Modi, Rahul trade barbs 3 days be­fore Bas­tar polling

Hindustan Times (Bathinda) - - Front Page - HT Cor­re­spon­dent let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com ■

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.

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