Faced with a revolt by farmers in western UP, the Yogi Adityanath government has ordered a virtual gag order on its ministers and MLAs
Haryana deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala of the Jannayak Janata Party is under immense pressure from his colleagues to walk out of the BJP-led ruling coalition in solidarity with the protesting farmers. The JJP’s Karnal district president Inderjit Singh Goraya recently resigned from the party to support the farmers demand for the repeal of the three contentious farm laws. In addition, two JJP legislators have spoken in favour of the agitating farmers and have warned Mr Chautala that the party will pay a heavy price if he does not come out openly against the farm laws. Though JJP cadres are undoubtedly agitated about their party’s wishy-washy stand on the farmers’ agitation, Dushyant Chautala’s unwillingness to share power with his colleagues has also contributed to the rumblings in the JJP. Mr Chautala is heading as many as 10 ministries, which include high-profile portfolios like excise and taxation, industry and commerce and food and civil supplies. There is only one more JJP minister in the Haryana Cabinet, Anoop Dhanak who holds the inconsequential archeology and museums portfolio. Given the power he wields, it is not surprising that Mr Chautala is in no hurry to snap ties with the BJP.
Faced with a revolt by farmers in western Uttar Pradesh, the Yogi Adityanath government has ordered a virtual gag order on its ministers and MLAs. It has been informally conveyed to them that no one other than those authorised by the government should make any public statements or give interviews to the media regarding the farmers’ protests. Any MLA or minister violating this “code of conduct” immediately receives a phone call seeking an explanation for his or her transgression. These instructions were issued after several legislators from western Uttar Pradesh failed to come out strongly against the ongoing farmers’ agitation, especially BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, and have instead sounded apologetic and conciliatory when questioned by the media about their views on the stir. In fact, an MLA from this region even sidestepped questions on Mr Tikait’s aggressive stand, saying the agitating farmers were like members of his extended family.
Though Congress members have become accustomed to Rahul Gandhi’s habit of disappearing for long breaks abroad, there was panic in the party recently when word went round that the Nehru-Gandhi scion had left for Germany. After all, this was in the midst of the Budget Session of Parliament and at the peak of the farmers’ protests. Party MPs and other leaders made frantic calls to ascertain the veracity of these reports. Many called up Rahul Gandhi’s close aides and one leader even tapped into his contacts at the airport to find out if he had boarded an international flight. There was all-round relief when Rahul Gandhi’s office confirmed that he was very much in town and that he would be attending Parliament. It is, however, difficult to understand the panic over the Congress leader’s disappearance during a Parliament session given the fact that his contributions in the Lok Sabha have been minimal. On the plus side, Rahul Gandhi has addressed the media several times in recent weeks both in Delhi and outside.
The security arrangements inside the Parliament House building have been beefed up to such an extent that it is being compared to barricading at the Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders. In an unprecedented and unusual move, Delhi police personnel have been deployed inside the building along with the Parliament’s watch and ward staff. The presence of the police personnel, who have been stationed all along the corridors, is inescapable. As it is, the number of media persons allowed inside has been restricted and even those who have been issued passes are finding it difficult to move around freely. Reporters, who could earlier linger outside the offices of ministers in the hope of getting a tiny bit of news, are now shooed away if they dawdle in the corridors for longer than five minutes. The police personnel randomly stop reporters and demand to see their passes when it is known that only passholders can enter the building. Several media-persons have lodged a protest but apologetic security officers maintain they have instructions “from the top” to keep a vigil on them.
It is close to a year since he brought down the Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh but former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, now with the BJP, is out to take revenge against his former colleagues for humiliating him. When ministers were given duties in different constituencies for the Republic Day celebrations, Mr Scindia made sure that his loyalist Govind Rajput was sent to Chhindwara, Kamal Nath’s fiefdom. According to the buzz in Bhopal, this was meant to be a message for the veteran Congress leader and his son, who represents the constituency now, that they are on Mr Scindia’s radar and that his next target is to uproot them from their stronghold.