Thursday, March 19, 2020

When Modi debunked “Gau Mutra” theory to fight Corona, Tells Mps to follow PMO

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

When Modi debunked “Gau Mutra” theory to fight Corona, Tells Mps to follow PMO

Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually debunked the the theory propounded by some Swamis and Saffron bakhts that Gau Mutra can cure the coronavirus. While giving a pep talk to the BJP parliamentarians, he told them to strictly refrain from tweeting whatever comes their way on the pandemic. He was angry that many Mps had been tweeting on how to fight the global disease and giving their own recipe (read Gau Mutra here) to cure it. He advised them they must follow the tweets decimated by the Union Health Ministry in this regard and by social media handle of the PMO. The PM was peeved that many people are propounding their own recipe and MPs are blindly recommending them. The PM had earlier directed the Aayush Ministry to withdraw from its website various recommendations to fight Corona Virus. The PM did so when it was brought to his notice that the Aayush has recommended some "desi" formula to fight the Virus and the Union Health Ministry strongly objected to it. Interestingly, the PM did not include the Aayush minister Sripad Naik in the Group of Ministers on Corona Virus. In order to apprise the MPs of the magnitude of the Coronavirus and how the India government and various agencies are fighting its spread, the PM specially organised a presentation by the Union Health Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan for them. Dr Harsh Vardhan who is a renowned doctor himself made a 30-minute long presentation with slides and figures to say that Covid-19 is being fought on a war footing basis. He said that India is fully geared up to fight the menace but its spread must be contained and states have taken steps in this regard. The PM was extremely upset that the Mps themselves are not aware of the impending crisis developing around the world and taking the challenge in their stride. Instead, they should move in smaller groups, while spreading awareness about the disease. He said, “the period until April 15 is very crucial and they should refrain from organising any mass movement until then.”

Centre contemplating stringent steps to fight Corona

The government will start taking stringent measures if the Corona Virus outbreak deteriorates moving up to Stage-3 i.e. social transmission. PM Modi, who reviewed the situation with a select group of ministers observed that next two weeks were very crucial and no let up can be allowed.  Accordingly, the Group of Ministers on Corona has drawn up a contingency plan which includes partial lock-down to full lock down as being practiced in various countries. The PM unfolded steps at his address to the Nation after holding video conference with the Chief Ministers on Thursday. 
While the central government staff has already been ordered to work at 50% of the capacity, the commissions, institutions, boards and other bodies may be asked to resort to 2-3 days a week to begin in the first phase. The Indian Institute of Media Communication (IIMC) under the I&B ministry has already been told to work for two days a week only. The objective of the this exercise is bring down the number of people using buses, metro and other public transport. What has caused more worry to the government is the non-cooperative attitude of the people in fighting the menace from spreading. The Minister for Civil Aviation and Urban Affairs Hardeep Puri is understood to have told the Group of Ministers on Corona that currently about two lakh people are traveling in airlines on a daily basis and the number is coming down daily. The people are unwilling to undergo Covid-19 tests, avoid being quarantined and dodge the system. He explained that as many as 45 lakh people are traveling in the metros compared to 65 lakhs last week on a daily basis in Delhi. The number of travelers in buses is 40 lakhs. “How do we check such a large population for Corona? We want to contain its spread to reaching social transmission levels and devising strategies,” he is reported to have said. The 6-member GoM on Corona Virus is headed by Union health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan and meets twice a day. It then briefs the PMO after obtaining the reports from across the country and states and keeping the lock-down plan ready if the situation so desires. The Prime Minister is personally monitoring the situation on an hourly basis and reported to have set up a monitoring unit on Corona in his office itself. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended that an immediate lock down be imposed , at least in the metros.

