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CODE ON WAGES: AN IMMACULATE REFORM?

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No establishment which depends for existence on paying fees less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue. By living wages, it is meant more than the bare subsistence level- the wages of decent living” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

The multiplicity of labour laws and their compliance burden has often been cited by domestic industries and foreign investors as an obstacle to investment. With the objective of increasing investor confidence and simplifying and rationalising the existing labour laws, the government announced an amalgamation of 44 labour laws into 4 codes, namely on (i) wages; (ii) industrial relations; (iii) social security and welfare; and (iv) occupational safety, health and working conditions. The Code on Wages 2019, the first amongst the four codes, was enacted to amend and consolidate the laws relating to wages and bonus and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. This code consolidates four major legislations namely the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 and Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 which basically regulated the wages received by the workers.

Recently, it had been in news that the Government is eyeing to enforce these legislations shortly. In the backdrop of this development it becomes essential for one and all to become aware of some of the problematic elements of the Code and the Draft Central Wage Rules such that one may be prepared to deal with the same and if required devise appropriate ways to mitigate its effects.

AREAS FOR RECONSIDERATION AND IMPROVEMENT: FIXATION OF NATIONAL LEVEL FLOOR WAGE

In 2018, the Government of India constituted an Expert Committee under the Chairmanship of Dr. Anoop Satpathy for fixing the National Minimum Wage. In the final report titled Report of the Expert Committee on determining the Methodology for Fixing the National Minimum Wage of January 2019, the committee submitted its recommendations after considering the existing labour conditions, the guidelines of the Indian Labour Conference of 1957 and the Supreme Court case of Workmen v. Reptakos Brett & Co., and fixed the National Minimum Wage equal to Rs. 375/ per day, irrespective of the sector of employment, skill or whether the place of employment was rural or urban. However, the recommendation, was not incorporated in the Code and the National Floor Minimum Wage was fixed as low as Rs. 178 per day, perhaps less than even the existing wage rate at certain places.

Section 9 of the Code provides for the determination of a National-level floor wage, which would basically set a minimum benchmark for payable wages. For the purpose of making the quantum of wages reasonable as well as uniform this is a welcome policy measure introduced by the Government. In that regard, Rule 3 of the Draft Central Rules states, that the size of a general working class family would be deemed to be 4 members, wherein the earning member would be counted as 1 consumption unit, spouse as 0.8 and 2 children as 0.6 consumption unit each. This is where some problem creeps in to the Code. This calculation does not account for the elderly and other dependents who are generally present in an Indian family. Even as per the data available from the 2011 Census, the average household size in India was 5 (exact mean value 4.8). Thereafter, the said rule refers to a requirement of 2700 calories per day per consumption unit, which again is barely enough in consideration of the nutritional requirements. It is assumed that women will consume 20% less and children will consume 40% less than that assigned for a male member, thus making the law insensitive to women and static and unresponsive to the increasing nutritional requirements of growing children (a 14-year-old child may not have the same diet as that of 7-year-old child). Though this rule might not lead to nutritional deficiencies per se, yet provided the opportunity, it might neither contribute expectedly in improving the condition of health and malnutrition among women and children nor in improving the social status of women in the society.

Further, the method provided for calculating house rent as 10 percent of food and clothing expenditure disregards the realities of workers living in cities and the existing cost of living and might fail to ensure them liveable housing conditions. Lastly, the provision for setting aside 25% of minimum wages for expenditure on children’s education, medical needs, recreation and to meet contingencies, also appears to be insufficient, as the difference in cost rises to over seven times in urban centres, where the average expenditure in government hospitals is Rs 7,189 as against Rs 42,540 in private hospitals.

Observing the high costs of education, medical facilities etc. these days, the provisions do not seem adequate.

PERIODICITY OF FIXATION OF FLOOR WAGE

Rule 11(4) of the Draft Central Rules states, that the Central Government “may” revise the floor wage, ordinarily every five years and also “periodically” undertake to adjust the variations in the cost of living, in consultation with the Central Advisory Board. Use of these uncertain terms open scope for delay in the process of revision and can lead to interpretations and misinterpretations that may result in stagnation of floor wage rates in future and thus defeat the purpose of floor wage rates itself. Thereafter, even the period of revision of floor wages coincides with the period of revision of minimum rate of wages and since former is the point of reference for the latter, the periodicity of revision of floor wages should be shortened, for the expected realisation of its raison d’être.

