Lakshadweep: Is Praful Khoda Patel fishing in troubled waters now?

National leaders tell PM to intervene and remove him as Administrator, opinions divided within Bharatiya Janata Party's local unit too

Lakshadweep: Is Praful Khoda Patel

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to intervene and stop what is being perceived as destructive policy changes being proposed by the Union Territory Administrator Praful Koda Patel in Lakshadweep. Pawar said that these were “unwarranted and irrational decisions” by the Lakshadweep Administrator and will “lead to the destruction of traditional means of  livelihood and the unique culture of Lakshadweep”. He amplified the issues raised by Lakshadweep’s Member of Parliament  P. P. Mohammed Faizal.



Earlier, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had minced no words and hit out at those he called “ignorant bigots in power” and accused them “of destroying the islands”. The Congress has already demanded that Patel be “immediately removed” as Lakshadweep administrator, and alleged that the proposals he has presented threatened the “peace and culture of the islands” and that his arbitrary restrictions were “harassing” people. Rahul Gandhi called Lakshadweep “India’s jewel in the ocean. The ignorant bigots in power are destroying it.” Congress also alleged that the Administrator’s move to allow liquor on the islands, and the Prevention of Anti-Social Activity (PASA) Act have all been done to harass locals, take away powers of panchayats.



However, that is the Opposition’s point of view. What really should worry the Administrator is the resignation of eight office-bearers of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Lakshadweep unit. According to a report in the Indian Express, these leaders have quit “in protest against Patel’s arbitrary actions”. The local BJP unit had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 20, conveying their grievances against Patel, added the report.

While the unit’s president Abdul Khader Haji backs Patel, its general secretary Mohammad Kasim “calls him “authoritarian” stated the IE. The BJP is reportedly divided on the issue. According to the IE report, even in Kerala’s culturally the sister state of Lakshadweep, some BJP members back the UT Administrator Praful Patel, while other leaders call his decisions “unilateral.” The report quoted an unnamed senior BJP leader at the Centre saying, he disapproved of the developments in Lakshadweep and that “Patel should have taken people into confidence.” However, there is no denying the fact that Praful Khoda Patel, a former minister in the Gujarat cabinet of the then Chief MInister Narendra Modi, is close to the PM, as well as Home Minister Amit Shah. He was not even scathed by the recent controversy after Mohan Delkar, a seven-term Lok Sabha MP from Dadra and Nagar Haveli, committed suicide. According to the Indian Express report, Dalkar’s son had accused Patel, who was then the Administrator of Daman and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, of harassing his father. 

According to the news report, Patel has also been criticised by the BJP general secretary Mohammad Kasim who called him “authoritarian” adding that the proposals were “not in the interests of people on the islands.” He too had written to Prime Minister Modi putting his objections on record. According to IE, Kasim said, “Patel’s measures will lead to job losses and harassment of people. He is running Lakshadweep like a king. He has not discussed the measures with the leaders here nor taken anyone into confidence.” Lakshadweep so far has not accepted the BJP’s presence, it is NCP’s Mohammad Faizal P P who has been chosen by the people in both 2014 and 2019. The IE recalled that the BJP candidate got a mere 125 votes in 2019, the lowest score for the party in the Islands.

The Union Territory has Muslims making up over 90 per cent of the population and proposals such as a ban on beef where “No person shall directly or indirectly sell, keep, store, transport, offer or expose for sale or buy beef or beef products in any form anywhere in Lakshadweep” is seen as a directly targeting the community. As is the crackdown on the fishing community that makes up more than 80 per cent of the population. As reported earlier the fisherfolk’s temporary huts, sheds, boats, net-drying facilities and storage spaces have been removed from the shores citing “violation of coastal zone norms” by the Patel-led administration.    



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