Sunday, November 29, 2020

Fly on the Wall - Meira as interim AICC Chief!


by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Meira as interim AICC Chief!
Utter confusion prevails in the Congress as Gandhi family loyalists are not sure how Rahul Gandhi will conduct himself to return as party president. These loyalists are pitching for his early return as interim president even before the revamped Central Election Authority (CEA) completes the organizational elections by March next year. The loyalists say Rahul Gandhi be brought as interim president and confirmed later as full-time president. But the dissidents are determined to prevent Rahul's return as interim party chief and have floated the name of former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar. She will have 3-4 vice presidents representing various regions to strengthen the party. Since Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot is disinclined to don the mantle at this juncture, there is no other suitable name for the post. Bhupinder Singh Hooda will be one of the vice presidents.The Obama memoirs have done the worst damage to Rahul Gandhi at a time when he is trying hard to bounce back. Obama, in a way, has strengthened dissidents’ hands. On her part, Sonia Gandhi is delaying the whole process until the Assembly polls in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry. She hopes that Congress will perform better in these 5state Assembly polls which may pave the way for his return as party chief.


Why Nadda on 7th Heaven
Something unprecedented happened when the PM visited BJP headquarters for a “thanks giving” function to Bihar voters after its rare win. The BJP emerged as a “big brother” to Nitish Kumar after two decades and it was no mean achievement. The Bihar polls were a turning point for the party’s fortunes in elections due next year. Addressing workers, the PM suddenly turned to Nadda and said, “Nadda ji aap aage chalo hum tumahare saath hain” (Nadda ji, you lead it from the front and we are with you). Heads turned as such right-handed compliments were never given to any of Nadda’s predecessors by Modi in the past. When Modi repeated the compliment, Nadda got up from his seat to thank Modi. When Modi repeated the Nadda slogan a third time, Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari and others got up and clapped for Nadda rather sheepishly. Was Modi sending a message to leaders who did not go for campaigning in Bihar anticipating a defeat. The rare compliment sent Nadda on 7th Heaven as he single-handedly remained stationed in Bihar earning a feather in the cap. Is he coming out of the shadow of his seniors? One will have to watch out. But he has made his mark. 
Full Article

Finally, STC begins winding up
When the Modi government came to power, it had big plans to sell or shut down ailing PSUs. But six years in power, the Modi government realized it was easier said than done. It failed to sell or revive BSNL/MTNL despite spending billions of rupees of golden handshake to employees. It may succeed selling Air India and BPCL but at a far below the money it had envisaged. It wanted to shut down STC six years ago. It is only now that STC will be delisted from NSE and BSE. The STC Board has issued notifications to close down all branches including Mumbai, Kolkata, and Ahmedabad by November 30 and others by December this year. Come 2021, STC may exist only on paper to resolve its ongoing legal issues. Employees have been offered a lucrative golden handshake or transfer. Next in line will be MMTC. Both have huge land banks that could be sold off at a later stage to recoup the accumulated losses.


Rajnikant gives a miss
Amit Shah may have created a flutter by his roadshow in Chennai and sealing the BJP-AIADMK electoral alliance for the May 2021 Assembly polls. But his desire to meet the veteran cine-star Rajnikant or M K Alagiri, estranged brother of DMK Chief M K Stalin did not succeed. He held meetings until 2.30 in the morning in his hotel room. But both of them did not turn up.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

BJP in a dilemma over lone RS seat

Sushil Modi, Reena Paswan in reckoning

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
New Delhi, Nov. 25
All eyes are set on Bihar’s lone Rajya Sabha seat by-election which will be held on December 14. The last date of filing nomination is December 3. The seat fell vacant due to the death of Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).

The bye-poll has assumed huge political significance as the LJP headed by Paswan’s son Chirag Paswan is claiming the seat. Though the LJP has only one MLA in the 243-member Bihar Assembly and it is not part of the NDA in Bihar either. But it remains the key member of the alliance in Delhi having six MPs in the Lok Sabha. Chirag Paswan is insisting upon the BJP leadership that his party helped the BJP emerge as the single largest party of the NDA in Bhar bagging 74 seats. Chirag Paswan also claims that LJP was instrumental in establishing BJP senior partner in the alliance. Therefore, the RS seat be given to his mother Reena Paswan. Secondly, his party may have won only one seat but it polled nearly 6% votes and a force to reckon with in Bihar. The BJP cannot brush the LJP aside and this fact was acknowledged by the BJP Chief J P Nadda too.

