Sunday, August 30, 2015

3-member committee to oversee political appointments

Modi placates RSS
Bhagwat to review Govt.’s  performance

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

In a significant development, the RSS and ruling BJP have evolved a new mechanism to meet the growing aspirations of thousands of party workers who loop up to the Modi government for suitable rewards.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Pak terrorist Naved offered cashews, almonds 

Given royal treatment in custody

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Naved Yakub who is set to record his confessional statement tomorrow under section 164 of the CRPc before a Chief Judicial Magistrate in connection with Udhampur terror attack, is getting 5-star treatment.

Highly placed sources in the government on the condition of anonymity told Lokmat that during the course of prolonged interrogation, Naved was given cashews, almonds and walnuts. Sleuths succeeded in convincing him that he had been misled by his Pakistani masters that he would return to his native place after the operation. The help of some of the psychologists and experts was also taken to ensure that Naved sings without much difficulty.

These sources say that investigators who grilled him for weeks together treated him with royalty in police custody and given every facility normally not given to a hardcore terrorist like him. Since Naved’ case is completely different than that of Kasab who was involved in 26/11 Mumbai attacks, the agencies wanted him to cooperate without delay and provide every detail to help gather impeccable evidence against those exporting terror from Pakistan’s soil.

The agencies were instructed that no third degree treatment be meted to him under any circumstances. In fact, Sharad Kumar, Director of the NIA personally flew to interrogate Naved and was stationed there for three days. It is said that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval was also monitoring the outcome of interrogation.

Before the NIA took over the case, the investigation by the local police was leading nowhere as Naved was proving to be a hard nut. However, he melted after a different kind of treatment was given.

This will be first time that a Pakistan terrorist captured alive is willing to make a confessional statement before a court. But the NIA is keeping its fingers crossed until the statement is recorded and sealed.

Naved confessed of his involvement in the August five terror attack after he was captured.  A resident of Faisalabad in Pakistan, he was earlier brought from Srinagar by the NIA team and was also taken to the spot of terror attack on highway at Narsu Nallah in Udhampur district.

The NIA was able to create huge evidence based on the information provided by Naved in which he gave details of all his relatives, their mobile numbers, places of residence and others. This helped NIA to create Google Mapping evidence of those locations. Now the agencies can seek the Call Details Record (CDRs) of telephone numbers of all his relatives at international forums if Pakistan doesn’t cooperate.

Though all these numbers have been deactivated by the Pakistan agencies including that of Naved’s father Salamat. Truecaller, the contact list-sharing app that has a vast database of cell phone numbers, showed Salamat,  Tahir (uncle) and Nadeem (brother) were registered under the same number.

Modi’s Waterloo

Even Nitin Gadkari believes Bihar Assembly polls will be a referendum and decider

Harish Gupta

All eyes are set on the battle of Waterloo fought exactly 200 years ago in 1815. Waterloo was far away in Belgium which was part of UK. Similarly, Patna may be hundreds of miles away from the national Capital. But the outcome of Assembly polls there are capable of changing the political course.

I had said in this column a week before the Delhi Assembly poll in early 2015 “If Modi’s armada loses in Delhi, it may still not be his Waterloo. But, with elections in most of the states in the Gangetic plains (Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal) due in the next couple of years, it may be the beginning of the end.”

The life had never been the same for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Man Friday BJP president Amit Shah after the Delhi’s loss. In May 2014, BJP’s Lok Sabha victory had put its profile, and also that of its charismatic leader Narendra Modi, to such lofty height that AAP seemed a Lilliputian in comparison. From then on, Modi’s electoral column triumphed everywhere—Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, even J&K. Kejriwal emerged like a hero in award winning film ‘Jolly, LLB’. The film was about a lawyer from small town who arrives in Delhi for a better career but fights, and wins, a tough and dangerous legal battle for a group of pavement dwellers mowed down by a rich man’s son driving drunk his SUV. Most Delhi voters fancy that they’ll have a saviour in Kejriwal. And the BJP ended up with merely three seats for his party.

