Monday, January 28, 2019

No cake-walk for Priyanka, Scindia in UP

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

News analysis

No cake-walk for Priyanka, Scindia in UP
Congress to focus on 25 Lok Sabha seats

Harish Gupta
New Delhi, Jan. 24

Stiff challenge awaits Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in UP East when she returns from the USA in the first week of February to take charge of her first formal political assignment. She along with her family members, has gone there for a medical check up of a family member three weeks ago, sources say. Her entry in UP East is not a cake-walk but like a greenhorn in the Lion's den. She has been given the charge of those 33 Lok Sabha seats where the Congress had drawn a big Zero in 2014 parliamentary polls. If anyone thought that Priyanka Gandhi has been rewarded by her brother Rahul or it is a bed of roses for her or a big favour, he is sadly mistaken. Its a deft, crafty political move where the Gandhi scion knew he will have to fight it all alone now. After all, party stalwarts Ghulam Nabi Azad included, failed during the past three decades to revive the Congress in UP. Left high and dry by the SP-BSP with only two seats (Amethi & Rae Bareli), Rahul could find only her sister for UP East and and trusted colleague Jyotiraditya Scindia for UP West. The UP West includes regions like Bundelkhand, Ruhelkhand and western part accounting for 30 odd-Lok Sabha seats. It must be borne in mind that when the Congress won 21 Lok Sabha seats in UP in 2009, 15 came from Eastern part while six from other regions. The Congress had a vote share of 10% in UP East compared to 4.90% in UP West. It may also be worthwhile to mention that it contested 67 seats out of 80 in 2014.

But surely, 2019 is not 2009 and Priyanka and Scindia would have to fight for every vote in their respective battle ground. Congress insiders say that the Congress would not contest all the 80 seats as was declared by Ghulam Nabi Azad. In fact, one of the reasons for him being shifted to the small state of Haryana was his suo-moto declaration of taking on SP-BSP too. Rahul Gandhi has made it clear that seats and candidates be selected with the objective to defeat the BJP and improve party's own tally. It is also clearly emerging that the Congress will focus on 25 Lok Sabha seats where it will put up strong candidates.

It had a formidable presence in nine Lok Sabha constituencies and strong in another five besides winning two seats in 2014. Therefore, it had a reasonable case of getting 10 Lok Sabha in the bargain with the SP-BSP. Since it couldn't happen, it will now focus on

Barabanki (2nd), Kushinagar (2nd), Mirzapur (3rd), Pratapgarh (3rd) and Varanasi (3rd). Of course, in Varanasi, there is already a talk of putting up a joint Opposition candidate in Shatrughan Sinha. Similarly, the Congress was second in Saharanpur, Ghaziabad (Raj Babbar contested), Lucknow (Rita Bahuguna Joshi joined BJP after being defeated), Kanpur (Sriprakash Jaiswal) and Kheri constituencies. It was pushed to third position in Rampur, Unnao, Farrukhabad (Salman Khurshid). With the young Rahul team taking over UP, the Congress workers will surely be enthused and galvanized. But it is certainly not a red carpet that awaits Priyanka and Scindia. Its a long, hard battle ground.


Friday, January 25, 2019

New CBI Chief selection tomorrow

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

New CBI Chief selection tomorrow

Mishra, Jaiswal lead the race

List of 20 probables sent to the panel !

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Jan. 23

All eyes are set on the 3-member Selection committee meeting tomorrow to pick the new CBI chief.

Highly placed sources in the government say that the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Leader of the single largest party in the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge will meet to select the new CBI chief from the panel of around 20 officers short-listed by the government.

CISF Director-General Rajesh Ranjan, BSF DG R K Mishra, Mumbai Police Commissioner Subodh Jaiswal, a 1985 batch IPS officer and external intelligence agency R&AW special secretary Vivek Johri are in the reckoning among these 20 officers. These officers belong to the 1982-85 batch of the IPS officers and hold key positions either in the Central government and/or in state government service.

