Tuesday, August 16, 2022

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Gubernatorial changes on the anvil in Seven states

 

 With Presidential & Vice President elections and Independence Day celebrations over, the stage is set for gubernatorial changes. There is talk of a Cabinet reshuffle too but it may still take some more time for the party as to fix nuts & bolts in many states. An exercise is already afoot for gubernatorial changes as tenure of five Governors and two Lieutenant Governors is coming to an end soon. As a matter of policy, the PM prefers to appoint senior politicians as governors and retired civil servants as Lgs. Lately, talent from the private sector has also been brought in Delhi as LG in V K Saxena. The name of former Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is among the names under consideration.

Topping the list of Governors on the way out is Satyapal Malik who is currently in Meghalaya. It’s a different matter that ever since he was shunted to Meghalaya from Goa, he has made Meghalaya Bhawan in Delhi as his abode and refused to go to Imphal except on a few occasions. He was appointed Bihar Governor in October, 2017, sent to J&K and finally landed in Meghalaya. He is perhaps the only sitting Governor in the history of Independent India who spoke publicly against the Central government for months together. The PM did not sack him and is waiting for his five year tenure to come to an end. The tenure of B D Mishra (Arunachal Pradesh), Jagdish Mukhi Assam & Nagaland) and Puducherry in dual charge under Tamilsai Sundarrajan & Lt. Gen. D K Joshi (A &NI) is coming to an end. Banwarilal Purohit was made governor of Tamil Nadu in October, 2017 and shifted to Punjab. He may be allowed to continue, sources say.

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group


No Takers for Nitish' Opposition Unity move, for now 

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar may be a new torch bearer to unite like-minded Opposition parties against the BJP. But it is a long shot as many Opposition parties are signing their own tunes. Neither West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee nor Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar have issued a formal statement welcoming developments in Bihar. They have not even congratulated Nitish Kumar. Even Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has maintained silence. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik looked the other way as if nothing happened in Bihar. Andhra Chief Minister Y Jaganmohan Reddy also opted to keep quiet. The BSP has not reacted to these developments. Mayawati has been lending support to the NDA on crucial moments inside and outside Parliament.

A senior Janata Dal (U) leader said on the condition of anonymity, “many Prime Ministerial candidates in the Opposition are rattled though Nitish ji has repeatedly said that such ambitions are not on his mind.”  Kumar also allayed such apprehensions saying, “It's (PM's post) not on my mind. No matter what people say, even if people close to me say it." Nitish Kumar is the latest leader to join Opposition unity efforts before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Earlier, Mamata Banerjee and K Chandrashekhar Rao spearheaded the movement to unite Opposition parties. If KCR traveled to various states and met Opposition leaders, Mamata Banerjee presided over the 15-party conclave to select a Presidential candidate. But their efforts did not bear any tangible fruits as they lack appeal in North India. With Nitish Kumar emerging on the scene, these parties have gone back into the shell. Nitish Kumar, after expanding his Cabinet, is likely to chart out his own course for Opposition unity beginning with Congress, DMK and others. He has a tough task to unite 20-odd parties.


Thursday, August 11, 2022

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group



 Uddhav’s MPs are at a crossroad

 

With fire-brand leader Sanjay Raut in judicial custody,  thanks tof the Enforcement Directorate,  the Uddhav Sena MPs virtually went into a silent mode in Parliament. Be it Lok Sabha where it has seven MPs and in Rajya Sabha with two, no one is around to keep the pot boiling. Even on the debate of price rise in Rajya Sabha, none of the MPs belonging to the Uddhav faction spoke. Priyanka Chaturvedi, another fire-brand MP, preferred to skip her participation.  "What to say when our leader is in jail!" She was heard telling a fellow parliamentarian. The MPs in Lok Sabha  didn't know what to do. Arvind Sawant and Vinayak Raut were unwell and couldn’t  even vote in the Vice Presidential poll for Margret Alva. Others watched the proceedings sitting on the back benches thinking something may be cooking between the two Sena factions. Gone are the days these MPs were roaring with each passing day in Parliament and outside. Even the participation of Sena MPs during the Question Hour lacked biting spirit. Insiders say that the uncertainty will continue until the Supreme Court decides the battle between the two Senas. The status quo in deciding the petitions will harm the Uddhav faction more than the Eknath Shinde group.Uddhav’s another dilemma is fighting for the Hindutva turf while staying put with the Congress & NCP.

