Friday, August 31, 2018

Fly on the Wall : Javadekar Kicks Teachers' Awards lobbyists out

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Javadekar Kicks Teachers' Awards lobbyists out

After Lutyen's Delhi was banished from the list of Padma Awards, the time is up for teachers to lobby for most prestigious National Awards. For the first time in Independent India, the practice of seeking names of best teachers from states for these awards has been abandoned. Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar decided to invite applications from teachers from all over India online directly. The only condition was that the teacher seeking National Award must have done something innovative or made extra-ordinary contribution to qualify for such an award. There were protests from the states as they felt that their powers have been curtailed. But Javadekar's answer was simple- states can also nominate if they so desire but the parameters will remain the same. Perhaps, Javadekar had discussed with the PM this innovative idea before over-hauling the time-tested lobby system. The PM gave the go-ahead as he himself must have been unhappy as he used to witness huge pressure as Chief Minister of Gujrat with recommendations. Javadekar constituted a high-powered committee to select 50 awardees from amongst 6000 applications. These 50 will be awarded on September 5 at Vigyan Bhawan. A senior HRD ministry official said there is a Lutyen's Zone in every state Capital and all awards were reserved for toppers living in such zones. Surely, if Modi disbanded Lutyen's Zone wallas from the list of Padma awards, Prakash Javadekar sent them for a six in the teachers category. Watch out other ministries in the years to come. Now it may the turn of the doctors.

Atal makes maiden entry in JNU

When Atal Behari Vajpayee was Prime Minister, he wanted the party to make inroads in the Left-controlled Jawaharlal Nehru University. Barring a success here and there, the Sangh Parivar failed to crack the Left bastion. However, his dream was fulfilled without any murmurs by HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar last week. Vajpayee was rehabilitated in death. Javadekar met a large number of people and convinced them that the government was willing to walk an extra-mile to make JNU a world class institution. It is willing to grant new courses including the School of Management and Engineering. The Executive Council of JNU was convinced that starting these courses would go a long way in enhancing its stature. Then came the plea that the Management Centre be named after late Atal Behari Vajpayee. Marathon discussions took place at various levels as Javadekar didn't want any controversies. He wanted matters to be resolved through negotiations rather than bull-dozing his way. The end result - Executive Council paid its fulsome tribute to Vajpayee and proposed to name it as 'Atal Bihari Vajpayee School of Management and Entrepreneurship." Of course, some felt that this would "dilute the research-oriented nature of JNU". But Atal made the entry, finally.

Timing of removal surprised N N Vohra

N N Vohra who had been holding the fort in Jammu & Kashmir for more than ten years, left the Raj Bhawan on an unhappy note. Though an appointee of Dr Manmohan Singh in 2008, PM Modi decided to retain the seasoned bureaucrat. But Vohra had realised for the past some time that his days are numbered and started taking up cudgels on issues which were alien to him. During the last two months, friction between the Raj Bhavan and the Centre and Army increased. Raj Bhavan officials say that for the past ten years Vohra hardly had any differences with the Army over the killings of the “innocents”. But suddenly his heart started bleeding for them and he raised voice at meetings with the top army officials which didn't go down well with New Delhi. Vohra also opposed the any dilution of Article 35A which defines State subject laws, in the Supreme Court until an elected government was in place. This annoyed Modi so much that he decided to send Malik at a very short notice giving no time to Vohra to do any “further damage.” The Union Home Ministry informed him over the phone that his successor had been chosen and Satya Pal Malik will take charge from him. But Vohra did not wait for Satya Pal Malik to come to Srinagar. He decided to leave in the morning itself though Malik was expected from Patna in the afternoon. Vohra was conspicuous by his absence during the swearing-in of the new Governor on August 23. This surprised political observers because Vohra has been stickler of protocol. Vohra had expressed his willingness to manage the Amarnath Yatra and ensure the smooth conduct of the panchayat elections by the end of the year. But Modi was unwilling to give any leeway.

Why Satya Pal Malik to J&K ?