BONUSES TO ALL

Initially the scope of guaranteed bonus (not linked to the performance of an individual) was restricted only to those employees who earned up to Rs 21,000 per month. The new Code refers to stipulation of a wage threshold by the appropriate government, and employees whose wages did not exceed this amount would be entitled to a guaranteed bonus which would be in the range of 8.33 percent to 20 percent, depending upon the allocable surplus available in the organisation. However, the Code provides that even those employees who earn above this threshold, would be entitled to receive a bonus (in the same percentage range) and the amount payable would be calculated as if their wage was such an amount, so determined by the government or equal to the minimum wage fixed by the appropriate government, whichever would be higher. Now this, would not only dilute meritocracy and add to an organisation’s cost burden but also lead to issues in compliance, for Companies having operations in different states of the Country, if the different state governments fix a different ceiling for payment of bonus. Thus, employees receiving the same pay might become eligible for different amounts of bonuses.

CODE SANS WAGE THRESHOLD

Obligations relating to payment of minimum wages have been extended to all employees that is individuals even in administrative and managerial roles, without any wage threshold, as per Section 5 of the Code. In comparison, the existing Payment of Wages Act currently extended only to those individuals whose wages did not exceed Rs 24,000 per month. Since no such wage limit has been contemplated by the Wage Code, these provisions might consequently be applicable even to senior employees, including even the one’s in the highest position in the organisation. This makes matters cumbersome and onerous for employers, especially when it comes to re-devising and structuring the pay and other benefit agreements of those senior employees, considering such arrangements generally involve claw back and other deduction provisions (which take away a substantial part of that which has been given to them), which may not be consistent with this law.

CONCLUSION

The Code on Wages, 2019 is no less, than a landmark in the Indian Labour industry, especially with respect to the extent of simplification it has brought with respect to the various enactments, by meticulously consolidating the same in one single enactment. The new Codes are about to be enforced shortly but yet there are certain aspects which are problematic and require reconsideration. Firstly, neither the quantum National Floor Wage corresponds with the guidelines of the Expert Committee nor does it acknowledge the ordinary Indian family size and structure and adequately account for the actual needs and requirements of its beneficiaries.

Secondly, use of uncertain terms with respect to the periodicity of wage revisions and coinciding periods of revision of National Floor Wages and Minimum Wage Rates can lead to misinterpretations and consequently result in stagnation and delay in the process of revision of wages. Thirdly, issues such as lack of wage threshold and lastly, provision for payment of bonus to all, adds further uncertainty in the law and results in increased costs for the employers, thereby defeating one of the very fundamental objective of introducing this Code itself, that is of increasing the ease of doing business in India and providing an employer friendly work environment to the investors.

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Policy & Politics

India today aspires to take our ranking in the GII Index to the top 25: Piyush Goyal

