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June - July 2009
News and Views
Post Election Scenario
President invites Manmohan Singh to form Government
LK Advani resigns as the head of NDA; but persuaded by the BJP Presiddent Rajnath Singh to continue for the time being as his resignation would otherwise bring in the open the conflict and clashes of personalities among the top leadership of the BJP.
Modi happy in Gujarat
Modi affirms that he has never projected himself as PM candidate. “My stand has always been clear that I am from Gujarat and will keep working for the state.” Modi to Media.
SP, RJD & LJP:
Rebuffed by the Congress.
There may not be any seat for them in the cabinet.
Let us remind the readers that the NCP (National Congress Party) and Trinamool Congress were both a part of the Congress party. They parted with the Congrss party on the question of leadership of the Congress by Sonia Gandhi who before the 2004 elections was being promoted as the Prime Minister.They did not want Sonia Gandhi to be the Prime Minister. Hence, they left the Congress party and formed their own parties. The NCP of Sharad Pawar joined the Congress as an ally after the 2004 elections when Sonia Gandhi, in stead of herself becoming the Prime Minister, offered it to Dr Manmohan Singh. This shrewd move silenced the opposition within her party as well as among many opposition groups who, later on, joined the Congress party in an alliance called the UPA (United Progressive Alliance). The first split within the alliance occurred when the left parties stopped their support to the UPA on the issue of Nuclear Treaty with the United States of America.
Sonia called the Congress party members to work to restore the ‘historical’ role of the Congress as ‘the natural party of governance”
Addressing the members of the Congress Working Committee she said, “We meet at a moment of great significance and a time of great responsibility and of course great satisfaction.” Cautioning the members she said,”It is a moment for sober introspection. I would like us to think back to the dreams of our leaders, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indiraji and Rajivji and so many more of them who taught us to think not of power but of service and who gave their lives for the country.”
The Congress Working Committee passed two resolutions, the first one thanking the people of the country for the mandate given to the Congress and her allies. The second one to appreciate the role of the Congress President and the Prime Minister Mr Manmohan Singh. “She (Sonia Gandhi) led the Congress party with determination, discipline and drive to a resounding victory. She articulated and communicated our party’s key campaign messages and themes indefatigably”.
The Election Commission not happy with the Exit Polls
The Election Commission in its first report after the successful conclusion of the elections said,”We believe that exit polls and opinion polls are manipulated. They do influence free and fair polls and every political party opposed it”. opined Mr Quraishi, one of the three members of the Election Commission.
Samajwadi Party and RJD humiliated by the Congress party members
Now they are complaining! Humiliated by the voters, the leaders of SP, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh, are complaining that it was their party which saved Manmohan Singh government; and now they are keeping them at bay. “We are there for secular forces, and would be ready to extend support to the UPA”, said the disgruntled leader of the SP; “But we were attacked by a section of Congress leaders who alleged that we are helping an industrial group in return of support”. “We are ready to sit in opposition if the Congress does not want our support”, said Mulayam Singh Yadav
Lalu Prasad Yadav with only 4 MPs (including himself)in the new Lok Sabha moaned that remaining in the Cabinet was not a big thing. He protested to Dr Manmohan Singh in vain. He said that he had told the Congress President Sonia Gandhi too that he was displeased with the way he was being treated by the leaders of the Congress party.
General Elections Highlights
15th Lok Sabha April 16 to May 13
THE DAY OF RECKONING MAY16
“EVERY PARTY, EVERY GROUP IS NEGOTIATING AND EVERYBODY IS IN EVERYBODY’S STRATEGY” said Sharad Yadav President of JDU, at present aligned with NDA
After nearly a month of general election ‘tamasha’ or turmoil, the scenario has become ludicrously chaotic. Political ideologies ceased to have any meaning. Leaders are explaining and counter-explaining their attitude to one or the other major political parties. Political chaos is imminent.
Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi went all the way to Chennai to declare that the bed-ridden octogenarians leader of DMK is still with them; obviously discarding Jayalalitha and her party AIDMK. Is the lady, only a few weeks ago declaring herself to be with the third front of ‘lefties’, thinking once again to join NDA under LK Advani?
The third front seems to have lost its voice.The new voice coming from the third front is that of Budhdeb, the Chief Minister of West Bengal. Reconciliation with the Congress is the theme of his statements. Prakash Karat and his wife, uptill now the voice of left, seem to have gone into political sleep.
BJP leadership has been working hard to revive NDA. It showed some strength recently in Ludhiana on Sunday May 10, when it showcased the successful chief ministers of BJP and its allies. Nitish Kumar, the Bihar Chief Minister and Narendra Modi, the successful Chief Minister of Gujarat shaking hands on the stage was quite a scoop for the BJP leadership. Whether it will translate into more votes for the NDA will be seen in the last phase of election.
