Election Commission of India. (Facebook/@ECI)
Despite giving a Lok Sabha Speaker, several Union Ministers, three Maharashtra Chief Ministers and a Deputy Chief Minister, the Marathwada region of Maharashtra remains the most backward in the state.
As the eight Lok Sabha constituencies — Beed, Hingoli, Jalna, Latur, Nanded, Osmanabad, Parbhani – go to polls on April 18 and Aurangabad (April 23) — the dominant Marathas of the region – strain their eyes for the promised development of their lands that has eluded them since the country’s Independence in 1947.
Besides, the region is plagued by consistent drought due to scanty rains, insufficient irrigation facilities and lack of water for both humans and animals, problems of unemployment and absence of any major industries.
One of the reasons is that the powerful political lobbies from adjoining Western Maharashtra dominated over the Marathwada leaders and most chose to succumb instead of fighting back, leaving the area neglected for years.
“Even the powerful Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh could barely grapple with the Western Maharashtra chieftains and do little for his native region. As a consequence, all major industries, domestic or foreign investments and jobs kept going to Western Maharashtra,” said veteran political commentator A. Shaikh of Aurangabad.
Ditto with the father-son Chief Minister duo — the late Shankarrao B. Chavan and Ashok Chavan –- and also the late Gopinath Munde, a former Deputy Chief Minister and Union Minister.
Against this backdrop, the contest in Nanded – a Congress bastion which it has won 12 times – will be a keen one between Congress’ Ashok Chavan and BJP’s veteran legislator Pratap Chikhalikar. This was also one of the ‘safe seats’ being considered for Congress President Rahul Gandhi (who later selected Wayanad in Kerala) besides his traditional Amethi.
Along with Nanded, Hingoli was one of the two seats which weathered the ‘Modi wave’ of 2014 and elected Congress’ Rajeev S. Satav, though by a thin margin of around 1,600 votes. This time, Satav opted out for party work and Congress has nominated former Shiv Sainik Subhash Wankhede, who is pitted against the Shiv Senas Hemant Patil.
In Beed, BJP’s Pritam Gopinath Munde won in 2014 in a by-election after her father’s death, by 696,321, highest ever victory margin in India, where she’s pitted against Nationalist Congress Party’s Bajrang M. Sonawane.
This time, curiously, a NDA ally, Shiv Sangram Party’s MLC Vinayak Mete, has decided to support NCP’s Sonawane, ostensibly since Pritam and her sister, state minister Pankaja Munde had insulted him (Mete) several times in the past few years.
Jalna is another BJP bastion where sitting MP Raosaheb Danve-Patil, the state party President, will lock horns with Congress’ Vilas K. Autade, but BJP activists claim “there’s no fight in Jalna and Beed”.
An important contest is lined up in Osmanabad where two cousins from bitter rival political families are pitted against each other – the Shiv Sena’s Omraje Nimbalkar and the NCP’s Ranajagjitsinh Patil. The Sena may face a tough time as it dropped its sitting MP Ravind Gaikwad, famed for attacking an Air India staffer with a chappal.
The erstwhile bastion of the late Vilasrao Deshmukh, which earlier elected former Lok Sabha Speaker Shivraj V. Patil seven times, Latur is currently held by the BJP’ Sunil B. Gaikwad. But the BJP dropped him and nominated Sudhakar T. Shrungare, who is pitted against Congress’ Machhindra Kamant, who recently quit the NCP.
There’s Parbhani, a Shiv Sena bastion since 1989, except between 1998-1999, when it reverted to the Congress. The Sena has repeated Sanjay H. Jadhav, who is pitted against NCP’s Rajesh U. Vitekar and the Communist Party of India’s Rajan R. Kshirsagar.
Jadhav faced a huge embarrassment when the Parbhani District Election Officer ruled that all articles on him published in five newspapers should be treated as ‘Paid News’ and be accounted for in his election expenditure statement.
