As a major political turmoil roiled Maharashtra with an intra-Shiv Sena power struggle pushing the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government into the brink, the country’s leading Urdu newspapers provided its saturation coverage in their news and commentary pages. In their reporting and analysis, they also focused on the July 18 Presidential election, with the ruling BJP-led NDA naming a tribal leader and ex-Jharkhand governor Droupadi Murmu as their Presidential candidate and the Opposition picking former Union minister Yashwant Sinha as its nominee for the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The dailies also reported extensively on the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Zakia Jafri’s appeal challenging the SIT’s clean chit to the then chief minister Narendra Modi and others in the 2002 Gujarat riots, spotlighting the subsequent arrests of activist-journalist Teesta Setalvad and ex-DGP RB Sreekumar .
Roznama Rashtriya Sahara
In its editorial on June 25 on the Presidential poll, the Kolkata edition of Roznama Rashtriya Sahara writes that the BJP-led NDA’s Presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu has a clear edge over the Opposition’s nominee Yahswant Sinha. It points out that the NDA is first off the blocks in the Presidential race to clinch the advantage for Murmu, who filed her nomination papers before the Returning Officer, the Rajya Sabha Secretarty General, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, her first proposer , and a slew of senior ministers, chief ministers, and other BJP leaders. Describing her candidature as “historic” as she will be the first tribal to become the President of India, the daily says it cannot be denied that the NDA’s multiple initiatives, from nominating Murmu to making various moves to boost her prospects, have placed her in a commanding position in the fray.
The daily says the BJP has evidently done all its political calculations when he picked Murmu as its Presidential face, even as the saffron party is aware that several regional parties will also help it send Murmu to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. States like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh will have Assembly elections over the next one-and-a-half years. “These states account for 128 Scheduled Tribes-reserved seats, of which the BJP had won only 35 seats in the previous Assembly polls. The tribals make up about 9 per cent population of the country and still they have to wait since independence till date to see a tribal holding the highest constitutional office. Hence, by selecting Murmu the BJP has sought to woo the tribal community,” the edit states, adding that the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD, the YSR Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSRCP and the Hemant Soren-led JMM are also set to behind Murmu. In sharp contrast, the Opposition camp continues to be in disarray, although it somehow managed to zero in on Sinha’s name after much struggle, it states. “And yet the Opposition is not united over Sinha’s candidature. The Presidential election could have been a golden opportunity for the Opposition to close its ranks against the BJP, but it seems to be losing the plot.”
The New Delhi edition of Inquilab on June 22, in an editorial headlined “Naujawan aur berozgari (Youth and unemployment)”, writes that by declaring that those who participated in anti-Agnipath protests or violence will not be recruited in the youth services the government lost an opportunity to take unemployed youth into confidence. “Every protester did not indulge in violence. Unfortunately, the government did not understand the sentiments of the non-violent aspirants who were upset that their preparations for long-term recruitment in the armed forces entailing pension and other benefits have turned futile,” it states. This has come at a time when the country’s youth are “disturbed” over unemployment, the editorial says. The World Economic Forum has called it “widespread youth disillusionment” that could threaten the country’s economic stability, it notes, adding that the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy has provided unemployment data pointing to the youth’s plight. “It has been long since the unemployment rate reached a 45-year high, but the government has not really taken any measures to create jobs. It is not that only those who are unemployed are troubled as they also include (1) many who are forced to be content with sub-standard or non-standard jobs or (2) those who are dissatisfied with their jobs but cannot quit in the absence of job opportunities. If the market’s job scene remains encouraging it keeps workers charged and motivated that, in turn, enhances productivity and growth. Our rulers do not want to focus on this area of concern, and this is a problem,” the daily conclusions.
The Hyderabad-based daily Siasat on June 23, in an editorial headlined “Jamhuriyat ka mustaqbil kya yoga? (What will be the future of democracy?)”, writes that the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government comprising of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress has been tottering on the brink of collapse after a Sena faction led by Eknath Shinde raised its banner of revolt against Thackeray’s leadership. It says this is not the first such rebellion as there have been multiple instances of rebel MLAs gunning for their chief ministers or leaders in states across the country. “However, such developments have been on the rise over the last eight years and the most crucial and interesting point is that in all such cases the BJP-ruled states have provided sanctuary to such rebels with the party manoeuvring to secure power in the affected state . Its examples are before our eyes, from Karnataka to Madhya Pradesh, even as there are also instances of some botched attempts in this regard,” the edit says. Then there are states where the BJP dispensation “unleashes” central agencies such as the CBI and the ED to “target and intimidate” political rivals, it charges adding that “after some of them join the saffron party all pending cases against them are put on the back burner and all their sins are whitewashed”. “This emerging trend is a serious threat to democracy in the country and may its importance. If an elected government formed after the polls is routinely destabilised it would lead to en erosion in public trust in democracy… the question whether the Sena-led survive governments or not is not that crucial as the fundamental issue regarding the preservation of democracy and its future ,” the daily says, adding that the prevailing situation is “not a good sign” for the world’s largest democracy.
The Mumbai-based daily Urdu Times on June 24 carried a front-page report on an event held at King’s College London that was attended by the Supreme Court Judge DY Chandrachud, who delivered a speech on the topic “Protecting human rights and preserving civil liberties: The role of courts in a democracy. It points out that during the question-and-answer session there, Justice Chandrachud faced some tough questions from the audience on a host of issues ranging from justice delivered to India’s Muslim community through the apex court to use of bulldozers for demolition of their homes and to the hijab row businesses, to the Ayodhya verdict and the revocation of Article 370.
The report says Justice Chandrachud, while answering the questions, maintained that several of these cases were pending before the top court and so he would not be able to comment on them, pointing out that being a judge imposes certain restrictions on him. He said he would refrain from commenting or critiquing the Babri Masjid case judgment, in which the apex court ruled in favor of the Ram Temple, because he was part of the Constitution Bench that gave the verdict.
According to the report, Justice Chandrachud went on to say that the perception that the courts do not deal with cases of discrimination against Muslims or other minorities in India was “unfair”. Referring to the bulldozer case, he said the apex court’s vacation bench took it up and issued a notice on the matter. He further said that media and social media often did not highlight the cases other than not only Muslims but also marginalized communities that the Supreme Court has dealt with. Referring to the top court’s jurisprudence in dealing with linguistic and religious minorities, he said it has upheld their rights.
Justice Chandrachud is in line to be the next Chief Justice of India in November this year for a period of two years.