Monday, November 30, 2015

Rahul wants Bihar type alliance with Mamata

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Makes an offer to TMC

Harish Gupta
New Delhi, Nov. 29:

Desirous to create Bihar-type Mahagathbandhan against the BJP in West Bengal, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi established a direct contact with TMC chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.While the first round of informal talks took place at the Patna Airport when Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee were waiting to board their respective flights to return to Delhi and Kolkata respectively in their special aircraft.

Highly placed sources say that Rahul Gandhi took the initiative to walk up to Mamata Banerjee and the one-to-one meeting continued for more than 20 minutes.What transpired between the two was immediately known then. Since both of them had gone to Patna to attend Nitish Kumar's swearing-in-ceremony and had bumped into each other at the podium as well, not much significance was attached to it then.It has not surfaced that Rahul Gandhi made an upfront offer to Mamata Banerjee that Congress is willing to settle for anywhere between 55-65 Assembly seats in West Bengal going to polls in May 2016. 

The Congress has 40 MLAs in a House of 294 and had secured second position in 25-odd constituencies in 2011 Assembly polls.
Rahul Gandhi is so keen to create Mahagathbandhan against the BJP that he is even willing to concede more seats to the TMC. Mamata Banerjee was taken by complete surprise when Rahul Gandhi made this upfront offer. She is reported to have told Gandhi that she would revert to him on the issue after discussing it within the party forum. 

Since Mamata Banerjee is expected to visit Delhi on December 7 to attend the marriage of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's daughter, she may meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi as well. Though the purpose of her visit is to seek central funds for various projects, she cannot have any truck with the BJP in West Bengal. 

The Modi government requires the support of her 33 MPs in Lok Sabha and 11 in the Rajya Sabha. Though Rahul Gandhi has a good personal rapport with CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, the Congress has not enter into any electoral understanding with the CPM. The two are contesting against each other in Kerala in May 2016 Assembly polls. Therefore, there can be no electoral understanding in West Bengal.  Rahul Gandhi's unilateral offer to Mamata Banerjee is a tactical move so that she doesn't go with the BJP in Parliament or outside. The Congress' vote bank is dwindling by the day and an electoral understanding may help in containing the slide.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Sonia: 3 conditions on GST 'non-negotiable'

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Sonia: 3 conditions on GST 'non-negotiable'

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Nov. 26 :
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday categorically stated that 'three issues' raised by the party on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill were 'non-negotiable.'

She came along with her son Rahul Gandhi in the Central Hall of Parliament and talked informally to a group of journalists. When asked if there was a possibility of any negotiations with the ruling NDA on the GST bill, she shot back, "we are willing to talk. But three issues are non-negotiable." 

Rahul Gandhi joined the issue and listed three issues: 1 percent tax for manufacturing states, Cap of 18 percent for GST rate and an independent dispute resolution mechanism for GST. The two leaders did not agree with the claim of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley that he had spoken to every Congress leader on GST. "He called on us separately to give us his daughter"s wedding invitation. It was a personal call," the Gandhis told journalists.

The two leaders did not agree with the claim of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
 that he had spoken to every Congress leader on GST.

However, they hinted that scope of talks exist. But "Unless the government responds, we will not compromise." Mr Gandhi reiterated what he said yesterday in response to questions about his party blocking the reform. He said, "Do we want the GST? Are we ready to compromise on GST? Are we ready to talk on GST? Absolutely. Are we going to accept just being thrown aside, no."

The two leaders did not agree with the claim of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley that he had spoken to every Congress leader on GST.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

PM opens doors for talks with Congress

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Winter session of Parliament begins today
Rahul lists 3 conditions for GST Bill
GST may come up for debate after Dec. 7

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Nov. 25 :
Uncertainty hinges on the passage of the GST Bill during the Winter session despite the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's willingness to talk to the Opposition parties and Opposition throwing a broad hint not to disrupt the Parliament this time.

