The Maharashtra government on Monday announced that it has extended the lockdown till July 31 in view of the steadily increasing Covid-19 cases in the state.
While all existing lockdown conditions will continue, the government will gradually ease restrictions over the next month.
All visits outdoors, barring for essentials or for specified employment purposes will remain banned during this period.
Since the past three days, the state has been recording 5,000-plus Covid-19 cases daily, taking its tally to 164,626, and there have been 7,429 deaths till date.
Eviction of Priyanka govt’s arrogance of power: Sharad Pawar
Targeting the BJP-led Centre, NCP President Sharad Pawar on Monday said that the move to evict Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra from her government residence in Delhi is a “display of NDA government’s arrogance of power”.
“We must remember that the Nehru-Gandhi family has dedicated its life for the country. Jawaharlal Nehru made immense contribution to India’s freedom struggle and put it on the path of democracy. His daughter Indira Gandhi and grandson Rajiv Gandhi sacrificed their lives for the country. Priyanka is from the same family,” said Pawar.
Even after Rajiv Gandhi’s death, his wife Sonia Gandhi built the party and though there may be political differences, “that doesn’t mean that you can misuse the power to harass someone; that’s not wise or honourable,” the Nationalist Congress Party leader said.
The NCP chief said “petty politics” is being witnessed in the country, and recalled how, when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister, whenever he organised a conference of chief ministers, the BJP would hold separate meetings of the BJP-ruled CMs.
“In those meetings, the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi would use very strong language against Singh. That was unprecedented — how a state CM could adopt such a vindictive attitude towards the country’s PM,” Pawar recalled.
Today, he added, with the BJP ruling at the Centre, Singh has never taken to heart the criticism he faces. Even when Modi as CM would criticize the PM, Manmohan Singh never vent his anger at Gujarat, the former Union Minister added.
Recounting his own experiences, Pawar said that when he was the Union Agriculture Minister, some Congress leaders would grumble that even though Modi criticised the PM so much, ‘we are going out of the way to help Gujarat’, but Manmohan Singh stood by him (Pawar), saying “Gujarat is a part of India and it is our duty to protect every Indian and every state”.
“Today, the situation has changed. All we see is — bring down this state government, topple that state government. Now, we are seeing this in Rajasthan. Some (BJP) leaders keep talking like this even for Maharashtra. BJP’s ‘Operation Kamal’ is misuse of power by the Centre to destabilise, weaken and bring down the government elected by the peoples’ mandate,” Pawar said.
However, he expressed confidence that ‘Operation Kamal’ will not affect the Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in Maharashtra, though the BJP has been giving deadlines, and the next one is October.
Pawar’s no-holds-barred response came in the final instalment of his three-part marathon interview to ‘Saamana’ and ‘Dopahar Ka Saamana’ Group’s Executive Editor Sanjay Raut.
He cautioned that though Thackeray is doing a good job as CM, there is a need for “enhanced dialogue” among the three allies — Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress — for smoother functioning of the MVA government.
To Raut’s query, Pawar revealed that his 2014 statement to offer outside support to the BJP was actually aimed at keeping the Shiv Sena out of the government since they both (BJP-Sena) had fought elections separately.
“When it became possible that a post-poll alliance could materialise, I made that statement. But it didn’t work out and later the Sena joined the government and it completed its full term,” said Pawar.
Justifying his politics, the NCP chief said that handing out power to BJP again in (2019) was not in the interests of the Sena or other political party “since the BJP doesn’t believe that other (non-BJP) parties have a right to function in a democracy”.
Pawar dismissed Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis’ recent claims on this issue and hit back, saying that prior to the 2019 government formation, the BJP had approached NCP to form the government as it did not want Shiv Sena to come to power.
Allow Bakri-Eid with restrictions: Maharashtra Congress to CM
A prominent Maharashtra Congress leader on Monday urged the state government to permit the upcoming Eid al-Adha celebrations with suitable Covid-19 restrictions.
The plea came in a memorandum to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, state Congress chief and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat and NCP’s Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, submitted by former minister Arif Naseem Khan.
