Iran puts its nuclear programme beyond the reach of American bombs

If analysis of these pictures by the James Martin Centre for Non-proliferation Studies, an American NGO, is correct, four entrances have been dug into the mountainside, each six metres wide by eight metres high. The facility is 80-100 metres deep down inside. The Americans had developed a bomb, known as the gbu-57, specifically to be able to destroy an earlier underground facility, at Fordow. Also known as the Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP), the 14,000kg precision-guided bomb can burrow through 60 metres of earth and rock before detonating. But that may no longer be enough to destroy Iran’s hideout.

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(Graphic: The Economist)

The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a think-tank in Washington founded by David Albright, a former weapons inspector, reckons that the deepest part of the chamber could be used as a hall for a small number of advanced centrifuges that could rapidly produce enough weapons-grade uranium (WGU) to make Iran capable of an unstoppable nuclear breakout.

Whatever the criticisms of the nuclear bargain of 2015 known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Barack Obama’s administration had concocted in partnership with the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council and the European Union (the P5+1), it did ensure that it would take Iran about a year to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear device. Now it could probably achieve it almost immediately.

Since Mr Trump’s reckless decision to trash “the worst deal ever” and renew sanctions that were designed to exert “maximum pressure” on the Iranian regime, Iran has brought online new, faster centrifuges that have hugely expanded its enrichment capacity. Based on the quarterly inspection report in February of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, Mr Albright’s team estimates that Iran could produce enough WGU for a nuclear weapon in just 12 days. It would need to use only three advanced-centrifuge cascades and half of its current stock of 60%-enriched uranium.

More worrying still, if Iran used all its stock of highly enriched uranium, it could produce WGU for four more nuclear weapons in a month. In another two months, using its stock of low-enriched uranium (ie, less than 5%-enriched), it could get enough material for two more weapons. It would take about six months to test and deploy a bomb for a crude delivery system, such as a plane or a ship. A missile-delivered warhead might be feasible in a year or two. Testifying to Congress in March, General Mark Milley, chair of the joint chiefs of staff, drew a similar timeline.

None of which means that Iran is about to break out and become a fully fledged nuclear-weapons state. But it does mean, as Mr Albright puts it, that it can produce nuclear weapons pretty much “on demand”. Given America’s oft-repeated commitment never to allow Iran to have the bomb and its fear of escalation in a volatile part of the world, it might be thought that intense diplomatic efforts to revive the JCPOA, or at least to find some alternative means to constrain Iran’s nuclear threat, would be urgently under way.

Far from it. Despite intensive indirect talks between America and Iran, chaired by the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, which continued for many months in Vienna last year, the attempt to breathe some new life into the JCPOA got nowhere. By September the sides were even farther apart. The Iranians refused to accept a new probe by the IAEA into their past nuclear activities and insisted that they be given guarantees that they would continue to benefit from sanctions relief, including financial compensation, in case a future American administration again walked away from a deal.

Russia’s invasion stymied a new deal

Ali Ansari, the director of the Institute of Iranian Studies at St Andrews University in Scotland, reckons the Iranians were never “genuine about a return to the JCPOA and nor was there much real enthusiasm within the State Department: it was negotiations for the sake of negotiations.” Emile Hokayem, a Middle East security specialist at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, agrees: “The Iranians had already decided they were beyond the JCPOA by the time the Biden administration came in. They were playing a complicated game with the IAEA.”

Both believe that the death knell for a nuclear deal was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. By bringing Russia and Iran into a much closer defence relationship, it killed off any lingering hopes of restoring the P5+1 process. As energy prices soared, it also removed some of the immediate economic pressures on Iran. Besides, reckons Mr Ansari, Iran presumed that Russia would prevail in Ukraine, which would boost Iran’s narrative of Western decline and get it better terms on sanctions by exploiting divisions between America’s European allies. Although that expectation has for the moment been dashed, Iran thinks it can strengthen its own hand in its relationship with a weaker Russia.

Mr Hokayem thinks that the assessment in most of the six countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is that an isolated Russia, keen to buy drones and missiles from Iran, will become a far more valuable transactional partner. In particular, it is now assumed, Russia will be readier to transfer high-tech weapons systems that could plug big gaps in Iran’s inventory, such as advanced S-400 surface-to-air missiles and Russia’s highly capable Su-35 fighter aircraft.

