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Over the past few weeks, as the Delhi elections draw closer, the BJP has been using the Anti CAA protests especially at Shaheen Bagh as its poll plank to attack the Aam Aadmi Party and woo voters. Liz Mathew explains if this, and the recent clearance of the Ram Mandir Trust will strengthen the BJP campaign in Delhi. (9:50) Next, why has the Central government decided to divest a part of its stake in LIC? And how will it help the economy? Sunny Verma explains. (15:10) Last, Anand Mohan details why the Delhi Police allege that the Shaheen Bagh shooter belongs to AAP.
Neha Mathews: On today’s episode, we talk about the Delhi police’s this allegation, that the Shaheen Bagh shooter was an Aam Aadmi Party member, and why the government plans to sell part of its stake in LIC.
But first, are the Shaheen Bagh protests strengthening the BJP’s campaign before assembly elections? Over the past few weeks as the Delhi elections draw closer, the BJP has been using anti CAA protests, especially at Shaheen Bagh. As its poll plan to attack the Aam Aadmi party and woo voters. In his first campaign speech in Delhi on Monday, Prime Minister Modi had this to say
PM Narendra Modi
[Excerpt from PM’s Modi’s speech]
In the past, comments by BJP MPs have incurred a 96 hour campaigning banned from the Election Commission, such as in the case of MP Parvesh Kumar,
MP Parvesh Kumar
[Excerpt from an interview by MP Parvesh Kumar]
But will the strategy work, and has it led to fault lines deepening in Delhi. Liz Mathew covers the BJP and talked to voters across the city, joins us to discuss what she has gleaned from these interviews.
So Liz, the Delhi elections are in two days now. And over this last month, we’ve seen the BJP leadership, you know, their usual state campaign strategy is to poke holes in the incumbent government’s performance. Instead here we’re seeing them repeatedly talking about the Shaheen Bagh protests. Could you tell me what the strategy is there?
See, it looked like what BJP has been trying to do is create some kind of consolidation, because in the initial days, they tried to poke holes in the Aam Aadmi Party’s, you know, governance issues, but somehow the voters did not look like they were taking it because you know, Aam Aadmi Party, according to the voters had a very good track record, in terms of governance issue, especially in the education sector. In terms of providing drinking water and the reduction in the electricity bills for ordinary families. So, these were the issues the BJP initially tried to quote unquote, “expose” the Aam Aadmi Party and the faults in the schools and you know, the defects and some kind of malfunctioning in that area, but it did not work or it did not feel the desired result. So then, what BJP has, the BJP leadership has realized, there is a lot of resentment among the people, especially those people who are affected by the traffic jam created by Shaheen Bagh protest. And also, it is an issue that could actually divide the people in terms of the Muslims and Hindus, because mostly people looked at it as a Muslim issue. The protest against Citizenship Amendment Act, whereas the Hindus felt that there is nothing wrong in it, you know, a section of Hindus. So BJP, I think, it looked like they tried to tap in this issue. And we have seen right from Prime Minister to Home Minister to BJP President to every speaker of the BJP, everyone who’s addressing BJP election rallies started using Shaheen Bagh. Home Minister came and said that, you know, this is a fight between those who are supporting Shaheen Bagh and those who are protecting the nation. So indirectly it is a message, that those people who are protesting and supporters of protesters were traitors or anti nationalists. Whereas those people who are the other side, are nationalists. But this somehow has worked in terms of getting support for BJP’s stand on CAA. But I mean, it is very difficult to say that it is turning into or transforming into this, kind of resentment and people’s anger against what is happening and the traffic and other inconveniences is translating into words. It doesn’t look like – at least from what people were reacting.
So Liz, now that you’ve mentioned that, you’ve also gone around talking to voters across Delhi. Did you get the feeling that these CAA protests, particularly Shaheen Bagh, it has deepened saved faultlines and polarized voters in the city.
