New Delhi [India], February 10 (ANI): Bidding farewell to Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad on his retirement from the Rajya Sabha, Deputy Chairman of the Upper House, Harivansh on Tuesday said the Congress leader is someone who rose above party lines and thought for country whenever needed.
“Ghulam Nabi ji is viewed as someone who knows political norms, someone who rose above party lines and thought for country whenever needed. I learned something new whenever I sat with him. Nation will learn from his 4-decade long political journey,” said the Deputy Chairman.
He said ‘ordinary people’ like him think that this is just a brief pause for the Congress leader and he will be back in the political sphere soon.
“His tenure has ended but we will listen to his voice once again and his dignified presence will be amongst us once again,” he added.
On Tuesday, Rajya Sabha witnessed emotional scenes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi recalled the contribution of Ghulam Nabi Azad to the country, the House, and also his party.
An emotional Prime Minister Modi bid adieu to Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is retiring from the House and recalled his long association with the senior leader.
Lauding the senior Congress leader’s contribution to the causes dear to him, the Prime Minister said, “The person who will replace Ghulam Nabi ji (as Leader of Opposition) will have difficulty matching his work because he was not only concerned about his party but also about the country and the House.”
Almost teary-eyed, the Prime Minister recalled an incident where Azad’s personal intervention led to the return of survivors and corpses of Gujarat residents who had faced a terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir. (ANI)
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Sachin Sinha on how IQLECT’s BangDB is solving data-related problems
Sachin Sinha, founder and CEO of IQLECT recently joined NewsX for an insightful conversation on data analytics and Artificial Intelligence as part of its special series NewsX India A-List. On a mission to solve data-related problems using AI, his company aims to create a cost-effective AI-enabled data analytics platform. IQLECT’s novel database BankDB performs 2X better than most of the leading big products in the market.
“We want to simplify and democratise the way data is being ingested, processed, and analysed so that any big or small company can leverage the intelligence of data, apply it in the ongoing operations, and take the benefits of the data. We work towards simplifying the whole procedure and make it available for everyone, not just the big enterprises,” said Sinha.
IQLECT presents a method of converging everything data-related to its clients so that one doesn’t need to collect different data from different sources. He shared, “We have created a platform and if you think of it as a black box, then what comes at the top is the set of domain-specific solutions. We have created different applications that cater directly to all kind of domains, where all the user has to do is a sign-up and get ready to receive benefits of the platform.”
Speaking about the range of product lines offered by his company to its clients, Sinha said, “Let’s say if someone is running a consumer internet service, and wants to understand every single user in a better way so that they can ensure engagement to have a better conversion rate at the end of the day, they can use our ShopIQ app. Once you plug it in, you will start getting all the intelligence instantly which is the core of your every single customer on the visitor domain. You can then decide what appropriate action needs to be taken.” When asked about the expansion of his company, he replied that not only big but small businesses are also collaborating with the organisation and the company’s focus is currently on the infrastructure domain.
Talking about their most highlighted product BangDB, a novel database and first of its kind from Asia, that performs 2X better than most of the leading big products in the market, Sinha emphasised, “We want to analyse the data as it is being generated. If you see this from a layman’s perspective, data, like vegetables, are perishable. If you don’t use it immediately, its value gets decreased by 80% so you need to capture the data to extract the intelligence. BangDBcomes with an inbuilt streaming engine and processing workflow which you can utilise to ingest any kind of data. As long as you have BangDB, it can ingest any kind of data irrespective of its shape, colour, and size.” What makes the product novel is that it has been completely built in India from scratch.
On the incorporation of AI in BangDB, he expressed that the product allows the user to have a predictive analysis as it requires latency in terms of rapidness. “You need AI to be present where the data is instead of taking the data to the AI. Since BangDB deals with the data, we can’t offload the responsibility of AI to the user. Hence, what we have done instead is integrate both the AI and the data so the data remains right where the BangDB is. Once you have the BangDB, you have the AI as well as the streaming which will allow you to easily ingest the data and the AI would then do the predictive analysis.”
Throwing light on its market functionality in India, Sinha said that the risk-taking capabilities in the market have increased over the years. BangDB has filed for dozens of patents and already got a few along with backing from many leaders. The community version of the database is available free of cost and allows the user to ingest and extract data and intelligence. As IQLECT looks to take head-on some of the leaders in the global market, he said, “We are the only company from India which has created such a high-core tech platform.”
Toyota Kirloskar Motor employees’ union calls off strike at Bidadi factory
Bengaluru (Karnataka) [India], March 3 (ANI): The Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) employees’ union has officially called off the ongoing labour strike at its factory in Karnataka’s Bidadi, the company confirmed on Tuesday.
