Saturday, December 30, 2017

Fly on the wall : Modi looking for new Agri Minister !

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Harish Gupta 

Modi looking for new Agri Minister !

Farmer is the flavour in the Modi dispensation these days. Be it Commerce Ministry or the Finance or Science & Technology, Modi wants to hear only about the farmers. After the Gujrat poll outcome, the Prime Minister wants to send a clear signal that his government is committed to farmers and government is committed to their well being. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is holding series of meetings with the farm groups and experts. The commerce ministry has imposed hefty import duty on agri products to help the Indian farmers. The Finance ministry is working over time to make announcements in the Union Budget for the benefit of the farming community. The focus will be on states where such packages will help the party more. Since this will be the last full Budget of the Modi government before the next General Elections, it will be an “agri budget”. If sources are to be believed, Modi is keen to have a new Agriculture Minister. Though there is nothing against Radha Mohan Singh who is holding the fort at Krishi Bhawan for the past four years uninterrupted. But Modi is looking for a new face who symbolises farmer. One suggestion is that let the PM keep the Agriculture portfolio with him until the next General Elections and Radha Mohan Singh be shifted to another ministry.

Kanimozhi to contest Lok Sabha

Kanimozhi who was acquitted by the CBI court in the 2G case, is beaming with joy and new found fan mail across Tamil Nadu and elsewhere. Buoyed by the fan mail, Kanimozhi now wants to contest Lok Sabha polls during the 2019 parliamentary elections. If sources are to be believed, her step-brother and DMK leader M K Stalin has given the green signal. It has been decided as part of the family deal that Stalin will stay put in domestic affairs while she will handle the national affairs in Delhi. M K Alagiri, the elder brother violated this principle and dabbled in internal affairs of Tamil Nadu and had to eat the humble pie.

How BJP made Nitish Kumar to change tune

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had declared he will put up candidates in Gujrat Assembly polls. Though Janata Dal (U) had hardly any vote bank in Gujrat after Chhotubhai Vasava parted company with Nitish Kumar. But Nitish wanted to stay neutral by fielding candidates. Intermediaries were sent to Nitish Kumar not to field candidates as every vote was important for the BJP. But Nitish Kumar was unmoved. Within hours, Jharkhand CM Raghuvar Das slammed Nitish for his prohibition policy and alleged liquor bottles are delivered at homes and pimps and brokers are making a killing in Bihar. As if this was not enough Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh attacked Nitish Kumar for his performance on the agriculture front. Radha Mohan Singh said Bihar is at the bottom of ranking of states in agriculture. Nitish Kumar did the summer-salt and JD (U)'s candidates were left high & dry.

The PM's Eagle Eye on Babus

Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be a tough administrator and officers are always terrorized. But a recent Demi-Official note gave a clue that bureaucrats are a tough nuts and take stern warnings in their stride. The Department of Personnel under the PM said “numerous instances” have to come to its notice that several officers have “over-stayed” in states without its permission. The PMO was shocked to discover that a large number of officers have been sitting pretty in states despite their tenure had ended. The PMO “viewed these violations seriously” and warned punitive action against these officers. The DOPT has made it clear that in the event of overstays of these officers, the period of over-stay shall not be counted when pension is fixed. It means that if the officer served an extra year in the state without permission, the period will not be counted service period. An angry DOPT also issued the sermon that any increment during the period of overstay will not be calculated till that date on which the officer rejoins in his parent cadre. The DOPT has directed the Accountant General of the States to stop payment  of salary to the officer beyond approved period of stay. The PMO/DOPT has also warned that any over-stay beyond approved period of deputation without prior approval of the Central Government shall lead to an adverse impact on the prospects of the officer at the time of the impalement.

Mamata's dream project

TMC Supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is working hard to expand her party's support base, quietly. The Fly learns Mamata herself is in contention for the Prime Minister's post as the leader of the third front parties like Biju Janata Dal, DMK, Samajwadi Party, TRS, Aam Aadmi Party and other smaller parties. She thinks the no single party can get a majority in 2019 and it will be an open game. The Congress will be far behind from the magic figure of 272 and the BJP under Modi won't get allies if the party fails to get the numbers. She is working hard to improve her tally of 34 seats in the Lok sabha and concentrating on another 40 seats outside West Bengal. If she is able to get 50 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 she hopes to be a key player if not a strong contender for the top post in Delhi. She dispatched Dinesh Trivedi, TMC Lok Sabha MP, to Akola to lend support to Yashwant Sinha and farmers's agitation. Derek O'brian is busy talking to smaller parties. She is talking to Babulal Marandi in Jharkhand. Nothing wrong in day dreaming as Mamata tried the same in 2014 with Mulayam Singh Yadav and failed miserably.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Fly on the Wall : Worry behind the big hype

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Fly on the Wall

By Harish Gupta

Worry behind the big hype

If Rahul Gandhi was seen in his new avatar long before the Assembly polls, Prime Minister Modi is also showing the signs of change after the Gujrat results. The BJP may be celebrating 1.25% gain in its vote share to hide behind the loss of 16 Assembly seats. But Modi has woken up to the tough road ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Gone are the days when he used to issue sermons to Mps and at times snubbed them left, right and center. Now his tone is conciliatory and he is meeting Mps in his Parliament House in numbers. Any M P can walk in if the PM is sitting in his chamber during the session and there are chances that the PM will meet him. Though he explained to Mps at the BJP parliamentary party meeting that he is virtually working 24X7 and traveled to 15 states after ending his hurricane campaigning in Gujrat on December 12. But he requested them to work hard rather issuing one sermon after the other which he used to do in the past. Modi has also asked his ministers to meet desiring Mps and solve grievances of the workers without delay. Though the “arrogance” has not vanished of some of the leaders, but they have realised that its time to mend fences to prevent dissidence.

Sharad Yadav as UPA Convener ?

The Congress may be bragging victory in its defeat in Gujrat. But the grand-old party is also gearing up to the challenges ahead. Contrary to reports, there is no question of Sonia Gandhi retiring from politics. Rather, she will be playing a more active role in reviving the now defunct United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in some new avatar. Sonia Gandhi continues to be the chairman of the UPA. However, it now transpires that a convener will be chosen from the other parties to play the role of a catalyst. A veteran Opposition leader Sharad Yadav's name has emerged as the convener of the UPA. Neither UPA-I nor UPA-II had any convener. But it is now realized that a convener is necessary from within the Opposition ranks who understands them better. Sharad Yadav is rated very high in the Gandhi dispensation as he sacrificed the minister's post in the Modi government and stood his grounds. The Congress is also keen that he is brought to the Rajya Sabha. Congress president Rahul Gandhi is now glued to the caste politics in India and who will know better than Yadav who was behind the Mandal Commission politics.

Congress lost 12 seats, thanks to NCP, BSP

The blame game between the Congress and NCP leadership has turned bitter for the collapse of alliance in Gujrat. Sonia Gandhi's Political Adviser Ahmad Patel claims the NCP wanted 24 seats initially when the talks broke down. Later, NCP's Praful Patel signaled to Ashok Gehlot that the party would be contended if given 12 seats. The Congress offered six seats to the NCP which it was unable to accept. When the contact was re-established, the deadline for withdrawal of nomination papers had gone. Frankly, neither the Congress and nor the NCP were keen for an alliance. Similarly, the BSP was also willing for an alliance with the Congress provided 25 seats are given to it. The Congress refused to even consider the proposal and the BSP also contested polls alone. Both the parties barely secured 3.91 lakh votes (1.3%). But both cost the Congress dearly as they caused a loss of 12 Assembly seats. The margin of BJP's victory in these 12 seats was less than 2000 votes each while candidates of these two parties polled more votes. Congress alleges that the two parties never wanted an alliance and were playing a game. Both parties vehemently deny and say if the Congress wanted to win the state, it should have behaved like a big brother.

When Amit Shah touched Dr Joshi's feet

The Central Hall of Parliament was stunned when BJP president Amit Shah touched the feet of veteran party leader Dr Murli Manohar Joshi. It so happened that Amit Shah who is a new entrant to the Rajya Sabha, came to the Central Hall. While going over to the Lok Sabha from the Rajya Sabha, he saw Dr Joshi sitting. Shah went up to him and touched his feet. Dr Joshi gave him the “aashirwad.” No politics was discussed. There is a speculation about the room to be allocated to the BJP chief in the Parliament House. The BJP either will have to re-design the two rooms it has been allocated on the ground floor to accommodate Shah or the party chief will have to be contended by sharing room with L K Advani who has an independent room and practically has no work.

