Category Archives: Politics

New Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya To Lead India’s Fight Against Covid

Mansukh Mandaviya, 49, is among the seven ministers promoted to the Cabinet on Wednesday.

New Delhi: 

Mansukh Mandaviya, India’s new Health Minister, takes over the country’s Covid fight at a critical time when the government is working on a strategy to stave off a third wave of infections by ramping up vaccinations.

Notably, in the past six days, Mansukh Mandaviya, as Minister of State for Chemicals and FertiIizers, visited the facilities of three vaccine-makers in the country – Serum Institute of India in Pune, Zydus in Ahmedabad and a Covaxin-producing facility in the same city.

The 49-year-old parliamentarian from Gujarat, who famously rode a bicycle to parliament, is among the seven ministers promoted to the Cabinet on Wednesday. He retains the Chemicals and Fertilisers ministry.

Mr Mandaviya studied veterinary science at the Gujarat Agricultural University and later completed a masters in political science.

He began as a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and rose through the ranks in the BJP. At 28, Mr Mandaviya became the youngest MLA in 2002.

In 2012, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat.

He joined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government first in 2016. He was Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Chemical and Fertilizers.

“Narendra Modi-ji and Amit Shah-ji have shown trust in me once again and invited me to be a part of this government. I am grateful to both of them,” he said today.

Mr Mandaviya’s predecessor Harsh Vardhan, who was the face of the government’s efforts to fight COVID-19, was asked to resign along with his deputy Ashwani Chaube.

Harsh Vardhan paid for the government’s massive struggle to check rising cases in the devastating second surge of Covid in April-May, when cities ran out of oxygen and hospitals were overwhelmed. India’s Covid handling drew criticism and was seen to dent the government’s image.

Rajinikanth entry in politics | The politician in waiting

Rajinikanth’s entry may shake up Tamil Nadu parties and alliances as they prepare for the Tamil Nadu polls due in five months.


Superstar Rajinikanth on Thursday sprung a surprise by announcing his decision to join politics just weeks after he talked about being advised by doctors that his health may not be up to the challenge. 

“I am willing to sacrifice my life for the sake of Tamil people,” the 69-year-old announced with a dramatic mix of idealism, daring, sacrifice and emotion befitting the “Thalaiva (leader)” of movies.

Even after Rajinikanth met with district secretaries of his Rajini Makkal Mandram on Monday, not many were hopeful. When he sought more time, they thought their leader was setting them up for disappointment.

But Rajinikanth has played the “will he, won’t he” game too long. Some believe it may be too late in the day, given his age and health.

Given the right circumstances, Rajinikanth’s entry may shake up Tamil Nadu parties and alliances as they prepare for the Tamil Nadu polls due in five months.

The veteran is seen to be close to the BJP’s ideology. “Rajinikanth’s views are similar to the BJP’s. We would appeal to him to support us,” said BJP spokesperson Narayanan Thirupathi.

Rajinikanth has always denied leaning towards the BJP though his statements in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies suggested otherwise.

Last year, days after the government ended special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Rajinikanth compared PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to “Krishna and Arjun” from the Mahabharata. In February, he backed the Citizenship Amendment Act.

While many accuse him of soft Hindutva, Rajinikanth has tried to make a clear distinction, saying his party is beyond caste, creed and religion and he will practise “spiritual” politics. His supporters say this means his party will appeal to people of all castes and religions.

At 69, can Rajinikanth pull off an NTR?

NTR or NT Rama Rao, was a mega star before he joined politics in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. He launched his political party in 1982 and months later, he became Chief Minister at the age of 59.

In Tamil Nadu, which has always seen rivals AIADMK and DMK dominating elections, and where caste plays a huge role, where does Rajinikanth stand with his yet-to-be launched party and a pledge to steer clear of caste, creed or religion?

The dominant castes in the state already have their champions — the Gounders have Chief Minister E Palanisami of the AIADMK, the Thevars have Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, the Vanniyars have Ramadoss and the scheduled castes have the VCK (Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi).

