In what was a clear message to his rival camp, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s stamp was obvious on the much-awaited Cabinet reshuffle that took place on Sunday in Rajasthan. Two important messages were loud and clear. One, Ashok Gehlot is the strongest leader of the Congress in the state. Two, the Gandhi family continues to trust Ashok Gehlot just as earlier.
In the reshuffled Cabinet, Gehlot has given ministerial berths only to those leaders who stood by his government at the time of crisis last year, whether they belong to his rival camp or his group. Media speculation that the Congress’ Delhi leadership had played a decisive role in the selection of ministers and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had dictated the high command’s wish-list to the CM turned out to be untrue. After the ministers’ names were announced, it became clear that the high command had reposed their trust in the Chief Minister, giving him a free hand to pick and drop leaders for the rejig.
The internal tussle of the Congress party delayed the Cabinet expansion-reshuffle. Chief Minister Gehlot carried out the exercise in such a way that there could not be any controversy. He also ensured that nobody was displeased.
However, former Deputy CM Sachin Pilot appears to have been isolated in state politics, no matter what claims he makes after the reshuffle. That Sachin will be given any other responsibility is also doubtful. In fact, Gehlot through his trademark politics upstaged his rivals completely. That all went well peacefully is attributable to the CM’s effective coordination with the state in-charge Ajay Maken and Pradesh Congress Committee chief Govind Singh Dotasra. To recall last year’s development, Gehlot had emerged stronger sailing through the crisis resulting from the revolt by around a dozen MLAs under Pilot’s leadership. They tried to topple the government allegedly with the backing of the Bharatiya Janata Party. CM Gehlot not only saved his government but also tightened his hold on the party thereafter. He was given more importance during various consultations within the party. It was Gehlot who defended the Gandhi family when the disgruntled leaders targeted them in the past. But his detractors used the media to allege that he was in trouble. Attempts were made to destabilize Gehlot even during the Punjab crisis. The high command did not, however, heed all that misinformation campaign. Rather, evidence of bargaining for dislodging the government was sent to the high command. Subsequently, the high command gave Gehlot a free hand to tackle the situation. After recovering from Covid, Gehlot started taking significant decisions. He led the party to victory in the recently held byelections. For the first time, the BJP faced such a terrible defeat in the state, coming to third and fourth position. Gehlot gained political strength from all this.
Working on another strategy, Gehlot then reined in his rivals, and started attacking the BJP and the Central government. He remained aggressive against the Narendra Modi government. He also hit the streets as part of the party programme highlighting the issues of price rise, farmers’ problems, etc.
After consultation with Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, Gehlot with her consent carried out the reshuffle and made political appointments. He accommodated everyone representing all significant sections, keeping in view the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections. He also adjusted leaders from the Dalit, Backward, Jat and Brahmin communities. He gave opportunities to women as well. All this was done by the CM as part of his strategy for the 2023 Assembly elections in Rajasthan. The Congress will fight the next elections with the team in place.
15 MINISTERS INDUCTED
In the Rajasthan Cabinet reshuffle, as many as 15 ministers—11 of Cabinet rank and four Ministers of State—were inducted on Sunday afternoon.
The ministers were administered the oath of office by Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra at the Raj Bhavan in Jaipur. The 11 Cabinet ministers are Hemaram Choudhary, Mahendrajeet Singh Malviya, Ramlal Jat, Mahesh Joshi, Vishvendra Singh, Ramesh Meena, Mamta Bhupesh Bairwa, Bhajanlal Jatav, Tikaram Juli, Govind Ram Meghwal and Shakuntala Rawat. The Ministers of State are Zahida Khan, Brijendra Singh Ola, Rajendra Gudda and Murari Lal Meena.
The cabinet reshuffle took place after a series of high-level meetings of Gehlot and former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot with the Congress high command in the national capital in the past few weeks.
Notably, Sachin Pilot’s “loyalist” MLAs, Hemaram Choudhary, Murari Lal Meena, Zahida Khan, Rajendra Gudda, and Brijendra Singh Ola have been accommodated in the Gehlot Cabinet.