Dhumal, Anandiben as Governor as Malhotra gets MoS rank

With the BJP's founder and 90-year old Vijay Kumar Malhotra who has been in political wilderness like many others for the past 44 months, being given the Minister of State rank, it is clear that he will not go as Governor. Initially Malhotra was offered a Governor's post but he put a condition that he be sent to Punjab. Modi refused and Malhotra went into political wilderness. Now Modi bestowed upon him a favour by granting a private secretaryto him as he is holding the rank of a Minister of State as he is the president of All India Council of Sports. All India Council of Sports is the representative body all sports bodies in the country. It is now clear that Prem Kumar Dhumal of Himachal Pradesh and Anandiben Patel of Gujrat will be sent as Governors. There are at least four vacancies of governors at present and the same will be filled anytime.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Fly on the wall : IBC Code divided the Cabinet, for a change

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

fly on the wall 

IBC Code divided the Cabinet, for a change

For a change, Union Cabinet witnessed some prolonged if not heated discussions when the Insolvency Bankruptcy Code (IBC) Ordinance was brought before it. A couple of Cabinet Ministers felt that if the purpose of the Ordinance is to revive 500 sick companies, it will be rather detrimental. But the Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Arun Jaitley argued that if this Ordinance is brought, then all sick companies will be grabbed by the relatives and friends of those promoters who had looted them for decades. The actual value of these companies is less than 50%. The government wants that new genuine promoters should come forward. Some ministers said the Ordinance is so stringent that there will be no buyers left. When a another senior minister quipped that it would impossible to find such buyers in India, Jaitley said world is looking at India how this government is dealing with corrupt promoters. Another minister pointed out to Jaitley that the money was lent to these companies by the banks and let the banks be given free hand to deal with the situation. Why the government was interfering in the process. At this, Jaitley got irritated but replied in a coll manner that the IBC was evolved only after intense consultations with the bank who are finding themselves unable to deal with the crisis. The willful defaulters are creating all sorts of hurdles in selling these companies after milking them for decades. The government won't allow any relative to buy the sick company of another relative. Prime Minister Modi maintained a complete silence when the debate was going on the Ordinance. The Ordinance was later issued and now set to be challenged.

Sonia to continue as CPP chairman as Rahul cracks whip

Rahul Gandhi has done what none including Sonia Gandhi dared in the past; suspending senior leader of late Rajiv Gandhi era. Manishankar Aiyer who was an IFS, quit his job and joined Rajiv Gandhi and never looked back. He held key positions and often put Dr Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi in trouble for his remarks all these years. But nobody touched him as he was an “uncle” to the Gandhis. Aiyer thought the storm over his “neech” remark will blow over with his “half-hearted regret” and that too with riders. Rahul Gandhi was furious when Aiyer didn't tender unqualified apology as directed and cracked the whip. Though Rahul Gandhi wants to carry the oldies in the party with him and won't reshuffle the pack after assuming office of the Congress president on December 16. But he won't sack anybody. Meanwhile, it is unclear whether Ahmad Patel who is Political Adviser to Congress President (CP) will continue to hold the post. It is clear that Rahul doesn't want political adviser and will rely on the “entire leadership” rather than one individual. It is yet to be seen if Ahmad Patel is made political adviser to the Chairman of the CPP (Congress Parliamentary Party) or not. It is emerging that Sonia Gandhi will continue to be the chairman of the Congress Parliamentary Party until the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Congressmen say that while Sonia Gandhi always avoided taking risks, Rahul Gandhi is no-nonsense kind of a person and by suspending Aiyer, he has sent a signal to senior leaders to keep their tongue under check.

Akola makes Yashwant Sinha a mass leader, BJP worried 

Yashwant Sinha may be in political wilderness and a loner. But over-night, he made the ruling party worried when he landed in Akola in Maharashtra and forced the Fadnavis government to concede all the six demands of the farmers. The tremendous success in a short span of time of the farmers' agitation surprised political class as Sinha was able to mobilise the support of not only local farmers but also West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and other parties looking for a leader worth a salt. She dispatched Dinesh Trivedi and now it transpires that Swabhiman Paskha Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Biju Janata Dal and several others may swim in the troubled waters in BJP ruled states. They have got a leader in Yashwant Sinha who is 80 years plus and working hard to engineer a revolt within the BJP too. Don't dismiss the 80 year old job seeker as he is enjoying a new role of farmers messiah. One will have to wait for some more time how things take shape.

She-Box Zeal takes Maneka no where

Maneka Gandhi launched the a comprehensive She-Box, an online complaint management system for working women to lodge complaints of sexual harassment at work places. This was under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, prohibition and Redressal ) Act which is called the She Act 2013. it was passed during the UPA regime but Maneka has been focusing on its tough implementation ever since she became a minister in 2014. Its an online portal facility and covers even those who have already filed their complaints to the private or government companies or department. The ministry published even a handbook to pretext the dignity and safety of women. The PIB churned out a huge handout of the launching of the She Box on November 7. But shockingly, the same handout with verbatim words was issued by the same ministry on the same subject six months ago, on July 24 to be precise. The Press Information Bureau has both the press releases on its website with a five months gap. The Fly was told that ministers are under so much of pressure from the PMO to show activities relating to their ministries in the media that even when they have no event, they are forced to create an event. Maneka hit upon the idea of recycling press bulletins.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Fly on the Wall : Clamour for pay hike by Governors

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Fly on the Wall 

By Harish Gupta

Clamour for pay hike by Governors

Governors are clamouring for a pay hike and a couple of them who are senior to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even called on him in the regard. They had to cool their heels in Raj Bhawans as they had crossed the 75 year age bar rule. But PM politely told them to meet the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh who is the cadre controlling minister for Governors. Interestingly, C Vidyasagar Rao of Maharashtra and Ram Naik of UP who hails of Maharashtra were the ones who took the lead to meet Rajnath Singh. Three others, ESL Narasimhan (Andhra Pradesh & Telangana), K K Paul (Uttraphand) and S C Jamir (Odisha) who are originally UPA appointees also joined them. It is not know what transpired between Home Minister and the Governors. Fly learns that the PM is not very enthusiastic to raise their salaries. Reason; these veterans not only get salary but also get huge pension as well. All former bureaucrats who are holding Gubernatorial posts draw pension over a lakh and other perks. If they are politicians, they have been members of Parliament or Legislative Assemblies. Therefore, they draw pension for each term they serve as members. For some of the Governors, the MP or MLA pension is more than that of Governor's. The President and Vice President are also waiting for the pay hike as they get less salaries compared to the top bureaucrats. The proposal for enhancement of the salaries of the president, the vice president and the governors was prepared by the Union home ministry and forwarded to the Cabinet Secretariat more than a year ago for the approval of the Union Cabinet. However, no decision has been taken on it yet. At present, the President gets Rs1.50 lakh per month, the vice-president Rs1.25 lakh. After the implementation of the 7th Pay Commission’s awards on 1 January 2016, the cabinet secretary, gets Rs 2.5 lakh per month and a secretary in the Union government draws Rs 2.25 lakh per month.

PMO travel warning to Babus

Tired of repeated violations by the Babus, the Prime Minister's office has issued a directive that no reimbursement be made if they are found violating travel guidelines. The Department of Personnel under the PMO issued a directive to the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a gazette notification saying that the Babus must purchase air tickets directly from airlines (at booking counters/office/website of airlines). They may also buy tickets through three Authorized Agents; M/s Balmer Lawrie & Company Limited (BLCL), M/s Ashok Travels & Tours (ATT) and Indian Railways catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC). The MHA made it clear that no pre-facto relaxation will be given to anybody and that either the air tickets be purchased directly from the airlines or three authorized agents of the government. “Ensure strict compliance of extant guidelines for purchase of air ticket directly from Airlines. Henceforth relaxation on account of ignorance/unawareness of these guidelines will not be considered by this department. In order to tighten the screws, the government said in case of non-availability of authorized agent at a particular place, ticket may be booked from website of Airlines or web portal of Balmer Lawrie & Company Ltd, M/s Ashok Travels & Tour and IRCTC. But no ministry or department will take the services of any other ticketing agent. Even in respect of non-officials members who are on various committees, boards and panels of the concerned Ministry, department or institution, they have to purchase the ticket from authorized travel agent only. It has been made clear that no claim will be settled by the ministry or the department if the tickets are not bought from the authorized agents.

