Monday, December 31, 2012

‘Damini’ wanted all of them hanged

‘Damini’ wanted all of them hanged It was a heart-rendering scene at the Safdarjung Hospital on December 24 when the victim of Delhi’s gang-rape case Damini (Nirbhaya or Amanat) was told that her statement would have to recorded second time. The team of country’s top surgeons attending on her were against it as she was too fragile to speak. Her entire lever and intestine had been removed due to extreme damage caused. But the Police wanted her statement to be recorded immediately as doctors were not sure whether she would survive or not. Her statement was vital to the case as well. But ruckus created by SDM Usha Chaturvedi made the statement of the victim inconsequential. But who will tell the girl to undergo another trauma and record her statement second time.. The doctors attending on her were unwilling and so were the family members. But the girl was made of different mettle. The gritty told the doctors and the police that she would record her statement again if it was needed, come what may as she wanted the accused to be hanged. Insiders in the hospital said that the arrangements were made to seek the presence of another metropolitan magistrate to record her statement again. The brave-heart girl moved everybody present in the Intensive Care Unit of the Hospital when she insisted on giving a piece of paper and pen to write down the names of the accused who had brutally attacked her. She remembered the names of all the persons, entire incident in sequence and said she would like to see them hanged. It is also revealed that immediately after regaining consciousness, she had enquired about her friend who accompanied her on the fateful night. When told that he was fine, she expressed the desire to see him. She talked to her friend for a while and then the family members. Later, she agreed to record her statement and then second time too. Its now that her statement has become a dyeing statement and vital evidence against all 6 accused.


P CHIDAMBARAM ON HIS BECOMING PRIME MINISTER 'I AM NOT FOOLISH" Finance Minister P Chidambaram may have dismissed reports of his becoming the Prime Minister in the wake of DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s statement that he could be the first “dhoti clad PM”. But his two comments – first on a serious note and second in a lighter vein –are set to add more fuel to the fire to the on-going speculations. When asked P Chidambaram said, “I know my limitations and I stay within my limitation.” Then he paused and added, “ That's my serious answer to your question. And on a lighter note I must tell you, I know some of you think I am foolish. But I am not so foolish.” Everybody laughed present at the press conference. But this hardly helped in containing speculation of his rising graph within the Congress and the government. Speculations have been rife for quite sometime that PC could be UPA-III choice for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi has made it clear that he won't like to lead the government without the Congress getting a reasonable majority on its own. The way coalition governments had to function and compromise, it would be better for him to wok for the party. He will rather work hard to strengthen the party in states like UP. It was in this context that PC has emerged as the Congress choice for the UPA-III. Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has signaled that he won’t like to lead the coalition for the third term. Today, was the first occasion when he was put a direct questions and he gave a diplomatic answer rather than a straight No.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

When will Modi cross the Delhi Rubicon ?

Is Narendra Modi set to be projected as the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister in 2014? The media is looking for clues in everything he’s done or uttered since his expected victory last week in the Gujarat assembly elections. The fact that the first address he delivered after the results was in Hindi, not in Gujarati, is being parsed as a prominent straw in the wind, and so is the fact that he has committed to visit Delhi on December 27, a day after his oath-taking in Gandhinagar as Chief Minister, never mind that it is a pre-scheduled meeting of state chief ministers. Commentators have even counted that Modi used the word 'DESH' 24 times in his 45-minute speech, and so, they have speculated, it is South Bloc that must be looming large within his ken. It is being said that his victory speech is full of lines that are pregnant with meaning, such as, mein khel Dilli se jitna chahta tha, aaj wo khel janta ne mujhe jita diya (the game that I wanted to win from Delhi is the one that the people have made me win today). He also sought apologies if he had done anything wrong. But made no reference to any incident or act leaving his supporters to claim that he had done what was required.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A phony Lobbying probe