If the current thinking in the government is any indication, it wants to appoint a person as new CBI chief who has nothing to do with the Gujrat cadre or part of any of the SITs relating to the state when Narendra Modi was Chief Minister or non-controversial.

Some of the saner voices have cautioned the government that its time to “restore the credibility” of the highly respected probe agency and let the successor to Alok Verma be chosen on “merit.”

Y C Modi who was made chief of the National Investigation Agency chief and considered close to the PM, is also in the race. But this 1984-batch Assam-and-Meghalaya-cadre IPS officer, was part of the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team that probed the 2002 Gujarat riots when Narendra Modi was chief minister. The SIT had given Narendra Modi a clean chit in the Gulbarg Society massacre in which 69 people were killed. He may not be able to make the cut.

Many feel that one of the reasons of the current crisis in the CBI is the gift of the non-experience of Alok Verma who never served the CBI before. Therefore, an officer who has the experience of working in the CBI be given preference.

The list of the probables has been sent by the DoPT under the Prime Minister and vetted by the Central Vigilance Commission. It is in the process of being sent to the 3-member selection panel.

Officiating CBI chief M Nageshwar Rao, an IPS officer of the 1986 batch of the Odisha cadre, is also trying hard to be in the panel. Though he is considered very close to some of the senior RSS leaders, his chances do not look bright considering his junior rank in the batch and surcharged atmosphere.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Is It Modi VS Shatru in Varanasi ?

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Is It Modi VS Shatru in Varanasi ?

Opposition parties pitching a Joint candidate in 2019 

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Jan. 22

The Opposition parties are contemplating pitching a joint candidate against Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency this time.

If sources in the top echelon of the Opposition are to be believed, rebel BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha has been sounded to take on the mighty Modi in May 2019 Lok Sabha polls.  

It transpires that Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav is the brain behind this move and a primary round of discussion had already taken place in Kolkata when these leaders met on Sunday last.

These sources told Lokmat today that Shatrughan Sinha is the most sought-after leader by Opposition parties today; if Mamata Banerjee wants him to contest from any seat in West Bengal, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal asked him to contest against BJP leader Manoj Tiwari in Delhi.  RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav wants him to be the joint Opposition candidate from Patna Sahib in Bihar, a constituency he currently holds in Lok Sabha as BJP MP.Sinha had met Lalu in Ranchi jail last month.  The Congress leadership is also very soft on him and willing to take him on board.

However, the Opposition leaders are looking for a formidable candidate against PM Modi from Varanasi and it is felt that  Shatrughan Sinha foots the bill given the situation. He is a BJP insider, a party veteran, popular, seasoned and commands a lot of goodwill.

The BJP leadership is also moving with caution to proceed against Sinha even after issuing him a public warning on Sunday itself when Shatrughan Sinha addressed an Opposition rally. Last ditch efforts may be on for some sort of a patch up though the die seems to have been cast.

The Opposition had failed in 2014 to put up a joint candidate against Modi from Varanasi due to variety of reasons with Congress and BSP candidates losing their deposits and Arvind Kejriwal getting more than two lakh votes and Modi touching almost 6 lakh vote figure. The opposition parties are keen to give BJP run for its money Varanasi this time and if Shatrughan Sinha is agreeable, it will be a stellar. Sinha will have nothing to lose even if he loses from Varanasi as he will be brought to the Rajya Sabha.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Rattled Modi Goes soft on regional parties,

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Rattled Modi Goes soft on regional parties,

Puts Plan B in Operation, Tells leaders not to attack non-allies

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Jan. 21

Rattled by state-level alliances and adjustment of seats in states by the Opposition parties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has opted for Plan-B.

Rather than naming and shaming leaders and parties individually, Modi has decided to play safe and choosing to attack them for forming an “unholy” alliance. Earlier, he was hitting hard at all & sundry calling them name individually at public rallies and interactions. But not any more. He is soft-pedaling with some non-Congress non-BJP parties.