Though recent opinion polls suggest Modi continues to be most popular leaders in the country, the BJP’s graph is down several notches. Despite the untiring efforts put in by the Prime Minister during the past six months, global factors helping the Indian economy with crude prices down to $45 a barrel and other initiatives, the “achchhe din” are still a far cry. Modi’s political blunder of falling into the trap of amending the Land bill soon after coming to power (Who laid the trap for him is another story) cost him dearly. Finally, he buried it, and wisely so, taking everybody by surprise. But the Land Bill laid the foundation stone of unity amongst the so-called secular forces. The failed Monsoon session of Parliament is the product of this new grand alliance. The irony is that such grand alliances used to be formed against the Congress since 1967 by the BJP (erstwhile Jana Sangh), Lok Dal, Swatantra Party, SSP, PSP etc. In 2015, it’s a reverse grand alliance against the BJP and Bihar is the first experiment of this new found bon homie.  If one looks at the history of such alliances against the Congress;  be it SVD governments of 1967-69 era of the Janata Party of 1977 or Janata Dal-BJP- Left unity in 1989 or 1996-97, they all failed eroding people’s faith in coalition politics. It was only in 1999 that Atal Behari Vajpayee succeeded in providing a stable non-Congress grand alliance called the NDA. But the BJP failed to hold its horses in 2004 due to its own failures paving the way of return of the Congress rule. The BJP swept to power in ten years later on the massive anti-incumbency wave and fragmentation of secular parties. Modi’s personal charisma added 100 Lok Sabha seats in the BJP kitty, admit Advani acolytes privately. Had Advani or Sushma Swaraj or Rajnath Singh been projected as BJP’s PM candidate, the party would not have crossed the 180 seats mark. If one looks closely at Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana, the BJP won them as rivals went their own way. Had the Congress and NCP contested Assembly polls in Maharashtra together, the story would have been different. The same can be said about Jharkhand where Congress-JMM-RJD parted ways allowing the BJP a free run. In Haryana, the story was no different.

But Bihar will be the “Mother of all polls”. Its not battle between the “Maths and the Rath” as some analysts argue. If one goes by the mathematics of the Lok Sabha 2014 polls, BJP has already lost the polls. The JD (U), RJD, Congress, NCP had polled 46% of popular votes in May 2014 LS Polls. Since they contested separately, they ended up getting only 9 Lok Sabha seats and the NDA walked away with 31 seats despite getting 39% votes. Neither the hundreds of Raths being pumped into the BJP campaign by Amit Shah can turn an election. One will have to assess the situation on the ground. No one can say for sure the damage Jitan Ram Manjhi will cause to Nitish Kumar or a Pappu Yadav to the  RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. The rebels of RJD, JD (U) and even Congress are joining the BJP which has adopted an “Open-Door Policy” in the state.

Modi has also resorted to his original formula by not naming a Chief Ministerial candidate in Bihar. He made the sole exception in Delhi by projecting Kiran Bedi and lost. Now he has put his own prestige and popularity at stake and directly communicating with the people of Bihar extensively.

Therefore, Bihar’s poll will be a watershed. Its test of the first grand alliance not only against the BJP but against Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally. The failed Monsoon session of Parliament should not be attributed to the failure of Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkiah Naidu’s skills and political experience or the ruling party’s arrogance. The Congress decided to play the second fiddle after “Congress-Mukt Delhi”. Therefore, Rahul Gandhi is doing everything under the Sun to make this reverse grand alliance against the BJP and Modi succeed.

Union Surface Transport & Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari echoed similar sentiments when he termed Bihar elections a referendum of  Modi government last week. Though he qualified to add that in a democracy every election is an issue of prestige of the party and its prime minister. But after the defeat during the Delhi polls, the Bihar polls be decider, he said.

The pollsters have, however, stayed away so far from speculating who has the edge in Bihar. They do not want to burn their fingers too early in the day.  But the betting odds are still high on BJP. The reason is obvious: gamblers place their stakes on past records, not on future uncertainties.

(The author is National Editor, Lokmat group)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Visitors’  diary case takes a curious turn

Who will probe Ranjit Sinha ?
CVC or retired Judge

Harish Gupta
New Delhi, Aug 19

The Centre is veering round to the view that probe into the allegations of clandestine meetings of ex-CBI director Ranjit Sinha with 2G spectrum scam and others should not be entrusted to  former special director of the CBI M L Sharma.