A majority of members from a total of 3,350 employees had already voluntarily resumed work earlier.
“The labour strike that has been continuing has now officially come to an end today. TKM is very grateful to the government of Karnataka and the Department of Labour, who have played a crucial role in facilitating the reconciliation between all parties,” said TKM in an official statement.
Furthermore, on March 1, TKM has accepted the undertaking given by Union leaders on behalf of the members that was presented by them to the government. The company has also made a final appeal to all the other members to return to work by March 5, and ensure synergies based on mutual trust for the future and to respect the terms of their mutual understanding.
Toyota Kirloskar Motor had declared a lock-out at its manufacturing plant in Karnataka’s Bidadi after workers’ union resorted to an “illegal” sit-in strike at the premises to protest against the suspension of a worker, a company spokesperson said earlier. (ANI)
FROM A MARGINAL PLAYER TO THE CUSP OF POWER: BJP’S BIG RISE IN BENGAL
The BJP, which had a vote share of 0.58% in the 1982 Bengal Assembly elections, is now all set to take part in a neck-to-neck battle with the current ruling party in the state. Despite facing violent attacks, the party has seen a meteoric rise thanks to its key strategists, the RSS’s careful organisational skills, and the TMC’s many faults.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) contested the West Bengal Assembly election for the first time in 1982. The primary objective of the party was to create a nucleus for a future third force in West Bengal politics. The party contested 52 Assembly constituencies and got around 1,29,994 votes in the state.
From a vote share of 0.58% in the Assembly election in 1982 to over 10.16% in the 2016 Assembly elections, and from 0.4% in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections to over 40% in 2019, the BJP has come a long way in Bengal, laboriously treading on a road mired with thorns of propaganda, bloodshed and violence, losing 130 of its dedicated cadre and over 1,500 still in captivity, embroiled in false cases filed against them by a ruling regime that seems to be getting increasingly insecure by the growing popularity of the saffron party among the masses.
The BJP leadership wanted to rejuvenate the party with fresh faces before the 2016 Assembly elections. The central leadership wanted an organisation man and a new face to take on the TMC. Dilip Ghosh was brought in. He hailed from the Jungle Mahal’s Gopiballavpur.
His predecessor had been hesitant to launch full-scale verbal volleys at the Bengal CM, but Dilip Ghosh did not mince words in his scathing attacks upon Mamata Banerjee and her government. People thought the BJP was reluctant to take the TMC head-on, but Dilip’s arrival changed that perception for good. He took on Mamata right, left and centre. It gave confidence to workers and to voters too.
However, that landed him in situations where he and his convoy were attacked several times by the cadre of the ruling party in Bengal.
Sadly, after Mamata came back to power with an overwhelming majority in 2016, utilising the many attacks on the BJP state president, the BJP was not able to capitalise on plenty of existent issues to launch an aggressive campaign against the TMC. Sambit Pal, in his book The Bengal Conundrum, observes that be it in the May 2018 Panchayat elections or the proposed Rath Yatra in December 2018, the BJP leadership was busier fighting the TMC government in the courts rather than on the streets of Bengal. When the BJP planned five Rath Yatras in December 2018 across the state, culminating in the Modi rally in January 2019 at Kolkata’s Brigade Parade Ground, the TMC refused permission citing law and order issues. The BJP in turn did not aggressively campaign against the Mamata government and instead took the matter to court. Many such incidents exposed the BJP’s lack of organisational capabilities to act as a formidable opposition.
Around this time, the BJP launched the mantra of “win the booths, win the Assembly”. Despite early setbacks, Amit Shah set a target and directed each worker to visit at least 4-5 houses in every booth. The idea was to spread out to around 80,000-odd booths in the state and form a strong organisational net. Over the next year, the BJP recruited around 200 vistaraks for West Bengal.
In the meantime, attacks on BJP karyakartas continued. In Purba Burdwan Kalna district, BJP MP (nominated) George Becker was attacked when he visited the locality to attend a booth vistarak programme. This was not an isolated incident. Women leaders were not spared either—Mahila Morcha president Locket Chatterjee was also attacked in Birbhum district. BJP Yuva Morcha president Debjit Sarkar was arrested during a bandh called by the party against the killing of a school student in Islampur in North Dinajpur. The students and local people were protesting in Islampur against the appointment of an Urdu teacher when they actually needed teachers in other subjects. The boy met his end when the police opened fire on the agitating crowd.
