Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Congress upset as Mamata on poaching spree

  • Adhir Ranjan Blasts TMC at CWC meeting
  • Bhupesh Baghel takes a dig at Mamata Too
Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
New Delhi, Oct 18

The mega plan of Congress president Sonia Gandhi to unite all like-minded parties may go for a toss as Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister is on a poaching mission these days.

Mamata Banerjee is not only trying to poach the BJP leaders but winning over senior leaders of the Congress Party itself throwing to the winds the bonhomie seen a couple of months ago.

The Congress Working Committee's extended meeting which concluded yesterday saw the friendship between the Congress-TMC being thrown to the dustbin.

The TMC leaders have poached two prominent leaders of the Congress from Assam, Goa and other states. Mamata won over Congress Mahila Morcha Chief Sushmita Dev) and gave her Rajya Sabha seat.

Similarly, she also lured former Goa Chief Minister Luizinho Falerio into her party and TMC decided to contest state assembly polls on her own.

It was in this context that CWC leaders blasted Mamata Banerjee yesterday. Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee was hijacking many Congress leaders with an aim to create a 'Congress (Mamata) and pitting them against the 'Congress (I)'.

Adhir Ranjan went on to say that the TMC is primarily functioning as the B team of the BJP.

Earlier, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had tweeted against poaching done by the TMC of the Congress leaders. Without naming TMC, Baghel had said, “ People looking for a national alternative based on poaching INC functionaries who can't win their own seats, is in for big disappointment.”

It is not immediately known if Sonia Gandhi commented on the views expressed by some members.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Fly on the wall | Mamata's game of 50

Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Mamata's game of 50
The Game-2024 for the Lok Sabha polls has already begun. While the Congress Party is desperately working hard to revive itself and putting its entire might to win a couple of states in the ensuing round of Assembly polls early next year, the BJP is trying hard to defend its citadel in four states; UP, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. Punjab is being watched very closely as its an open game with pollsters predicting a win for the dark horse AAP though its early days. These polls are also crucial for some of the regional players like SP, and BSP who have been facing BJP's onslaught for the past seven years in UP. But for most of the regional Satraps in the East, West and Southern regions, these Assembly polls are not of much consequence.

In the East in West Bengal, Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee is rather waiting for the Congress to suffer a setback. She knows that she is not a player in North Indian politics and remains unruffled as her honeymoon with the Congress is virtually over. She is now on her own trip with poll strategist Prashant Kishore advising her actively. If grapevine has it, she is now targeting to secure 50 Lok Sabha seats during the 2024 parliamentary polls as she can be a player in any non-BJP government formulation. This is a huge target considering her appeal confined to West Bengal with 42 Lok Sabha seats. She hopes to polarize the state the same way as Modi did in 2014 and 2019. Rather, she will have an added appeal to the voters saying; vote for me as I can be PM, a first Bengali. She may be anywhere between 34-37 Lok Sabha in 2024. But to win extra 13-15 seats, is an Herculean task. She is working hard to replace Congress in the North East comprising 22 Lok Sabha seats. She has already brought senior Congress leader Sushmita Dev into the party and was rewarded with a Rajya Sabha seat to influence voters in Assam and Tripura. She is also making a strategy to get a couple of seats each in Odisha, Jharkhand and even Bihar and enter into strategic adjustments with parties in states where Bengali voters are in large numbers.

The DarK Horse Uddhav
Until the other day, NCP Supremo Shaarad Rao Pawar was the only name that always cropped up for the post of PM probable. But knowledgeable sources say that unassuming Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray could be a new player in the Game-2024. He has changed the entire culture and ethos of Shiv Sena during the past two years in power. Uddhav is in the driver's seat and shown to the people how a coalition government is run. With no one around to take on the mighty BJP juggernaut Uddhav's style of working has given some hope as well. He has been a successful manager, measured in his responses, doesn't mince words either and knows when to keep quiet.

He is managing two very ambitious leaders, Sharad Pawar and Nana Patole with tremendous skill. Political pundits say if India gets a hung parliament, Uddhav is the man to watch. Uddhav has mastered the art of retaining his hard line Hindutva credentials and at the same time running a secular government without big jerks.

He continues to be close to the RSS, goes to Ayodhya, meets Modi and still keeps his secular partners happy. In addition, he also takes pride in his Maratha identity. The Sena has also shed its anti-minority violent image too. In a way, Uddhav Thackeray can be India’s first secular Hindu nationalist. It will be difficult for the BJP to use the minority appeasement bogey against a Hindu party. In addition, big corporate houses in Mumbai also like him. Interestingly, they are the same houses who bow before Modi in Delhi, But keep Thackeray in good humour in Mumbai.