It is clear that a resurgent Congress is playing a hard ball on the GST Bill and the ruling NDA unwilling to dilute its crucial clauses.The PM rather deputed Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkiah Naidu to talk to the Opposition leaders on the GST bill as he is keen that the Bill is passed this session. 

But a clue of hardening of attitude was given by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi in Bengaluru today who said, "We have differences on three clauses of the GST Bill with the Government." Though he did not elaborate these three clauses, he hit out at the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi saying that the democracy is all about the discussion. "But our present PM has not done it (Called the Congress) even once."

The Congress wants that the GST regime should clearly spell out the percentage of taxation be fixed (18% at present. The Congress also wants abolition of provision of additional tax of one per cent that will be assigned to the states and clearly spell out dispute resolution mechanism. Rahul Gandhi told his party leaders in Parliament that the party can't accept a GST regime which doesn't have a Cap. No unlimited taxation can be allowed."

But one thing is clearly emerging that the ruling NDA and the Opposition will hold discussions on GST and other issues during this session. In all probability, the GST bill come up for discussion after December 7. The PM is leaving for Paris on November 29 and will return on December 2 while Arun Jaitley will be busy with the marriage functions of his daughter during December 5-7. During this intervening period the differences may be thrashed out, sources say. Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram tweeted today that the government is going for a confrontation with the Opposition on the GST Bill quoting Jaitley"s speech yesterday at Assochem. But it seems clear that Congress would insist on a discussion and vote in the Rajya Sabha rather than disrupting the House.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Parliament: The coming gridlock

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

With winter session of the Parliament a couple of days away, everyone who has a stake in the national economy — be it as job seeker or investor — is keeping his fingers crossed for the long-awaited clearance of a slew of pro-reform bills. There is little hope, though, that what the BJP-majority Lok Sabha proposes will not be disposed as before in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling party is in utter minority. However, one must be a daring gambler to place bet on even a temporary truce between the treasury benches and the opposition any time soon, if at all. "Reform for me", tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, "is just a way station on the long journey to the destination. The destination is the transformation of India". While it remains unclear as to how does he intend to transform India, and into what, one thing that is clear is the rising disenchantment in the country with Modi's last year's election promise that achhe din, better days, are round the corner. The engine that moves a democratic government is the Parliament has predictably been brought to a grinding halt.

The previous monsoon session was indeed a wash-out in the midst of persistent demand from the Congress for resignation of BJP functionaries involved in the government allegedly winking at fugitive cricket entrepreneur Lalit Modi evading prosecution in India. The outlook of the coming session seems no better. Most opposition parties, particularly the Congress, have been greatly energised by the BJP's rout in Bihar. Their agenda for the Parliament has been set by the outcry against "intolerance". Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi seems having become particularly aggressive after his party's nominal electoral success in Bihar. BJP, on the other hand, has kept escalating its attack on the Congress, with its ideological brother Subramaniam Swamy having initiated a web of corruption charges against both Rahul and his mother Sonia Gandhi, Congress president. It is certainly not the atmosphere suited to bipartisan lawmaking. Which is a pity, as it will push away once again the possibility of having a Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Much of India's future ability to attract investment depends on having a law like GST as it levels the states' uneven tax rates, thus giving the national economy the tax uniformity that distinguishes the European Union. The GST council may settle for a steep rate of around 25 per cent, which is potentially inflationary, and yet exclude items like petrol and petroleum products, not to speak of alcoholic beverages etc. Still, a GST in some form is better than having none. But that's exactly how things seem to be now poised. After having opposed GST during its long stint as the main opposition party, BJP, on assuming power, suddenly turned its supporter. But instead of putting the relevant Constitution amendment before the Standing Committee, the Modi government got it passed straight in the lower House. Congress and its allies returned the compliment by blocking it in the Rajya Sabha.

