The Hindu Important Articles 15 November 2018

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# CS plea: Centre, Delhi govt asked to reply

Petition premature: Delhi govt counsel
The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought response of the Centre, the city government and the Assembly Speaker’s office on Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash’s petition challenging a fresh breach of privilege proceedings initiated against him on complaints by two House committees.

Justice Vibhu Bakhru, while issuing notice in the matter, declined to pass any interim orders after Delhi government Standing Counsel Rahul Mehra said nothing was presently happening against the bureaucrat and that his plea was “premature”.

Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for Mr. Prakash, urged the court to pass interim orders staying the two fresh proceedings against him and to direct that his presence be not insisted upon by the Privileges Committee.

Hearing on Nov 27
The High Court, however, did not issue any interim directions and listed the matter for hearing on November 27, saying that nothing has happened till now against the bureaucrat and if anything happens he can approach the court.

Mr. Prakash, in his plea, has sought quashing of the two new breach of privilege proceedings initiated against him on the complaints by the Question and Reference Committee and Protocol Committee of the Assembly.

Mr. Luthra contended that some members of the two committees, who lodged the complaints against him, were also part of the Privileges Committee which is a “violation of principles of natural justice”.

The Chief Secretary, in his plea, has also challenged the complaints made against him by the QRC and Protocol Committee on September 7 and September 14, respectively.

He has contended that the breach of privilege proceedings initiated against him based on the two complaints were “violative of the Constitution of India as well as the Rules of the House and therefore, illegal and unconstitutional”. The plea also seeks quashing of the Speaker’s decision to refer the two complaints to the Privileges Committee, saying it too was in violation of the Constitution and Rules of the House.

# HC reserves verdict on DMK pleas

They had challenged DVAC inquiry into Secretariat project
The Madras High Court on Wednesday reserved its judgment on writ petitions filed by DMK president M.K. Stalin and treasurer Durai Murugan challenging a Government Order issued on September 24 for a Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) inquiry into alleged irregularities in the construction of an Assembly-cum-Secretariat complex between 2008 and 2010.

Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana deferred her verdict after hearing at length senior counsel P. Wilson for the petitioners and State Public Prosecutor (SPP) A. Natarajan. The SPP told the court that the government would not have issued the G.O. but for an interim order passed by Justice S.M. Subramaniam of the court on August 3 to suspend the Regupathi Commission of Inquiry and initiate criminal prosecution, if necessary. “If the court hadn’t passed the order, there was no need to pass the G.O. If the G.O. had not been passed, we would have had to face contempt of court proceedings. The single judge had taken note of the DVAC inquiry in the final order and directed us to proceed further without any delay. It is only a preliminary inquiry being conducted by the DVAC and the petitioners have no locus standi to maintain the present writ petitions,” he contended.

Refuting the petitioners’ contention that the interim order, passed on a 2015 writ petition filed by former DMK president M. Karunanidhi, does not exist any more since it had got merged with the final order passed in the case on October 1, Mr. Natarajan said, the interim order had actually been saved by the single judge in the final order by directing the State to take steps to complete the DVAC inquiry without any delay.

‘Careful examination’
When Ms. Justice Sathyanarayana sought to know whether the government had gone through all the materials that had been collected by the now defunct Regupathi Commission of Inquiry before arriving at a subjective satisfaction that prima facie materials existed for ordering a DVAC inquiry, the SPP replied positively.

He asserted that the government had gone through each and every material though the G.O. did not reflect it.

“The G.O. need not be an encyclopaedia. It need not specify each and every action taken by the government before passing it. It is enough if the crux of the matter is reflected in the G.O. It states that the government, ‘after careful examination’, had decided to order a DVAC inquiry into the issue. The dictionary meaning of ‘careful examination’ makes it ambiently clear that a detailed examination or study had been carried out,” he submitted.

# Edappadi, OPS launch News J

It is regarded as a mouthpiece of the ruling AIADMK
Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and his deputy O. Panneerselvam on Wednesday launched News J, a television news channel considered to be the mouthpiece of the ruling AIADMK.

Speaking at the launch of the channel, Mr. Palaniswami said that the television channel which was started by former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa after much effort, to ensure that the principles and activities of the AIADMK reached its members, had been appropriated by a “selfish gang”.