Most political leaders in the BJP are eyeing to become Bihar Governor these days though Lalji Tandon has been put in place for the time being. Bihar Raj Bhawan is considered Touch Of Gold; whosoever occupied it, got a huge promotion. If Ram Nath Kovind rose to become the President of India, Satya Pal Malik hogged the national limelight by moving to Srinagar Raj Bhawan. Both came from UP and originally didn't belong to the BJP either. But both became integral part of the BJP. Modi picked them for key posts though he had no personal contact with them either. While Kovind was always a low profile and humble person, Satya Pal Malik was in the forefront of political events. He had played a key role in the fall of the Morarji Desai government and making Charan Singh as PM with the help of the Congress. Though Congress pulled the plug and Charan Singh lost power within months, Satya Pal Malik dumped his mentor. He joined the Congress which nominated him to the Rajya Sabha twice, in 1980 and 1986. Later, Malik deserted Rajiv Gandhi and joined hands with V P Singh and became a minister in his government. He later joined Samajwadi Party and finally landed in BJP. Modi picked up Malik for the post as he was very close to Mufti Mohammed Sayeed who was Home Minister in the V P Singh government. It was during this period that relationship grew and both came close. Malik considers Mehbooba as his daughter. It seems Modi may do business with PDP once again in Jammu & Kashmir. Perhaps, Malik may be of some help.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Fly on the Wall : Bitter feud bring CBI to a grinding halt

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Fly on the Wall : 

Bitter feud bring CBI to a grinding halt

CBI director Alok Verma may have just four months to go before he demit office on December 1. But not a day passes when he is not involved in a bitter battle with his own deputy Rakesh Asthana. The latest saga began when Verma ordered on the file that statements of all the persons named in the diaries be recorded. In a written note issued to the Special Unit in the CBI, Verma directed that the diaries recovered from the premises of the promoters of Gujrat-based Sterling Biotech company offices be recorded without further delay. Several top politicians, bureaucrats and police officers have been named in the diaries recovered by the Income-tax department in 2011 which have now been handed over to the CBI for criminal investigation. The diaries had names and monies paid to those named. But Verma's target seems to be Asthana who was Police Commissioner of Surat whose name figured in the diaries as well. It is an irony that Verma was brought as CBI chief by the Modi dispensation in December 2016 while Asthana, a Gujarat-cadre IPS officer, is believed to be close to the PM and BJP president Amit Shah. No case has been registered against Asthana, the CBI director wants to formally record his statement in connection with the probe. This annoyed Asthana so much that he knocked at the door of the PMO alleging vindictive attitude of his superior. Verma also crossed swords with the Chief Vigilance Commissioner K V Chaudhary saying that Asthana had no mandate to represent the agency in his absence and should not be "consulted for inducting officers into the agency. Obviously, Verma was peeved that his plans to bring two officers of his choice in the CBI were thwarted by CVC. Verma wanted to bring Rajiv Krishna and R P Upadhyay into the CBI as additional directors. Both are considered close to Verma. But Asthana torpedoed Verma's plans. The last word on Verma-Asthana feud is yet to be written.

Adhia shows who is the Boss !

If CBI Chief Alok Verma is fighting with his Number 2 in the agency, Enforcement Director Karnal Singh has chosen to lock horns with Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, Finance Secretary. While the government was keen that he send Rajeshwar Singh, an ED officer packing, Karnal Singh defied and retained him. But in a bizarre situation Adhia showed who is the real boss. Karnal Singh has lost the latest round with Adhia on the continuation of controversial officer who was handling sensitive cases. Adhia decided to take the command in his own hands and issued a written order sending Rajeshwar Singh on forced leave. The argument goes that Karnal Singh is not the administrative head when it comes to handling of the officers of the ACC level. Rajeshwar Singh investigated many key cases including Aircel-Maxis and others and the government found that all is not well. But Karnal Singh who was hand-picked by the Modi dispensation took a different line. With Karnal Singh due to retire in October, the government will now have the opportunity to anoint a trusted officer of its choice. It is heard in the corridors of powers that he will have the ears of the Almighty.

