Editor : Satish Ohri    Edition : Jan - Feb 2019

Sushma Swaraj sets off speculation

Sushma Swaraj sets off speculation

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s announcement that she would not contest from Vidisha in the next Lok Sabha polls in 2019 has set of political speculation. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram was quick to remark, “Sushma Swaraj is the Member of Parliament from Madhya Pradesh and she is smart. She has read the writing on the wall in Madhya Pradesh and announced that she will not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha election.” Chidambaram also drove in the point that braving illness, Sushma Swaraj served the country with great dignity. “We wish Smt Sushma Swaraj good health and a long life,” said Chidambaram. Grapevine has it that Sushma Swaraj statement is more a reflection of the political reality. Sushma Swaraj has not announced retirement, but only stepped back from contesting polls, leaving it open to remaining in the political fray by entering Parliament through the Rajya Sabha. There is speculation whether the BJP MargdarshakMandal members, L K Advani, 91, Murli Manohar Joshi, 84, Shanta Kumar, 84, and Kalraj Mishra, 77, will contest. It is believed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent half-an hour-with BJP veteran L K Advani on his birthday, but there were hardly any vibes between them.In the Babri Masjid demolition case, Advani and Joshi have been slapped with the additional charge of conspiracy, which was not there under the Congress regime.

Ambareesh, the Rebel

Ambareesh, the Rebel

Kannada film star-turned-politician Ambareesh died, leaving a void in the Kannada film world. Even politically, Ambareesh made waves in Karnataka. Nursing political ambitions, he joined the Congress in 1994. When not given a ticket, he defected to the Janata Dal (Secular) of former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda. After winning JD(S) ticket in 1998 in the Lok Sabha elections, later, Ambareesh rejoined the Congress. He went on to become Union Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting, but he never attended office, on the grouse that he was not given Cabinet rank or at least independent charge of a Ministry and finally resigned on the Cauvery issue. He has been a rebel, perhaps without a cause. Amabreesh was the trouble-shooter on many occasions.Anyone connected to Kannada films used to seek his help whenever in trouble, be it financial or familial dispute. But he was always humble about his role. He once said: “My age does not permit me to take leadership of the film industry. I will do my best whenever somebody comes with a problem.”After the death of Rajkumar, the Kannada film industry had increasingly turned to Ambareesh at all moments of crises. He had filled a vacuum left by Rajkumar. Ambareesh used to also settle some of the personal issues, making him special to many people.

How C K Jaffer Sharif helped Indira

How C K Jaffer Sharif helped Indira

Former Union Railway Minister C K Jaffer Sharief died recently, ending perhaps a long innings in the Congress, at the age of 85 years. It is said that Jaffer Sharief had a dramatic rise in the Congress. As a young driver at the Congress office in Karnataka, Jaffer Sharief overheard a conversation of the then Congress President S Nijalingappa, planning to split the Congress in 1969. This information he carried to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was the real target of Nijalingappa. He made sure of a close bonding with Indira Gandhi that lasted a lifetime. P V Narasimha Rao, another die-heard Indira Gandhi loyalist, when he became Prime Minister in 1991, made C K Jaffer Sharief Union Railway Minister. As Railway Minister, he was widely credited with overseeing the conversion of a large majority of metre gauge lines to broad gauge, earning him the sobriquet of Unigauge Minister. Sharief, who hailed from a poor family and could not complete school, remained an influential Muslim leader in Karnataka. Towards the fag-end, the Congress veteran threatened to desert the party on at least two occasions. In 2014, he was left sulking, following denial of Congress ticket for the Lok Sabha polls. The party compensated by giving his grandson Abdul Rehman Sharief a ticket for the 2016 Assembly by-election from Bengaluru, but Rehman lost.