The political class in India has become a prisoner of its own histrionics. It says something today and opposes it tomorrow. When it comes to ethics, it does hair-splitting that can shame the Indian smriti jurists of the past if some of its members can benefit from being so demanding with regard to the acts of their rivals. But when charges are directed against them, the moral yardstick gets extraordinarily liberal. It is one thing that FDI was welcomed to the fullest extent in sectors such as civil aviation, defense related industries or pharmaceutical products during the NDA period, and nobody even asked if these relaxations in policy were the result of some lobbying. But now the table has turned, and the BJP, as the main opposition party, is livid because a report has appeared that Wal-mart, in its statutory filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, has declared that it paid US $25 million over four years to lobby American lawmakers to help gain access to foreign markets including India. According to disclosures, there are nine countries where Wal-mart was lobbying. At this rate, it works out to spend of six million dollars per year, and that too in not just India but some other countries too. Wal-mart has said that the expenses are “a compilation of expenses associated with US Federal lobbying contacts and include staffing costs, association dues and payments made to consultants, all in the US”. The opposition is not impressed. It has forced the government into agreeing on a judicial inquiry to be set up to lead an investigation, in the words of Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, “pertaining to Wal-mart’s lobbying”.

Monday, December 10, 2012

After FDI, it's Lokpal Bill

Harish Gupta
With the Lokpal Bill set to be the centerpiece of public discourse, I think it is time to wonder why this creature keeps popping back like a squash ball. It is some half a century ago that the venerable Ashoke Kumar Sen, the then Congress law minister, moved the first Lokpal Bill. It failed to go through Parliament. In 1968, it was Shanti Bhushan who took his turn, but it got nixed in the Rajya Sabha. It was followed by a procession of similar last-stage abortions in 1971, 1977, 1985 (it was Ashoke Sen again, as law minister in the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet), 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and 2008. Its transformation into a Civil Society movement since then, under the (contested) leadership of Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal or Baba Ramdev, the yoga instructor, does not dilute the doubts raised by its serial rejection by the legislators. And if lawmakers have considered it to be a bothersome intrusion, is the Civil Society justified in still demanding it with so much earnestness?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

BJP to face 2G heat from CBI, Mahajan caused Rs 506 cr loss

It’s the BJP’s turn to face the heat in 2G spectrum scam. In the first indictment of the Bharatiya Janata Party in spectrum allotment, the CBI is all set to file a charge sheet in the excess spectrum allocation case during late Pramod Mahajan’s tenure as telecom minister in the National Democratic Alliance ( NDA) regime.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sharad Yadav angry with BJP, Coalgate divides Opposition

NDA convenor Sharad Yadav angry with the BJP for its flip-flop on Rs 1.86 lakh crore coalgate scam busted by the CAG.  

He is rather seething with anger and other allies are also upset.

Not only the entire Monsoon session of Parliament was a wash out but it clearly left the Opposition divided and allies of the NDA find themselves in the lurch.

Encouraged by divisions within the Opposition, the UPA and its coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal have rejected  en-masse canceling  coal blocks.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Salman Khurshid cracks whip, Removes ITAT Chief

In a major cleansing operation of  the 20 Income-Tax Appellate Tribunals (ITAT) spread across the country, which were dogged in various controversies for several months, Law Minister Salman Khursheed removed its President.
In a virtual coup, he showed the door to president G E Veerbhadrappa and appointed H L Karwa as the new President in his place. Never before in the history, such a major crack down took place in the most-powerful Income Tax appellate bodies. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

What Third Front ?

Sonia checkmates Advani via Mulayam

Sonia Gandhi may have been ranked by “Forbes” world’s 6th most powerful woman. The poor pehlwan Mulayam Singh Yadav may not figure anywhere in power circuit either. But he made Sonia Gandhi to walk up to him twice this week in full public view raising political eyebrows.
If she created a flutter in the Lok Sabha by walking up to Mulayam Singh Yadav on Tuesday pleading for electricity in Amethi and Rae Barelli, she walked up to him again on Thursday to thank him for his gesture. Now the constituents of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi will thank both – Mulayam and Congress for 24X7 electricity when rest of the state is reeling under power cut for at least 8 hours a day. Mulayam, in fact, restored power in these two districts on Tuesday itself.
Political observers are shocked at Sonia Gandhi’s new found public affection for Mulayam. Was it that simple an act or deep politics ?
My assessment is that by pleading with him and that too in full public view for electricity, Sonia is sending a public message to all political parties that SP and Congress can do business together despite differences in future.
It is a clear signal that Sonia Gandhi may either seek the support of the Third front or give it – whatever be the scenario in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
And the see the promptness with which Mulayam joined hands with the Left parties and roped in TDP which was doing business with BJP on anti-corruption front until Monday ?
Sonia walked up to Mulayam on Tuesday and the third front emerged on Wednesday night and Thursday morning they all were together on Dharna and in the Lok Sabha Sonia Gandhi thanked Mulayam Singh again for whatever he has done for her constituencies.
It also means that Congress will be a unofficial B team of SP in UP and focus in other states during 2014 Lok Sabha polls. It may mean that Rahul gandhi’s politics of reviving Congress on its own in UP has been put on the back burner. It also means a great set back to Digvijay Singh and one will have to watch political developments. Ahmad Patel must be smiling silently.
Some party leaders who do nothing on the ground and reaping the power here, must be upset with this open display of affection as it would “demoralize” workers.
“This is not her political clout. It is surrendering to the SP,” said a senior functionary.