For example, during his visit to Odisha in Bolangir last week,

he did not speak a single word against Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik either directly or indirectly. He did not even mention that the BJP will win 15 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the state and dislodge Patnaik.The PM indirectly criticized the BJD government only one issue – poor utilisation of District Mineral Fund. This sudden change of heart on the part of Modi, has created speculations over the emergence of a new equation that may take shape up after the general elections. This mood of Modi also left many senior BJP leaders red- faced. This was in sharp contrast to the approach of BJP Chief Amit Shah who vowed to dislodge the Patnaik government. It would be worthwhile to mention here that on earlier two occasions when Modi visited Odisha in December-early January he had bitterly attacked the “Corrupt” Naveen Patnaik government.

Perhaps, things changed after the SP-BSP alliance in UP and later coming together of Opposition parties in Jharkhand and Bihar too.

In fact, none of the senior leaders of the BJP including the PM and BJP Chief have uttered a single word against BSP chief Mayawati. On the contrary, BJP leaders are saying in private that Mayawati became CM of UP three times with the help of the BJP and she will come around after the Lok Sabha polls.

Modi has been lashing out at the Congress for all the ills of the country and blaming it for "ill-treating" regional parties.

The leadership has also issued stern warning to motor-mouths of the BJP not to speak out of turn or personally attack any of the these leaders personally. The way, UP BJP MLA was reprimanded and made to apologise publicly is an indication that the party is moving with extreme caution.

A senior Cabinet Minister told Lokmat that barring Lalu's RJD and Samajwadi Party, all other parties have been part of the alliance with the BJP during the past 20 years and none were untouchables.

Be it BSP, TDP, National Conference, PDP, JMM, JVM, BJD, DMK, AIADMK, TRS or even TMC, all were part of the NDA.

Even when DMK leader M K Stalin openly proposed the name of ally Rahul Gandhi for the post of PM, Modi went out of his way to placate him. Modi said to party workers through a video conference in Chennai that the BJP was open to alliances and cherished its old friends. This was a clear hint that it was looking to strengthen the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Tamil Nadu – before or after the LS Polls.


Monday, January 21, 2019

Modi Govt. goes soft on Asthana, Sharma,

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Modi Govt. goes soft on Asthana, Sharma,

Rakesh Asthana Made Aviation security Chief,

AK Sharma sent to CRPF

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Jan. 18

Instead of sending the "rogue officers" shunting out of Delhi, the Modi government showed some mercy on its favourite IPS officers Rakesh Asthana and A K Sharma today. The government on Friday appointed Rakesh Asthana, deposed No.2 officer in the CBI, as the Director, Civil Aviation Security and retained A K Sharma in Delhi too. 

Asthana, a 1984 batch IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre, will now head the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and serve the organisation for a period of two years, unless curtailed later.

The controversial Joint Director of the CBI, Arun Kumar Sharma, has been transferred as assistant director general of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). He is also a Gujrat cadre IPS officer and considered close to the top BJP leadership. DIG Manish Kumar Sinha whose tenure was also curtailed yesterday for levelling allegations against Asthana, Doval & others,  is understood to have been transferred to Bureau of Police Research and Development.

While Asthana was considered close to the PMO, Arun Kumar Sharma was close to deposed CBI director Alok Verma. Interestingly, the government has not yet accepted the resignation of Alok verma from the IPS even after the lapse of one week. No official reasons have been given so far by the government for not accepting his resignation.

It seems the government is thinking of initiating some disciplinary action against him for what he had said in the Supreme Court. His petition has not yet been heard by the SC.

Alok Verma was transferred to the post of director general of fire service, civil defence and home guard. Verma, however, refused the posting and resigned from the Indian Police Service.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

PM's Mudra Yogna haunting banks now

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

A Lokmat Exclusive story with Table

PM's Mudra Yogna haunting banks now

Rs 6.66 lakh crores “Unsecured” Loans doled out

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Jan. 16

Facts are sacrosanct; more so when they are told in Parliament by the government. And these were startling when it came to narrating the success of the Prime Minister's ambitious Mudra yogna (PMMY) by the Minister himself and how the Mudra Yogna is now haunting the banks now.