Having fully recovered from his heart surgery, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has been emphasising his fitness by going round the country, attacking LK Advani for destroying the Babri Masjid single-handedly, chastising the leftist parties for their shortsightedness in not understanding fully the great achievement of his regime i.e. the Nuclear Treaty with the United States. The learned doctor has also been busy in salvaging his party’s achievements from the wrong statements being given by the amateur heir apparent Rahul Gandhi.
Varun Gandhi continues to be in the limelight by his outspoken statements
The great grandson of Jawahar Lal Nehru and the grandson of Indira Gandhi, Varun, son of Maneka and late Sanjay Gandhi, has rightly been emphasising the role of family planning and compulsory military training for all young Indians. Indian governments, whether NDA or UPA had been shirking their responsibility to the nation on these two issues. Family planning, even if coercive to some, is the only way that would bring India out of gutter, as it has unfortunately fallen in despite consistent high economic growth. The damning World Bank report should open the eyes of the governing classes of India. Whatever combination of political parties comes to power, the family planning should be at the top of the agenda, together with education for the masses, development and national security.
Whether compulsory national service would bring national security is, at this stage, merely a conjecture. But it will definitely bring national unity among the young people of India who at this moment in history seem to have lost the sense of their heritage and the vision for the future of their country. One only hopes that they do not become another lost generation entangled as they are in the rigmarole of computers, internet and economy of greed and frivolous living as witnessed by the popularity of IPL in cricket and the attitude of Indian television media which fails to project honesty, impartial and unbiased reporting, the essential ingredient of any professional journalism. Reporting on Varun Gandhi is one such glaring example.
Let us wait for the verdict from the voters of Pilibhit (UP).
World Bank’s verdict on India’s Poverty
According to World Bank’s Report ‘Global Economic Prospects for 2009’ a quarter of India’s population will be living in extreme poverty, on less than USD 1.25 a day, in 2015. China, on the other hand will have only 6.1% of its population below poverty line.
In 1990, according to the World Bank’s poverty forecast India had 51.3% population below poverty line whereas China had 60.2 %
In 2005, China had 15.9% of its population living in extreme poverty whereas India’s had come down to only 41.6% living on less than $1.25 a day, the international poverty line.
The Bank says,”The international poverty line is meant to capture a notion of extreme poverty . As such, it is calculated as the average poverty line of the poorest countries.”
According to the report the number of Indians living in extreme poverty was 51.3% (436 million) in 1990, 41.6% (456 million in 2005) and will be down to 25.4% (313 million) in 2015. Only the Sub-Saharan Africa will have more poor in percentage term than India. The percentage of extremely poor in sub-Saharan African countries will still be 37%.
Narendra Modi is right to question Why the river networking project has become a non-starter under the UPA regime
The Times of India revealed, “After seven years and much water having flown down, the fate of the ambitious Rs.5,00,000 crore river networking project proposing linkages between major rivers by the year 2016 has virtually remained a non-starter and the detailed project report is virtually in cold storage.”
Last year the Supreme Court told the central government “to file a status report indicating the Bar Chart also”.
The ambitious project aimed at ending droughts and control floods for ever was mooted in 1972 by then Union Irrigation minister KL Rao. NDA took the idea in its election manifesto. The NDA government under Vajpayee set up a task force headed by Suresh Prabhu which focused on earlier identified 30 links and prepared a time-table for its implementation.
The latest report submitted to the Supreme Court presented a gloomy picture. It said, “States of Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have not filed affidavits.”
Only Gujarat, as mentioned by Narendra Modi in his speech, “has already linked almost 20 rivers in the State?
Nitish and the question of that Rs.1000 crore
It was dramatic and it was very effective. Nitish Kumar’s statement at a press conference in Ludhiana that he got a fax from the central government asking for the refund of Rs1000 crore which was given to Bihar in the wake of the Kosi floods proved to the people of India the incompetence of the central government under Manmohan Singh. Naturally, Dr Manmohan Singh was incensed. Perhaps he did not know. He rang up Nitish Kumar next day. What transpired between them, alas, we do not know. This, however, is a fact that many decisions were taken by the UPA government without the Prime Minister knowing about them
MCNULTY: DELIVERING EXTRA SUPPORT TO GET PEOPLE BACK TO WORK
People who lose their jobs are getting real help to find their way back into work said Employment Minister Tony McNulty today.
From the start of this month jobseekers can get more help from day one of their claim, while the 25% who don’t move off benefits within six months now have access to greater support to get back into work.
New figures out today from the UK Statistics Authority show unemployment continuing to rise, though over a quarter of a million people left the claimant count last month.
Tony McNulty said:
“We know that times are tough and these figures are disappointing. However, lots of people are still finding work and while there were 363,500 new claims for JSA last month, over 275,000 people flowed off unemployment benefits – that’s an increase of 22,500 from last month.