Fans do not necessarily convert into party cadre. The appeal of the ageless superstar would be as a face around which people can be mobilized. Without a larger organisational structure, he will find it hard to fight and win elections on his own.

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Some are trying to weaken fight against COVID for their own political interests: CM Yogi Adityanath

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath targeted the opposition parties on Tuesday, saying some people are trying to weaken the country’s fight against COVID-19 for their own political interests. “When the country is moving ahead in its fight against the coronavirus, there are many who are playing politics in this situation also,” he added.

“It is saddening that some people are attempting to weaken India’s strong fight against the virus due to their own political interests,” the chief minister said. Adityanath said a ‘PM Garib Kalyan’ package has been announced for the poor for the first time during the pandemic and “frustration is palpable among those people who used to usurp the money of welfare packages meant for the poor in their regimes”. He said while the government was standing by all without any discrimination, some parties were doing “unnecessary politics”.

“This is indecent behaviour against political decency. People know everything. They will themselves reply to the attitude of negative people. I appeal to the people of the state to support the government with patience and sensitivity,” Adityanath said. He said the government was working in the interests of 23 crore people of the state and migrant labourers.


Delhi Assembly Election: What is at stake for Arvind Kejriwal, PM Modi and Rahul Gandhi?

Around 1.5 crore voters of Delhi will elect their next government on February 8. The incumbent Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hopes to return to power on Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s appeal and performance of the government. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) banks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity to stage a comeback after 22 years. And, the Congress wishes to make an impact in the Delhi Assembly election that keeps the BJP out of power even if it means a second chance to its tormentor Arvind Kejriwal.

The AAP is in the fray with the slogan of “Kejriwal once more” in Delhi. The Delhi Assembly election is aa question of existence for the Aam Aadmi Party and relevance of Brand Kejriwal. Delhi is the only state where the AAP is in power.

To lose Delhi Assembly election, Kejriwal’s AAP will have to perform at nearly half of its 2015 show. Back then the party had won 67 of 70 seats. It lost one in the bypoll later. This time around, Kerjiwal has set a target of “67 paar” (winning more than 67 seats). This seems too ambitious given there is no palpable pro-incumbency wave in Delhi.

If the AAP loses power in Delhi Assembly election, this will push Kejriwal to the margins of Indian politics. Kejriwal faces the risk of being consigned to political dustbin as one-time-wonder if he fails to bring the AAP back to power in Delhi.

The only state outside Delhi where the AAP has some presence of note is Punjab, where infighting is troubling the party leadership in Delhi. It has 19 MLAs in Punjab and just one Lok Sabha MP. In 2014, it had four Lok Sabha MPs from Punjab.

A loss for Kejriwal or his party in Delhi Assembly election might actually be an epitaph for the AAP as far as any national role in politics is concerned.


Delhi has been a sour grape for the BJP, which has dominated the Lok Sabha elections here but falters in assembly polls. Despite a whirlwind of Modi wave in 2013-19, the BJP failed to win 2013 Delhi Assembly election, when it emerged as the single-largest party, and 2015 Delhi polls, when it finished a distant second with only three MLAs in the 70-member house. The rest were all AAP members.

The BJP depends heavily on PM Modi to return to power in the national capital. But this time, the BJP has mixed Modi mascot with local politics. It is focusing on local issues to counter the Kejriwal government’s claim of achievements. The BJP-led central government is playing the perfect political role.

The Centre announced regularization of Delhi’s unauthorised colonies, where Kejriwal had promised in 2015 to provide piped water. The Centre’s move just on the eve of Delhi Assembly election seems to be a copy of the Congress’s 2008 move, when then ruling party at the Centre had distributed ownership certificates to residents of unauthorised colonies. The Congress had retained power then. The BJP hopes to make a comeback.