Of the 15.26 crores Mudra loans amounting to Rs 7.26 lakh crores given during the past four years of the Modi regime, 13.75 crores loan accounts fall under the category of “Shishu” loans. These Shishu Loans galloped as much as Rs 6.66 lakh crores which is nearly 90% of the total loans granted.

The Parliament was also told that loans up to Rs 50,000 are classified as Shishu loans and the banks were directed by the PMO that no  collateral guarantees from them be sought from seekers. All these 13.75 crores “Shishu” loans are either new accounts or given to existing entrepreneurs who wanted to set up their own “Pakoda” outlets. These were granted between April 8, 2015 to December 21, 2018. These facts were stated by none other than the Minister of State for Finance Shiv Pratap Shukla on January 1 in the Rajya Sabha himself. Since the Rajya Sabha was continuously disrupted, the question/answer session was also drowned in the din.
The government claimed that “Shishu loans have helped unlock the business potential of small shop owners and vendors by meeting some of their working capital requirements. These loans have helped businesses to add products to their existing offerings and increase inventory to cater to larger set of customers.”
Shukla said the average ticket size of PMMY loans and loans under Shishu category have demonstrated an increasing trend year after year.

But these have started haunting the banks as NDA government’s flagship Mudra scheme has 14 lakh defaulters and the default amount touched an all time high of Rs 11000 crores until December 21 this year. And most of these are under the Shishu category. Why ?

The first is that these loans are being given without any collateral or security, making it difficult for banks to go after defaulters. The second is the over-emphasis on banks to meet loan disbursal targets. In the race to meet the target, the credentials of loan seekers were not being properly verified.

In order to oblige the masters that be, the banks aggressively lent money under the Shishu Loans category.

In 2015-16, the target was to disburse Rs 1,22,188 crore in loan. But banks aggressively lent and gave out Rs 1,37,449 crore loan. In 2016-17, the banks again crossed the target and gave out Rs 1,80,529 and in 2017-18 (as of September) they lent Rs 2,53,677 crore crossing the target by more than 15000 crores.

Modi recently alleged that since Independence, banks lent Rs 18 lakh crores until 2008. But within the next six years, the UPA-II aggressively lent Rs 52 lakh crores- a record and this led to rising NPAs.

So what's happening with the PM's own pet PMMY which is a huge cause of worry now. No one has the answers. But for the record, self-help individuals secured Rs 50000 to each seeker to become vendors/small shop keepers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Its a double whammy in CBI,

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Its a double whammy in CBI,

CVC fails to pick Director of Prosecution

Fresh applications invites

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Jan. 14

After the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) failed to select a new Director of Prosecution (DoP) and sent back the panel of four to the government, the Centre has sought fresh nominations from different ministries.

Highly placed sources say that as O P Verma, DoP in the CBI was to retire on December 24, the CVC had sought names for the impalement and accordingly four names were short-listed for the post. The names were sent to the CVC long before the crisis between Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana surfaced in October last year.

But serious differences arose within the government and the CVC over the new DoP and in the meanwhile, one of the four aspirants retired forcing the CVC to call for fresh names. Accordingly, the Centre has now issued a notification asking for names from ministries to send names expeditiously to fill vacant post of the Director of Prosecution in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The Director of Prosecution is a crucial post in the federal probe agency. The incumbent, who works under the supervision and control of the CBI Director, renders legal opinion in all the cases probed by the agency, the officials said. The Personnel Ministry has written to secretaries of all government departments for names of eligible and willing officers, not below the rank of Joint Secretary and eligible for appointment as Special Public Prosecutor, they said.

The Department of Personnel has issued a notification today seeking names by January 25 so that "an expeditious decision can be taken for filling the post of Director of Prosecution in CBI".

