For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been dominating the political scene in India since 2014 when it came to power, West Bengal remains the last big citadel to conquer. It has been a meteoric rise for the BJP in the state in the last two years or so. From being nowhere in the 2016 Assembly elections to becoming the main Opposition, or probably ascending to a winning position, the party’s emergence as a contender has been one of the more fastpaced political turnaround stories in any state of India.
However, CM Mamata Banerjee is still a considerable force to reckon with, considering her strong minority vote-bank in the state, which constitutes around 27 per cent of votes. Despite her government’s several failures and allegations of corruption against it, the media, both at the national level and state, is abuzz with finding a probable candidate in the BJP who will take on the current CM. It is not surprising that from the several names doing the rounds as chief ministerial candidates of the BJP, some of them are nothing more than figments of imagination or assumptions or mere political predictions.
With Sourav Ganguly’s name already on the forefront of such an imaginary list of the BJP’s CM candidates, another name has propped up, once again from nowhere. The name of Swami Kripakarananda, a doctor-turned-multi-talented monk of the Ramakrishna Mission has surprised many in the political circles, even in the BJP-RSS ranks, much to the embarrassment of all involved: the Sangh Parivar, Ramakrishna Mission and Swami Kripakarananda himself.
Now, the pertinent questions are: Do these speculations have any basis, or are these just ‘baseless rumours’ as claimed by Ramakrishna Mission, the BJP and the RSS top brass?
But if these are only ‘rumours’, from where are these rumours emanating? And what are the reasons behind them?
Swami Kripakarananda, whose name was Bhabotosh Chakraborty in his pre-monastic life, suddenly came into the media and social media limelight on the back of his outstanding singing talent in Indian classical music, which went viral just a couple of months ago. The saffronclad monk mesmerising the audience with his classical songs became a topic of discussion on Facebook. His vocal skills clubbed with his academic brilliance — he was one among state toppers in Class 10 and 12 Boards, and went on to become a successful doctor before turning to monkhood — is a story any filmmaker or writer would love as the subject for his next film or novel.
On top of that, Swami Kripakarananda is an orator par excellence. His lectures, available on YouTube, will inspire anyone aspiring to be successful in life. His lectures advise us to not only be successful but be courageous, wise and moral as well. He has termed our current education policy as outdated, rusted and lacking in moral elements, making it unable to guide our human resources in the proper direction. His views on the educational system of our country, which must have a combination of ancient Indian valuebased education and modern technological education, matches the views of the BJP-RSS ranks somewhere. His thoughts on India and the youth of the country have some similarities with the Sangh think tank, which might be the reason behind the speculation about his candidacy. Moreover, one section of the Bengali community and youth has always wanted an educated, sophisticated and visionary individual as their CM. Kripakarananda ji has all the requirements of an ideal leader.
However, Ramakrishna Mission has refuted the news as baseless. Swami Suvirananda, the general secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, has said on record, “The news is baseless and there is not an iota of truth in it. Ramakrishna Mission monks cannot take part in politics as instructed by Swami Vivekananda. It is unfortunate that the Mission is being dragged into the matter without any verification.”
Even close friends of Swami ji have rubbished the news as a pure figment of the imagination of some people. His batch-mate in NRS Medical College, Dr Gautam Ganguly told The Daily Guardian, “I know Bhabotosh for many years. Like him, I have also been a devotee of Ramakrishna Mission from a very early age. So, we have been in touch all the time. This news is baseless and there is no truth in it.”
Dr Ganguly also said that Swami Kripakarananda ji is currently posted in the Varanasi ashram of Ramakrishna Mission where he is serving the poor and helpless Covid-19 patients at the charitable hospital of the Mission. He informed that Kripakarananda is extremely embarrassed at the news of him aspiring to be the CM of West Bengal.
“He is a different kind of man altogether from the very beginning. He has been actively associated with the Ramakrishna Mission from his student days. We all knew he would be a monk one day. He is above any position and power.”