 

 Abhishek Banerjee on top

 

If one person is happy with the raids by the Enforcement Directorate on Mamata Banerjee’s  most powerful minister Partha Chatterjee, he is Abhishek Banerjee. The TMC’s Lok Sabha MP and Mamata’s nephew had been pleading with the Chief Minister to drop Partha since 2016 as he was making side money, selling party tickets. Mamata didn’t listen and went on to arm Partha Chatterjee with more power to balance the rising clout of Abhishek Banerjee in the TMC. As a protest,  Abhishek Banerjee did not attend the swearing-in-ceremony when Partha Chatterjee was inducted again into the ministry in 2016 and also in 2021. With the ED seizing massive cash haul and benami properties in raids, Mamata was left high and dry. Though Abhishek and his wife are also under the ED scanner. But they have got protection from the court. In the case of Partha Chatterjee, it’s a Sun set. Now Mamata has nobody else  but to fall back upon Abhishek Banerjee. He may be a beneficiary by default. But West Bengal will witness a new political script as Mamata is on the back foot. She stayed in Delhi at Abhishek’s residence during her long visit as visibly worried. What if Partha Chatterjee may spill the beans as to whom the crores of cash actually belonged to. Partha’s aide Arpita Mukherjee is already singing before her interrogators.

Nitish eyes Delhi Now

 

Finally, Nitish Kumar has bitten the bait and went back to his foe Lalu Prasad Yadav who is more than willing to support him. The contours of the deal are interesting; Nitish Kumar will travel across North Indian states and launch a campaign against the BJP. Nitish Kumar is an astute politician and chooses his time to strike as the Opposition parties were desperately looking for a face to counter the BJP in 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Since  Rahul Gandhi has failed to deliver, Sharad Pawar is aging and Mamata Banerjee has gone back into her shell after the massive cash haul, Nitish Kumar has jumped ship. Nitish Kumar may be a  leader of the Kurmis and do not have backing of the other backward classes. But he may now emerge as a rallying point as was witnessed in the early 90s. Nitish commands an honest leader’s image and no corruption charges have been leveled against him by any party. He is articulate, fluent in Hindi and with other like-minded parties backing him, he stands a chance to put up a fight during the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.   The BJP may not have a cakewalk, if things go as per plans.  

 

 

The Rakesh Asthana riddle

 

The Rakesh Asthana riddle continues to baffle the bureaucracy in the NaMo administration. The 1984 cadre IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre is considered to be a blue-eyed boy of the government and was all set to take over after Alok Verma’s retirement. But he missed the bus again and Maharashtra's Subodh Kumar Jaiswal was chosen by the selection committee. Asthana moved to the BSF as DG and four days before his retirement, made Delhi’s Police Commissioner for a period of one year on July 28, 2021. It transpires that the proposal in the Union Home Ministry was kept ready for his further extension. But in the nick of time, Asthana’s successor was appointed to the shock and disbelief of many. It is baffling that when every favourite officer is getting an extension after extension in the government, how come Man-Friday Asthana was made to retire. There are many who believe that he may get a political posting soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, August 4, 2022

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group


No fervor for VP poll, Dhankhar set for easy win

 

Jagdeep Dhankhar is set to sail through in the Vice Presidential poll to be held on August 6 as the BJP has a majority on its own.

It has 303 Mps in Lok Sabha and 91 in the Rajya Sabha among the 780 electorate (543 Lok Sabha and 237 Rajya Sabha). There are eight vacancies still in the Rajya Sabha at present. 

In the Vice Presidential polls, the BJP will have the added advantage of getting the support of all nine nominated Mps as they can take part in it unlike in the Presidential poll. While four of these 9 nominated Mps have joined the BJP, there are five others who may also go with the ruling party candidate. Therefore, the BJP is making efforts to ensure that Dhankhar gets more than 540 Mps' votes who voted for the President, Draupadi Murmu. 

But there is no visible fervor either or campaigning for the VP's poll either slated for Saturday. The BJP has geared up its entire machinery to mobilize a maximum number of Mps to support Dhankhar. It has already issued an informal whip to all its Mps to remain present in Delhi and requested all NDA and supporting parties to come in large numbers to vote. 

Interestingly, 17 MPs voted in favour of Draupadi Murmu who belonged to the Opposition parties and at the same time, 15 votes of Mps were declared invalid. The BJP organised several training camps for Mps to ensure that no votes were invalid this time around. The tenure of current incumbent M Venkaiah Naidu ends on August 10.

