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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 23 New Delhi May 26, 2018

Opposition Unity, Oil Price Hike, Tuticorin Tragedy

Saturday 26 May 2018, by SC


The swearing-in of the JD(S)-Congress Government in Karnataka yesterday has legitimately thrown up the idea of an all-inclusive anti-BJP coalition before the 2019 Lok Sabha poll and it is definitely on a “firm foothold” as has been highlighted in The Times of India today. The daily underscores that the coming together of the non-BJP Opposition parties in Bengaluru at the swearing-in of the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led State Government brings out the prospects of the “Modi vs Rest” electoral contest and asserts that this was the “biggest anti-BJP unity show since 1996” when the United Front captured power at the Centre with outside support from the Congress.

Both CM Kumaraswamy and his deputy, Congress’ G. Parameshwara, took the oath of office on the lawns of Bengaluru’s imposing Vidhan Soudha and this, according to the publication, “marked the first time that the entire phalanx of (Opposition) had come together on one platform”.

Significantly, while speaking to Andhra Pradesh CM N. Chandrababu Naidu, CPI leader D. Raja and others, CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury characterised the swearing-in as a distinct mark of “victory for democracy and victory for Opposition”, adding that unless secular forces come together the BJP’s “kidnapping of democracy” could not be prevented.

This was indeed a far cry from the facile idea propagated by former CPI-M General Secretary Prakesh Karat that the “electoral tactics alone” cannot defeat the BJP without linking these with “economic and social issues”—a clear-cut recipe for nurturing sectarian thinking.

Meanwhile two latest developments have caused intense public distress in the country. The first was the continuous raising of the retail prices of diesel and petrol thereby pushing them to record levels. As was reported in the press, “such sharp increases choke economic growth, stoke inflation, hurt consumers and domestic budgets”.

The second was the tragedy in Tuticorin—the death of 12 persons in police firing on protestors on May 22. This, as The Indian Express cogently explains, “points to the grim failures of the Tamil Nadu Government in addressing a serious public issue agitating residents of this port city” in Tamil Nadu for over two decades. It further elucidates: “The industry has preferred to battle public complaints about pollution and related hazards in the courts rather than engage with civil society. This is a pattern witnessed across Tamil Nadu, which has in recent years seen numerous public protests against polluting industries”.

But of immediate concern is: why 12 lives were brutally snuffed out, and the accusation that snipers were deployed by the police to fire on the protesters. This is most ominous and must be investigated by the commission of inquiry set up and headed by a retired judge. As of now the Tamil Nadu Government has fully defended the police firing. This needs to be unequivocally condemned. The Indian Express correctly affirms that the “State has an abysmal record on identifying and punishing officials involving rights violations” and thus demands that the Tuticorin investigation “must be different”.

But would it? One doubts.

May 24 S.C.

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