Furthermore, logjam in the Parliament may put in the no-go area yet another crucial legislation concerning bankruptcy. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is hopeful of putting into effect a new law that may set a swift deadline of 180 days for passing final verdict on a sick firm and allow it another 90 days if creditors agree. According to a World Bank estimate, it takes 4.3 years on an average for a bankruptcy dispute to be resolved in India. In a recent article, The Economist magazine reported that the recovery rate of debts in India is just about 25.7 per cent which, as it said, is one of the worst rates in developing countries. The classic case of mega-default is Kingfisher Airlines which was grounded in 2012 after leaving a debt of US $1.5 billion. If the law is passed, many sick firms can be revived instead of being left to die slowly. Besides, the banking sector, reeling under stressed loans which have gone up five times to US $133 billion since 2011, can also breathe freely.

It is not that the economy is growing so impressively that the government can remain unfazed by the parliamentary gridlock faced by its efforts at reform. It's not so easy to look the other way. RBI governor Raghuram Rajan has recently commented on the potential harm from lack of private and public investment, and if the government has no fund to raise investment, the private firms too are running 30 per cent below capacity. Judging from Prime Minister Modi's relentless foreign visits, it is obvious that he wants to make up for the shortfall in domestic investment with foreign investment. It worked in the first half of this year, with US $19.4 billion FDI rolling in during the period. But the roadblock to pass laws has hit the headlines all over, and investors have become cautious. For the first time since September 2013,  when Modi’s name was aired for the first time as a possible PM and foreign institutional investors began to buy Indian stocks, there was no net outgo of foreign fund from the Indian bourses, till very recently. A possible increase in the US Fed rate, combined with failure of the NDA government to pass GST and bankruptcy laws, may cause bloodbath in the stock market, not to speak of its bizarre backwash on the economy.

There is not much time left, therefore, for Modi’s grandiose project to “transform” India. The more urgent task for him is to stop thinking that the Opposition can be bullied into submission. Instead, he must instill into his adversaries the comforting feeling that they will get an equal share of credit if jobs and investment figures begin to look decent again and growth comes automatically instead of being puffed up with slick numbers. If a pragmatic Modi can adopt Aadhar, MANREGA and other UPA schemes, what’s the problem in taking the Opposition along the GST, Bankruptcy law to transform India.

Monday, November 23, 2015

PMO plays tough, another min gets jolt

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Exclusive Report

A Cabinet minister is normally entitled to appoint 15 officers including PS, OSD and those on other ranks. Since Chaudhary Birender Singh holds the charge of three more departments, he can appoint a personal staff of 28 persons.

 Birender Singh loses two OSDs
New transfer policy for private secretaries too

Harish Gupta
New Delhi, Nov 22: 

The Prime Minister's Office continues to play tough when it comes to hiring the private secretaries (PS) or Officers on Special Duty (OSDs) or personal staff of the ministers in the government. Even after 18 months into the office, the ministers in the NDA government are still struggling to find personal staff "acceptable" to the PMO. 

The latest shocker came to Union rural development minister Chaudhary Birender Singh who was told by the PMO that the appointments of two OSDs cannot be approved. Incidentally, one of the two OSDs was functioning in with the minister for the past 10 months. His file was sent for approval to the PMO immediately after being appointed 10 months ago. But the PMO rejected it now. Since he is a retired IRS officer, he was drawing his pension and doesn't suffer financially. But the other OSD is an advocate and politically close to the minister.

A Cabinet minister is normally entitled to appoint 15 officers including PS, OSD and those on other ranks. Since Chaudhary Birender Singh holds the charge of three more departments, he can appoint a personal staff of 28 persons. Birender Singh was reportedly upset with the decision and reported to have taken up the issue with the PMO as well. But to no avail. It may be mentioned that even Union home minister Rajnath Singh, HRD minister Smriti Irani, minority affairs minister Najma Heptualla, consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan and a couple of others were not allowed to retain the officers of their choice. Rajnath Singh's officer was repatriated prematurely while Smriti Irani's OSD was given marching orders after he worked for 10 months.