It is for the first time that the CBI is working without its regular chief and the Director of Prosecution, the officials said.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Special Report 

Mahagathbandhan is Dead, Long Live Gathbandhan

Pawar tells Rahul: No Opposition conclaves, state-level rallies only

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Jan 14

It is now gradually becoming clear that there will be no “Grand Alliance” (Mahagathbandhan) of 22 Opposition parties at the national level. There will be no joint rallies or joint campaigning in states by top leaders of Opposition parties.

Highly placed sources say the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar has suggested that it would be better to avoid holding joint rallies of Opposition leaders across the country. Rather, the parties should concentrate in states and constituencies wherever they are strong to work together and ensure the victory of their respective candidates. The joint rallies should be held only at the state level wherever needed and whenever required.

Sharad Pawar was at pains to explain to the Congress president Rahul Gandhi that the BJP would like to make this Lok Sabha polls as “Modi VS All” and paint a holier than thou image. The images of 22 leaders coming together at some recent conclaves to oust PM Modi should be avoided, at least for now.

The recent successes of low-key low-voltage campaigns in byelections and Assembly polls exposed the chinks in the BJP's armoury.

Rahul Gandhi had met Sharad Pawar at least four times and during one of the recent interactions, the veteran NCP leader felt that instead of “Grand alliance” the focus should be on “alliances in states” only.

Since Congress and NCP have already clinched an alliance in Maharashtra in-principle, its time to clinch alliances in other states too. The Congress Party has clinched an in-principle alliance in Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir. Though there is no state-level alliance in UP with SP and BSP, these leaders feel that this was more a tactical move than keeping Congress in check. This move is aimed at keeping the entire Upper castes votes going over to the BJP in UP. There will be more localised adjustment of seats in UP wherever required, a source said.

The Congress has to sort out its problem in West Bengal where its in a dilemma whether to go it alone or with the CPM or Mamata Banerjee. It also has to overcome teething problems in states like Gujrat and in Karnataka where it has formed government with the Janata Dal (S). It is also facing problems in alliances/adjustment/understanding in Delhi, Punjab etc. with AAP.

It is in this context that Pawar suggested that no nation wide joint rallies or conclaves be held and such campaigns be confined to states only. Though Sharad Pawar was not immediately available for comments, senior NCP leader Praful Patel said its time to consolidate the gains and discussions on these lines have been held. He refused to say anything further on the issue.


Monday, January 14, 2019

Rahul calls urgent meeting on UP

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Rahul calls urgent meeting on UP 

Congress may Contest 20-22 LS seats

Mayawati says “Left two seats so that BJP doesn't tie-down Rahul to Amethi”

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Jan 12

Congress president Rahul Gandhi has called an urgent meeting to take a stock of the political situation in UP where the party has been left with with only two seats by the SP-BSP leaders.

Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha and incharge of UP affairs and Raj Babbar, president UP unit have been will brief Rahul Gandhi after taking stock of the situation in Lucknow  tomorrow. 

Rahul Gandhi will be returning from Dubai where he had gone to address a massive meeting of the NRIs which is considered his best ever show on foreign soil. Before going to Dubai, Rahul Gandhi had told Gulf News that his party can do “very interesting things” in UP and had asserted that it would be a “mistake to “underestimate” his party, the SP-BSP just did the same today.

But the SP and BSP had done exactly that and declared that only two seats -Amethi and Rae Bareli – will be left for the Congress. The Congress leadership had signals to the SP-BSP leaders that it would be happy to be contented with even 8 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats. It had come second in second in five Lok Sabha seats in 2014 Lok Sabha polls and had strong presence in another 9 seats. The Congress was keen that some of its senior and your leaders who had done better in 2014 be accommodated in the alliance. However, the SP-BSP leaders stood their ground.

But Mayawati's one comment today at the press conference in Lucknow may still be music to the ears of Rahul Gandhi when she said, “We have left these two seats for Congress so that the BJP doesn't tie-down Rahul Gandhi to Amethi.”