In any case, some in Washington want the Gulf countries to do more for their own security, especially at a time when the American administration is embroiled in handling the war in Ukraine, not to mention its constant rivalry with China. Many Gulf-watchers think America has already begun to pack its bags in the region.

Moreover, the Gulf Arabs have become much less interested in the Iran nuclear file than either America or Israel. They already regard Iran as a de facto nuclear power. Nor do they have the technical expertise to negotiate with the Iranians on nuclear constraints, even if they wanted to. What they worry about, says Mr Hokayem, is Iran’s missiles, drones and militias. By contrast, Israel feels it can cope pretty well with those. But time and again it has said it cannot live with a nuclear-capable Iran.

The result is a kind of weary but nonetheless dangerous equilibrium whereby the regional powers are trying to gain some leverage over Iran by investing in its economy, making goodwill gestures such as readmitting Iran’s Syrian protégé back into the Arab League, and deferring to China—the one real influence on Iran—whenever possible. The smaller Gulf states plainly accepted the Chinese-brokered restoration of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran in March. At the same time they hope Iran will choose to meddle less in the region. On the nuclear front they would prefer Iran to hold back from breakout and let the IAEA have the figleaf of routine inspections.

From the Gulf Arabs’ perspective the biggest wild cards are the outcome of the next American election and the behaviour of Israel. Despite the Abraham accords of 2020, which normalised Israel’s relations with four more Arab countries, governments in the Gulf know they have little influence on what Israel might decide to do over Iran. While Iran pushes to get those game-changing S-400 missiles and modern jets from Russia and buries its enrichment cascades ever deeper in the mountainside, Israel may see its window for action closing. “Iran has made more progress in uranium enrichment than ever before,” said General Herzi Halevi, chief of staff of Israel’s army, on May 23rd. But Israel has a constraint of its own. It probably needs a type of aerial tanker, the KC-46 Pegasus, to carry out an attack on Iran, which would anyway be difficult and risky. Boeing is not expected to deliver them until 2025.

In any case, Israel’s intelligence services are not yet convinced that Iran has decided to break out into weapons-grade enrichment or that it has taken the key steps towards weaponisation by enabling fissile material to be put into an operational nuclear warhead. Meanwhile, it is concentrating on pegging back Iran’s regional proxies, such as the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and the Lebanese group Hizbullah. It is also keen to cement friendlier relations with the Saudis.

Henry Rome, an Iran specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says that the situation is like trying to thread a ball down a bowling alley where one gutter represents a new nuclear agreement and the other stands for conflict escalation with potentially catastrophic consequences. Keeping the ball down the middle will require concentration, prudence and luck. None of which is guaranteed.

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Manipur Violence: Centre wants discussion at 2 pm today, says Piyush Goyal

Parliament Monsoon Session: Union Minister Piyush Goyal on Monday said that the central government wants discussions on Manipur violence at 2 pm in the House today. He reaffirms that the Centre is ready to discuss the situation of the violence-hit northeast state.

“We want discussions on Manipur to take place in Parliament today at 2 pm. They (Opposition) are trying to misuse the liberty given to the members. The govt is ready to discuss Manipur, but they (Opposition) have already spoilt 9 important days of the House,” said Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha, Piyush Goyal as quoted by ANI.

Sources further informed that INDIA parties’ floor leaders will meet Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to demand that MPs delegation who visited Manipur should be allowed to speak in their respective House to tell the ground reality of Manipur.

Union Minister Anurag Thakur also urged the opposition parties to come inside the Parliament and participate in discussions. He reminded that the government is ready for discussion on Manipur violence from day 1.

“We want discussions from day 1. What is stopping them (Opposition) from holding talks?… They only run away from discussions rather than taking part in them…This clearly shows that they are doing politics…,” Anurag Thakur told media persons.

The Lok Sabha witnessed disruptions and protests by the opposition, leading to an adjournment until 2 pm. The opposition has persistently sought a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament regarding the Manipur issue.

INDIA alliance’s 21 opposition MPs signed the document demanding urgent rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected people to bring peace and harmony to Manipur on Sunday.

In a memorandum submitted to Manipur Governor Anusuiya Uikey, the opposition leaders wrote, “We earnestly request you to restore peace and harmony by taking all effective measures, where justice should be the cornerstone. In order to bring peace and harmony, rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected persons is most urgent”.