The games TDP,  PDP play

Two key allies of the BJP may have quit the Modi government and singing a different tune. In the case of Jammu & Kashmir, it was the BJP which deserted the Mufti government one fine morning and Governor’s rule was imposed. But neither the BJP speaking against the PDP and nor the PDP speaking personally against Modi. If insiders are to be believed, the divorce took place as both were losing their respective vote bank and decided to call it a day. May be after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, they may do business again. The National Conference led by Dr Farooq Abdullah has also sent clear signals that he is not averse to do business with Modi. It was largely because of this very reason that the PDP is abstaining in the Rajya Sabha whenever voting takes place. Same is the case with Andhra Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu who felt that he is losing ground to YSR-Congress for his failure to get “special status” for his state from the NDA. In the competitive politics of Andhra Pradesh, the TDP is left with no option but to part company with the BJP.  The BJP had also developed a feeling that it is not growing in the state. But the BJP is not poaching on the TDP MLAs in Andhra. The BJP is targeting the “corrupt Congress and YSR-Congress leadership”. The whisper in the corridors of power is that TDP will do business again with the BJP after the 2019 polls.  After all, Chandrababu Naidu wants “special status” for Andhra and has no Delhi Dreams like many other chief ministers.

As Sonia frail, Priyanka gives the helping hand

As the health of Sonia Gandhi not in good shape and Congress president Rahul Gandhi trying to cope with the massive pressure of work, young party managers are a worried lot. Though Rahul’s unofficial political secretary and former IAS K Raju is the key man in the system, things have yet to take shape. The loss of weight forced Sonia Gandhi even to abandon her planned trip to Red Fort on the Independence Day. The doctors advised against her visiting the hot & humid weather conditions as she is now weighted around 45 kg only. Though she did walk an extra mile to raise slogans along with the MP s in Parliament on August 10 morning on the Rafale issue, she was looking so frail and weak, the SPG commandoes had a tough time to handle the situation. She went there as Rahul Gandhi had left for Jaipur early morning leaving Sonia Gandhi to cheer up the party MP s. This has given room for intense speculation in the party for a greater role for Priyanka Gandhi. In any case, this being the election year and with Rahul Gandhi travelling all over the country, Priyanka has to focus on UP where the party is pitted against formidable BJP. Priyanka may not have held a position in the party but her writ runs, say insiders. Her official entry into direct political role is just a matter of time as she attended the funeral of M Karunanidhi. In an unprecedented move she also decided to address ladies of an  Entrepreneur's Organization in Mumbai which was a closed-door affair. But she stole the thunder with her highly emotional speech and ladies were seen weeping. It was first time the mighty club of Mumbai realized the oratory skills of Priyanka. In case the party decides to give her a direct role and she herself chooses to emerge from the shadows, prospects of Congress will certainly brighten.

After Assam, Manipur on the Edge now

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Lokmat Exclusive story

After Assam, Manipur on the Edge now
Permits for non-Manipuris who came after 1951
Modi in a Bind, Najma worried

Harish Gupta
New Delhi, Aug. 24
After Assam, its Manipur on the edge, thanks to the Manipur People's Bill passed by the BJP-ruled government proposing to shut the doors who came after 1951. If the cut-off date in the case of Assam was 1971, Manipur went a step further by fixing 1951 for being declared as natives. Rest of them will have to go back or seek special entry permits.

The Bill has put the Modi government in a bind and a worried Governor Najma Heptulla rushed to Delhi last week to apprise the Centre of the gravity of the situation. The Chief Minister, N Biren Singh, who cobbled a majority to form the government, insisted that the bill be cleared without delay.

Najma Heptulla called on the Prime Minister and held detailed discussion on the worrisome situation in Manipur. What transpired between the two is not immediately known. But the Centre cautioned her to take her own time in deciding the issue. Najma Heptulla returned to Imphal and has decided to “sit-over” the bill.

The Manipur People's Bill pending with the Governor proposed that all those who came to Manipur after 1951 will not be considered as native and will lose the right to vote and own property and settle. This has affected not only the illegal immigrants from Bangla Desh, but also thousands of businessmen and workers who went there during the 60s and 70s to set up businesses from Mumbai, West Bengal, Rajasthan and played a key role in the development of the state.

A senior official in the Union Home Ministry said that “The Manipur People's Bill is like an old wine in new bottle”. The State had passed a similar bill under the nomenclature of Protection of Manipur People’s Bill which was withdrawn and emerged in a new form to regulate the entry of “outsiders” on lines of the British-era regulatory regime.