THE BACKEND ARCHITECTS
In 2018, while Ram Lal and Shiv Prakash were already looking at boosting the organisational setup in the state, Amit Shah brought in Arvind Menon as deputy to Kailash Vijaywargiya, who was working as an observer for West Bengal. His job was to help Bengal BJP leaders mobilize grassroots workers and leaders to form booth committees, which was the goal of the national president. He started with North Bengal in 2018 to give a necessary boost to the workers and organisation, mixing with villagers and common people, thereby installing confidence in grassroots BJP workers. Meanwhile, Dilip Ghosh, working closely with strategist and defected TMC leader Mukul Roy, declared that the BJP was ready to take on the TMC in 60% of the areas. The BJP state president stood by the state party leaders and kept reiterating that the BJP was ready to take on Mamata Banerjee.
In 2018, the BJP’s electoral progress and success in the Jungle Mahal districts, especially Jhargram and Purulia, directly reflected the organisational boost. In Jhargram, the BJP bagged the majority of seats among 24 Gram Panchayats and 10 were hung as no party got a majority. In Purulia, the BJP got 10 Zila Parishad seats while the TMC got 25. In the Panchayat Samiti, the BJP was victorious in 142 seats and in Gram Panchayats, they won 644 seats. Mukul Roy can claim credit for this spectacular victory of the saffron camp because he used his sources in the TMC to extract unhappy workers from that party to vote and work for the BJP.
However, in May 2018, two BJP workers were found dead in Purulia in close succession. One of them was Trilochan Mahato, whose body was found hanging from a tree with the following written on his shirt in Bengali: “This is for indulging in politics from such a young age of 18. Been trying to kill you since the vote. Failed. But today you are dead”. This incident shook the state BJP thoroughly. The murder of two BJP workers in a district where the BJP had fared well exposed, on the one hand, their growing political acceptance and strength and, on the other, their inability and weakness in protecting their own cadre from such violence and atrocities.
Amit Shah further brought in the architect of Tripura victory, RSS Pracharak Sunil Deodhar, for a brief period to Bengal to assist Shiv Prakash, Arvind Menon and Kailash Vijaywargiya. The result of these behind-the-scenes architects’ relentless perseverance resulted in extending the party’s organization in a large number of villages and towns before the elections in 2019. From 452 mandal committees in 2015, the BJP reached 1280 in 2019. Setting up 12,407 shakti kendras and appointing 10,266 full-time shakti kendra pramukhs, many BJP district units got new party offices, bringing in much enthusiasm among the grassroots workers.
ROLE OF THE BJP IT CELL
Another organisation that gave the party and its leaders, workers and supporters the much-needed push was the IT Cell. Shiv Prakash brought in Ujjwal Pareek, a Kolkata boy, to head the BJP’s social media team in Bengal. The IT Cell’s job was to operate the “BJP4Bengal” Facebook page as well as its Twitter handle, apart from the 50,000-odd WhatsApp groups. When Mamata Banerjee reacted belligerently to the “Jai Shree Ram” slogan in West Midnapore’s Chandrakona, the IT Cell stitched together a video which asked the question, “Is it a crime to chant Ram’s name in Bengal?”. That video was made viral and it stoked a fire among Bengal’s masses, awakening their dormant Hindu religious sentiments, especially among the youth in the suburbia.
THE RSS ANGLE
The RSS through its shakhas and other social organisations has been able to influence people at the grassroots immensely. RSS activists don’t work directly for candidates but for ideas and issues which align with the RSS-BJP ideology. They form different organisations in different areas, for instance, in Hooghly during the last elections, they formed an outfit called the Hooghly Zila Janakalyan Samiti. This outfit’s job was to distribute leaflets and carry out a door-to-door campaign.
Until a few years ago, the RSS had about 700 shakhas in South Bengal and about 300 in North Bengal, but the figure went up in South Bengal to 1200 and to 400 in North Bengal by 2018.
It is the RSS which helped to capture and consolidate the Matua vote for the BJP before the 2019 elections, closely working with the Matua community and organising “mochchab” every fortnight. A “mochchab” is a community programme where members of the community socialise and share a meal together. The RSS used these informal meetings to discuss the NRC and Citizenship Bill/Act to gain the confidence of the community in favour of the saffron camp. Sambit Pal mentions in The Bengal Conundrum how, apart from organising mochchabs, the RSS also kept working with frontal organisations like the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram which works in tribal areas running hostels and schools like Ekal Vidyalaya and involving people in social activities, mass marriages, etc. The VKA did not directly participate in BJP politics but their social influence helped BJP gain popularity and credibility among tribal and backward populations in North Bengal. Other organisations like the Sree Hari Satsang Samiti helped the BJP make headway through the RSS activities without much publicity and politicking.