Since May 3, ethnic clashes erupted in Manipur after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was held in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community’s request for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. Tragically, more than 160 people have lost their lives, and several hundred have been injured as a result of the violent confrontations.

The population of Manipur consists of Meiteis, who make up approximately 53% of the total population and primarily reside in the Imphal Valley, and Tribals, specifically Nagas and Kukis, who constitute slightly over 40% of the population and reside in the hill districts.

(With ANI inputs)

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Updated: 31 Jul 2023, 11:45 AM IST

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‘Beauty’ factor in political career: Priyanka Chaturvedi’s hits back at Maha MLA

Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi hit back at Maharashtra MLA Sanjay Shirsat’s claim that Aaditya Thackeray sent her to Rajya Sabha due to her beauty. Shirsat, who is a part of CM Eknath Shinde camp, attributed the statement to politician Chadrakant Khaire and stated Khaire had mentioned it about Chaturvedi and Aaditya Thackeray.

This came after Chaturvedi referred to the Shinde group MLAs as ‘traitors.’ Shirsat retorted that she had no right to use the term as she herself joined Shiv Sena after leaving Congress.

“I don’t need a traitor who sold his soul to tell me what I look like and why I am where I am,” Priyanka Chaturvedi said

“Sanjay Shirsat is a perfect example of the widespread sickness in his views on politics and women, he definitely displays his own vulgar character through his comments,” Priyanka Chaturvedi said.

Meanwhile, commenting on controversy, Aaditya Thackeray said there is no need to give attention people like Sanjay Shirsat, as reported by Hindustan Times.

In 2019, Priyanka Chaturvedi left the Congress, where she was a national spokesperson, and joined Shiv Sena due to the party’s mishandling of an incident involving misbehaving party workers. She felt unappreciated and wrote a resignation letter expressing dissatisfaction with the Congress’ stance.

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Updated: 31 Jul 2023, 10:47 AM IST

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Parliament Monsoon session: Will no-confidence motion be debated today?

With the opposition demanding a debate on the no trust motion moved against the government last week, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi responded saying that it will be brought within 10 working days”

Also speaking about the controversial Delhi Ordinance Bill, which is again likely to garner a lot of attention from the opposition, he said, “We will inform you when it will be introduced.”

Manipur issue likely to take centre stage at the Parliament again on Monday.

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Updated: 31 Jul 2023, 11:08 AM IST

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Parliament Monsoon Session: INDIA bloc MPs meet to discuss strategy

Leaders of the INDIA alliance including the MPS who visited Manipur recently met at the Congress Parliamentary Party office at the Parliament House building to discuss the strategy for the house. Top Congress party leaders like Sonia Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge were present in the meeting.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary while speaking after the meeting told news agency YEARS“Our demand is only that there is a discussion on no-confidence motion…The situation in Manipur is very serious…The country needs to be saved…BJP and its alliances should also tour Manipur, they should also go there. Everyone needs to analyse the situation in Manipur.”

On Saturday, a delegation of 21 opposition MPS went to the Northeastern state to take cognizance of the situation on ground and meet the victims of the three-month-long conflict. On the initial day of their brief and intense tour, the delegation visited multiple relief camps in Imphal, Moirang in Bishnupur district, and Churachandpur, where they met with victims affected by the ethnic clashes.

INDIA bloc MPs also met with the Governor of Manipur Anusuiya Uikey at Raj Bhavan and presented a memorandum outlining their findings and observations after their visit to the northeastern state.

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Updated: 31 Jul 2023, 10:29 AM IST

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Mamata assures Manipur people of help, urges them to embrace peace; BJP reacts sharply

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee on Sunday urged the people of ethnic strife affected Manipur to embrace peace for the sake of humanity.

She also assured the people of the northeastern state of standing by their side.

“My heart aches deeply upon hearing the heart-wrenching stories from Manipur. Human lives should never endure the agonies of hatred’s cruel experiments. Yet, in the face of silence from those in power, let us find solace in knowing that INDIA will mend wounds and rekindle the flame of humanity,” Banerjee tweeted.

A delegation of MPs from the opposition bloc INDIA, of which the TMC is a part, visited Manipur for two days since Saturday.

“I earnestly plead to Manipur’s brave brothers and sisters to embrace peace for the sake of humanity. We stand beside you, offering unwavering support and compassion,” she said.