The BJP-ruled state government was unwilling to consider the plea that Manipur was given statehood in January 1972 and therefore, the cut off date should be 1971 and not 1951. But it buckled under the pressure of dominant Meities community. Interestingly, there there is no National Register of Citizens of 1951 in Manipur. When asked “How will they prove the natives” of 1951, the Chief Minister had no answer.

As per the new provision, all non-Manipuris will have to register themselves within one month of the notification of the law. They will be issued a pass extendable up to six months to stay within the state territory. While those who have trade licences can get a pass extendable up to five years, which will have to be renewed every year. Any outsider visiting Manipur would need a pass for entry. The Chief Minister has conveyed to the party high command that the law will help the BJP to grab both Lok Sabha seats to the party and majority in the Assembly due to the support of the dominant community.


Monday, August 6, 2018

Fly on the wall : Sushma Sermon to BJP MPs creates a flutter

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Sushma Sermon to BJP MPs creates a flutter

 External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is very cautious of what she speaks and does. She plays so safe that people rather wonder if she is the same Sushma who used to bat on the front foot all the time and fire-brand speaker. But ever since she became a Minister under the Modi dispensation, she is a changed person. However, things are changing lately and Sushma created a stir at the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting on Tuesday last. She told the hundreds of BJP Mps present at the venue that they should not be seen in Delhi after August 10. They should create a buzz in every village and town about Modiji's schemes and success stories and achievements of the Modi government. She said no MP should be seen in Delhi after august 10 and stay in their respective constituencies. Sushma who spoke immediately after Surface Transport and Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari sent a clear message to the Mps that they should now focus on the constituencies alone. The MPs were surprised to hear the sermon coming from Sushma who virtually declared that Monsoon could be the last session of Parliament amidst buzz that Lok Sabha polls may be advanced to November-December when polls are due in four states; Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram. Surprisingly, neither BJP president Amit Shah and nor the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi contradicted her when they spoke subsequently. The silence of Modi and Shah on this tricky issue made MP s worried too. Since Sushma is not known for jumping the gun, the MP s have no clue as what they should do next ? Better Quit the Capital after August 10 as directed by Sushma Behenji.

Rahul ready for a big hair-cut

Congress president Rahul Gandhi made it clear to top party leaders that he was all for alliances. But they should keep in mind that these alliances would be limited to four states only; namely, Maharashtra, UP, Bihar and Tamil Nadu. In other states, the party may have some adjustment of seats. But these four states alone account for 208 seats out of 543 Lok Sabha constituencies. In these four states the Congress is expected to contest, if the alliances were put in place, around 50-54 seats. Sources say that the Congress would contest 22 seats in Maharashtra under a new arrangement being worked out, 10 in UP, 12 in Bihar and 10 in Tamil Nadu. Rahul reported to have told P Chidambaram categorically when he advocated for country-wide alliances to defeat PM Modi. Rahul said these four states, the party would enter into alliances and in other states there may be seat adjustment. He did not name any other state. But in west Bengal, the Congress will have seat adjustment with Mamata Banerjee and not an alliance and would contest 8 out of 42. This means, out of 250 seats, the Congress will contest 60 seats only. Mamata called on Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday and discussed the length the contours of broad-based understanding. But it is clear the Congress is ready to take a big hair-cut to ensure the defeat of Modi in 2019. Congress under Sonia Gandhi may have contested 461 Lok Sabha seats across the country. But things are different under young Rahul Gandhi who is realistic and quick in decision-making now. If things go as planned, the Congress is now mentally ready to contest 265-280 Lok Sabha seats. In Kerala too, it is already in alliance and with Mayawati seeking seats outside UP, the Congress tally may come down further. But one thing is sure; the strike rate of the Congress-led alliance will be far more damaging than what is anticipated.

Dy. Chairman's room gone too !