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group



Fly On the Wall


Mamata, Kejri run for a cover

Two of the three main challengers to Prime Minister Narendra Modi are facing their worst in their political career. They trounced the BJP in elections after elections and retained their citadel against all odds. They withstood Modi's charisma and refused to buckle under any pressure. If West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee remained unscathed despite the Narada & Sarada scams denting her image badly, nothing could stick on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Even a CBI raid on his office premises and other charges failed to stick on him. On the contrary, Kejriwal went on to expand his footprints by selling the “Delhi Model” and pocketed Punjab. Enthused by his successes, Kejriwal opened a new front recently i.e. directly attacking the PM. Until now, Kejriwal had been refraining from personally attacking Modi. But he opened a new frontier alleging that Modi is obliging his rich industrial friends and waiving off their loans, seeking contracts for his industrial friend from foreign governments, etc. As a shrewd politician, Kejriwal must have calculated consequences of his utterances too. Within days, the new Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, V K Saxena, ordered a CBI probe into what is now called “Liquor-gate.” Kejriwal's one minister Satyendra Jain is already in ED's custody and now it is a matter of time that his number two Manish Sisodia may be in the CBI dragnet. A frightened Kejriwal withdrew his so-called money-spinning excise policy. Insiders say that it's only a beginning as more cases will be slapped on AAP leaders in the weeks to come. If “Cash-gate” shocked Mamata Banerjee and caged her, Kejriwal is quiet suddenly. The two prime challengers to Modi for the 2024 battle are certainly at the receiving end.

The Third challenger

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is the third political leader who is perceived to be a potential PM candidate. But his style of operation is completely different from Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal. The JD (U) leader is a different kettle of fish. He has switched sides like Uddhav Thackeray who dumped BJP after winning election with the saffron party. Nitish Kumar did the same - winning Assembly polls in Bihar with RJD and started swimming with BJP.

Nowadays, he is sulking again as he is having a taste of the New BJP under Modi. The BJP knows his art and is giving him back the same coin for the past sometime. It used Chirag Paswan to weaken him during the Assembly polls and succeeded in creating fissures between him and his loyalist RCP Singh who had to quit the Cabinet after being denied the Rajya Sabha seat. Nitish is now throwing tantrums and sulking. For example, he supported Droupadi Murmu for the post of President but did not attend her swearing-in-ceremony. He did not attend the farewell function of out-going President Ramnath Kovind either. When the PM visited Patna on July 12, Nitish government gave no big advertisements in newspapers either. There are reports that a deal is in works between Janata Dal (U) and RJD-Congress -Left. The RJD has developed cold feet after the CBI conducted raids on Lalu's daughter Misa Bharti and aide Bhola Yadav recently. It is a message to Tejashwi Yadav that an old pending case of corruption may be revived. If Nitish Kumar thought that he can enter into political deals at will, he may be in Fool's paradise. It's a different BJP. Gone are the days when Vajpayee had lost his government by a single vote in Lok Sabha.







Tuesday, August 2, 2022

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group




Survey of Nagpur-Mumbai Bullet Train projects ordered 

Six more surveys of Bullet trains on track

Ahmedabad-Mumbai Corridor work gathering pace


The government has ordered survey and preparation of Detailed Project Report (DPR) of Nagpur-Mumbai bullet train project. The survey work is already underway. In addition, the Railway Ministry has ordered survey work for six more bullet train projects including Mumbai-Hyderabad corridor. 

The ministry has identified new High Speed Rail (HSR) Corridors on the pattern of the first  Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project launched by PM Modi after coming to power.  Apart from Mumbai-Nagpur and Mumbai-Hyderabad projects, five other routes are Delhi – Varanasi, Delhi-Ahmedabad, Chennai-Bengaluru-Mysuru, Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar and Varanasi-Howrah.

The government has, however, clarified that none of these corridors have been sanctioned as yet and a decision may be taken after the completion of survey work and  outcome of DPR, techno-economic feasibility studies, etc.



At present, only one High Speed Rail Project with design speed of 320-350 Kmph between Ahmedabad-Mumbai is under implementation. The Railway Minister, Ashwini Vaishnav told Shrikant Eknath Shinde and others in Lok Sabha the other day that the government had already been running two Semi-High Speed (SHS) trains and more than 100 such trains are planned to be manufactured at Integrated Coach Factory (ICF).

