Can Yechury sew up an anti-BJP coalition?

By Amulya Ganguli Given the weakened position of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) at the national level, the uneasy truce between its two factions led, respectively, by the present and former General Secretary, will be of interest mainly to the party faithful. Even then, what the other political parties will be looking at is the kind of “understanding”, as mandated by the party congress, which the CPI-M will be able to reach with the Congress and whether the opponents of this line — former General Secretary Prakash Karat and his comrades — will accept the formulation or wreck it. The tussle between Karat and the present General Secretary, Sitaram Yechury, will be at its most intense in the three states where the CPI-M still has some influence — Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura. Of these, it is in Kerala that the Yechury-Karat confrontation will be most fierce since the state is the home ground of Karat and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, both of whom are against any deal with the Congress. Since communist “discipline” stipulates that once a political line has been accepted, everyone, including its critics, has to abide by it, the Kerala scene will be enlivened by the CPI-M’s pursuit at the ground level of an “understanding” with the party’s main rival, the Congress. True, the arrangement will be only for the Lok Sabha elections when the two parties are expected to work together against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is known to be rather weak in the state. Had there been a stronger opponent, there might have been a possibility, however faint, of the red flag and the tricolour fluttering together. In the present context, the distance between the CPI-M and the Congress is unlikely to be bridged, whatever the party line. All that can be expected is that their mutual recriminations will be put on hold. Unlike Kerala, where the CPI-M and the Congress are evenly matched as can be seen from the way the two parties come out on top in alternate assembly elections, both are quite weak in West Bengal at present. It is perhaps for this reason that the animus between them is not as strong as in Kerala, which is why they were able to fight the last assembly election jointly against the Trinamool Congress although to no avail. The two parties will also know that they are losing ground to the BJP in West Bengal, which has pushed the CPI-M down to the third position in recent elections and the Congress to the fourth. The Trinamool Congress, of course, remains at the top. For the two “losers”, however, the setbacks may facilitate their coming together in a rescue act. From this standpoint, there is unlikely to be any difficulty in reaching an understanding between the CPI-M and the Congress, except for the fact that it is not known what the ties will be between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress. If the projected joint platform against the BJP advocated by Mamata Banerjee takes shape, then a threesome comprising the Trinamool Congress, the CPI-M and the Congress cannot be ruled out although such a combination will be a rerun of the hodge-podge anti-Congress Janata conglomerate of 1977 and may prove to be equally fragile. In Tripura, the scene will be rather weird because the Congress has been politically assimilated by the BJP as the reversal of the vote shares of the two parties show. While the polling percentage of the Congress dropped precipitously from 36.5 in 2013 to 1.8 this year, that of the BJP rose from 1.5 per cent to 43, showing a wholesale migration of the Congress’s base of support to the BJP. The CPI-M, on the other hand, managed to hold on to its base by securing 42.6 per cent of the votes compared to 48 in 2013. But, given the virtual disappearance of the Congress, the Marxists are unlikely to be interested in an understanding with a non-existent party. In Tripura, therefore, the CPI-M will be taking on the BJP on its own. Of the other states, the CPI-M’s impressive performance in organising the week-long, 180 km “long march” of the farmers from Nashik to Mumbai last month has shown that the communists have retained some of their influence in Maharashtra although it is nowhere near what it was in the 1950s and 60s. If there is a Congress-Nationalist Congress Party tie-up in the state, the CPI-M will not have any difficulty in joining the two. It is in cementing an alliance (the word is anathema to Karat) of this nature in Maharashtra and elsewhere that the amiable Yechury can play a crucial role even if the Marxists will have no option but to play second fiddle. Even then, there is little doubt that as the electoral race gathers momentum, Yechury can be expected to be engaged in stitching the loose ends of the anti-BJP combination together, thereby gaining stature which his party’s position does not warrant. If he succeeds, it will put the final seal on his “victory” over Karat. (IANS)]]>

Pak says India's Kashmir talks gambit 'insincere'

The Labour Party angle

UK’s Labour leader Emily Thornberry put the pigeons among the cats recently when she said India needs to allow international human rights monitors in Kashmir. The 57-year-old shadow foreign secretary of the resurgent Labour Party was quoted as saying: “I know there are people in India who say these stories are exaggerated or indeed downright lies. And if that’s right, it does seem to me that India has nothing to fear from allowing human rights monitors into Kashmir in order to be able to support that it isn’t true.” Thornberry would be foreign secretary if the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party wins the next election, a distinct possibility in the wake of the disastrous Conservative showing in June’s snap poll.  In these elections, the Labour manifesto —whose Kashmir part was authored by Thornberry—spoke of urging negotiations towards political resolution in regions experiencing conflict, including Kashmir.  
  New Delhi designated former Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma as its representative to initiate “interaction and dialogue to understand the legitimate aspirations of the people” in Jammu and Kashmir.