The Chief Minister stressed that only truth should be written, and facts should be reported as they are and shouldn’t be twisted to hurt someone just to sensationalise the issue. “Personal space of an individual should be protected,” he said.

‘Negative news’
Information should be verified before it is reported, and in case of an allegation or a complaint against someone, it should only be published with the contention of that person, he insisted.

Observing that a section of the news media was reporting and relaying negative news, he said that publishing news about government schemes instead would benefit the people residing in remote corners of the State.

Mr. Panneerselvam said News J would work towards realising the ideals of ‘Peace, Prosperity, Progress’, laid down by former CM Jayalalithaa.

AIADMK presidium chairman E. Madhusudanan, senior party functionaries K.P. Munusamy and R. Vaithilingam, Forest Minister Dindigul C. Sreenivasan, School Education Minister K.A. Sengottaiyan and former Minister C. Ponnaiyan were present on the occasion, as were News J Managing Director Radhakrishnan and Chief Executive Officer Hansraj Saxena.

In September, while unveiling the channel’s logo, Mr. Palaniswami had noted that almost all political parties had their own television channels, and that since (control of) a channel that was set up by Jayalalithaa with her party members had gone to “someone to whom it was not supposed to go”, the new TV channel would be its substitute.

# Turn the page: on Sri Lanka crisis

Sri Lankan President Sirisena must find a way to work with Ranil Wickremesinghe
After three weeks of political turmoil, Sri Lanka’s controversially dismissed Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, appears to have gained the upper hand. A majority of lawmakers backed a no-confidence motion in Parliament against Mahinda Rajapaksa, a former President who was sworn in Prime Minister on October 26. The Speaker declared the motion to have been passed by voice vote, as Mr. Rajapaksa’s loyalists sought to block the motion being taken up. Mr. Rajapaksa himself walked out of the parliamentary chamber before the vote was taken, with his supporters questioning the no-trust motion being taken up with such urgency. This contention could pale before the fact that as many as 122 MPs, in a House of 225, signed a memorandum expressing lack of confidence in his government to the Speaker. The noisy scenes and attempts to disrupt the vote reflected the deep divisions between the country’s main national parties. Mr. Sirisena’s decisions in the last three weeks have been against the letter and spirit of the Constitution, especially the reforms enacted in 2015 to curb the vast powers that come with his office. He removed the Prime Minister despite constitutional restrictions on doing so and had another sworn in. He prorogued Parliament to delay the demonstration of a parliamentary majority by Mr. Rajapaksa. On being confronted with the reality that the numbers were stacked against Mr. Rajapaksa, the President dissolved the legislature itself. The House was revived by an interim order from the Supreme Court.

It is now clearer than ever that Mr. Sirisena had needlessly plunged the country into a deep crisis by replacing the Prime Minister without ascertaining the numbers in the House. It is quite surprising that Mr. Rajapaksa, whose political instincts ought to have made him decide otherwise, agreed to be sworn in solely on the premise that he could induce crossovers. With these two leaders smarting under the setback in Parliament, it is difficult to consider the latest development as the end of political uncertainty. Mr. Sirisena needs to appoint a new Prime Minister immediately, but is averse to Mr. Wickremesinghe returning to that office. He had earlier indicated that he offered the post to two other members of Mr. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party, but had to appoint Mr. Rajapaksa as they had turned down the offer. It would be untenable if he lets Mr. Rajapaksa continue as a lame duck Prime Minister by again invoking his powers to prorogue the House. It is time that Mr. Sirisena, who was elected on a promise of political and institutional reform, showed some statesmanship and found a way to work with Mr. Wickremesinghe again. It would be unwise for him to further exacerbate the crisis. He would do better to turn the page and focus on problems such as Sri Lanka’s bleak economic situation and unresolved minority concerns.

# Centre undermining Jawaharlal Nehru’s legacy, says Dinesh Gundu Rao

The Congress has accused the NDA government of undermining the contributions of the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru towards nation-building.

Participating in the birth anniversary celebrations of Nehru at the party office here on Wednesday, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president Dinesh Gundu Rao said leaders of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar have been “insulting” Nehru on social media by questioning his contributions to independent India. “The BJP and RSS leaders did not even go to jail for 10 days during the freedom struggle. But they have been challenging Nehru’s role in building a secular and democratic India,” he said.