A highly placed source in the PMO explained that the appointment of private persons in the ministerial staff is closely scrutinized at various levels in the revenue, home, IB, RAW & other departments. The ministers may appoint some of their favourites in their personal staff. But certain persons are not found fit after the inquiry and proposals are rejected. 

The PMO had conveyed to the ministers last year that no sanction will be granted to the person for appointment if he had worked during the UPA regime or for that matter in the United Front governments. Earlier, even lower rank staff members were not allowed to join. But this rule was relaxed.

Even on Friday last (November 20), the Department of Personnel under the PMO issued fresh guidelines with regard to Rotational Transfer Policy (RTP) for private secretaries belonging to the Central Secretariat Services. The PMO wants that duration of PS' working in various ministries and departments be for a fixed tenure and they must be rotated. The continuance of an officer for a longer duration in the same ministry and the same department is not considered appropriate by the present dispensation. All departments have been directed to submit details by the end of this month about such private secretaries working with them. 


Monday, November 16, 2015

The Shah of Blah

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

There is a popular belief that RSS, which is at the core of the saffron brotherhood now in power, was successfully put on the back burner by Atal Behari Vajpayee, India's first Prime Minister from BJP, while his successor Narendra Modi is so much an RSS insider that making extra efforts to drive him along the assigned ideological path is like preaching to the choir.

The notion is not entirely correct. It is true that Vajpayee was noticeably free from the dogmas that RSS is famous for, but he too had to occasionally stand up to pressure from K.S.Sudarshan, the purist sarsanghchalak during most part of his years as PM. In 1998, on the eve of Vajpayee being sworn in, Sudarshan arrived at his door with the request to keep out of cabinet two men: Jaswant Singh and Pramod Mahajan. Vajpayee buckled. But only temporarily and later both were rewarded handsomely with lucrative posts in the Cabinet. On the other hand, Modi is regarded as a picture of compliance. After becoming Prime Minister in 2014 May, he was open to accepting an entire crew groomed in the Sangh's two institutes, Vivekanada International Foundation (VIF) and India Foundation (IF)—ranging from principal secretary to PM Nripendra Mishra and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to a battery of ministers. It was at the Sangh's prodding that Mahesh Sharma, a trusted ideologue (he heads the influential Deen Dayal Upadhyay research cell), was given three portfolios including the culture. Last year, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat merely informed Modi that his favourite Krishna Gopal would replace Suresh Soni as the Sangh's coordinating official with BJP.

Modi may have obeyed the RSS' "suggestions" on appointment of ministers & governors but thousands of RSS and its affiliate organizations are still waiting in the wings to be accommodated in posts open to social workers/politicians/experts/professionals. This was despite the fact that Bhagwat accepted Modi's request that his Man-Friday Amit Shah be made the party president. But the RSS is finding it quite ridiculous that the Modi government is sliding down the slippery slope on most matters—be it the economy or elections—despite there being no shortage of ministers and officials trained in its approved institutes. It failed to learn any lesson from the party's Delhi debacle and got another humiliating defeat in Bihar.

The RSS is now caught in a tricky situation. It of course cannot let the party's downslide continue, but it cannot be confrontational with Modi or his team in the manner that Sudarshan often got with Vajpayee. Sudarshan used Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) to put roadblocks on the government's efforts to attract FDI. It is rumoured that Duttopant Thengadi of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), a long-time critic of Vajpayee, was unleashed to scupper the sale of loss-making public sector units. Vajpayee, the outsider, had to be broken in. But Modi thinks and acts like everyone in the RSS; he has got the traits in his DNA. 

Besides, Modi was brought into the race for PM's post after a long deliberation in the RSS, with many feathers ruffled, including that of L.K.Advani, the octogenarian former deputy prime minister. After the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, when Vajpayee was determined to sack Modi as chief minister, it was RSS' diktat, communicated through Advani, that helped him retain his job. But RSS had a different chief in 2013, when the choice of Modi as PM candidate was made. It so enraged Advani that he resigned from the party's parliamentary board, though Bhagwat persuaded him to withdraw it the next day.