Rising graph of Stalin
After two powerful southern leaders; K Kamraj and J Jayalalitha, failed to grab power in Delhi, DMK's M K Stalin is contemplating trying his luck. But he is not in a hurry and is slowly consolidating his position. He is looking beyond 2024 even if there is a hung house three years down the line. Poll strategist Prashant Kishore is a common factor between Stalin and Mamata Banerjee. If Mamata is targeting a 50 seats game, he is not far behind either. Currently, he is creating an identity raising issues like “federal structure” etc without talking politics directly. He is busy mobilising non-BJP Chief Ministers on key issues.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Rising Loss Making PSUs worrying Modi govt.

9 in Maharashtra, one in Goa

Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

New Delhi, Oct 10
The government is determined to cut losses and resort to a massive divestment program. One of the main reasons for ruthlessly divesting OPSUs is their mounting losses.

According to a latest analysis submitted to the government by the ministry to the PMO, of the 256 operating PSUs as on March 31, 2020, the loss-making PSUs stood at 84. The number rose from 72 in 2017-18.

Even the losses of these PSUs are mounting, year after year. If the losses were Rs 18599 crores in 2017-18, the amount went up to Rs 28404 crores in 2018-19 and further went up to Rs 30131 crores. Surprisingly, despite the best efforts of the government, there are as many as 30 PSUs which are continuously making losses.

Between August 2013 and March 2020, the government approved the closure of 21 loss-making CPSEs including HMT Watches Ltd, Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd and Hindustan Fluorocarbons Ltd. The Department of Public Asset Management (DIPAM) has failed to find strategic investors for Scooters India Ltd. and Bharat Pumps and Compressors Ltd even after inviting expressions of interest. Alternatively, the government is selling these sick as well as profit-making PSUs too. There are many under litigation too.

Of the 84 sick companies, nine are in Maharashtra which includes Western Coalfield, Bharat Petro Resources, HOC, Hindustan antibiotic, Maharashtra antibiotics, Aurangabad Textiles & Apparel, NDFC, Hotel Corporations, and Indian Ports Global.

Goa's Goa Antibiotics & Pharma Ltd is also sick which made a loss of Rs 543 lakhs in 2019-20

It is not the government only shutting down PSUs. On the contrary, the government has also cleared the path for the revival of eight CPSEs including BSNL, MTNL, Brahmaputra Valley Fertilizer Corp. Ltd, Hindustan Steelwork Construction Ltd, Konkan Railway Corp. Ltd, and revive four closed fertilizer plants at a massive investment of Rs one lakh crores.

                                             Loss Making PSUs

                                      2017-18                   2018-19                  2019-20

Number                                 72                             69                           84    

Amount in Crs                    18599                     28404                     30131



Saturday, October 9, 2021

Prashant Kishore now takes a dig at Congress, says GOP’ problems deep-rooted

Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
New Delhi, Oct 8
In a terse message for the Congress which is struggling to revive itself amid growing dissidence and onslaught by the ruling BJP, poll strategist Prashant Kishor joined the ranks saying, “There are no quick-fix solutions to the deep-rooted problems.”

Kishore went on to say that those looking for a quick revival of the grand old party-led opposition following the Lakhimpur Kheri incident are in for a big disappointment as there are no quick fix solutions to the "deep-rooted problems" of the party.

The crispy tweet sets at rest all speculations of his formally joining the Congress as general secretary incharge of its poll strategy.

Kishore had held long meetings with the three Gandhis since July including Congress’ interim president Sonia Gandhi and had given hope that he may now join the party and chalk out its poll strategy.

But he said, "Unfortunately there are no quick fix solutions to the deep-rooted problems and structural weakness of the GOP," he said.

Former Union minister and senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily had gone on record last month voiced strong support for Kishor's induction into the Congress and said those opposing his entry into the party were "anti-reform". Kishor's tweet is being viewed by many as an indication that things may not be working out between him and the party leadership.

It may be mentioned that party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was in the fore-front of launching a blistering attack on the UP Government after four farmers were mowed down by an SUV in Lakhimpur Kheri. These incidents raised hopes of revival of the GOP in UP and elsewhere.

Lokmat had reported on September 30 that Congress-Kishore talks have failed and he may not join the party.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Varun Gandhi three others dropped from BJP Executive

Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
New Delhi, Oct 7
The BJP high command gave a tough message to those crossing the “Laxman Rekha” by dropping them from the national executive of the party today.

