DEMOCRACY IN ACTION VVPAT machines being unloaded from an IAF chopper for the final phase of Lok Sabha polls at Kaza in Lahaul district, Himachal Pradesh, on Wednesday. The chopper was used for transportation as Kunzum-Spiti road was blocked | PTI KOCHI l THURSDAY l MAY 16, 2019 l `7.00 l PAGES 20 l LATE CITY EDITION CHENNAI ■ MADURAI ■ VIJAYAWADA ■ BENGALURU ■ KOCHI ■ HYDERABAD ■ VISAKHAPATNAM ■ COIMBATORE ■ KOZHIKODE ■ THIRUVANANTHAPURAM ■ BELAGAVI ■ BHUBANESWAR ■ SHIVAMOGGA ■ MANGALURU ■ TIRUPATI ■ TIRUCHY ■ TIRUNELVELI ■ SAMBALPUR ■ HUBBALLI ■ DHARMAPURI ■ KOTTAYAM ■ KANNUR ■ VILLUPURAM ■ KOLLAM ■ WARANGAL ■ TADEPALLIGUDEM ■ NAGAPATTINAM ■ THRISSUR ■ KALABURAGI ‘Govt formation won’t take too long’ Congress President Rahul Gandhi is cagey about his post-poll strategy of looking for partners outside the current alliance if push comes to shove, but feels a new team will be put in place quickly; says he will wait for the verdict on May 23, but is confident that the Modi govt will be defeated G S VASU A N D SA N T WA N A B H AT TA C H A R YA P redictions about the election results may be swinging back and forth between a wild range of 150 seats, but in the middle of it all, Congress President Rahul Gandhi is exuding a quiet confidence. He resolutely parried off, like any seasoned politician, queries on any specifics on how he would move in the various scenarios - but in an exclusive interview with The New Indian Express he offered both subtle and broad hints about how he is oriented to the tasks that may lie ahead of May 23. Perhaps, that he may already have initiated, or responded to, dialogue with potential partners. In ter ms of overt words about post-poll possibilities, he offered a perfect defence — a wall that could not be breached. “You are asking the sixth time. I will answer the same way he ,” said. And that steadfastly noncommittal stance was woven around the logic that it’s “not his place” to second-guess the jurisdiction of the voters. “The people of India are the masters. I will wait for the voice of the people first and only then...” talk about post-poll scenarios. But between his words, a perfect script seems to be in place too — and an open script, not a bound one. His confidence rests, firstly, on the conviction that “Mr Modi is going to be defeated.” To sceptics, including from the BJP he has this coun, ter: “Do you think the 1.4 billion people of India can’t defeat Mr Modi?” Secondly, he does not think government formation will be a long-drawn process — “I In terms of overt words about post-Lok Sabha poll possibilities, he offered a perfect defence — a wall that could not be breached. “You are asking the sixth time. I will answer the same way” think it will be very quick.” Read along with his remark that the “entire Opposition” is united in the objective of seeing the back of the present dispensation, this is an indication that backchannel negotiations may be already under way . A major point of curiosity in the public mind is the Congress’ capacity or willingness to work with big regional blocs that may be in a position to control the narrative post-May 23. Parties like Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSCRP, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti of K Chandrashekhar Rao, besides other regional parties who are part of neither the UPA or the NDA, could form a sizeable chunk of the next Lok Sabha. Their individual relations with the Congress have often South India felt the country was being run from Nagpur....TN, AP are screaming. I was shocked by the expression of the Tamil people.... oblique, via a reverse critique of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his NDA regime. Building his decision to contest from Wayanad into the narrative, he said he had got the sense that “South India felt the country was being run from Nagpur.... Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh are screaming. I was shocked by the expression of the Tamil people....” On a specific quesEXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW tion about his willingness to work with Jagan Mohan Reddy, he took the discussion to the promise of Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh and the way it was dishonoured by the Modi government. “The PM of India had made a commitment on Special Category Status to Andhra. Dr Manmohan Singhji had made that commitment on the floor of Parliament. That’s like a commitment from the people of India. You can’t tell the peobeen fraught and frosty, while ple of Andhra that isn’t worth they still retain a formal dis- anything.” tance from the BJP too. The The reason he cites for why Congress too has often been al- Modi ignored this long-pending leged to be isolationist, imperi- demand is what he calls his inous and often ill-adjusted to the capacity “to listen”. Calling demands of coalition politics. him a man filled with anger, he Rahul’s words are, therefore, says, his “I, me, myself and nosignificant in terms of symbol- body else” approach was a ically opening up the space for “tragedy” for India. negotiations. After Rajiv Gandhi, it was The way he opened it up was only Modi who had got a “blank cheque” to govern India, he says. And while Rajiv had kickstarted the telecom revolution, computerisation and a vision for the 21st century Modi bun, gled on an excellent opportunity to reshape India, he feels. But “anger blinded Mr Modi” and brought about a lack of sensitivity to the needs of others - and, “tragically” for India - kept him on a path of governance that was begun under Rajiv, perfected under Narasimha Dr Manmohan Singhji made that commitment in Parliament on Andhra’s special