Manmohan Singh hunt for RS seat

Manmohan Singh hunt for RS seat

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh created ripples, when he was handpicked by Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao in 1991 to be his Finance Minister and to execute the economic reforms. Rao unveiled the economic reforms blueprint first in the Congress Election Manifesto he had drafted and then ushered in the same soon on coming to power, in the wake of the tragic assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. When Rao brought Manmohan Singh into Parliament through the Rajya Sabha, domicile rule was followed in Rajya Sabha election. So, he rented a house in Guwahati with the address: House No. 3989, Nandan Nagar, Ward No. 51, Sarumataria, Dispur, Guwahati-781006. Grapevine has it that the house rented by Manmohan Singh was owned by Hemaprova Saikia, a senior Congress leader, former minister and widow of former Assam Chief Minister Hiteswar Saikia. Manmohan Singh, who has been representing Assam in Rajya Sabha since 1991, was re-elected in 1995, 2001, 2007 and in 2013. His term comes to an end in 2019 and is now hunting for a seat from some other State, may be Tamil Nadu. The Congress wants help from the DMK, especially as Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi is reportedly keen to move to the Lok Sabha. But DMK President M K Stalin is yet to make any commitment to the Congress.

BJP flaunts Demographic Dividend

BJP flaunts Demographic Dividend

The BJP under Narendra Modi managed to win over the youth on a largescale in the run up to the General Election in 2014. With the General Election in 2019 round the corner, the BJP is once again looking to rally the youth power behind the BJP. Especially, in 2018, the first-time voter of the new millennium born in 2000 would be casting their vote in the General Election in 2019. To woo them, the BJP is playing the Demographic Dividend Card. Youth power in India is like in no other country in the world. It has over 60 per cent of its youth in the working age group at present. Union Minister of State for Chemicals & Fertilizers, Road Transport & Highways, Shipping Mansukh L Mandaviya is playing upon the Youth Card. He says that in the near future, most of the sectors of Indian economy would require more skilled workforce than the present. It would be both a challenge and an opportunity for India to provide its workforce with required skill sets and knowledge to enable them to contribute substantially to its economic growth. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has identified Skill India as a mission to skill India’s youth and ensure optimal utilization of India’s demographic dividend, the Minister added.

BJP plans Third Front

BJP plans Third Front

Third Front is famously projected as non-Congress, non-BJP formation. But the BJP is proactively working on a Third Front, which would queer the pitch for the Grand Alliance in the making under the Congress. Primarily, the idea is to prepare a so-called Third Front in every State, which would work to the overall advantage of the BJP, in splitting the anti-BJP vote, which should not consolidate behind the Congress-led alliance. BSP leader Mayawati’s position not to align with the Congress in the 2018 Assembly elections has given rise to hope in the BJP that she can be neutralised even in the General Election in 2019. BJP President Amit Shah is working hard to form a third front to divide the Opposition unity. The strategy is to work on each State alliance. For instance, in Uttar Pradesh, focus is on Shivpal Yadav, while more of ilk, are expected to join. In Gujarat, ShankersinhVaghela is a potential points person for the Saffron Brigade, to play the spoil sport for the Congress. In this effort, the BJP is looking at the TRS of K Chandrashekhar Rao and Majlis-e-Itthehad-ul-Muslimeen of Assaduddin Owaisi. For MIM leader Owaisi, the BJP is projected as political adversary.But the Saffron Party is seen by the MIM as a more useful party. Both BJP and MIM benefit through polarisation.

Rahul jibe at Modi

Rahul jibe at Modi

During the campaigning in the Assembly elections campaign, Congress President Rahul Gandhi virtually honed his oratorial skills. In a spirited campaign, Rahul Gandhi managed to deliver lethal jibes at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Rahul Gandhi’s suit-boot kisarkar jibe put Prime Minister Modi in a spin. Similarly, Rahul Gandhi’s latest jibe at Modi on Bharat Mata Ki Jai slogan was a big hit. Rahul Gandhi said, “The Prime Minister Says Bharat Mata Ki Jai in every speech, but works for Anil Ambani. He should begin his address by saying Anil Ambani Ki Jai, Mehul Choksi Ki Jai, Nirav Modi Ki JaiLalit Modi Ki Jai.” Rahul Gandhi refrain constantly is that the hard-earned money of farmers is given to the rich through BimaYojana. This is not BimaYojana. This should be called Anil Yojana, Nirav Modi Yojana, Vijay Mallya Yojana, he said in the same vein.Out of Rs 45,000 crore, Rs 16,000 crore are given to all the elite people of India, he asserts. Prime Minister Modi tried to retort, saying, “The Congress has come up with a fatwa that I should not begin rallies with Bharat Mata Ki Jai. How can they deny this? They must be ashamed of even saying such a thing.” But it only revealed a feeling of helplessness, when Rahul Gandhi did pull of a witty remark.