There are probably other reasons behind these speculative stories. The stories regarding unknown faces as the BJP’s CM candidate might have come from two fronts. The disgruntled elements in the state BJP, who have not been in good terms with the present leadership under state BJP president Dilip Ghosh, might have floated theses names to keep Ghosh on the back foot. One BJP state leader, talking on condition of anonymity, said that there are many leaders in the BJP who harbour ambitions of being the CM candidate and that they may have floated the names to thwart Ghosh from being the face of BJP to take on Mamata Banerjee in the upcoming state elections.
He said that the other possibility may be that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) wants to show that the state BJP does not have a quality leader with the same stature as Mamata Banerjee, who like the previous 2016 Assembly elections, would take the fight to a personal battle, by asking people to think of her as the candidate in all 294 seats. By coming up with such unknown names, the TMC may be trying to project and turn the leadership void in the BJP to its advantage. The Modi-Shah duo’s habit of coming up with unknown faces at the last moment is also encouraging people to add fuel to the fire in this situation.
A national-level RSS leader based in West Bengal refuted this leadership talk as baseless as he reminded the Sangh’s emphasis on collective leadership. Though distancing himself from internal politics of the state BJP, he said the BJP is a cadre-based party unlike the Congress or TMC and it can go to the polls without projecting anyone as the CM candidate.
At the same time, he said, “There is no dearth of leaders in any of our organisations. Is there any organisation as disciplined as the organisations of Sangh Parivar?”
“Our swayamsevaks hold many top positions right now. Have we imported Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh, Manohar Lal and several other leaders from outside? Our system has produced many patriotic leaders who can guide the nation on the right path,” he added. “Right now, we are more concerned about the plight of Hindus in West Bengal. It does not matter who will be the next CM; it is very important that the present government should go as there is no security of Hindus under this government,” he concluded.
One has to wait for a few more months to find out whether the BJP would select someone as the CM candidate before the elections or go to the elections collectively only to select someone after the victory as the next chief minister of West Bengal.
Biswajit Jha is a journalist-turned-social entrepreneur, columnist, and author. His book ‘Bike Ambulance Dada’ will be published by Penguin India very soon.
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WE ARE FOCUSED ON HELPING THE HELPLESS AND FEEDING THE NEEDY: ARIDAMAN RATHORE & AANJNEYA SINGH
Aridaman Singh Rathore, Founder, Act Jaipur and Aanjneya Singh, Member, Act Jaipur joined NewsX’s special series, NewsX India A-list and spoke about how social media became a valuable tool in making their aim a fortunate reality.
Covid-19 was an unprecedented disaster that wreaked havoc on the world and is still at its prime momentum. Humanity is being tested daily, and some warriors are holding up its sanctity with valour and pride. NewsX’s special series, NewsX India A-list, aims at acknowledging such warriors. Aridaman Singh Rathore, Founder, Act Jaipur and Aanjneya Singh, Member, Act Jaipur, participated in the special series for their excellence in social work.
Introducing the concept behind this initiative and how it all came together, Aridaman said, “It was nothing but friend and family coming together to do their bit.” Driven by the feeling of helplessness and witnessing the Covid-19 pandemic exploding onto our country, he added, “We are focused on helping the helpless and feeding the needy. Even people with a good job profile who got laid off are suffering, and we came to their aid as well.”
Aanjneya Singh, who has been working in New York for six years, came to India for holidays and couldn’t go back due to the lockdown restrictions. Explaining how he came to be a part of this noble initiative, he said, “Actions speak louder than words. We had the resources and the network, so helping people in need was our responsibility.” Aanjneya also mentioned how donations from across Europe and New York, through his contacts, have been beneficial in propelling social aid.
Both the individuals spoke about how social media became a valuable tool in making their aim a fortunate reality. Aridaman connected with his cousins and friends over a WhatsApp group and started their page on Instagram. Social Media proved to be immensely helpful in propagating the idea further.