The trouble with Modi is that he has acted independently for far too long. In the process, he has lost the team spirit which is the hallmark of the Sangh. He is now given to act after hearing his close aides, and nobody else. Bhagwat was obviously feeling the necessity to make Modi listen, which is perhaps the reason why Soni, known for his closeness to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and fondness for Modi, had to be replaced by Krishna Gopal, a loyalist from Mathura. But the coordinator's post is of too modest a height to speak into the ears of a poplar like Modi. It calls for someone senior and deft, like former party president Nitin Gadkari, for that matter. In short, RSS feels the need to disabuse Modi of his rather presidential self-image, without denting his self-esteem in any way. Despite his government getting rather wobbly, Modi's personal image is at the high noon, as evident in the reception he got in London last week and the public applause for his spell-binding speech at the British parliament. He continues to remain the most popular leader.

Since RSS has abiding faith in Modi's leadership quality, it can communicate to him discreetly, through a party president of its choice. Election in the party is due early next year or may be delayed by a few months due to Assembly polls in 5 states in May-June. But Shah’s days of glory are drawing to a close. It is also the time for him to reflect on his own role in the party’s electoral decline. Though BJP elects its office-bearers as per the rules of the Election Commission, it is well known that the party’s president is hand-picked by RSS, his ‘election’ being merely rationalization after event. Bhagwat, a pragmatist, is known to have agreed on Shah at Gadkari’s request last year. Be that as it may, it was clearly RSS’s way of keeping the new leader, Modi, in good humour as Shah didn’t have a strong qualification except being Modi’s Man Friday.

Nor can Bhagwat let this opportunity go. Two rounds of internal deliberations in the RSS have already taken place, and the time has arrived for surgery, not mere course correction. A large number of states are going to poll in 2016-17, which will set the stage for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Bhagwat surely has a comprehensive list ready of the new personnel who would take charge of the party and the government in the new year. But his obvious priority is to identify a party president who can talk to the Prime Minister like an equal, not as an obedient factotum.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Shah faces Sangh Parivar heat

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Exclusive Report 
"Nobody contacted me… I am happy in my ministries," BJP leader tells Lokmat Times
Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Nov. 12 :
Notwithstanding the assertions made by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh that Amit Shah will continue for next two terms as the BJP president, search has begun to select a new party chief in December-January itself. 

Highly placed sources in the RSS, the mother organization of the BJP, has signaled that "course correction" is the need of the hour as no lessons were learnt by the BJP leadership under Amit Shah after the humiliating defeat in January this year during the Delhi Assembly polls. 

Before leaving Delhi, the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, reportedly gave a dressing down to Amit Shah for his failure in Bihar for the party's worst-defeat and for creating an opportunity to unify the Opposition parties against the BJP.

Though Rajnath Singh who held a long meeting with Mohan Bhagwat a day earlier, denied that he was in the reckoning for the party post, sources close to him say that he frankly told the RSS chief that he wants to return to the party. Rajnath Singh may have asserted that Shah will be re-elected for full three year term in Dec-Jan. But none in the Sangh Parivar is willing for his continuance. It would be pertinent to mention that Rajnath Singh was the party president in May, 2014 when it won 282 Lok Sabha seats. 

He wanted to continue as BJP chief. But the Prime Minister Narendra Modi insisted that he be brought in as Home Minister and Amit Shah be rewarded for winning 73 Lok Sabha seats in UP. The RSS buckled and agreed for Shah whose gamble paid off in Maharashtra, Jharkhand & Haryana. But in all these states, the Opposition parties were a divided lot and the BJP benefited.

After the Delhi & Bihar debacle, the RSS doesn't want to take chances as NDA has already ruled for 18 months and trust of the workers and voters has to be regained. 