Kamal Nath, Scindia in race for Deputy Leader

The president-elect of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi, may not undertake a major reshuffle in the AICC and continue with the present team. Of course, he will have to induct a couple of leaders in his core team. But he has the most difficult task in hand to select Deputy leader in the Lok Sabha in place of Capt Amrinder Singh. Since Mallikarjun Kharge is the leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, the deputy leader has to be from North or Central India. Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia are in the reckoning. If Scindia is to be sent to Madhya Pradesh as the PCC chief as Assembly polls are due in the state next year, the obvious choice could be Kamal Nath. There is already a talk that Deepender Singh Hooda will be made Chief Whip in place of Scindia if the latter is upgraded. If the Congress wants to be aggressive in Lok Sabha during the Winter session, it has to have a new Deputy Leader. Sushmita Dev is also in the reckoning for the post. But Hooda has the edge.

GST rate cut hit goods worth Rs 5 lakh crore

One may think that GST rate cut is a bonanza. No doubt it is indeed a bonanza for the consumers. But be it manufacturers, wholesalers or retailers; they are all struggling packaged items worth Rs 5 lakh crore in the country will have revised price tags with change in GST tax rates of about 200 products last month. The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has written a letter to Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Consumer Affairs Minister to allow pasting of revised price stickers on the current stocks because under the GST regime, pasting of revised price tags are not allowed. It is said that goods worth Rs 5 lakh crore are still in the warehouses across the country in packaged condition having old MRP. These goods can't be sold in the market without a revised price tag. It is impossible to move the consignment back to the manufacturers, remove old packaging and fresh packaging be done with a new price tag. If the fresh label is pasted on the original price tag, it is not allowed. Under Packaged Commodity Act, it is mandatory provision that any commodity in packaged shape will invariably have printed MRP. Only Paswan can give some relief. Tax rates of more than 200 items were brought down and out of them 178 were of common use.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Fly on the Wall : Nitish Kumar gets a Bungalow in Delhi

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Fly on the Wall
Harish Gupta 

Nitish Kumar gets a Bungalow in Delhi

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had been struggling for long to have a bungalow at the Lutyen’s Delhi for almost a decade. Normally, Chief Ministers are given this privilege by the ruling parties at the Centre though there is no specific rule. Ever since the principle of giving bungalows to VIPs falling in the Z plus security has been dispensed with, the problem compounded. Nitish Kumar faced the problem for almost ten years as the UPA never allotted him a bungalow as he was an ally of the NDA. Though the state government repeatedly wrote to the Centre but to no avail. Unfortunately, when Modi came to power at the Centre, Nitish Kumar deserted the NDA targeting Modi. Thus, he was left high and dry again. But full 42 months later in the NDA regime, Nitish Kumar’s long wish of having a bungalow in Lutyen’s Delhi was fulfilled. The Urban Development Minister Hardeep Puri reportedly took the matter to the Cabinet Committee of Accommodation and the chairman Rajnath Singh consulted the Prime Minister informally in this regard. After a lot of confabulation, Nitish Kumar was given Type VIII ministerial bungalow in the Lutyen’s Zone last week. It was earlier occupied by his friend and former Solicitor General of India Ranjit Kumar who had spent tons of his personal money to re-do the entire house. It was also inspected by Hardeep Puri who informed Nitish Kumar that it is the best bungalow available at present. Nitish sent his consent and thanked the PM. 

Is Sharad Yadav political adviser to Rahul?

How Rahul Gandhi and the Congress Party changed its stance and agreed to share seats with almost all like-minded parties in Gujrat Assembly polls over-night has surprised party veterans. Talks had broken down with NCP and even the three young musketeers were talking in different tune. An upbeat Congress leadership was unwilling to give peanuts to these new groups. Sonia Gandhi’s key political adviser Ahmad Patel was rushed to AIIMS to undergo emergency heart treatment and things were going haywire. Though he went back in a short span. But it is learnt that something happened and everything was normal. It transpires that Rahul Gandhi had a rather long meeting with Sharad Yadav at his residence. What transpired between the two could be anybody’s guess. But Yadav is an old hand in caste-politics and explained to Rahul Gandhi how the party could never come back to power as it lost crucial caste alliances. The Congress must seize it and its time party should take everybody along. He told Rahul that his objective should be 2019 Lok Sabha polls as once Gujrat is clinched, the dissidents within BJP will grow. Sharad Yadav is also talking to AAP leaders though Congress is firm not to have any truck with it. Yadav wants AAP to field its candidates in such a way that the BJP suffers a set back. 

Why its Waterloo for BJP & Modi

It is no secret that the entire Cabinet has been deployed in poll bound state of Gujrat and the BJP headquarters has been airlifted to Gandhinagar. Amit Shah is claiming that there is nothing new as the BJP always contested polls in states like a war machine. But political pundits say stake are very high in Gujrat compared to any other Assembly poll. Dissidents like Varun Gandhi, Shatrughan Sinha, Kirti Azad, Shyamlal Gupta and a couple of other sitting Lok Sabha MPs  are waiting for the outcome of Gujrat results on December 18. Any adverse outcome may shake the current political fabric and alignments. Though the RSS will continue to bet on Modi despite differences on one issue or the other. But it is aware that Gujrat is the key for 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP has more than 140 Lok Sabha MPs who came from nowhere in the party and given tickets in 2014. Any slide in Gujrat will shake the confidence of these fence sitters. Therefore, the entire focus of the BJP-RSS is to enhancethe BJP’s Gujrat tally of 117 out of 182. The Capital is agog with reports that some of the MPs who have fallen out with the leadership may look around for some political opportunity if there is any slide in BJP’s tally.

Watch out Milind Deora in Congress shake up

Milind Deora, former Lok Sabha MP and son of late Murli Deora is set to play a key role in the Team Rahul after he assumes the charge of Congress president. It has been decided that no major shake up will be undertaken in the organisation until the Budget session of Parliament due to pressing circumstances. It will rather be a slow process as immediately after the Gujrat & Himachal Pradesh, Parliament’s Winter session will set in and once the brief session is over, the party will face elections in three states of North East. Then, the Budget session will commence on January end and end early April. Therefore, those eyeing key positions will have to wait for some more time. But Milind Deora is the man to watch.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Fly on the Wall : No political secretary for Rahul Gandhi

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Fly on the Wall
Harish Gupta 

No political secretary for Rahul Gandhi

There may be a mad race to grab the post of Political Secretary to Rahul Gandhi, insiders say that the new Congress President will not have a political secretary. The AICC is witnessing an interesting battle with top guns throwing their hat in the ring to grab the coveted post of political secretary to “CP”, it is emerging that there will no such post available. Insiders say that Ahmad Patel is Political Adviser to Sonia Gandhi and he will continue to hold the fort. Sonia Gandhi may not remain CP. But she will continue to be the Chairman of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) and Patel will be political adviser to the CPP. But Rahul Gandhi has his own style of functioning and will have his own team in his office. But there may not be much of a tinkering in the AICC office as a number of changes have already been made. If he has Mohan Gopal, an ideologue and director of Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies (RGICS), he has K Raju a former IAS working for him as key person in his office. Then former Union Minister Ajay Maken, Kanishka Singh and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh are also in the reckoning for the key post. Jairam Ramesh's supporters say that he has all the credentials to hold the post as he writes speeches for Rahul. But Rahul's Man-Friday these days is Sam Pitroda who will play a key role in the selection of Rahul's new team. Pitroda is the man who runs the show in the Rahul Establishment. But when it comes to political secretary's post, Rahul Gandhi will not have one. It is explained that there were historic reasons for Sonia Gandhi to appoint a political adviser. Rahul Gandhi doesn't need one.

Rane left high & dry !

Naraian Rane may have been left high and dry, at least foe the time being. He quit Congress and his Legislative Council seat as well. Though there was no formal announcement of his outfit joining the NDA by the BJP, Rane made a suo-moto declaration. It was conceived that Rane will be re-contesting his Council seat with the support of the NDA. The BJP leaders also went to town about it. But after a thorough internal discussion, it is felt that no useful purpose will be served by confronting the Shiv Sena at this juncture in Maharashtra. The Sena had made it clear that if Rane is fielded as a candidate with the support of the BJP, the “war” will begin. Rane doesn't have the strength to file nomination papers on his own. He can do it only with the support of the BJP. The BJP on its own strength cannot ensure Rane's victory either. Secondly, it will provide an opportunity to the Shiv Sena to form an alliance with NCP and Congress to ensure the defeat of Rane. The BJP leadership feels that the risk is not worth taking. The last word has not yet been written on the issue as yet.