Throwing light on the reach and expansion of ‘Act’, Aridaman said, “Our initial goal was distributing 10,000 food packets. Today, we have distributed 23,791 meals, and are projecting close to 50,000 packets by mid-June.” Reiterating the importance of social media in times of the pandemic, Aridaman talked about the ease with which people with similar aim and equal drive connected with Act on Instagram. The platforms also facilitated their networking with several NGOs. One such NGO is ‘Raksha’. In collaboration with Raksha, Act Jaipur also fed stray animals and has expanded to distributing dry ration in slums.
“We wanted people to act out. We had had enough of just talking, it’s time to act now. We wanted people to realise the power of Social Media and reach out to the needy in such trying times,” said Aridaman while enlightening about the name of their initiative. He said that they want to do as much as they can in their limited capacity and are unwilling to stop until they achieve it. Aanjneya echoed Aridaman’s thought and said, “Doing something is always more beneficial than just speaking up.”
Humanity is facing a crisis, and initiatives like Act Jaipur gives people hope and a dose of positivity which is the need of the hour (after a dose of the vaccine). Ending the interview on a hopeful note, Aridaman said, “No amount is less, and no effort is lost.”
WHAT OTHER STATES CAN LEARN FROM MP IN DEALING WITH COVID-19
The worst ever pandemic, Covid-19 has affected the mankind world over, almost every country was caught unaware and unprepared. The gravity and severity of the pandemic were very much visible over time. It affected almost every aspect of human life including health, economy, development, and growth. It all came to a halt. The scientists, doctors, government, and the common man didn’t know what had hit them.
The worst situation the country ever faced after independence — the leadership and the common man didn’t know what had hit them and didn’t know how to deal with it and what to do. Everyone including scientists, doctors and researchers tried their level best to find a way out to deal with this dragon of the pandemic.
Though at the national level, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the charge of the affairs and in Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan took the bull by the horns. So what made Madhya Pradesh different from other states in dealing with this pandemic is the Chief Minister taking the charge directly to control the scenario before it could get worse by taking adequate steps. This helped to not only control the pandemic but fight it and try to finish it. The fallout was much less than the anticipated one, damage to the economy and people were within control.
It was precisely because of the leadership of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, owing to his vast experience, know-how of the state, people, flora and fauna, as well as his vision and long term measures, nipped the problem in the bud itself and stopped it from blooming.
Whether it was managing the affairs at the state level, inter-state level, or national level, he was at his best, using all his resources in dealing with the pandemic.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan saw to it that the necessary medicines were made available besides providing oxygen and medical equipment, availability of beds to the needy ones on the one side and on the other side, making a team of dedicated officers to ensure the availability of necessary medicines that are not overpriced, keep a check on black marketing, hoarding etc. Also he ensured to check the supply of genuine medicines and lifesaving drugs, all these were made available timely to the patients at reasonable prices.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s way of dealing with the situation was lauded by the Prime Minister and other states were asked to replicate the Madhya Pradesh model especially in dealing with the pandemic in rural areas.
Whether it was dealing with the problem of migrant labourers, farmers, and agriculture-related issues, and getting the right prices to the farmers for their produce, the Chief Minister excelled in everything.
In this time of distress, his government made special policies for helping street vendors. Apart from this, taking the responsibility of the orphan children whose parents have died in the traumatic situation, Shivraj Singh Chouhan set an example, which was later on replicated by the Centre and other states also.
The Chief Minister, on regular basis, tried to get community feedback from various sources. He invited suggestions from every quarter of the society before framing any policy or taking any important decision. Involving public participation was the key to his success. On important issues, he didn’t shy away from taking advice from leaders of opposition and taking their help in case of need.
