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Back Story: Sidda Wanted To Take Oath Alone, Angry DKS Blocked The Move

If the Congress dragged the Karnataka post-poll confabulations a tad longer even after a resounding victory and had to call off a swearing-in, it wasn’t all because of D K Shivakumar’s tantrums. Party sources say that the entire 3-day drama in Delhi wasn’t the result of his muscle-flexing alone. Sources said at no point did DKS threaten to stay out of the government nor demand the “finance ministry” portfolio. Nor did he insist on an assurance from Sonia Gandhi to make him CM after two years. Which is probably why AICC managers have not spelt out terms of a Sidda-DKS deal– maybe there’s no deal.  Besides, Sidda always likes a full term. “DKS is aware of his limitations. He is aware of his legal liabilities. He cannot demand the finance portfolio as Sidda has the formidable reputation of presenting 13 Budgets,” said a close Rahul aide. If DKS indeed had no pre-conditions then what delayed government formation? It was apparently Sidda’s idea that he should be allowed to take oath alone as CM on May 17 that created a deadlock. It was Sidda’s way of taking credit for Karnataka victory that irked DKS. So he put his foot down and insisted that he would like to take the oath along with the CM.  DKS’ insistence annoyed Sidda; after all he had been reluctant to induct DKS as a minister in his previous stint as CM. Besides, Sidda was keen to showcase his oath-taking as a national Opposition unity event that would be attended by everyone: Sharad Pawar, Sitaram Yechury, M K Stalin, Nitish Kumar, Tejashwi Yadav and Mamata Banerjee.
new parliament

Modi To Dedicate New Parliament Complex On Savarkar's Birth Anniversary

PM Narendra Modi will be dedicating the newly constructed Parliament building to the Nation on May 28, which marks the birth anniversary of Veer Savarkar. The new building symbolises the spirit of self-reliant India (Aatmanirbhar Bharat) and has come up in record time. Both the houses of Parliament– the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha – had passed resolutions urging the government to construct a new building. Consequently, on 10 December 2020, the foundation stone of the new building of Parliament was laid by PM Modi. The newly constructed building is reportedly equipped with state-of-the-art facilities which will help the MPs to perform their functions in a better way.  The Lok Sabha can accommodate 888 members and the Rajya Sabha 384 members. In the present Parliament House, there is a provision for the sitting of 543 MPs in the Lok Sabha and 280 in the Rajya Sabha. The Lok Sabha will facilitate joint sittings of both the Houses, something that happened in the Central Hall of the Parliament in the present building. The present Parliament complex was completed in 1927, which is now going to be almost 100 years old. The building with aging wiring systems and drainage facilities has posed many hazards and has not been able to cater to growing needs of MPs. It was also subjected to a terror attack on 13 December 2001, by Pak inspired agents that took nine lives of security personnel.

Little Hope For DKS As Rahul Gandhi Throws Up His Hands; Sonia & Priyanka Skip Meeting

It is now as clear as daylight that the prospect of KPCC President D K Shivkumar becoming chief minister of Karnataka is zilch. A fate he always feared most — that he would also end up like Sachin Pilot — even as he notched up one of the most brilliant electoral victories for the Congress. Yes, Rahul Gandhi in his meeting with party observers Sushil Kumar Shinde made it clear that it would be better to go with the views expressed by newly elected Karnataka MLAs. And that means going ahead and declaring Siddaramaiah as CM. Siddaramaiah had claimed that he had support of more MLAs. Only 37 of the 136 legislators had refused to give the name of preferred CM choice. Siddaramaiah always knew he was going to clinch the office, notwithstanding DKS’s claims. That is why as soon as the results came in, he was already working on who are the officers he must get on in his team. As for DKS, he knew his game was over when Sonia and Priyanka moved out of Delhi. All that will remain is the way he mobilized Vokkaligas in Old Mysore to back the Congress; he persuaded them to abandon the Janata Dal (Secular) including the prestigious Ramnagar seat. Congress won 30 of the 61 seats in the Old Mysuru region.

Was It Modi's Pointsman B L Santosh Who Wrecked The BJP Boat In Karnataka?

The shock defeat of the BJP in the Karnataka election was no surprise at BJP headquarters in New Delhi. Party sources said an electoral rout was inevitable as B L Santosh, BJP’s national general secretary, who hailed from the state, was handling all election related issues and had not involved anyone from the North. “In the 2018 polls, I held campaign meetings among our community leaders in the South. This time no one even bothered to involve me,” said BJP’s Dalit leader. Party sources said Santosh, a RSS pracharak hailing from Udupi, was brought in as Karnataka BJP general secretary (organisation) in 2006 and remained in the post till 2014. At party headquarters, he was brought in by Modi-Shah to oversee BJP’s expansion in the South. Party sources said Santosh relied too much on the much disliked former Chikkamagaluru MLA C T Ravi, who lost the elections. Ironically, Santosh is being seen as responsible for reducing the BJP to the 2013 situation when B S Yediyurappa’s exit caused Lingayats to desert en masse. Only exception was in urban Hubbali where Jagadish Shettar who quit the BJP and held Santosh “directly responsible” for his denial of a ticket. Shettar lost even as Sonia Gandhi campaigned for him.