The silence for 48 hours

Prime Minister Modi had given one mantra to his core diplomatic team including External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj; to maintain total secrecy. He had burnt his fingers in 2016 when massive diplomatic effort was launched to secure the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers's group which miserably failed. But this time, the PM was very cautious and personally supervised the world-wide campaign for the victory of India's Dalveer Bhandari for the seat at the International Court of Justice. Modi was personally focusing on US, China, France, Germany and Russian and even UK who are members of the P5+1 powerful club. It was Modi who won over China in this crucial battle and in the end all 15 UNSC members voted for India. This is in complete contrast to New Delhi's widely publicized bid for the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2016. Even Justice Bhandari was told not to make any statement. The 48 hours preceding the vote for Dalveer Bhandari in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and the UN Security Council (UNSC) were crucial. It was the silence of India for 48 hours that made the difference. It was a massive diplomatic campaign but all private.

Green Tribunal in great misery

The Modi government's apathy towards the National Green Tribunal was too well known and it was felt that this may be confined to the out-going chief Swatanter Kumar. But now it transpires that the government is in no mood to fill the vacancies even in four branches of the NGT at Chennai, Kolkata, Bhopal and Delhi. In fact, the government has virtually stopped communicating except for its lawyers appearing before the body. The NGT is virtually gasping for its own survival and no vacancies are filled of judicial and expert members of the body at its four principal branches. Interestingly, even in benches where judicial members are working, there are no expert members as vacancies remain unfilled. The two names that were sent for consideration of the government to replace NGT chief Swatanter Kumar who is retiring on December 18, have not been accepted by the Modi government. It transpires that the lone judicial member in Delhi NGT justice V D Salvi is also retiring February 2018. Tragically, the other benches of the NGT in Delhi are not even functioning as there are no members.

Modi wants NHRC Act to be amended

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also signaled to the judiciary that he is not comfortable with the current law governing the National Human Rights Commission. Under the law, only a retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court can be the Chairman of the NHRC. The law was made at the prodding of the Supreme Court when the executive was weak. The government feels that the law benefits only the retiring CJIs and doesn't send a positive signal. Modi is of the view that the law be changed and scope of appointing NHRC chief be expanded. Why only retired CJIs be its chairman and why not a human rights activist of acclaim or veteran jurist, wondered Modi at a close door meeting. The UPA under the Manmohan Singh dispensation also thought of amending the law. But it could not muster the courage to amend the law. But Modi is of the firm view that monopoly of post-retirement post reserved for CJI is discriminatory and be changed. Watch out ! 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Food for Children: PMO overrules two Union Ministries

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Special Report 

Food for Children: PMO overrules two Union Ministries
States can give packaged food 
Shot in the arm of packaged food industry 

Harish Gupta
New Delhi, Nov 9
The running battle between some of the Central ministries and the states for years on whether the children be given cooked or packaged food has been resolved by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

While the Ministries of Health and Women & Child Development ministries have been strongly advocating the need for giving cooked food to children falling in the severely acute malnutrition category. However, many states including Maharashtra were pitching for ready-to-use food for them.

After prolonged discussions with the states, expert committee reports and obtaining the views of the concerned ministries, the Prime Minister's Office mandated that states be allowed to decide their own policy in this respect. If the states want to give packaged food, so be it. The decision of the PMO has come as a big shot in the arm for the packaged food industry. Some say it will be a big incentive to the big players in the market such as Patanjali Foods, ITC and others.

In fact, the PMO overruled directives of the two concerned union ministries who were against providing ready-to-use food to children. The PMO said that individual states be allowed to formulate their own policy to give nutritious food to children. The PMO, however, clearly stated that the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) where hot-cooked food is served to children in the age group of 3-6 years will continue unhindered. The scheme to provide food to children in the age group of upto three years will remain unchanged. But the states will have the discretion to give ready-to-use food to children above the age of 6 years.

The tussle began when the WCD Ministry headed by Maneka Gandhi issued a directive to states that the ready-to-use food is against the stated policy. Therefore, the matter went to the PMO where it was resolved. Even the health ministry was of the opinion that the nutritious food quality is better in the hot cooked food rather than in the Ready-To-Use Food packets. In fact, the ministry had set up an expert committee. However, the states contested the claim and wanted their own way to implement the scheme which is centrally funded scheme with Centre footing the 50% of funds to states. The Health Ministry had, in fact, stressed as early as in 2009 that the use of RUTF was not an accepted policy of the government. And in 2013, the centre had asked Jharkhand to stop distributing RUTF to malnourished kids. However, the inter-ministerial group also spoke in two languages when it said that the Packaged food was helpful only temporarily and would not affect eating habits of the family. The WCD letter also pointed to concerns that the use of RUTF may replace family foods habits that children should normally be eating.

Fly on the Wall : Baffling Disappearance of scammers

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Fly on the Wall : 

Baffling Disappearance of scammers

The Sterling Biotech bribery allegations case in the Rs 5000 crores scam in which the name of CBI's special director Rakesh Asthana figured took an interesting turn; that the Enforcement Directorate is yet to seek the custody of the Gujrat-based promoters Nitin Sandesara and Chetan Sandesara. The ED went to town when it arrested Delhi businessman Gagan Dhawan recently who was instrumental in helping the company to manage its affairs with Central government agencies and banks. But the ED did not seek their non-bailable warrants against the Gujrat-based promoters. In fact, the scam first surfaced in 2011 and neither the UPA and nor NDA did anything worthwhile in this case for six years. It gained prominence only when proposal to promote Rakesh Asthana within the CBI to make him number two was brought before the Central Vigilance Commission. The CBI director Alok Varma opposed Asthana's promotion and was overruled by the CVC and news was leaked along with the entire case. Now it transpires that the promoters of the Sterling Biotech have vanished and not available to ED. The other directors of the company are around but the promoter director Sandesaras have vanished. No doubt, the ED has caught hold of the company CA who used to write the diary after making payments to officials. He has confessed that he made the payments. But unless the promoters are arrested and confess the same, nothing can be done. The ED is keeping its fingers crossed as no one has a clue where have they vanished, are they in India or abroad like many others.

Kovind's GCTOC test

President Ram Nath Kovind will face his first acid test when the controversial Gujrat Control of Terrorism and Orgnaised Crime bill (GCTOC) will land on his table soon. The GCTOC has been hanging fire for the past 14 years as three of Kovind's predecessors; APJ Abdul Kalam, Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee refused to sign. The Bill empowers the police to tap phones and use it as evidence in courts. It was conceived by Modi when he was CM in 2003 and pushing for its passage since then. In fact, he was very hopeful that Pranab Mukherjee will clear it. But he too declined to clear it in its present form. Now certain provisions are being re-worked. The bill is on the pattern of Maharashtra's MOCOCA which gives enormous powers to the state police. As per norms, the Union Home Secretary has to be kept in the loop before tapping telephones. The Gujrat police wants immunity to the state for any wrong doing in public interest. The bill will be on Kovind's table after the Assembly polls.

"Bichhre Sabhi Bari Bari", Lalu crying

Ever since his most trusted lieutenant and four-term Rajya Sabha MP Prem Chand Gupta deserted Lalu Prasad Yadav, the RJD supremo is in great agony and pain. He has been calling Prem Gupta repeatedly on his mobile and home numbers and waiting to meet him for long. But the former Corporate Affairs Minister in the Manmohan Singh government has not returned the call. Lalu's two former trusted officers Mahajan and Srivastava have also chosen to keep a safe distance from the former Railway Minister. Lalu has seen his worst as nobody calls on him these days and he is left with no monies. He is tapping all his former corporate friends and nobody comes to him. They are either not taking his call or not returning call either. Both his sons, wife, daughter Misa Bharti, her husband and other close relatives are under the ED/CBI scanner. Their bank accounts have either been frozen and confiscated. It is becoming clear that after the Gujrat polls, they will face a big music. But what Lalu can't comprehend is that his most trusted person Gupta stopped visiting him. It is learnt that ever since Gupta's wife Sarla Gupta was slapped with a PMLA case, Gupta is trying hard to curry favours from the Modi government. He is repoted to have met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley twice. What transpired during these meetings is anybody's guess. Lalu cried when an old friend called him up and said, “bichhre sabhi bari bari."

Amit Katyal goes missing too !