Obviously, Mayawati has kept the doors open for the largest party of the Opposition for any post-poll understanding or even future adjustment of seats during the coming months in UP and elsewhere.

However, insiders in the Congress say that the party will field its candidates in 20 Lok Sabha seats where it has sizable presence of votes. Though UP Congress leaders want that the party should contest all 80 seats. However, Rahul Gandhi's objective in 2019 Lok Sabha polls was articulated by him in the Gulf News interview which was first in recent months where he said, “Our first aim is to defeat Mr Narendra Modi. And so there are states where we are very strong and we are the primary party in the state and in those states we are contesting the BJP directly. There are states where there are possible alliances — Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Bihar — where we are working out an alliance formula. We are an ideological party. We fight based on ideology. There are very interesting things that the Congress party can do in Uttar Pradesh that we are working on.”

He had said the Congress idea is very powerful for Uttar Pradesh. “So, we are very confident of our ability in Uttar Pradesh and I think we will surprise people.”

However, his statement did not reach the SP-BSP leadership leaving him with a choice to contest 20-22 odd seats.


Saturday, January 12, 2019

After Maharashtra, Congress seals Bihar deal with RJD others

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

A Lokmat exclusive report

After Maharashtra, Congress seals Bihar deal with RJD others 

Kirti Azad, Shatrughan Sinha to quit BJP soon ?

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Jan. 10

After Maharashtra, its the turn of Bihar where Lok Sabha seat sharing arrangement by the Congress with its major allies has virtually been frozen.

Highly placed sources in the Congress say that Mahagathbandhan parties have come to an understanding that 40 Lok Sabha seats will be shared amongst the allies with the sole objective of defeating the BJP-JD(U)-LJP alliance.

Highly placed sources told Lokmat that the final announcement about seat sharing deal is likely to be made only after January 15-16.

The contours of alliances have been finalised after several parleys among the leaders in Delhi, Patna and Ranchi jail where Lalu is presently lodged. It transpires that it was Congress Rajya Sabha MP Akhilesh Prasad Singh who was a catalyst in the Opposition unity operation in Bihar. He was instrumental in bringing Upendra Kushwaha to the Opposition fold and made him quit the Modi government. It was Akhilesh who took Kushwaha to senior Congress leader Ahmad Patel and later Rahul Gandhi. He also arranged his meeting with Lalu in Ranchi jail. Sources say that the deal with Kushwaha was clinched assuring him of six seats. He had got five seats in the NDA though could win three only. He wanted six seats and Lalu agreed to give him the same. The Congress wants to contest 12 seats but at present, 11 seats have been committed to it.

As per the deal, the RJD contesting 19 seats, Congress 11, Upendra Kushwaha's RLSP six seats, HAM of Jitan Ram Manjhi two and Sharad Yadav will contest one seat. The 40th seat may go to Mukesh Sahni who joined the Mahagathbandhan. It has also been agreed if some formidable leader quit the JD (U) or the BJP, seats will be to him either by the Congress or the RJD.

It is learnt that some of the dissident BJP leaders Kirti Azad (Darbhanga) and Shatrughan Sinha (Patna) may also be accommodated from the seats of their choice if they finally quit the party. Shatrughan Sinha 's services may be used as a star campaigner by the alliance partners in Bihar and elsewhere and he may contest from Delhi instead of Bihar.

The Congress is keen that alliances are finalised in every state as soon as possible so that candidates' selection process could be initiated. It has sealed the deal in Maharashtra and now clinched in Bihar.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Modi govt. Sets new precedent

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Modi govt. Sets new precedent

President to address two Joint sittings in a single year

Interim Budget on February 1

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Jan. 9

Departing from the past practice, the Modi government's Interim Budget session beginning January 31 will commence with the President's address to the joint session of Parliament.

This will be first time in several decades that the President will be addressing two joint sessions of Parliament in a single year on the opening day of the session.

