Modi, Rahul trade barbs 3 days before Bastar polling
›You people must have seen the urban Naxals... If the government acts against them, then you (Congress) try to save them NARENDRA MODI Prime Minister
› ... the damage Modi has done with (demonetisation) and Gabbar Singh Tax, no one else caused such a loss in history RAHUL GANDHI, Cong president
RAIPUR:Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi squared off in Chhatttisgarh on Friday, three days ahead of the first round of polling in the state’s Bastar region, a Maoist hotbed, as they exchanged bitter political rhetoric over so-called “urban Naxals” and what each had done for the benefit of the state’s dominant tribespeople.
At his campaign rally in Jagdalpur, Modi hit out at the Congress for being soft on urban Naxals, a term coined for left-wing intellectuals who sympathise with Maoists. He accused the Congress of describing Maoists as “revolutionary” and of ruining the lives of the tribespeople of Chhattisgarh.
“You people must have seen the urban Naxals, seated in airconditioned rooms in cities, who look good, are in good company and enjoy status. Their children study abroad,” he said at the rally in the town located in Bastar. “If the government acts against them, then you (Congress) try to save them.” In a crackdown on August 28, the Maharashtra police arrested poet Varavara Rao, activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, trade unionist and lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj and civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha for their suspected links with Maoists.
Following the arrests, Congress chief Gandhi accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government of jailing activists.
The Congress is trying to end 15 years of BJP rule in Chhattishgarh, where elections to the 90-member assembly will be held in two phases — on November 12 and November 20. The first phase will see polling in 18 seats in eight Maoist-affected districts. The ruling BJP lost 12 of the 18 seats in the 2013 polls.
The remaining 72 constituencies will go to polls in the second phase on November 20.
BHOPAL: Muslims in Madhya Pradesh, looking for more political space, say they are disappointed by the candidate lists of both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress- ahead of the November 28 assembly elections in the state.
The BJP has fielded only one Muslim candidate, Fatima Siddiqui, from Bhopal (north) in the elections to the 230-member assembly. Siddiqui is daughter of late Rasool Ahmed Siddiqui, a former state minister. The Congress has three Muslim candidates – Arif Aqueel, the sitting MLA from Bhopal (north), Hamid Haji from Burhanpur, and Arif Masood from Bhopal (Central)
Mohammad Mahir , convener of Madhya Pradesh Muslim Vikas Parishad, a non-political organisation that espouses the socio-economic development of the community, said Muslims had few expectations from the BJP, which has fielded only three Muslim candidates since 1993 (all three lost). He, however, said that they “expected more tickets from the Congress”.
The Congress is seeking to end the three-term rule of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh in the elections.
Muslims have only one member (Congress’s Aqueel) from their community in the assembly even though they make up roughly 8-9% of the state’s 78 million population, say political analysts. In 2013, while the Congress gave tickets to five Muslims, the BJP fielded only Arif Beg, who lost to the Congress’s Aqueel in Bhopal North.
In 2008, the Congress gave tickets to five Muslim candidates and only Aqueel won from Bhopal North. Bhopal-based advocate Sajid Ali, who was also the Congress candidate from Bhopal in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, said: “We need Muslims to represent Muslims. At present, Madhya Pradesh does not have a national-level Muslim leader who commands instant loyalty, for which we have to blame the Congress leaders whom we have traditionally backed and also ourselves. ”
The reason for scepticism is natural. The Congress recently announced the post of Madhya Pradesh PCC (Pradesh Congress Committee) president and four working presidents – none of them were Muslims.
“This is all due to so-called softHindutva where Congress leaders are wearing their religion on their sleeves,” says Mahir.
Congress leader Arif Masood says that “while it is true that BJP has made some penetration among Muslims, they are still eyed with suspicion”.
In response to a question on whether the party gave fewer tickets to Muslims because of its soft-Hindutva approach, Congress spokesperson J P Dhanopia said: “There is no soft Hindutva. Tickets have been given to candidates who have potential to win.”
The lone Muslim voice in the assembly, and four-time Congress MLA Aqueel ,is more positive about the chances of Muslims getting party tickets. “There are nine seats in which Muslims are around 50% of the population and there are 10 seats in which they have population of 40,000 to 50,000 and can prove to be decisive during elections,” he said.