Beyond Kairana: Not a pretty picture for BJP

Maharashtra, two Lok Sabha seats were fought for. Once rivals Congress and Nationalist Congress Party fought as a team and once brothers in saffron BJP and Shiv Sena fought each other, the Uddhav Thackeray-led party putting up as candidate the son of the MP whose death necessitated the bypoll in Palghar. The BJP took this seat, but by a winning margin of about 30,000 votes as opposed to almost 300,000 in the 2014 election. The other Maharashtra seat was Bhandara-Gondiya, in the saffron-friendly Vidarbha region. The BJP lost the seat, and face. It lost to the NCP by a good 50,000-odd votes. In 2014, the BJP candidate Nana Patole—whose defection to the Congress over what he called PM Modi’s neglect of farmer’s issues—had won by three times that margin. The wave is gone, and more importantly, the Shiv Sena who the BJP calls its oldest ally has had its claws out for Big Brother through the campaign, and now after it even as the larger party is articulating placatory whimpers. Maharashtra gave the BJP-SS partnership 41 of its 48 Lok Sabha seats last time, and a resurgent Congress-NCP partnership in the absence of a Modi wave is bad news indeed for the BJP. Kneeling before Uddhav may well be the best-case scenario for the BJP in next year’s big one, and even that may not help much. The one seat from Nagaland went to BJP ally Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, as expected—one of the truisms of Indian politics is that Northeast voters tend to back the ruling party at the Centre in bypolls. The BJP has made great inroads in the Northeast region in recent years—it rules in six of the ‘seven sisters’ now—but it’s also true even a vigorous performance here in 2019 will not make much impact on the big numbers of the next Lok Sabha election.The seven states put together have as many seats as Rajasthan alone. Kairana was the big loss, a united Opposition defeating the BJP with voters cutting across caste and religious lines to back the challenger. Also, it cannot be overlooked that Prime Minister Modi held a massive roadshow in a nearby district to showcase a spanking new highway, and followed it up the same day— one day before the vote in Kairana—with a rally in Baghpat where he reached to sugarcane farmers. He got the issue right, for it was ‘ganna over Jinnah’ in the end, only voters didn’t expect the BJP to address the issue. Shades of Karnataka in Kairana; Modi uping his rallies from 15 to 21 didn’t turn the southern state around, and Baghpat didn’t do the trick either. The new battle order that is coming up has even resurrected Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal that got wiped out from its western Uttar Pradesh stronghold last time. It is also significant to note that Ajit’s father, and once prime minister Chaudhary Charan Singh was the architect of the Hindu-Muslim peace and amity that sugarcane belt of western Uttar Pradesh once exemplified. That peace was missing in the 2014 Lok Sabha election: polarisation may have crossed its expiration date in the the largest arena of 2019 . The Assembly seats The BJP got just one—Tharali in Uttarakhand—in a set that was sprinkled pretty representatively across the nation. Noteworthy here is desperately thin margin of victory—about 2,000 votes—in what has been traditionally regarded as a saffron state since it was created about two decades ago by an NDA government. Uttarakhand isn’t in the BJP bag either for 2019. In Punjab, the seat of Shahkot was taken from the Akali Dal by the Congress. Punjab has been regarded as a bellwether state, and the Congress victory in the 2017 Assembly elections as the backdrop of the latest contest has a strong message for the BJP. Significantly, the Aam Aadmi Party candidate came third, losing his deposit and even the vote in his native village in the process. The Akali Dal is down for the count, and AAP has slid out of the reckoning. More worrisome for the BJP is that Haryana’s simmering peasantry appears set to follow the Punjab example, with both Congress and the Chautala clan resurgent in the agricultural state. That’s 23 Lok Sabha seats from the two agrarian neighbour states for 2019 the BJP needs to worry about. In West Bengal, Didi’s Trinamool took the Maheshtala seat by over a chunky 60,000-vote margin. The BJP came second but that’s just a repeat of what has been happening in the state despite a focussed saffron effort, a noticeable increase in its popular support but one that’s not enough to shake Mamata Banerjee. Didi’s in the saddle, and she looks set to ride unscathed through the 2019 battle. Jokihat in Bihar was another upset, Lalu’s Rashtriya Janata Dal winning this battle of prestige and stamping another question mark on Nitish Kumar’s swinging politics. This is the third straight loss for Nitish after he dumped the RJD and Congress in July 2017 to walk out of the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) that had so comprehensively won the 2015 Assembly elections, Araria Lok Sabha and Jehanbad Assembly bypolls the other two that the RJD took. Given the RJD’s incredible performance in 2015—it won 81 of the 101 seats it contested—and the way its fortunes remain on the up, the future isn’t looking too bright for either Nitish’s Janata Dal (United) or the BJP. And Nitish may well be out of swinging room. Bihar could be where this unlikeliest of BJP allies sinks with the saffron party in 2019. Ampati in Meghalaya brought back memories of Karnataka again, as Congress candidate Miani D Shira, daughter of former chief minister Mukul Sangma defeated Clement G Momin of the National People’s Party. With 21 legislators, the Congress is now the single largest party in the state Assembly, and can, following the Karnataka model, stake claim to form the government. The NPP has 20 seats and the support of 15 other MLAs, including two from the BJP. In Karnataka, fresh from the churn of the recent Assembly elections and the hurly-burly of government formation, the Congress thumbed its nose at the BJP, winning the RR Nagar bypoll with 40,000 votes to spare. If not entirely expected, the other results were not as surprising. They are: * Chengannur, Kerala: CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front’s Saji Cheriyan beat Congress as well as BJP candidates. * Noorpur, Uttar Pradesh: Samajwadi Party candidate Naeemul Hasan, supported by the Congress, BSP and AAP beat the BJP candidate by 6,000-odd votes, a relatively slim margin but yet another winner for a combined Opposition. * Silli and Gomia, Jharkhand: Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) retained both seats. * Palus Kadegaon, Maharashtra: Congress candidate Vishwajeet Patangrao Kadam, the son of sitting MLA Patangrao Kadam whose death neccessitated the poll, won the seat uncontested. — The author tweets @NSDahiya]]>