At the national level also, due to his vast experience and long stint, he was in regular touch with several Union Ministers in case of any help the state government needed be it the Union Railway Minister, for running Oxygen Express to various destinations of the state, or talking to Union Health Minister for the supply of necessary medicines, medical equipment, masks, oxygen concentrators etc. in time of need, or asking the Union Commerce and Industry Minister to open oxygen plants for various places in the state.
In case of severity, Shivraj Singh Chouhan didn’t even hitch in requesting the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for timely release of necessary funds under various schemes to cope up with the dreaded situation. He didn’t shy away in asking for help from Chief Ministers of other states for helping the migrants from Madhya Pradesh stuck in their states. Meanwhile, Shivraj Singh Chouhan also helped the migrants from other states stuck in Madhya Pradesh. He took full care of them and ensured their safe return to their native places.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan is is the real son of the soil. In the state, he decentralised the powers to the ground level and made all district magistrates act and take quick decision, and in case of fatality, were answerable also.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan held regular meetings with the health and district officials and that helped him to get the right feedback and act accordingly as per need. It was this approach that all the districts of the states are out of the red zone and the state has begun with the unlocking process from 1 June onwards. It is his confidence, grit, and zeal to work for the people of the state to move forward with confidence and courage that worked wonders for Madhya Pradesh in fighting with Covid-19 pandemic.
The writer is Joint Director (P.R.), New Delhi, Government of Madhya Pradesh.
The Greek connection of the pandemic and more
When the world is looking for politically-correct nomenclature and yearning for a medical utopia in which everyone is protected from the pandemic, ancient Greece is as good a place as any to start looking for beginnings of ideas and experiences that preoccupy us today.
One of the latest developments in the year and a half old pandemic has been nomenclatural. On 31 May 2021, the WHO rechristened Covid virus variants of interest after the first four Greek letters — alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. The Greek alphabet is the major contributor to English, but even in original, it occupies an important and euphonious place in domain-specific jargons, popping up in unlikeliest places. The Phi Beta Kappa Society, active since 1776, has 290 chapters in the US. Leaders of social groups are called alphas, betas, and omegas, in the order of dominance, based on research originally conducted on wolves in captivity. Software development goes through beta testing. We sleep wrapped up in alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and theta waves. Some unconscious patients end up in an alpha coma. Theta captures the decline in the value of a stock option over time. The Riemann Zeta function is used to study the properties of prime numbers. Lambda has come to stand for gay liberation, besides dozens of others meanings in as many disciplines. The examples can be multiplied almost without end. If Greek enrichment of jargon is diverse and wide-ranging, Greek contributions to ideas and culture are encyclopaedic.
To ancient Greeks, we also owe the idea of Polis. Poleis were nascent city-states established in ancient Greece over two millennia ago. The Covid-19 pandemic, already a year and a half old, has germinated a new aspiration among people across the world- to acquire as quickly as possible membership of a polis that might be called Immuno-polis. It is the virtual, global, and utopian community of those who have developed immunity to the SARS-CoV-2. Some have become its unwilling members by contracting the disease and developing antibodies against severe future attacks. Others are members by vaccination. The remainders, still a majority of people, await membership after getting their shots. Fears that they might be expelled from the protective borders of Immuno-polis by emerging strains have largely proved unfounded. Immunopolitans will continue to enjoy most of their privileges with the existing vaccines, with more on the way. From polis have arisen Metropolis, Cosmopolis, Necropolis, as well as the above-mentioned Immuno-polis. When herd immunity is achieved, benefits of this imaginary community would be available to all, even those who haven’t suffered from the disease or received a vaccine; we would all end up living in a Utopia.
Utopia, or an ideal community, is also a Greek idea, though morphed. In most intellectual histories, coinage of the word is attributed to Sir Thomas More (1474-1535) by whose work of the same name we know him best. However, he was only the efficient cause of neologism, as Aristotle might have put it. More seems to have got the word while translating the works of Greek satirist Lucian, whose True History, a compilation of events that never happened, is based in outopia, meaning ‘no place’. From this root, and ‘eutopia’, meaning a good place, More invented a pun, Utopia. Today we think of Utopia as goodness incarnate in a state. But More’s Utopia is dysfunctional, what we would now call a dystopia.