Rajasthan Congress chief Govind Singh Dotasra on Saturday shared a list of 15 MLAs who will take oath on Sunday and informed that three ministers of state will be elevated to cabinet rank.
Pilot expressed his satisfaction over the move and stated that the inclusion of four Dalit ministers in the Cabinet has sent out a positive message about the party and the state government.
He also asserted that “there are no factions in the party and the decision of Cabinet reshuffle has been taken together.”
Ahead of the reshuffle, all ministers of Rajasthan submitted their resignations to the Chief Minister on Saturday. The cabinet reshuffle was expected for a long time after Pilot had rebelled against Gehlot in July last year. Following the rebellion, Sachin Pilot was stripped of the posts of state Deputy Chief Minister and Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief. His loyalists Vishvendra Singh and Ramesh Meena were also removed from their ministerial posts. After the Gandhi family’s intervention, Pilot agreed to work for the party. A committee was also set up under state Congress in-charge Ajay Maken to look into the issues raised by Pilot and his camp.
This is the first Cabinet reshuffle of the Gehlot government since it came to power in December 2018. Rajasthan will go for the Assembly polls in 2023.
Also on Sunday, Gehlot said that the Congress party would once again emerge victorious in the 2023 Assembly polls in Rajasthan and form government. “We will all unite and take the policy, ideology and programmes of Congress to the common people under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and win the 2023 assembly polls on the issue of development and form the government again,” Gehlot tweeted.
In another tweet, he wished all the MLAs taking oath as ministers and said that the government has provided sensitive, transparent, accountable governance to the people and has taken the state to the path of development despite the adverse circumstances. “During our term, people have put a stamp of approval on our governance by giving victory to the Congress party in various by-elections and local bodies elections. We all have to maintain this trust of the public in the times to come. For this, the work has to be continued with full hard work and dedication,” he added in another tweet.
WITH AGENCY INPUTS
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PAK ENVOY MEETS TALIBAN’S ACTING FM, DISCUSSES BILATERAL COOPERATION
KABUL: Pakistan’s envoy to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan met Taliban acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and discussed bilateral cooperation between both countries.
“Pakistan Ambassador Mansoor Ahmad Khan met with acting FM Amir Khan Muttaqi and discussed bilateral cooperation, Khan said.
Pakistan has decided that wheat and emergency medicine provided by India can be transported from Wagah port in Pakistan on Afghan trucks to Afghanistan,” Tolo News reported.
Earlier, Pakistan’s envoy and the Taliban acting foreign minister met in the month of September where both sides discussed strengthening bilateral cooperation particularly facilitating humanitarian, economic and people-to-people exchange.
Pakistan, along with China were among the first countries that began engaging with Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover in August this year.
The meeting came amid the Taliban’s repeated appeal for wider international recognition. Pakistan is among the very few which seem to have started engaging with the outfit. Other members of the international community are taking a wait and watch approach.
TLP expanding after release of its leader Saad Hussain Rizvi
Formerly banned organisation Tehreek-E-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) is on a surge after the release of its leader Saad Hussain Rizvi and revoking of its ban by the Imran Khan government.
According to the International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS), there was a rather secret deal between TLP and the Imran Khan government reached on October 31 to end the latest round of protests. The deal was not made public and on November 7, Khan’s cabinet revoked the declaration of the TLP as a banned group. The TLP benefitted mainly from the divisions between the PML-Nawaz government and the military establishment deep state’, IFFRAS said, adding that Pakistan military establishment’s effort to prop up different religious groups to deteriorate the PML-Nawaz government permitted the TLP to increase greater political space. Earlier, Rizvi was released on the eve of his father, Khadim Hussain Rizvi’s death anniversary on November 19 who was the founder of TLP.
Further, the TLP capable of mobilising thousands of supporters, was born in the year 2015 out of a remonstration movement to the Barelvi movement.
US ready to support Ukraine, help Kiev with defence
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says Washington is concerned about the situation in Ukraine and is ready to support Kiev.
Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday, Austin said that the US is “very concerned” about the alleged buildup of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border and will try to ensure that Kiev “has what it needs” to defend its “sovereign territory.” The Pentagon chief said he was not going to speculate on different scenarios pertaining to the alleged Russian aggression on its borders.