Meanwhile, the Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train project is still struggling with land acquisition hurdles. “Out of a total 1396 Hectare of land required for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) project, about 90% of the land (1264 Ha) has been acquired”, the government said. 

Obviously, the MAHRS is finding it difficult to acquire remaining land in Maharashtra as villagers are still resisting in certain patches. However, with the change in regime, there is a strong possibility that the process will be fast-tracked.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group



400 top officers sent packing under Modi


Nearly 400 senior officers in the Central service have either been compulsorily retired or decided to opt for voluntary retirement during the past eight years under Modi dispensation. These officers in senior positions in the government quit due to a variety of reasons between July 2014 to June 2022 which is a record of sorts. This is despite the fact that there is a huge shortage of officers at the senior levels as states are not relieving officers due to their own compulsions. 

As per official sources in the Ministry of Personnel, as many as 203 officers falling in Group A and 192 in Group-B categories have prematurely been sacked or allowed to seek voluntary retirement during this period.

 

This is the highest-ever number of senior officers going out of the service and the government is finding it difficult to fill the growing vacuum at the senior level. It even  opened the Lateral Entrant route at the level of Director and above. But later, this option slowed down as this was not a permanent solution to meet the shortage of officers. The UPSC, the nodal agency for recruitment of grade A, B & C posts, has decided to accelerate the process of filling up thousands of vacancies.

It may be mentioned that Group-A officers comprise from the elite IAS, IFS, IPS, IRS etc while Group-B consists a step junior in service.

The DOPT said the government is vested with the absolute power to pre-maturely retire the government servants in public interest by invoking the provisions of service Rules – 56 (j). The government employees may seek retirement from service by opting for voluntary retirement with the permission of the government. It is said that many such officers under scanners are allowed to opt for this route too as evidence against them is weak.  


Friday, July 29, 2022

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group


After Big SC Win, ED's twin challenges

Solving thousands of cases with 40% staff crunch

23 convicted in 20 years only



After the SC verdict upholding the constitutional validity of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the Enforcement Directorate's big challenge is to conclude investigation into thousands of pending cases under the PMLA & FEMA.

This is at a time when the ED is facing a huge shortage of staff. According to a 2020 report, the ED was facing a shortage of as much as 40%. Independent observers say that the ED's track record in obtaining convictions after issuing summons to suspects, conducting raids and attaching assets, is extremely disappointing.

According to a reply given in the Lok Sabha recently, the ED could obtain convictions only in 23 cases under the PMLA ever since the act came into being in 2002 after what was called “draconian FERA”. Incidentally, P Chidambaram who stoutly defended PMLA as Finance Minister in 2012, is himself facing the ED heat along with his Lok Sabha MP son, Karti Chidambaram.

Apart from Chidambaram, ED is probing a large number of high profile cases involving several sitting and former Chief Ministers, Union Ministers, Mps and MLAs and business houses across India. It may be mentioned that the trial in many of these cases had almost come to a grinding halt after more than 200 petitions were filed in the SC challenging many provisions, dealing with its powers to arrest, search and seizure.

After getting unbridled power from the SC, the ED is left with no excuse but to fast-track all pending cases. It may be mentioned that ED is functioning with 40% strength of its total sanctioned staff capacity of 2,064. Officially, the ED says it initiated investigations into 30716 cases and disposed of 15495 of them reflecting huge pendency.


by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group


Fly on the Wall

The Maratha warrior rising again

 

 

The Maratha warrior has decided to fight another battle with the mighty BJP. Though he is aging he refuses to give up. Unruffled by the fall of the MVA government,  81-year-old Sharad Pawar is gearing up to fight another battle with the ruling BJP. He has told his party cadre that mega rallies will be held across Maharashtra against the BJP which has been pulling down elected governments in states after states by misuse of central agencies and horse-trading. In a series of meetings here and in Maharashtra, Pawar has said he will extensively tour the state and can’t be cowed down by the CBI, ED and Income-Tax who have unleashed a raid-raj in the country. Sharad Pawar is also talking to the Congress leadership and Uddhav Thackery to join this struggle to counter the BJP. “It’s time to give a united fight to the BJP,” Pawar told senior Congress leaders. The Congress, as usual, will take its sweet time. Uddhav Thackeray who has been fighting with the Shinde faction with his back-to-the-wall, is ready for this battle too. Final touches are being given to the plan.

