Jagan, Congress at daggers drawn
He is young, he is dynamic, he enjoys a strong political identity as a mass leader and he is a faithful Congressman, yet he failed to get the due place in the “Young Brigade” of Rahul Baba. So he resigned from the party rebelling against the injustice done by the party high command. He is Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of the previous CM of Andhra Pradesh, the late YSR and he is facing this problem only because he dared to challenge the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. That is why Madam Sonia Gandhi became so rude that when Jagan’s mother Vijayalakshmi pleaded in front of Madam to allow her son to complete his Odarpu Yatra, but an obdurate Sonia simply snapped, “so what?” It is claimed that these two words “so what” turned out to be the proverbial last straws on the back of camel.
The bitter relation between these two political dynasties is not a sudden outcome. It is a long time when YSR was in good faith of 10 Jan Path. For last few years, he had lost the confidence of Sonia Gandhi but he was capable of developing his own political network and was no more dependent on 10 Jan Path to continue his political journey. After the death of YSR, the party high command not only refused to appoint Jagan the CM, but also started to avoid him politically. Sources said that several businesses of YSR were raided by different agencies and Jagan was forced to sell out some of his companies. He complained to the party high command about it blaming that he was being targeted. One fellow close to Jagan said that Jagan was not only avoided but targeted by the party leaders and they actually want to finish his political career. However, Congress leaders opined that Jagan has simply shown his immatureness and eagerness. He is quite young and has a long way to go in politics, and he could wait for his turn, they maintained.
HC Verdict On Vedanta
JOLT TO NAVEEN
Amidst an ever-increasing chorus for the CM’s resignation over the Vedanta University, a defiant CM sneers at the Opposition for its dog in the manger policy. Given the past record of the Congress-led government’s ‘One Thousand Industries in One Thousand Days,’ the BJD is all set to laugh on the face of the Opposition that has been crying foul over the Vedanta consistently but for the Odisha High Court verdict on November 16. It seems that both the government and the opposition are missing something even as a piqued public watches and asks: “What next?”
The High Court finds the government erring on the following heads: land acquisition, the legal status of the company involved, the impact of the project on the environment, and the directives issued.
Rules allegedly flouted (as the opposition claims) are: Land Acquisition Act 1984; Land Acquisition Act (company rule) 1963; Company Act 1956; Environment Protection Act; Air and water Act; Shri Jagannath Temple Act; The UGC Act; Wildlife Protection Act; The Orissa Development Authorities Act; The Forest Conservation Act; CRZ Rule; Sweet Water Zone Law; Lokpal’s observation has also been overlooked.
Some of the intricacies, concerning the issue examined by the honourable High Court are:
(i) Whether Anil Agarwal Foundation, the beneficiary company, is a public company in terms of the definition under section 3(1)(iv) of the Companies Act, 1956 and whether the private guarantee limited company can be converted to public company under section 25 of the Companies Act.
(ii) Whether the state government can acquire the lands in question in favour of the beneficiary company in exercise of its eminent domain power for the purpose of establishment of the proposed Vedanta University (not in existence) in view of section 44-B of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
(iii) (a) Whether the Collector [Puri] was required to conduct an inquiry as contemplated under section 5-A of the Land Acquisition Act even in the absence of filing objections to the show-cause notice along with preliminary notification proposing to acquire the lands of the land owners/interested persons in favour of a beneficiary company.
(b) Whether the Collector was required to submit his report to the state government in relation to certain matters as referred to under Clause (1) of Rule 4 as it is mandatory for further action under section 6 of the Act,1894 in view of the fact that the acquisition will entail serious civil consequences of the owners of the lands.
(iv) Whether the beneficiary company has executed Memorandum of Understanding as required under Section 41 of the Land Acquisition Act with the state government giving undertaking as provided under sub-sections (1), (2) and (3) of the said section of the Act and the same is published in the Official Gazette as required under section 42 thereof .
(v) Whether the Memorandum of Understanding dated 19.7.2006 executed by the beneficiary company can be construed as a valid one agreement as provided under section 41 of the LA Act for acquiring the lands in question in favour of the beneficiary company.
(vi) Whether the notifications published under section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act declaring the proposed lands required for establishing the proposed Vedanta University is in compliance with Rule 4 of the Rules, 1963 and the Collector has determined approximate amount of compensation to be awarded and deposited as required under the provisions and by following the procedure as provided under Sections 23 and 24 of the LA Act.
(vii) Whether awards are passed by the Collector in compliance with Sections 9, 10, and 11 of the LA Act and award notices as required under section 12(2) of the Act are issued and served upon the owners/interested persons and thereafter possession of the lands has been taken by the state government under section 16 of the LA Act and transferred in favour of the beneficiary company.
(viii) (a) Whether the impugned notifications acquiring the lands in the locality is legal and valid, as certain lands of them are declared for Wildlife Sanctuary according to Gazette Notification dated 23.4.1984 and two rivers viz.―Nuanai and Nala—are flowing in the lands in question according to Satellite Map issued by the Department of Forest, would it affect the ecology and environment in the locality.
(b) If so, whether it amounts to violation of provisions of Wildlife (Protection) Act; Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act as well as Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, and Environment Protection Act of 1986 and for this reason would it affect either the public interest or public injury or violation of Rule of law.
(ix) Whether the acquisition proceedings in its entirety liable to be quashed, if the petitioners have made out a case, by exercising judicial review power by this Court.
(x) What reliefs petitioners are entitled?
For whom the bell tolls?