This is not merely a linguistic quibble. The idea of a flawless state, and by implication, a flawed one, was Greek before Lucian got going. Plato, and Aristotle after him, assumed an idealised political entity of which all earthly republics and entities were imperfect forms and corruptions. The thread was picked up by Polybius and Cicero in ancient Rome after the disintegration of the Greek city-states. With the spread of Christianity, Augustine of Hippo and several centuries after him, St. Thomas Aquinas developed the idea in the context of a Christianising Western Europe and Italy. Plagues that wracked the medieval world contributed to a concrete concept of the opposite of Utopia. Ideal communities and their debased variants have been imagined, written about, and romanticised and demonised at all times and in all cultures. Dystopian writers today are respected distant descendants of Old Testament writers and Dante, whose descriptions of hell were alarming enough for his native Florence to drive him to seek the protection of Verona. Perhaps the greatest 20th-century creator of dystopias, Eric Arthur Blair, aka George Orwell, was at home in the Greek language. Writing a decade before Orwell, Aldous Huxley, in his Brave New World (1932), ordered his imaginary casteist society from alpha at the top to epsilon at the bottom.
If renaming the variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus after letters of the Greek alphabet and ideal imaginary communities has ancient Greek roots, so is one of the earliest descriptions of epidemics and plagues. Hippocrates, the great physician of Greek Antiquity (460-370 BC), was perhaps the first to define endemics and epidemics. His pre-modern theory of humour continues to inform several enclaves of alternate medicine. Thucydides, the greatest among ancient historians and chronicler par excellence of The Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC), describes the Athenian plague in the second year of the war, a contagion he contracted and survived. ‘At the beginning, the doctors were quite incapable of treating the disease because of their ignorance of the right methods. Mortality among the doctors was the highest of all, since they come more frequently in contact with the sick’, he writes. He goes on: ‘Some died in neglect, some despite every possible care being taken of them, what did good in some cases did harm in others. Those with naturally strong constitutions were no better able than the weak to resist the disease’. There were crises of faith, disorganised funerals, overwhelmed public facilities, changed attitude towards wealth and leisure and much else that sounds familiar in these times. What now and what next were as pressing questions then as they are now. When the world is looking for politically correct nomenclature and yearning for a medical utopia in which everyone is protected from the pandemic, ancient Greece is as good a place as any to start looking for beginnings of ideas and experiences that preoccupy us today.
The writer is a physician and a civil servant in India.
HARYANA PREPARES POLICY FOR THE SALE OF SHOPS AND HOUSES BY MUNICIPAL BODY: ANIL VIJ
Haryana Urban Local Bodies Minister Anil Vij said that the state government has formulated a policy to give ownership rights to the occupants of the property of municipal bodies. A maximum rebate of up to 50% on the collector rate of the property concerned will be given to get the ownership of the occupied property. This policy will come into effect from 1 July. He said that the eligible occupant, who wants to take advantage of this policy, will have to apply online on the web portal to the concerned commissioner/executive officer/secretary of the concerned municipal body within a month. Vij informed that for the convenience of the occupants, a web portal is being designed which will be ready by 20 June as there is a possibility of large scale occupants to be covered under this policy.
He said that the Haryana government is working to give ownership to those occupants of the properties of the Urban Local Bodies Department, who own the property on rent, lease or license fee for over 20 years. These occupants will be given a maximum discount of 50% on the present collector rate for the deed of the property. Vij said that the occupants who have occupied such property for over 20 years but less than 25 years, they will have to pay 80% of the collector rate. Occupants who have occupied such property for over 25 years but less than 30 years, will have to pay 75% of the collector rate. Similarly, the occupants who have occupied such property for over 30 years but less than 35 years, will have to pay 70% of the collector rate and so on.