 

 

Margret’s Rs 15000 offer

 

Margret Alva, Opposition’s Vice Presidential candidate, had moments of laughter even on the face of a defeat at the hands of the NDA nominee Jagdeep Dhankhar. While filing nomination, one of the Opposition leaders suggested that a security deposit of Rs 15000 be better paid in cash. Alva quipped, “I have brought Rs 15000 cash” showing her purse. Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge responded, “No worries… we will deposit.” Praful Patel jokingly said, “Allow Kharge ji to deposit the money….otherwise you will have to travel to Delhi once again to reclaim the deposit after the polls.”  There was big laughter in the room. A candidate gets back the deposit if he/she secures more than 15% of polled votes. 

 

No FIR is a Concession

 

When an upset UP PWD Minister Jitin Prasada rushed to Delhi to complain to the party high command over the removal of his OSD by Chief Minister Yogi, someone at the top gave him a pep talk. “You are new to the BJP, learn to live with leaders like Yogi. You were given a plum department like PWD in the first shot. But it seems your OSD forgot that there is Zero tolerance towards corruption under the Yogi regime.” Poor Jitin Prasada returned to Lucknow as there was no one to talk to him at his bidding.  When a senior leader contacted the CM on the phone about it, Yogi is reported to have said, “I have already given him one concession…. No FIR registered against the OSD.” The matter was closed. This was in contrast to the treatment given to junior UP Minister Dinesh Khatik who had sent his resignation letter to Amit Shah, not the Chief Minister. This was a signal that something is amiss between Lucknow and Delhi. However, Khatik was given an audience by BJP Chief J P Nadda and not by Shah. Khatik met Yogi later in the presence of his senior Minister Swatradev Singh with whom he had a running battle. The matter was sorted out. Prasada should better watch out why he was not given an audience! Loyalty counts. 

  

Winds of Change blowing in MP

 

The BJP may be on a high horse after it dislodged the Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh. But its electoral arithmetic is not working. Warning bells are ringing in BJP headquarters after the party suffered a humiliating defeat in local bodies’ elections in MP. The outcome may not have made national headlines due to a variety of reasons. But it has shaken Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to the core and he is on a shaky wicket as Assembly polls are 15 month away. The shocker came as the BJP lost the Morena Municipal Corporation election for the first time since its creation. Similarly, the  BJP also lost the Gwalior Mayoral poll for the first time in 57 years. Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and several senior state leaders belong to the region. Incidentally, 15 of the Congress MLAs who quit the Congress to join the BJP and pulled down the Kamal Nath government, belong to this region. When Scindia joined BJP in 2020, the party had claimed that Gwalior-Chambal would be “Congress-Mukt”. But the results came as a huge setback to Chouhan,  Scindia and other BJP leaders. These are also worrying for Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar who is  Lok Sabha MP from Morena. 

 

 

 Calmer comfort

The out-going Vice President, M Venkaiah Naidu has decided to shift to 1 Tyagraja Marg instead of 5 Safdarjung Road as his new abode. The change came as Safdarjung Road turned out to be too noisy for him while Tyagraj Marg is slightly calmer.   

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group



3787 IT raids in five years result in 29 convictions 

18 cases saw acquittals, Rs 5890 Cr assets seized

Strange it may sound but true. The Income Tax department undertook search & seizure operations on as many as 3787 groups during the past five years across the country. It launched prosecution in only 50% of cases, 1956 to be precise. But this is not all.

The department could obtain convictions only in 29 cases between April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2022. And this is not all. In 18 cases the acquittal orders were passed by courts during the same five year period.

The figures disclosed officially by the Union Finance Ministry gave an insight into the outcome of the five years vigorous pursuit of fight against corruption and concealment of income by corporate and groups.

For example, during 2017-18 the IT department launched prosecution in 560 cases and obtained conviction in 23 cases. But next year, it drew a big zero after launching prosecution against 771 entities. Rather, 5 acquittals were given. The number continued to fall thereafter in which prosecution cases were launched. In 2019-20, prosecutions were launched against 365 companies while next year saw a huge dip with 145 and 2021-22 saw further downward journey with 115 cases.

There are as many as 6899 cases still pending as on March 31, 2022. Of course, the IT department seized assets worth Rs 5890 crores during the past five years.

The government gave this information in response to a question in Rajya Sabha asked by Digvijay Singh.


