Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Poll strategist Prashant Kishore walks out of Congress

Three-month long talks ended in a fiasco

Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
New Delhi, Sep 29

The Talks between Poll strategist Prashant Kishore and the Congress leadership ended in a fiasco as the two sides could not reach an understanding. Kishore told the Congress leadership, " I can't wait indefinitely."

Sources close to Prashant Kishore say that Rahul Gandhi was undecided and kept extending the date of his entry into the party. Kishore’s entry into the Congress as its key poll strategist gained credence after he met Sonia Gandhi in early July. The Congress leadership sought time so that it could consult other senior leaders. It is learnt that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was very keen to induct Kishore. But Rahul Gandhi was taking his own time.

Kishore was also instrumental in the massive victory of TMC leader Mamata Banerjee in a bitter battle with BJP in the West Bengal Assembly polls. Thereafter, he had also met NCP supremo Sharad Pawar who was keen to do business with him and held a couple of meetings. Kishore was also the official poll strategist of Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh and helped him sweep polls. He was also Capt. Amarinder Singh’s adviser in Punjab in 2017 and played a key role in his win in the Assembly polls.

However, he had been looking for a role in a national party and his talks proceeded well with the Gandhis. But many of the CWC members including A K Antony expressed serious reservations about creating a post for him. One of the reasons was that “he is a professional pollster and his services should be hired rather than inducting him inside the party.”

Kishor had a botched up relationship with the BJP in 2014 afterModi’s big win. Even with Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United), his sting couldn’t last longer.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Fly On the wall | Modi's Kamraj Plan

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Modi's Kamraj Plan
Prime Minister Narendra Modi perhaps took a leaf out of the ‘Kamraj Plan’ when he dropped 12 Union Ministers from his Council of Ministers on July 7 and virtually dismissed three BJP Chief Ministers in a row. The shock treatment to party seniors by Modi was no different than what Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru gave to his colleagues who were part of the freedom struggle with him. Nehru was the first Prime Minister who executed major political surgery in 1963, more than 58 years ago. Nehru asked all senior ministers of his government to give up ministerial posts. Be it Lal Bahadur Shastri, Jagjivan Ram or Morarji Desai, they were all shown the door. Nehru sacked six Chief Ministers, including the most powerful ones like Biju Patnaik (Odisha) and S.K. Patil (Maharashtra). More than 16 years into power, Nehru's charisma was on the wane particularly after the 1962 Chinese invasion. Though V K Krishna Menon had been removed as India's Defence Minister, the Congress was facing a stiff challenge at the hands of many stalwarts in the Opposition parties in Parliament. It was in this backdrop that K Kamraj, CM, Tamil Nadu, submitted a plan to Nehru and offered to quit his post. He wanted all senior ministers and CMs to quit and work for the party. Nehru accepted the Kamraj Plan. Later, Kamaraj was rewarded with the party president’s post. Kamaraj persuaded Nehru to bring Lal Bahadur Shastri back into the government sometime later. Perhaps it was part of a succession plan because Shastri was made a Minister without Portfolio, virtually working as Deputy Prime Minister. It is a different matter that Shastri died an early death after becoming the PM in 1964. Indira Gandhi took over with the blessings and support of K Kamraj in 1966. It is an irony that the same Indira Gandhi showed Kamraj the door who became part of the ‘Syndicate” to oust her in a bitter power struggle.

