Sunday, August 18, was a day of high-voltage political action in Haryana as Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar organized a 2,100-kilometre road journey (rath yatra) and former Chief Minister Bhupender Singh Hooda held a mega rally. Khattar named his journey as “Ashirwad Yatra” while Hooda named his rally as “Parivartan Maha Rally”. According to state BJP President Subhash Barala, Chief Minister Khattar’s road show will be carried out in five phases and each phase would consist of three days. Khattar’s yatra commenced from Kalka and will conclude in Rohtak on September 8.
The Chief Minister had started his yatra from Kalka mandi after paying obeisance at Kali Mandir in the presence of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and other union ministers. PM Narendra Modi is expected to address the Rohtak rally on September 8. Haryana goes to polls in October this year where BJP aims to increase his tally. Similarly, Congress leader Hooda also wants to gain the ground, which he has lost in state and nationally under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi. It is now to see whether the Hooda (Jats) will go with Congress or would lend support indirectly to BJP.
Suspense over Bhupinder Singh Hooda
The suspense in Haryana Congress after the fight between former Chief Minister and Jat leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda and state Congress chief and Dalit leader Ashok Tanwar has peaked, but it hopefully ends on Sunday at Hooda’s Parivartan Maha Rally on home turf Rohtak. It is rumoured that Hooda met Congress President Sonia Gandhi in Delhi on August 17, but according to a close aide of Hooda, the former CM denied the meeting.
Now Hooda is going to decide whether he will launch a new party or join the NCP. According to Hooda supporters, the former Chief Minister should float a new political outfit and leave the Congress, but Hooda said that he wouldtalk about this in the rally. According to Sant Kumar – a former MLA who has left the Congress after fighting with Ashok Tanwar and staunch supporter of Hooda – said that Hooda and his ilk can join the NCP and there is very little chance that they will continue in the Congress.
Another former MLA, Jai Tirath Dahiya who quit as an MLA few days ago after fighting with Ashok Tanwar, blamed Ghulam Nabi Azad who is the in-charge of Haryana for ignoring Hooda and his supporters, causing all the cadres affiliated with Hooda pressuring the former CM to launch a new political outfit. Although there are many posters in the rally showcasing Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Ghulam Nabi Azad prominently, the buzz is that if Bhupender Singh Hooda leaves the party, then Birender Singh and Rao Inderjit Singh may return to the Congress.
Pujas to pay taxes
Now the fight between TMC and BJP has shifted towards the assorted Durga Puja committees in West Bengal. Most of the Durga Puja committees are run by TMC members. The Income Tax department has given notices to these committees to file their accounts to the department immediately, resulting in the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee saying: “The Income Tax Department has issued notices to many committees who organise Durga pujos, asking them to pay taxes. We are proud of all our national festivals.” TMC blamed that BJP wants to control all the committees by threatening them on the issue of monetary expenses. According to Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim, this is clearly a threatening strategy to take over the Puja committees.
However, BJP leader Rahul Sinha has claimed that TMC is giving money to these Puja committees from the money TMC leaders have collected from the chit fund scam. On the other hand, TMC general secretary Partha Chatterjee has claimed that the money for Puja committees has been collected from the common people and small businessmen, and this is not a personal puja for which income tax department has sent notices to the Durga Puja Committees. Meanwhile, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) “unequivocally stated that the said reports are factually incorrect and are strongly denied”. “It is a fact that no notice was issued to the Durga Puja Committee Forum by the I-T department during this year,” it said.
PM hush on Pakistan
At the President’s August 15 ‘At Home’, an annual protocol event, it seems PM Narendra Modi was in a rather jovial mood. Asked by a veteran woman journalist why he did not mention Pakistan even once in his I-Day speech, he laughed out loud: “Aap log haina uske liye!” In the debate over the PM’s talk on the population and the announcement of the new post of Chief of Defence Staff, what was mostly ignored was his overture to Afghanistan on its 100th year of independence, earned much before India. The other was the way he isolated Pakistan in the neighbourhood, by telling all others — Sri Lanka and Bangladesh included — where their problem of terrorism emanates from, without naming Islamabad’s terror factory by name though.
The writer is a freelance journalist. Views are personal.
- Nora Rahil Chopra