Heard of Amit Katyal ! He was a small time businessman who came close to Lalu and became big and fixed deals when Lalu was CM Bihar or Railway Minister. The ED has unearthed now that the New Friends Colony bungalow in the posh South Delhi area was virtually gifted by Amit Katyal virtually free to Lalu's daughter Misa Bharti and other family members through web of shell companies. The bungalow is worth Rs 30 crores though ED claims its more than Rs 100 crores. The ED has sealed the property and now fixing nuts & bolts. But it has been caught in a jam. Why ? Amit Katyal is not traceable. He is reportedly run away to Dubai. Though evidence has surfaced when ED detained Bharti's Chartered Accountant (CA) Rakesh Agrawal who started singing. Agrawal was arrested under PMLA for allegedly being instrumental in providing accommodation entries (illegal funds) to launder the money of businessmen brothers - Virendra Jain and Surendra Jain. But the prime person Amit Katyal has gone missing.

Lalu goes to astrologers

Lalu is now completely banking on his star for his fortunes. He has turned to the astrologers and godmen completely. Though he used to believe in astrology and star power. But he remained a die-hard political bird. However, his dependence on astrologers has gone up many folds with the appointment of Shankar Charan Tripathi, an astrologer, as party's national spokesperson.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

“Old is Gold” in BJP, once again

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

“Old is Gold” in BJP, once again

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Nov. 2

After dumping party veterans to fend for themselves or dispatching some of them as governors, there is a sudden re-think in the BJP towards the 75 years old leaders. In a complete U-turn, the BJP announced Prem Kumar Dhumal as its Chief Ministerial face in Himachal Pradesh virtually at the fag end of the campaigning when he is set to turn 74 years shortly. As if this was not enough, the BJP president, Amit Shah, discarded the age-bar principle in Karnataka as well when he flagged off the “Nav Karnataka Parivarthana Yatra” today with B S Yedurappa. Interestingly, Yedurappa will turn 75 years January next and the Assembly polls will be held in May 2018. Yadurappa has been entrusted with the task of taking the state-wide padyatra. The 3-month long padyatra will be concluded by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But Yedi's elevation as party's face is a clear indication that the old leader is back in favour and lead the party from the front. 

The elevation of these two veteran leaders as chief ministerial face in their respective states is a complete reversal of declared policy of Prime Minister Modi and BJP leadership. Only recently, the leadership sent packing Gujrat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel once she turned 75 years old. Though she was virtually having a running battle with Amit Shah. But she survived as Modi was lending his support to her. However, the day she turned 75, the age-bar clause set in and she quit. Rather, she chose to write an open letter to Shah saying that she is quitting as she has turned 75 years.

But the age-bar rule is passe now with the announcement of Dhumal as BJP's CM face and B S Yedurappa in toe in Karnataka. The development has raised hopes of a large number of party veterans who are sitting members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as they have been forced to cool their heels. Veterans like L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, have been inducted into the Margdarshak Mandal of the party which has not even met once in past 42 months of NDA-II rule. Dr Joshi told Lokmat that not a single meeting of the Mandal has been held. There are at least 12 sitting Mps who are above 75 years of age in the party and they all had played a key role in building the party from the scratch. They have not been given any work in the party either if it was decided that they won't be inducted as ministers. So much so that some of the sitting ministers of the union government were made to resign which included Najma Heptulla and Kalraj Mishra. But the rule has been broken as there is a re-think on this score in the party. It is found that the rule cannot work in a democratic set up unless workers and leaders are geared up to accept it. Yashwant Sinha's tirade against the leadership that “we all have been declared brain dead” had played some role in the re-think.

A senior Rajya Sabha member of the BJP who is over 75 years, said, “The party must find out some alternative mechanism how to utilize the services 75 years old leaders as they have done only party work throughout their life. They do not know anything.”

It seems that all 75 years leaders won't be treated with the same yardstick in the party henceforth. The “Old is gold” now.


Fly on the wall : No Taj Mahal memento by the President

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

No Taj Mahal memento by the President

Why blame the UP Government or BJP hardliners for discarding Taj Mahal as the 7th wonder of the world and erase it from booklet meant for tourists. Long before this was done, the Rashtrapati Bhawan had discontinued the practice of giving Taj Mahal's replica as memento to visiting dignitaries. Gone are the days when Taj Mahal used to be given as precious gift to VIP visitors. But one must remember, this has not been done by Shri Ram Nath Kovind who was elected President with the support of the NDA in July this year. On the contrary, Ram Nath Kovind has proved to be a person of his firm beliefs. He recently said in Lucknow that if UP is known for Kumbh Mela, its also known for the Taj Mahal. This made some of the BJP leaders uneasy. The fact is that the practice of giving Taj Mahal replica was dispensed with by Kovind's predecessor Pranab Mukherjee. It transpires that Mukherjee chose to do away with the practice after suggestions emerged during informal discussions with the Modi dispensation. It was felt that the visiting dignitaries be offered books such as Gita or mementos reflecting the ancient civilization & culture of the country rather than of the Mughal era. Though no one from the government suggested to Mukherjee that he shouldn't give Taj Mahal replica as gift. The government was aware that Mukherjee is very sensitive to such issues and didn't say anything directly. However, Mukherjee was also aware of the sensitivities of the Modi government and keen to maintain cordial relations with it. Some say that he was hoping for second term and this step was aimed at keeping the NDA in good humour. Mukherjee stopped giving Taj replica as gift and Kovind has continued with the practice. Its a different matter that the Yogi Adityanath government in UP is now working hard to dispel the notion that its against the Taj. However, there is no dearth of those demanding that the old glory of Shiva temple be restored and Taj Mahal be buried in history.

Amit Shah batting for Hindutva

The Modi government may be completely focused on “Vikas” (development). But BJP president Amit Shah is clear in his thoughts and vision that the party cannot dump its Hindutva plank. He gave a clue to his thinking recently during an informal chat on Diwali Milan when he said, “I need my Hindutva, its my lifeline.” In fact, the BJP finds that the Congress is walking an extra mile to woo the community rather than focusing too much on the minorities. The fact that Rahul Gandhi is visiting temples and shrines regularly is an indication that the Congress is changing tack. “So why shall BJP abandon its time-tested policy?” wondered the leader. In fact, the UP government's recent order banning consumption of non-veg food in Vridavan and Barsana, birth places of Krishna and Radha, is an indication of BJP pursuing its policy stridently.

Its Modi VS Rahul in Gujrat

Its Modi VS Rahul battle in Gujrat now. No one cares who is the Congress face for the Chief Minister's post or whether Rupani will be stay as CM after the polls. For the first time in 40 months, its the first time that the polls are being fought between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. If Modi is contemplating to address 50 rallies during eight days of campaigning, Rahul is not lagging behind either. He may not address five rallies a day like Modi. But he has earned some brawny points recently due to wit and sarcasm and has made a mark too. Irrespective of the outcome of the Gujrat Assembly polls, Rahul Gandhi has arrived on the scene as he is making right noises these days.

How Patel got Bharat Ratna !

How Sardar Patel was conferred Bharat Ratna ? There is an interesting tale. And no one including the BJP or erstwhile Jan Sangh can take credit for it. Of course, the Congress was never keen to confer the highest national award to the departed leader. It so happened that Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in May 1991 in the midst of the General Elections in the country. T N Seshan who was the Chief Election Commissioner postponed the polls for some time and there was a pressure on the Chandra Shekhar government to confer Bharat Ratna on Rajiv Gandhi immediately. R Venkatraman was the President of India then and some discussions took place between them. It was agreed that Sardar Patel be also conferred Bharat Ratna. The BJP may be taking pot shot at Congress for ill treating its Iron Man.” But how the present dispensation treating its own “Lauh Purush” is for all to see. So why blame the Congress ?

