Today’s Big Stories
Posturing or pondering? Maharashtra politics is a mixed bag of signals now
Seat-sharing talks between the BJP and Shiv Sena for the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly elections have not yet been concluded, leading to speculation about the future of the alliance. Two days ago, Uddhav Thackeray told Shiv Sena leaders that they “should not remain relaxed, and should prepare to fight the elections single-handedly on all 288 seats”. He, however, added a footnote to the caution, "An alliance will happen. But you all should be prepared.” Just the day before, BJP president JP Nadda is learnt to have told Maharashtra party leaders to prepare as though they are “fighting on all 288 seats". The BJP and the Shiv Sena’s mixed signals to cadre is keeping the alliance pot boiling in Maharashtra.
'PoK' is part of India, says EAM
Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) is a part of India and New Delhi expects to have physical jurisdiction over it one day, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Tuesday. In a veiled reference to Pakistan, Jaishankar also said that India has a “unique challenge” from a neighbour who needs to act “normal” and crack down on cross-border terrorism. The government has maintained that talks with Pakistan would be only about PoK and not on Kashmir. Jaishankar said there was no need to "worry" too much about what people will say on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, asserting that India's position on its internal issues will prevail.
Amit Shah raises questions over multi-party democracy
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday attacked the Congress saying people then had wondered whether India's multi-party democratic system had failed. On the "culture of policy paralysis” he said previous governments could take only five decisions in the last 30 years, whereas, the Modi government took over 50 decisions in last five years. "These included implementing GST, demonetisation, opening Jan Dhan accounts, ending triple talaq, surgical strikes on terrorist camps across the border, one rank one pension... and now removing Article 370 and 35A," he said. Accusing Shah of "belittling" India's multi-party democracy, Congress said the BJP chief is questioning the collective wisdom of the founding fathers of the Constitution.
In Other News
After the storm: Sensex on Tuesday plummeted 642 points as investors weighed India's fiscal worries due to soaring crude prices amid geopolitical tensions in the Middle East. The attack on Saudi Aramco’s plants has led to a record surge in global crude prices.
Off the table: China said the Kashmir issue may not be a major topic of discussion during the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, notwithstanding the campaign by its ally Pakistan over India revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. A senior Chinese official said it should be left to the leaders to decide on the issues they would like to discuss.
Breaking away: Attracted by welfare schemes, five villages in Maharashtra’s Nanded district have expressed a desire to merge with Telangana. They have decided to contest the assembly polls this demand, the villagers told the Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.
Deadly attack: Taliban suicide attackers killed at least 30 people in Afghanistan on Tuesday, their deadliest bombing taking place near an election rally by President Ashraf Ghani, although he was unhurt. The attacks happened 11 days before presidential elections, which Taliban has vowed to violently disrupt, and follow collapsed peace talks between the United States and the insurgent group. Ghani was due to address a rally in Charikar when a bomber attacked the gathering.
On Our Specials
Climate change and bad apples: Climate change is to apple, what apples are to doctors. And, for India - where the northern Himalayan states of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh account for three-fourths of the fruit’s total cultivation - the stakes couldn’t be higher. Climatic factors have thus wreaked havoc on apple productions and quality by disrupting its natural flowering seasons and even pollination systems. Rakhi Bose explores how apple farmers are trying to save the crop from climate change. Follow our 'Covering Climate Now' series here.
Wide-reaching tremors: As the government continues to avoid using the term “slowdown” to describe weakening growth in the Indian economy, the prospect of an increase of anywhere between Rs 5-6 in pump prices of fuel as early as next fortnight may be the worst possible news. The multiple drone strikes on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco over the weekend have impacted global oil supplies from that country and turned global oil prices volatile. Sindhu Bhattacharya writes that as the global oil market was pounded with 10 drones attacking two critical pieces of Saudi crude oil infrastructure, disrupting production of almost 5% of the world supply of oil, shock waves from this event will likely be felt on the Indian economy soon.
Putting House in order: The temple of Indian democracy may soon have a new address. In the last 17 years, ruling dispensations have made at least three attempts to set up a new parliament building: in 2002 under late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in 2015 by the-then Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, and last week, when the pitch finally received the government’s go-ahead. It’s probably just a coincidence that the proposals for a new building have always come when the BJP – a party seen as a proponent of faith-based systems such as astrology, numerology and vastu – has been in power. Some opposition leaders suspect a “vastu” or “feng shui” inspiration behind the move to effect major structural changes to the Parliament House or construct a new building.
The Modi government has made new amendments to Foreign funding laws, which now does not require for individuals to disclose personal gifts up to Rs 1 lakh. The government also made it mandatory for all NGOs to declare that they are not involved in religion conversion activities.