In surprising poll results, Modi and BJP finally discover hype doesn’t always work

News Network
June 5, 2024

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India is unpredictable. This is an incontrovertible fact that Indians themselves seem to have forgotten over the past decade.

Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi stormed into office with an unexpected and unprecedented outright legislative majority in 2014, many have assumed the country’s politics had changed forever.

The age of coalitions was over; India seemed to be heading inexorably toward one-party dominance.

To stock traders and pro-government pundits, the country’s trajectory seemed so clear: It was destined to see steady 8 per cent growth, happy voters, and a prime minister going from strength to strength at home and abroad.

Indian voters chose to disagree. With votes still being counted in the country’s massive general elections and several races still hanging in the balance, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party looks almost certain to have fallen short of a parliamentary majority. 
That means it will have to depend, for the first time, on fickle smaller parties to hold onto power.

This was what Indian politics looked like for decades prior to Modi’s emergence. Many thought we were living in a new normal. Instead, the old normal has reasserted itself.

In these surprising elections, Modi and the BJP appear to have discovered the limits of hype. An apparently unified public sphere, solidly pro-government media, and impressive growth numbers had left many assuming that Modi’s performance in power had few holes.

Observers should have paid more attention to contrary indicators. Employment growth under Modi has been marginal at best. Social inclusion has been patchy.

While much of the country looks very different from it did in 2014, even more of it looks largely unchanged.

Small-town India has not seen the sort of revolution in infrastructure that cities of equivalent size in China or Southeast Asia have enjoyed over recent decades.

Big metropolises were transformed during the boom years of the 2000s; they have mostly stagnated since then.

Whatever the GDP growth numbers are, whether they are believable or not, one thing is clear: Voters do not believe enough of that growth has reached their wallets.
It’s not surprising such facts have been overlooked. The Modi government and its allies have completely dominated messaging over the past decade.

They sought to maintain, week in and week out, the frenetic pace and outsize enthusiasm that marked the Prime Minister’s initial march to power.

The government thought that the lesson of its sweeping re-election in 2019 was that social conservatism and welfare delivery was enough to maintain control.

But Modi and the BJP have reached the limits of welfare-first politics and saturation advertising. Without real change on the ground, he or any successor may struggle to retain power over the next five years. They will have to pay more attention to governance than to marketing.

There’s a lot that needs attention. Modi came into power promising manufacturing jobs and private-sector-friendly reforms. In this campaign, he instead argued that loans to small-scale entrepreneurs had gone up, proving that jobs were being created — and that increases in share prices for public-sector companies validated his economic performance.

This is clearly a retreat from the ambitions of a decade ago. Any new government must recapture those ambitions; voters clearly expect it.

If India’s politics have indeed returned to normal, its government must, too. Repression of the opposition does not work, not in a country this large and variegated.

For 10 years, Modi has promised to wipe out his principal rivals in the Indian National Congress party. Yet, in this election, the Congress demonstrated that it is not going anywhere.

The government arguably misused investigative agencies to go after opposition leaders in two states in particular, Maharashtra and West Bengal; both have decisively voted against the BJP.

Modi’s personal popularity is such that he and his government can survive the sort of relatively mild rebuke the electorate has delivered. To retain power for a third term, even if dependent on allies, is an historic achievement.

This result is only startling because the Modi hype had completely detached itself from reality.

We do not live, it appears, in a post-truth world. Even the most adept populists must eventually reckon with reality. None of them are immune to the most fundamental rule of politics: If you don’t perform, you perish.

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News Network
July 16,2024

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Bengaluru: Senior JD(S) lawmaker HD Revanna on Tuesday launched a diatribe against Director-General of Police Alok Mohan in Karnataka Assembly, dubbing him as “unfit” to be the top cop.

But an emotional Revanna also said that his son Prajwal Revanna, the former Hassan MP accused of mass sexual abuse, should be hanged if found guilty.

“If my son has committed wrongs, then let him be hanged. I won’t say no,” Revanna said in his first Assembly appearance after his family was embroiled in the Hassan sexual abuse case. 

“I’ve been a lawmaker for 25 years. I’ve spent 40 years in public life. Against me, some woman is brought to the Director-General’s office. The DG gets the complaint filed. Isn’t he nalayak to be the DG? He’s unfit. This is a shameless government,” Revanna said. 

This riled up members of the ruling Congress, including Chief Minister Siddaramaiah who asked Deputy Speaker Ramappa Lamani in the chair to expunge the comments. 

Revanna was arrested on May 4 in a kidnap and illegal confinement case linked to the Hassan sexual abuse saga. 