Watch this space for what BJP veteran L K Advani is doing and cooking whose goose ?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sushma Swaraj Dials Mulayam for mega monday meeting

Worried Manmohan may talk to Advani ?

Fly on the Wall

With Finance Minister P Chidambaram propounding a “Zero-Loss” theory in the Coalgate scam and more and more Opposition parties are joining the anti-government chorus, as Congress Core Committee dwelt with new ideas to break the logjam.

One of the suggestions that emerged during the meeting last night was that the PM should directly speak to NDA leader L K Advani and invite him for one-to-one talk. Both do not enjoy a comfortable relationship for quite some time. Advani is targeting the “honest Manmohan Singh image” in the coalgate  and unwilling to negotiate so far.

The Congress Core Committee was particularly alarmed over reports that Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav may attend a meeting called by Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj in her parliament house office on Monday morning to chalk out a common strategy in Parliament house. The AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal and TDP have already joined the anti-PM chorus and grand Opposition alliance is emerging. Though Mulayam Singh Yadav is unpredictable and no one is sure what he will do on Monday. But he has adopted a tough posture against UPA on Coalgate and feels that by joining Opposition, he will be able to hijack the anti-corruption plank of the BJP in UP. He has openly accused the UPA by saying yesterday that, “This government has lost his moral right to rule.” Secondly, he may also become a rallying point of the Joint Action against Corruption.

In this scenario the UPA trying to break the logjam and ensure that PM is able to make his statement on coalgate and answers all the questions raised by the MPs on Monday itself. He will be able to proceed to NAM summit on Tuesday. Since the debate will be nationally televised, he will benefit.

The Core Committee has also entrusted the task of coordinating with the Opposition leaders to Sushil Kumar Shinde, P Chidambaram and Pawan Kumar Bansal to find a mutually acceptable formula to break the logjam.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

FB, Twitter, Youtube, google fall in line; PMO happy

After resisting for several days, global social networks fell in line. If Twitter wrote a letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s office saying it has removed over half-a-dozen accounts that "misrepresent" the Prime Minister's Office,  World's largest social networking website Facebook agreed to remove content, block pages or even disable accounts of those users who upload contents inciting violence or perpetuate hate speech.

A top official in the PMO Pankaj Pachauri told me today that these companies have agreed to cooperate. “we didn’t want them to remove parody against anybody. We wanted only certain account which misrepresent that they are the real PMO websites,” he said.

Sachin Pilot, Minister for the Information Technology also said  separately that these global social networking websites have started falling in line. If earlier they were cooperating 10%, today they are cooperating 60%.”

Even Youtube has agreed to put faster action in removing and identifying the content that violate spirit and sensitivities.
"Facebook will remove content which breaches our terms as set out in our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Content or individuals can be removed from Facebook for a variety of reasons including issuing direct calls for violence or perpetuating hate speech," a Facebook spokesperson said.

Sources said PMO wrote to Twitter about the "fake accounts" in June. But Twitter did not respond to India's concerns. In July, the government started looking for some other ways to cut off access to the offending PMO accounts. But after Assam incidents, Twitter fell in line.

However, USA
urged India to maintain respect for fundamental freedoms, while probing rumours that have caused an exodus of northeastern Indians from southern cities.