In reply, BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari called Banerjee’s post on the situation in Manipur a “politically mala fide tweet”.

“It is a politically mala fide tweet,” he told ANI.

The West Bengal Leader of Opposition also questioned the CM’s inaction during the Panchayat poll elections which were reportedly marred with violence. “The administration of CM Banerjee did not take any action to stop the violence during the Panchayat poll elections in the state,” Suvendu Adhikari said.

Further, he lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 10 years in government saying that his tenure did not see any “corruption charges.”

“…PM Modi’s govt will complete 10 years in a few months and there are no corruption charges. Under PM Modi’s leadership the country has progressed and its financial status has also improved…,” Adhikari said.

More than 160 people lost their lives and several hundreds were injured since ethnic clashes broke out in Manipur on May 3, after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals — Nagas and Kukis — constitute little over 40 per cent and reside in the hill districts.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Mizoram awaits Centre’s aid to shelter 12,600 people fleeing Manipur amid unrest

A senior official from the Mizoram government revealed that they are still awaiting financial assistance from the Central government to support over 12,600 people from Manipur who seek shelter in Mizoram due to the ongoing ethnic strife.

Mizoram Home Commissioner and Secretary H Lalengmawia said that Chief Minister Zoramthanga had sought a meeting in May 10 crore as an immediate relief package for those displaced people.

“We have not received any assistance from the Centre so far. The state government has raised funds on its own to provide relief to internally displaced people from Manipur,” Lalengmawia told PTI on Sunday.

Lalengmawia noted that the Central government would promptly approve funds for the individuals seeking refuge in Mizoram following the outbreak of ethnic violence in the neighboring state on May 3.

Additionally, he mentioned that the Mizoram authorities have reached out to various groups, including legislators, government employees, bankers, and others, seeking donations to support those affected, PTI noted.

“We have completed the collection and I am yet to receive a report of the total collected amount,” he said.

As per the Mizoram home department, a total of 12,611 people from Manipur have sought shelter in the state as of Friday. Among them, 4,440 individuals have taken refuge in Kolasib district, 4,265 in Aizawl, and 2,951 in Saitual, according to PTI.

PTI The remaining 955 people are residing in various districts, including Champhai, Mamit, Siaha, Lawngtlai, Lunglei, Serchhip, Khawzawl and Hnahthial. To support these individuals, the government and village authorities have established 38 relief camps in Aizawl, Kolasib, and Saitual.

The state government, NGOs, churches and villagers provided food and other basic items to the displaced people.

In early May, clashes erupted in Manipur following a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ held in the hill districts as a protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

The Meitei community, constituting approximately 53 percent of Manipur’s population, primarily resides in the Imphal Valley. On the other hand, the tribal communities, including Nagas and Kukis, make up about 40 percent of the population and predominantly live in the hill districts.

(With inputs from PTI)

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Updated: 31 Jul 2023, 09:54 AM IST

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No-confidence motion, Delhi Services Bill to storm in parliament this week

The government is poised to present a bill in parliament on Monday aimed at gaining control over services and officers’ postings in Delhi. As per media reports, this move sets the stage for a potential confrontation with the opposition. Prior to being introduced as a bill, the proposal had been enacted as an ordinance. Here are the top ten updates.

1. The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill has emerged as a unifying factor for the opposition, rallying them against the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

2. The draft bill, intended to replace the existing ordinance that establishes an authority for transfers and postings of senior officers in the Delhi government, has been shared among the Members of Parliament (MPs) for review and consideration.

3. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), led by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and a part of the opposition coalition INDIA, has expressed strong opposition to the bill. In addition to AAP, the Congress party and other opposition parties have also voiced their disapproval of the proposed legislation.

4. The opposition’s insistence on having Prime Minister Narendra Modi address the Manipur ethnic conflict in parliament has disrupted the proceedings of the legislative body.

5. Home Minister Amit Shah has unequivocally stated his willingness to participate in a parliamentary discussion concerning the Manipur issue.

6. Despite Home Minister Amit Shah’s offer to engage in a discussion, the opposition rejected it and took a final step by proposing a no-confidence motion against the government. This motion was intended to compel Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address the issue of Manipur violence in parliament.

