Saturday, April 28, 2018

Fly on the Wall : Rahul's Anti-Modi front taking Shape

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Rahul's Anti-Modi front taking Shape

Slowly but surely, the anti-Modi front conceived by Congress president Rahul Gandhi is taking shape. It is also clearly emerging that the NCP leader Sharad Pawar is emerging as a key player in the game. Gone are the days when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sharad Pawar used to share pleasant moments in private and used to express bon-homie even publicly. Times have changed particularly after Congress president Rahul Gandhi signaled that he was not in the race for the Prime Minister's post in 2019. Though critics poked fun at his leadership qualities when Rahul Gandhi had declared a few months ago that the Congress is not targeting to win the 2019 Lok Sabha polls on its own. Later, the young scion of the Gandhi family told Sharad Pawar during one of his meetings that he was not a claimant for the post of the Prime Minister though the Congress would be the single largest party in the Opposition. Pawar was surprised at his candid statement but heard him patiently. Rahul Gandhi went to the extent of saying that his party was not a claimant for the post of the Prime Minister in 2019 and would support any one who can carry the coalition successfully. The credibility of the coalition partners is of prime importance as past experiments had failed in 1967, 1977, 1989, 1996 and even in 1998. Therefore, terms and conditions of the alliance should be in black & white and nothing be kept in the abeyance. Rahul Gandhi also signaled that the Congress Party would join the government to give it a stability, if the coalition wins the 2019 polls. Rahul's views are in departure from the past when the Congress supported governments (Charan Singh, Chandra Shekhar, H D Deve Gowda & I K Gujral) from outside. Rahul felt one of the reasons of these governments failing was grave trust deficit and Congress remaining outside the coalitions.

Sharad Pawar to stitch alliances

Rahul Gandhi is understood to have told Sharad Pawar during these meetings that being the senior most leader among the Opposition parties, he alone can bring regional and like-minded parties together under one umbrella. Realizing that he cannot bring the regional and other parties together, Rahul Gandhi wanted Pawar to play the leadership role. Though there was no finality as to who will lead the coalition, it is an unwritten understanding that Pawar would be the leader provided other regional parties like Mamata Banerjee (TMC), Mayawati (BSP), Akhilesh Yadav (SP), Lalu Prasad Yadav (RJD), M K Stalin (DMK), CPM, TDP & others also accept him. These regional parties may not have alliance with the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls in their respective states. But they will try to avoid direct confrontation with the Congress wherever feasible. The Congress-NCP have already finalised alliance in Maharashtra for the Lok Sabha and even Assembly polls. Similarly, it has also been agreed that SP-BSP will contest Lok Sabha seats together and both will spare handful of seats for the Congress and the RLD. But BSP has made it clear that it will not enter into alliance with Congress in other states. Pawar is negotiating with these parties to resolve differences as these will impact the credibility of the alliance. Therefore, all these talks are going on in complete secrecy with no one having a clue of the details. However, Fly learns that seat-sharing talks are proceeding well.

Modi Plans Big Radio Outreach

With just one year to go for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, PM Modi has decided to kick-start a massive information sharing platform for the under-informed in India's underbelly through a countrywide network of community radio stations (CRS). Taking a queue from Modi's “Man Ki Baat” radio show, the Information & Broadcasting ministry is running amok to promote setting up of the community radios and galvanize the government radio outreach to Modi's programs. The government admits that 65 per cent of India's 1.3 billion people, who live in the villages, have no access to any communication device except radio. Radio is still the most popular mode of information sharing in the remotest Indian villages and we're planning to take community radio to a next level - tech-enabled, but purely local in content and a very interactive platform.

There are currently 206 community radio stations in the country, but mostly confined to a single objective driven primarily by NGOs, educational institutions and social activists. About 239 CRS applications are in process and nearly 506 permissions for setting of new CRS have been granted. The government is targeting 4000 radio stations which can be funded through CSR initiative.

NBCC to handle seized properties

Instead of setting up a separate authority to handle the task of maintaining, managing and earning revenue from immovable properties attached in money laundering cases, the Modi government may entrust the task to the National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC). The officials in the Income Tax, ED, CBI and other agencies had been struggling to find ways to better manage properties seized, frozen or confiscated under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), including those belonging to fugitive businessmen Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi. Finally, Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia who held detailed parleys with other officials decided that NBCC will handle the affairs. Within days, Chairman-cum-Managing Director Anoop Kumar Mittal who was under the scanner, was granted the rights for maintenance, renting and auctioning of such properties. As of now, the ED manages the properties confiscated by it but does not have experience. The government may now consider amending necessary laws to ensure better upkeep of confiscated properties, they said.