BJP Zeroes In On Nitish Kumar's Achilles Heel, Once Close Aide RCP Singh Joins BJP

On a day when Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and his deputy Tejashwi Yadav were in Mumbai meeting with Uddhav Thackeray exploring scope for Opposition alliance, his home ground gave away. Yes, his once close aide Ram Chandra Prasad Singh joined the BJP in the presence of Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan at party headquarters in New Delhi.  A Kurmi leader like Nitish who also hails from Nalanda, Singh’s joining the BJP is expected to strengthen the party in Bihar. An IAS officer of UP cadre Singh had closely worked with Nitish during his stint as a Union minister. He went on to slam Nitish, accusing him of compromising with crime and corruption in his pursuit of “kursi”, calling the JDU supremo a “paltimaar”. Singh lost his Rajya Sabha membership and also had to quit as Union minister as the JDU refused to nominate him for a fresh term last year. His differences with Nitish have been growing over the years — first it was over the appointment of poll strategist Prashant Kishore as JDU vice-president and then over Nitish’s over dependence on now JDU chief Lallan Singh. RCP Singh took VRS from the IAS and was nominated by the JDU to the Rajya Sabha in 2010. Meanwhile, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik who met with PM Narendra Modi dismissed the possibility of working with the Opposition for the 2024 general election, declaring that his BJD will go it alone. Incidentally, Nitish Kumar had met with him early this week.

Sachin Pilot Gives It Back To CM Gehlot: Hits The Ground Running To Mobilise Opinion

“BJP’s Vasundhara Raje Scindia is Ashok Gehlot’s leader, not Sonia Gandhi,” declared senior Rajasthan leader Sachin Pilot. Announcing a “Jan Sangharsh Yatra” from Ajmer to Jaipur on 11 May, he said he would take his demands to the people, particularly for action against BJP’s corruption. Pilot’s comments come two days after the Rajasthan CM said in Dholpur that he had survived an internal revolt in July 2020 because BJP’s former chief minister Scindia and her two close aides — Kailash Meghwal and Shobharani Khushwaha–refused to support a conspiracy to topple the government. Pilot – with the help of 18 MLAs — had rebelled against Gehlot but could not muster enough numbers to bring down the government. Pilot said “the Dholpur speech has made it clear why there has been no action against the previous Vasundhara Raje government.” Anyway it is not just Pilot who is hitting the ground running. PM Modi will be in Rajasthan too on May 10 inaugurating and lay the foundation stone of projects worth over Rs 5,500 crore. Meanwhile, Congress sources are raising eyebrows about Gehlot’s offer to “compensate” Congress MLAs crossing over to BJP at the behest of Pilot. 10 Janpath would certainly be squirming at the idea.

Karamjit Kaur and Sushil Kumar

Congress Gears Up To Clinch Jalandhar Lok Sabha Seat

While all political parties are focused on Karnataka assembly elections mid-week, there is one Lok Sabha by-elections that is being held the same day that has gone completely below the radar. Yes, it is the by-election to the Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat. It has become a high-stake battle for the ruling AAP which lost Sangrur Lok Sabha bypolls last year. AAP is understandably eager to win the Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat as it is being seen as a curtain raiser to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. To secure Jalandhar, AAP has fielded former Congress MLA Sushil Kumar Rinku, hours after he jumped ship. For some reason, however, Congress feels comfortable and confident that it will clinch the Jalandhar seat as it is banking on the legacy of its two-time MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary who died during Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. It has fielded his wife, academician Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary, as candidate from Jalandhar. Karamjit Chaudhary’s son Vikramjit Singh Chaudhary is the sitting MLA from Phillaur (reserved) assembly constituency, the home turf of the Chaudhary family in Jalandhar. “We are feeling confident about a Congress win not only because of the sympathy factor. It is also because everyone is working for the Congress”, said Khadoor Sahib MP Jasbir Singh Gill. Jalandhar has been a Congress stronghold since 1999. Congress sources say at present the mood against AAP is so much in Punjab that even the SAD-BSP alliance could emerge as first runner up.