Over the past several weeks, Ukraine and some Western countries have expressed concern about the alleged increase in what they characterise as “aggressive actions” by Russia on their border. However, Russia has refuted the accusations by saying it is moving troops within its own territory and at its own discretion.
US President Joe Biden plans to discuss the issue of Ukraine, as well as other topics, during the upcoming video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, December 7.
Biden told reporters earlier this week, answering a question about the issue of Ukraine, that he expected a “long discussion” with the Russian President.
Russia has repeatedly said that it stands by its right to move armed forces freely within its territory. On November 23, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated that Russia does not have any aggressive plans with regard to Ukraine. The Kremlin has also expressed concerns about Kiev having aggregated almost half of all its armed forces on the contact line with the Donbas region in the east of the country.
EXPLOSIONS HEARD INSIDE US BASE IN SYRIA
Explosions were heard on Sunday inside a US military base in Syria, state news agency SANA reported.
The blasts were heard in the al-Tanf area in southeastern Syria, Xinhua news agency reported. Back in late October, the US base of At Tanf came under a drone attack. The White House believes that the recent attack on its military base in Syria was “deliberate and coordinated” and the United States reserves the right to respond.
CHINA CREATES ATMOSPHERE THAT EMBOLDENS MILITARY TO SEIZE POWER IN AFRICA
As Western powers continue to retreat from Africa, China is busy creating an atmosphere that emboldens generals and military cliques to seize power in one of the largest continent in the world, said a media report.
In an opinion piece for Al Jazeera, Harvard University lecturer Christopher Rhodes said that “backsliding on the part of Western powers, the rise of autocrat-friendly China, have created an atmosphere in Africa that emboldens generals and military cliques to seize power.” Rhodes further wrote that the coup, which had been widely rumoured in Sudan but still managed to blindside the United States, remains a source of outrage for Sudanese citizens. But Washington is yet to take a clear stance on the issue, Rhodes said.
According to the lecturer, the reaction from the West has diverged widely from that of Sudanese citizens, who continue to reject military hegemony. The report says that American diplomats have signaled acceptance of the new arrangement and willingness to turn a blind eye to the continued military dominance of the transition government.
This brings focus to the breakdown of the anti-coup coalition that had formed for Africa – a breakdown that has led to military interventions reemerging as a leading method by which power is transferred on the continent, Rhodes added.
Noting that the fight for democracy and against military rule in Africa has seen significant setbacks, Rhodes said while African populations remain overwhelmingly committed to democracy and opposed to military governments, the lack of reliable international pro-democracy partners makes the struggle against military rule much more difficult.
But as the sustained anti-military protests in Sudan demonstrate, local populations are willing to continue the fight for democracy, even if they must go it alone, said the lecturer.
PROTEST IN COLOMBO AGAINST LYNCHING OF SRI LANKAN EXECUTIVE IN PAKISTAN
A protest was held outside Pakistan High Commission in Colombo on Sunday by a large crowd, including a group of monks, against the killing of a Sri Lankan national in Sialkot city of Pakistan’s Punjab province.
Priyantha Kumara, a Sri Lankan executive of a garment factory was lynched and his body burnt by angry supporters of a hardline Islamist party that attacked the facility in Sialkot over blasphemy allegations on Friday.
A police official alleged that Kumara tore a poster of the hardline Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in which Quranic verses were inscribed and threw it in the dustbin. A mob enraged over the alleged blasphemy incident, started gathering outside the factory from adjoining areas, most of them activists and supporters of the TLP.
They dragged the Sri Lankan executive, who was in his 40s, from the factory and severely tortured him. After he succumbed to his wounds, the mob burnt his body before police reached the crime spot. Late on Friday, Punjab police said they have arrested 100 suspects, after identifying them through video footage that went viral on social media.
Expressing grief over the lynching of his country’s citizen in Pakistan, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksha said that he was “shocked to see the brutal and fatal attack” on Priyantha Diyawadana by “extremist mobs in Pakistan”.
“My heart goes out to his wife and family”, Rajapaksha said in a tweet.
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