Parasaran refused to toe Rahul line

K Parasaran, former Attorney-General of India who was nominated to the Rajya sabha by the UPA government, was one of the experts whom the Vice President, M Venkaiah Naidu consulted on the Motion to Impeach Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra. It transpires that Parasaran held the view that the motion does not have any leg to stand on and wrong in law and without any basis. Though it was Congress president Rahul Gandhi who commandeered the party and others to go ahead with the motion and even made Abhishek Manu Singhvi to sign it, insiders were surprised that the UPA nominee did not heed to the advise. Rather, he gave a different opinion to Naidu. Rahul Gandhi is seething with anger with the party oldies who appointed Pasarasan to Rajya Sabha.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Maha contributed Rs 8.78 L Cr, gets less than 10% funds!

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Exclusive report

How Maharashtra gets a raw deal from Centre
Contributed Rs 8.78 lakh crores, got less than 10% funds
Southern states also seeking justice as UP, Bihar reaping harvest

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, April 24

It has now surfaced how revenue earning states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh etc are paying a heavy price as they are forced to feed those states who have grown in population.

The document showed that Maharashtra contributed Rs 3.14 lakh crores in the central kitty by way of taxes during 2016-17. But the Centre gave it back only Rs 33714 crores. In fact, Maharashtra is the largest earning state for the country year after year and contributed Rs 8.78 lakh crores during 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17. But it got Rs 79421 crores only during this period which is not even 10% of what it contributed in the Central kitty. Though Maharashtra's own population grew by 123% between 1971-2011 period as per the census. Yet it was given back less than 10% of money it earned while states like UP & Bihar thrived.

The documents show that U P which contributed to the central kitty Rs 81459 crores by way of taxes during the three year period from 2014-15 to 2016-17. But the state was given back Rs 2.67 lakh crores which was more than three times. The UP's population grew by 138% between the 1971-2011 period. But the difference between the allocation of funds to Maharashtra and UP was only to be seen to be believed. 

The document made a shocking revelation that Bihar contributed only Rs 16469 crores during 2014-15, 2015-16 & 2016-17 but it got 10 times the money during the same period. Bihar got Rs1.45 lakh crores for its development from the central kitty. Surprisingly, Bihar is clamouring for being granted the status of a backward state and wanting huge funds for development. This is despite the fact that lakhs of farmers have committed suicide in Maharashtra largely because the formula for distribution of resources has made the state suffer most. Maharashtra is the worst sufferer as the document showed because despite a population growth of 123%, its share is not even 10% of revenue what it contributes year after year.

The plight of other states as given in the table is an eye-opener. Be it Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka, they all are suffering to feed the laggards.

Of course, the new Finance Commission may re-look at the distribution of resources as there is a growing demand that some north Indian states must check population growth.

Minister of State in the Finance Ministry Shiv Pratap Shukla while tabling the document in Parliament said the central taxes and duties are released to states as per the recommendations of the Finance commission. He wouldn't say any thing more on the issue.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Fly on the Wall : BJP's Mission- 2019: Task Force In Place

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

BJP's Mission- 2019: Task Force In Place

Irrespective of the outcome of Assembly polls due to take place this year, the Central leadership of the BJP has started gearing up for the May 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Recruitment of commissioned task force for 300 Lok Sabha seats has begun quietly. These seats have been identified by the party which it will contest seriously across the country and an army of work force is being recruited. The task force will be commissioned for a limited period of three to four months and will be in place of work by January 1. However, they will be acclimatized and given a crash course for 15 days so that they are fully conversant of the constituency, local dialect, customs and caste equations. All of them will be given a motorbike, fuel and daily allowance. Arrangements are being made for their stay at the house of a local BJP leader so that they are fully conversant with the political situation. This poll model is completely different than what the BJP followed during the May 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The recruitment of this task force is carefully planned and party general secretary Ram Lal is executing it in close coordination with the RSS. The RSS has an army of trusted lieutenants across the country and they will be loaned for a limited purpose and for limited period. The 15-day crash course will organised at the state level and different states will follow different period as per their convenience. But it will be Centrally monitored, controlled and fully funded operation. Earlier, the high command used to deploy its trusted persons in constituencies irrespective of the fact whether they are aware of the local customs and dialect and familiar with situation. The launch of Mission 2019 is a clear signal that the BJP is aware of the challenges ahead.