7. The opposition is displeased with the government’s decision to continue with its legislative plans while the Lok Sabha Speaker has accepted the no-confidence motion.

8. While the notice for moving the no-confidence motion is pending before the house, the government has put forth a list of 13 draft legislations for consideration and approval in Lok Sabha. As reported by PTI, while the opposition has now given notice for a no-confidence motion in Lok Sabha, the government has defended its handling of the Manipur situation, stressing that it has been more proactive than the governments of the past when ethnic violence had erupted in the state.

9. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi issued a challenge to the opposition, saying, “They have suddenly brought the no-confidence motion. Does that mean no government business should take place? If they have the numbers, they should defeat the bills on the floor of the house.”

10. In the past two days, members of the recently established opposition coalition INDIA visited the violence-affected state of Manipur. It is anticipated that their visit might provide them with additional ammunition to criticize the Modi government when the parliamentary session commences today.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Updated: 31 Jul 2023, 09:00 AM IST

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Karnataka Congress MLA claims he threatened to resign at CLP meeting

Senior MLA BR Patil on Sunday claimed that he was threatened to put his resignation papers during the recent Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting. This came amid reports that as many as 30 legislators have written to CM Siddaramaiah and the party leadership expressing concern over the non-implementation of development works in their constituencies.

BR Patil said that he did not apologize for writing a letter to Karnataka Chief Minister highlighting his concerns. “The behavior and conduct of certain ministers has upset some legislators. But our fight would continue if it is not corrected.”

However, the Aland MLA said that he is satisfied with the Legislature party meeting held on Thursday and what transpired there, according to a report published by the news agency PTI.

Some ministers including Home Minister G Parameshwara had stated that those who wrote letters to the Chief Minister had apologised at the CLP meeting.

“I don’t know who has apologized. I have not apologized, nor will I. Have we committed any crime to apologize? Or have we made a big mistake?” BR Patil said.

Speaking to media persons, BR Patil said, “There is internal democracy in our party, we have the right to request a legislature party meeting. Accordingly, leaders have called (for the meeting). There was an open and detailed discussion in the meeting and I’m satisfied, but I’m not a coward to apologize. If I had committed any mistake, I would have apologized.”

Party sources informed that Patil was one of the MLAs who wrote to the Chief Minister. He also slammed ministers at the CLP meeting for not taking MLAs into confidence, as per PTI reports.

In the CLP meeting, Patil along with some legislators wanted certain issues to be discussed for which they had requested that a legislature party meeting be called, he said.

Asked whether he had said that he would resign at the meeting, he said, “I said one thing at one point, that if my self-respect is hurt I will throw my resignation and go.”

BR Patil, clarifying that the issue that legislators have is not related to the transfer of government servants, said that the Chief Minister has explained at the CLP meeting about the burden on the exchequer due to the implementation of the poll guarantees and that there will be a shortage of funds for developmental works initially this year.

(With PTI inputs)

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Updated: 31 Jul 2023, 07:56 AM IST

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Will fight Soren govt on corruption, tribal issues, says new Jharkhand BJP chief Marandi

In an interaction with ThePrint, Marandi spoke about the BJP’s strategies to win over tribals in Jharkhand, the “primary challenge” of the Lok Sabha polls, the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), and the “biggest issues of corruption and law and order”.

“The Chief Minister’s Office has become the office of a middleman. Soren is making a record of corruption every day and the aspirations of tribals have been crushed by his government. These are the issues on which the BJP will fight the Lok Sabha and assembly elections next year,” he said.

Marandi also spoke about the proposed Uniform Civil Code (UCC), saying the BJP-led central government was open to suggestions from the tribal community and was listening to the voices of the people through the Law Commission, which invited public views on the subject last month.

“A law will be made for the welfare of tribals and that is why elaborate consultation is happening in the Law Commission,” he told ThePrint.

Marandi had become the first CM of Jharkhand in 2000 when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won power in the state soon after its formation, and held the post until 2003. However, he quit the BJP in 2006 to form his own party, the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik). In 2020, he merged the party with the BJP and was welcomed back by Union home minister Amit Shah.

However, the BJP appears to have been losing support among Jharkhand’s tribals since 2014 after it gave the CM’s chair in the state polls that year to Raghubar Das, an OBC leader.