Gujarat Assembly polls: Congress decides to take aggressive stance
As soon as Covid-19 came under control in Gujarat, a series of political meetings started. After Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal visited Ahmedabad, BJP in-charge Bhupendra Yadav held a meeting with Ministers and MLAs. Now the Congress has also started churning. A lunch diplomacy meeting was held at the bungalow of Opposition Leader Paresh Dhanani Wednesday afternoon in which state president Amit Chavda, Shaktisinh Gohil, Hardik Patel, Arjun Modhwadia, Bharatsinh Solanki, Siddharth Patel, and other leaders were present. In the meeting, holding programs on the issue of Covid-19 and inflation as well as taking an aggressive stance towards the upcoming 2022 Assembly Elections were discussed. Apart from that, the racial equations on the election issue were also discussed.
For a long time now, there has been a heated debate in the Congress High Command over the new state president of Gujarat, the Opposition Leader in the Legislative Assembly and the Gujarat Congress in-charge. Incumbent state president Amit Chavda and Opposition Leader in the Legislative Assembly Paresh Dhanani resigned following the results of the local body elections but no new office bearers have been appointed yet. On the other hand, the death of Rajiv Satwan, in-charge of the Gujarat Congress, gave a major blow to the Congress in Gujarat. There is also talk of putting new faces in Gujarat to strengthen the party.
Gujarat Congress spokesperson Dr Manish Doshi said on Arvind Kejriwal’s allegations that the Delhi Chief Minister, who did not utter a word of consolation for the people of the country amid recession, inflation, and pandemic, was politicising the allegations against the Congress. It is the nature of the AAP to make such allegations. Thus the AAP is the B team of the BJP. He has come to Gujarat to benefit BJP. Kejriwal remained silent on the issue of farmers, education, and health. Congress has been constantly fighting the BJP. Congress does the politics of the masses.
In Rajasthan, resolving the revolt called by Sachin Pilot to accept his demand is the first priority for the Congress. In such circumstances, the High Command’s calculation to resolve the issue of Gujarat’s state in-charge, state president, and Opposition Leader in the Legislative Assembly by 11 June has turned upside down. Now political sources are expressing the possibility of a concrete solution in the next one or two weeks. Therefore, the Gujarat issue is not likely to be resolved in two days. It could still take at least a week. If the Rajasthan issue becomes more complicated, the Gujarat issue may take more time to resolve, the sources said.
Apart from Bhupendra Yadav, a meeting was held of party organisation office bearers, all MLAs, and MPs in the presence of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, and State President C. R. Patil. The meeting will first give a glimpse of the government’s Covid and vaccination operations and the work done by the system during Cyclone.
EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN J&K TO REMAIN SHUT AMID LIFTING OF RESTRICTIONS
Srinagar: While the authorities have lifted some restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir in the recent past, the government has decided to extend the closure of all the educational institutions till 30 June.The government, in a fresh order, has decided to keep the schools, colleges, universities, technical education institutes, skill development institutes, and coaching centres closed for offline classes. According to the official communication to the media, “All schools, colleges, universities, technical education, skill development institutes, and coaching centers shall remain closed for in-person on-campus teaching”. “In view of safety and well-being of students due to Covid pandemic, all pending JKBOSE Examinations session 2020-21 (Regular/Private) for final exams of class XI and XII across JKUT for which examination/results are awaited, are cancelled,” the Lt. Governor’s office said. There has been a dip in the Covid positive cases in the entire Jammu and Kashmir due to the recent containment measures taken by the government that includes weekend curfew and night curfew. The government has accelerated the process of vaccination and in the past few days, a lot of vaccination camps were held even in Srinagar for the age group of 45 years and above so that the vaccination for the age group of 18 years to 45 years is also taken up at a massive level. LG Manoj Sinha recently asked his administration to get the 100% vaccination done for the age group of 45 years and above in Jammu and Kashmir by June-end.
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