Referring to the perceived differences between the country’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Nehru, Mr. Rao said BJP leaders had “appropriated Patel” and built the Statue of Unity in Gujarat. “Relations between the two leaders were good, but BJP leaders have misinterpreted it,” he said.

He also said that Narendra Modi had become Prime Minister based on the country’s strong foundations laid by Nehru. “But unlike Nehru, Modi’s dictatorial style of functioning has come in the way of true democracy and slowed down the country’s economic growth,” Mr. Rao opined.

He paid floral tribute to Nehru and urged Congress leaders and workers to question the Modi government’s policies and campaign actively to bring down the NDA government in the 2019 general elections.

On Cabinet expansion

The State Cabinet will be expanded by November-end, Mr. Rao said.

He said many leaders of the ruling coalition parties were touring the State and talks on Cabinet expansion would be held only after they returned to Bengaluru. The exercise had been put on the back burner with the notification of byelections to three Lok Sabha and two Legislative Assembly constituencies.

There are eight vacancies in the Cabinet — six in the Congress quota and two in the JD(S) quota.

# Trump celebrates Diwali, leaves out Hindus in tweet

President Donald Trump celebrated Diwali at a White House ceremony but surprisingly omitted mentioning Hindus — the largest community in the world that celebrate the festival of lights — in his tweets, drawing severe criticism from netizens forcing him to redo his tweet.

Mr. Trump hosted Diwali celebrations in the historic Roosevelt Room of the White House which was attended by prominent Indian-Americans, Indian-origin administration and diplomatic officials.

Diwali was celebrated across the world on November 7.

In his first tweet, he forgot to greet the Hindus.

“Today, we gathered for Diwali, a holiday observed by Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains throughout the United States & around the world. Hundreds of millions of people have gathered with family & friends to light the Diya and to mark the beginning of a New Year,” Mr. Trump said in a tweet as he posted along with a YouTube link of the White House event.

The alert netizens were quick in identifying that he missed greeting the ‘Hindus’.

“It is a major Hindu holiday,” CNN’s Congressional correspondent Manu Raju said in a tweet. Mr. Trump soon deleted his first tweet, and replaced it with another one.

Misses mentioning again
“Today, we gathered for Diwali, a holiday observed by Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains throughout the United States & around the world. Hundreds of millions of people have gathered with family & friends to light the Diya and to mark the beginning of a New Year,” Mr. Trump said in his second tweet which again missed mentioning the Hindus.

“So after initially not including Hindus in his first Diwali tweet, Mr. Trump deletes that tweet and reposts another message. And still leaves out Hindus…,” Raju said, as he was joined by several others on the social media.

The White House did not respond to questions on the series of tweets by the President and the criticism that he did not mention the Hindus in his tweets.

“President Trump leaves out Hindus in Diwali tweets,” Time magazine said in an article.

Mr. Trump had also mentioned Hindus in his November 7 Diwali greetings.

“Known as the Festival of lights, Diwali is a joyous and spiritual time marked by many Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists,” the President had said in his Diwali greetings last week.

# See Sri Lanka’s national crisis for what it is

The Sirisena-Rajapaksa alliance has to be challenged on principles of democracy and pluralism
Over the past fortnight, Sri Lanka has witnessed an escalating political crisis, with a standoff between President Maithripala Sirisena and the Parliament. After the shocking and undemocratic appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister, the suspension of Parliament, and then its dissolution on November 9, Mr. Sirisena announced snap elections.

The court’s intervention
Significantly, the Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended the dissolution of Parliament until December 7. While the power struggle will continue, it is to the credit of the democratic regime change in January 2015, ironically led by Mr. Sirisena, that Sri Lanka’s governing institutions have resisted the authoritarian power inherent in the executive presidency.

Looking back, Sri Lanka’s liberal democratic turn in January 2015 was too good to be true, particularly when authoritarian populist regimes were steadily rising the world over. Mr. Rajapaksa, who further entrenched the executive presidency including by removing its two-term limit and later manoeuvred the impeachment of a Supreme Court Chief Justice, was dislodged by a broad array of political forces. That major democratic victory for Sri Lanka, in turn for the West, India and Japan, was met with relief over the removal of the China-leaning Rajapaksa and the normalisation of foreign relations.