Revanna rose to speak after Leader of the Opposition R Ashoka drew a comparison between the manner in which Special Investigation Teams (SIT) are probing the Hassan sexual abuse case and the embezzlement at the Maharshi Valmiki ST Development Corporation. 

“Revanna, Bhavani and our former Hassan MLA Preetham...they’re facing an SIT. But that SIT is so strong...all of them went to court seeking justice fearing arrest,” Ashoka said. “But with the other SIT, there’s no fear,” he said, adding that former minister B Nagendra was not summoned for investigation for over 30 days. 

Senior BJP lawmaker S Suresh Kumar interjected. “There’s SIT and there’s SSIT. The SIT is Special Investigation Team. The SSIT is the Siddaramaiah Shivakumar Investigation Team,” he said. Taking exception, Shivakumar said the comment should be expunged.

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News Network
July 10,2024

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The Supreme Court today (July 10, 2024) held that a Muslim woman is entitled to file a petition for maintenance against her husband under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The Bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih dismissed a petition filed by a Muslim man's plea against the direction to pay interim maintenance to his divorced wife under Section 125 CrPC. The Court held that the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986 will not prevail over the secular law.

Justices Nagarathna and Masih delivered separate but concurring judgments.

"We are dismissing the criminal appeal with the conclusion that Section 125 CrPC would be applicable to all women and not just married women," Justice Nagarathna stated.

The bench clarified that if during the pendency of a petition under Section 125 of the CrPC a Muslim woman is divorced, then she can take recourse to the Muslim Women(Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019. The bench stated that the remedy under the 2019 Act is in addition to the remedy under Section 125 CrPC.

Background

For a comprehensive understanding of the facts of the case and the issue involved, click here.

Senior Advocate S Wasim A Qadri, appearing for the petitioner-husband, raised the following contentions:

(A) The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 Act ("Act") is a special law in the nature of beneficial legislation, which provides way more than what Section 125 CrPC contemplates. Besides maintenance, Section 3 of the Act also deals with mehr, dower and return of property. Under the Act, a "reasonable and fair" provision is also made for the divorced woman's entire life, but the same is not contemplated under Section 125 CrPC. Moreover, if the divorced woman has sufficient means, she cannot file for maintenance under Section 125 CrPC, however, that is the case with Section 3 of the Act.

(B) To the legal position flowing from Mohd Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, factum of divorce was not relevant and every Muslim woman was entitled to maintain a Section 125 CrPC petition. To upset this ruling, the Act was enacted and it codified the Supreme Court judgment. The Act is a complete code in itself and a reading of its provisions would show that it was intended to have an overriding effect over Section 125 CrPC. While it makes provisions for "divorced" Muslim women, deserted or neglected Muslim women may resort to Section 125 CrPC.

(C) It is a settled position of law that special law (the Act) shall prevail over general law (CrPC). Language of the Act being clear, there is no reason for the Court to go beyond. It must simply give effect to what is stated in the Act.

(D) Section 5 gives an option to the divorced couple to not be governed by the Act. This shows that a Muslim wife cannot resort to both remedies.

(E) As per Section 7 of the Act, a Section 125 CrPC petition pending at the time of commencement of the Act was to be disposed of by the Magistrate in terms of Section 3 of the Act. This shows that the ambit of Section 125 CrPC in these petitions was to be interpreted in light of provisions of the Act, read with Section 5 CrPC (which excludes applicability of CrPC provisions when there is a special provision).

(F) Under doctrine of implied repeal, the Parliament is presumed to know pre-existing law and won't intend to create any confusion by retaining conflicting provisions. In applying this doctrine, Court must give effect to legislative intent of the two enactments (CrPC and the Act).

Amicus and Senior Advocate Gaurav Agarwal, on the other hand, put forth the following submissions:

(A) The Act only concretizes Muslim personal law. It broadens a divorced Muslim woman's entitlement to maintenance beyond the iddat period, but does not take away the relief available to her under Section 125 CrPC because the purpose behind the latter is different.

(B) The petitioner's reliance on Section 5 of the Act is misplaced, as that provision comes into play when an application has been filed under Section 3 of the Act. In the present case, the respondent-wife had approached the Court under Section 125 CrPC.

(C) Section 7 of the Act is only a transitional provision. If an application was pending under Section 125 CrPC on the date of commencement of the Act, it was to be subsequently governed by Section 3. However, that does not mean that Section 125 CrPC petitions could no longer be filed.