The President will open the Parliament's session on January 31 and then again do the same when the 17th Lok Sabha is elected and both houses are summoned by the new government in June, 2019.

In a sudden move the government decided to declare Lok Sabha sine-die last night immediately after the Constitution's amendment bill giving 10% reservations to the upper strata of the society was passed. This was contrary to all conventions and past practices. It had been decided that the Winter session will be adjourned on January 8 and meet on again on January 31. The parliament won't be prorogued.

But last night the Lok Sabha adjourned sine die and the Rajya Sabha will also adjourn sine die after passing the reservation bill.

Highly placed sources in the government say that this decision was taken as Rajya Sabha could not pass several important bill including Triple Talaq, Indian Medical Council (amendment), Aadhaar & other Laws and National Register of Citizenship Bill relating to Assam. The government would now be forced to bring Ordinances to ensure continued implementation of these bills. Otherwise, some of the key bill will lapse. These sources say that if the Parliament is not prorogued, no Ordinance can be issued.

Therefore, it was decided that let both Houses adjourn sine die and fresh session be convened on January 31 and the President be requested to address the joint sitting on the opening day.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is likely to present an interim budget on February 1.

The Budget Session of the Parliament is likely to be held between January 31 and Feb 13, and an interim budget is expected to be presented on February 1.

The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs deliberated on the dates for the budget session at a meeting. It is expected to be the last session of the current Lok Sabha as general elections are due in April-May.


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

BJP worried as Modi Magic waning

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

BJP worried as Modi Magic waning

Of 24 states, BJP could win 12, 

It lost 12 in four years

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Jan 6

Reality is donning the BJP strategists as it is preparing for the Lok Sabha polls due this April-May. The BJP's spin doctors may have created a hype about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's invincibility during this period.

But the data presented by the party's election strategy group revealed that the BJP thrived on the anti-incumbency sentiments in Assembly polls states after states in between 2014 to 2017. By 2018, the Modi magic started waning. Of the 24 state assembly polls held during the past four years, the BJP could captured only 12 states from Congress and its allies. The BJP was also successful in meting out a humiliating defeat to the CPM's Manik Sarkar government in Tripura.

But the BJP failed to see the writing on the wall in in Goa in 2017 which it failed to win. There was a huge anti-incumbency against the BJP in the state and could win only 13 out of the 40 seats. It was BJP's drawing room skills that paid rich dividends. The same happened in Manipur which the BJP failed to win but formed the government. Delhi and Bihar defeats were considered an aberration by the BJP. But by 2018, the major shocker came when BJP failed to snatch

Karnataka and the anti-incumbency didn't work in favour of Modi-Shah team.

The table showed that if the BJP won 12 states, it failed in equal number of states. The party's core group is worried that the BJP failed to retain its own three states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

Though BJP chief Amit Shah has held met party Mps from these three states separately in three batches, he did not ask them why the party lost. He did not give them the reasons of the party's defeat either. He merely directed them that they should now be in the field and work for the victory by highlighting the achievements of the Modi government.

The party strategists point out that the wrong reading of the massive mandate in UP where BJP secured 325 seats on its own made the leadership complacent. It did not crack the whip in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh where workers were saying that leaders must be changed.

In 2017, the BJP snatched Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand from the Congress, UP from SP-BSP and could barely retain Gujrat. But the BJP lost its moorings in 2018 when it failed to win any state except Tripura.

Modi himself tried to explain in an interview recently about these defeats and explained that BJP was not a force in Telangana and Mizoram.

Therefore, the challenges before the leadership are humongous in 2019 in several states. Party strategists admit that Modi's own magic can ensure party's return at the Centre. Otherwise the record of 24 state assembly results does not augur well. is not very placating to the BJP.


Monday, January 7, 2019

Congress-NCP seal Maharashtra seat sharing pact

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Lokmat Exclusive report

Congress-NCP seal Maharashtra seat sharing pact
Both parties to contest 24 seats each
CPM, Raju Shetty, Ambedkar, others to chip in

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Jan 3

The Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have sealed the Lok Sabha seats sharing deal under which both parties will contest 24 seats each.