But ultimately, it is the image of PM Modi that is at the stake for the BJP, which has declared that it will contest the Delhi Assembly election in his name. The BJP goes into the Delhi polls without a declared chief ministerial candidate. This has prompted the AAP to throw a jab at the BJP with a poser: Kejrival versus who? This has been the BJP’s election tactic, Modi vs who?

The BJP had projected VK Malhotra as CM candidate in 2008, Harsh Vardhan in 2013 and Kiran Bedi in 2015. They all failed to end BJP’s exile from power in Delhi. If the BJP fails to end its exile in Delhi, Brand Modi will be hit adversely, particularly at a time when Modi government’s pet exercises – revoking Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, the Citizenship Amendment Act and pan-India National Register of Citizens (NRC) – are being met with stiff resistance on the streets.


Though Sonia Gandhi is the Congress president but Delhi Assembly election will be a test for Rahul Gandhi, who had invested lot of time and energy in fixing (or, fanning, according to some) the party’s problems.

The Congress goes into the Delhi Assembly election with an unenviable track record. The Congress did not win a single seat in Delhi in 2014 Lok Sabha election, 2015 Delhi Assembly election and 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Ajay Maken was his choice for the Delhi Congress’s leadership after 2015 electoral loss. Following differences over alliance with the AAP for 2019 Lok Sabha election, he had resigned in January last year. Rahul Gandhi brought trusted Sheila Dikshit to keep the house in order. A three-time Delhi chief minister, Sheila Dikshit did try to salvage the Congress in the national capital.

The Congress pushed the AAP to third place in five of seven Lok Sabha seats. The Congress too improved its vote share in Delhi over 22 per cent, bettering the votes polled by the AAP by some 18 percentage point. But Sheila Dikshit death last year, many believe in the party, has affected the Congress’s prospects in Delhi Assembly election.

Delhi Congress chief Subhash Chopra and campaign committee chairman Kirti Azad – the former BJP MP – have expressed confidence of coming back to power in Delhi. But it appears to be a tall claim. Since both Chopra and Azad are said to be Rahul Gandhi’s choice for the positions they hold in Delhi Congress, another electoral drubbing would mark a serious dent on his political image.

On the brighter side, the Congress has only to gain in Delhi Assembly election. A smart election strategy may help the Congress exploit double anti-incumbency in Delhi – against the Modi government as well as the Kejriwal government. It depends on how well the Congress responds on the ground and how strongly the BJP and the AAP hold on to their strengths in building narrative for Delhi Assembly election.

Four reasons why Indira Gandhi declared Emergency

“The President has proclaimed Emergency. There is nothing to panic about.” The words of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi blared from the All India Radio in the wee hours of June 26. The nation, on the receiving end of this piece of news, was as unsuspecting of it as were Gandhi’s Cabinet ministers who had been informed just hours before the PM proceeded to the AIR studio. The proclamation of Emergency had been signed by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed the previous night itself. Soon after, newspaper presses across Delhi sank into darkness as a power cut ensured that nothing could be printed for the next two days. In the early hours of June 26, on the other hand, hundreds of political leaders, activists, and trade unionists opposed to the Congress Party were imprisoned.

The goal of the 21-month-long Emergency in the country was to control “internal disturbance”, for which the constitutional rights were suspended and freedom of speech and the press withdrawn. Indira Gandhi justified the drastic measure in terms of national interest, primarily based on three grounds. First, she said India’s security and democracy was in danger owing to the movement launched by Jayaprakash Narayan. Second, she was of the opinion that there was a need for rapid economic development and upliftment of the underprivileged. Third, she warned against the intervention of powers from abroad which could destabilise and weaken India.