Yes, it is. Unfortunately, it has a majority of the people whom I spoke to felt that you know, the people who are sitting and protesting Shaheen Bagh are not in the national interest. They actually creating trouble for the general population and also some of them saying that they are saying it is a peaceful protest, but they are creating ashanti, and they are creating troubles because it is affecting the economy. It is affecting the day to day life of people. It is affecting the school going children. You know, they had many reasons to say that you know what they’re doing is wrong. The BJP’s campaign that Shaheen Bagh is not in the nation’s interest has really worked, and it created a lot of division among the people. I have heard people saying that yes, “Yeh Modi Ji sahi kar rahe hain, yeh musalmaano ko idhar se bhagana hai”, “they are creating all kinds of trouble in this country, they should be punished”, Such statement has come from many people, even the youngsters, that is something that I have seen while talking to the ordinary voters, whether it was in the Gol Market or whether it was in Tughlakabad or whether it was in Mehrauli. And coming back to BJP’s campaign, I think, you know, what I have seen is, it is getting translated into votes, because, you know, many of these people who have expressed their resentment and their anger towards what is happening in Shaheen Bagh, when they talk about voting, they say no, I think it is for the nation. We have chosen Narendra Modi Ji, again with even more votes and he is there to protect the nation. But we need somebody like Arvind Kejriwal revive who actually takes care of our needs and has concern for poor, and who has created Mohalla clinics, who has created good schools for our children. That thing, even both people who are claiming that they are BJP supporters. I met someone who told me he is a BJP supporter. He’s always been supporting BJP but he is voting for AAP. His wife does not want to work for AAP. She wants to work for BJP, but I kind of convinced her that she should be voting because it is Delhi Election – “ye rajya ka chunaav hai, desh ka nahi hai”, so, you should support that. So, people kind of differentiated, like what we have seen in Jharkhand. People are differentiating between the national election and the state election. One thing we have to see whether in across Delhi, if you talk to anybody, not a single person is speaking against PM Narendra Modi. His image is intact. Not a speck has affected this thing. Despite the criticism against what is happening in economy, what is happening in job creation, the Prime Minister’s image is intact, but people, like I said, is differentiating between two interests.
We also had PM Modi give this speech in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, and he made a very big announcement, that the trust to build the Ram Mandir temple in Ayodhya has been cleared. Now will this announcement in any way strengthen the BJP campaign.
I’m actually not very sure because, you know, the Ram temple construction was almost clear, you know, it was after the court verdict, it was clear that there will be a temple and the government has been given a 3 months time to constitute a trust. That three months is going to end soon and everyone whom I was talking to at the ground, but talking about that, you know, Modi Jiis going to construct Ram Temple. So grant is more or less, it was a foregone conclusion and people, I don’t think that it is something new and you know, it is something that a big change is going to happen with this announcement. For the optics obviously, it could give another lift to BJP campaign – see we have kept all the promises. Because we have heard Home Minister Amit Shah also saying that we have fulfilled promises given in manifesto one by one. So it will definitely go into the BJP that credit, but it is unlikely, especially since it is the state issues and the local issues that are playing more in people’s minds when they are talking about the votes in Delhi than the national issue and of course, temple construction is a national issue now. Of course, you know, it will help be debating it optics. You know in the last two days this announcement, Prime Minister coming to the Lok Sabha straight from the cabinet meeting, and the PM was wearing a minister and store today. And he makes this announcement and he specifically said that it is in line with what the Supreme Court has said the government is actually implementing what the supreme court has ordered it to do. And it is also interesting that the Prime Minister made this announcement usually in the other issues, it was Mr Amit Shah who was taking the lead, whether it was CAA or whether it was article 370, the scrapping of special status for Jammu Kashmir. He was taking the lead, but today it was the prime minister who made that announcement and who announced the cabinet decision to Parliament.
(intro)Hi, I’m Neha Mathews and you’re listening to three things, The Indian Express new show.
Next, why has the central government decided to disinvest a part of its stake in LIC and how will it help the economy? Sunny Verma from the business bureau joins us to explain.
Sunny during the budget speech, we had Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman talking about how the Government of India has this divestment goal of rupees 2.1 lakh crores for the next financial year. Could you explain to our listeners first, how divestment helps the government or the economy?
Sunny:So, basically divestment is the government selling a portion or full stake in the companies that it owns, whether profit making or loss making. So any receipts that the government generates from there, helps it in finance its fiscal deficit as well as other spending programs of the government. They can use it for various purposes for infrastructure creation or to meet their general expense requirements. For the economy it’s helpful because investors also get to buy some stake in the good companies depending upon their choice. Take for example, in the IRCTC IPO recently, the price has gone up manifold so investors have benefited there. For the economy at the macro level, when companies get listed, there are a lot of disclosures and more transparency. So it helps in somewhat cleaning up of the public sector companies.
Neha:So it maintains the health of this company as well. Now part of this announcement was the government’s plan to sell a part of its stake in the Life Insurance Corporation or LIC. We know it’s the country’s largest insurer, but what role does the LIC play for the government?