BJP needs Modi's Magic in Karnataka; desperately

Nothing is going right for BJP in Karnataka Assembly polls and a desperate leadership is pinning its hopes on carpet bombing by  Prime Minister Narendra Modi to swing the balance in its favour. Until now, BJP president Amit Shah is campaigning and overseeing the poll strategies in the State and visiting one Mutt after the other to woo the Lingayats as well as Vokkalingas. There are as many as 700 Mutts in the state. But the state leadership is worried as Chief Minister Siddaramiah is gaining ground with the each passing day. Barring one, almost all Kannada TV channels have give an edge to the Congress. The BJP's handicap is that none of its national leaders can speak Kannada and its state leaders are a disunited lot. On the contrary, Rahul Gandhi has given the charge of the state to Siddharamiah and firmly told others to cooperate with him. He has consolidate his Dalit-OBC-Muslim vote bank while BJP is struggling to keep its 17% Lingayats together under Yeddyruppa and create a positive buzz. Modi has signaled that he will address around 15-18 rallies in the state after April 20 on his return from UK. The BJP leadership has requested the PM to help in swinging to mood of the people as two back-to-back surveys showed that the Congress is ahead in the electoral race. Most of the  public rallies of the Prime Minister  would be held at the district levels to touch the base with the voters and Modi will address at least two to three rallies in a day. Modi logged 24 rallies in the high-stake Uttar Pradesh elections last year, his best still remains 31 during the Bihar polls in 2015. In Tripura, Modi clocked four rallies. The BJP expects a swing of one to two per cent vote in the State to change its fortune and Modi's magic will do it.

Rs 100 crores booty and foot in the mouth !

A couple of months ago, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in close coordination with the Uttar Pradesh Police, recovered old currency notes estimated to be of the value of Rs 100 crore. The biggest ever haul in old currency notes created ripples and Central Intelligence agencies also swung into action. What worried the Centre most was that the recovery took place from Uttar Pradesh's industrial hub Kanpur. A team from the Reserve Bank of India and Income Tax department was also busy in reaching at the bottom of the truth for their own issues. The NIA seized the huge amount from a locked house and negotiators who promised to get these old notes exchanged were also arrested. The NIA went to town claiming that the money belonged to the terror groups. In fact, the amount was in two tranche; first being Rs 36 crores and then the remaining amount. However, within weeks all nine persons who were arrested, were released by the NIA quietly saying that it had nothing to do with the case as neither the amount and nor the persons were connected with any terror groups. It now transpires that first tip of the stashed money came to the NIA from one of its informers in J & K. The informer said that the amount is stashed in Kanpur. Elated by the tip-off the NIA raided the house with the help of the local police. But after investigations it surfaced that the money belonged to a political party and businessmen. The NIA retreated and no press release was issued either by the UP Police or the NIA. Cheers !

Modi's somersault on auctioning Coal, spectrum ?

Is the Modi government planning to dump the much-hyped policy of auctioning of natural resources ? If the statements by Coal Secretary Susheel Kumar and Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar are any indication, the auction policy may be a thing of the past. Susheel Kumar said that one cannot always think in terms of monetising revenues and has to keep the wider goals in mind. Niti Aayog Chairman Rajiv Kumar also echoed similar sentiments at a close-door conference. Talking to industry leaders, he said the government is rethinking its approach to spectrum auctions. He said, “this is the beginning of a process whereby you don’t try and always maximize government revenues … you may want to maximise development by bringing in greater benefits to citizens or to the private sector. He went on to say, “We have not done the famous spectrum sales during the financial year and there is a rethinking in the Government.” Instead of revenue, the government may want to maximise development by bringing in greater benefits to citizens and encourage private sector. The statements came as surprise as the UPA's policies on Coal and spectrum had brought down the Manmohan Singh government which had allocated the spectrum and coal mines based on first-come-basis. The CAG then had accused the government of incurring a “presumptive” loss of 1.76 lakh crore to the national exchequer because the spectrum were not auctioned. Similar allegations were leveled regarding the allocation of coal mines by the previous government and that was described as the coal scam. However, the somersault signals that rhetoric is being replaced by reality in the Modi government. The private sector groaning against the losses is failing to expand and therefore not able to return the huge loans it had borrowed from the banks which resulted in rising non-performing assets of the banks, bringing the banks to the point of bankruptcy.