A Cong Sweep In Shimla Boosts Sukhu, Priyanka

When the Congress won Himachal in December last year polling just 0.90% more votes than the BJP it wasn’t seen as an effective victory. Of course, the Congress had secured 15 more seats than the BJP.  However  all doubts were put to rest  on May 4 when under the leadership of Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu when the Congress swept  Shimla Municipal Corporation elections picking 24 of the 34 wards, leaving a measly 9 seats for the BJP. It now became quite clear that the Congress had found a new leader in the CM. In a post- Virbhadra Singh era, it seemed the party had found the right kind of person to fill his place.  Even as the Himachal BJP made an issue that the Congress was ignoring late Virbhadra Singh and had not used his posters in the civic polls, Congress sources point out that even late Virbhadra had never managed to win 24 wards in Shimla during his lifetime. Which means what had essentially worked for Sukhu, who had risen from the ranks, is that he had begun delivering on election promises including the old pension scheme. Zeroing in on Sukhu as CM and delivering in Himachal would definitely go a long way in boosting Priyanka Gandhi’s credentials as a leader. In fact, it is for this reason that the Congress decided to showcase Sukhu in Bengaluru at a presser on May 5 itself.

Bajrang Dal In Cong Election Manifesto: Handiwork Of Kanugolu, Surjewala

There is apparently a lot of resentment against AICC in charge for Karnataka, Randeep Singh Surjewala among state Congress leaders for the manner in which he is handling ongoing assembly elections. Party leaders are particularly livid with him for messing up with the election manifesto. Across the board, everyone is holding him and election strategist, Sunil Kanugolu, responsible for the big time “Bajrang Dal” goof up — that is putting an incendiary item in the manifesto and handing the BJP, an electoral issue.  “The Congress has gifted this election on a platter to PM Modi. This Bajrang Dal was not an input of the manifesto committee. In fact the panel headed by Dr G Parameshwara and members such as Madhu Bangarappa and Prof Radhakrishna had nothing to do with it. These words were added by Surjewala and Kanugolu perhaps with a view to give a handle to the BJP,” said a former Congress CM. That is why former Union Minister M Veerappa Moily clarified that there was no proposal to ban the Bajrang Dal. “No one in the Congress trusts Kanugolu as he has a history of working with the BJP. In fact Surjewala and Kanugolu so tightly control every one that all leaders are quite fed up. This was an election we were winning hands down. Now in the last week, our leaders are rushing to temples,” said a close Rahul Gandhi aide. To recover some lost ground D K Shivakumar even visited a Hanuman temple.
BJP rally 2

Playing To Gallery: Will Bajrang Dal Ban Promise Cost Hindu Votes For Cong?

In Karnataka both the major political parties — the BJP and the Congress — are restricting their appeal to particular communities. It became more obvious in their election manifestos that was released about a week ahead of polling on May 10. Though the election pledges may not have much influence on the voters, the sticking point in the documents such as a claim to ban to the Bajrang Dal by the Congress to pacify Muslims or promise of the BJP to usher in the UCC, introduce the NRC and “speedy deportation of all illegal migrants” seem to be aimed at reaching out to the Hindus. Congress sources admitted that Hindus as a bloc were beyond their reach in coastal Karnataka and this seems to have made the party shift its focus to Muslims in the south. However by taking a pro-Muslim stand in a year when Ram Temple at Ayodhya is all set to become a reality, the Congress could be in a spot in north India. Little wonder that PM Modi promptly tore into the Congress’ manifesto promising a ban on Bajrang Dal. Addressing a public meeting in Hosapete, Karanataka he said, “I’m fortunate to be at the birthplace of Shri Hanuman, but it also unfortunate to know the Congress has declared to ban the Bajrang Dal, who revere Bajrang Bali Hanuman, if they come to power”. As Assam CM Himanta Sarma regretted equating a banned “PFI and Bajrang Dal”.
Maha day

Unusual Move: Raj Bhavans Across The Country Celebrate Gujarat, Maharashtra Foundation Day

In an unusual move of promoting cooperative federalism, Foundation Day of Gujarat and Maharashtra on May 1 were not only observed in the two states but across Raj Bhavans  in  the country celebrating the theme “Ek Bharat Shresht Bharat”. Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat is an initiative of the Government of India to celebrate India’s rich cultural diversity, to foster a sense of national unity and promote a spirit of mutual understanding and respect. It pairs up states and union territories with each other, promoting cultural and linguistic exchange between them through various activities such as art, music, dance, food and sports. The celebration of Gujarat and Maharashtra Foundation Day by the Raj Bhavans of other states is a unique step for the promotion of national unity. It seems to have the blessings of the PMO and has been encouraged by the top leadership. Even as the Maharashtra Governor Ramesh Bais unfurled the national flag and inspected the parade, it would be interesting to note that Maharashtra and Gujarat Foundation Day were celebrated across all Raj Bhavans in the country – from Union territories of J&K and Puducherry to Kerala, Tripura and Odisha — showcasing the rich and vibrant culture of the two states.