India is up against the newest threat to its national security: cyber jihad.
The recent discovery of a web of hate sites on the Internet that caused nationwide exodus of citizens of northeast from different Indian cities to their native land is an indication of how the terrorists are constantly evolving and mutating. A large number of the 245 websites blocked by the Indian government in past few days are found to be operating from Pakistan, the Ministry of Information and Technology has gone on record as saying.
This is despite the fact that the NTRO has a 120-member strong cyber security team. In addition, the NTRO also boasts of two special teams -- a 35-member team for cyber patrolling and a 60-member team of hackers for taking the cyber battle right into the enemy camp. These teams have a pan-India presence and are deployed in big cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. Incidentally these are the cities where the cyber warriors have wreaked havoc in past few days.
The mandate given to the officials patrolling and policing the cyber space is clear: instead of trying to force the closure of the hate websites and get into a protracted battle with the service providers, paralyze these websites as soon as they pop up.
However, what puts India, an acknowledged IT superpower of the world, in poor light is the fact that the response of the Ministry of Home Affairs has been tepid and dreadfully slow. It took over a month for the MHA to discover that the northeast exodus had been triggered by morphed images and videos uploaded on these hate websites to incite Muslims in the wake of  clashed between Bodos and Muslims that started in Assam on July 13.
On August 20, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government blocked 89 more websites taking the total number to 245 of such hate-spewing portals that triggered exodus of citizens of the northeast from different parts of the country. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who raised the issue with his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik on telephone during his first telephonic conversation with Malik, later said India would provide evidence to Pakistan on the involvement of Pakistani websites in launching a malicious hate campaign against the people of the northeast.
The National Technical Research Organization (NTRO), the apex scientific body set up in 2004 that reports directly to the Prime Minister’s Office, has uncovered hundreds of websites that have been indulging in anti-India propaganda. Though most of these websites are operating from Pakistan, the NTRO does not rule out the possibility of other countries too being involved in this, possibly at the behest of elements in Pakistan.
However, the government is finding it difficult to tame the Internet as leading cyber sphere entities like Google, Facebook and Twitter have bluntly told the government that they can’t remove anti-India propaganda. The government has unsuccessfully tried to block individual accounts on Facebook and Twitter that have been spreading malicious rumors about the citizens of northeast. Hundreds of such accounts have come to light but the social networking sites have refused to cooperate with the Indian government, either citing technical difficulties or hiding behind the cover of international laws.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Jaitley brokers peace between Nitin-Modi, Advani worried

Fly on the wall

By Harish Gupta

Slowly and quietly, realignment is taking place within the BJP. Party chief Nitin Gadkari and Gujrat Chief Minister Narendra Modi are now best of friends and exchanging views on a regular basis. It was Leader of the Opposition, Arun Jaitley who brokered this peace between the two who were not even on talking terms. Though Balbir Punj, BJP Rajya Sabha MP was working as a broker between the two. But the two never came together. Finally, Jaitley entered the arena and as a party’s trouble-shooter he clinched the deal. Ravi Shanker Prasad, Prakash Javdekar and chief ministers are of the BJP and Akali Dal and JMM are with this faction. Once this happened, former BJP president Rajnath Singh, M Venkiah Naidu and fence sitters fell in line. The RSS leadership has also thrown its weight behind Gadkari-Jaitley-Modi trio. On the other side of the fence are Sushma Swaraj, leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Ananth Kumar and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. L K Advani is still their mascot. All eyes are set on Gujrat and Himachal Assembly polls and Nitin-Jaitley-Modi-Dhumal together will call the shots while others watch helplessly. Advani has reasons to be worried.

 How SS Ahluwalia became Meira’s Adviser

Remember S S Ahluwalia ! He was part of Rajiv Gandhi’s shouting brigade for 12 years and then moved towards the BJP and for the next 12 years he was BJP’s vocal face in the Rajya Sabha. But times changed with the arrival of Arun Jaitley at the helms. He wanted debate not disruption should prevail in the House of Elders. No slogan shouting, no shouting. The BJP gave him rest. He was lucky to get ticket in the bye-election in Jharkhand after it was countermanded. But he ran out of luck and lost. Desperate to get a house as he had no money or flat in Delhi, he knocked at every door. But got no relief from anywhere. Finally, he went to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, an old Narasimha Rao protégé. It is learnt that it was the PM who requested the Speaker of the Lok Sabha Meira Kumar. She decided to appoint Ahluwalia as her adviser for digitalization of the Parliament’s library. Ahluwalia will work for free. But will get rent free accommodation for one year. The BJP leadership is worried as four of its MPs in the Lok Sabha wrote letters to the Speaker to appoint him.  