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Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles, Piyush Goyal said that India had come a long way in the Global Innovation Index (GII) from the 81st spot in 2015 to the 40th spot in 2022 today. ‘We were 46 last time the ranking was done. We have also maintained 1st rank in ICT services exports over the years’ he added. Shri Goyal was delivering a virtual message to mark the launch of the Global Innovation Index, 2022 by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
The Minister said that GII has established itself as a tool for Governments across the world to reflect upon policies and their impact. “GII has over the years recognized India’s continuous rise due to the progressive measures taken by the government and industry working hand in hand”, he added. He also expressed his gratitude to WIPO on behalf of 1.3 billion Indians and said that India today aspires to take our ranking in the GII Index amongst top 25, he said.
India Innovating Like Never Before!
India climbs to the 40th rank in the Global Innovation Index of @WIPO, a huge leap of 41 places in 7 years.
The steady rise testifies that India under the leadership of PM @NarendraModi ji is rapidly emerging as the global innovation hub. pic.twitter.com/pltqW8kdUh
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) September 29, 2022
Goyal said that Innovation has been a catalytic force for the economy and society. “Though innovation implies novelty, it is also rooted in tradition for us in India. Ancient scientific knowledge including the Vedas and traditional medicine are a testament to India’s innovative spirit”, he added.
The Minister said that India had established the first of its kind Global Centre for Traditional Medicines in collaboration with the WHO, representing India’s ancient scientific prowess.
Goyal said that as the importance of the ‘knowledge economy’ grows, innovation will lay the roadmap for development in India. “We have been working to strengthen Research & Development across sectors as amplified by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s clarion call to make innovation our nation’s mission”, he added.
The Minister noted that agility, enthusiasm and energy of our youth are powering the start-up ecosystem. He observed that India today the 3rd largest start-up ecosystem and is home to over a 100 unicorns. “Start up revolution has spread across India. Over half the start-ups are from remote small towns”, he said.
Goyal opined that incubation, handholding, funding, industry-academia partnership and mentorship have stirred entrepreneurial spirit across the country. He said that India had embarked on the ‘Digital India’ journey in 2015 and have set up a goal of a trillion-dollar digital economy in the next few years. “Digitization of Government initiatives and public services has been our continuous focus”, he observed.
The Minister outlined several areas in which digital technologies are employed from mapping capital assets using GIS technology to revolutionizing payments through UPI. In fact, 40% of global real-time digital transactions happened in India last year, he underscored. “To further strengthen innovation, we have introduced the National Education Policy, which promotes the spirit of enquiry by setting up incubation & technology development centers. With over 9000 Atal Tinkering Labs, we encourage youth to develop solutions to society’s problems”, he added.
Shri Goyal also stressed that India has taken up structural reforms to strengthen its IPR regime including modernization of IP office, reducing legal compliances and facilitating IP filing for start-ups, women entrepreneurs, the small industries and others. “Domestic filing of Patents registered a 46% growth in the last 5 years. We are now transitioning to a knowledge-based economy”

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THE TRAGIC DEATH OF LAL BAHADUR SHASTRI AND THE MYSTIFYING NETAJI SUBHAS CHANDRA BOSE ANGLE

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The unimpeachably honest 5 feet 2 inches tall mighty second Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri was born on 2nd October, 1904 in Mughalsarai, officially known as Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Nagar, a small but bustling railway town close to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Shastri’s birthday happily coincides with that of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi. On the auspicious occasion of his 117th birthday in 2021, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi twittered his personal homage, ‘Tributes to former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri ji on his birth anniversary. His life based on values and principles will always remain a source of inspiration for the countrymen’ Significantly, Shastri coined the eternally electrifying seminal slogan ‘Jai Jawan! Jai Kisan!’ and fathered the “Green Revolution” (the agrarian movement that catapulted India to self-sufficiency in foodgrain production enabling it to achieve a record level of over 300 million tonnes in 2021-2022!) as well as the ‘White Revolution’ (the national campaign to increase the production of milk that eventually culminated in India becoming the largest milk producer in the world with a staggering output of over 200 million metric tons in 2021-22!).
On 11th January, 1966, a date which will live in infamy as one of the darkest days in India’s chequered history, this proud and noble son of India was unexpectedly snatched away from our midst by the cruel hand of death barely one and a half years after his taking over as the Prime Minister under the most mysterious circumstances. This tragic death took place in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan (the ‘City of Stones’ that was to be literally reduced to rubble by an earth shattering earthquake on 26th April, 1966!), after Shastri had signed the historic Tashkent Declaration with the Pakistani President Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan, with the Soviet Premier Alexei Nikolayevich Kosygin acting as the peace mediator, that brought the curtain down on the fierce seventeen day 1965 Indo-Pakistan war.