Congress Irked As Plethora Of Pre-Poll Surveys Now Talk Of Hung Assembly In Karnataka

It is not the impact of gaali politics or even yet to be launched PM Modi’s carpet bombing that is worrying the Congress in Karnataka. No, the party is not worried about the impact of Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge’s decision to call Modi a “poisonous snake”. What is actually worrying the party is the plethora of pre-election surveys! Initially, these pre-poll surveys were giving the Congress a clear lead over the BJP. However, as the date of polling is drawing closer, several pre-poll surveys and opinions have begun to indicate the possibility of a hung assembly. “These surveys are disturbing. It is the possibility of a hung assembly with JD(S) playing a kingmaker that can mar Congress prospects.” pointed out an AICC manager. Even though KPCC chief D K Shivkumar met JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy in Hyderabad, but HDK seems to be more inclined to back a BJP government. “A hung assembly could work out best in the BJP’s interest. There’s already a talk that even if BJP fails to win Karnataka, they will still form the government,” admits a senior Congress leader. He also admits giving tickets to BJP rebel Jagdish Shettar has proven to be counterproductive as party workers in Hubbali are refusing to work for Shettar. Party sources are also questioning the wisdom of fielding a Muslim candidate Yaseer Ahmed Khan against Lingayat CM Basvaraj Bommai from Shiggaon.

Shashi Tharoor Is Taking No Chances, Keeps All Options Open

Looks like Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor is keeping his options open. Or may be building pressure on Congress leadership to induct him to the Congress Working Committee. Aware that Congress leadership did not quite appreciate him entering the fray for the office of party president and forcing a contest, Tharoor is aware that the party may not easily re-nominate him to contest the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. That is probably why he is reaching out to everyone across the political spectrum including the BJP. He was there at the airport to receive PM Narendra Modi who had arrived in Thiruvananthapuram to launch Vande Bharat Express and the PMO had tweeted about it. Vande Bharat will run between the Kerala capital in the south and Kasargod in the north covering 11 districts in the state. Earlier, Tharoor had complimented Rail Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw for making speedy train travel possible in his state. “Progress must be beyond politics,” he had tweeted. At the Vande Bharat launch, it wasn’t Tharoor alone who was all agreeable. Ashwini Vaishnav also came out praising CM Pinarayi Vijayan for extending all help to facilitate in improving and expanding tracks. Vijayan, who was pushing for the controversial SilverLine semi-high speed rail corridor, thanked PM Modi for allocating a Vande Bharat to Kerala. Under Modi, rail budget allocation had gone up five times — from Rs 370 cr in 2014 to Rs 2333 cr in 2023.

Jagdish Shettar's Defection To Congress Irks Modi-Shah

If Union Home Minister Amit Shah took a tough line against former BJP leader Jagdish Shettar during his visit to Hubballi it is not without reason. Shah’s assertion that “Shettar will lose the election as Hubbali has always voted for the BJP” was made to reflect not just the mood in the Karnataka BJP unit after Shettar crossed over to the Congress. It also shared the anguish of PM Narendra Modi over Shettar’s action. BJP top brass is reportedly furious that Shettar who was given “so much” by the party should join Congress. Shah primarily reflected the BJP’s determination to ensure that Shettar “loses the election”. Shettar is contesting on a Congress ticket from Hubballi-Dharwad-Central, a seat he has won multiple times on a BJP ticket. “There’ll be no loss, Jagdish Shettar will himself lose the election, Huballii has always voted for BJP and all workers of BJP are united,” Shah said at a press conference. Of course, Congress sources are  surprised that  Modi-Shah should make a fuss about a high profile turncoat, considering the BJP itself has renominated 16 defectors from the Congress who had propped up its government in the last few years.

Clean Chit For Robert Vadra-DLF Deal In Punjab & Haryana High Court

Thursday (Apr 20) was a day of mixed news for the Gandhi siblings from the courts and this brought some cheer to the Congress. While Surat sessions court refused to stay his conviction in the defamation case for Rahul Gandhi, Haryana revenue officials brought some cheer by giving a clean chit to transfer of land by Robert Vadra’s Skylight Hospitality to the DLF in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. This came nearly five years after an FIR was registered against former chief minister Bhupinder Hooda and others for cheating and other offences at Gurugram. It is not clear if Vadra got the clean chit as an unintended consequence of the Khattar government’s efforts to bail out its ally — the Chauthalas. As for as the Vadra-DLF  land transfer matter, the affidavit said: “It was reported by tehsildar, Manesar, Gurugram, that Skylight Hospitality sold 3.5 acres to DLF Universal Limited on September 18, 2019, and no regulation/rules have been violated in the said transaction. As per the report received from tehsildar, Wazirabad, Gurugram, it was clearly stated that the land in question has not been found in the name of DLF Universal Ltd and the land still exists in the name of HSVP/HSIIDC, Haryana”.
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DK Shivkumar's Last Minute Gamble Worries Congress

