hau Do Suan said his government “strongly objects” to the request to hear the fact-finding mission.
The ambassador repeated Myanmar’s complaints that the report was “one-sided”, based on “narratives and not on hard evidence”.

“Putting accountability above all else without regard to other positive developments is a dangerous attempt that will face utter failure,” he warned in the letter obtained by AFP.
Britain, France, Peru, Sweden, Ivory Coast, the Netherlands, Poland and Kuwait jointed the United States in requesting the meeting to be held during the month of October.

Support from the nine countries for the request means that China would likely fail to block a meeting through a procedural vote. Nine votes are required at the 15-member council to approve an agenda item and vetoes do not apply.

Myanmar maintains that the violence in Rakhine was triggered by Rohingya extremists who attacked border posts in August 2017.
But the fact-finding mission said there were reasonable grounds to believe that the atrocities were committed with the intention of destroying the Rohingya, warranting the charges of “genocide.”

The report found that the military’s tactics had been “consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats”, and said that estimates that some 10,000 people were killed in the crackdown was likely a conservative figure.


Rahul Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor may not want but nation wants Ram temple in Ayodhya: BJP

Rahul Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor may not want but nation wants Ram temple in Ayodhya: BJP

New Delhi: The BJP Monday accused the Congress of using its leaders to build a momentum against the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, asserting that “the temple will be built at the Ram’s birthplace”. Union minister Prakash Javadekar attacked Congress president Rahul Gandhi and its leader Shashi Tharoor for his reported comments that no good Hindu would have wanted to see the temple built by demolishing a place of worship, a reference to razing down of the Babri mosque in December 1992.

“Ram is the ethos of the nation. People want and have fought for a Ram temple for 500 years after it was destroyed. What Shashi Tharoor is saying must be the view of Rahul Gandhi and his that they do not want the temple at the Ram’s birthplace,” he told PTI. He said it was astonishing and shocking to hear from Tharoor that a “real Hindu” would not wish temple at the Babri mosque site.

“Ram temple will be built only at Ram’s birthplace. It is so natural. It was Ram temple which was destroyed and all proofs are before the Supreme Court. BJP wants a magnificent temple at the site,” he said. The BJP, he added, has already said that it has to happen either through a court verdict, which it is sure will be favourable, or with an agreement between the two parties.

The whole nation wants the Ram temple as it is not about the BJP or something political, he said.  From north-east to north to south to east and west, everywhere you find Ram as Ram is the ethos of the nation, he said. Earlier at a press conference on Monday, Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao too accused the Congress of using its leaders to build a momentum against the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya and wondered if Gandhi is a Hindu or not.

He said his party wants an early verdict from the Supreme Court on the Ram temple case but the Congress is trying everything to delay it.  Congress leaders had earlier filed plea in the court to delay the matter, he alleged, adding that Tharoor is the latest to join the bandwagon by linking construction of a temple with the “demolition of disputed structure” that happened decades back.

“You (Congress) are conspiring to ensure that there is no verdict from the court,” he said. The Congress is doing “vote bank politics”, he said, alleging that Gandhi had earlier claimed that his party was a “Muslims party”. Rahul Gandhi wears his “Shiv bhakti” (devotion to Lord Shiv) on his sleeve but he should answer whether he is a Hindu or not, Rao said.

Speaking at an event in Chennai, Tharoor had said as a Hindu he was very conscious that a vast majority of his fellow Hindus believe that this (the site in Ayodhya) was the specific birth place of Lord Ram.

“And for that reason most good Hindus would want to see a Ram temple at the site where Ram was supposed to be born. But I also believe that no good Hindu would have wanted to see that temple built by demolishing somebody else’s place of worship,” the Kerala MP said. At the press conference, Rao also accused the Congress of following a double-pronged strategy of showing its love for Pakistan and and “working to break India” as part of Gandhi’s “divisive mindset”.

He cited Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu’s reported comments that he can relate to Pakistan more than south India to hit out at the opposition party. He demanded that Sidhu must be sacked as a minister in the Punjab government in a week or the BJP would carry out protests.  Sidhu’s remarks are also a reflection on the opposition party’s and its ruling Gandhi family’s “hatred for south India”, Rao alleged as he cited its “ill-treatment” of former Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao.

It was due to support from south India that the Congress came to power, he said in a reference to its win in 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections, claiming that “otherwise Sonia and Rahul Gandhi would have fled to Italy”.

The Congress president should apologise for the alleged poor treatment meted out to Narasimha Rao, he said. “If you have any shame, at least use his (Narasimha Rao’s) picture in Telangana,” he said. Telangana is among the five states where assembly elections are being held.

Firefighting good but not enough

Firefighting good but not enough

The Narendra Modi government is in firefighting mode as the economy slides in the wake of the rising current account deficit (CAD) with the abnormally high petroleum product import prices and the precipitous fall in the value of the rupee. The heavy dip in stock prices is also a cause of concern though it is the international outlook that contributes heavily to this. With elections in some State assemblies round the corner followed by the Lok Sabha polls next year, the government knows only too well that it needs to get its act together hastily lest the wrath of the electorate reflects itself through the ballot box.

The virtual directive to BJP State governments to cut petrol and diesel prices reflects pro-active intervention to ward off that wrath. That the price cut has eased the burden somewhat for the aggrieved middle class is happy augury for the beleaguered BJP which is fighting the build-up to an anti-establishment mood. The BJP is also helped by the fact that the Opposition lacks a programme of action to present as a credible alternative to its economic policies. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s irresponsible utterances calling the prime minister corrupt without grounds to support that pitch is also proving a dampener to the Opposition’s efforts to displace the NDA government. Thursday’s hiking of import duties on certain communications items close on the heels of the hike in duties on 19 non-essential items, including air conditioners, household refrigerators and washing machines (less than 10 kg) would contribute to a realistic lowering of the CAD and in partially restoring the value of the rupee.

The CAD had widened to 2.4 per cent of the GDP in the first quarter of 2018-19 while the rupee touched a record low of 74.50 to a dollar in intra-day trade on Thursday, before closing at 74.12. The rupee has depreciated by over 13 per cent since the beginning of 2018. In the latest round, import duty on populated, loaded or stuffed printed circuit boards of all goods other than mobile phones, base station and optical transport equipments has been raised. It is yet too early to know the impact of the measures taken to retrieve the situation but it is clear that more will need to be done to satisfy the consumer.