Prior to his demise, Shastri looked superbly agile and brimming with boundless energy. Following the signing of the Declaration at 4 p.m. and a grand reception at 8 p.m. hosted by Kosygin, Shastri returned to his ‘dacha’ around 10 p.m. He instructed his faithful personal valet Ram Nath to fetch his dinner which turned out to be a light meal comprising spinach, potatoes and curry specially prepared by Jan Mohammed, the personal chef of the Indian Ambassador Triloki Nath ‘Tikki’ Kaul. At 11.30 p.m., Nath gave Shastri a glass of milk. Shastri asked Nath to retire to his room and snatch some sleep as he had to catch a flight the very next morning to Kabul where he was scheduled to meet the ‘Frontier Gandhi’ Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. At 1.25 a.m., Shastri was afflicted by a sudden bout of convulsive coughing. He staggered out from his suite and asked his Personal Assistant J.N.Sahai, ‘Where is Doctor Sahib?’ Sahai immediately rushed to summon Shastri’s personal physician Dr.R.N.Chugh who had accompanied him to Tashkent. A Personal Assistant M.M.N.Sharma placed Shastri’s head on his lap, whereupon Shastri kept pointing suggestively to a thermos flask containing water placed on the dressing table. Dr.Chugh arrived to find Shastri in a most critical condition. He made frantic efforts to revive Shastri, but in vain. A team of Russian doctors also arrived on the scene, but by then Shastri’s pulse had stopped, his heart was silent and he was bereft of his breath and corneal reflexes. The veteran Indian journalist and my late father’s close friend Kuldip Nayar recorded later, ‘In a corner of the room, however, on a dressing table, there was an overturned thermos flask. It appeared that Shastri had struggled to open it.’ Russia’s leading news agency TASS issued a terse message, ‘The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the Council of Ministers of the USSR is sad to notice that 11 Jan, 1966 in 1 hour and 32 minutes in Tashkent died a distinguished statesman, Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri.’ In 2009, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs revealed that no ‘post mortem was conducted by the authorities of the former USSR’. The solitary available record emanated from the joint medical investigation conducted by Dr.Chugh and some Russian doctors and attributed Shastri’s death to ‘an acute attack of INFARKTMIOCARDIA’. Akhmed Sattarov, the Uzbek butler assigned to Shastri, was summarily arrested and handcuffed, subjected to an excruciating interrogation and eventually let off the hook by the Ninth Directorate of the dreaded ‘Committee for State Security’, better known as the ‘KGB’. It is not known whether Jan Mohammed, who effortlessly joined the Rashtrapati Bhavan staff in Delhi subsequent to Kaul becoming India’s Foreign Secretary, was also interrogated.
When Shastri’s body was brought home to 1, Janpath in Delhi, his mother Ramdulari Devi noticed that his face had turned blue and rigid with white patches and shrieked, ‘Mere bitwa ko jahar de diya!’ (‘My son has been poisoned!’).Thereafter, Shastri’s family spearheaded by his wife Lalita Shastri, emphatically alleged that he was poisoned because his face and neck had turned dark blue and there were fresh incision marks on his abdomen. The prodigious Barrister and my legal Guru Asoke Sen, who was the Union Law Minister in Shastri’s Cabinet, also observed clearly discernible blue patches on Shastri’s body much to his consternation. In February, 1966, the issue of Shastri’s death was raised for the first time in the Indian Parliament. In April,1970, Shastri’s childhood friend Tribhuvan Narain Singh (the former Governor of West Bengal who was personally known to me), demanded a comprehensive enquiry into his death as he had not been autopsied. The maiden inquiry into Shastri’s death was conducted by the Raj Narain Inquiry Committee in 1977 which proved to be utterly abortive and lamentably not a trace of the inquiry survives even in the archives of Parliament House. An epic Hindi poetry book titled ‘Lalita Ke Aansoo’(‘Tears of Lalita’) penned by the celebrated Indian poet and writer Dr. Krant M. L.Verma was published in 1978 containing a narrative of the Tashkent whodunit. In response to a RTI by the celebrated writer and journalist Anuj Dhar, the Indian Prime Minister’s Office in 2009 glibly admitted that it had one document relating to Shastri’s death which could not be declassified for security reasons. Not so very long ago, I had a prolonged, animated tête-à-tête in the Delhi Gymkhana Club with my dear friend and popular Kisan leader Sanjay Nath Singh (the elder son of Shastri’s second daughter Suman Singh who was around 9 years old at the time of Shastri’s demise).Giving a rare insight into Shastri’s death, Sanjay told me in chaste Hindi, ‘Amma (his grandmother) invariably travelled with Babuji (Shastri) on his overseas trips, but this time she did not travel with him. In fact, Amma and Anil Mama (maternal uncle) were supposed to have travelled with Babuji to Tashkent, but at the last minute their trip was cancelled by Babuji. Babuji was to be booked at a hotel in Tashkent. But, he was put up in a dacha far away from the venue of the conference. His suite did not have any telephone, buzzer or teleprinter. When his body reached Delhi, blood was oozing from his mouth and nostrils. There were fresh cuts on his abdomen which had been strapped with adhesive tape bandage. Amma dipped her fingers into a bowl of ghee and smeared ghee on Babuji’s lips. When she put her fingers back into the bowl, the ghee turned dark blue and became hard. Babuji’s personal diary as well as his ‘Action Plans’ diary went missing. Babuji’s spectacle case came back to Delhi along with his body. Rummaging inside the spectacle case, Amma stumbled across a minute strip of paper containing Babuji’s last hastily scribbled message which visibly shocked her.’ Shastri’s third son Sunil Shastri, another close friend of mine, had earlier told me about the spectacle case which had ‘miraculously’ escaped the scrutiny of his father’s detractors and had reached his mother’s safe hands. What adds grist to the rumour mill is the fact that Dr.Chugh met with a fatal road accident on 5th February,1977. In a spine chilling judgement of the Delhi High Court dated 11th February,2004, Justice Madan Bhimrao Lokur (an old friend from my college days and a former judge of the Supreme Court of India), observed, ‘On 5th March, 1977, a horrific accident took place between a truck driven by Wasan Singh and a car driven by Dr. R.N. Chugh…Dr. R.N. Chugh and his wife Dr. (Mrs.) Sarojni Chugh and their minor son Master Shailender Chugh died. Their daughter Ms. Shobha Chugh..received grievous injuries on her head and other parts of her body.As a result of the injuries, she is facially permanently scarred, her memory was affected and her concentration impaired.’ On 6th March,1997, Ram Nath, whilst astride a bicycle was hit by a speeding bus. Both his legs were crushed, necessitating amputation, and he became mentally unstable. Both of them were on the verge of deposing before the Inquiry Committee!