Karnataka PCC chief D K Shivkumar’s last minute gamble to get his brother and the lone Congress Lok Sabha MP D K Suresh to file papers as his cover candidate from Kanakapura assembly seat has not gone down well with state Congress cadres. It was felt such a move could send out a message of uncertainty about the Congress. While officially the Congress explained the need for a cover candidate for Shivkumar — who was hoping to be CM — as a technical necessity. Party sources said Shivkumar had moved his brother to Kanakapura only as a back-up plan. “Having a cover candidate is necessary; he has to be there in the fray only till the time of withdrawal of nominations,” explained an AICC manager. But then why is the PCC chief suddenly preparing for the worst and worrying about rejection of his papers? Hasn’t Shivkumar been winning the Kanakapura assembly seat since 2008? Or has the entry of a senior BJP minister and prominent Vokkaliga face R Ashoka from Kanakapura queered the pitch for him? Meanwhile, Shivkumar’s attempts to consolidate the star power of Vokkaligas are showing results. He got former Lok Sabha MP and actor Divya Sapandana aka Ramya back as star campaigner. Ramya had also joined Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in the state. Shivkumar was also hoping to get Mandya MP and actor Sumalatha Ambareesh to contest on Congress ticket. She opted out.
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Rahul Hits Campaign Trail, Confident Of Congress Win In Karnataka

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi launched his campaign in Karnataka from Kolar from the very spot where his August 2019 speech cost him membership of the Lok Sabha. Accused of “insulting” OBCs as he had mocked Modi surname in a defamation case, Rahul decided to take on the government on the caste question. Rahul urged PM Modi to release the findings of what the Congress-led UPA regime had compiled — the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) in 2011. He reminded the government that reports from the census have been published except that of the caste data. In urging release of caste census data Rahul may be pushing the case of a lot of Centrist parties from the Hindi heartland like the RJD and JD (U) for a caste-based census. Rahul also exuded confidence about coming to power in Karnataka. He also indicated as to who his choice of chief minister would be: PCC chief D K Shivkumar is clearly a front runner. AICC chief Mallikarjun Kharge is also backing DKS. Rahul is gung ho about his “government” that he made it clear that his team would implement its freebie promises in the first Cabinet meeting itself. Meanwhile, one hears senior leader Siddaramaiah has begun to sulk being denied an opportunity to contest from Kolar. The Kolar rally was such a double whammy for the Kuruba leader he was even asked to cut his speech short.
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Does PM Modi Still Hold All The Aces In Karnataka Polls?

High-profile last-minute imports from BJP into the Congress like Jagdish Shettar and Laxman Savadi — one an ex-CM and another a deputy CM — are apparently not enough to  convince Karnataka Congressmen that their party will return to power on May 13. Sources say both the Lingayat leaders are no last-minute imports; they were actually negotiating with the Congress leadership as a back-up option as they were aware they would be denied tickets. That is why the delay by the BJP to declare its list of Karnataka candidates had quite upset the Congress. But even the arrival of Shettar and Savadi, who were once close to B S Yediyurappa, is not cheering the Congress cadres mainly because they are not being viewed as an asset. Congress sources say if these leaders did not make the grade in PM Narendra Modi-Amit Shah’s list, in all possibility, voters may also ignore them. At best desertions can create a political mood against the BJP but then the ruling party managed to beat incumbency by fielding fresh candidates, avoiding fielding more than one person from a family and also getting rid of deadwood. This BJP approach has unsettled the Congress. While BJP has opted for going for fresh faces, the Congress has stuck to the groove –re-nominating the 92-year old sitting MLA Shamanur Shivashankarappa from Davangere South.
Sachin Pilot

Has Sachin Pilot Pushed His Luck Too Far By Attacking Gehlot Again?

In Rajasthan, for some time ruling Congress has been subject of regular jousts between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his bete noire Sachin Pilot. With assembly elections at the end of this year, Pilot thought it fit to launch a diatribe against Gehlot last week accusing him of not acting on corruption charges against BJP leader Vasundhara Raje. He even went ahead with a day-long protest over the CM’s inaction against Raje, in spite of being advised against it by the AICC. Pilot reportedly refused to speak to anyone other than the Gandhis. This confidence of the former Rajasthan PCC seemed somewhat misplaced. As neither Rahul nor Priyanka bothered to reach out to him. Congress sources admitted that Gehlot seemed to have developed better equations with the Gandhis so much so they felt any move to replace him would be like a repeat of Punjab where they had sacked Capt Amarinder Singh ahead of Punjab polls that led to collapse of the Congress in the state. PM Modi made best use of Gehlot-Pilot face off. At the launch of Rajasthan’s first Vande Bharat Express between Ajmer and Delhi, PM not only referred to Gehlot as a friend and praised him for attending the event despite the ongoing political crises in his party. Modi also put to rest speculations that Pilot could make his way into the BJP. By attacking Raje, Sachin has probably ruled himself out of the BJP.
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PM Modi Connects With Tamils On New Year