In the mega 309-member mega National Executive re-constituted today, almost two years after J P Nadda took over as president, three sitting MPs dropped.

Former Union Minister Ms Maneka Gandhi and Varun Gandhi, both Lok Sabha MPs, Dr Subramanian Swamy and ex-minister Birender Singh removed.

Party's official sources explained this was a routine exercise when a new president takes over.

Varun Gandhi had lately been indulging in a flurry of tweets by condemning events of Lakhimpur Kheri and was the only BJP leader to take flag the issue, in which the son of Minister of State for Home has been accused of murder.

Many felt that Varun Gandhi, by choosing to go public had made his intentions clear to the high command that he was ready to face the consequences including expulsion. But the Pilibhit MP's stance is clearly a sign of revolt at a time when the BJP is working hard to mobilise support before the Assembly polls.

On Tuesday, Varun Gandhi had tweeted a rather grainy video of a black SUV ploughing through a group of peaceful protesters from behind forcing the high command to act not only against him but also his mother who is a seven time Lok Sabha MP. Calling it "murder", Varun Gandhi said the video was enough to "shake the soul".

Swamy has taken on senior BJP leaders and the central government on multiple occasions. On Tuesday, he said that increasing petrol and diesel prices constitute a “tragedy for honest people of India”.

There are 80 members in the National Executive and 50 special invitees while 179 permanent invitees.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Congress dissidents in disarray, mending fences

Sonia not to summon “Physical CWC” meeting

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
New Delhi, Oct 5

Irrespective of rhetoric by the G-23 dissidents against the leadership, the party high command is unruffled and moving ahead at its own pace. In fact, the way Captain Amarinder Singh was sent packing in Punjab, has made some of the dissidents mend fences.

Haryana's Congress stalwart Bhupinder Singh Hooda may be a signatory of the G-23 letter to Sonia Gandhi and at times airing his views. But his son and Rajya Sabha MP, Deepender Singh Hooda is standing with the Gandhis like a rock. He even got detained when he went along with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to Lakhimpur Kheri (UP) to protest against the atrocities on farmers.

Anand Sharma, deputy leader of the Congress in Rajya Sabha has been maintaining studied silence for weeks together and did not join issue with Kapil Sibal who fired a huge salvo against the leadership a couple of days ago. In fact, none of the other senior leaders joined ranks with him, be it; Prithviraj Chavan, Mukul Wasnik, Shashi Tharoor and others. Even Manish Tewari was very guarded.

Some of the signatories like Jitin Prasada have already joined the BJP.

Ghulam Nabi Azad may have demanded summoning of the Congress Working Committee meeting, but Sonia Gandhi is unlikely to oblige.

A senior Congress leader told Lokmat that Sonia Gandhi won't commit the cardinal mistake that late Sitaram Kesari did by calling a CWC meeting and faced his own removal. Though Kesari was unwilling to call a meeting of the CWC in 1998 but he was persuaded by seniors like Dr Manmohan Singh that everything would be normal. In a virtual meeting, the command and control is operated through a remote button and members can speak only when authorized. Therefore, there is no question of any “physical meeting”, said the source.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

500+ political parties registered in two years

EC seeks Power to re-register, Money laundering suspected

Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
New Delhi, Oct 4

The Election Commission is extremely worried over the mushrooming of political parties as more than 500 such outfits have sprung up during the past two years.

The EC has written to the government to seek powers to deregister them. What has made EC worried is that these have cropped up after the 2019-Lok Sabha polls and they came up between April 2019 and August 2021. In addition, more than 100 new political outfits have applied for registration in the past two months alone.

These are registered political parties but not recognized parties. More than 2700 parties are registered and most of them are defunct. There are eight recognized national and over 50 state parties. Others are registered parties but unrecognized and their number is rising rapidly.

The EC cannot refuse to register political parties. But it wants to de-register such parties who have no activity worth a salt. A senior EC official said it had come to the notice of the government and the Commission that some of the parties were used for money laundering as they are exempted from income tax. At times, large parties use the infrastructure of these registered parties during campaigning.

It is in this background that the EC has sought power to deregister defunct political parties as they enjoy tax exemption on donations. They can take donations below Rs 2000 in cash and submit a report to the ECI. Though rules have been tightened lately. The Act exempts parties’ income from house property, voluntary contributions, other sources and capital gains. The Commission has the power to delist parties under Article 324 of the Constitution but it cannot deregister dormant parties. From February 2016 to December 2016, the ECI had delisted 255 registered unrecognised political parties.