The untold story of Scindia Coup

The BJP leadership took more than six months to decide about the entry of senior Congress leader Jyotiradtiya Scindia into the fold. It is too well known that the state leaders of Madhya Pradesh BJP were opposed to his entry citing his arrogance and not much. His fate was sealed particularly after his defeat from Guna in May 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Scindia, an astute politician realised that if he had to win back Guna next time, he has to be in the BJP. Thus he started cultivating his old time friend and ex-banker. While Scindia worked in Morgan Stanley, Syed Jafar Islam worked in Deutsche Bank. The latter had also quit the banking and started working for the BJP while Scindia joined the Congress. But both were friends. But almost 18 years later, Jafar Islam became the first point of contact with the BJP and Scindia won’t trust anybody for his scheme.
This is how Jafar Islam emerged as the key link for bringing in Scindia. It was Jafar who first broached the subject with the then BJP president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in this regard. But Amit Shah was cool though both friends remained in constant touch meeting over food at various hotels in Lutyens’ Delhi. Later, a media house baron also joined the efforts and things started taking shape. Amit Shah being an astute politician wanted that Scindia should bring his MLAson board and make them quit so that BJP gets a state government dislodging  Kamal Nath. The talks were continuing until it seems PM Modi gave the go-ahead to the plan. It on the Holi day on March 10 when the BJP decided to clinch the deal and Jafar Islam was told to bring Scindia to Gujrat Bhawan. Scindia left his Delhi home in Anand Lok in the morning and drove straight towards Gujrat Bhawan. Amit Shah left his house at 6 Krishna Menon Marg and reached there. Both sat down for a while to discuss the nitty gritting and then Scindia sat in Amit Shah’s car and both drove towards PM’s residence an hour later. Though Scindia  was to go to Gwalior to mark his late father’s 75th birth anniversary. But he opted for 7 Lok Kalyan Margh where the road for his Kalyan began in the BJP. It was a win-win for all. Zafar Islam accompanied Shah and both of them were dropped back at Gujarat Bhawan. Congress leaders assert it came as no surprise to them as they knew all along what’s cooking.
How Hooda pipped Congress & BJP too

It was an astute Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Leader of the Congress Legislature Party in Haryana who not only pipped the BJP but also his own party leaders in ensuring the unanimous election of his son Deepender Singh Hooda for the Rajya Sabha seat. The veteran Congress leader knew that Selja, president of the Haryana Congress is a front runner for the Rajya Sabha seat as she was a sitting RS MP. Considering her closeness to Sonia Gandhi, she was obviously confident that she will get the ticket. Randeep Singh Surjewala was also in the reckoning if situation so permitted. Until then, Deepender Singh Hooda was nowhere in the reckoning. But Hooda told Selja in private conversations that she herself will have to ensure the support of at least 14 Congress MLAs as his own 17 MLAs will fully back her. Selja clearly told him that she cannot manage such a situation as it would need humongous task including finances if the BJP also fields an extra candidate. Once she was out of the race, though reluctantly, there was hardly anyone in the reckoning as Selja was disinclined to support Surjewala for obvious reasons. Once Selja expressed her inability, the Congress high command (read Rahul Gandhi) which was opposed to Hooda left with no choice but to succumb. The party was already in disray in Madhya Pradesh where government was tattering. Thus, the high command cleared the name of Deepender Singh Hooda on March 12 night- just 12 hours before thee nominations were to close. For the BJP, it was different challenge as four Independents supporting the Khattar government sang a different tune. They said they support the government but vote for Deepender Singh Hooda in Rajya Sabha. Thus, Hooda pipped both- the Congress and the BJP.  