Startingly, there is a mystifying Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose angle to the whole episode. Shastri was an indefatigable champion of Netaji. Jagdish Kodesia, a former Delhi Congress chief and a confidante of Shastri, appeared before the Khosla Commission in March, 1971 as a witness. He deposed that Shastri did not believe in Netaji’s death in a plane crash and went on to assert, ‘When he became Home Minister, he wanted to know the truth whether Subhas Bose was alive or not.’ Shastri also showed a deep interest in the antecedents of Gumnami Baba of Faizabad who was rumoured to be Netaji. It is widely believed that Netaji was present at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s funeral on 27th May,1964 at Teen Murti Bhavan dressed as a monk. According to Capt. Ajit Vadakayil, the well known blogger, Netaji came in a taxi and sent an envelope to Shastri whereupon Shastri came running out to meet him. Then Shastri and Netaji went inside Teen Murti Bhavan. Netaji took out a package, stood beside Nehru’s body and offered a giant garland of roses with an attached note saying ‘Another name of Jawaharlal Nehru is courage. Let us confront the crisis of our nation for the future of India’. The note was undersigned as ‘Subhas Chandra Bose’. After Shastri became the Prime Minister, 80 Members of Parliament visited him and proclaimed that the monk was none other than Netaji without any shadow of doubt! Shastri decided to set up a second inquiry commission to investigate the mystery behind Netaji’s death.