In the 2019 assembly polls, the party could win only two of the 28 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST) in the state (out of a total of 81 assembly seats), down from the 14 it had won in 2014. Most of the reserved tribal seats are in the Santhal Pargana region, to which both Marandi and Soren belong.

When asked whether the BJP was propping him up because it was losing its base in the tribal belt of the state, Marandi, a two-term MLA who currently represents his home constituency of Dhanwar, asserted that the “BJP is strong in Jharkhand”.

“The BJP has been in power in the state previously, and had formed the first government. It won a good number of Lok Sabha seats (eight of 14) in the 2009 general elections and right now has 11 of these seats. We may have lost some elections due to some factors but that does not mean the party is weak,” he said.

“I was appointed state unit chief because the president is changed every three years. Our priority is to bring back the BJP government and retain our Lok Sabha seats in 2024,” he added.

Taking a swipe at CM Soren, Marandi said: “I don’t have any anger towards Soren, rather I am grateful that he helped me in getting the post of party president by not granting me the status of leader of opposition for three years.”

The Jharkhand assembly Speaker is yet to give leader of opposition status to Marandi — who was elected as BJP legislature party leader — as a disqualification plea is pending against him after he merged his party with the BJP.

“The party high command thought that Marandi has been fighting in the state for three years without any post and it’s better to make him the state unit chief to fight Soren,” he added.

Also Read: Wrong to assume Modi govt can be defeated after BJP’s performance in Jharkhand

‘Soren a symbol of corruption’

According to Marandi, the BJP’s immediate challenge is to retain the 11 Lok Sabha seats it currently holds in Jharkhand, and for that the party aims to promote the work of the Narendra Modi-led central government and highlight alleged corruption in the state government.

“Our challenge right now is the Lok Sabha elections. We were defeated in the previous assembly elections due to several factors. However, the JMM and Soren did not fulfil their promises to the people. The Soren government has become a symbol of dynasty politics and corruption, which is at the highest level right now,” he said. “The tribals are feeling cheated and are returning to the BJP.”

The BJP has, however, lost four byelections (Bermo, Dumka, Madhupur and Mandar) held in the state since 2019, including two in reserved ST seats (Mandar and Dumka).

Talking about the BJP’s poll campaign in the state, Marandi told ThePrint: “We will go to the people with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s good work done over nine years at the Centre, be it the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana or Kisan Samman Nidhi or free rations. Several such central schemes have had huge impact in the state.”

“While the people gave the mandate to the JMM in 2019 thinking that Soren would work for the welfare of tribals, he did not honour that trust. He cheated them. So, we have to tell the people that the BJP government is working tirelessly for their welfare,” he said.

Marandi also spoke about the “office of profit” case against Soren, in which the BJP has accused the CM of having awarded a mining lease to himself in 2021 while holding charge of the state mining and environment department.

The Election Commission (EC) last year issued notice to Soren seeking an explanation as to why he should not be disqualified as an MLA over the charges. The matter currently rests with the state governor, to whom the EC had sent its opinion on the row. The poll body’s recommendation has, however, not been made public.

Marandi termed the case the “first in India where a CM allotted a mining lease in his name while holding charge of the department”.

When asked why he was bringing up the mining lease case when the EC’s recommendation on the matter had not been made public, Soren told ThePrint: “Our charges are still intact. The lease allotment is on record, it’s not an allegation. A sitting chief minister who was head of the mining department allotted a mining lease in his name, that of his wife, his press secretary and his local representative. It’s an open-and-shut case.”

He asserted that “the matter is between the EC and the governor but Soren is guilty of wrongdoing and a case should be filed against him. This is the demand of our party today”.

Soren, in a letter addressed to the EC last year, had denied all charges against him. “At the outset, I deny and dispute all allegations of the BJP about my alleged disqualification for being a member of the Jharkhand Legislative Assembly on the ground of a mining lease, obtained by me in May 2021,” he reportedly wrote.

Also Read: How CM Hemant Soren’s ‘mining lease to himself’ has helped BJP demand his disqualification

‘Govt willing to accommodate people’s views on UCC’

The STs account for around 26.5 per cent of Jharkhand’s population, according to the 2011 Census, and one of the issues the state BJP is highlighting is the “declining tribal population”.

It has particularly talked about the “changing demography” in the Santhal Pargana division, which comprises the six districts of Godda, Deoghar, Dumka, Jamtara, Sahibganj and Pakur, which share borders with West Bengal.