BJP on poaching mission in 3 states

Of the 17 states where biennial polls are being held for 56 seats, the BJP, is on the prowl in three states to win three extra seats. Though the BJP was to win 14 seats only and this would have taken its strength in the Rajya Sabha to 84 i.e. one extra seats only. But it resorted to a sudden massive poaching game to snatch at least three extra seats from the Congress. Not only in Gujrat and Madhya Pradesh, it also fielded an extra candidate in Rajasthan too. It was only hoping to get an extra seat in Madhya Pradesh due to the defection of 22 Congress MLAs who quit the party and camping at Bengaluru. But now its eyeing an extra seat in Gujrat and Rajasthan too. In Rajasthan, the BJP was expected to get only one seat out of three. But now its eyeing two seats hoping to deprive the Congress its second seat.
Insiders say that the situation is quite favourable to BJP in Gujrat as five Congress MLAs quit in a sudden move and their resignations have been accepted by the Speaker swiftly. But in Rajasthan, it is an Herculean task where BJP has deputed several senior leaders to spring a surprise. The Congress leadership is putting up a united picture in Rajasthan compared to Madhya Pradesh. But Rajasthan is worrying after the virtual fall of the MP. Interestingly, the BJP refrained from fielding an extra candidate in Maharashtra and Haryana and even in Bihar. Sources say in Maharashtra, the BJP went by the book and fielded only three candidates which it will win. It refrained for indulging in poaching game there as it knew that they will have to deal with the past-master Sharad Pawar and create more complications for the party. Secondly, the BJP leadership did not want to rub the Uddhav Thackeray government on the wrong side. Similarly, In Bihar where its in power but did not try to break the RJD to win an extra seat. In Madhya Pradesh. the BJP hopes to win an extra seat. But in rest of the states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya, West Bengal and Odisha and Chhattisgarh,  where BJP looked the other way due to lack of numbers. In  Himachal Pradesh and Manipur, its candidates will win without any difficulty.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Rahul Gandhi underwent Coronavirus Test at Airport

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

A Lokmat exclusive story
Rahul Gandhi underwent Coronavirus Test at Airport
Returned to India from Italy on Feb 29

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, March 4

Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi underwent Coronavirus test at T-3 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) as soon as he returned to India last week.

Highly placed sources in the government say that Rahul Gandhi followed the drill issued by the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued for the passengers coming from Italy and other countries to be thoroughly checked for Covid-19.

Rahul Gandhi boarded the Air India flight no 138 from Milan on February 29 evening and landed at the IGIA in the morning of Saturday. Since Italy is among the watch list of nations for Coronavirus, all passengers disembarking were requested to undergo necessary tests. Rahul Gandhi had been returning to the country after two weeks of stay abroad and the world was rising to fight the Covid-19. Since Rahul Gandhi is a Z-plus security cover VIP and a member of the Lok Sabha, he was offered all due courtesies. But sources say that Rahul Gandhi decided to follow the drill along with other passengers and volunteered to follow all instructions in this regard. The check up went on for 20-25 minutes even as his personal staff and security personnel were getting anxious due to abnormal delay. They were keen to rush through the process. But Rahul Gandhi signaled to them that the systems must be followed, say these sources. 
Rahul Gandhi was also briefed extensively at the airport by the health authorities at the airport do's and don'ts with regard to the Covid-19.
Since Italy has emerged lately as the Europe's global Covid-19 hub, the Indian authorities have not only suspended the visa facilities including visa on arrival. It was also decided all passengers disembarking at Indian airports from Italy and other such named countries be thoroughly checked.
Sources say after the tests, Rahul Gandhi left the airport smiling. He also thanked the health department officials who were deployed for these tests.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Ex Finance Secretary Garg now Adviser to Andhra CM

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Ex Finance Secretary Garg now Adviser to Andhra CM

New Delhi, March 2

Subhash Chandra Garg, who was unceremoniously shunted out of the Finance Ministry as Finance Secretary, has been appointed by the Andhra Government as  Advisor to Chief Minister (Resource Mobilisation) in the rank of Cabinet Minister.
Jagan Mohan Reddy, Chief Minister Andhra Pradesh made this appointment.