(D) In Danial Latifi & Anr v. Union Of India, Supreme Court only dealt with validity of the Act. Though the validity of provisions of the Act was upheld, the Bench questioned in the said case as to how it could deprive Muslim divorced women the same right which is available to other women in the country.

(E) As per Section 127(3)(b) CrPC, if some provision has been made under personal law, a husband may avoid liability for maintenance under Section 125 CrPC. It would be for Courts to record a fact-finding in this regard.

(F) Different High Courts have taken different views, so clarity on the issue has become necessary. Judgments that are no longer good law may be declared as such. Kerala High Court has taken a view both Section 125 (CrPC) petition and Section 3 (1986 Act) petition are maintainable, but a woman has to choose between one of the two. But this position is not correct.

Before conclusion of arguments, the Amicus also pointed to a scenario where a divorced Muslim woman may accept provision made under personal law for her entire life, but later realize that it was not sufficient. In that case, she can only approach under Section 125 CrPC and not under Section 3 of the Act. As such, she should not have to choose between the two remedies and must be entitled to both.

Court Observations during the hearing

During the hearing, the Bench remarked that Section 3 of the Act begins with a non-obstante clause. As such, it is not in derogation to what is already provided under Section 125 CrPC, but an additional remedy.

Justice Masih said : "this Act does not bar...it is the choice of the person who had applied or moved an application under 125...there is no statutory provision provided under the Act of 1986 which says that 125 is not maintainable". Concurring, Justice Nagarathna said that there was nothing in the 1986 law which barred one remedy in favor of the other.

When the Bench enquired as to whether the present petitioner had paid anything to the respondent-wife during the iddat period, answer was given in the negative. The Amicus clarified that a draft of Rs.15,000 was tendered by the petitioner during the iddat period, but the same was not claimed by the respondent-wife. Taking into account the same, the Bench said that it would still have been understandable if the petitioner had made provision for the wife during the iddat period, as in that case, Section 127(3)(b) CrPC may have come into play.

Responding to the petitioner's submission that none of the judgments cited by either side had dealt with Section 7 of the Act, Nagarathna J said that the provision was only with regard to pending cases (and thus, transitory). Countering the contention, the Amicus drew attention of the Court to a Kerala High Court judgment which considered Section 7 and held that it could not be interpreted as extinguishing the right of divorced Muslim women to file petitions under Section 125 CrPC.

Notably, the Kerala High Court (in the judgment cited by the Amicus) was of the view that the transitory provision was intended to do away with the necessity of Muslim women, who had Section 125 CrPC petitions pending at the time of commencement of the Act, having to file fresh claims under Section 3 of the special law. To quote the Bench,

"If the Parliament had the intention to extinguish such rights of the Muslim woman, it would only be reasonable to expect the Parliament to speak in definite and specific language about such extinguishment. Parliament must have been aware that when 1986 Act was enacted, number of orders must have passed in favor of divorced Muslim women under Section 125...Message appears to us to be loud and clear...Both rights, under Section 125 of the Code and Section 3 were conferred on the divorced women. She has the right to choose."

As against the petitioner's submission that the provisions of the Act indicate Parliament's intent to bar entitlement of Muslim women to file maintenance claims under Section 125 CrPC, the Court expressed an opinion that the same would be unconstitutional.

If the Parliament intended for divorced Muslim women to no longer be entitled to file petitions under Section 125 CrPC from the date of commencement of the Act, it could have explicitly given an overriding effect to the Act, the Bench remarked. To quote Nagarathna J, "In the absence of such a thing, can we add a restriction to the Act? That is the point".

After hearing the submissions of both the Senior Advocates, the judgment was reserved on February 19.

Counsels for petitioner-husband: Senior Advocate S Wasim A Qadri; Advocates Saeed Qadri, Saahil Gupta, Deepak Bhati and Shivendra Singh; AOR Udita Singh

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Agencies
July 12,2024

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New Delhi: Retail inflation increased to 5.08 per cent in June as kitchen items became dearer, according to government data released on Friday.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) based retail inflation was 4.8 per cent in May 2024 and 4.87 per cent in June 2023 (previous low).

Inflation in the food basket was 9.36 per cent in June, up from 8.69 per cent in May, according to the data released by the National Statistical Office (NSO).

The government has tasked the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to ensure that the CPI inflation remains at 4 per cent with a margin of 2 per cent on either side.

The RBI projected the CPI inflation for 2024-25 at 4.5 per cent, with Q1 at 4.9 per cent, Q2 at 3.8 per cent, Q3 at 4.6 per cent, and Q4 at 4.5 per cent.

The central bank mainly factors in the retail inflation while deciding its bi-monthly monetary policy.

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