Insiders in the BJP say the party is grappling with its own problems. If it gives the seat to LJP, it may annoy Janatal Dal (U). Secondly, if the BJP decides to retain the seat, it will find it difficult to ignore the claim of Sushil Modi who was denied the Deputy Chief Minister’s post. It was then presumed that his services may be used in Delhi. If the BJP leadership wants to keep him at arm’s length, the seat may be given to the LJP. Therefore, the bye-poll has assumed huge political significance.

The BJP may also try to wean away some of the Congress-RJD MLAs as has been done in other states.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

SFIO’s dismal show - Corporate Fraud body Fumbles & Tumbles

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
New Delhi, Nov. 22

If the Enforcement Directorate could secure 14 convictions only in 15 years, the track record of another prime agency to fraud corporate houses is no better. The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) under the overall supervision of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs is dismal if not disastrous. The SFIO is pretty independent in its function, having the powers to arrest and conduct even searches. The government had set up SFIO to deal with serious frauds by corporation houses and companies. 

Data accessed by Lokmat showed that the SFIO probed as many as 132 companies during the year 2017-18. But it could complete the investigation only in five cases. The record next year was no good when it could complete probes in 12 cases though it initiated inquiries into 83 companies. The worst came in 2019-20 when 361 companies were probed and only in 12 cases the probe was completed.

In response to a question in Lok Sabha by Dushyant Singh of the BJP, Corporate Affairs Minister Anurag Thakur disclosed that investigation of 92 cases are being probed by the SFIO. This did not include 6 cases where stay has been granted by courts.

However, he ducked the question which asked the minister details of top 50 cases of fraudulent companies in terms of the amount involved. Thakur did not reveal the amount involved saying the “gradation of cases under investigation in terms of the amount involved could be known after the completion of investigation of these cases”.

In a response to another question, the government claimed that of the 1182 complaints filed as many as 462 complaints have been disposed of and secured conviction in 326 cases.

But the cat was out of the bag soon when the record of past three years of SFIO’s performance were accessed. The details of investigations completed during the past three years are given here: 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Fly on the Wall - NCB Wings clipped - Why Murmu fell out of favour?

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group


NCB Wings clipped
The tremors of Sushant Singh Rajput’s case continue to haunt the powers that be. The CBI was wise enough not to act in haste and harass Rhea Chakraborty in the abatement to suicide case. But the Narcotics Control Bureau headed by Rakesh Asthana seems to have bitten more than he could chew. He went overboard in the Bollywood drug probe case by summoning all and sundry and arresting petty drug peddlers and consumers. Finally, the Supreme Court gave a shock to the NCB and took away its key power. The NCB is among the four such investigation agencies where any statement made by a person before an officer is admissible as a confessional statement. Normally, a statement before the magistrate under section 164 CRPc alone is treated as a confessional statement. The NCB, Enforcement Directorate, Customs, Excise and even Income Tax officers have been given the powers under the law to treat statements before an officer as a confession before the court. The CBI, state police and other agencies do not enjoy this privilege. But the SC gave a shock to the NCB under the Narcotics Drugs Psychotropic Substance (NDPS) Act, 1985, for misusing this power to extract confession and struck down the very clause. The court said that NCB such officers of the NCB are police officers and statements made before them are not admissible as evidence. This is a huge setback to the NCB and the Union Home ministry is worried as NCB is under it. The SC ruling may also cast a shadow on the enormous powers of the Enforcement Directorate and other such bodies. Insiders in the government say that the Ministry may ask for a review of the ruling which gave a split 2:1 verdict. But for now, NCB wings have been clipped. 

Click here to read full article in Hindi and Marathi

Why Murmu fell out of favour?
G C Murmu was Prime Minister Modi’s most favorite Gujrat cadre officer from the days when he was Chief Minister. He handled all sensitive matters when Modi was facing onslaught from the CBI and other agencies during the UPA era. It was Murmu who used to coordinate with top legal guns in Delhi during those tumultuous years. Unassuming and savvy IAS officer hailing from Jharkhand was given key posts and finally Modi sent him to Srinagar as the first Lieutenant Governor of Jammu & Kashmir. It was his first independent charge. Modi had great trust and faith in his abilities. But things went haywire somewhere and the PMO got worried. Perhaps, Murmu failed to deliver what Modi desired. Modi was unhappy that he did not travel extensively in the state and kept himself confined to the spacious Raj Bhawan in Srinagar. As if this was not enough, he also had a running battle with the Chief Secretary who was senior to him in the service. Finally, Modi decided to send a political heavyweight Manoj Sinha to stem the rot and take some bold decisions. If Sinha had the ears of the Prime Minister, he also had a perfect rapport with Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Sinha is a political bird and has developed a personal rapport with political class in the Valley too.