“We will not give up on people and will do everything we can to make sure that if you become unemployed we can help you get back to work as quickly as possible. The extra package of support at both day one and six months of a claim is now available and being used to help people back into work. We have also invested £2bn to ensure Jobcentre Plus can continue to offer all its customers a first class service.”
Jobcentre Plus (JCP) can help employers and employees through its Rapid Response Service, which offers immediate support early on – even before someone becomes redundant. Over 1500 employers have used this support since the service was expanded in November last year.
From day one of becoming unemployed people can now take advantage of Local Employment Partnerships, which provide opportunities for people to find work with local employers. Last month each week 3,800 people got back to work through the scheme.
Over 300 recruitment agencies have signed up to help newly unemployed professionals by offering specialist job search support, and we now have 142 national companies working with JCP on take up of the new recruitment subsidy worth £1,000 along with access to training worth up to £1500, which will help unemployed people of six months or more into employment.
Lord Dholakia speaks in the debate on the Channel 4 Dispatches Programme “Undercover mosque”
Lord Dholakia, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, spoke during a debate on the Channel 4 Dispatches Programme “Undercover Mosque” on Monday 20th April 2009.
Lord Dholakia began by saying, “There can be no doubt that the screening of the “Undercover Mosque” programme by Channel 4 raised a number of broad policy issues that required explanation.” He said that these included the implications on the future of prosecutions of incitement to racial hatred and the effect of such decisions on civil liberties issues.
He went to say that it was “disturbing and worrying” that the CPS had been pressed by the police to investigate the possibility of criminal charges against Channel 4 following the programme despite the CPS’s insistence that there was no evidence that an offence of incitement to racial hatred had taken place. He was also concerned that the police had not sought an independent review by Ofcom.
Following this, Lord Dholakia said, “I abhor extremism of any kind; it should have no place in a democratic society. The media have a role in exposing extremism; many agencies are too patronising towards individuals in our communities and often political correctness inhibits actions that could prevent the preaching of hatred in some of our so-called religious institutions. It beggars belief that instead of complimenting Channel 4 for exposing hate merchants who peddle extremism, the West Midlands Police force concluded that, ‘there was no case to answer in terms of the Criminal Law as it applied at that time and there was no prosecution capable of being mounted against those preachers who appeared in that programme’. Yet it was perfectly happy to consider instituting proceedings against Channel 4 for inciting racial hatred”
He continued by saying that “It is not good enough to say, “We got it wrong and we have apologised”. We are entitled to know why the West Midlands Police and the CPS did not regard “Undercover Mosque” as a serious programme dealing with a legitimate area of concern. Neither body gave thought to the freedom of expression so fundamental to our civil liberties. At best it smacks of self-censorship, and I am glad that this misguided approach to improve community relations backfired. It has
undoubtedly damaged community relations. We are entitled to know what motivated the actions and complaints against the programme”.
Lord Dholakia then noted that the National Secular Society complained to various agencies including the police themselves, the IPCC and the police authority regarding the actions taken following the broadcast of “Undercover Mosque”. He said, “In effect, the police did not even have to investigate the complaint. That sounds very odd. I find it difficult to accept that the Police Reform Act is sufficient to deal with the actions of the police, as mentioned by the Home Office Minister. I am not
surprised that the IPCC is now reviewing the police complaints system and revising its statutory guidance to consider any changes that may be necessary”.
He concluded that “Equality has a particular significance in the field of criminal justice. It strikes at the very heart of our democratic process. Police powers, if used oppressively, could ruin the lives of victims. The police need to take a dispassionate approach on policing matters…Nick Hardwick is right to remind the police that they are “servants not masters” of the people. It has taken years of struggle in this country to establish rights and liberties of individuals. Freedom of expression was very nearly trampled on by the police in how they dealt with Channel 4”.
New City Charter to tackle economy, crime and climate change in London
A groundbreaking new agreement to address the economic downturn, funding for the capital, policing and youth crime, transport and climate change was announced today.
The first ever City Charter for London commits the Mayor and London's 33 local authorities to work together more closely in order to improve the capital's public services and deliver better value for money for London taxpayers.
As a result of the charter issues including the delivery of 5000 new apprenticeships, involving councils in the recruitment and retention of Borough Commanders and campaigning for a fairer share of funding for the capital from central Government will be jointly discussed by the Mayor and boroughs.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and Chairman of London Councils, Merrick Cockell agreed the first City Charter at a meeting between the Mayor and leaders of the capital's boroughs at City Hall today.
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said,
"For far too long relations between City Hall and the boroughs have been confrontational rather than constructive, hindering the development of our great city. In these times of huge challenges for the capital we cannot afford for that to continue.
"Today we have agreed the first ever City Charter for London which will lead to a far more productive relationship which will benefit millions of Londoners.