With no election of Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha in sight as the government not inclined to hold it due to lack of numbers, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu moved a step further. The VP explored the possibility if a consensus for the post of Dy Chairman can be evolved and government tried hard. Finally, the government told VP that it won't to possible to do so during the Monsoon session of Parliament. It now transpires that VP has taken control of the Dy. Chairman's spacious room for the time being and put it to some better use. A dining table with a dozen chairs were put there and a temporary partition was created. Since the Vice President has to sit for long hours in the absence of Deputy Chairman, he has to sit in the House for long hours. Therefore, he decided to put up a bed to take afternoon nap in the Parliament House itself rather than driving down to his own residence at 6 Maulana Azad Road. In any case, there is no hurry to fill the post either as VP is doubling up for Dy. Chairman as well.

Amit Shah's 51% vote share dream

In the midst of contradictory signals, BJP chief  Amit Shah made it clear that there will be no early elections either for the Lok Sabha. Shah was quoted as saying that the BJP was all for simultaneous polls of Lok Sabha & state Assemblies. But unless there is a consensus or the BJP has required majority in Parliament, the proposal won't be implemented on a piece meal basis. “There is no question of early elections, we will not do give up power even for one hour as people have given us the mandate for 5 years,” he said to his core group team. Giving logic behind his plans, Shah said the BJP is targeting for 51 % votes in the Lok Sabha. He said that the BJP polled 47% votes in Kairana Lok Sabha bye-polls which is toughest seat for the party in UP. The combined Opposition may have won the seat. But the BJP improved its vote tally from 41% in 2014 in Kairana to 47%. Amit Shah is not worried over Opposition unity and reportedly said, “we are happy that Rahul Gandhi is being projected as PM, it benefits us since he is no match to Modi. It will give BJP 5% edge during the polls.  Amit Shah wriggled out figures after figures and said, the booth level committees of the BJP workers are effectively function in 7 lakh booths out of 9 lakh booths in the country. A batch of 25 workers on every booth is working and operations and connected with the headquarters on a daily basis. The party has a data-base of 14.3 crore members with their mobile telephone numbers, voter cards etc. The BJP is connected with them through SMSes. But he had no answer how he would touch 51% votes in 2019 when the party's vote share in 2014 was 31% votes. Secondly, in 2014, the Opposition parties were divided and Congress was in a disarray.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Pawar throws Maharashtra bait to Mayawati

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Exclusive report 

Pawar throws Maharashtra bait to Mayawati

Wants her to be Dalit face in the state

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, July 31

A new political script is being written in Maharashtra by NCP president Sharad Pawar and if it goes as per plans, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati will play a crucial role in the months to come in the state.

The possibilities of Sharad Pawar and Mayawati holding their first joint rally in the Vidharbha region are being explored. The broad contours of this proposal were discussed between Sharad Pawar and Mayawati when the two met last week here. In fact, Sharad Pawar took an unusual step when he decided to drive down to the Gurudwara Rakabganj office of Bahujan Samaj Party to meet Mayawati. Details of this 60-minute meeting are now surfacing slowly and Sharad Pawar is keen to mobilise the Dalits in Maharashtra in a big way.

The NCP supremo is of the considered view that the Republican Party of India has split into various factions and have lost their credibility with the voters in the state. Another prominent Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar is unwilling to join the Congress-NCP alliance in the state, though efforts were made by the NCP leadership in this regard. Though his own base has dwindled considerably, he is still a respectable face. But his unwillingness forced Sharad Pawar to look for alternatives.

It was in this context that Sharad Pawar decided to talk to Mayawati if she was keen to play a major role by joining the mega alliance of the NCP and Congress. Mayawati's BSP has strong pockets of influence in the Vidharbha region and other areas too. This major vote bank can be channelized if Mayawati is introduced as part of the alliance and give a major fillip to the anti-BJP vote bank. The consolidation of Dalits would be possible as Mayawati is emerging as their national face.

It is not clear whether Sharad Pawar discussed the new role of Mayawati in Maharashtra with the Congress or not. But Rahul Gandhi had held three rounds of talks with Sharad Pawar and discussed alliances across the country. On all the occasions, Rahul Gandhi drove down to the residence of Sharad Pawar. But when it came to Mayawati, the Maratha leader chose to visit her and wants her to seal alliances early. Pawar's bait to Mayawati to play a crucial role in Maharashtra is tempting as Mayawati is working hard to expand her base outside UP. Pawar was not available for comments and Mayawati is always elusive.