Khan said that Eid al-Adha is one of the most important festivals in the Islamic calendar and obligatory upon the Muslim faithful to perform the sacrifice of goats.
“Just as the government has permitted the upcoming Ganeshotsav festival with stringent conditions, we appeal to you to let the Muslim community also celebrate Eid al-Adha with appropriate restrictions,” Khan said.
He said that since the festival is due to be celebrated on August 1, but so far, the state government has not taken any decision in the matter which has unnerved the Muslim community and leaders of various organisations.
Khan called upon Thackeray to take a decision in the matter on priority which could enable the community to celebrate Eid al-Adha with due restrictions.
Incidentally, in May, the Muslim community in Mumbai and Maharashtra had celebrated Eid ul-Fitr virtually remaining at home as the Covid-19 pandemic raged, and even the world-famous Mohammed Ali Road food bazaar remained shut for the first time in its 250-year-old history.
India needs ‘a Manmohan Singh’: NCP Chief Sharad Pawar
Given the current financial crisis, India needs an economic expert like former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar said here on Sunday.
Pawar recalled how he was a Union minister when Singh was the Finance Minister and the country was passing through a financial crisis in the early 1990s.
“However, it was Manmohan Singh who gave the country a new direction and pulled the country out of the economic problems. For this I give full credit to Manmohan Singh, and also (then Prime Minister) P.V. Narasimha Rao. Today, the country needs him (Singh). I feel Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saheb should take the initiative to seek help of economists. I am confident the country will support him,” said Pawar.
The NCP chief urged Modi to confabulate with knowledgeable people from different parties, take the help of whosoever possible or feasible, take everybody along, as in the Prime Minister’s current set-up, “there are some persons who have no such experience.”
Pawar’s comments came in the second instalment of his marathon interview with ‘Saamana’ and ‘Dopahar Ka Saamna’ Group Executive Editor and Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut.
Asked whether he had discussed the current scenario with the current Finance Minister (Nirmala Sitharaman), Pawar, 79, replied in the negative.
“No. I never met her even once, nor had any discussions with her. At times of financial crisis confronting such a big country with a huge population there are many challenges, and a dialogue with others (parties) is necessary, but that’s not happening now,” the NCP supremo said.
In this context he pointed out he had observed persons like Pranab Mukherji, P. Chidambaram and Manmohan Singh spending hours with experts and leaders of other political parties, seeking their suggestions as India is a huge country with diverse viewpoints.
“I don’t know if something similar is happening now. If its being done, there has to be some outcome of that, which is not visible,” Pawar said, implying that a political dialogue at the national level seems to be missing.
Dwelling on questions pertaining to security vis-a-vis India’s neighbours, Pawar said that “when we think of the enemy, the first name that crops up is Pakistan.”
“But we should not worry about Pakistan. In the long-term, it is China that is detrimental to India’s interests, it is 10 times more powerful than us militarily, it has systematically created all this after years of planning, vision and programmes besides economic strength to act against us. China is the real worry and poses a bigger threat to India,” Pawar asserted.
Recounting his meeting as Defence Minister with the Chinese Premier at a private sea resort in that country, Pawar said at the time (over 25 years ago), China was only concerned about giving a challenge to the USA and Japan.
“When I asked him what China’s policy vis-a-vis its neighbours, he said they were not thinking of them, maybe after around 25 years. Today, that danger has arisen, China is economically strong. Now, its target is India. Modi became friends with President Xi Jinping, hugged and shook hands, sat on a swing, gave gifts. An impression was conveyed that we have achieved something big with this camaraderie. But problems between two countries cannot be solved in such a manner, now we realise that,” Pawar pointed out.
On the tendency of the BJP government to blame Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi for all problems related to China and Pakistan, Pawar said we must also consider the situation whereby all our neighbours like Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are now siding with China. “These sullied relations are the contribution of the present times”.
He felt that instead of hitting back, the Centre should exert global pressure on China through diplomatic channels and negotiations and resolve pending issues like the Galwan valley clash.
Pawar also touched upon various other issues pertaining to the lockdown and how Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s government has fared well in the first half and is working hard.
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