The months preceding the declaration of the Emergency were fraught with economic troubles — growing unemployment, rampant inflation and scarcity of food. The dismal condition of the Indian economy was accompanied by widespread riots and protests in several parts of the country. Interestingly, the hitherto simmering borders of the country were rather quiet in the years preceding the Emergency. “As if to compensate, there was now trouble in the heartland, in parts of the country which, for reasons of history, politics, tradition, and language, had long considered themselves integral parts of the Republic of India,” writes historian Ramachandra Guha in his book, ‘India after Gandhi.’ The trouble began in Gujarat, spread to Bihar and from there to several other parts of Northern India. While the streets were raging against Gandhi’s governance, another challenge came to the doorstep of the prime minister in the form of a petition filed in the Allahabad High Court.

Here are the four major occurrences of the 1970s following which Indira Gandhi declared the Emergency.

Navnirman Andolan in Gujarat

In December 1973, students of L D College of Engineering in Ahmedabad went on a strike to protest against a hike in school fees. A month later, students of Gujarat University erupted in protest, demanding the dismissal of the state government. It called itself the ‘Navnirman movement’ or the movement for regeneration. Gujarat at this point in time was governed by the Congress under chief minister Chimanbhai Patel. The government was notorious for its corruption, and its head popularly referred to as chiman chor (thief).

The student protests against the government escalated and soon factory workers and people from other sectors of society joined in. Clashes with the police, burning of buses and government office and attacks on ration shops became an everyday occurrence. By February 1974, the central government was forced to act upon the protest. It suspended the Assembly and imposed President’s rule upon the state. “The last act of the Gujarat drama was played in March 1975 when, faced with continuing agitation and fast unto death by Morarji Desai, Indira Gandhi dissolved the assembly and announced fresh elections to it in June,” writes historian Bipin Chandra in his book, ‘India since Independence.’

The JP movement

Following in the footsteps of Gujarat or rather inspired by its success, a similar movement was launched in Bihar. A student protest erupted in Bihar in March 1974 to which opposition forces lent their strength. First, it was soon headed by 71-year-old freedom fighter Jayaprakash Narayan, popularly called JP. Second, in the case of Bihar, Indira Gandhi did not concede to the suspension of the Assembly. However, the JP movement was significant in determining her to declare Emergency.

A hero of the freedom struggle, JP had been known for his selfless activism since the days of the nationalist movement. “His entry gave the struggle a great boost, and also changed its name; what was till then the ‘Bihar movement’ now became the ‘JP movement’,” writes Guha. He motivated students to boycott classes and work towards raising the collective consciousness of the society. There were a large number of clashes with the police, courts, and offices, schools and colleges were being shut down.

In June 1974, JP led a large procession through the streets of Patna which culminated in a call for ‘total revolution’. He urged the dissenters to put pressure on the existing legislators to resign, so as to be able to pull down the Congress government. Further, JP toured across large sections of North India, drawing students, traders and sections of the intelligentsia towards his movement. Opposition parties who were crushed in 1971, saw in JP a popular leader best suited to stand up against Gandhi. JP too realised the necessity of the organisational capacity of these parties in order to be able to face Gandhi effectively.

Gandhi denounced the JP movement as being extra-parliamentary and challenged him to face her in the general elections of March 1976. While JP accepted the challenge and formed the National Coordination Committee for the purpose, Gandhi soon imposed the Emergency.

The railways’ protest

Even as Bihar was burning in agitations, the country was paralysed by a railways strike led by socialist leader George Fernandes. Lasting for three weeks, in May 1974, the strike resulted in the halt of the movement of goods and people. Guha, in his book, notes that as many as a million railwaymen participated in the movement. “There were militant demonstrations in many towns and cities- in several places, the army was called out to maintain the peace,” he writes. Gandhi’s government came down heavily on the protesters. Thousands of employees were arrested and their families were driven out of their quarters.

The Raj Narain verdict

While opposition parties, trade unions, students and parts of the intelligentsia had occupied the streets in protest against Indira Gandhi’s government, a new threat emerged before her in the form of a petition filed in the Allahabad High Court by socialist leader Raj Narain who had lost out to Gandhi in Raebareli parliamentary elections of 1971. The petition accused the prime minister of having won the elections through corrupt practices. It alleged that she spent more money than was allowed and further that her campaign was carried out by government officials.