Difference between the two surgeries
Old timers say there is a huge difference between what Nehru did in 1963 and what Modi executed first in 2014 and in 2021. The difference between the method, procedure and style is clearly visible. It must be remembered here that none of the ministers and CM shown the door by Nehru were senior to him. If Nehru was a product of the freedom struggle, Modi had also acquired every post and won after a bitter struggle. His early life in RSS is also a testimony of his sacrifices too. However, Nehru was in a different league and came from a rich heritage and did everything with finesse. The old timers tell me that Nehru telephoned each one of the ministers on the chopping block himself and explained why their services are needed for the party. They were all given party work too. In the instant case, no Union Minister received a call either from the PM or the Union Home Minister. The unpleasant task was given to the BJP president, J P Nadda to ring up each one of 12 Union Ministers hours before the swearing-in-ceremony. It also transpires that telephones to the new appointees were made by B L Santosh, general secretary (organization). Except for Thaawar Chand Gehlot, no Union Minister was given any work even after 45 days. No Central leader has talked to any one of them who are cooling their heels. Majority of them are Lok Sabha MPs and facing huge embarrassment while visiting their constituencies as party workers keep posing difficult questions to them. During the 2014 surgery, the cut-off date was 75 years of age. But the 2021 surgery, the cut-off age has come down to 66 years. The BJP insiders say that Modi plans to install a whole new set of leadership at the Centre and states before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Modi himself is turning 75 years on September 17, 2025. It is said that Modi is a 'Saint in politics” and capable of springing surprises. Is the 2021 surgery part of a succession plan? No one knows.

Kamraj bug hits Congress too
Sonia Gandhi failed to implement the much needed 'Kamraj Plan' to send deadwood and troublesome ministers packing in 2010 or even in 2012 as Rahul Gandhi was unwilling to take over the reins for some strange reasons. She was bitten by the P V Narasimha Rao experience and continued with her best bet i.e. Manmohan Singh. Ten years later, the Kamraj bug hit the Congress and Sonia Gandhi cracked her whip to send Captain Amrinder Singh packing. Obviously, she is clearing the decks for her son who is now batting on the front foot.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Centre may give jabs to 12-17 years soon

12 crore children need to be vaccinated now

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

After achieving the target of giving 100 crore doses by month-end to adults, the Centre is set to announce its plans to vaccinate children in the age group of 12-17 years.

Of the 44 crore children population of all age groups below 18 years, the priority will be given to the 12-17 years category first.

When contacted, Prof N K Arora, Chairman of country’s top body, INSOCOG and Covid Task Force told Lokmat that the priority would be given to this age group as they could be carriers of Covid infections. Though the Sero-Surveys had established that the number of children infected with Covid is not higher than that of the adults. But they needed the vaccine now that most of the adult population had been covered with the first dose.

When asked when the decision would be taken in this regard, Prof Arora said, “It should come anytime now.”

In response to another question, he said, the vaccination of children in this category could start within the next couple of months. “In children as it is, severe disease and fatalities are uncommon. So, we have to ensure parents are safe first and children automatically become less vulnerable,” he added.

Arora added that children with comorbid conditions will be given priority in vaccination and even among them priority will be given to those who tend to have co-morbidities.

It is learnt that one percent children have co-morbidities out of the 12 crore children and the government had estimated that roughly 40 lakh such children will be given preference. The Jabs to them may start as early as October and may be free of cost. India’s drug regulator granted emergency use authorisation to Zydus Cadila’s vaccine, ZyCov-D, on August 20. This is India’s first vaccine for children aged above 12.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Fly on the Wall | PM trimming his beard

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

PM trimming his beard 
PM Modi had confessed to a journalist once that his favourite subject in school was dramatics. Perhaps, this might explain his habit of throwing surprises. During the lockdown Modi sported long hair and an unusually long beard, perhaps he didn’t opt for a barber following Covid protocol. But many said Modi wants to project the image of an ascetic by donning the look of a ‘fakir’ while others said he wants to project himself as the saintly nation-head who helped pave the way for the Ram Mandir — a ‘true Ram bhakt’. Others linked it to a wow not to trim his beard until the pandemic is over. A few felt the PM is going in for a huge image makeover while others said he is setting himself up for something big — to turn himself into a demigod, much like Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. A few even compared Modi’s looks to that of Shivaji Maharaj. But the PM has proved all of them wrong as he has slowly started trimming his long hair and a long beard. After his August 15 speech from the Ramparts of the Red Fort, the trimming journey has rather been faster. A close look of his latest video released by the PMO while reviewing Covid pandemic, clearly showed his trimmed beard and hairs. With Covid threat receding and restrictions easing, it seems that the PM's barber is back. The Fly learns that during the pandemic, the PM kept the company of only four people including his cook, a masseur and a PMO officer (not Principal Secretary).