Lalu gets 5-year jail in 3rd fodder scam case

A special CBI court on Wednesday sentenced former Bihar Chief Ministers Lalu Prasad and Jagannath Mishra to five years in prison in a fodder scam case and slapped a fine of Rs 10 lakh on the former and Rs 5 lakh on the latter. The special Central Bureau of Investigation court Judge S.S. Prasad pronounced the judgment related to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 33.67 crore from the Chaibasa Treasury in 1992-1993. The special CBI court has convicted 50 people and acquitted six in this case. This is third case in the fodder scam in which the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief has been convicted, while it is the second for Mishra. The CBI judge pronounced the quantum of sentence at 2 p.m. The court slapped two fines of Rs 5 lakh against Lalu and a Rs 5 lakh fine on Mishra. Earlier at 11 a.m., Lalu Prasad was brought to the CBI court from the Birsa Munda Central Jail, where he has been lodged since January 6 following his conviction on December 23, 2017 for three and half years in a fodder scam case related to the Deoghar Treasury. Of the 50 convicted in the Chaibasa treasury case, six are politiciana, three former IAS officials, including former Jharkhand Chief secretary Sajjal Chrkravarty and others. The convicted also included four women, who were suppliers in the fodder scam and each of them were awarded three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50,000 fine each.

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Lalu Prasad convicted in fodder scam case

RJD blames ‘caged parrot’ & ‘dirty politics’

According to a lawyer, the trial in the case was completed on December 13 in a special CBI court of Ranchi.  There were 34 accused in the case and 11 died during trial, while one turned CBI approver and admitted the crime. The CBI judge first read the six names who were acquitted. The acquitted people include Mishra, former Bihar Minister Vidya Sagar Nisad and then Public Accounts Committee chairman Dhruva Bhagat. Speaking to reporters on the judgment, senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said “We are disappointed with the judgment. In the same case Jagannath Mishra has been acquitted. Lalu had got jail, while Mishra has got bail. This is the game of Narendra Modi.” Lalu Prasad and Mishra are already convicted in a fodder scam case in 2013 and are out on bail. Both are accused in four fodder scam cases. The trial in two other cases is going on in special CBI courts of Ranchi. The trial in three cases gained momentum in May this year after the Supreme Court directed that the trial be completed in nine months. In Patna, the Rashtriya Janata Dal said it will challenge the verdict in the High Court. “The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) will challenge the special CBI court’s order in the High Court soon,” senior party leader Jagdanand Singh, considered close to Lalu Prasad, told the media. A former state Minister, Singh has termed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as “tota” (parrot) and robot, controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government. In New Delhi, RJD leader Manoj Jha said that the “caged parrot” (referring to the CBI) has been “unleashed on political rivals” who do not bow before the BJP. He said the decision would not weaken the RJD workers’ resolve to fight back its rivals politically. Targeting the BJP, Jha said that 11, Ashok Road (BJP headquarter in Delhi) was a “washing machine” that washes away all the taints of any person who bows before the party. (IANS)

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