Thursday, February 25, 2021

Fly on the Wall | Modi drawing Leaf out of Nehru

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Modi drawing Leaf out of Nehru
There is no dearth of cheerleaders who have termed the Chinese withdrawal from the finger areas in the Galwan Valley as “historic” win for PM Modi. No doubt, with visuals of Chinese withdrawal created a fervor and a welcome development. But it was certainly not the first time when the Chinese had retreated from the Galwan Valley. They had done it first time on July 7, 1962 by unilaterally withdrawing from the same Galwan Valley bringing huge jubilation in the country and relief to the then PM Nehru. In fact, India had not retreated an inch from the Galwan Valley then. But the Chinese retreat was a trap as they returned 96 days later on October 20, 1962 to attack India. India suffered a humiliating defeat then. The cheerleaders may have forgotten the lesson in history but not Modi. He is aware of the pitfalls ahead and it is because of this very reasons that neither Modi nor NSA Ajit Doval have spoken a word about it. Even Defense Minister Rajnath Singh gave no details when he read out a statement in Parliament on February 11. The MEA has also been coy about the agreement. Reason: If the Chinese have retreated from the Pangong Tso, India has also retreated from the Rachin La and Rezang La hills in the Kailash range. India is now mounting pressure on the Chinese to pull back from the Hot Spring, Gogra in the Depsang Plains. Modi is waiting with a bated breath of what the Chinese will do in the days, months or even the years to come. Modi has been deeply hurt. After all, it was he who invited Xi Jingping in 2014 to Gujrat Riverfront and both were spotted swinging together. But April 2020 intrusion changed the course. He has drawn a leaf out of the archives not to allow the Chinese to take him for a rise.

Business & Border inter-linked
Modi has made two major changes while dealing with China and Pakistan; one is that Business bonhomie and Border confrontation can’t go together and two; External Affairs Ministry won’t be allowed to dominate decisions of the Defense forces on the ground. Modi snapped all ties with Pakistan after his failed unscheduled Pakistan visit in December 2015. The same is being done with China after the April 2020 border row when India was in the midst of Covid crisis. The trade ties can’t be snapped overnight. But they have been put in the slow lane, banned Chinese apps, no Chinese entry in 5G technology and no free flow of FDI either. Secondly, the forces have been given a free hand to deal with the situation on the ground without overriding powers of the MEA. The MEA will be in the loop certainly.

How Modi pipped Rahul
Rahul Gandhi may have inadvertently given pleasure to the “Modi Bhakts” when he said in Puducherry the other day that there should be a ministry of Fisheries in Delhi. It was a faux pas as Modi had created such a ministry in June 2019 itself and Giriraj Singh continues to be the first Minister for Fisheries. But what was drowned in the butt of jokes was that Rahul Gandhi wanted fishermen to be treated as farmers. He wanted that fishermen be treated as ‘farmers of the sea’ like the farmers of the land. But his message was lost and Modi picked up the thread sitting in Delhi. He has a sharp nose, worked quietly and a decision was taken overnight. Next day Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced that Fishermen in 9 states and 4 Union Territories will also be treated as farmers. Shah did not stop at this. He went on to announce that millions of fishermen will be entitled to the benefits under the PM-Kisan and get Rs 6000 per year. Obviously, it will directly benefit the fishermen in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Puducherry – all poll bound states. According to the Fishery Survey of India, 2003, the population of fishermen in India was 1.44 crores.

Importance of being Nana Patole
Rahul Gandhi may have been busy launching a blistering attack on Modi on three farm laws. But what a pity! The AICC doesn’t have a Chief of Kisan Congress for one year after Patole quit. Insiders say the post was kept vacant by Rahul Gandhi for his bĂȘte noir as Patole as PCC Chief. Perhaps, he may do backseat driving in the Kisan Congress too.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Fly on the wall | Pawar’s mysterious Silence in Rajya Sabha

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Pawar’s mysterious Silence in Rajya Sabha
The entire political class is baffled about the mysterious silence of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar when the Rajya Sabha discussed three farm laws for days together. It was expected that the tallest farmer leader from Baramati who was UPA’s Agriculture Minister for ten long years, will put the record straight. If a leader of his stature had spoken, farmers and the government would have listened to him. He is perhaps the only one who could have told the farmers to end the agitation as farm laws had been stayed for 18 months and has the stature to tell the government also to mend fences and find a way out. After all, it was Pawar who had brought many agricultural reforms during his tenure at the Centre and earlier in Maharashtra. Pawar was very much stationed in Delhi during the session of Parliament. But he maintained a mysterious silence in Rajya Sabha and chose to field Praful Patel instead. Though former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda who takes pride in calling himself “poor farmer from Karnataka” spoke in Rajya Sabha. But he has lost his rhythm and touch. Pawar could have made the difference. But he looked the other way. Why?? No answers are coming from the NCP.

Why PM is angry with Babus?
Ever since Modi came to power in 2014, the Babus are the worst sufferers. Gone are the days when they used to rule the roost and ministers used to eat out of their hands. In some of the ministries, the bureaucrats used to work as brokers between private players and politicians to reap the harvest. They were partying in 5 star hotels, playing golf, coming to the office at will etc. PM Modi talked of this Lutyens Delhi culture in 2014. Since then, Modi has been tightening the noose and Babus are now a nameless & faceless class. The Lutyens’ Delhi does not recognize when PM’s Principal Secretary PK Mishra takes a walk in the Lodhi Gardens. Modi wants to end Babus direct interaction with the businessmen completely and doggedly pursuing ‘faceless’ resolution of grievances. The Babus were crestfallen when Modi had a dig at them in the Lok Sabha saying they are not experts to run airlines, chemical or companies and everything. No PM has questioned their ability to deliver. Obviously, Modi was peeved that Babus are creating one hurdle after the other in the implementation of his policies. He blames them for sabotaging his vigorous divestment program and mobilizing Rs two lakh crores by selling PSUs. Modi feels Babus are to be blamed for it and gave them public bashing. Modi is now hoping for a Bonanza this year.