Elusive Amit Shah
The health of Union Home Minister Amit Shah continues to be a cause of worry in the BJP. Though hehas recovered from fatigue and tiredness after Covid attack, he is avoiding traveling on medical advice. It is largely because of this very reason that he did not campaign in the Bihar polls as was expected which proved a blessing for the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh who addressed 24 rallies. Even a shy BJP Chief J P Nadda came out of the shadow to address five rallies a day. Shah did not go to Kevadiya (Gujrat) and stayed back in Delhi. He opted to go to Patel Chowk at Parliament Street here along with the President and the Vice President to pay homage. But he will be traveling to West Bengal and start addressing rallies there.

The prized RS Seat in Bihar
Who will get the Rajya Sabha seat fell vacant after the demise of Ram Vilas Paswan? No one is sure. The LJP is still part of the NDA in Delhi and thereby Chirag Paswan hopes his mother Reena Paswan will be given the seat. But it will depend on the outcome of the Assembly polls on November 10.

Friday, October 30, 2020

JD (U) slide worries BJP - Priyanka back in Lutyen’s Delhi

FLY ON THE WALL
Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

JD (U) slide worries BJP
Irrespective of Modi’s undiminished Charisma and immense popular appeal, the BJP leadership has a reason to worry in Bihar. As the state enters the second phase of bitterly fought polarized battle, the BJP is rattled as its key partner Nitish Kumar’s graph is on the downhill. The mishandling of migrant labourers and Coronavirus issues may cost him dearly and hurt BJP more in the months to come if the NDA loses Bihar. It is not as if the BJP was not aware of the sliding graph of Nitish Kumar. All internal surveys conducted by the RSS and the BJP signaled that Nitish Kumar's popularity is waning. The vocal Bihar BJP leadership wanted to go alone smelling blood riding on Modi wave. It was in this background that PM Modi, BJP president J P Nadda and Home Minister Amit Shah held two rounds of talks on Bihar in June-July. A conscious decision was taken to go with Janata Dal (U) as the consequences of dumping Nitish Kumar could have been fatal. It would have pushed Nitish Kumar to go back to the RJD-Congress. In order to off-set the anti-incumbency factor of Nitish Kumar, a buffer zone of sort in the form of LJP’s Chirag Paswan was created. It was done with the hope that LJP could cut into anti-Nitish Kumar votes which otherwise would have gone to the RJD-Congress-Left combine. But as the campaigning picking up, collapse of JD (U) is more visible. Secondly, Coronavirus has invaded the top leadership of the BJP beginning with Devendra Fadnavis, Sushil Modi, Mangal Pandey, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Shahnawaz Hussian and others. Amit Shah is also out of action.


BJP's Bihar Waterloo 
The BJP was on the seventh Heaven after its tumultuous win in May 2019 Lok Sabha polls. But its stars started fading as it suffered one loss after the other in states. If it failed to form a government in Maharashtra, it had to depend on Dushyant Chautala in Haryana to form the government. Then it suffered humiliating defeats in Jharkhand and Delhi in 2020. Therefore, a Bihar win is vital for the BJP. A Bihar loss will have a direct bearing in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, kerala, Puducherry and Assam where Assembly polls are due early next year. Many in the BJP say it will be happy to emerge as a single largest party in Bihar. Therefore, the BJP has changed its strategy mid-way. It may hold a few rallies of the PM in constituencies where BJP candidates are contesting without Nitish Kumar. Some posters are already out in the public without Nitish Kumar. Secondly, the PM will be more aggressive in his speeches in the days to come.


Priyanka back in Lutyen’s Delhi
After a brief stint in Gurugram in Haryana, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is back in Lutyen’s Delhi. She vacated her government bungalow a couple of months ago when the Modi dispensation served a notice. She shifted to Gurugram for a short while and now back in Sujan Singh Park near Khan Market. However, she doesn’t meet political workers at her residence due to paucity of space. Her security guards are having a tough time as the residential complex itself is very small.


Ram Madhav’s big slide
It seems BJP’s rising star has run out of luck with the party. He was incharge of the Jammu & Kashmir affairs and North East. He too played a key role in formulating BJP's J&K policy and helped forming governments in some of the North East states. He runs India Foundation which worked for Modi in the US and other countries before he became the PM. When he was removed as BJP as general secretary, it was widely believed that he will get a Rajya Sabha seat and possibly a ministerial berth when reshuffle takes place. It was also expected that he will be nominated to the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh where the BJP is set to win at least eight out of ten seats. But his name didn’t figure in the list. It now transpires that he is vacating his South Avenue government flat also which he had been allotted as general secretary. The last word on his new assignment is yet to be heard. One report is that he may now go back to the RSS as he is now full time “Sangh Pracharak”.