Instead, the government is now consulting the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) if it can create a mechanism to hold an inquiry into these allegations. Some of the persons of eminence including the Attorney General of India, Mukul Rohtagi, may also assist the CVC in this probe.

This will be the first probe of its kind under the watchful eye of the Supreme Court into the conduct of the head of the premier investigation agency of the country.

The piquant situation arose after the Supreme Court proposed on July 6 the name of Sharma to head the Special Investigation Team (SIT) and he demanded a special legal status and 5-star facilities including six figure salary for himself.

It may be mentioned that the Supreme Court decided to probe the clandestine meetings Sinha had after advocate Prashant Bhushan produced the visitors' diary of his official residence. Following the SC directions, the AG held a meeting with Sharma who agreed to head the SIT. However, a couple of days later, Sharma sent a list of his requirements which included two dozen staff members, armed guards, huge office space in Lutyen’s Delhi and a six figure salary for himself.

As if this was not enough, Sharma wanted police powers to search, seizure and arrest for the SIT. Though Prashant Bhushan wanted that Sharma be entrusted with the Police powers, the government is in no mood to do so and set a new precedent. The SC had created several SITs in the past on many issues. But never before, SIT had been given police powers.

It is learnt that the Law Ministry is consulting other stake holders before a final view is taken. The CVC already has mechanism with it. A final decision in this regard will be taken shortly.

The SC had said that there could be no justification for Sinha's secret meetings with suspects and accused as disclosure of the visitors' diary had severely dented Sinha's reputation.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Modi Govt cracks down on Chit Fund companies

Harish Gupta
New Delhi, Aug. 16

The Modi government has declared a virtual war against hundreds of Ponzi schemes which have been in operation in various states.

If the Directorate of Enforcement has registered 57 cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA),  the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has also registered 65 cases during 2014-15 relating to  Collective Investment Scheme, Chit Funds, etc.

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has assigned 139 cases pertaining to so called chit fund companies to Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) for investigation. Investigations reveal that these companies were operating mostly in the Eastern and North-Eastern States of the country. A Computer Forensic Lab has been set up in SFIO for analysing the database of the companies under investigation.

Interestingly, during the UPA regime only 7 complaints were registered with the CBI until 2013. But the number shot up to 65 during 2014 & 2015 until June.

The ED has attached assets worth Rs. 1133.25 crores and prosecution has been launched in three cases under the PMLA.

The government has set up a high level Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) to plug loopholes in the existing regulatory framework for deposit as these Chit Fund companies are outside the regulatory purview of Reserve Bank of India (RBI). These Chit Funds are registered, regulated, supervised and governed by Chit Fund Act, 1982, which is administered by the respective State Governments.

The crack down that began with the SEBI action against the Sahara group involves large number of influential persons in West Bengal, Jharkhand, North Eastern states, Odisha and other states.

The SEBI has already issued directions that funds so collected by these companies must be returned to the small depositors. Since SEBI has been given wide powers of investigation, prosecution and regulate collection of funds under the amended Act, it has issued directions to the so-called Chit Fund companies to refund funds so collected within a limited time-frame.

In addition to all these steps, the Finance Ministry has constituted a high level Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) for identifying gaps in the existing regulatory framework for deposit taking activities by these companies.

The coordinating mechanism has been extended to states and each one has set up State Level Coordination Committee (SLCC) for greater coordination between RBI, SEBI and other enforcement agencies.  SLCC had been reconstituted in May, 2014 after Modi came to power to ensure regular participation of senior functionaries and to facilitate cohesive and effective information sharing amongst the participants.

The frequency of the meetings has also been increased, which are now being conducted on quarterly intervals as against half-yearly earlier.