In 1965, Shastri was invited to unveil Netaji’s statue on the occasion of his 68th birth anniversary on 23rd January,1966 at Mayo Road in Kolkata. For some inexplicable reason, Shastri preponed the ceremony and unveiled the statue in December,1965, three weeks prior to his Tashkent visit. Netaji’s nephew Amiya Nath Bose, the eminent lawyer and parliamentarian, who happened to be at the ceremony requested Shastri to probe into the circumstances relating to Netaji’s death whereupon Shastri assured him that he would personally pursue the matter in Russia. Bose was extremely close to our family. After my father retired from government service in 1966 shortly after Shastri’s death, we stayed for a few months at his 10, South Avenue flat. During those days, he used to regale us with his personal reminiscences of the intense relationship that existed between Shastri and Netaji and was never tired of telling us about the Mayo Road ceremony. In 1976, I joined the legal profession and became a member of the Bar Library Club within the majestic confines of the Calcutta High Court in 1991. Bose, who used to come infrequently to the High Court, most graciously allowed me to sit on his hand crafted Elizabethan chair in the Library which fortuitously happened to be right next to the chair of Asoke Sen. After his death, the chair was permanently allotted to me prompting Sen to remark in a jocular vein, ‘The chair moves from Bose to Bose!’ I continue to occupy that chair to this day with a sense of immense pride.
On 12th December,2015, the Times of India added an intriguing twist to the whole matter by divulging that a forensic face-mapping report submitted by a British expert Neil Miller had found a strong resemblance between Netaji and a man photographed in Tashkent. According to Miller, the face mapping of the mystery man seen in Tashkent ‘lends support leaning on strong support to the contention that the person seen in the picture and Subhas Chandra Bose are one and the same person.’ Shastri had made a call before his death to his family members. In a moment of helpless nostalgia, Sanjay, who was standing right beside the telephone, vividly recalled, ‘Amma first spoke to Babuji but could hardly hear his voice. Then Hari Mama (Shastri’s eldest son) exchanged a few words with him. Lastly, Ramji (his father Vijay Nath Singh) spoke to Babuji who asked him about the reaction in India to the Declaration. When Ramji told him that certain prominent opposition leaders were planning to hold a black flag demonstration against him for having returned Haji Pir Pass, Babuji clearly told him that he would bring forth such a thing that would make his countrymen forget about the return of the Pass and any criticism about the Declaration. He was alluding to Netaji! Within a fraction of minutes, we got a call saying Babuji had taken ill. This was followed by another call after 10 minutes announcing his death.’ On 16th August,2015, Sunil disclosed on Zee 24 Ghanta that his father told him shortly before his death about a ‘special person’ he was going to meet. Was this ‘special person’ Netaji? Was Shastri planning to present Netaji before his countrymen on the occasion of Netaji’s 69th birthday on 23rd January,1966? Did he intend to invite Netaji as the Chief Guest to the Republic Day parade on 26th January,1966? Was he going to abdicate in favour of Netaji? These questions will perhaps remain inscrutable.
The uncanny circumstances surrounding Shastri’s death have received wide and extensive coverage in India and even beyond its frontiers, thanks to the bold and tell-all revelations made in the National Film Award winning ‘crowd sourced’ thriller film ‘The Tashkent Files’ written and directed by the noted film director and screenwriter Vivek Agnihotri, who is a member on the board of India’s Central Board of Film Certification and a cultural representative of Indian Cinema at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. Interestingly, Sanjay was the guiding spirit behind the film and had been specially interviewed in the film itself by Agnihotri.
Last but not the least, there is an imperative need to declassify the files relating to Shastri’s death in the national interest to clear the air once and for all on the factual plane. In fact, Shastri’s second son Anil Shastri made an impassioned plea for such declassification as far back as on 22nd June, 2018 at a solemn function to mark the release of a Punjabi translation of the bestseller ‘Lal Bahadur Shastri: Lessons in Leadership’ by the well known writer Pavan Choudary. The time has now inevitably arrived for Modi to step in readily and play the role of the crusader in baring all for posterity’s sake. I shall leave it at that for the present moment!

(The author is an internationally reputed senior lawyer practising in the Supreme Court of India and various High Courts and Tribunals in India)

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Sashi Tharoor to file nomination tomorrow for party’s top post

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His office announced on Thursday that Congress MP Shashi Tharoor will file his papers for the AICC presidential elections on Friday at 12:15 p.m. at 24 Akbar Road in New Delhi. At 1 pm, Tharoor will host a press conference at his official residence as well.

Tharoor is now thought to be the front-runner for the Congress’ top post after Rajasthan’s chief minister, Ashok Gehlot, on Thursday decided to withdraw from the race. Digvijaya Singh, a senior Congress leader, is expected to submit his nomination for the position of Congress president on Friday, making it difficult for him to win the election.

On Thursday, Singh met with Tharoor, who said they agreed that theirs is “not a battle between rivals but a friendly contest” among colleagues.

After collecting nomination papers for the polls, Singh met the party MP from Thiruvananthapuram. “I received a visit from Digvijaya Singh this afternoon. I welcome his candidacy for the Presidency of our Party,” Tharoor said in a tweet.

“We both agreed that ours is not a battle between rivals but a friendly contest among colleagues. All we both want is that whoever prevails, @incIndia will win!” he said.

