Handsome win for BJP in state bypolls

The fact that the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh has consolidated its position after winning 19 of the 28 assembly by-elections has not received adequate attention in the national obsession with the Bihar outcome. In Bihar, even after emerging a much bigger party, the BJP will still have to contend with the chief minister from its now junior ally, the JD(U). This was a pre-election commitment made publicly and unambiguously by senior leaders of the party.

Contrary to the completely false claim by the Shiv Sena megaphones in Maharashtra, no such assurance was given either before, during or after the campaign for the Assembly poll. The Sena was bent on 'dadagiri' and wanted to snatch the chief ministerial 'gaddi' from the senior partner even if it entailed reneging on its ideological moorings, and supping with those whom it had all along treated as ogres. Regardless, such treachery is unlikely to prove rewarding eventually.

But in Madhya Pradesh, the emphatic win of those who had defected from the Congress Party under Jyotiraditya Scindia’s leadership and contested the bypolls on the BJP ticket could well result in the marginalisation of the Congress veteran Kamal Nath. Whether he has the stamina and the determination to sit in the Opposition for three more years before another assembly poll becomes due or switch to Central politics is his choice. But after the by-election win, it is unlikely that any bid to destabilise the well-entrenched Chouhan Government will bear fruit. Particularly when an expansion of the Modi government would most likely accommodate Scindia in a key ministry. All in all, a grim picture for the Congress Party in Madhya Pradesh, where factional fights further erode the party strength.

Meanwhile, in Gujarat, the Congress was wiped out in the bypolls, with the BJP winning all eight seats which were earlier with the Congress. In UP, the BJP won six of the seven byelections, consolidating further the position of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath both in the party and outside. The saffron-clad head of the Gorakhpur 'math' has emerged as a star speaker for the party, much in demand for campaigning in other states as well. After two years in office, he faces no challenge within the party. Being a hands-on administrator, his connect with the common people is said to be his trump card.

Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa received a shot in the arm from the handsome victory of the party in the two seats which witnessed bypolls due to the death of a JD(S) MLA and the defection of a Congress MLA. Both seats elected BJP candidates with large margins, thus putting paid to the simmering move in the ruling party to replace Yediyurappa with a younger leader. All in all, the BJP had a very good outing on the counting day.

When SC rebuked Maha Govt.

That the Supreme Court granted interim bail to the Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami on Wednesday did not come as a surprise. It was certain to provide relief in what was a clear case of a blatantly arbitrary arrest in pursuance of a personal agenda of vendetta against a loud, disrespectful and often abusive TV anchor. What was most striking was the strong words the court used to rebuke the Bombay high court judges who failed in their constitutional duty to uphold the fundamental right to liberty of Goswami against a clear evidence of abuse of power by the state government.

On Monday, the high court had rejected Goswami’s plea for interim bail, after hearing the case for four days, even as Goswami stayed locked up in prison. The SC Justices D Y Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee were sharp in criticism of the high court for 'writing 56 pages in their order without examining the basic question… if the high courts do not exercise their role to protect citizens’ liberty, who will…?’ the SC judges asked.

But the most stringent criticism was reserved for the Uddhav Thackeray government: “If this is what our state governments will do to people who have to be nailed, … the Supreme Court has to be here for every citizen.” During the course of the arguments, a shocking claim was made by Goswami’s lawyer, Harish Salve. Reading from a document he told the court that the architect Anvay Naik, before committing suicide, had “murdered” his mother. Also, he was in financial crisis for a long time and suffered from depression, Salve told the SC bench.

There is clearly a lot that the government has kept from the people before it reopened the 2018 case which had been closed after due process. Hopefully, the court strictures will impart good sense to the rulers in Maharashtra. They had shown extraordinary zeal to 'teach a lesson’ to the TV anchor who had targeted them for their alleged acts of omission and commission. Hopefully, further targeting of Goswami will stop. Use other legal avenues available for redressal of genuine grievances, if any.

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Free Press Journal