These sources say Surface Transport & Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari tops the list of probables for the next BJP president's post. Gadkari was party president in 2012 when he had to quit mid-way in an unsavory manner when media reported an Income-Tax raids on his Purti group of companies. Rajnath Singh was brought in as an interim president. Later, it turned out that there were no raids on Gadkari's companies. But the damage had been done. The Sangh Parivar also feels that Prime Minister and party president should not belong to the same state and it had made an exception at the explicit request of BJP leadership after the government was formed. Now a change of guard is the need of the hour and a more pleasant, acceptable and accommodative leader is required who can take the workers along.

Therefore, Gadkari fits into this scenario prevailing within the BJP and the Sangh Parivar. But he stoutly denies he is either in the reckoning or keen to become the party president. When Lokmat Times contacted him over the phone, he said, "Nobody has contacted me and nor I am interested..(to become the party president). I am very happy with what I am doing in my ministries…. focused on building highways and infrastructure development."

However, sources in the Parivar say that there is none in the party who can infuse confidence. Health Minister J P Nadda could have been stop gap arrangement in 2014. But certainly not in 2017 when the General Elections won't be very far away.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Can Maya do a Nitish in UP

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

If the Bihar election outcome this week has a message cutting across states and regions through decades of politics, it is that the country's fabled diversity is actually a fusion bomb of sorts. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP committed the worst blunder since their May 2014 victory as they got oblivious of the fact that they'd swept Bihar in the Lok Sabha poll because the enemies were divided. It was different this time, with Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav re-forging their alliance with Congress in toe. Their union this year was BJP's nemesis. What is true of Bihar is true of the country down the ages. The former Janata Party could topple the mighty Congress under Indira Gandhi in 1977 because all opposition parties, big or small, leftist or rightist, could be put under a single umbrella at the initiative of the late Jaya Prakash Narayan.

I am not sure who deserves most "credit" for uniting the opposition to BJP in Bihar this time round. Is it due to the party's sub-soil of bigotry and arrogance that it cannot hide behind the curtain of development promises, like sabka saath sabka vikas? Is it because BJP as a party is not a quick thinker as its strategy is based on logistics—60000 party workers deployed in Bihar and 40 ministers—and not on ideas? Is it because BJP is losing grip over its talkative fringe elements ? It is possible that all these factors have contributed to the dramatic re-election of Nitish Kumar in Bihar. But the fusion bomb that blew on Modi would not have been critical if it lacked a core, a credible face, in Nitish Kumar. Pollsters have noted the effortless transfer of votes among RJD, JD(U) and Congress that marked the Bihar election. One doubts if it were to happen without the announcement being made beforehand of Nitish Kumar as the coalition's candidate for the post of chief minister. On the other hand, BJP lost many assembly segments where it had won last year because the people were not sure who'd be the party's nominee as chief minister. Lesson: Modi's franchisee model is way past its use-by date.

Though there are many states which will go to polls during the next two years including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Goa, Uttrakhand, etc. But none is likely to impact the national political scene as much as UP will. Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalitha surely will impact the national political scene. But they themselves are unlikely to move to the centre to play a lead role. A win for the Left in Kerala may weaken the Congress further and it will be music to the ears of Mamata and Jaya. But the real test of Modi will come when the election for the President and Vice President of India takes place in July 2017. It will become more difficult for the Modi government to win these polls if the BJP continues to lose one state after the other.

Therefore, it's the Assembly polls in UP that will be crucial in evolving Opposition politics. Like Nitish Kumar has emerged as the face of Bihar assembly election of 2015, that of Uttar Pradesh in 2017 may be Mayawati, a woman of exceptional administrative competence. She temporarily lost her buoyancy towards the close of her last term as chief minister (2005-12) largely due to intrigues by the UPA at the Centre. Uttar Pradesh is a bellwether state as its electoral outcome will set the stage for general election due in 2019.

Though Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is defined by its caste identity, she has in the past succeeded winning upper castes, intermediate castes and Muslims. In ideal circumstances, UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, could be the pivot of anti-BJP votes in the state. But the Yadav family has shot itself in the foot by betraying the Nitish-Lalu-Congress coalition in Bihar.