On October 17, voting for the position will begin, and on October 19, the results will be announced.

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After re-elected as SP chief, Akhilesh Yadav calls for BJP’s removal from power

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Akhilesh Yadav, the former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, asked voters on Thursday to assist the Samajwadi Party (SP) become a national party in the following five years by removing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from power in the national elections of 2024.

He said the people voted for the SP in the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly polls but the BJP snatched away their government and installed its own with malpractices and misuse of the official machinery. “They did this because the exit from Uttar Pradesh would have meant the exit of the government from the Centre as well. That is why they did all that they could.”

He added the Election Commission of India (ECI), an institution they had the highest faith in, also let them down. “The ECI sided with the booth in charges of the BJP. That is why now we have to become very strong at the booth level.”

He vowed to carry on the fight against the BJP regimes in the state and at the central level, even if it meant overcrowding jails. He claimed that the institutions had been taken over by the governments in Delhi and Lucknow, putting democracy and the Constitution in danger.

“[We] do not fear struggle,” said Yadav at the party’s national convention in Lucknow after he was declared the SP national president unopposed.

Yadav highlighted the solidarity among socialists and Dalits, who are enlisting in the SP in significant numbers. He referred the BJP officials as propagandists and liars.

“As we are celebrating Navratis…let us make a prayer to Goddess Durga that the BJP leaders stop lying…Farmers are distressed, but maximum loan waivers were given to Gujarat businessmen…Industries are being taken to Gujarat. Why not to the state [Uttar Pradesh], which gave maximum seats to BJP and helped it form the government at the Centre twice?”

The former chief minister was the only nominee and was chosen to lead the SP for a period of five years, according to SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav. Naresh Uttam Patel was re-elected as president of the Uttar Pradesh SP on Wednesday.

Akhilesh Yadav thanked the party for the trust it has shown in him. “It is not just a post, but a great responsibility. I assure you that for the responsibility that you have given me, even if I have to devote every day of life and every moment to work and struggle, I will.”

He said the SP founder and his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, always wanted it to become a national party. “…we tried and did a lot of hard work to do that…”

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Ahead of Gujarat polls, PM Modi on two-day Gujarat visit from today

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PM Narendra Modi

On his two-day visit to his native Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch and lay the foundation stones for initiatives worth about $29,000 crore in Surat, Bhavnagar, Ahmedabad, and Ambaji. On Thursday, he will also be present at the 36th National Games’ opening ceremony.

He will inaugurate the first phase of a metro rail project in Ahmedabad. He will lay the foundation stones for and dedicate more than 3,400 crore worth of projects in Surat, including those for the city’s biodiversity park, Diamond Research and Mercantile City, and water supply. Additionally, Khoj Museum in Surat’s Science Center will be inaugurated by Modi.

He will dedicate the World’s First CNG Terminal in Bhavnagar, which will be built at a cost of more than Rs. 4,000 crore.

On Friday, Modi will inaugurate the Gandhinagar-Mumbai Vande Bharat Express in Gandhinagar. He will also attend the Navratri festivities in Ahmedabad. He will board the train at Ahmedabad’s Kalupur Railway Station.

Elections in Gujarat are scheduled for this year. With a focus on health and education, the Aam Aadmi Party has been attempting to gain ground in the state.

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Gehlot expects to meet Sonia Gandhi today over Rajasthan crisis

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Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is slated to meet with Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Thursday, in an effort to defuse the crisis that was started in Rajasthan when lawmakers sympathetic to him challenged the appointment of his opponent Sachin Pilot to the position of governor. When it came to selecting Gehlot’s successor, the MPs wanted a say in the decision. They argued against Pilot’s promotion due to his 2020 uprising against the chief minister.

The meeting is anticipated as doubt over next month’s internal party election caused by the uprising in Rajasthan has led to the former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Digvijaya Singh, emerging as a potential candidate.

On Thursday, Singh was also anticipated to meet Gandhi. The previous front-runner for the position, Gehlot was planning to submit his name for the election on October 17.

It is supposedly expected of Gehlot to explain what happened and distance himself from his followers’ conduct. Additionally, it appears that he apologised to Gandhi.

Rajasthan, one of just two states where the Congress is in sole control, will hold elections in 14 months.

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