Going to polls in the third phase on April 23, Aurangabad – a Muslim-dominated city – is another Sena stronghold where sitting MP Chandrakant Khaire has been winning since 1999.
This time, he’s pitted against Congress veteran Subhash Zambad and the VBA-AIMIM nominee and local legislator Imtiyaz Jaleel. Earlier only once – in 1980 – was a Muslim, Qazi Saleem of the Congress was elected to Lok Sabha from here.
Though backward, Marathwada is at the domestic and global forefront renowned for the World Heritage Ajanta and Ellora Caves in Aurangabad and Pathri village in Parbhani, which is the birth-place of the famous saint Saibaba of Shirdi.
After the Golden Temple, it’s the top pilgrimage centre for Sikhs with the Hazur Sahib Nanded Gurudwara; three of 12 Jyotirlings are in Aurangabad, Beed and neighbouring Nashik; the Bibi Ka Maqbara or mini-Taj Mahal; the Daulatabad Fort; Emperor Aurangzeb’s tomb in Khuldabad; and the mausoleum of Sufi Saint Zar Zari Zarbaksh or Shah Muntajabuddin, ar all in Aurangabad. The Sayed Shah Turabul Haq Dargah is in Parbhani, among many others.
Delhi a city of opportunities: Manish Sisodia to investors
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Thursday asserted that capital’s GDP has doubled in the past seven years and its per capita income is three times the national average.
Addressing the ‘Invest India Exclusive Investment Forum’, Sisodia said that the national capital offers a plethora of opportunities for retail and e-commerce firms. “Delhi is a city of opportunities,” he said.
“Our state GDP has doubled in the past seven years and we have a per capita income of Rs 3,89,000 which is three times the national average. The highest growth on all economic indicators had been made possible due to the honest and progressive government,” the leader added.
The aim of the ‘Invest India’ forum was to bring the state government and potential investors on a common platform to share ideas and to showcase favourable policies, ready infrastructure, and other details of the industrial ecosystem of Delhi.
The adverse financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be more long-lasting than the health effects, he said, adding that the city is gearing up to revive its economy.
Sisodia said that Delhi has a substantial land bank for investment in sectors like tourism and hospitality, automobile parts, handloom and handicrafts, gems, jewellery and perfumes, packaged foods, leather goods and garments, steel fabrication, e-commerce, retail, Information Technology.
“The upcoming industrial hubs in Ranikhera Mundka, Baprola and Kanjhawala along with the Mundka North Warehousing Cluster has ample capacity available and makes Delhi an ideal destination for companies looking to set up retail or sourcing operations.”
The forum was attended by investors from 30 countries across the globe. Twenty industry sectors, including apparels, automobiles, e-commerce, healthcare, sportswear; from countries across the world like the USA, Japan, Germany, the UK, Switzerland, and Australia participated in the webinar.
Congress demands CBI probe in Kerala gold smuggling case
After the seizure of 30 kg Gold at Thiruvananthapuram airport, the Congress has upped the ante and demanded CBI inquiry into the case to probe collusion of CPI-M and BJP leaders.
Congress Chief Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala in a statement said, “Indian National Congress demands a thorough inquiry by the CBI into the extent of this crime, and individuals in the ruling parties, the CPI-M at the State Level and the BJP at the Central Level.”
It is also likely that the individuals involved could not have done what they did, vis-a-vis the “audacious smuggling” of gold under the watch of the authorities and using diplomatic cargo which enjoys diplomatic immunity, without the support or knowledge of those not just in the state government but also in the central government, said Surjewala.
The matter relates to seizure of 30 kg gold from a diplomatic consignment at the Trivandrum International Airport on Sunday which snowballed into a major political controversy in Kerala as the prime suspect, Swapna Suresh, a high-profile woman who wears many hats, happens to be close to the ruling Left Democratic Front government in the state.