Sibal buys peace with BJP

Its another coup. This time, its between the floor leaders of the BJP and the Congress..Fed up of veteran leader L K Advani refusing to bow out, the BJP leaders in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have devised a mechanism to ensure that there is no boycott of P Chidambaram. Even the bills pending of HRD and Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal be allowed to pass the Opposition muster in the Rajya Sabha where the UPA doesn’t have a majority. During the last session, Advani had forced a decision on the party that it would boycott P Chidambaram. The directive came under the influence of S Swamy, S Gurumurthy and others who have nothing to do with the BJP. Even Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley were upset as to how the outsiders are influencing Advani’s decision making process. Leader of the Opposition in both houses had separate meetings with PC and Sibal and the matters were sorted out. It’s a different matter that both the ministers paid a courtesy call on Advani too. But Advani was only a silent spectator this time. The protest will only be symbolic – for a day only.

The crusader shown the door

Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan may be a crusader against corruption and blasting the BJP. But when it comes to land or favours, he forgets even the “Corrupt Mayawati” or “communal BJP”. How land was allotted at throw away price by the Mayawati government in NOIDA to him and his father is history.  As if this was not enough, in Himachal Pradesh, the Dhumal government  violated land laws by granting permission to Prashant Bhushan to purchase a huge chunk of land that was meant for a tea estate in the name of Kumud Bhushan Educational society. But this alone was not the catch. Dhumal even appointed him as the standing counsel of the state in Delhi. When the matter came to the fore, the party high command took Dhumal to task. He was asked how an anti-BJP person was appointed and for what purpose. Dhumal was directed to terminate the arrangement. Finally, Dhumal gave in and removed Prashant Bhushan.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What is paralyzing the govt. !

Fly on the Wall
Assam is a typical example of  how functioning of the government has been paralyzed.  When Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi went public blasting the Centre for delay in deploying the army in troubled areas, the Centre did not censure him. But tried to pacify him. Why ? The armed forces deployment was sought on July 23. The local commander wanted written orders from Chief of the Army Staff who looked towards the Defence Ministry. Everybody wanted orders in writing, nothing oral about it. A K Antony, as usual, took his own sweet time as files kept juggling. Finally, when the forces were deployed, the damage was already done. The reason for delay was that various high courts and Supreme Court had passed certain orders relating to deployment of armed forces in the communal riots and they needed to be studied. Hence, the delay. Can anyone be held responsible ?

Anand Sharma is also up set ?

Why blame former Union Minister Virbhadra Singh for being angry with the party high command for being left out from the Congress screening committee of Himachal Pradesh. Even blue-eyed boy of the party Commerce, Industries and Textiles Minister Anand Sharma was up set. So miffed was Anand Sharma that he quietly left for London.  A word was also spread that he had been deputed on an official mission to London. But the fact is that he is equally peeved for being ignored. As chairman of the manifesto committee his role will be over immediately after it is released.  The past experience has been that once the screening committee clears the list of candidates,  it rarely undergoes a major change. The party high command’s problem is that if Raja and Anand are included in the screening committee, how could other senior leaders be left out.

Bihar, Bengal to felicitate President Pranab ?

The President, Pranab Mukherjee is extremely busy finalizing his tour program as invitations are pouring in.  Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar,  who had backed Mukherjee’s candidature,  wants him to visit Bihar first so that he is able to pay his respect to the first President Rajendra Prasad Memorial also. Mukherjee is also keen that a massive public function is held in his honour- as he is the first Bengali to be elected as President – by the Mamata Banerjee government.  Mukherjee himself is keen to play host to a grand Iftaar party at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. This will be his public function at the Rashtrapati Bhawan to be attended by numerous diplomats from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.  Another invitation that has piqued Mukherjee’s interests is an invitation from London to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympics games and a gala dinner at the Buckingham Palace. No decision, however, has been taken so far.

First Yadav on Face Book, Twitter

Who says Yadavs are backwards and not familiar with technology ? NDA convener and JD (U) President Sharad Yadav is now a regular on Face Book and Twitter. He is amongst the first of the three Yadav leaders – Mulyam Singh and  Lalu Yadav to open a FB account. And quite regular too.