If there is one thing that will cheer Tamil speaking people, it was the way PM Modi extolled the contribution of Tamil as the world’s oldest language. Taking part in the Tamil New Year celebrations at the residence of his ministerial colleague L Murugan, Modi lauded the Tamil community ahead of April 14 Puthandu or new year festivities. Reaching out to the community, PM stressed the uniqueness of Tamil people and culture, and professed his attraction and emotional attachment towards the Tamil culture. “There is a lot in the Tamil culture that has shaped India as a nation”, he said.  He also mentioned Venkatesa Perumal temple in Kanchipuram and Chathuranga Vallabhanathar Temple for their astonishing modern relevance and their rich ancient tradition. He remembered quoting in Tamil at the United Nations and attending the Grih Pravesh Ceremony at Jaffna. He expressed deep satisfaction of the success of the recent Kashi Tamil Sangamam. “In this program, we have celebrated antiquity, innovation and diversity simultaneously”, said the PM. Referring to the craze for the books of Tamil learning at the Sangamam, Modi said “In the Hindi speaking region, in this digital age, Tamil books are loved like this, it shows our cultural connect. I believe, the lives of Kashi residents are incomplete without Tamil people, I have become a Kashi Vaasi, and without Kashi, the lives of Tamil people are incomplete.”

When BJP's Annamalai Was Not Around During PM Modi's Chennai Visit

Absence of Tamil Nadu BJP President K Annamalai during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Chennai over last weekend made for intense speculation in Tamil social media. Even the news media was abuzz with suggestions that the dynamic party leader had been asked to take a back seat in local politics to sort out issues with new AIADMK boss and former CM Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS). Regional media that have been hostile to Annamalai’s rising acceptance among local people almost had a field day hinting at his political epitaph. Little did they reveal that the former IPS officer was missing in Chennai with a purpose; he was after all handling poll-bound Karnataka along with Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. In fact he was closeted with Union Home Minister Amit Shah discussing BJP’s Karnataka list. As a Karnataka-cadre officer, party top brass valued Annamalai’s input. That means his rivals in Tamil Nadu be better prepared for a long haul: both inside & outside BJP.

Modi Pays Surprise Visit To Delhi’s SHCC Church On Easter

In a gesture made to reach out to the Catholics, PM Narendra Modi visited the Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral in Delhi to greet and wish Happy Easter. It made big political news as it came amidst Karnataka assembly elections. But then during his Church visit, PM Modi held no discussion or made any appeal; he merely listened to three Christian songs, lit candles and prayed for some time. He also planted a tree sapling in front of the Church to mark his first visit. Archbishops and Bishops gave him a memento of Jesus Christ. It was as a BJP leader put it Modi telling the world that “every Christian in India was now secure and happy”. His Church visit was kept such a secret that very few people knew about it. His visit to the Church was in sharp contrast to former Congress President Sonia Gandhi who didn’t want to be caught visiting the CBCI headquarters even one single time. “Sonia had made her entry and exit out of the Church through the back door — she, a baptized Catholic, didn’t want anyone to know. It was a very delicate occasion — the Archbishop had died; we had to make special arrangements for her. With Modiji, it is nice of him to make an open gesture of reaching out,” recalls a former Congressman now in BJP.

BJP Improves Its Southern Citadel Ahead Of Karnataka Polls With Two Prominent Cong Leaders Joining It

In the past two days there has been a sudden rush of high profile entrants into the BJP from the Congress. These accretions are being clearly made with a view to send a message ahead of Karnataka elections.  It started with Anil Antony, son of former Defence Minister A K Antony, joining the BJP on April 6, four months after he quit the Congress after denouncing the BBC documentaries against PM Modi. A day later, Kiran Kumar Reddy, the last Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh, joined the party. Reddy is known to be a straight bat who had got AIMIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi sent to judicial custody in a hate speech case in 2013. He had resigned from the Congress a couple of weeks ago. Party sources said Reddy has a clean image. It was significant that he was inducted into the party by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, who belongs to Karnataka. Hailing from a Congress family, Kiran Kumar admitted that he had never imagined that he would leave the Congress. Meanwhile, as for Anil Antony joining the BJP and his father A K Antony expressing shock and surprise over his political moves, there is a sense of disbelief. Party sources feel the Stanford educated Anil would have kept his father in the loop. It is probable that senior Antony may have advised his son to exit the Congress for his own sake.
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PM Modi's Hectic Weekend In South To Raise Political Temperature

PM Narendra Modi’s programmes in three southern states of Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are packed with hectic activities on April 8-9. His programme in Secunderabad on April 8 will be watched with interest as Telangana government has taken an adversarial position towards the Centre ever since BRS leader K Kavitha was questioned in connection with Delhi liquor scam. In a retaliatory move, the BRS government got Telangana BJP President and Secunderabad MP Bandi Sanjay arrested in a SSC question paper leak case. Arrest of its local leader has however not deterred the PM and he is going ahead with flagging off Secunderabad-Tirupati Vande Bharat Express on April 8.  Of course, Bandi Sanjay has secured a bail. At 3 pm the same day, PM will reach Chennai Airport to launch the new terminal building. Completed at a cost of Rs 1260 crore, the new terminal will increase the passenger serving capacity of the airport from 23 Million Passengers Per Annum (MPPA) to 30 MPPA.  This terminal is a striking reflection of the local Tamil culture, incorporating traditional features such as the kolam & temple.  At 4 pm, he will flag off the Chennai-Coimbatore Vande Bharat Express at MGR Chennai Central Railway Station.  At 4.45 pm, Modi will take part in the celebrations commemorating the 125th Anniversary of Sri Ramakrishna Math in Chennai.  On April 9 PM Modi will visit Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka.