In this context, Mr. Sirisena re-joining Mr. Rajapaksa has once again sparked the reductive analysis of power play over Sri Lanka involving China, India and the U.S. in the Indian Ocean. Such lazy analysis fails to consider the political consequences of prolonged and flawed neoliberal policies and political-economic changes. Moreover, feeding into the frenzy of the international media seeing developments through a hollow geopolitical lens, the Sirisena-Rajapksa camp claims that the sale of Sri Lanka’s assets to China and India and the Free Trade Agreement with Singapore over the last few years by the United National Party (UNP) led by ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have undermined sovereignty and triggered an economic crisis.

Ideological gains
For some time the Rajapaksa loyalists have been stoking fears of international intervention — this xenophobia has been mobilised to consolidate power. In 2015, Mr. Sirisena claimed his major achievement was rebuilding global relations severed by Mr. Rajapaksa’s 10-year tenure. Today, Mr. Sirisena is loudly echoing strident nationalists, over protecting Sri Lanka from international agendas.

The UNP claims to have a monopoly on Western friendship and bringing in foreign investors. It paints a picture of international isolation and a Western aid strike if Mr. Rajapaksa returns, but does not reflect on how its own policies have led the country here.

This trend plays out differently within Tamil politics. Narrow Tamil nationalists in Jaffna and the Tamil diaspora see the emergence of an anti-West government as an opportunity to mobilise international opprobrium. They continue to dream of international intervention, ignoring local realities and political dynamics.

These fears of external intervention and trust in international support are more for ideological manoeuvring. In reality, it is national politics, power consolidation and negotiations with external actors which have determined Sri Lanka’s international relations.

Sri Lanka’s tensions with external powers — except for the Indian debacle in the 1980s — have rarely led to punitive measures and damaging sanctions. Nevertheless, confrontational rhetoric has helped nationalist governments mobilise popular support.

International pressures
The country’s decade-long contentious engagement, on war-time abuses, at the UN Human Rights Council is a case in point. While the U.S. mobilised resolutions to rein in Mr. Rajapaksa, who was tilting towards China and Iran, he politically gained from the condemnation in Geneva, projecting himself as a defender of war heroes from international bullies.

Sri Lanka’s deteriorating balance of payments and external debt problems are also pertinent. While there is much talk of the debt trap by China, in reality, only 10% of Sri Lanka’s foreign loans are from China.

Close to 40% of external debt is from the international markets, including sovereign bonds, of which an unprecedented $4.2 billion in debt payments are due next year. Here the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) vocal position in relation to its agreement with Sri Lanka from June 2016, and the rating agencies’ projections on Sri Lanka are crucial to roll over loans. Ultimately, the flows of such capital have little do with diplomatic relations, but depend on national stability and strength, including the political will to ensure budget cuts and debt repayment.

During his earlier stint in power, Mr. Rajapaksa called the bluff of international economic isolation after a most horrendous war. Despite Western opposition, with authoritarian stability, he had few problems mobilising loans from the global markets and international agencies such as the World Bank, and for that matter an IMF Stand-By Arrangement.

Neoliberal crisis
Sri Lanka’s economy is not immune from global forces. However, changes to the global economic order, rather than the instrumental moves of any one global power, are what trouble the island nation.

Declining global trade with increasing protectionism has foreclosed possibilities of export-led development. And that reality has completely escaped Sri Lanka’s neoliberal policymakers, whether from the UNP, or earlier under Mr. Rajapaksa.

Next, while the U.S. Federal Reserve for some years has been preparing to increase interest rates resulting in Western capital from emerging markets flowing back to the metropolis, measures to contain capital flight were not taken.

It is no coincidence that the political troubles escalated with the deteriorating economic situation a few months ago. It is only after the mounting balance of payments problems that restricting imports — taboo for Sri Lanka’s economic establishment — became a reality, and even ideas of restricting capital flows were considered. The economic crisis, once acknowledged by the government, brought to the fore long-simmering concerns over neglect of the rural economy, particularly in the context of a protracted drought. The political fallout of restricting fertiliser subsidies to farmers, policies of market pricing of fuel and the rising cost of living delegitimised the government.