CBI on case closing spree

Before winding up after two years stint as CBI director and lodging FIRs and chargesheets against high and mighty, A P Singh is now taking a U-turn.  If the mandarins in CGO Complex are to be believed, the latest  beneficiary of CBI’s correct or soft approach will be Suresh Kalmadi. The CBI may close one case against him with regard to the Queen’ Baton. This was the first case registered against Kalmadi and company for favouring a London-based company.  Lately, the CBI decided to close several cases including Medical Council of India chief Ketan Desai and Dental Council Chief A K Kohli. Now the CBI is explaining that these persons were booked at the instance of the Heath Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.  The case against LIC chief has also been thrown into the dustbin. But the purpose of the government has been served as he was denied another 5-year term despite his excellent performance. The hi-fi case against Mayawati has been thrown out by Supreme Court itself after nine years.

New axis in the BJP emerging

A new axis in the BJP is clearly emerging. While one group is led by BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, Gujrat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley and Chief Spokesman Ravi Shanker Prasad,  the other group comprises of L K Advani, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj,  Jaswant Singh and Ananth Kumar. Other senior leaders like Murli Manmohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha, Rajnath Singh keep moving as the issues come by.  The RSS has clearly signaled to Advani that it is with Narendra Modi irrespective some reservations about him. Jaitley is trying hard to keep the BJP’s Chief Ministers and local satraps with him and the trouble-shooter of the BJP.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pawar-Patel boycott UPA meet, A new crisis emerges

PM removes names of own Cabinet Ministers from his website
A big political crisis has engulfed the UPA today with Nationalist Congress Party leaders Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel boycotting its meeting this evening at the Prime Minister’s residence to chose Vice Presidential candidate.

The boycott of the NCP leaders shocked political circles as Pawar had lately being considered as the new trouble-shooter of the UPA after Pranab Mukherjee’s elevation as Presidential candidate.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel stay put in Mumbai today. Efforts to contact Sharad Pawar yielded no results. But Praful Patel confirmed that he did not attend the meeting due to “pre-occupation.”  When asked why Pawar did not attend, he declined to say anything.

Sources say that Pawar is extremely unhappy with the UPA leadership over the question of who should be Number two in the government. While his name appeared immediately after the Prime Minister’s name in the official website of the PMO after Pranab Mukherjee demitted office on June 26 as Finance Minister, later Defence Minister A K Antony set next to the PM at the Cabinet meeting.

Suddenly, the list of Cabinet Ministers vanished from the PM’s own website. “The PM himself removed the list from his website of Cabinet Ministers. Surely, he may be re-assessing the order in which names are to be listed,” said a senior minister close to the developments.

But the crisis is far from over. While the boycott of Pawar is understood to be not linked to the issue of Dr Hamid Ansari being given the second term.
The crisis is really bigger for the UPA on the issue of hierarchy.  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Honey-trapped son causes flutter in Himachal Congress

After the exit of Virbhadra Singh from the Union Cabinet on the "bribery CD" charge, it is another incident that is giving sleepless nights to the beleaguered Congress leadership in himachal pradesh. The latest  "honeytrap" case involving a lieutenant colonel of Indian armed forces with a bangladeshi has rocked the hilly state.

Reason: the young Lieutenant colonel is the son of Dr D R Shandil who is a senior himachal Pradesh Congress leader. He is a former Member of the Lok Sabha from Shimla and was inducted  to the Congress working committee also.

The party leaders are aghast at the turn of events and down-playing the incident saying that it is not a case of espionage for pakistan or its agency ISI. At best its a case of interacting with a Bangladeshi woman on the Face Book. But lips of everybody are sealed.

Efforts to contact Dr Shandil on his mobile and land line numbers in Delhi ended in vein. But he neither picked his mobile and nobody answered his residence line either. The official website of the AICC reveals that Dr Shandil stays at Poorvanchal in JNU campus.

Dr Shandil joined the Congress after remaining with the BJP and later joined Sukh Ram's Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC). He was made a full member of the CWC. Obviously, the party high command wanted to cut Virbhadra singh to size and promoted Shandil. But both are in the woods, at least for now. If Singh is cooling his heels out of the Cabinet due to the charges against him framed by the trial court, Shandil is at the receiving end due to the activities of his son under the top army brass.

PM moving to reverse Pranab's policy

Finally, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh made his first move to reverse the policy enunciated by his predecessor in the finance ministry, Pranab Mukherjee, with regard to General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR).

The PM, as a prelude, set up a 4-member expert panel which will submit its report by September 30. The GAAR introduced by Pranab Mukherjee in his 2012 Budget had made FIIs and investors to flee India.

This single provision brought down the markets and caused panic. Investors world over and India watchers were waiting for some relief on this account. Finally, the PMO made the first formal announcement putting the uncertainty at rest. The panel will be headed by tax expert Parthasarathi Shome.