Ram Vilas Paswan golden jubilee as legislator

Ram Vilas Paswan golden jubilee as legislator

Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has reached a landmark in his political life, having completed 50 years as legislator, since he won the prestigious Aloli by-election, where he defeated a Congress heavy-weight, way back in 1969. Paswan has been Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha during the United Front Government from 1996-98. At that time, both the successive Prime Ministers, H D Deve Gowda and IK Gujral, were members of the Rajya Sabha, forcing them to opt for Paswan, a Dalit face, as the Leader of the House in Lok Sabha. It considerably boosted the image of Ram Vilas Paswan. Grapevine has it that despite clearing the UPSC exams to get IPS, Paswan, 22 in 1969, was persuaded to contest the polls on the ticket from the Samyukt Socialist Party (SSP). Paswan shares with Mulayam Singh Yadav the distinction of hailing from Socialist background, of Ram Manohar Lohia and Acharya Narendra Dev, both of whom were sworn anti-Congress leaders, who preferred to cooperate with the Sangh. Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Sharad Yadav hailed from the JP Movement, who similarly was sworn anti-Congress and pro-Sangh leader. True to his political background, Ram Vilas Paswan was Union Minister in the BJP-backed V P Singh Government in 1989 and graduated to Vajpayee Government in 1998 and now to Modi Government in 2014.

New trend in BJP

New trend in BJP

The BJP and its NDA has blazed a new trail of leaders opting out of contest from the upcoming parliamentary elections, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is making a determined bid for a second consecutive term in office at the Centre. Normally, there is a huge fight for tickets and leaders scramble to make it to the final list of candidates. But a strange situation seems to be developing in the ruling BJP and its NDA at the Centre. Leader after leader is coming out to make it known that he or she is not interested in contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Grapevine has it that this is a strange spectacle. Though the elections are a couple of months away, these leaders are keen to declare before-hand that they would not be interested in taking the electoral plunge. These include LJSP leader and prominent Dalit face Ram Vilas Paswan and from the BJP the important icon of the Ayodhya Agitation, Uma Bharati. Paswan represents Hajipur, a seat near Bihar Capital Patna, amid speculation that he might not contest the next parliamentary election but prefer to and become a member of the Rajya Sabha, instead. Uma Bharati, on the other hand, made it clear that opting out of polls, she wants to devote time to Ayodhya and Ganga, pet projects of the RSS.

Srikant Jena faces the axe

Srikant Jena faces the axe

Former Union Minister and senior Congress leader in Odisha was axed as Chairman of the Odisha Congress Election Manifesto Committee. Srikant Jena said a Dalit leader will be the Chief Minister in Odisha, if Congress comes to power in 2019. Jena had written a letter to OPCC President Niranjan Patnaik, suggesting that the Congress should announce in its Election Manifesto for 2019 polls to select a Chief Minister and two Deputy Chief Ministers from the backward classes, if voted to power. Clearly, Srikant Jena was targeting OPCC President Niranjan Patnaik, making it clear that he cannot be Odisha Chief Minister, if the Congress comes to power in 2019. Grapevine has it that Srikant Jena’s replacement as Election Manifesto Committee Chairman was clearly in retaliation to Jena openly targeting Niranjan Patnaik. Srikant Jena was replaced by former Minister and Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPPCC) Vice-President Ganeswar Behera. Besides, Bismaya Mahapatra has been appointed as the Convenor of the panel. OPCC President Niranjan Patnaik took to Twitter to congratulate the new members of the committee. “Congratulations to all the newly-appointed members of the Manifesto Committee for Odisha Vidhan Sabha Elections, 2019. Let’s work together to give the people the best Manifesto, which will capture the vision of the Congress party for a new glorious Odisha,” Patnaik tweeted.

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