On March 19, 1975, Gandhi became the first Indian prime minister to testify in court. On June 12, 1975, Justice Sinha read out the judgment in the Allahabad High Court declaring Gandhi’s election to Parliament as null and void, but she was given a span of 20 days to appeal to the Supreme Court.

On June 24, the Supreme Court put a conditional stay on the High Court order: Gandhi could attend Parliament, but would not be allowed to vote unless the court pronounced on her appeal. The judgments gave the impetus to the JP movement, convincing them of their demand for the resignation of the prime minister. Further, by now even senior members of the Congress party were of the opinion that her resignation would be favourable to the party. However, Gandhi firmly held on to the prime ministerial position with the conviction that she alone could lead the country in the state that it was in.

A day after the Supreme Court judgment, an ordinance was drafted declaring a state of internal emergency and the President signed on it immediately. In her letter to the President requesting the declaration of Emergency, Gandhi wrote, “Information has reached us that indicate imminent danger to the security of India.” In an interview with journalist Jonathan Dimbleby in 1978, when Gandhi was asked the precise nature of the danger to Indian security that drove her to declare a state of emergency, she promptly replied, “it was obvious, isn’t it? The whole subcontinent had been destabilised.”

One Nation One Election: An RSS-BJP Agenda lingering for two Decades

India’s political spectrum is split over the issue of “one nation one election” push by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has called a meeting of all party presidents on the matter today. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee and Telugu Desam Party boss N Chandrababu Naidu have voiced their opposition and would not be part of the meeting called by PM Modi.

Simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies would reduce election expenditure, lessen political animosity and free governance from the political compulsions of model code of conduct and poll promises.

When one nation one election was the norm

Concurrent elections were the norm between 1951 and 1967. During this period elections to the Lok Sabha were held fully or partially with state polls.

While all states went to the polls for the Lok Sabha and local assemblies in 1951-52, the reorganisation of states and dismissal of governments saw percentage of states voting simultaneously for both came down to 76 per cent in 1957 and 67 per cent in 1962 and 1967. The link broke almost completely in 1970s.

The RSS-BJP combine revived the debate in the late 1990s, when the BJP was gaining prominence in elections and Atal Bihari Vajpayee formed three – including one of 13 days – governments. BJP veteran LK Advani was a vocal proponent of simultaneous elections.

Debate revives under Vajpayee

In 1999, a law commission report during Vajpayee rule recommended holding elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. The law commission had proposed that when a no-confidence motion is moved against a government, it should also have a resolution for vote confidence for an alternative government.

In a meeting over “one nation one election” proposal, the law commission held an all-party meeting last year. Interestingly, the BJP along with the Congress had not stated any categorical view on the question.

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Samajwadi Party and YSR Congress came out in support of the proposal while the Communist Party of India, the BSP, the TMC, the TDP and a few others had opposed holding simultaneous elections.

The Modi push

In Januaray 2017, PM Modi suggested at a function that a feasibility study for holding simultaneous elections should be done. Three months later speaking at a meeting of the Niti Aayog with the chief ministers, PM Modi reiterated that possibility of holding simultaneous Lok Sabha and state elections should be explored.

Curiously, Modi’s push followed a parliamentary committee report in December 2015 — under the chairmanship of the then Rajya Sabha MP EM Sudarsana Natchiappan of the Congress — recommended simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies.

After Modi’s push, the Niti Aayog, in a Note on Simultaneous Elections suggested a formula to hold concurrent Lok Sabha and assembly polls in two phases by 2021 but that proposal also included 2019 general elections in its ambit.

The recent polls, however, were not held according to that proposal. OP Rawat as chief election commissioner in October 2017 had said that the poll panel was equipped to hold simultaneous elections but the decision had to be taken at the political level.

After the BJP’s victory in the Lok Sabha election, PM Modi has given the idea a fresh push but to stiffer resistance from the Opposition.