Karnataka BJP MLAs at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru
Karnataka BJP MLAs at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru | Twitter: @BJP4Karnataka
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Karnataka’s political turmoil refuses to move off the first page – and the top headlines — with the leading dailies sticking to the drama Monday. “Karnataka Speaker disqualifies 14 more MLAs before trust vote,” The Hindu writes, adding that Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar’s action takes the “total number of disqualified MLAs to 17”.

This “effectively reduces” the strength of the Assembly from “225 to 208 members”, adds The Indian Express. The MLAs stand disqualified until “the term of the current assembly due to end in 2023” and “can’t contest by polls”, writes Hindustan Times. A visibly upset speaker Kumar says that he has been put under pressure and “pushed into a sea of depression”, it adds.

The Times of India claims that the Speaker “acted tough” on the rebel legislators and elaborates on the BJP’s perspective: the “official line of condemnation aside”, the move “brought cheer to the BJP camp” for another reason too: the “compulsion to reward the rebels” doesn’t arise “till their disqualification is reversed or suspended.”

Unnao Rape Victim’s Accident: The accident involving the “Unnao rape victim”, who accused BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar of “sexually assaulting” her in 2017, made page 1 too. “Her lawyer were critically injured and two of her aunts killed” when the “car in which they were travelling collided with a truck” in Rae Bareli, reports Express.

The “victim’s family” has accused MLA Sengar, currently lodged in Sitapur district jail, “of planning the accident” (Express). The Hindu highlights that the truck, “driving on the wrong side of the road”, had its “number plate smeared with black paint” which “fuelled suspicion”.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav demanded a CBI probe saying “there is jungle raj in U.P” (The Hindu)

J &K: Express’s second lead of the day, “BJP calls J&K core group to Delhi for ‘urgent meeting’”, highlights “uncertainty and speculation” over the deployment of additional forces in the Valley. The central leadership of BJP has “summoned members of the party’s core group in Jammu and Kashmir for an ‘urgent meetings in Delhi on Tuesday”, it writes.

TOI has a different take on this story, with the headline: “Kashmir ‘build-up’ to foil ISI terror plots for I-Day”. “Dispelling rumours of the paramilitary build-up” in J&K being “linked to a plan to abrogate Articles 35A and 370”, TOI quotes a top intelligence official as saying that “the exercise was in response to Pakistan’s ISI planning terror strikes in the run-up” to Independence Day to “shore up the sagging morale of separatist forces”. The security establishment was trying to “prevent any misadventure” by the ISI, writes TOI.
The Hindu reports that there has been an “enhancement of the security grid and fresh orders to local officers” in J&K. It writes that top government officials “termed the measures” as a “routine contingency augmentation to counter any rise in militant attacks”.

Mann Ki Baat: Prime Minister Narendra Modi comments on his monthly radio broadcast, ‘Mann Ki Baat’ also makes it to the front page. Again, newspapers highlight different points from his address: Express concentrated on his comments that “the people of Kashmir are eager to join the national mainstream” and the “power of development is stronger than the might of bullets and bombs”.

HT and TOI choose to outline the PM’s comments on Chandrayaan-2. He described it as an example of “faith and fearlessness.”

Others: Newspapers were surprisingly slim today: the TOI is devoid of full page advertisements and its flaps, with the edition being a mere 16 pages.
Other newspapers also don’t feature many advertisements, which takes a toll on their page count, with Express being the thickest daily at 22 pages.

Opinion

Times of India: In “Economy Please”, TOI directs attention to the instability of India’s economy. Some key concerns for India include the fall in Sensex by 2,500 points since the announcement of the Budget; higher tax on the super-rich which scared away foreign investors; and the IMF’s move to lower India’s growth forecast for 2019 to 7 per cent. Many also believe that figures provided by the government, such as the growth in the last quarter at 5.8 per cent, are “exaggerated as proxy indicators”. According to RBI governor Shaktikanta Das, the global economy is at the beginning of a new and “unsettling” phase. While protectionism seems to be common among economic policies across the world, India should take advantage of macroeconomic environments. TOI writes that India should perhaps look at Vietnam, which took advantage of the US-China trade friction to “attract more direct investment from companies”.