Monday, July 25, 2022

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group


 Tussle for control of the Narcotics Control Bureau

Home Ministry wants NCB NDPS under its control

Finance Ministry has its own views

 

 

It’s official now. What was being whispered in the corridors of powers till now is official. The Union Home ministry under Amit Shah is keen that the NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) currently under the Finance ministry be transferred to it.

The matter has been engaging the attention of the Union Government for the past several years but no decision was taken. However, no one had commented on it ealier. The Drug controlling regulatory body has been under the Finance ministry. Now the Union Home ministry wants NDPS to be brought under its control for better control of the menace and coordination.

Surprisingly, the cat was out of the bag today in the Lok Sabha when the Union Finance ministry replied, “The matter is under discussion and no decision has been taken yet.”

The response came when a question was asked by the BJP Lok Sabha MP Sushil Kumar Singh, “whether there is any proposal of shifting the administration of NDPS Act to the Ministry of Home Affairs”.

The Minister of State for Finance, Pankaj Choudhary replied that the NDP Act 1985 was framed while amalgamating three central acts which were earlier administered by the Ministry of Finance viz. the Opium Act, 1857, the Opium Act, 1878 and the Drug Dangerous Act, 1930. The Department of Revenue under the Ministry of Finance has been functioning as the Nodal Department in the field of Drug Administration since beginning.”  It transpires that the matter is currently pending in South Block housing the Cabinet Secretariat and the PMO. 

 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group


BJP to hold  welcome rallies for Murmu to sway 109 Lok Sabha seats 


The BJP is contemplating to hold mega welcome programs across the country particularly in the tribal dominated states for the President, Draupadi Murmu as part of its tribal outreach program. While the immediate focus would be four major poll bound states of Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, Murmu will be given rousing reception in her home state of Odisha and neighbouring Jharkhand too. The celebrations will begin from day soon and may continue until the Lok Sabha polls in 2024. There are 109 Lok Sabha constituencies spread over 12 states including West Bengal, North East and North India.

The BJP's Scheduled Tribes Morcha is already planning “Abhinandan Yatras” (Welcome rallies) to encash politically installing India's first tribal woman President. It did not do so in 2017 when Ramnath Kovind and M Venkaiah Naidu were elected as President and Vice President respectively. But Murmu is on a different pedestal and may help the BJP cross 350 Lok Sabha seats mark. The party managers are taking full precautions not to send a signal either that they are misusing the office of the President for political gains. The ST morcha will hold welcome rallies across India. A model is being evolved as to how the President, Murmu may grace the welcome functions. Gujarat has a tribal population of around 15 per cent with 27 Assembly seats while Chhattisgarh has 30% votes with 29 seats. If MP has 21% and 47 seats, Rajasthan has 14% votes with 25 seats. The BJP approached all tribal Mps and MLAs, irrespective of parties, to solicit support for Murmu and cross-voting was also witnessed. Droupadi Murmu hails from Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district where BJP has already decimated the Congress to emerge as principal Opposition party.



by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group


The Dhankhar Selection mystery

Contrary to popular perception that West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar was told by the Prime Minister on July 16 when he called on him at the PM office is completely misplaced. In fact, it was Dhankar who had sought prior appointment with the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah and also with the PM. He had sought the meeting as he was coming to attend Governors' customary  dinner with the out-going President, Ramnath Kovind. He wanted to meet both the leaders to apprise them of the prevailing situation in West Bengal. When Dhankhar called on Modi, the entire discussion was confined to West Bengal only. Dhankhar was not given any clue either by Shah or Modi that he is going to be picked for the VP's job in the evening. Though Dhankhar's name had started doing the rounds in social media immediately after photographs of his meeting with the PM were posted on twitter by the PMO, he had no clue. Dhankhar was at the dinner table at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in the evening when he received several missed calls and messages on his mobile phone. Since it was a dinner engagement, he could neither  take the calls nor look into messages. But an Orderly of the Rashtrapati Bhawan walked up to his seat and whispered that there is a message in his phone. Dhankhar later confirmed to this writer that he got to know about his candidature at the dinner in Rashtrapati Bhawan only. A highly senior leader of the BJP said that the PM is a stickler to the protocol and known for keeping things to himself till the end. If he had disclosed to Dhankhar his name for Vice President's post earlier, the meeting of the BJP Parliamentary Board consisting of top leaders would have become redundant. It was BJP president JP Nadda who told the board that he had received three names for the VP's post and let the board decide. Rest is history.