It is the biggest life insurer and the oldest since 1956. It has assets of about 32 lakh crores at the good levels, and it’s been helping government in many ways. One is penetration of insurance itself, and also sale of pension schemes which help senior citizens and retired people. In various other ways it also helps the government in meeting disinvestment targets when the government is unable to find many buyers for some of the stakes sales, so LIC pitches in then. And also, unofficially, we know that it also helps in stabilization of the stock markets in certain stress times. Recently, it has bought majority stake in IDBI bank, which was a major stress lender, with 32% and more of gross Non Performing Assets. It was a major burden on the government and the economy. So LSE has shouldered that burden now, in which government is also planning to sell stake next year.
Neha: I mean, this is a very ambitious move, right. So what would the government hope to get out of it?
Depending upon how much the valuation of the company is, the government will get decent resources even if they sell say, 5% of its equity. So they may generate huge resources and it will help in streamlining LSE because it will become more transparent with its NPA numbers, with its profits being declared on quarterly basis. Right now they come with the lag. So they will have to make those disclosures like all listed companies. It will come under somewhat greater scrutiny.
Would this help the government also reach its divestment target? Would it maybe not have to divest in other firms?
No, the 2.1 lakh crore target is two parts- 90,000 crore from LIC and IDBI Bank and then the remaining 1.2 lakh crore from rest of the companies. So, it will help meet only a portion of the total target, not all of it.
Has the government mentioned what the timeline of the project is, how much stake will be sold?
Sunny:So, in the Budget 2020 it was only the main announcement and now they have to do the groundwork on it, get the law amended and then get the procedures in place. What we got to know is that it may take about a year. So, maybe by the end of next March, they will complete it.
And you mentioned the LIC Act itself will have to be changed. Why does that have to happen?
Sunny:So LIC is basically a corporation and there is no provision of listing or taking it public. So that will have to be changed because LSE is ultimately holding the policyholders’ money. For a company which is in marketplace or listed on the exchange, there are obviously risks involved. So that’s why there are a lot of amendments that need to be done.
And if a part of LIC was to be sold later in the year, how would this entry of LIC into the stock markets affect it?
See we already have some life insurance companies which are listed for example, HDFC Standard Life is listed, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance is listed. So, LIC will be the largest player and depending upon the valuation, we need to see whether it attracts buyers or not because even if they sell 5% it will be one of the biggest IPOs probably in Indian equity markets.
Is there any threat of not attracting investors?
Actually it also depends upon the valuation. If the valuation is too steep then the investors may not like it because prior to the IPO, they will have to disclose all the numbers- the investment, the underwriting profits, the premium collection, whether the market share has been declining or increasing over the year. So at that time investors will take a call——
Neha: Setting off a political row, the Delhi police on 4th January claimed that the man arrested for firing twice in the air at the Shaheen Bagh protest site on February 1st had joined the Aam Aadmi Party last year. Anand Mohan, who covers courts in Delhi for Indian Express, joins me to explain on what basis these allegations have been made, and how the political parties have reacted.
So two days ago, we had information coming in from the Delhi police about the Shaheen Bagh shooter who opened rounds at the protest site. They allege that he was a part of the Aam Aadmi Party, what proof do they have of the same?
So the police have said that they have photographs Kapil Baisala, the shooter who opened fire at the Shaheen Bagh protest site, and they are saying that they have recovered these photographs from his mobile phone. And these pictures were released late in the evening yesterday right after Kapil was sent for two days police custody. And right after the Delhi police had made these claims, the Aam Aadmi Party had in a press conference denied the police claims. In fact, they have also informed that they’re going to send a legal notice against the Delhi police. In fact, we even spoke to Kapil’s family members who have denied the police claims. In fact, his father has also gone on record and stated that Kapil is Modi’s servant, so to speak, and he had no connection whatsoever with the Aam Aadmi Party.
And in terms of verifying these pictures or verifying that he was an AAP worker, is there going to be an investigation?
Sp that is what the police had said yesterday in the press conference, that they have called in a team of forensic experts who are going to go through the mobile phone. In fact yesterday even while they were arguing before a Delhi court for further remand, even though they did not make these allegations they had told the judge that they needed Kapil’s custody so that they could verify the information in his phone. They said that Kapil is a member of various WhatsApp groups. He’s deleted several of those chats. He has several social media accounts and they’re saying that there’s a larger conspiracy to this shooting
And by larger conspiracy, what are they referring to?
Anand:So they haven’t really expounded on what his larger conspiracy means to the court. They were saying that the weapon which has been recovered, they have to find out the source of that weapon. They told the judge that it’s probably a source from Bihar, and they needed his interrogation to figure out where that weapon came from. But with the press conference, they’ve largely put out the message that he was an Aam Admi party worker and the kind of statements which will eventually given by BJP leaders like JP Nadda who went out and in not so many words just said that the AAP may be involved in some way because they’re claiming that he’s an Aam Aadmi worker.
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