October 26, 2021
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Good morning. Are vaccination rates and zodiac signs related? Utah’s Salt Lake City county health department analysed data on 1.2 million residents. They found something interesting. Leos had the highest vaccination rate at 70%, followed by Aquarius at 67%. Coming in last were Scorpios at 46%. Keep in mind, the research is talking about astrology, so it isn’t an exact science.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Is UP Congress’ 40% women’s quota too much of a gamble?
Logistically handling the diversity of this country is described by many as not just a herculean task but also a complete nightmare. Whether based on caste, economics or gender, reservation has always been a touchy topic in India. Some are also convinced that it’s completely unnecessary and at this point, mostly used as poll bait. This is what makes Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s announcement of Congress’ gender quota in UP interesting. While some are sure that it is nothing more than a political gimmick, others are hopeful about its effects on both the grand old party and the nation it serves.
As the national secretary-general of the Congress, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra announced that the party will be reserving 40% of their UP tickets for the women of the state. These tickets would be for the upcoming 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. This was obviously received with a whole range of emotions from the political sphere. While Priyanka Gandhi has made it clear that the selections would happen “purely on merit”, others are questioning the party’s current optics in the strategically significant state.
Currently, issues like caste, community and religion play a very strong role in dictating Uttar Pradesh’s voting patterns. And the Congress isn’t really a favourite there. In 2017, Congress won only seven seats in the 403-seater state assembly. They clearly do not have a strong enough sway in the Hindi-heartland to be pulling stunts like this. Yet, there is hope. Recent years have even shown a clear uptick in the number of minority groups and women who are looking for opportunities in politics. This could very well serve as that opportunity.
Reviving a revolutionary spirit
When Bob Dylan brings up “the times”, he always adds the fact that they are a-changin’. In 2019, a record total of 78 women became MPs in the Lok Sabha. In UP itself, the number of women leaders has increased. As of 2017, 40 women have become legislators in the state. In fact, a decade ago, only 15% of women voted independently. This has now dramatically improved with over 50% of women voting independently and separate from their menfolk. Clearly, the attitudes of and towards women are steadily changing when it comes to voting. And political parties are definitely privy to that.
According to reports, the notion that “women don’t win votes” doesn’t even stand true. In fact, “win rates are either comparable” or largely favour women. Congress has even made its position on the case for women in politics rather clear. It was the current party president, Sonia Gandhi who pushed the contentious Women’s Reservation Bill that was passed in the Rajya Sabha in 2010. Yet to be ratified in the Lok Sabha, the Bill calls for 33% reservation for women in the parliament and state assemblies. Some are of the opinion that the national party’s gender quota could revive the pending discussion. Therefore, bringing back a version of the party’s glory days.
Looking at UP specifically, experts say that the BJP is bound to lose a section of its votes due to the current hangups in the state. The farmers’ protests, violence at Lakhimpur Kheri and the OBC leaders’ assertions for “real power” within the BJP are sure to affect their poll results in the state. While still not enough to give up their majority, the Congress’ ‘everybody welcome’ strategy might affect the opposition’s share of the seats, making the Congress more of a contender in the politics of the region. It is important to remember that the investment here is long term. In the words of Priyanka Gandhi, “Is baar safal nahi hongi, toh agli baar hongi” (If we’re not successful this time, then the next time we will be).
History calls it a losing hand
For a move like this to work, Congress needs the women of UP to band together in the polls. The likelihood of that happening in a more conservative state remains very low. In 2019, Nitish Kumar tried a similar angle in Bihar. He gave around 35% of tickets to women and aimed a number of welfare schemes at them. Only 6 out of the 43 women candidates from the Janata Dal (United) won. On the other hand, in West Bengal, when the TMC gave roughly 40% of their tickets to women, their success rate came out equally good. A major difference between the states is their literacy levels and general empowerment.
The ground reality in UP is that many women in the state still follow the dictates of their families when it comes to politics. Women seem to do better in states that have better literacy rates and the women are already fairly empowered. Uttar Pradesh sadly displays a “cocktail of patriarchy and misogyny” that shows itself heavily in their politics and social life. In the past, UP-based political parties were also the ones that made the loudest noise against any added reservation for women. Working with this as a backdrop for a gendered vote bank cannot be too good for the state of Congress in UP.
Yet, UP has 44 women MPs representing it right now. While this may seem like a good thing, it isn’t much for the Congress party. Most of the women MPs are either from the BJP or the TMC. This works for them as they have a stronger foothold in the state anyway. Congress, on the other hand, is barely there. Some even believe that the previously mentioned seven seats are exactly why certain Congressmen are okay with the reservation. Moving it out to a state like Punjab, where the Congress is still pretty influential, would definitely cause rifts in the party. This suspected superficiality and the BJP’s constant appeasement of women in UP definitely make it harder for the Congress party to make its mark.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Chinks In Yogi’s Armour Ahead Of UP Polls
For the Left:
Congress Likely To Pay Heavy Price For Listening To RaGa’s Left-Radical Aides And Walking Out Of Mahagathbandhan In Bihar
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Smartwatch to track attendance (Haryana) – To track the movements of state government employees, the state government will use smartwatches. It will also be used as a mark of attendance. It will send real-time location data of employees to the central control room. Part of the reasoning here is that the previous biometric system has been suspended to prevent transmission of COVID-19. The watches will track assigned officials.
Most sustainable transport system (Kerala) – Kochi’s transportation infrastructure projects have paid dividends as it has been recognised as the most sustainable transport system. Projects like the Kochi metro, Water metro, and e-mobility have enhanced the city’s transportation system. The award recognises transport facilities in various states. It will be presented by Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri.
Tea and coffee plantations (Chhattisgarh) – Currently, paddy is the top crop in the state. Now, things are starting to change. More coffee and tea plantations are starting to come up. The state government has urged farmers to diversify their crops. Crops like soybean, sugarcane, and pulses get a subsidy of ₹10,000 per acre. Tea is primarily cultivated in the northern part on small scale. Officials see coffee as a bigger opportunity in the southern regions.
Web series’ set vandalised (Madhya Pradesh) – The set of Prakash Jha’s web series “Ashram” was vandalised by a group of Bajrang Dal workers in Bhopal. Jha himself was attacked with ink smeared on his face. The workers chased crew members. They allege that the series, starring Bobby Deol, was hurting Hindu sentiments and insulting Hinduism. They want the title of the series to be changed. The group’s state convener said until this happens, they won’t be allowed to shoot in Bhopal.
An influx of refugees (Mizoram) – Police officials in the state have said there has been a rise in the number of refugees crossing over into the state. They’re coming from the Chin state in Myanmar as clashes continue. Across the state, at least 12,939 refugees are settled, with the number steadily climbing. Post the harvest season, officials believe the number will continue to increase. The Central Young Mizo Association recently distributed ₹15 lakh among the refugees.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
$7.6 billion – The value of smartphone sales in India during the festive season. As per Counterpoint Research, this is due to attractive EMIs and higher trade-ins. Mid-to-high tier phones are among the top sellers. The timing is interesting as it comes when the industry is facing component shortages.