Harish Gupta is the National Editor of Lokmat Group

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Time to deliver

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

A 43-year-old woman died after she came under the wheels of a bus while crossing road during the wee hours of the day. Her fault ! She had no toilet at home and was forced to cross the road every morning to use the facility on the other side. Though the incident had taken place in North West Delhi's posh Model Town area where Jhuggi-Jhopris dwellers are a pampered lot due to vote bank politics pursued by parties (be it Congress, Aam Admi Party or the BJP), the news was buried inside in leading newspapers.
The unfortunate death could have been averted had the lone community toilet not been demolished by area lords due to "stench". No amount of protests by hundreds of Jhuppi-jhopriwalas could move the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) under the Delhi government to prevent its demolition. The BJP which is ruling three Municipal Corporations of Delhi didn't move its finger either. The Congress leadership, after losing the plot in Delhi to AAP, is too busy these days with seeking the resignations of Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhararaje Scindia and Shivraj Singh Chouhan. No heart bled for the poor woman despite TV channels running promotional advertisements by Vidya Balan & other celebrities 24X7 at the cost of hundreds of crores of rupees to promote construction of toilets across the country. Rather, the Delhi Police under Thakur Saheb as Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is popularly called, failed to trace the driver of the bus. The Police also was unable to explain as to why it did not intervene in the matter when the community toilet was demolished by the area lords and a complaint was filed with it by the toilet caretaker. The DUSIB which functions directly Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal washed its hands off saying it was not aware that community toilet had been demolished.
If one wants to check the success of Narendra Modi's ambitious Swachh Bharat campaign in the first year of its launch in Delhi, it's certainly a big No. Despite making tall promises, the three MCDs have failed to construct a single toilet as part of the massive cleanliness drive. As Modi's flagship project completes one year on August 15, not a single toilet has been built by the three MCDs. Of course, 112 toilets are under-construction and a proposal to build another 94 is pending. Welcome to achhe din in the capital city of India.
In the sixty weeks since June 1 last year, there is spurt in crime against women in Delhi with 6 rapes and 13 molestations per day taking place. Women are particularly insecure. Single women are hardly to be seen at public places in the evening. And equally unsafe are the children; among 53 mega-cities, the National Capital Region has been regarded as the most unsafe for children. Not that Delhi was ever quite a law abiding city, but the spike in crime during the past one year is perplexing. The police say it is due to increased awareness and online registration of FIRs that more cases are being reported. That may be partly correct but the absence of authority or a power struggle in Delhi is visible, never experienced earlier.
One only wonders how it can happen in the Capital which has the distinction of having a Prime Minister who is workaholic, hardly sleeps, a hard task-master and whose dictum is minimum government, maximum governance. His men are chosen on the basis of performance and he is a result oriented no-nonsense person.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is a Prime Minister in waiting and willing to wait. He fought for the CM's post as stridently as Modi fought within and outside his own party for the PM's. Kejriwal also has to deliver rather than engaging in a daily brawl either with the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi or the Centre.
Rahul Gandhi is also fighting to regain the ground he single-handedly lost after back-seat driving with his mother for ten long years. After the Congress was routed and reduced to a mere 44 MPs in the Lok Sabha, he is banking on the dwindling lung power and hoping for a miracle. And why not. When his uncle late Sanjay Gandhi could perform this feat in 1980 when he dislodged the Janata Party government within three years of coming to power in the post- Emergency era General Elections, why can't he four decades later.

Gone are the days when the BJP was a collective enterprise... 
Modi faced last year's poll independent of the party.
 Kejriwal is also a practitioner of 'party-less election'.
However, in the melee of bitter power struggle, the Delhite is suffering and so is country's image. Modi is the Chief Executive Officer of the country including Delhi which is a Union Territory, is his responsibility.
Gone are the days when the BJP was a collective enterprise with every member or supporter offering his input. Modi faced last year's poll independent of the party and said so clearly in his first address to the MPs in the Central Hall of Parliament as well.
He changed the rule of the game. He won all State Assemblies, be it Haryana, Maharashtra or Jharkhand seeking votes in his name. He fumbled in Delhi for some strange reasons by projecting Kiran Bedi, a rank-outsider, as Chief Ministerial candidate and paid the price. Perhaps, he failed to realize that Arvind Kejriwal is the most consistent practitioner of the rising cult of  'part-less election' too.

AAP is not much of a political party in the old sense. It has no 'bhavan',  unlike Congress or BJP. Except Kejriwal's, its other faces flit in and out of the party when they please, the departure of handsome, and raucous, Shazia Ilmi, Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan etc. AAP is a Kejriwal show all the way.

Modi and Kejriwal fought elections as individuals. If they have worn garlands on their shoulder, they should be ready for egg on their face if Delhi remains what it is today.
(The author is National Editor, Lokmat group)