Govt. to go soft in the Valley, for now

After telling the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to go soft in its operations in the trouble-torn Valley in J&K, the army has also been told avoid raiding civilian homes just on the basis of suspicion. “Unless there is specific intelligence information, unnecessary gun battles be avoided,” the Army was told. This has been done to facilitate the Special Representative of the Centre, Dineshwar Sharma, to undertake his peace mission in the state. Sharma has made a special request to the PMO that he would require calm in the Valley as he would like to initiate a dialogue with all the stake-holders. The NIA will not file the chargesheet against the Hurriyat leaders immediately giving some leeway to Geelani & company. There is already a talk to have are-look at the controversial AFSPA.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Fly on The Wall : Trouble-shooter's troubles in Kashmir

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

The trouble-shooter in Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma is feeling troubled. Reason ! Barring a handful of Hurriyat Congress leaders, most of them are in jail facing money laundering charges. The NIA has arrested even the son-in-law of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of the Hurriyat Congress. Be it Shabir Shah, Zahoor Watali, Farooq Ahmad Dar, Abdool Rasheed, Yasin Malik, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and their supporters are facing NIA heat. The NIA is filing chargesheet against all of them. The problem for Dineshwar Sharma is that he will have nobody to talk to except political parties, associations and traders etc. The principal stake-holder, the Hurriyat which is leading the 15-odd hardliner groups, is not playing the ball. Sharma may be wanting that NIA withhold its chargesheet against the Hurriyat leaders for some time. But the NIA is not relenting as it will put the agency itself in the bad light. Geelani wants cases against his sons and son-in-law withdrawn. Hope for the best.

When two favourites fight in CBI

A bitter battle has begun in the CBI ever since Rakesh Asthana was promoted as Special Director. The “allegation” against Asthana was that his name figured in the 2011 diaries recovered from the premises of Gujrat-based Sterling Biotech when he was Commissioner of Surat Police. The diaries remained buried for long until some wise people got whiff of it in the IT department. The Enforcement Directorate came into the scene. The probe into the diaries began though diary entries are not proof enough to convict a person. But the case was sent to the CBI Director Alok Varma by the ED as it involved a top officer of the agency itself. Varma and Asthana never saw eye-to-eye as the latter used to throw his weight around due to his direct connections with the PMO since his days in Gujrat. But Varma is also a Modi appointee. The anti-Asthana report came handy for Varma who opposed his promotion. When the recommendation went to the Central Vigilance Commission, it sat over it. The government went ahead and promoted Asthana. Now Asthana is alleging that Varma has defamed him by leaking his own 2-page document to the media. The PMO is furious over the whole thing as it has been shown in poor light. But what to do as both, Varma and Asthana, are Modi favourites. And Varma can't be removed as he has a fixed two year tenure.

BJP Nervous as Rahul's graph rising

The makeover of Rahul Gandhi and marked improvement in his dialogue delivery at public meetings has baffled his partymen and rattled hard core critics. The other day, BJP's core group comprising of top 5 (Modi, Amit Shah, Jaitley, Rajnath Singh & Nitin Gadkari) met to review prevailing political situation. The core group meets every week. In a lighter vain, one of the members said, “Pappu Bolna seekh gaya hai.” But the core group had a serious issue at hand; how Rahul's popularity on social media is growing. Within days, BJP ministers came out linking Rahul Gandhi's increased popularity on social media to fake Twitter accounts in Russia, Kazakhstan and Indonesia. One minister did not flinch at playing on the word " dope", slang for a stupid person. The Congressmen are enthused as Rahul has started interacting with the people and meeting them in small groups. Recently, while returning from Amethi, Rahul opted to travel in the ferry bus for passengers instead of going in a private vehicle which used to pick him up at the tarmac itself. The SPG protectee won the hearts of the people as Rahul gladly offered to be photographed with the co-passengers and mingled.

The unstoppable Gadkari

Nitin Gadkari is always a fodder for Capital's Cahterattis. Therefore, when he invited the media at his official residence for pre-Diwali tea-party, it was toast for them as it was a free wheeling event. He answered all the questions journos raised and disappointed none. He was talking less about the road sector and more about the aviation as he is member of the group of ministers for divestment of Air India. Gadkari had his own take on the issue saying that Vijay Mallya paid the price due to his flamboyance and indecision on the issue of liberalizing the aviation sector than due to other reasons. Though the sector was liberalized later, paid the price. Since road sector is fully back in gear, Gadkari is now fully focused on Irrigation and bringing in new technology to ensure that 1.80 crores hectares of land is brought under cultivation which will revolutionize the agriculture sector. He is busy resolving inter-state water disputes and succeeded in bringing truce between Maharashtra and Gujrat. He personally held several meetings between the two BJP ruled states of UP and MP to resolve water dispute. But he told the PM that he can't resolve water dispute between Punjab and Haryana. It is learnt that the PM will make some effort to resolve the dispute in near future at his level.

Monday, October 16, 2017

54 of 77 Modi ministers fail to file their Asset details

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

54 of 77 Modi ministers fail to file their Asset details
Modi foregoes his royalty from books  

Jaitley richest, Paswan poorest

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Oct.14

A large number of Ministers in the Modi government have not heeded to the directive of the Prime Minister to file their assets and liabilities details by August 31, 2017.

According to official details available, only 23 ministers of the 77-member Council of Ministers have complied with the directive and filed their return which is mandatory under the rules and procedures. Of the 28 Cabinet Ministers including the Prime Minister, 19 filed their return. However, the compliance went for a toss when it came to Ministers of State. Of the 48 Ministers of state including those holding Independent charge, only four deemed it fit to submit their assets/liabilities return. The Prime Minister was most prompt in complying his own directive and was the first to declare his assets followed by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Health Minister J P Nadda, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Steel Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari also filed their return.

But Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal who is amongst the richest women Union Ministers with Rs 87.45 crores (2014-15) has not declared her assets for the current year. Woman & Child Welfare Minister Maneka Gandhi, Heavy Industries Minister Anant Geete, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Home Minister Rajnath Singh , Chemicals & Fertiulizers Minister Ananth Kumar are among those who didn't file their return so far. It may, however, be mentioned that all the ministers had filed their return as desired during 2014-15 and 2015-16. But they didn't comply during this reason.

According to the Code of Conduct issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, it is mandatory for Union Ministers to furnish details of their assets and liabilities every year by August 31. The code applies to states as well and needs to include full disclosure of ministers’ family members as well. The asset declaration has to include the assets of the wife and dependent children and also give details of liabilities. 

For instance, the assets of Prakash Javadekar are pegged at Rs 7.86 crores. But he and his wife have a liability of Rs 3.05 crores. A glance at the return filed by the ministers including the PM showed that there has not been any astronomical rise in their income & assets. The rise has been very marginal. The declaration made by PM makes an interesting reading where in his fixed deposits have swelled from Rs 51.27 lakhs to Rs 90.26 lakhs. Surprisingly, the PM's income from royalty of book vanished in thin air during 2016-17. During the previous year, Modi earned Rs 12.35 lakhs from the sale of his books as royalty. It seems, he has given royalty as charity which remains undisclosed. His income showed a growth of Rs 28 lakhs to Rs 2.01 crores whereas his income during 2015-16 was Rs 1.73 crores.

Arun Jaitley remains the ruchest ministers in the government though his assets have shown a marginal decline ever since he became a minister.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Fly on the Wall :Is Shah Repenting filing Rs 100 cr. defamation case ?

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Is Shah Repenting filing Rs 100 cr. defamation case ?

BJP president Amit Shah may be rueing the day he decided to sue the news portal ( for Rs 100 crores. At the hindsight, a feeling has crept in that he should have ignored it as the website made hardly any serious allegation of corruption per se against his son. It only published what was available in public domain and the website only collated information. A strong point-by-point denial by Jay Shah and his lawyers would have suffice. But fielding a Union Minister Piyush Goyal to deny charges (mind you; there were no charges) and declare filing defamation case of Rs 100 crores. It is now felt that the whole thing was avoidable. The case related to Jay Shah and party should have officially nothing to do with it. It will drag party also in the court as the party would have to prove it has been defamed. The fact that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh took full three days to react and most of the senior ministers kept quiet is an indication that second thoughts crept in. It transpires that Amit Shah consulted only Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who deputed his erstwhile junior lawyer Manish Dogra to send notice to the website on behalf of Jay Shah. Jaitley may come to the fore after his return from the USA. But many in the party feel that the case should have been fought politically.

Who leaked “Shah Zada” story ?

The Capital is agog with all kinds of stories as to who leaked the juicy details of small time company of Jay Shah becoming big in turn over and diversifying into Solar business and then taking subsidy from the power ministry. One speculation is that Amit Shah's detractors within the party in Delhi helped out in carrying out research and investigation. Another source attributed it to a former Chief Minister Anandiben Patel who does not see eye-to-eye with Amit Shah. There is no dearth of people in Gandhinagar who are after Amit Shah's blood within his own party. However, sources close to Amit Shah deny that it was an insider's job as its not a story at all. They believe it was done at the instance of the “secular forces” who want oxygen at any cost.

