by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
Congress's Kejriwal riddle in Delhi
Congress president Rahul Gandhi's plan to clinch alliances or adjustment of seats with the like-minded parties has hit major hurdles in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi. While the talks in rest of the states are going smoothly as a team of three senior leaders – Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmad Patel and Kamal Nath – is working over-time to negotiate an amicable settlement. The talks with the BSP are progressing slowly but they are in right direction as Mayawati is wanting pan-India alliance with the Congress. Kamal Nath is insisting that it should be state-by-state as every state has different political situation prevailing. He wants Mayawati to come on board irrespective of alliances in other states. But the bigger problem is in Delhi which has seven Lok Sabha seats. The AAP is keen for adjustment of seats despite bitterness in relations with Shiela Dixit and Ajay Maken. If sources are to be believed, the AAP has offered New Delhi for Ajay Maken, East Delhi for Sandeep Dixit and Outer Delhi for any candidate of Congress choice. But the Congress is playing pricey though it is in on a weak wicket in Delhi as its a divided house. The AAP argument is in a four corner contest – Congress, BJP, AAP & BSP contesting separately, the BJP is sure to get all seven seats. The ball is in the court of Rahul Gandhi now. Similarly, the Congress is at a cross roads whether to go with Mamata Banerjee or CPM in West Bengal. The one-to-one meeting that Ahmad Patel had with Mamata Banerjee yielded no results. Serious problem exist in Andhra Pradesh where Congress is struggling to find an ally. The YSR Congress of Jagan Mohan Reddy has his own problems and doesn't want any pre-poll alliance with the Congress. Its a fate-accompli for the Congress in Andhra.
The Baffling Silence of CBI in Sterling Biotech case
All the spotlight may be on Vijay Mallya for defrauding banks. But the silence of CBI is baffling in the Sterling Biotech case despite the fact that the two Sandesara brothers are hiding in Nigeria. They fled the country, like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi and several others, along with their key family members with ease. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) went to town claiming attachment of assets worth over Rs 4,700 crores in the Rs 5,000-crore fraud case. But CBI officials are silent even one year after registering the case which is in sharp contrast to the speed with which cases P. Chidambaram, Lalu Prasad, Robert Vadra and several former Congress Chief Ministers are being pursued. The case surfaced after the seizure of a "diary" way back in 2011 from the Vadodara premises of Sterling Biotech by the Income-tax officials giving details of purported payments to some tax officials, politicians and police officers, including a Gujarat-cadre IPS officer who is now a CBI special director. The 11-page CBI chargesheet even named son-in-law of Ahmad Patel, senior Congress leader. Certain raided were also conducted on Patel's aides. It was claimed that clinching evidence exists establishing the nexus between the Congress leaders and Sterling Biotech group owners. But sources say the probe is stuck as CBI is struggling to find evidence if the UPA government gave any favours to the Sterling group. On the contrary, it has surfaced through a fact-sheet that the group grew leaps and bounds during the BJP rule in Gujrat since June 2004. It was awarded contract for the development of Dahej Port and given 150 acres of land. The Gujrat government took the help in organising Vibrant Gujarat Summit as late as in January 2017. In November 2008, Nitin Sandesra, Chairman of Sterling Biotech who is absconding, accompanied top Gujrat BJP leadership and government officials to Uganda and Kenya in his aircraft. The Vibrant Gujarat brochures of 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 list Sterling Biotech as success story of Gujarat's pharma and biotechnology policies. Sterling SEZ was allotted 3000 acres to develop a SEZ at Jambusar. The Government of Gujarat allocated additional 6000 acres despite complaints from banks that loans to the group were turning bad. The Sterling SEZ was sitting on a land bank of 9000 acres given by the Gujarat Government by 2013. It transpires that some “action” may be taken in the weeks to come to cover the tracks.
No Data Chief for months in Digital India
Ever since TCA Anant retired as the Central Statistics Officer on Jan. 31, the government has failed to find a replacement. The CSO was without a boss when it released figures last month showing the economy regained its position once again of being the fastest-expanding major economy in the world, with the growth of 7.7 per cent in the fourth-quarter of the fiscal year ended March 31. The PMO was somewhat unhappy with the way he used to come out with the data on the economy. At stake is the reputation of an institution that’s been working hard to rectify the image that India has deficient and unreliable economic data. With a population of 1.3 billion and an economy of $ 2.3 trillion collecting timely and accurate information is a gargantuan effort. With only months to go before the next election, the data is also coming under increased scrutiny as Modi’s political rivals question his claims about key campaign pledges, such as jobs creation and related parameters. The new methodology is also being worked out. For example, when the statistics office published a new series for a GDP that put India’s growth rate on par with China, eonomists said in 2015 that the data didn’t match up with high-frequency indicators showing more subdued expansion. It transpires that the PMO is looking for an outside expert for the job who is capable of gathering reliable economic data which is quite a challenging task.