Surjewala in the statement said that given the magnitude of the criminal activity, the influential nature of those involved and the wide net of individuals across the Central and State Governments, it is only fitting that the investigation into the entire affair be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
PM Narendra Modi’s visit to his village Nimo, comforts 1962 war veteran
In a quaint little village with tall poplars swinging gently in the summer bloom against the bare lofty mountains, 1962 war veteran Tsering Tashi giggles with exuberance over the thought that Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited his village just a week ago.
“I did not know that he, the Prime Minister of India, was right here in my village, talking to soldiers. Got to know after he left,” Tashi laughs.
Tashi quickly adds, “His visit to Nimo was really required. It has boosted the morale of our soldiers. He could not have gone to the forward posts but it was very good that he gave a speech here. It uplifted the spirits of the soldiers. I think the Army is happy too.”
The Prime Minister’s visit to Nimo, after India lost 20 soldiers, including a Colonel on June 15 during a violent clash with Chinese troops, has a deep significance for the 80-year-old Tashi.
Even 58 years after India’s defeat in the 1962 war with China, the regret and grief has not faded from the Havildar’s voice as he recalls how India lost the war and territory to the Chinese.
Describing the then Chinese premier Zhou Enlai’s approach to India, prior to the 1962 war, “Muh mein Ram Ram, bhagal mein chhuri” (stabbing someone in the back), Tashi drifts into the memory lane when he had joined the Army in 1959 as a young soldier.
“The war began at night around 1 a.m. (October 20, 1962). Both India and China used to have military posts near DBO (Daulat Beg Oldi), one of the world’s highest airstrip at an altitude of over 16,600 feet.
“We used to patrol on foot; the Chinese on horses. Our vehicles could not reach our posts but theirs did. They had outnumbered us. We were very few.
“There were only two units of Army at the time — one was at Chushul and the other at DBO. So we airlifted our soldiers of Jat regiment from Pathankot, direct to the DBO airstrip,” Tashi recalls.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had assaulted Indian military posts in Chip Chap valley, Galwan valley and Pangong lake and other numerous small posts. The Chip Chap river flows to the south of Daulat Beg Oldi from east to west.
In October, winter is in full swing in Ladakh, and extremely harsh at high altitude areas like DBO. The temperature dips to freezing point.
“Our troops got no time to acclimatize but they chose to fight. Their hands froze; they lost their limbs. So we had to retreat,” the war veteran says with a lump in his throat. He repeatedly mentions how the soldiers died in the cold.
As his wrinkles droop at the memory of that night, he remembers that the Army lost another 20 to 30 men at the nearby post. “They (People’s Liberation Army) took some of our soldiers prisoners of war too. One of them, however, escaped; don’t know how he came back,” he says.
Around 2 a.m., Tashi went from DBO in a Shaktiman truck to bring more soldiers for support.
“I got 30 to 40 soldiers. But our vehicle got stuck in the snow in a frozen stream. Perhaps, our lives got saved because our vehicle got stuck. Once, we were able to move, it was already morning. Since we could see because of the morning light, our commandant was able to move us up the ridge a little bit. I was the guide. But by that time we got there, the PLA troops had occupied our side. So we had to withdraw,” the ex-serviceman says.
Tashi remembers the martyrdom of Major Shaitan Singh, of the Kumaon Regiment, who had been instrumental in holding on to the Rezang La Ridge, which was important to prevent the airstrip from falling into the Chinese hands.
The 1962 war veteran, who retired from the Ladakh Scouts regiment of the Indian Army in 1975, however, brightens up at the mention of the 1971 war with Pakistan. “That is when we were able to regain Turtuk, Dhothang, Tyakshi and Chalunka of Chorbat valley,” he says with a certain smugness.
By that time, he adds smilingly, “We had got new arms and weapons, the strength of our units had been hugely increased. We took their top strategic posts; both Pakistani Army and civilians had to flee.”
China, Tashi believes, cannot defeat India now.
“India is very strong. During our time, India was like dust on the ground but now its touching the skies. Now whatever our soldiers ask for, it is immediately fulfilled on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.”
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