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.