The Sangh outfits were also like a protective umbrella, always standing in support of Hindu groups whenever there were communal clashes in the state. Saffron flags in minority-dominated remote villages showed how these organisations helped to turn the story around for the BJP and also mobilised Hindu voters across suburban and rural Bengal, observes Pal.
With every by election in West Bengal since 2016, the BJP has gained in vote shares at the cost of the Left front. This vote shift peaked in the 2019 Lok Sabha election with the BJP winning 18 out of 42 seats. The BJP’s vote share shot from 10% in 2016 to over 40% in 2019, with the Left’s vote share declining from 27% to 7.5%, the Congress’s share collapsing by 7% and the TMC falling by 2%. In numbers, roughly 1 crore voters seem to have shifted their allegiance from the Left towards the BJP.
Dibyojyoti Basu, a senior journalist, opines that the main reason for the BJP’s rise in Bengal is the tyrannical nature of the Mamata Banerjee government. “Extortion and Chanda Raj are back with a bang in Bengal, much to the consternation of businessmen, commoners and the overall hoi polloi. People are disgusted with the misrule. Thus the cry for change,” he says.
TMC’S MINORITY APPEASEMENT POLITICS
Excessive minority appeasement by the TMC has also driven the Hindu voters away from it and towards the BJP. Once in power, Mamata Banerjee rolled out several Muslim-specific policies such as granting an allowance or stipend to imams and muezzins, extending scholarships to Muslim students of Class I to X, offering reservation to Muslim OBCs, banning the telecast of a drama series by controversial author Taslima Nasrin on the demand of conservative Muslim clerics, and making Urdu the second official language in districts where the Urdu-speaking population was more than 10%.
The Mamata government also gave a grant of Rs 300 crore to the Aaliah University, which was started during the Left front’s rule, and constructed special hostels for Muslim girls in districts.
Additionally, Mamata Banerjee increased the number of tickets given to Muslims in the Bengal Assembly elections. She covered her head and attended prayers in mosques, mixed Arabic words with Bangla in public meetings, roped in influential urbane Urdu-speaking Muslims and also gave more weightage to Urdu-speaking Muslims in her cabinet as compared to the previous Left government.
This kind of blatant appeasement of minorities has not augured well with most Bengali Hindus. Dibyojyoti Basu adds, “For the sake of Muharram processions the Mamata government postponed the Durga Puja immersion ceremony. The chief minister had also in the recent past objected to Ram Navami celebrations in Bengal.”
Dr Jayanta Gupta, a renowned gynaecologist in Kolkata, says that the TMC has resorted to minority appeasement to expand its vote base without any particular vision for the overall development of the state. The dole-outs have multiplied in 2021 keeping the election in mind, with Maa Canteen serving egg curry and rice for Rs 5, the Swasthya Saathi Card that promises treatment at government and private hospitals at shockingly unrealistic subsidies (no wonder the card is being turned down by most hospitals), financial grants to “paara” clubs (local clubs) working under the TMC banner at the expense of taxpayers’ money, etc.
Rampant corruption unleashed by the ruling party and widespread unemployment are also part of the cancer that is rapidly eroding Bengali society and unabashedly exposing the can of worms that the TMC has opened, resulting in the Bengalis’ patience wearing thin. The citizens of this state are now looking for change and the BJP with its pragmatic vision and nationalistic tone is increasingly finding a place among the masses, Gupta says.
What further adds to the BJP’s armoury is rampant corruption and widespread unemployment in the state, along with the widespread anger among the Matua community for being stateless and homeless in India for so many decades. The recently passed Citizenship Bill actually fulfils the Matua demand and hence gives the BJP a strong support base in the region. To add to Mamata’s worry is growing claimants for Muslim votes in the state—from AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi to the Indian Secular Front is backed by Islamic cleric Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui.
If several opinion polls are to be believed, it will be a neck-and-neck contest between the TMC and the BJP. It is already showing signs of going down to the wires for both the camps. It remains to be seen how the BJP will further galvanise public opinion against the ruling regime, now that the CBI enquiry into various scams has engulfed the Chief Minister’s nephew, Abhishek Bandopadhyay, and his wife, Rujira Narula.
The road to Nabanna still remains an uphill climb for the BJP because the steepest peaks will unravel themselves now that the election schedule has been announced by the Election Commission.
The writer is founder and editor-in-chief of Tribe Tomorrow Network. The views expressed are personal.
SAD ASKS SPEAKER TO ALLOCATE TWO DAYS FOR DISCUSSION ON FARMER ISSUES
Chandigarh: The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Tuesday requested the Vidhan Sabha Speaker to allocate two days for exclusive discussion on emergent issues concerning the farmers of Punjab even as it demanded the Congress government announce minimum support price (MSP) for vegetables and fruits.