Authoritarian populism
The backlash against neoliberalism coming to the fore with the global economic crisis of 2008, and the emergence of authoritarian populist regimes shaping global politics were bound to affect Sri Lanka. The dangerous rise of a strongman leader such as Mr. Rajapaksa has little to do with the manoeuvres of external powers. Rather, the political ground of Mr. Rajapaksa’s popular appeal is shaped by the systematic dispossession of people with cycles of neoliberal crises.

While many of Sri Lanka’s neoliberal policies, including trade liberalisation, privatising medical education, sale of sovereign bonds and the controversial port city-cum-international financial centre in Colombo, were products of the Rajapaksa government, today the Rajapaksa camp claims to guard Sri Lanka from a neoliberal attack on sovereignty. While Mr. Wickremesinghe was shameless in promoting free markets and finance capital, the economic vision of Mr. Rajapaksa is of a populist variety with the same substance.

It is credible economic alternatives with a democratic vision that will arrest the slide towards authoritarian populism. During this time of crisis, the prevalent discourse of international interests deflects such alternatives. The UNP and its allies should be challenged on their blunders with the economy and failure to find a constitutional-political solution, including the abolition of the executive presidency. The Sirisena-Rajapaksa alliance, which is likely to peddle again the war victory and international conspiracies with Sinhala Buddhist majoritarian mobilisations, has to be challenged on principles of democracy and pluralism. The debate in Sri Lanka limited to personalities, corruption and geopolitics needs to shift with the public putting forward powerful demands of democratisation and economic justice. Otherwise, the thin wall of defence provided by the Parliament and the courts could crumble, and the deepening political and economic crisis may pave the way for authoritarian consolidation.

Ahilan Kadirgamar is a political economist based in Jaffna, Sri Lanka.

# A lost opportunity for the Congress?

The party had everything going for it in Chhattisgarh, but showed no initiative
With the first phase of polling for the 90-member Chhattisgarh Assembly concluding on Monday, the month-long election schedule for the five States — Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Mizoram — finally began. Despite a boycott call by the Maoists, the turnout was about 70%, according to provisional figures put out by the Election Commission of India.

Of these five States, it could be argued that Chhattisgarh should have been the best bet for the Congress to register a victory — and in case the party fails to do as well as expected, it may look back in regret at some its election tactics.

Though Chief Minister Raman Singh is reasonably popular in spite of being in power for 15 years, it is natural to expect some anti-incumbency against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the State.

Political developments
Even some anti-incumbency would put the BJP in a difficult situation as the party managed to win the 2013 Assembly elections with a very slender margin, with less than 1 percentage point of the vote between it and the Congress. But political developments in the State suggest that the BJP is all set to win again this time as well.

Ajit Jogi, for long the face of the Congress, has floated his own party — the Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) — while the State Congress working president and well-known tribal leader Ramdayal Uike has joined the BJP.

The inability of the Congress to form an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which eventually joined hands with the JCC, could damage its electoral prospects.

Past elections
Here are the reasons why Chhattisgarh could have been an easy State for the Congress to secure. Though the BJP won three consecutive Assembly elections — 2003, 2008 and 2013 — its victories have been with a very narrow margins. The victories have just slipped from the Congress’s hand on all three occasions. The BJP also won a large number of seats with narrow margins. For example, in 2003, 26 seats of the 49 seats the BJP won were with a margin of less than 10,000 votes.

In 2008, 27 seats of the 50 seats the party won had a margin of less than 10,000 votes. In all three Assembly elections, half the seats won were with a margin less than 5,000 votes. A marginal shift in the support base of the BJP could result in the party losing between 12 and 14 seats, which would be good enough for the Congress to register a victory.

But the Congress has clearly missed the bus completely. It remained inactive even after the formation of the JCC. Mr. Jogi, without doubt, was the backbone of the Congress in the State for decades. His political move is bound to damage the vote bank of the Congress. Even after Mr. Jogi’s exit from the Congress, it may have been possible for the Congress to put up a strong contest against the BJP if it had managed to form an alliance with the BSP.

The first phase
While this would be the first Assembly election for the JCC, its alliance with the BSP is an important factor. Mr. Uike’s defection is also sure to not only damage the support base of the Congress but also add to the support base of the BJP.

This means that in the State which has voted the first, Chhattisgarh is certainly an opportunity lost as far as the Congress is concerned unless a miracle happens, which as of now appears to be unlikely.

Sanjay Kumar is a Professor and currently the Director of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi


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