Won’t work without Pak, says Former Hurriyat chief 

In India, mainline Hurriyat leaders maintained silence over the Centre’s decision to open a dialogue with all stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir, but a former chief of the separatist amalgam on Tuesday said any peace process without involving Pakistan was futile. Moulvi Abbas Ansari, a prominent Shia leader, said tripartite talks between India, Pakistan and people from Jammu and Kashmir, was the only way forward to resolve the Kashmir problem. “When I was the chairman of the Hurriyat Conference and general Pervez Musharraf ruled Pakistan, I told both the countries that a solution can only be reached if people from both parts of Kashmir are included in a tripartite dialogue between Kashmiris, India and Pakistan,” the senior separatist leader said in a statement.

Opposition doubts Centre’s intent

The Opposition, including the Congress and Left, on Tuesday voiced doubts at the government’s “intent and sincerity” behind its sudden Kashmir initiative and wondered if it was linked to the visit of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad on Tuesday said the Modi government after three years of “hot pursuit” was talking of dialogue for the sake of publicity, while Communist Party of India Marxist (CPI-M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury termed the Modi government’s approach on Kashmir as a “flip-flop policy”. “Tamannao me uljahaya gaya hoon/khilone dekar behlaya gaya hoon (I have been trapped in wishful thinking/I have been mollified by toys),” Azad said, underlining his views on the government’s dialogue initiative which he said has come too late and lacks a fixed timeframe.

NIA arrests Salahuddin’s son in terror funding case

The NIA on Tuesday arrested Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin’s son Syed Shahid in a six-year-old terror funding case, a day after the government decided to open talks with “all stakeholders” in Jammu and Kashmir. Shahid, 42, a state government employee, was arrested in Delhi after he was called for questioning at the National Investigation Agency (NIA) headquarters. “Shahid over the years has been receiving and collecting funds through international wire money transfer from” Hizbul Mujahideen militant Aijaz Bhat, a Srinagar resident now based in Saudi Arabia, an NIA statement said. The NIA said Shahid was one of Aijaz Bhat’s several contacts who were in telephonic touch “to receive the money transfer codes”. The money was meant to fund Hizbul Mujahideen’s militant activities in Jammu and Kashmir. Shahid, who lives with his family in Soibugh village of central Budgam district, has a masters degree in agriculture and works as a village agricultural assistant in the state’s agriculture department. His contractual job was confirmed by the government in March this year. The 2011 terror funding case pertains to terror money sent through hawala channels by militants based in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to Jammu and Kashmir. The NIA had filed two chargesheets against six accused in the case in 2011. Four of them – Ghulam Mohammed Bhat, one of the closest aides of hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mohammed Sidiq Ganai, Ghulam Jeelani Liloo and Farooq Ahmad Dagga – are currently in Delhi’s Tihar Jail. Two of the accused, Mohammad Maqbool Pandit and Aijaz Bhat, are on the run and have been declared proclaimed offenders. Pandit, like Aijaz Bhat, has been an active Hizbul Mujahideen militant and is currently based in Pakistan. Aijaz Bhat, according to NIA records, received arms training with the Hizbul Mujahideen in Pakistan-administered Kashmir in early 1990s. He never returned to Srinagar and began working for the militant group in Pakistan. He is said to have stayed in Sialkot before shifting to Saudi Arabia for generating funds for the group’s activities in Jammu and Kashmir. An NIA official said the agency through phone records found that he was in touch with Ghulam Mohammed Bhat, a Srinagar-based lawyer, in 2011. According to NIA, the lawyer separatist had procured over Rs 4.50 crore from Pakistan through hawala channels within three years after 2008 for funding militant activities in the Kashmir Valley. Ghulam Mohammed Bhat, Ganai, Liloo and Dagga were arrested on January 22, 2011 and Rs 21.20 lakh were recovered from them. After their arrest, Aijaz Bhat used to send money to Shahid. The Hizb founder’s son, according to an NIA official, received at least four instalments of money in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Shahid is the third son of Salahuddin, who also heads the United Jehad Council, the amalgam of Kashmir militant groups based in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan. Salahuddin unsuccessfully fought the 1987 Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. He then crossed over to Pakistan and founded the Hizbul Mujahideen — the largest militant group in Jammu and Kasmir. Salahuddin has five sons and two daughters, who are all employed with the state government.   (with IANS)   // ]]>