The party’s legislative wing, which handed over a representation in this regard to Speaker Rana K.P. Singh under the leadership of Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, said that the two-day discussion besides covering the issues of the complete farm loan waiver promise, farmer suicides and the Congress government’s failure to take up the issue of repeal of the three agricultural laws with the Central government, should also spell out the way forward. The representation said that one such way ahead was announcing MSP for all vegetables and fruits immediately.
The SAD legislators, while informing the Speaker that the State was in the midst of an agrarian crisis, said that “the major reason for this is the complete loan waiver promise made by then Pradesh Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh in January 2017 at Talwandi Sabo by taking a holy oath in the name of the Gutka Sahib and the Dasam Pitah. They said Capt Amarinder Singh had clearly promised that in case the Congress forms the government in Punjab it would waive off all farmer loans—be it from government or private banks, cooperative societies or Arhatiyas. The legislators said that the Congress government’s failure to implement the loan waiver had resulted in 1,500 farmer suicides and indebtedness had increased because the people believed the chief minister and did not pay their loan installments.
KASHMIR NOT ABOUT ROADS AND DEVELOPMENT BUT ‘FAR BIGGER ISSUE’: MEHBOOBA
PDP leader and former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, after her re-election as president of her party on Tuesday in Anantnag, said that the Kashmir issue is not about roads and development but a “far bigger issue”.
“Jammu and Kashmir issue is not about roads and lanes but a far bigger issue. When there is peace, roads and lanes would be laid automatically. They can even be made by DDC members elected recently,” Mehbooba told her workers at Anantnag in South Kashmir on Tuesday.
“People of Jammu and Kashmir have been living through uneasiness and anxiety for the last 70 years. Thousands of people have been sacrificed whether a militant, a surrendered militant, a common man, a policeman or a security forces personnel,” she added.
Mehbooba said that India-Pakistan dialogue was the only way out for the Kashmir issue and said that New Delhi will have to restore back whatever it has snatched from the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
“They get angry when I say BJP will have to give us all back with interest. Should I ask for rights from Pakistan and China? We are asking for the restoration of Article 370, from Parliament which snatched it from us illegally” Mehbooba was quoted by news agencies saying so at Anantnag in South Kashmir.
Appealing children and their parents in Kashmir to shun the path of violence, Mehbooba said that gun will only give us a label of being terrorists and delegitimise our struggle for our rights and aspirations. She said that the youth should leave the path of violence and should learn from the protests being held by the farmers peacefully on the borders of New Delhi.
She said that farmers are getting support from all corners including at the global level only because they are not wielding any gun or stone. She said that people of Jammu and Kashmir should seriously look at the farmers’ agitation and start a similar pattern of protests so that New Delhi is forced to restore the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Priyanka Vadra ‘guarantees’ financial sops for women, free electricity, 5 lakh jobs in Assam
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Tuesday announced five poll guarantees for the people of Assam if her party is voted to power in the state.
A law that nullifies the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), creation of five lakh government jobs, a hike in the daily wage of tea workers to Rs 365, free electricity up to 200 units per household and Rs 2,000 monthly income support to all housewives are among the guarantees that Priyanka announced
Addressing a rally in Tezpur, she said: “We will provide Rs 2,000 per month to all the housewives as ‘grihini samman’. The woman working in tea gardens will be provided Rs 365 per day. We’ll create 5 lakhs new govt jobs. These are not promises but guarantees.”
The Congress leader further announced that when her party is voted to power in the state, a law shall be enacted that will ensure that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is not implemented in Assam.
“When our party comes into power, a law will be enacted to ensure that CAA is not implemented here. 200 units of electricity will be given free of cost every month,” said Priyanka.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Congress general secretary, who is on a two-day visit to the poll-bound state spent some time with tea estate workers at Sadhuru tea garden in Biswanath district.
Dressed in a saree and balancing a basket on her back, the 49-year-old was seen plucking tea leaves. “The life of tea garden workers is full of truth and simplicity and their labour is valuable for the country. After sitting with them today, I understood their work, felt well-being of their families and the difficulties of their life,” Gandhi tweeted along with pictures of herself interacting with the tea workers.
Assam assembly elections will be held in three phases. In the first phase, 47 seats in 12 districts will go to the polls on March 27. In the second phase, 39 constituencies in 13 districts will go to the polls on April 1 while 40 assembly constituencies in 12 districts to go on polls on April 6. The counting of votes will take place on May 2.
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