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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 21 New Delhi May 12, 2018

Karnataka Polls, Kathua Case, Putin Returns

Sunday 13 May 2018, by SC


The campaign for the Karnataka Assembly elections—the polling for which is scheduled to take place on May 12—is drawing to a close and there is as yet no clear winner in sight despite BJP chief Amit Shah’s braggadocio. But what is unmistakable is the fact that the poll speeches of PM Narendra Modi have been exceptionally low in standard and there is much strength in the view of electoral experts, apart from Congress stalwarts, that they don’t recall a PM having sunk to such depths as Modi did this time in his campaign addresses while launching diatribes of varying intensity against his favourite targets of assault—the namdaars (meaning the dynasts of the Congress) in general and Rahul Gandhi, the present Congress President, in particular.

However, whether such tactics would yield the desired electoral dividend from the standpoint of the ruling party at the Centre is anyone’s guess though several observers are openly saying that extra-electoral means, resorted to primarily by the BJP as a party, could tilt the balance in its favour. If that really happens then the resultant clash between the ruling party and the Opposition at the Centre would attain unprecedented severity and even irreversibility in the days ahead.

Meanwhile, in the midst of the Opposition’s move to impeach the Chief Justice of India, that has thankfully been withdrawn of late, a welcome step on behalf of the Supreme Court has been largely endorsed by wide segments of the press. This relates to the shifting of the case of abduction, drugging, gangrape and subsequent brutal murder of an eight-year-old child in J&K’s Kathua district to Pathankot in Punjab. As The Hindu aptly pointed out:

It is unfortunate that despite the horrific nature of the crime, which took place over several days in January, when the girl from the nomadic Bakherwal community went missing, some sought to see the incident along sectarian lines. Contradictions on communal and political lines came to the fore. The formation of a Hindu group in support of those arrested by the J&K Police Crime Branch, and the action of some lawyers in Kathua in heckling the police when they came to file the charge sheet, contributed to the impression that the atmosphere in the town is too vitiated for the conduct of a fair trial.

What is significant is that the Supreme Court’s step has been supported by impartial public opinion not hostage to sectarian and partisan considerations. That augurs well for a speedy and fair trial which is now only to be expected.

On the international plane, Vladimir Putin’s assumption to power in the Kremlin as the Russian President for a fourth term is a major development that has received considerable global publicity. Though there have been several public protests against Putin’s rule, it may not be difficult for the Russian leader with an iron fist to overcome this internal opposition. More difficult would be to fix the economic slowdown and reverse the course of the confron-tationist Russian foreign policy with the West (something for which the latter is doubtless responsible).

It is good that in his inaugural address Putin has promised to stay focussed on domestic issues, parti-cularly the economy. But his economic collaboration with Beijing may not be of much benefit for India unless Narendra Modi’s informal summit with Xi Jinping at Wuhan breaks new ground that is highly unlikely. Nonetheless Putin once again in power has been welcomed by those Indian observers of the Russian scene who, despite all the vicissitudes of recent times, have not lost faith in him as a reliable friend of India regardless of whosoever is in power in this country.

May 10 S.C.

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