Garg, a retired IAS officer of the 1993 of the Rajasthan cadre had sought VRS after NaMo administration abruptly shifted him to the Ministry of Power in July last year. On completion of three months as mandatory period, he applied for the VRS application. He will hold the Cabinet rank and help in bringing resources for the state. 

Modi purges his own PMO, a first in decades

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

A Lokmat Exclusive report 

Modi purges his own PMO, a first in decades 

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, March 3 

More than 100 personnel including 4th class employees have been transferred out of the Prime Minister's Office as part of a new policy being implemented by the Prime Minister himself.

For the first time in several decades, PM Modi decided to shift personnel working in the PMO for a long time. In fact, PM Modi discovered that there are peons, clerks and junior officers who have been working in South Block for more than 30 years and in the same wing.

In a calibrated move, he decided to send these oldies or what is termed as "veterans" to their parent departments and infuse new new blood in South Block, housing the PMO. It may be mentioned that the PMO doesn't have a cadre of officers and staff of its own and personnel are drawn from other ministries & departments on deputation basis. As part of this new policy,  Modi decided that everyone from top to bottom will go out of the PMO irrespective of the designation once his deputation period ends. P K Mishra, Principal Secretary to the PM, is reported to have crafted this new policy on the directions of the PM and now being implemented.

The Prime Minister's concept is that no officer should be in one place for more than seven years - five years in first tranche extendable by another two years. In a rare cases, the officer can be given another three years but not at the same place. The officers should not be transferred out of Delhi if he has seriously sick parents/wife or children are due for board examinations or any other compelling reason. Otherwise, there is no relaxation. All such cases are personally brought to the notice of the PM, sources say.

Insiders say that this is Modi's style of bureaucratic cleansing which he began after coming to power in 2014. He began cleansing the ministerial staff first and now he has implemented the same policy from top to bottom in his PMO too.
In fact, the PM has directed various ministries & departments under him to implement the same policy in letter & spirit. The Department of Personnel under his command & control has issued such guidelines from time to time.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Rahul returns after Sojorn !

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

special report
Rahul returns after Sojorn !
“Family” decides No RS Seat for Priyanka
Harish Gupta

New Delhi, March 1
After holidaying in Italy, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi returned to India yesterday and took a stock of political situation in the country.
If sources are to be believed, the members of the Gandhi family- Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi- met twice over two days.

These sources told Lokmat today that the issue of sending Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to the Rajkya Sabha was  part of the agenda and the Gandhis decided that she will continue to serve in the organization. She will stay away from the parliamentary responsibilities considering the challeneges ahead. Her task has been to strengthen the organization and assist her brother Rahul Gandhi. Whether Rahul Gandhi takes over formally the reins of the party once again or not, he will continue to be the pivot.
With Sonia Gandhi’s frailing health and inability to extensively travel across the country, the responsibility is likely to come to Rahul Gandhi to come to the helms. It is in this background that a view has emerged that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra should continue to lay stress on the organizational responsibilities.
It may be mentioned here that a clamour has been growing in the Congress that  Priyanka be brought to the Rajya Sabha.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was the first to fire the salvo and write a foral letter to the Congress Interim president that she be sent to Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan where the party is set to win two seats.
Later, Kamal Nath and Bhupesh Baghel and even Adhirranjan Chowdhury have jumped into the woo Priyanka campaign. They too want Priyanka in RS. Interestingly, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is reported to have dumped her earlier plans to shift to Lucknow and hire a house on rent to focus completely in UP. She has started campaigning outside the state including Delhi and elsewhere.
The buzz is that Gehlot wants Priyanka be brought to the Rajya Sabha arguing her popularity and charisma be utilized in states other than in UP where she is general secretary incharge of Eastern part. Now
Gehlot even had  reported to have met Priyanka recently and sounded her out in this regard. He wants Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to play more active role by entering Rajya Sabha. Rahul Gandhi is already holding the fort in Lok Sabha.
But the Gandhis have decided that she strengthen the oragniation as parliamentary duties are equally demanding.