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From the Urdu Press: Raging three-way Gujarat battle to flaring Gehlot-Pilot duel to EC under SC scanner

Congress’s absence from Gujarat fray has created a vacuum being filled by AAP, which is perhaps on cusp of reaping anti-incumbency dividends that the grand old party should have garnered, writes Inquilab

Referring to the raging conflict between two top Rajasthan Congress leaders, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, 71, and ex-Deputy CM Sachin Pilot, 45, the Hyderabad-based Siasat, in its editorial on November 25, says that the Congress organisation continues to be reeling under its internal crises. (File photo)

With barely a few days to go for the Gujarat Assembly polls, the Urdu Press is awash with reports and opinion pieces on the high-stakes election, mapping the battleground and tracking the campaign trail. While calling it a triangular affair with the incumbent BJP in the pole position, the leading Urdu dailies have spotlighted the emergence of a combative new player, the AAP, in the fray. The dailies also turned their focus to the Supreme Court Constitution Bench’s hearing of petitions seeking reforms in the Election Commissioners’ appointment, highlighting the top court’s scrutiny of the recent appointment with “lightning speed” of ex-IAS officer Arun Goel as an EC.

INQUILAB

In its editorial on November 23, the New Delhi edition of Inquilab writes that the campaigning for the upcoming Gujarat Assembly polls has risen to a crescendo, noting that besides the ruling BJP the election is crucial for the principal Opposition Congress and the new entrant, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). It points out that the Congress had keenly fought the 2017 Gujarat polls, bagging 77 of the state’s 182 seats as against the victor BJP’s 99 seats. “In sharp contrast, the Congress’s campaign this time seems to be lacklustre, although the party cannot be ignorant of the importance of the Gujarat election.”

The daily says that political observers have flagged price rise, unemployment, farmers’ problems, “woes” of traders and students and the Covid pandemic besides the recent Morbi bridge disaster among issues roiling Gujarat, which may have generated a “double-incumbency for the double-engine BJP dispensation”. “The Congress should have therefore doubled its efforts and plunged headlong into the Gujarat battlefield with renewed energy in a bid to project itself as a credible alternative but the party, observers feel, failed to do so,” it says. “The Congress’s absence from the Gujarat fray has created a vacuum which is being filled by the AAP, with the latter being perhaps on the cusp of reaping the anti-incumbency dividends that the grand old party should have garnered.”

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There seem to be various reasons for the Congress’s insipid campaign for the Gujarat polls, that include the party’s lack of resources, its preference for Himachal Pradesh polls, Rajasthan political crisis, and Rahul Gandhi’s engagement with the Bharat Jodo Yatra, the edit states. “The Congress seems to have changed its tack and adopted a low-key campaigning this time. For the past several months, the party has been canvassing door-to-door and taking out small yatras across Gujarat,” it says, adding “It is to be seen how effective the Congress’s strategy shift would turn out to be and how much support the AAP would eventually get from the Gujarat people.”

SIASAT

Referring to the raging conflict between two top Rajasthan Congress leaders, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, 71, and ex-Deputy CM Sachin Pilot, 45, the Hyderabad-based Siasat, in its editorial on November 25, says that the Congress organisation continues to be reeling under its internal crises. The grand old party has been making efforts in a bid to turn its dismal fortunes around, reaching out to people to regain their trust with Rahul Gandhi leading the cross-country Bharat Jodo Yatra in this regard, the daily writes. “But amid such attempts its festering Rajasthan crisis has continued to be a headache for the Congress, which has tried to resolve it, only to see it getting worse. The differences between Gehlot and Pilot simmering for a long time had turned into a cold war with intermittent exchange of charges and counter-charges. This has burst into the open now,” it says.

The editorial points out that Gehlot raised a banner of revolt in the run-up to the Congress presidential election after he was offered the party’s top position subject to a “one person, one post” principle. This put Gehlot, it says, on a collision course with the Congress high command, which was reflected in the Congress Legislature Party’s parallel meeting in Jaipur, held to preempt his arch rival’s assumption of the CM’s mantle from him. “It seems Gehlot is ready to hand over the reins to the Opposition BJP but not to Pilot. This is why he even turned down the Congress presidency, preferring to stick to the CM’s post. He even used party MLAs against the high command, virtually inciting them for rebellion. And Gehlot is the Congress in-charge for the Gujarat Assembly polls.”

The daily states that rather than focusing on the Gujarat polls and mounting a campaign to boost the party’s prospects and take on the ruling BJP there, Gehlot has now chosen to openly target Pilot, calling him a “gaddar (traitor)” even though the point remains that he became the CM after the then Pilot-led Rajasthan Congress trounced the incumbent BJP to clinch the 2018 Assembly polls. On the other hand, under his chief ministership, the Congress drew a blank in the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, it notes. “At a time when Rahul Gandhi is marching through the country to bring the Congress closer to the people, internal discords like the Gehlot-Pilot row are damaging the party, with the BJP waiting in the wings to exploit it,” the edit notes. It says Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and other top leaders like Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi must resolve these intra-party conflicts as time is running out, stressing that unless the party puts its house in order and ensures unity among its warring leaders it would not be able to put up a good show, whether it is Gujarat or Rajasthan or the parliamentary polls.

SALAR

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Commenting on the issue of reforms in the appointment of the Election Commissioners (ECs) that a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is seized with, the Bengaluru-based Salar, in its editorial on November 25, points out that any country’s democracy is fundamentally based on the degree of fairness and transparency of its elections besides the trust of their people on its process. Clearly, free and fair polls would depend on the integrity of the Election Commission (EC) and its functionaries, who could ensure this without getting swayed by the glitter of power or influenced by pressure exerted by any party or leader, the editorial says. Underlining that the track record of India’s EC in conducting clean and transparent polls at every level has been remarkable, it says if however questions and concerns relating to some aspects of the EC’s vast institution have been raised, then they must be addressed to make the system more credible.

This may be the reason why the apex court while hearing a batch of petitions seeking among other things a collegium-like system for the appointment of the ECs and the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), stressed on the importance of having a CEC like the late T N Seshan, who should be someone “with character” and who “does not allow himself to be bulldozed” as the Constitution has vested vast powers on the “fragile shoulders” of the CEC and the two ECs, the daily writes quoting from the court’s remarks. The edit says it is imperative for the sake of a healthy and robust democracy that the CEC is independent and above partisan politics and insulated from any pressure or influence. It refers to the top court’s observation that the “silence” of the Constitution, whose Article 324 deals with the ECs’ appointment but does not spell out its procedure while envisaging the enactment of a law for the purpose, has been exploited by all. It states that during the hearing the Constitution Bench head, Justice KM Joseph, even wondered will it not be a case of “complete breakdown of system” if the CEC does not act against the Prime Minister in case there are allegations against him.

“Seshan is remembered for having been a role model as the CEC, who conducted free, fair and independent polls in the country in the 1990s in an exemplary way…The apex court’s emphasis on the need for a CEC with strong character is thus understandable,” the edit adds.

First published on: 29-11-2022 at 16:59 IST
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