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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 27, June 22, 2013

Jolt for NDA, ‘Himalayan Tsunami’

Saturday 22 June 2013, by SC

EDITORIAL

As national politics has taken a new turn with the JD(U) severing its 17-year-old ties with the BJP on June 16 on the lines of what had been forecast in this journal last week, the NDA led by the principal Opposition party in the country has suffered a real jolt regardless of the braggadocio of the top leadership in the Modi-inspired BJP.

However, the BJP-JD(U) streetfights in Patna on June 18 in the course of the BJP’s Vishwasghat Diwas (Day of Betrayal), called to expose Nitish Kumar’s “treachery”, when shops and establishments were forcibly sought to be shut down by the BJP workers, have shown beyond any shadow of doubt that the bonhomie between the two parties, which shared power for a considerable length of time, has vanished completely as of now Nitish’s speech before he won the vote of confidence in the Bihar Assembly the following day 126-24 [with 91 BJP MLAs walking out of the House before the trust vote, and four Congress members voting in favour of the resolution alongwith four Independents and the alone CPI member, the JD(U)’s effective strength being 117 barring the Assembly Speaker] further vindicated this assessment.

Essentially what the Bihar CM spelt out was simple: the country needed to adopt a model that articulates “inclusive development and not divisive politics”. That was enough to magnify the distance between him and Narendra Modi whom he chose not to even once mention by name.

Meanwhile Uttarakhand and to a lesser extent Himachal Pradesh have had to bear the brunt of nature’s fury in the form of incessant rains, cloudbursts and landslides since June 16. As The Times of India reported today,

The death toll, officially placed at 150 on the basis of body count, could be frighteningly higher. Estimates were running in thousands. Even Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, who described the calamity as a “Himalayan tsunami”, said, “Very heavy casualties are feared.”

An idea of the magnitude of the havoc is available from the report.

Even as rescue operations are in full swing with the IAF personnel undertaking the massive task of evacuation of countless pilgrims and tourists stranded in various spots (Kedarnath being the worst affected), the media has aptly highlighted the considered view of environmentalists, experts and activists that the very scale of the disaster was the result of causes which were palpably man-made. In this context unplanned development and rampant deforestation—the direct consequence of the nexus between politicians (across party lines) and vested interests (representing the builders’ lobby, timber merchants, and quarrying and mining mafia)—have come in for allround condemnation as these were carried out turning a blind eye to the ecological and environmental costs of such acts.

Three years ago the CAG had, in an environ-mental assessment of the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers, cautioned the country of the severe hazard for natural ecology posed by the mushrooming hydel projects on the rivers. These projects were damaging the hills and enhancing the prospects of flast floods—was the warning. But that went unheeded.

The scale of the ‘Himalayan tsunami’ has definitely overshadowed the political jolt suffered by the NDA following the JD(U)’s exit from the Alliance.

June 20 S.C.

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