After being offered the leadership (president and chairman of the parliamentary board) of several socialist parties (JD (U), RJD etc) under the Samajwadi Party's banner and symbol, and accepting it, Mulayan Singh took 180-degree turn. He suddenly walked out and as if this was not enough, he formed a six party front of his own and put up candidates across Bihar. Mulayam is regarded as a closet ally of BJP and a suspect now. SP's popularity in the state is also at an all-time low, bringing the present regime the popular sobriquet of "goonda raj".

By 2017, therefore, there may not remain so much of SP as to tip the scale either way. On the other hand, it can be a gigantic phalanx of anti-BJP castes and religions in a state of 199 million people (2011 census), which could be the sixth largest if it were a country. The state is also among the top five SC-inhabited ones, with 20 per cent SC population, a factor which is again weighed heavily in favour of Mayawati emerging as the natural leader of a new formation. However, population shares matter little for leadership but what counts are people's memories of past leaders and how they compare with the present lot. Mayawati shines against the Mulayam Singh’s 2002 SP government and is remembered as a moderniser who did her best to turn around the problem-ridden state.

There are two things that Mayawati needs to do to regain her key position in 2017. First, she has to work on a broad social coalition. Besides, she must do an image makeover of herself, a Mayawati 2.0, who is caste conscious but not casteist and avoids all caste-based slurs, like “Manuvadi”. BJP has lost the plot because of its lack of faith in equality of man. Uttar Pradesh is waiting for a new Mayawati who sees all human being including upper caste Hindus as equal.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bhagwat takes Shah to task for Bihar drubbing

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Bhagwat takes Shah to task for Bihar drubbing

BJP douses fire; allies, party MP attack RSS chief too

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Nov. 9

The BJP high command tried to douse fire today as the knives are out within the 'Sangh Parivar' after drubbing in Bihar. The marathon meeting of the BJP's Parliamentary Board rather became a tame affair as it did not even 'discuss' taking action against erring leaders like Shatrughan Sinha and R K Singh.

On the contrary, the party had to come out in defence of the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat whose statement on reservations has enraged the BJP's allies. Be it Jitan Ram Manjhi (HAM), Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP), Anupriya Patel (Apna Dal) or BJP's own senior party leader Hukumdev Narayan Yadav, all of them publicly criticized Bhagwat for his statement on reservation.

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley put up a stout defence of Bhagwat obliquely by saying that no single statement by any leader could affect the outcome of the Bihar election. He said the die had been cast in Bihar when the three parties - JD(U), RJD and Congress - came together. They had contested in 2014 separately and lost miserably. "This time, they came together and the party lost and this was the biggest reason of the defeat," he asserted.

He also dismissed the suggestions by some that party chief Amit Shah should resign saying, " We have won four state assemblies. We have gained elsewhere in the country." It looked like the BJP leadership is trying hard to buy peace with the party dissidents and hold its horses.

The Parliamentary Board's meeting held at the residence of Amit Shah, was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and all its 12 members. Though Union minister for water resources Uma Bharti and senior leader Murlidhar Rao wanted swift action against Shatrughan Sinha and party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya who used 'dog' analogy for Shatrughan Singh, creating a ruckus. But it became clear that the party is in no mood to bell the cat when the Prime Minister is busy during the whole month with foreign visits. He leaves for UK and Turkey on November 12 night and goes to Singapore and Malaysia on November 21 and then to Paris on November 30.

In between the Parliament session will begin on November 26. Therefore, it is unlikely that there will be any Cabinet reshuffle before the Parliament session or organisational changes either. Mohan Bhagwat camped in Delhi and met Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Amit Shah, Ravi Shankar Prasad and other ministers to take first hand review of the political situation. Party sources say that Bhagwat was angry as to why the BJP leaders failed to clarify his statement on reservations which was misconstrued and exploited by the Opposition parties.