 

BJP's Big ambitions for 2024

 

Modi may be BJP’s triumph card for winning elections after elections since 2014. But even then the party machinery is working round the clock to fix nuts & bolts to ensure more and more states are brought under the saffron flag. It may be converting defeat into victory in some states by resorting to unfair practices to achieve the target. But that’s the New BJP. However, those working behind the scenes (read RSS here), tell a different story. The New BJP is promoting Martial Race in states wherever necessary. If it is keeping Thakurs as Chief Ministers in UP, Uttarakhand and Himachal it is retaining Rajnath Singh as number two in the Union Cabinet. If the party brought a Patidar in Gujarat, it installed a Maratha as CM in Maharashtra. Eknath Shinde was brought to cut Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray to size at the cost of its own most trusted leader Devendra Fadnavis. It is keeping Shivraj Singh Chouhan as CM to keep OBCs in good humour. But Jyotiraditya Scindia and Narendra Singh Tomar are Union Cabinet Ministers to woo the Rajputs. The BJP badly needs a senior Jat leader to help it in Haryana, Rajasthan and parts of UP. It installed Jagdeep Dhankar as VP to woo the Jats who is the first Jat in 75 years of India's history to don the mantle. In Haryana, it already has Dushant Chautala, a Jat leader as Deputy CM. In order to woo the Tribal in 109 Lok Sabha seats in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and other states, it brought the first Tribal woman as President. Thus, the BJP’s think-tank is working tirelessly for 2024.

 

Gehlot's Nashik nightmare

 

With the change of regime in Maharashtra, fortune of many leaders may also change. It transpires that a police case in Nashik against Vaibhav Gehlot, son of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, may witness some interesting twists and turns. The case came to light when a businessman in Nashik got a case of Rs 6.89 crores cheating registered against Vaibhav Gehlot and 13 others in March this year. But the Police under the MVA government was reluctant to register the case and the businessman approached the court. The court directed the Police to register an FIR. The case was transferred to the Economic Offenses Wing (EOW). Within days, the complainant approached the court saying he would not like to pursue the case against Vaibhav Gehlot . But the court did not proceed with as much alacrity as the complainant. In the meantime, the Uddhav Thackeray government fell and obviously, Gehlots may witness some turbulence. All eyes are on the Nashik complainant whether he changes his tune after the change of regime in Maharashtra. Ashok Gehlot’s  brother Agrasen Gehlot had been raided by the CBI in June and the Chief Minister is having sleepless nights.

 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Pawar eyes UPA Chair now

After losing his bastion in Maharashtra, the Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar may now eye the UPA chairmanship in Delhi. For the Opposition parties in Delhi, Pawar is a tall leader and Congress president Sonia Gandhi has already requested him to coordinate with all like-minded parties.  Pawar played a key role in the selection of the Opposition's joint presidential candidate. The buzz in Delhi is that Sonia Gandhi wants to relinquish the post of Congress president. Therefore, Pawar is eyeing the post of the UPA chairman hoping that Sonia may quit that post too. Insiders in the Congress say that Sonia Gandhi had sounded Pawar to become the Convener of the UPA to begin with. Pawar has not agreed as his heart remains in Maharashtra though he is playing an active role in coordinating with the Opposition parties in key matters. With Parliament’s Monsoon session beginning, Pawar may play a major role in Delhi rather than in Mumbai. However, senior NCP leaders in Maharashtra are insisting that he should continue to guide the MVA affairs. After all, it was he who was running the government as a back-seat driver for more than two years. But the Congress in Maharashtra under Nana Patole is unwilling to accept him as the leader and Shiv Sena under Uddhav Thackeray is in tatters. Ajit Pawar as Leader of the Opposition is firmly in the saddle and will assert his authority too. He has no love-lost with Jayant Patil either who is a die-hard Pawar loyalist.


by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group




Naidu to shift in Naqvi’s bungalow at Safdarjung Road


 

 

Even as speculations about the next destination of Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi continue with each passing day, the out-going Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu will be shifting to the ministerial bungalow of former Minority Affairs Minister.

 

 

Naidu has decided to stay put in Delhi after retirement next month and shift to 5, Safdarjung Road bungalow currently occupied by Naqvi. Incidentally, Naqvi had partially vacated the bungalow and shifted to his Mayur Vihar flat in East Delhi. A ministerial Type-VIII bungalow is allotted to former Presidents and Vice Presidents and former PM for life in Delhi or a place of their choice in India by the government.