A PM without a Coterie
Modi is perhaps the only Prime Minister of Independent India who doesn’t have a coterie or a close circuit around him. Even those who are around, cannot claim that they can get things done. No person; be a Minister, bureaucrat, friend, an industrialist or a family member can claim he can get things done. Even those having access to him dare not take liberties. Those who had free access to him in his first stint are not even around him. The usual refrain in the past was "I have spoken to the PM... it will be done." This word is unheard in the Modi dispensation. It is not as if the country didn’t see honest and competent Prime Ministers who worked for 18 hours a day. There were Prime Ministers like Lal Bahadur Shashtri or Morarji Desai who had no baggage either. But they didn’t have long tenures in power like Modi. More than seven years as PM, understanding Modi is still very complex. He has no family, hates to mingle with the media and didn’t address a single press conference in seven years. Modi has established complete sway over the government, party and even the mother organization, RSS. After the death of Arun Jaitley in August 2019, he is neither compelled nor obliged to consult anybody either. Many think this government is run by two people PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. But they are sadly mistaken. Modi is his own master. If Rajnath Singh as Home Minister was clueless about many key appointments despite being the only member of the Cabinet Committee of Appointments (ACC), the Home Ministry isn't in the know of all key appointments either. This remains an exclusive domain of the DoPT under the PM.

Modi is flexible too
Modi is quick to take corrective steps and not adamant on reversing his decisions either. For example, he changed four Governors in three years in J&K. He appointed Satyapal Malik as the Governor of the sensitive state in August 2018 replacing a seasoned bureaucrat N N Vohra. Malik's appointment caused a huge surprise as he was a rank outsider to the party and nothing to do with the RSS philosophy either. However, Malik was shifted to Goa in 2019 and Modi brought his most trusted bureaucrat G C Murmu. When Modi saw he was not delivering as per his plans, Murmu was also shown the door within two years. He chose to send a seasoned politician Manoj Sinha reflecting his willingness to change and quickly too. This flexibility is rarely seen at the top.

A Message with smile
Modi has his unique style of conveying a message. During a review meeting of all UP Mps, Modi asked state BJP Chief Swatantra Dev Singh smilingly, “Aap Varanasi ke Lok Sabha MP ka bhi hisab kitab rakhte ho? Usko Bhi kuchh Batao!”. Dev was sheepish but the message to all Mps present was loud & clear that they are answerable to the state party chief.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Modi frees ‘Babus” from shackles protects Ministers, CMs,MPs, MLAs from probe

  • Wants decision-making accelerated
  • Many riders attached 
Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
New Delhi, Sep 3
In order to protect the serving and retired bureaucrats and top ranking persons, the Modi government has provided a sh

ield to protect them from harassment in future. This has been done to expedite the process of decision making which has been hurting the government’s growth path.

In a latest order issued tonight by the Modi government, all Union Ministers, Ministers of State, MPs, Chief Ministers, MLAs, CMDs of PSUs and top officers of the government at the Centre and states have been given unprecedented protection.

In a detailed order by the Department of Personnel & Training no 428/07/2021-AVD IV(B), directed the states and probe agencies to ensure that no officer less than the rank of the Director-General of Police or equivalent shall inquire into the complaints of allegations against top ranking persons in the executive.

The standard operating procedure (SOP) is a new norm where inquiry will be conducted by different ranks of Police Officers against different ranks of public servants. For example, additional DG level officers alone would personally hold inquiry, investigation or enquiry into; complaints and list them specifically before going ahead with the issues against public servants of level 14 & 15 and Board level PSU directors of the state and the Central governments.

Similarly, categories have been created for every rank and the power of police inspector has been curtailed in terms of initiating a probe directly.

The 8-page long circular is aimed at generating confidence among the Babus who are scared of the CBI, CVC and state governments launching probes against them either during their tenure of service or after retirement. These Public Servants don't make decisions on files and await orders from the political bosses who in terms push files to the Prime Minister’s Office or the Chief Minister’s Office.