Rahul calling shots, G-23 crest fallen
Rahul Gandhi is neither Congress president nor Parliamentary Party leader. He has declared he won’t hold any post and rather no Gandhi will hold it either. But he continues to call the shots in the party, Parliament and makes no bones about it. He doesn’t mince words and is rather ruthless in getting things done. The Group of 23 dissident leaders had thought that he would be conciliatory to them after Priyanka Gandhi’s meetings with Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma. Both are part of G-23 letter writers. But their hopes were dashed when Sonia Gandhi sent a letter appointing Mallikarjun Kharge as Leader of Opposition in place of Ghulam Nabi Azad three days before his retirement. It sent Anand Sharma sulking who was in the race for the top post. The shocker came when Nana Patole was appointed as Maharashtra PCC chief. Now the word is that Patole may be given a ministerial berth making one of the Congress ministers resigning. The issue was broached when Patole met Rahul in Delhi. It is said that one Congress minister will quit to make room for Patole. No final word has emanated from 12 Tughlaq Road, the official residence of Rahul Gandhi in this regard. K C Venugopal is gradually replacing late Ahmad Patel in AICC.

The lone winner
The NaMo administration cleared 26 IAS officers of 1988 & 1989 batch to be promoted as Secretary and 14 as Secretary Equivalent. Maharashtra was lucky as Rajesh Agrawal was the lone officer figuring in the list of 40. But he too was made Secretary Equivalent and not as full secretary. Not a good sign for the richest and one of the largest states.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Fly on the wall - PM’s olive branch to Azad

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

PM’s olive branch to Azad

Whether it was an emotional gesture or deep politics, no one can vouchsafe. But it was the rarest of the rare moment in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday last when PM Modi told Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Aazad, “Do not feel like you are no longer in the House. I would not let you retire, I will continue taking your advice. My doors are always open for you.” Azad is bidding adieu to his 41 year long parliamentary career. It transpires that the Gandhis were upset with him for something and hence he was not re-nominated to the Rajya Sabha and left high & dry. It is in this backdrop that Modi made this offer stunning everybody. Modi has never made such an offer in public to any Opposition leader. On his part, Ghulam Nabi Azad made no secret of his chemistry with Modi saying, “Two people always greeted me during festivals and my birthday for many years - Congress president Sonia Gandhi and PM Modi." Aren’t bells ringing!!! The BJP doesn’t have a tall Muslim leader and those in its kitty are hardly of any stature. Ghulam Nabi may be of use for Modi’s international brotherhood outreach having huge experience behind him.

Pawar & Cong disconnected!

There is a long history of love-hate relationship between the Congress and NCP since 1999. They buried the hatchet to form the MVA government. But all is not well these days and gone are the days of Sharad Pawar-Rahul Gandhi bon-homie. Pawar is unhappy because the Congress torpedoed his plans to make him UPA co-chairman and now he is on his own trip. He is stitching alliances with TMC, SP, YSR-Congress, TRS, BJD, Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and others. Rahul is content with the DMK, Left, IUML etc. Even the RJD is cool towards Rahul Gandhi these days. The Congress was left in the lurch when the delegation of 10 Opposition parties went to meet farmers on Delhi borders consisting of Supriya Sule and others. The appointment of Nana Patole as Maharashtra PCC Chief turned out to be the last straw in Camel’s back. Pawar’s reluctance to give the Speaker's post to Congress is part of NCP’s plan, say insiders. Is something cooking??? Watch out!!

Cooking Golden goose

When the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) scheme was launched by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in November 1951, had not imagined that it would become a tool in the hands of the rich to cook golden goose. It was to help employees in the public and private sector with employers contributing their 12% share in their accounts. There was no limit for employees to deposit money in their accounts. The interest income is tax-free without limit. For 70 years, the rich employees raked in mullahs. But they did not realize that PM Modi has the uncanny knack of tracking those making a killing. Interestingly, top bureaucrats who are big beneficiaries of this scheme never pointed it out to successive Finance Ministers about rich employees making a killing. The PM sought a detailed report and was shocked to learn that the largest single deposit in the account of one employee in EPF was over Rs 100 crores. It was also noticed that such employees earned tax-free interest income of more than Rs 50-60 lakhs year after year. The number of such huge beneficiaries is 1.20 lakhs employees and they put a staggering Rs 62,500 crores in their EPF accounts. There are 5 crores EPF account holders. The EPF has a corpus of Rs. Seven lakh crores as on February 1, 2021. The scheme was for employees earning Rs 15000 or more a month. The Union Budget has capped interest free income at Rs 2.50 lakhs per year now, down from Rs 50 lakhs earlier. Another loot and scoot stopped!

Biden, So near & so far

When US President Joe Biden nominated 20 Indian-Americans to key positions in his administration, it was hailed as a big win for India and Modi's leadership. But analysts pointed out that Biden excluded those who are considered close to the RSS-BJP like Sonal Shah and Amit Jani. Sonal Shah’s father was the president of Overseas Friends of BJP-USA and is the founder of RSS-run Ekal Vidyalaya. The suspicions of Biden’s not-so-friendly attitude came correct when many close to the Biden administration lent their support to agitating farmers in India including the niece of Vice President Kamala Harris. External Affairs Minister Jaishankar has a tough task in hand.