Hindustan Times: In “The Vacuum in Congress”, HT marks the 65th day since Congress leader Rahul Gandhi stepped down from the party as president, leaving “a vacuum at the top for so long”. The Congress-JD(S) coalition’s fall in Karnataka and the party’s latest defeat in Goa should serve as a wake-up call for the party as it gears up for state assembly elections in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi, which are just around the corner, writes HT. So far, the only hint of some revival was Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s “foray to Uttar Pradesh” where she was detained on the way to meet families affected by the Sonbhadra shootout. The Congress Working Committee’s inability to come up with names for a few presidential candidates and the uncertainty as to whether the Nehru-Gandhi family will make that decision indicates that the party has been severely “paralysed by defeat and indecision”.

Prime Time

Jammu and Kashmir and the disqualification of 14 MLAs by the Karnataka Speaker dominated the Sunday prime time debates.

Aaj Tak: On ‘Dangal’, anchor Sayeed Ansari brought up the Centre’s deployment of an additional 10,000 paramilitary troops in Jammu and Kashmir which prompted PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti to express fears about the possible abrogation of Article 35A. “Meddling with Article 35A in Kashmir is equivalent to playing with fire,” she said.

PDP’s Mohit Bhan said, “Mehbooba Mufti very clearly said that in her government, the freedom to conduct talks with separatists was restricted. She called upon people like Yashwant Sinha and Rajnath Singh to talk to them, but the doors remained closed for the separatists. How can the central government be okay with the people of our own country dying? People have no idea about the kind of blood that is shed in Kashmir.”
He added, “…any action on 35A will result in violence.”

BJP’s Shahnawaz Hussain said, “The matter of 35A is in the court right now. Mufti is misinforming the people about 35A. PDP is no longer ruling, that is why they are making such statements.”

India TV: Article 35A was the topic of debate on India TV too and featured PDP’s Mohit Bhan again. “You must analyse what Mehbooba Mufti said clearly,” he pleaded. “There is a lot of pain behind this statement. The pain of derailing any sort of peace in Kashmir,” said Bhan.

Anchor Sourabh Shukla wanted to know if the wishes of the people of the Valley alone mattered: “What about the people of Jammu and Ladakh?”

Political analyst Irfan Hafeez Lone claimed that in 2014, PM Modi had promised discussion on Articles 35A and 370: “We are ready for a discussion. You keep saying that no one can buy land here, but the Land Grants Act allows you to do so and it even allows you to build infrastructure.”

Times Now: On ‘Frankly Speaking’, anchor Navika Kumar interviewed Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Union Minister of Jal Shakti, on the water crisis facing India.

“Droughts and floods sometimes go hand in hand. 72 years after independence, we still have not been able to sort it out,” said Kumar.

Shekhawat replied, “…floods and droughts always go hand in hand. This problem is not exclusive (to any one state)… Linking river waters is the solution to this.”

Kumar quoted Niti Aayog data: “600 million people in India face high to extreme water stress, two lakh deaths each year (occur) due to inadequate access to safe water, 70 per cent of India’s water is contaminated. These statistics are scary.”

“They are, but it is through this fear that we see a path to opportunities,” responded Shekhawat.

Republic TV: On ‘#NationVsLobby’, anchor Arnab Goswami pitted 49 ‘intellectuals’ against 62 ‘celebrities’, letter versus letter, and criticised the writers and signatories of the first letter that condemned cases of lynching across the nation, refuted by celebrities in the second letter.

“The 49 celebrities spoke about the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ chant used as a war cry and they spoke about the dissenters being called deshdrohi. I find nothing wrong with that,” said Kunika Sadanand, actor and advocate.

Pratibha Prahlad, cultural activist, disagreed: “For the longest ever time, this lobby has held public space and appropriated for themselves the role of being spokespersons for the downtrodden and the marginalised.”

“This lobby has got doles from the system, they are ideologically biased, they pick and choose the issues,” she added.

With inputs from Pia Krishnankutty

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