by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
Rahul's Anti-Modi front taking Shape
Slowly but surely, the anti-Modi front conceived by Congress president Rahul Gandhi is taking shape. It is also clearly emerging that the NCP leader Sharad Pawar is emerging as a key player in the game. Gone are the days when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sharad Pawar used to share pleasant moments in private and used to express bon-homie even publicly. Times have changed particularly after Congress president Rahul Gandhi signaled that he was not in the race for the Prime Minister's post in 2019. Though critics poked fun at his leadership qualities when Rahul Gandhi had declared a few months ago that the Congress is not targeting to win the 2019 Lok Sabha polls on its own. Later, the young scion of the Gandhi family told Sharad Pawar during one of his meetings that he was not a claimant for the post of the Prime Minister though the Congress would be the single largest party in the Opposition. Pawar was surprised at his candid statement but heard him patiently. Rahul Gandhi went to the extent of saying that his party was not a claimant for the post of the Prime Minister in 2019 and would support any one who can carry the coalition successfully. The credibility of the coalition partners is of prime importance as past experiments had failed in 1967, 1977, 1989, 1996 and even in 1998. Therefore, terms and conditions of the alliance should be in black & white and nothing be kept in the abeyance. Rahul Gandhi also signaled that the Congress Party would join the government to give it a stability, if the coalition wins the 2019 polls. Rahul's views are in departure from the past when the Congress supported governments (Charan Singh, Chandra Shekhar, H D Deve Gowda & I K Gujral) from outside. Rahul felt one of the reasons of these governments failing was grave trust deficit and Congress remaining outside the coalitions.
Sharad Pawar to stitch alliances
Rahul Gandhi is understood to have told Sharad Pawar during these meetings that being the senior most leader among the Opposition parties, he alone can bring regional and like-minded parties together under one umbrella. Realizing that he cannot bring the regional and other parties together, Rahul Gandhi wanted Pawar to play the leadership role. Though there was no finality as to who will lead the coalition, it is an unwritten understanding that Pawar would be the leader provided other regional parties like Mamata Banerjee (TMC), Mayawati (BSP), Akhilesh Yadav (SP), Lalu Prasad Yadav (RJD), M K Stalin (DMK), CPM, TDP & others also accept him. These regional parties may not have alliance with the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls in their respective states. But they will try to avoid direct confrontation with the Congress wherever feasible. The Congress-NCP have already finalised alliance in Maharashtra for the Lok Sabha and even Assembly polls. Similarly, it has also been agreed that SP-BSP will contest Lok Sabha seats together and both will spare handful of seats for the Congress and the RLD. But BSP has made it clear that it will not enter into alliance with Congress in other states. Pawar is negotiating with these parties to resolve differences as these will impact the credibility of the alliance. Therefore, all these talks are going on in complete secrecy with no one having a clue of the details. However, Fly learns that seat-sharing talks are proceeding well.
Modi Plans Big Radio Outreach
With just one year to go for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, PM Modi has decided to kick-start a massive information sharing platform for the under-informed in India's underbelly through a countrywide network of community radio stations (CRS). Taking a queue from Modi's “Man Ki Baat” radio show, the Information & Broadcasting ministry is running amok to promote setting up of the community radios and galvanize the government radio outreach to Modi's programs. The government admits that 65 per cent of India's 1.3 billion people, who live in the villages, have no access to any communication device except radio. Radio is still the most popular mode of information sharing in the remotest Indian villages and we're planning to take community radio to a next level - tech-enabled, but purely local in content and a very interactive platform.
There are currently 206 community radio stations in the country, but mostly confined to a single objective driven primarily by NGOs, educational institutions and social activists. About 239 CRS applications are in process and nearly 506 permissions for setting of new CRS have been granted. The government is targeting 4000 radio stations which can be funded through CSR initiative.
NBCC to handle seized properties
Instead of setting up a separate authority to handle the task of maintaining, managing and earning revenue from immovable properties attached in money laundering cases, the Modi government may entrust the task to the National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC). The officials in the Income Tax, ED, CBI and other agencies had been struggling to find ways to better manage properties seized, frozen or confiscated under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), including those belonging to fugitive businessmen Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi. Finally, Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia who held detailed parleys with other officials decided that NBCC will handle the affairs. Within days, Chairman-cum-Managing Director Anoop Kumar Mittal who was under the scanner, was granted the rights for maintenance, renting and auctioning of such properties. As of now, the ED manages the properties confiscated by it but does not have experience. The government may now consider amending necessary laws to ensure better upkeep of confiscated properties, they said.
Parasaran refused to toe Rahul line
K Parasaran, former Attorney-General of India who was nominated to the Rajya sabha by the UPA government, was one of the experts whom the Vice President, M Venkaiah Naidu consulted on the Motion to Impeach Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra. It transpires that Parasaran held the view that the motion does not have any leg to stand on and wrong in law and without any basis. Though it was Congress president Rahul Gandhi who commandeered the party and others to go ahead with the motion and even made Abhishek Manu Singhvi to sign it, insiders were surprised that the UPA nominee did not heed to the advise. Rather, he gave a different opinion to Naidu. Rahul Gandhi is seething with anger with the party oldies who appointed Pasarasan to Rajya Sabha.