N. Rangachary, former IRDA chairman; Sunil Gupta, joint secretary, tax policy and legislation, department of revenue, and NIPFP professor Ajay Shah will be the other members of the committee, said a release from the Prime Minister's Office.
The committee will have time till end-July to receive comments from stakeholders and the general public, and will have until August 31 to rework the guidelines based on these recommendations and submit a second draft, the release said.

"While these steps (the draft guidelines released last month) are good in themselves, a need was felt for far more widespread consultations. There is a need to have greater clarity on many other fronts. With this in view, the Prime Minister has constituted this expert committee which will bring transparency and a high degree of technical expertise to the consultation process," the release added.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mamata throws a spanner again

After attempting to block Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature for the post of President, TMC leader  Mamata Banerjee has thrown a spanner in the smooth sailing of Dr Hamid Ansari to be re-elected as Vice President.

Ansari’s name emerged during the discussions that the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had with CPM leader Prakash Karat and former PM H D Deve Gowda. The allies of the Congress in the UPA and outside are also seen inclined to support Ansari.
But Mamata banerjee threw a spanner by stating the Gopal Krishan Gandhi, a grandson of the Mahatma Gandhi be fielded by the UPA for the post. He was appointed as governor of West Bengal at the behest of the Left parties. But he chose to lent his support to Mamata banerjee during the Singur agitation.

Alternatively, Mamata banerjee wanted Krishna Bose as VP who is also a close relative of late Subhash Chandra Bose.
Surprisingly, Mamata’s ally Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party did not react to her suggestion so far. But Mamata’s suggestion to make Gandhi as VP is bound to create a big political turmoil as the Left, the BJP, NDA and large sections of non-UPA parties may support him too.

Reports said Mamata is not happy with the way Ansari for the partisan role played by him as Rajya Sabha Chairman during the Lokpal debate late last year. Even the Samajwadi Party is upset with him as he had signed the motion to suspend its MPs when they created a ruckus on the Women’s reservations Bill. It was Arun Jaitley, Leader of the Opposition who opposed Hamid Ansari’s act saying that the chairman doesn’t have the power to do so. The motion has to be passed by the Rajya Sabha. The chairman can only suspend MPs. But no motion can be signed by him without the permission of the house. Ansari had to cut a sorry figure.

There is also confusion as to why PM chose to speak to Karat and Gowda while a formal discussion within the UPA ad its supporting parties on the issue is yet to take place.

Mamata’s proposal has come at a time when Pranab Mukherjee is working hard to get her support for the presidential poll.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

PM keeps 40 E-GoMs GoMs hanging, PMO Server down for 15 days

It may look bizarre. But true. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's efforts to re-constitute almost 40 Empowered-Group of Ministers  (E-GoMs) and Group of Ministers (GoMs) after the departure of UPA's trouble-shooter Pranab Mukherjee has come a cropper. While a couple of Cabinet Committees headed by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh himself like the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs, Political Affairs and Security Affairs or Infrastructure are functional. But almost 40-odd E-GoMs and Goms are virtually defunct. The Cabinet Secretariat was quick enough to remove the entire list of these empowered group of ministers and GoMs from its website immediately after Pranab Mukherjee resigned on June 26.

Surprisingly, servers of the Cabinet Secretariat relating to this section are down and out of order since June 27. It is shocking that while every other link is functional, only three of these links are down.  

Discreet inquiries revealed that initially there was indecision whether the PM will keep the finance portfolio with himself and for how long. A senior Cabinet secretariat official admitted that the "server is partially down and the moment it is repaired, you can access the new list."
But it turned out to be the half-truth. While the entire website of the PMO and the Cabinet Secretariat are functioning, only three links are defunct. These three links deal with E-GoMs, GoMs and Cabinet Committees. When clincked the following messege came up, " Not Found. The requested URL /files/allocation/cabinet_committees.pdf was not found on this server."  Same message cropped up when you try for the list of E-GoMs and GoMs. It says, " Not Found. The requested URL /files/allocation/listofegoms.pdf was not found on this server."