This February, home minister Shah told a gathering at a state rally that CM Soren was turning a blind eye to the declining population of tribals, while Raghubar Das last month promised to implement the National Register of Citizens in the state if the BJP was voted to power, citing the “fast-changing demography in Santhal Pargana division”.

The party is also treading cautiously on the proposed UCC, which has ignited protests from the Jharkhand tribal community. RSS affiliate Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram cautioned this month that the “UCC should not undermine tribals’ customary laws”.

Marandi told ThePrint that the “government was making the law for the welfare for people”.

“Whosoever is opposing the UCC, I appeal to them to give their concern in writing. We first need to know the point of opposition. I will forward it to the BJP high command and the Centre,” he said.

He pointed out that the Law Commission was holding consultations on the issue and that Sushil Modi, chairman of a parliamentary panel on law, had suggested not including tribals in its ambit.

“It shows that the government is not pre-decided on the matter and is willing to accommodate the views of people. The party is also ready for consultation,” Marandi asserted.

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

Also Read: 5 reasons why BJP lost Jharkhand assembly elections

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Lok Sabha polls 2023: PM Modi to meet NDA MPs today, discuss plans for elections

Lok Sabha polls 2023: To counter the opponent parties and prepare a plan for the upcoming general assembly elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is set to hold meetings with groups of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) MPs on Monday. He will also meet the party leaders and MPs on August 10.

As elections are coming closer, BJP is actively engaged in communicating with party leaders and those of other alliance parties. On Tuesday, party leaders organised a meeting in the national capital. The meeting was joined by 10 NDA groups. These groups were formed to deliberate on programmes for the 2024 general election, party sources said.

Cluster 1 meetings

Main aim behind the creation of NDA goups is to bring more synergy to the poll efforts of NDA constituents.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to hold Cluster -1 meetings with groups of NDA MPs from West Uttar Pradesh, Bundelkhand and Brij region on Monday at 6 PM at Maharashtra Sadan. BJP National President JP Nadda, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Home Minister Amit shah will also be present at the meeting, a source told ANI.

Cluster 2 meetings

The Cluster -2 meetings with groups of NDA MPs from West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha are scheduled at 7 PM on Monday at the Parliament Annexe building. Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh will be present at the meeting.

“Ten groups of MPs have been formed. PM Modi is to chair the meetings of each group,” a source told ANI. Meetings on the first day will have MPs from Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Odisha, the source added.

The BJP will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of the NDA, with the ruling alliance seeking to set the narrative for the 2024 poll battle.

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Updated: 31 Jul 2023, 06:37 AM IST

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‘Nitish is burden; BJP’s doors closed for him’: Sushil Modi on Athawale’s claim

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Sushil Modi said on Sunday that the saffron party has closed all its doors for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. His reaction came after Union Minister Ramdas Athawale claimed that Nitish Kumar could return to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) fold anytime.

Reacting to Ramdas Athawale’s claims on Nitish Kumar’s NDA return, Sushil Modi said it was his personal opinion but the Bihar chief minister has only become a burden and doubts Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) will be able to bear it for long.

“Even if he wants to come, BJP is not ready. Ramdas Athawale is neither a BJP spokesperson nor an NDA spokespeson. He is the leader of a party and a Union Minister so this must be his personal opinion but BJP has shut all its doors,” Sushil Modi said.

The former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister also said that even if Nitish Kumar wants to come they will not welcome him.

“He has become a burden; I doubt RJD will be able to bear it for long. His capability to transfer votes has ended. In the last Vidhan Sabha election it was seen that had Narendra Modi not come, he [Nitish Kumar] would not have won 44 seats. In politics, you are important if you have the power of votes. Otherwise, you hold no importance,” the BJP leader added.


Ramdas Athawale, Union Minister of State for Social, has claimed that Nitish Kumar can return to the BJP-led NDA anytime.

“Nitishji is with us and he can return to the NDA anytime. Earlier, he was with RJD and he returned to NDA and again he has gone to RJD. I am not happy that Nitishji has left us again,” the Union Minister said while talking to the reporters in Patna.

Armed with the support of the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (Grand Alliance) Kumar quit the BJP in August 2022 and stripped the party out of power.

(With agency inputs)

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Updated: 30 Jul 2023, 10:34 PM IST

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