The two parties sealed the deal yesterday evening when Ashok Chavan, PCC president and Sharad Pawar, NCP president held a prolonged meeting. Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of the Congress Party in Lok Sabha and incharge of Maharashtra affairs was also in loop. The Congress Core committee which also met last night approved the deal in principle. The two parties were wrangling over the deal for the past few weeks as the Congress wanted to contest 26 out of the 48 Lok Sabha seats as was the case in 2014 leaving 22 for the NCP.

However, Congress president Rahul Gandhi had authorised Sharad Pawar to sort out all pending issues in the state relating to seat sharing. Rahul Gandhi had met Pawar at least four times during the past five months.

Pawar had been talking to all like-minded parties in Maharashtra to stitch a mega alliance in Maharashtra including RPI (Ambedkar), CPM, BAV, BSP and Raju Shetty

An indication of clinching of the deal was available today at the mega conclave of the Opposition parties who met the Gurudwara Rakabganj Road residence of NCP senior leader Praful Patel.

Sharad Pawar indicated today the seat sharing formula has been evolved and both the parties will share seats to other parties from their own quota.

When Asked Parful Patel confirmed that the deal has been clinched and its only a matter of time when formal announcement will be made.

Those who attended the conclave at Parful Patel's residence included Sitaram Yechury (CPM), Satish Mishra (BSP), Ram Gopal Yadav (SP), Dereck O'brian (TMC), Ahmad Patel (Congress), S Raja (CPI), Kanimauzhi (DMK), Misa Bharti (RJD), Dr Farooq Abdullah (JK-NC) and others were present. The luncheon conclave gave a clue that Opposition unity in most of the states is progressing well. However, the leaders of the Opposition parties are refusing to call it a “Mahagathbandhan.”


Modi not to contest from Puri

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Modi not to contest from Puri

BJP shows “white Flag” to Naveen Patnaik

PM may contest from Gujrat too

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Jan. 2

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on the horns of dilemma when it comes to selecting the second Lok Sabha seat in addition to Varanasi in UP in the ensuing Parliamentary polls in May 2019.

It was speculated earlier that he will contest from the Puri Lok Sabha seat in Odisha as part of the mega plan to conquer the coastal state which has 21 parliamentary seats.

Though the PM ducked the question in a TV interview yesterday when asked whether he would contest from Puri, sources in the BJP told Lokmat the plan was abandoned.

After the outcome of the recent Assembly poll results, the plans have hit a hurdle and the PM doesn't want to contest from Puri at all. If sources are to be believed, he is contemplating to contest from the second seat in his home state of Gujrat. Surely, he can contest from Vadodara Lok Sabha constituency which he vacated in 2014 itself and Ranjanben Bhatt was elected. But he is eyeing the Gandhinagar seat presently held by BJP veteran L K Advani who is now 90 years plus. However, intermediaries are working to find a solution as Modi doesn't want to be seen to be denying Advani Lok Sabha ticket as it may become an emotive issue. Modi has been told by BJP leadership that if he contests from Gujrat once again, the party can retain all 26 Lok Sabha seats.

It now transpires that the BJP high command has sent clear signals to the Naveen Patnaik government that Modi has no plans to contest from Puri. Rather, the BJP doesn't have much of a problem with the Biju Janata Dal government in Odisha as long as it keeps Congress at arms length. The BJD responded positively to these signals with a condition that its dissidents like B J Panda, a former member of the Lok Sabha, should not be patronized. Secondly, the BJD leaders should not be harassed in false cases by the CBI & ED “We have no interest in Delhi politics and Delhi should not look at East either,” Naveen sent the word.

Its largely because of this very reason that the CBI has gone silent in pursuing cases against BJD ministers and MLAs of the Naveen Patnaik government in various scams including Sarada Chit Fund cases.