The Odisha High Court Verdict: “We direct that as a result of quashing of the land acquisition proceedings including the notifications as aforesaid, the possession of the lands shall be restored to the respective landowners irrespective of the fact whether they had challenged the acquisition of their lands or not. On restoration of the possession to the landowners they shall refund the amounts received by them as compensation or otherwise in respect of their lands. The appellant, the respondents and the state government including all authorities/persons concerned shall implement the aforesaid directions at an early date.”
The CM’s response on the verdict
When the Opposition feels that its stand has been vindicated by the court verdict, it moves an adjournment motion in the house, compelling the government and an embarrassed CM to defend the government on the floor of the house itself.
One of the petitioners, Mr Umaballav Rath (Ex-MLA, Puri), believes that the court verdict will help stop the combined effort of the CM and Vedanta from looting public property in the name of development. He hastens to add that the company has wood-winked people of the state through manufactured documents. He challenges the government to arrest Mr Anil Agrawal and Co. immediately if the state government is clean.
One time ally BJP dares the governments go by the verdict and proclaim the rule of the law, obviously implying at taking action against the Vedanta. Its leader KV Singh Deo states: “If there is no rule of law, the government loses its moral right to rule.”
While the BJD believes that the High Court order is neither an indictment of the government nor the CM, the Opposition can not take a high moral ground regarding corruption as well. Since Karnataka, which is ruled by BJP and Andhra Pradesh, which is ruled by Congress are ready to offer Vedanta University 1000 acres and 4000 acres of government land respectively, how can they say that the government of Odisha is hand in glove with Vedanta?
No doubt the verdict has caught the CM in a tight spot. As the people of the state keep watching him speaking in the assembly hall, Naveen patnaik, the son of late Biju patnaik, blared out at the Opposition even as he downplayed the verdict. As of violating the Land Acquisition Act, the CM stated that the company confirmed to the government that the status of Anil Agrawal Foundation has been changed from a private to a public company with effect from November 23, 2006, by a resolution of the extraordinary general meeting pursuant to the approval of the Regional Director, Department of the Company Affairs. The company has subsequently produced a letter dated 21.02.2007 from Mr DK Gupta, Registrar of Companies to its address stating that the company has complied with the provisions of requirements of section 25 i.e. sections 23, 31, 189(2) and 192 of the Companies Act and accordingly the status of the company has been changed from private to public company. A copy of this letter has been filed before the honourable High Court by the foundation as annexure H/8 series of its counter affidavit in a writ petition (Civil) No 7163 0f 2008 on June 20, 2008. The foundation had also sent a list of seven members of the company on 30.11.2006 to the higher education department after its conversion to a public company and a copy thereof has been filed before honorable High Court as annexure J/8 series…As the government has accepted based on the records that the foundation is a public company, land acquisition for an educational purpose like for the proposed world-class university would be permissible under the LA Act 1894.
Meanwhile both Congress and BJP are planning to go for a state-wide rally on December 14 and January 17 respectively against the government on the issue of Vedanta. Afterall the Opposition parties are now blessed with an issue that matters to the state politics. To their delight a private TV channel recently broke a story on how the then Chief Secretary to Government of Odisha knew the secret of Vedanta as a private company and not a public one, but still ignored the fact and went ahead with the approval for the project. This clearly proves to be a shot in the arm for the Opposition, who will never miss a chance to checkmate the incumbent government.
To be credible, the Opposition, especially the Congress and the BJP, should avoid appearing like clones of each other just opposing for the sake of opposition! Is this what the Opposition does, they pick a contentious issue that will drive the voter, who doesn’t care about the facts. Are these all stunts pulled to gain popularity in the hope of an election around the corner? Whatever may be the truth, universities like Harvard will now think twice before establishing their off shore campus in India. No to Vedanta University is likely to turn the investors the other way.
[With inputs from RK Das]
By Shashi Bhushan Nayak
Although Congressmen are denying that Jagan’s resignation will affect the party in the state, they are a little bit anxious and are closely watching the development. Jagan is said to have the support of almost 20-30 MLAs. Almost all of these MLAs are first-timers. They got the ticket with the help of Jagan Reddy. That is why they may show their loyalty to Jagan. Secondly, it is a fact that most of the state-based party workers don’t come in contact of central leadership and therefore they are more attached with state leadership than central leadership. Jagan may get the benefit by this fact, as most party workers were very loyal to YSR. They too can support Jagan. In the four districts that fall under Royalseema, YSR got wide support. These four districts are: Kadapa, Karnool, Anantpur and Chittor. Jagan can severely damage Congress in these districts. He also has his stronghold in Godavari, Prakasham and Nellur districts. Jagan supporters, if they don’t resign right now, may join him later. Since the term of state assembly has almost three years left, it is doubtful whether anyone will take the risk of losing his/her seat. It is also notable that many supporting MLAs have been elected with a very slender margin. Keeping this fact in mind, Jagan has asked his supporters not to resign. It is expected that Jagan will create a new party and they will join him before the next assembly elections.
However, Congress has appointed Kiran Reddy the CM, who belongs to Chittor district. They expect that he can counter the YSR effect in Royalseema. Jagan Reddy has claimed that the party high command is also trying to divide his family by giving his uncle a ministerial berth. Congress has denied the charges but supporters of Jagan are still very aggressive. One of YS Jaganmohan Reddy’s loyalist, Konda Surekha, has demanded that All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Sonia Gandhi should answer each and every question raised by the former MP in his five-page resignation letter sent to her. It is said that Jagan is in the constant touch of BJP and can also join the party. But one senior BJP leader Bandaru Dattatreya has denied it and commented that it is the internal matter of Congress and BJP has no business with their affairs.
By Ravi Shankar