Rahul Gandhi’s Housing Problem Worries Congress Leaders

Congress MPs with well-appointed bungalows in Lutyens Zone are now a worried lot. Many feel they may have to make the ultimate sacrifice of vacating their house to accommodate their disqualified “leader”. In fact , a prominent leader from South, who has a large bungalow allotted to him because of his status reportedly approached Urban Development Minister Hardeep Puri and told him that he be given a smaller bungalow as he is sick and tired of accommodating visitors from the South. Now the prospect of housing Rahul is also weighing on him. When Puri asked him to submit an application for change of bungalow in writing, the senior MP said he would wait to see the way Rahul’s matter takes shape in the courtroom. The Wayanad MP has been asked to vacate his house by the third week of April. If the process to stay his conviction is taken up by April 13, then Rahul may not have to move out of 12, Tuglak Road. Meanwhile, to counter the Congress narrative of Adani-Modi corruption link, the BJP has released a slick “Congress Files” video chronicling its years of corruption in office. It was aired on TV channels. Congress leaders who viewed it are shocked by claims made in the clip that over the years the partymen have been shown squirrelling away Rs 4 lakh crore plus from the exchequer!

Sri Lanka Keen To Learn From Modi's Digital Governance

In an interesting move, Sri Lanka has expressed a keen interest to learn from India’s experience of digital governance and participatory policymaking to ensure faster socio-economic development and high economic growth. In this connection, on the invitation of the Sri Lankan government, an Indian delegation led by the Director General of National Centre for Good Governance (NCGG) Bharat Lal called on the President of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe on April 1. He was accompanied by High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Gopal Bagley, Associate Professor of NCGG Dr A P Singh, and other senior diplomats. During the meeting, President Ranil Wickremesinghe shared his vision to put the country on the path of high economic growth. The discussion centred around policy reforms, good governance, digitalization, capacity building, and assured public service delivery. The Sri Lanka President urged NCGG to help in establishing a University of Governance and Public Policy in his country. The Indian delegation met several senior civil servants of Sri Lanka, and everyone was keen to know how PM Narendra Modi has given a new governance model to eradicate poverty, ensure high-quality services, assured public service delivery, and high economic growth. Sri Lanka is keen to learn policy–driven governance model of India and the massive use of digital technology in the planning, execution, and monitoring of various programmes and projects.

Cong Bets On “Sympathy Factor” For Rahul Gandhi To Clinch Karnataka Elections

The Congress is betting big on an undercurrent of sympathy for Rahul Gandhi who was disqualified as a Lok Sabha MP in Karnataka assembly elections to help the party clinch a magical three- digit number. Party leaders are already talking of winning at least 130 seats. The Congress is hoping to project Rahul as a “victim” of BJP’s plot to unseat the Wayanad MP by a Surat trial court order in the defamation case regarding Modi surname. Interestingly, Rahul is launching his “Satyameva Jayate” campaign in Kolar on April 5, the same place where he made the contentious speech. Congress leaders are not willing to accept that Rahul was disqualified as MP on March 24, as per a Supreme Court ruling in 2013. Under the ruling, any MP or MLA stands to be disqualified automatically if convicted and sentenced to two years or more.  Party leaders feel it was under heat of Rahul’s case that the Lok Sabha Speaker had revoked Lakshadweep NCP’s MP Mohammed Faisal’s suspension made in January. “Rahulji’s suspension is one of criminal defamation and it cannot be equated with Faisal’s case who was convicted in a case of assault” argued a Congress leader. Interestingly, Faisal was restored as MP this week just ahead of his appeal in the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, for Faisal, the SC has questioned the stay of his conviction by the Kerala HC. That means Rahul will watch his route of appeal.