Pay Rs 75000, file Rs 100 crore case

Do you know how much is the court fee to file a defamation case against a person to file defamation case to the tune of Rs 100 crores in Gujrat ? Top lawyers tell me that in Gujrat the fee for civil cases of such nature is just Rs 75000. There is cap under the law to charge court fee. while in Delhi, the fee is astonishingly high. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had to deposit a whopping court fee of Rs 10 lakhs to file Rs ten crores defamation case against Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Sources say that the fee was high earlier in Gujrat too. But it was  brought down a couple of years ago.

Nitin Gadkari has reasons to grumble 

Road Transport, Shipping & Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari has reasons to be upset. At least his supporters are extremely angry. Though Gadkari is keeping his mouth shut,his supporters feel that he was wronged in 2012 when he was made to resign from BJP president's post. He had to quit merely because the then Finance Minister, P Chidambaram sent an Income Tax officer to probe a case against the Purti group. Gadkari was made to quit merely because an IT officer knocked at the door of his office. Its a different matter that Gadkari was given the clean chit in the case by the UPA government itself in the case. But in the instant case the family friends and companies helped the son of BJP chief and no questions are being raised. Rather, a minister was deputed to defend the son. Why two parameters ?  Gadkari supporters grumble. It is however pointed out that in the Gadkari case, the IT officer knocked at the door for a roving inquiry. In the Shah case, it was a handiwork of party's detractors. Understand it right. 

Advani gets his lifeline back

The presence of veteran BJP leader L K Advani at the Dussehra day speech of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat at Nagpur may have raised many an eyebrows. It was speculated in the media that Advani went to Nagpur without an invitation etc etc. However, it has now emerged that the RSS leadership invited him and gave him a rousing reception at the airport when he landed with his daughter Pratibha Advani and private secretary deepak chopra the previous night. He also a prolonged meeting with the top RSS leadership including Mr Bhagwat after the speech. Bhagwat's speech rattled the BJP leadership in Delhi is no secret. But political analysts wonder if there is any significance as the critical speech was made in the presence of veteran Advani ? After all, the RSS has reasons to be unhappy as the BJP leadership didn't heed to its advice to make Dr Murli Manohar Joshi party candidate for the post of President. The BJP opted for Ram Nath Kovind.

Guess how cases are dug out !

The Delhi Police has dug out an eve teasing case from the archives after several years against the son of a Constitutional authority after he demitted office. Though the Delhi Police had to register an FIR of eve teasing as existing laws are very strict. But the case never progressed even after the UPA government lost power. Delhi Police dug out the copy of an old FIR and wants to take the case to its logical conclusion. However, the constitutional dignitary is unfazed even after retirement recently saying that it has no meat in it and complaint is bogus. The matter has now been referred to the Union Home Ministry as Delhi Police is under it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

PM won't share dais with Yashwant Sinha

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Organizers in a jam, shadow over centenary function
PM won't share dais with Yashwant Sinha

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Oct 9
The tussle between the BJP leadership and former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha has spilled over the centenary celebrations of the Bihar University in Patna. The mega function of the country's most prestigious university is due to take place on October 14 and the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has accorded his consent to be the chief guest on the occasion.

However, the cloud surfaced when it was learnt that the university authorities had also invited two prominent personalities former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha and former Shipping Minister and sitting Lok Sabha M P Shatrughan Sinha to be the guest of honour at the function. Reports suggest that the university authorities had invited both of them to share the podium with the PM and other dignitaries. The authorities have invited over 5000 plus alumni to celebrate the 100 years of its inception.

It is now learnt that the Prime Minister Office has made it clear that strict protocol be followed during the visit of the PM Naredra Modi to the Bihar University on the occasion of it centenary celebrations. The instructions have reportedly been issued to the authorities the PM will share the podium with the mandated dignitaries only. The instructions went after it emerged that Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha will also share the dais with the Prime Minister and other dignitaries. Health Minister J P Nadda, Food Minister Ram Vilas Sharma, Minister of state for Health Ashiwini Choubey are also among the alumni of the university and have been invited. C P Thakur, a former Union Health Minister and sitting Rajya Sabha MP is also an alumni.

The program had been finalised long before the controversy erupted in the BJP after Yashwant Sinha blasted the economic policies of the government and attacked Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Now under the protocol, limited chairs are allowed on the podium with only PM, Governor Satpal Malik, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi, union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, J P Nadda, Choubey. It is still not clear whether the two Sinhas will get a place of prominence and where C P Thakur will be be accommodated. The confusion arose as the organisers had while inviting the two Sinhas had requested them to be on the dais as there was no rift between them and the leadership when the invitations were sent months ago.

The organizers of the centenary celebrations are in a big jam as it has been desired that six additional chairs be removed from the main podium. It is said that the Sinhas will be part of the audience now.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Fly on the ball : Big promotion for Fadnavis in offing

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Big promotion for Fadnavis in offing  

The search is quietly going on for a new member of BJP’s Parliamentary Board after M Venkiah Naidu was promoted as Vice President of India. The Chief Ministers of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh - Vasudhara Raje Scindia and Raman Singh are eyeing the post due to their seniority. But both are not in the list of favourites of Modi. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal who is also party treasurer, is also a contender for the coveted seat to rub shoulders with the big guys in the Board. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s name is also being mentioned. But getting a seat at the party’s Parliamentary Board is no joke. Even Manohar Parrikar grumbled for not being promoted though he was Goa CM several times and brought to Delhi as Defence Minister. The buzz word in the party is that Maharashtra Chief Minister Fadnavis may make it to the top slot. He is liked by the RSS, Modi and Amit Shah and rated high among the 13 CMs of the BJP. He is the only one to impress all by his non-controversial three years record in power.
"Mr Indispensable"  Ajit Doval 

All eyes are on S Jaishankar who is retiring as Foreign Secretary (FS) after three years in January next. There is a popular perception that its not Sushma Swaraj but Jaishankar who runs the show in the ministry. Jaishankar was made FS on the last day of his retirement in January 2015 after Modi fired serving FS Sujatha Singh unceremoniously. Jaishankar was given another extension for one year which will now end in January 2018. If the grapevine has it, senior IFS officer Vijay Gokhle will take over the reins as FS. The question is where will Jaishankar go after he demits office. Though he would love to be the National Security Adviser to the PM. But he knows that Ajit Doval is the real Mr Indispensable. Modi may get rid of anybody in the government but not Doval. It became clear recently when the search for Defence Minister began. Arun jaitley had suggested to the PM that Ajit Doval be appointed as Defence Minister. But the PM brushed aside the suggestion saying, “I cannot spare him.” It is not yet clear what role he will get after his retirement. May be,  NITI Aayog which doesn’t have a diplomat.
Modi writing 2019 War script

PM Modi may be finding new ways to have “Congress Mukt Bharat” and accusing the Gandhis for the mess. But he is following every page of the script that Indira Gandhi wrote in the 70s. She fought for the poor and so is Modi as he claims. She even named the TATAs and Birlas for amassing wealth at the cost of the poor. Modi says the same but with a caveat; “It is my resolve to pull money out of the pocket of the rich and distribute amongst the poor.” This sentence of his speech at the national executive  went unreported. He did not name who these rich people are.  But he is desperately trying to associate with the poor and the down-trodden. He wants to change the BJP’s image that it’s the party of traders and middle-class. His raid-raj against the corrupt is aimed at sending the same signal. His slogan for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls is: Ye Imandari aur Beimani Ke beech ki Ladai Hai. Ye Garib aur Ameer Ki Ladai Hai. Ek Taraf Akela Modi Hai aur Doosri Taraf Saare Beimaan. Faisla Aapko Karna Hai…” The scrip is already written by Modi.  He has simply drawn a leaf out of Indira Gandhi’s war against the syndicate and the Opposition parties who were perceived to be identified with the rich in 1971. Indira Gandhi won 352 seats. And how many seats Modi wants for BJP in 2019? 350 to be precise.   
Gurumurthy finally declares war against Govt.

Finally, S Gurumurthy, RSS ideologue and Swadeshi Jagran Manch Chief has declared war against the Modi government. For the past couple of years it was blow hot and blow cold between him and the government. But Gurumurthy has come out in the open against the Modi government’s policies including post-demonetization actions, falling economic growthetc. While some say that his attack is directed against Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, others say that it’s a signal of growing gulf between the RSS and Modi. It was the same Gurumurthy who raised the banner of revolt against the Vajpayee government’s policy of disinvestment of PSUs which enriched big industrial houses. Finally, the RSS distanced from Vajpayee. The same is happening under Modi, say Swadesh Jagran Manch leaders. The first public spat will be in October at Ramlil grounds. You wait !