status. That’s like a commitment from the people of India. You can’t tell the people of Andhra that isn’t worth anything Rao and Dr Singh, but one that had stopped working from 2012. “We are not going to be arrogant. We are going to listen to the people, we’re even going to listen to the Opposition,” said Rahul. As explicit an answer as he has ever given on whether he is willing to accept the post of prime minister — of course, if the “masters” so decide on May 23. FULL INTERVIEW | WILL LISTEN TO THE VERDICT OF THE PEOPLE ON THE LOK SABHA ELECTIONS, SAYS RAHUL GANDHI | PAGE 9 EC curtails Bengal campaigning Blames state officials for not doing enough to control violence; removes 2 key officers; Panel’s action comes on a day when Modi and Mamata traded charges MANISH ANAND, KUMAR VIKRAM AND PRANAB MONDAL What’s Article 324? IN an unprecedented move in the electoral history of India, the Election Commission invoked Article 324 of the Constitution on Wednesday, ordering all campaigning in nine remaining West Bengal constituencies to end at 10 PM on Thursday night — a day before its scheduled deadline — in the wake of the clash between BJP and TMC workers in Kolkata on Tuesday . The EC also ordered the removal of Principal Secretary (Home) and Additional Director General, CID from their postings in West Bengal, while directing West Bengal police to speedily identify the accused involved in the arson, vandalism and violence. The EC action came on a day It says “superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in the EC”. The poll panel said special measures are needed to deal with the prevailing situation in West Bengal. It said it was deeply anguished over vandalisation of the bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar @ New Delhi / Kolkata LOK SABHA ELECTION 2019 SC PULLS UP BENGAL GOVT ON ACTIVIST ARREST The Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the West Bengal government for keeping BJP activist Priyanka Sharma behind bars overnight despite the court’s order to release her on bail immediately. She was released only on Wednesday at 9.40 am. Meanwhile Sharma, who was arrested for allegedly sharing a morphed picture of CM Mamata Banerjee, alleged she was tortured in jail P7 Twin suicide: Dramatic turn as police nab 4 from family EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ T’Puram THE twin suicide case of a 41-year-old woman and her teenage daughter near Marayamuttom in Neyyattinkara took a dramatic turn as the police arrested four of their family members, including husband of the woman, on Wednesday for abetment. They were remanded in prison for 14 days. The police found the note fixed on the door of the room in which the two had immolated. It was written by Lekha and signed by both her and daughter Vaishnavi. On the basis of it, Lekha’s husband Chandran, his mother Krishnamma, her sister Shantha and her husband Kashi were ar● More on P5 rested. 20 PAGES, INCLUDING 4 PAGES OF KOCHI EXPRESS West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee leading a protest rally in Kolkata on Wednesday against vandalism | PTI of fast paced developments with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee trading charges of inciting violence during BJP president Amit Shah’s massive road show in Kolkata on Tuesday, which saw the destruction of a bust of the iconic reformer-educationist Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar on University Street. TO BE MELTED AND SOLD Govt’s steely resolve: Fiery end to weapons of hate A J AY K A N T H @Kochi CONSIDER THIS: Guns, swords or rods used by the members of a criminal gang to attack opponents in the state could form the steel of the prison they would be put in future. With the confiscated ‘tools’ becoming a burden for the police, the state government has decided to sell them off to the Steel Authority of India Ltd Steel Complex Kerala Ltd which will go into the construction sector. The money thus made will be accounted to the state treasury To begin . with, some of the weapons kept at the Armed Reserve Camp, Thrissur, will go into the furnace, according to an order on May 4. “The state government has accorded sanction to sell 145 deposited/confiscated weapons kept at the District AR Camp, Thrissur, to Steel Complex, Kozhikode, after melting them under the district ar mourer’s supervision strictly adhering to the Ministry of Home Affairs’ directions,” the order said. “The state police chief should remit the amount collected on this account in the treasury under intimation to the government,” the order said. “The weapons include rifles, country-made guns, revolvers and pistols. In 2011, we had handed over a batch of weapons for melting,” said AR Camp Quarter Master Inspector Rajesh K K. The deposited weapons were mainly old rifles and revolvers of the police force, the officer said. Sale to SAIL The government has decided to sell the weapons off to the Steel Authority of India Ltd-Steel Complex Kerala The confiscated weapons were shifted to AR camps after the guilty were convicted of the crimes and the cases disposed of by courts A police officer EXPRESS READ Ballot scam: Time sought Farmers yet to get L141 cr Monsoon from June 6: IMD T’Puram: The Crime Branch has sought 15 days’ time to complete the probe into the postal ballot scam in the police. P4 Alappuzha: Supplyco, which had procured 1.82 lakh tonnes of paddy worth D462 crore, is yet to distribute D141 crore to farmers in Kuttanad. P4 Chennai: The monsoon, likely to be delayed this year, is expected to arrive on June 6, five days after its normal onset date, the IMD has said. P6
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