Padmavati threats not acceptable: V-P Naidu

Amid a raging row over “Padmavati”, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday said that nobody has the right to take law into their hands, but at the same time nobody has the right to hurt others sentiments. Speaking at the inaugural session of the Times Litfest, Naidu emphasised that inciting violence or unlawful activities as a way of protest such as announcing bounty on some people’s heads was “unacceptable”. “Now this new problem has come related to some film. Some people feel that it is hurting the sentiments of this community or that community and then they protest. Some of them go out of the way and announce rewards. This is not acceptable,” he said, without naming anyone. “You have a right to protest in a democratic manner. Go to appropriate authorities and complain to them. Take the recourse in a democratic way but you cannot physically obstruct. And you cannot give violent threats,” he said. “You don’t have a right to take law into your hands. At the same time you don’t have the right to hurt the sentiments of others. That is a reality,” he said, adding that some people are quite “selective” in their criticism. He said respecting others’ sentiments and feelings is the “essence of our culture”. A controversy has been raging over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s period drama “Padmavati” with several organisations, mainly from the Rajput community, opposing release of the movie on the grounds it “distorts history”. Fringe elements have also announced rewards on the heads of actress Deepika Padukone and film director Bhansali. The Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor starrer was scheduled to be released on December 1, but it has now been deferred. Referring to an article in a newspaper, Naidu said in the past too films have faced bans and obstructions and mentioned “Aandhi” and “Garam Hava” as some examples. “Aandhi” (1975) whose protagonist had striking similarities with the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was banned after 26 weeks of release. “Garam Hava” was held up by the censor board for eight months.” Speaking on Parliamentary democracy, Naidu said that it was not important as to how many days Parliament meets, the important thing was for how many days “it functions”. Naidu said people have a right to disagree but first they “must learn to respect the majority and the people’s mandate”. Naidu also said that while dissent was agreeable, “disintegration is not acceptable”. “That is the bottom line and any attempt to undermine integrity and unity of India by forces inimical to growth of India must be nipped in the bud,” he said in reference to last year’ Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) controversy.

(IANS) // ]]>

BJP WINS BIG: MIXED BLESSINGS FOR INDIA?

By Mahendra Ved The best thing that can be said, with a sigh of relief, about the campaign for the elections to India’s top constitutional offices, those of the President and the Vice President, is that it did not go toxic. And the most significant outcome of the twin elections is that for the first time, the BJP, currently on the roller coaster in most parts of the country, will have all the top four constitutional offices. This achievement of the Sangh Parivar to which it belongs could be a mixed blessing for India that has at its core diversity and plurality. Unlike the way the last Lok Sabha polls in 2014 and the subsequent state assemblies have witnessed in the last three years, there was no name-calling, no blame-game, no nasty innuendoes, no damning of individuals and institutions. One hopes the campaign for the vice president’s post that is underway as this is being written remains healthy. When 17 opposition parties fielded former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar for the presidency, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, or someone on her behalf, did complain of Swaraj being “shut out” by Kumar, as chair of the House, from speaking when the former was the Leader of the Opposition. That, along with the filmy footage of the House proceedings, one might say, was belated, legitimate protest — nothing unfair or untoward. One reason for decent norms adopted by all is that the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had the numbers to easily win both the posts. Arm-chair analysts did go into convulsions, but the outcome was foregone. The other reason is that the opposition parties were in disarray and it was easy for the NDA to break their ranks. When the NDA put up a Dalit, the opposition felt the political compulsion of pitting another Dalit. Both sides can be accused of tokenism since elevation of representatives of the deprived classes to high offices has not really improved the latter’s fate. If it was a token fight owing to the numbers ranged in the NDA’s favour, the opposition did try to turn it into an “ideological one”, to counter the current religious and social discourse and acts of vigilantes targeting religious minorities. Toxicity on one score did not generate another – and that is the reason for relief. Ram Nath Kovind was on July 20 elected India’s 14th President. Once an aide of late Prime Minister Morarji Desai, a low-profile party functionary and a Supreme Court lawyer, he is reputed to be a warm, informal and a candid person, according to those who have interacted with him in Parliament’s Central Hall. These qualities must endear him to the people since two of his predecessors, APJ Abdul Kalam and Pranab Mukherjee made accessibility to the public a hallmark of their tenures in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. What is politically important is that Kovind will not have ideological differences with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues with whom he must work. All of them belong to the same political stable under the umbrella of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). This working together, in letter and spirit, is essential because India’s Constitution provides a mix of the Westminster parliamentary form that gives the prime minister overwhelming powers over Head of the State. Benign and ceremonial though, the president is designated Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, is the king/queen maker after parliamentary election. Like it had happened to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government when late K R Narayanan was the president, Modi now leaves behind veiled criticism from Mukherjee who, using language appropriate to the highest office, repeatedly called for assuaging ‘intolerance’ among sections of the public and an ‘inclusive’ approach essential for a diverse society that India is. Both Mukherjee and Mohammed Hamid Ansari, who will end his tenure as the vice president after ten years, sought to hold the mirror to the Modi Government and the BJP in the last three years.  Ansari’s reference to treatment of religious minorities earned him much trolling in the social media because he belongs to one of them. Apart from their respective observations on the government, undoubtedly made in careful, graceful language, both ran their offices within the parameters of the Constitution. While Ansari was a career diplomat, Mukherjee, easily the most experienced president the country has had so far, assiduously ran a constitutional presidency. It is significant since his term overlapped the governments of Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi. Such overlapping had also occurred when Kalam held the presidency. Criticism of the government from high constitutional offices even when the critic belongs to the same political party as the prime minister, and the President sending back legislations passed by parliament, have been the way Indian democratic system has evolved. These have, however, never sought to subvert the constitutional arrangement. From the same political stable as Modi comes M. Venkaiah Naidu who, thanks to the numbers the NDA commands among the country’s lawmakers, will surely get elected as the Vice President. If not senior to Kovind, Naidu is certainly better known. Known for endearingly using alliterations, witticisms and quips as a speaker, Naidu is likely to win acceptance from parties across the political spectrum. He will be chairing the Rajya Sabha, the ‘difficult’ upper house of Parliament, where the NDA will take a while to gain majority. Before Naidu gets elected, however, offering yet another token fight, also an ‘ideological’ one, is coming from Gopalakrishna Gandhi, a grandson of both, Mahatma Gandhi and C. Rajagopalachari. Administrator, diplomat and an erudite scholar, Gandhi has been a critic of the present political dispensation. Whether the outcome of the twin elections impacts the frequent incidents of violence remains to be seen. It is significant that RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, as “temporal head” of the Sangh Parivar of which the BJP is the political arm, has urged the entire flock to do nothing to ‘embarrass’ the Modi Government. If that is heeded, the Modi Government can push its development agenda free of social turmoil. Finally, much has been said, here and elsewhere, about the ‘token’ fight, when the numbers are staked one way and the outcome is foregone. But that is the essence of democracy. Margins of victory or defeat do not matter.  Gandhi is a sterling example of a democratic ethos that India needs at any given time. Kumar and Gandhi may be out-voted, but healthy democratic discourse must go on. (Ends) // ]]>