Guinness Book & Hooda

Steel Minister Birender Singh was heard saying: Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s name should be written in the Guinness Book of World Record. Why ? asked a camp follower. Pat came the reply: He is the only leader in the country who came out with full two pages advertisements in all leading Hindi newspapers in North India on the occasion of his 71st birthday. Hooda never did it when he was CM, Haryana for ten years. Birender Singh says Hooda deserves a place in the Guinness Book for this unique political adventure. Birender Singh was having a dig at Hooda who showed his might while Birender Singh is Man of Steel.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Fly on the Wall : Mayawati as PM candidate ?

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Mayawati as PM candidate ?

Mayawati's frontal attack on the BJP alleging that it is hatching a conspiring to eliminate her is the first direct hint of her joining ranks with other Opposition parties during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The BSP has mostly kept away from the 17-parties Opposition parties' conclaves. She was quiet for some time and some attributed this silence to Enforcement Directorate (ED) going after her brother Anand in the Rs 1200 crores money laundering case. With Mayawati blasting the Modi government is the first signal of Opposition unity taking a positive turn. It transpires that Rahul Gandhi is sending out signals that he is willing to do anything to dislodge Modi. Mayawati thinks she can play a role at the national level. Akhilesh Yadav is working out a barter deal with Mayawati quietly under which he will support her for the PM's post while she will back him for the CM's post. Lalu Yadav is also ready for Mayawati. The BSP has following amongst the Dalits outside UP in several North Indian states. One may hear more news on this front sooner than expected. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also been nursing the Prime Ministerial ambitions. With Mayawati throwing her hat in the ring, one will have to watch. 

Hooda may be in the dock, thanks to CBI

After M L Tayal, its the turn of another top official related to former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda to face the music. The CBI is now tightening its grip around Chhatar Singh who is now a member of the UPSC. He was chief administrator of HUDA and principal secretary to Hooda after Tayal retired and facing CBI cases for corruption. The case against Chhatar Singh is strong and may put Hooda in serious trouble. The Modi government helped Hooda by not charging him under the PMLA in the National Herald case. But the case against these top aides of Hooda is so strong that the CBI is unable to dilute them. It is learnt that Chhatar singh may even be asked to resign from the UPSC. Hooda had ensured that Chhatar Singh is appointed member UPSC during the UPA regime after retirement.

Rajnath not consulted on NIA's new chief

When Y C Modi was appointed was appointed as the new chief of the NIA, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh was in the dark until the file landed on his desk from the PMO. Normally, the file to fill vacancies with regard to departments and police organisations directly under the Ministry of Home Affairs are sent to the Cabinet Secretary by the Home Minister. The NIA is directly under the MHA and its Chief Sharad Kumar was to retire on October 30. Normally, announcements with regard to such postings are done 15-20 days prior. But in this case, the PMO called up the Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba and asked him to send the proposal which he did without losing time. Gauba was also asked to send the name for the successor of SSB Chief also. But before Gauba could recover, the file came back in no time clearing the name of Y C Modi. Rajnath Singh who is also a member of the Cabinet Committee for Appointment (ACC), was taken aback when the file was put up to him for information and subsequent action.

Scared BJP delinks Gurdaspur LS Bye-poll with others

The BJP has de-linked the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha byelection with that of Gorakhpur and Phulpur. Though Yogi Adityanath had quit the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat and Keshav Prasad Maurya had quit the Phulpur Lok Sabha seat on August 6 itself, the Election Commission didn't hold the LS polls in these constituencies. When asked, a senior Election Commission official said that byelections are to be held only on the recommendation of the state government. Since the Punjab Government recommended the holding of bypoll in Gurdaspur and six months mandatory period was also expiring, we are holding the same. But in the case of UP LS seat, there is time. It is, however, up to the state government to take a call when it would like to hold. The state government indicated that it will contemplate after the festival season. It is said that the BJP doesn't want to test its popularity in UP at this juncture and delaying bye-polls. There are two vacancies in Rajasthan (Alwar & Ajmer) and one in Telangana.

Kejriwal Went to Igatpuri, lessons to keep quiet

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal quietly went into silent mode even after winning the Bawana Assembly seat in a tough byelection. This was a surprise to all in the Capital. He did not react when BJP was routed in the Delhi University Students Union polls. It now transpires that he opted to go to Igatpuri in Nashik and stayed at the Vipaasana Centre for ten days. Though he had been going to Bengaluru for his throat treatment and practice silence, habits die hard. He is back on twitter after ten days and roar in Gujrat shortly.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fly on the wall : Even Padma Awards linked with Aadhaar

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Even Padma Awards linked with Aadhaar

Prime Minister Modi's liking for Aadhaar is setting a new milestone with the each passing day. The Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha who headed the Padma awards committee directed that all nominations for 2018 must be linked to Aadhaar. It has been decided that all nominations /recommendations for Padma Awards should be sent online only on the Padma portal designed specially by Ministry of Home Affairs. Anybody contemplating to recommend a person's name for these awards, must have Aadhaar card and the person who recommends first obtain an OTP number and feeds the OTP in the system and then alone he or she can make a recommendation. Cabinet Ministers, Governors and those holding key political posts have been signaled they shouldn't make recommendations in a routine manner. The Lieutenant Governors of Union Territories have been told to route recommendations through state governments. This was a signal to Pudducherry Governor Kiran Bedi that the mandate is for an elected government.

How Rudy was shown the door

“Fly” learnt an interesting tail how Skill Development Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy's resignation went through the motions days before the major Cabinet rejig on September 3. Rudy was traveling when summoned by Shah on September 1. It is no secret that Shah calls the shot these days and scond in command; be it party or the government. Shah was sitting with General Secretary Ram Lal when Rudy was called inside the room. Without mincing words, Shah told Rudy, “The PM wants your resignation.” Rudy knew it was coming. Yet he developed the courage to ask, “When do I resign, Sir?” Shah shot back without blinking, “Right now.” Rudy's next raised eyebrows, “Shall I give it to you sir or to the PM?” Now Rudy got another shocker: No, you give it to Ram Lalji.” Rudy recovered and asked politely, “Shall I write the resignation here sir ?” Shah said, “No, you write in the ante room. Ram Lalji will collect.” Rudy handed over the letter to Ram Lal who emerged after a long time.

Nirmala at Number 26 in pecking order !

Nirmala Sitharaman may have jolted the nation all when PM Modi promoted her as Defence Minister. She became a key member of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) too in her capacity as Defence Minister. But if one examines the official website of the government listing names and portfolios of Council of Ministers, Nirmala Sitharaman's name figures at number 26. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is the only Cabinet Minister who figures below her at number 27. All Cabinet Ministers including Smriti Irani, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan, Maneka Gandhi are ranked upward in the serial. Efforts to elicit response didn't succeed. But sources in the BJP said that its the seniority in the party that matters most and now what you are in the government. She is the youngest member to join the BJP. Then why Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi listed below her ? The Fly didn't get a response. Some consolation !

Ex-CBI Director counting his days

Two former CBI directors – Ranjit Sinha and A P Singh – are facing tough times. While Sinha's case is being monitored by the Supreme Court directly after M L Sharma headed SIT submitted its report. But A P Singh seem to be counting his days as Enforcement Directorate (ED) has gathered enough evidence to book him in the money laundering case. His alleged accomplice meat exporter Moin Qureshi is in the ED custody and payment of Rs 1.75 crores to Qureshi to help a Bengaluru-based person in a CBI case, has sealed the fate. The BBM messages on mobile phones exchanged between Qureshi and Singh and other evidence have exposed the scam. The days seem to be numbered and it may happen sooner than expected. Singh was made to quit prematurely by the government from the UPSC and now his arrest is matter of days.

The turn of the nephews now

In a country of dynasties, the unmarried leaders can claim to be free from any such pressure. But not any more. It now transpires that BSP supremo Mayawati may launch her nephew Aakash shortly in politics. Since her brother Anand is involved in some cases with ED and IT and is a low profile person, Mayawati wants her legacy to be transferred to Aakash who has completed management studies from London. Similarly, Navin Patnaik may promote Arun Patnaik, son of his elder brother Prem Patnaik. Navin Patnaik sounded his sister Geeta Mehta. But she opted out and returned to the USA. Navin is now old and even sick as well. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is already replying heavily on her nephew Abhishek Banerjee who is a Lok Sabha MP.