Officials in the PMO maintained a complete silence on re-constituting these important committees handling important policy decisions and inter-ministerial issues.  Sources say that the Prime Minister is likely to divide the responsibility of heading these 40-odd powerful commitees among few chosen senior cabinet ministers in the absence of Pranab Mukherjee. Top sources in the UPA told that along with home minister P Chidambaram, defence minister A K antony, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, commerce minister anand sharma and telecom minister kapil sibal will be inducted to head some of them.

Power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde is also slated to lead a few GoMs once he is made the Leader of the Lok Sabha in place of Pranab Mukherjee. . At present, he leads the GoM on power sector issues. Mukherjee headed 13 of the 27 GoMs and all 12 EGoMs. While GoM decisions needs ratification by Union cabinet, the EGoM is empowered to take a final call on its agenda.

With Sharad Pawar refusing to head the E-GoM on Spectrum pricing, is playing safe despite having an excellent rapport with Prime Minister and lately with the UPA chairperson Sonia gandhi as well, decisions on crucial issues are held up. Even Chidambaram accepted the spectrum assignment only as head of the Group of Ministers and not Empowered group of ministers. Now Chidambaram's decision will again go to the full Cabinet and he personally won't be held responsible for any lapses either.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ansari denied Second Term, Sonia begins hunt for new Vice President candidate

Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo and Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily have emerged front-runners for the post of Vice President of India. Though names of Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Governors Margret Alva and Shivraj Patil and senior congress leaders Saifuddin Soz and  Mohsina Kidwai are also being mentioned for the post.

But V Kishore Chandra Deo is a tribal and commands respect not only within the Congress but also amongst the entire political spectrum. Same goes with Veerappa Moily who hails from Karnataka and a backward. Moily’s name had figured even  during 2007 for the post. But Dr Hamid Ansari was brought in at the last minute as the Left parties insisted for him. 

It is almost certain that Dr Hamid Ansari will not be re-nominated for the post. There is also a likelihood that member of the minority community may not figure either due to other political compulsions. It is argued that with P A Sangma flaunting his tribal card in presidential campaign, Deo’s candidature may puncture it. A five time Lok Sabha MP Kishore Chandra Deo is understood to have also had a brief meeting with Sonia Gandhi recently.

But no one is sure what Sonia Gandhi would do.  Highly placed sources in the Congress say that Sonia Gandhi will discuss the issue with senior leaders once the Election Commission issues a formal notification.

The UPA is in a far more comfortable position in the vice presidential poll as it has clear majority in the electoral college comprising of  790 MPs of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The UPA’s combined strength in both houses will touch 400 mark and with SP, BSP and other non-NDA parties supporting, its nominee will get more than 460 votes.  The Congress managers are of the firm view that even Trinamool Congress will remain part of the UPA in the President’s and Vice Presidential election irrespective of the political differences.

 The Vice Presidential election is due on August 7. The last date of nomination has been fixed for July 20 and voting will be on August 7.   
The Vice-Presidential election requires 20 MPs as proposers and an equal number as seconders. The Electoral College for the present election of the Vice-President consists of  245 from the Rajya Sabha including 12 nominated and 545 from the Lok Sabha including two nominated.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

What`s common between Mukesh Ambani & Anil

A coup to make Pranab as PM foiled 
Fly on the Wall

What is common between Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani, the two estranged industrialist brothers ? It is no secret that both continue to have strained relations despite a truce and division of assets and businesses. Both do not run down each other particularly after the Radia Tape controversy as the country bore the brunt of it and economy suffered.
Insiders say its former Finance Minister and President hopeful Pranab Mukherjee who is loved and respected by both the brothers. Both are working hard to fulfill his political ambitions. The difference is that Anil Ambani wanted to see him as the Prime Minister of India in June 2012 itself while the elder brother Mukesh was contended with Mukherjee becoming President of India.
Fly learns that it was Anil Ambani  who coaxed Mulayam Singh Yadav to convince that  Mamata Banerjee  suggest Manmohan Singh for the President’s post.  Anil Ambani’s game was to make Manmohan as president and install Pranab as PM. Neither the Congress nor Sonia Gandhi had any clue of this gameplan. When this was out through the Mamata-Mulayam meet, Sonia was in rage. Mulayam Singh was invited to 10 Janpath the same night through  Anil Ambani. He even accompanied Mulayam Singh at 10 Janpath and kept sitting in the ante room. It was at this meeting that Mulayam Singh dumped Mamata Banerjee and supported Pranab Mukherjee as President. The junior Ambani’s game plan was grounded though it did take off and it was his master-stroke.