"The charter will address the most pressing issues for the capital, ensuring we emerge stronger from the current economic downturn, cut crime and violence and improve our transport system. This will mean looking at how we deliver 5000 new apprenticeships over 3 years, support the development of town centres and ensure we get a fairer share of funding for London from Government.
"The City Charter marks a new era in the relationship between the City Hall and the capital's boroughs to get a better deal for Londoners and make our city safer, greener and more prosperous."
Chairman of London Councils and Leader of London Councils' Conservative Group Councillor Merrick Cockell said:
"As a world city, London faces many challenges alongside its many opportunities. With the City Charter, London Councils and the Mayor have committed to work closer together to meet those challenges, now made all the tougher by the economic recession. The City Charter also focuses our attention on how we can better assist our residents, businesses and visitors to take advantage of the many opportunities offered by our great city.
"The City Charter is not an end in itself but a means by which London Councils and the Mayor can better work together to deliver improved services and better value for money for Londoners.
"The success of the City Charter will be measured by how it enables the capital's boroughs to work more closely with the Mayor in tackling Londoners' concerns - the economy, crime, and transport. Today's event marks the commitment by borough leaders and the Mayor to making the City Charter a success for London."
Leader of London Councils' Labour Group Mayor Jules Pipe said:
"Local authorities should always be working together where it can benefit London's residents and businesses, and that includes a good working relationship between the boroughs and the Mayor of London. I hope the City Charter will contribute to building that relationship."
Leader of London Councils' Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Sean Brennan said:
"This is about making Londoners a priority. This Charter has high aspirations but it is the actions that will make a real difference to people's lives. All of London's politicians should be judged on their results and this Charter demands we put effort in to working together and put our residents needs first."
A Congress of Leaders chaired by the Mayor and consisting of the Leaders of each London Borough and the Chairman of the Policy & Resources Committee of the City of London Corporation will oversee the development of the City Charter and set key priorities for the capital.
UK ends combat mission in Iraq
After a commitment lasting more than six years, British Forces have successfully completed their combat mission in Basra and will now start leaving southern Iraq.
Today, forces stationed at the Contingency Operating Base (COB) outside Basra were joined by Defence Secretary John Hutton MP for a day of reflection on the mission, commemoration of their losses, and celebration of British achievements in Iraq since Operation TELIC was launched in 2003.
Having already drawn down the Divisional Headquarters a month ago, UK forces now begin their final withdrawal, handing over the Coalition brigade command in a move which marks the transition from a combat mission to a close and enduring bilateral relationship with Iraq.
John Hutton said:
"The past six years have seen a heavy price paid: 179 brave people have died in the service of their country on Operation Telic. Their sacrifice must not be forgotten, and that is why it was a privilege to attend the final, poignant service of commemoration in Basra.
"But Iraq's progress over the six years, no matter how uneven or uncertain it may have appeared at times, shows that their sacrifice has not been in vain. Following the peaceful elections in January, Basra has a new democratically-elected and representative Provincial Council. Protected by the Iraqi Security Forces we have trained, the city finally has the chance to achieve its full potential.
"Over six challenging years, British forces have helped to set Basra on the path towards enduring stability and economic growth. They have supported reconstruction, set the airport on the path to international accreditation and helped to develop the port facilities at Umm Qasr. Basra is a better place for our men and women being there and I pay tribute to all of them."
The last day of the British mission was marked today by two main events on the COB. Following the memorial service, Mr Hutton attended the formal "transfer of authority" ceremony. The service took place at Basra's Memorial Wall, which will soon be dismantled and replicated at the National Memorial Arboretum in the UK. The Defence Secretary also met members of 20th Armoured Brigade now preparing to leave Iraq, as well as some of the Royal Navy personnel who will be staying behind to continue to train the Iraqi Navy.
The UK's future relationship with Iraq will be one of partnership. We are currently discussing the precise scope of our future military activity with the Government of Iraq, but up to 400 UK military personnel are likely to remain in Iraq after July. They will continue to provide specialist training and mentoring support to Iraqi forces, leading the development of the Iraqi Navy and playing a key role in military officer training.
With the Iraqis now firmly in the lead on security, UK Government support can now focus on helping the Iraqi Government to stimulate its economy and fulfil its potential as a resource-rich sovereign nation.
Brigadier Tom Beckett, commander of 20th Armoured Brigade, said:
"Today marks the end of the UK's combat mission in support of the government of Iraq, but it does not mark the end of the UK's relationship with Iraq.
"We are sad to leave our Iraqi friends, but we leave knowing we have done our job, and done it well. We leave with our heads held high.
"We know we leave the security of Basra province in safe and capable hands. Trained by the UK, 14th Iraqi Division is a professional counter-insurgency division. It has strong leaders, strength in depth in its junior ranks, and brave and dedicated soldiers."