 

Though there was intense speculation that Naqvi may be nominated for the post of VP, it did not happen for a variety of reasons. It is said that Naqvi may be given a gubernatorial assignment. The governors of several states are retiring within the next two months. Jagdeep Dhankhar, West Bengal Governor who has been made a Vice Presidential candidate is set to quit his current assignment soon. 



Saturday, July 16, 2022

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group





Fly on the Wall 


Pawar eyes UPA Chair now

After losing his bastion in Maharashtra, the Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar may now eye the UPA chairmanship in Delhi. For the Opposition parties in Delhi, Pawar is a tall leader and Congress president Sonia Gandhi has already requested him to coordinate with all like-minded parties.  Pawar played a key role in the selection of the Opposition's joint presidential candidate. The buzz in Delhi is that Sonia Gandhi wants to relinquish the post of Congress president. Therefore, Pawar is eyeing the post of the UPA chairman hoping that Sonia may quit that post too. Insiders in the Congress say that Sonia Gandhi had sounded Pawar to become the Convener of the UPA to begin with. Pawar has not agreed as his heart remains in Maharashtra though he is playing an active role in coordinating with the Opposition parties in key matters. With Parliament’s Monsoon session beginning, Pawar may play a major role in Delhi rather than in Mumbai. However, senior NCP leaders in Maharashtra are insisting that he should continue to guide the MVA affairs. After all, it was he who was running the government as a back-seat driver for more than two years. But the Congress in Maharashtra under Nana Patole is unwilling to accept him as the leader and Shiv Sena under Uddhav Thackeray is in tatters. Ajit Pawar as Leader of the Opposition is firmly in the saddle and will assert his authority too. He has no love-lost with Jayant Patil either who is a die-hard Pawar loyalist.

BJP's scouting mission in Maharashtra

The BJP is desperately on the look out for a strong Maratha leader from the Congress among other MLAs to enhance its base before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. It is not interested in wooing the 15-odd MLAs belonging to the Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray as it considers it an internal Sena matter. However, the BJP wants to weaken Congress further not only in other states but also in Maharashtra and wean away strong regional leaders. The BJP needs a Maratha leader in its kitty and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is in a mission mode. The Congress high command is aware of the move as this leader's name did figure in the list of seven absentees who cross voted and also failed to turn up in time for the Confidence vote. The Congress high command has ordered a probe under Congress leader Mohan Prakash. But insiders say that it's an eye-wash as the high command knew the identity of this leader. Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan told Lokmat that it's time for action against the erring MLAs. He disclosed that the high command had taken the services of an expert from England before the voting in the Rajya Sabha biennial polls and a special code was created for each of the party MLAs. "The high command knows who didn't vote due to this code," he said. Therefore, the party should act against them rather than ordering an inquiry. Ashok Chavan, Vijay Wadettiwar, Dheeraj Deshmukh,   Zishan Siddiqui, Raju Awale, Mohan Hambarde, Madhav Rao Jawalgaonkar and Shirish Chaudhari were late for voting too during the Confidence vote. Out of these 8 MLAs, seven cross voted for the Rajya Sabha polls. Three MLAs had taken prior permission to remain absent.


by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group


Fly On the Wall 

July 14

Who were 20 Presidential candidates!

On June 21, BJP president JP Nadda told the nation that the party has chosen Draupadi Murmu as its Presidential candidate. He went on to disclose that the party considered 20 names for the post and she was chosen amongst them. However, he left the country guessing about the remaining 19 names considered at the Parliamentary Board's meeting. It transpires that the top BJP leadership considered 19 other names which included Parkash Singh Badal, former Punjab Chief Minister and a tall Sikh leader. PM Modi once called him Nelson Mandela of India. It so happened that the Akali Dal leaders reached out to the BJP reminding it that it had been indicated in 2014 that Badal senior could be considered for the top post. When asked who had given them such a commitment, they named a late senior leader who is no more. The matter ended there.The name of a former Chief Justice of India was also considered who may have been signaled once that he could be considered for a Constitutional post. Telangana Governor Tamilsai Sundarajan and three other tribal women leaders were also considered.  Former Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao who hails from Telangana too figured among those considered. The names of  many Governors including that of Thaawarchand Gehlot and Kalraj Mishra were also mentioned considering their wide experience.