PM Modi Advises Partymen To Be Ready For Bitter Attack From The Opposition

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is unfazed by the sharp criticism mounted by the Opposition about the alleged role of the BJP leaders in the conviction of Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case and subsequent disqualification of his membership of the Lok Sabha. Modi’s response is that the BJP leaders should not fall prey to the barrage of “insinuating” attacks on him. His word to the party leaders is that they should go on the counter offensive and tell their constituents about the utterances of Rahul Gandhi on several matters including that on Veer Savarkar, which has already caused a split in the Maharashtra alliance. As far as Modi is concerned, the government has not interfered in any way either in the Lok Sabha Secretariat’s announcement. In 20 odd cases of disqualification of MPs and MLAs, the procedures adopted were the same. So why is BJP targeted? Modi thinks that the Opposition is nervous after the BJP’s impressive performance in the recent elections in the Northeast. They had a similar reaction after BJP’s Gujarat victory too. “The PM told us that the Opposition will attack us more as they are rattled by the repeated victories of the BJP. The more we win, the harsher the attack will be. Now they are worked up because of our wins in Gujarat and Northeast,” said an MP who was part of the meeting.
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Now New Challenge For Congress: To Fight 2024 Polls Without Rahul Gandhi

In a surprise move, the Narendra Modi Government decided to go by the law and disqualified Rahul Gandhi following his conviction by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Surat in a criminal defamation case on March 23 for his remark on the “Modi surname” while addressing an election rally in Karnataka in 2019. The Wayanad MP will be the second member after Lakshadweep Lok Sabha member PP Mohammed Faizal, who was disqualified within two days after his conviction in an attempt-to-murder case on January 11. Interestingly, Faisal’s disqualification by the Speaker was not revoked even after he appealed to the Kerala HC for a stay on his conviction and sentence, which the HC suspended on January 25. Official sources said the government felt encouraged to move against Rahul after several legal experts including Kapil Sibal pointed out that he stands automatically disqualified as an MP and getting only the jail sentence suspended was not enough. Rahul could have continued as an MP only if his conviction was stayed. That’s why eyebrows were raised about his visit to Lok Sabha a day after his conviction. In being convicted by a court, Rahul joins his grandmother Indira Gandhi who was convicted of election fraud in 1975. While Rahul’s legal team is confident of overturning the Surat court’s verdict in higher courts, party circles have begun to think of facing 2024 polls without Rahul. But then is Priyanka Vadra ready to helm the party at this crucial juncture?

Are Karnataka Cong Leaders Giving Party President Kharge Sleepless Nights?

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge is a very worried man these days. He feels he doesn’t enjoy the heft of being party president even after his election was duly ratified at the AICC Plenary Session in Raipur in February this year. He is at the receiving end mainly from those who belong to his home state Karnataka. They give him a short shrift most of the time as they keep him waiting even after fixing appointments. Partymen from his home state who seek time to meet him in Delhi do not show up at the appointed hour and it is left to Kharge’s office to find out why they have not turned up. Another major worry for the new party chief is that he is not able to get his way even in reshuffling the AICC. Party sources said he has not been able to get either his favourites like R S Surjewala as general secretary (organisation) or give more responsibilities to Pawan Khera. He finds he is getting stymied by the elephant in the room — Rahul Gandhi — who is not allowing him to move out a K C Venugopal or a high profile Jairam Ramesh.
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Will Surat Court’s Two-Year Jail Term Order Work In Rahul Gandhi’s Favour?

The Congress party launched a nationwide campaign over a Surat court order that sentenced Rahul Gandhi to two years in jail in a criminal defamation case for his remark on the “Modi surname” while addressing a poll rally in 2019 in Karnataka. Based on a complaint filed by Gujarat MLA Purnesh Modi, Congress leaders have begun to privately admit that the latest legal development could prove to be a blessing. Many party leaders feel the Surat order could at least help Rahul Gandhi win sympathy among people if he fails to secure any relief in the higher court. Party veterans feel the Surat case could help in boosting the Wayanad MP’s image. For a change he may appear like a victim and probably help his sagging career take off. “Just as Marxist veteran Jyoti Babu had helped in building up Mamata Banerjee by targeting her. Or for that matter the Congress had helped in building Narendra Modi’s image by attacking him, I guess PM Modi is also helping Rahulji via this Surat order,” said a Congress veteran from Bengal.  Apparently, BJP leaders are not happy with the latest legal twist. Aware that the Surat order could give the Congress leader an advantage, the BJP has mobilised support of the OBC “Teli” community against Rahul’s remark.
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After Collapse Of The U.S. Bank, ‘Hungamma’ On Adani Makes No Sense Admits A Section In Cong

Even as the Congress MPs are stalling the Parliament and pushing for a JPC into Hindenburg report on Adani companies, the Congress leadership itself is quite divided on the issue as it doesn’t seem to strike a chord with the general public. In fact, a section of leaders close to Rahul Gandhi is coming around to the view that only those in the stock market may be interested in the Adani issue and the rest of the public may not be concerned with stock price manipulations. It is also felt that after a series of developments following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in the U.S., the Congress could be simply flogging a dead horse in India. Party sources  also point out that Rahul’s London trip was a big hit as huge crowds had turned up to hear him because of Bharat Jodo Yatra. Everyone wanted to watch and hear the new Gandhi.  At the same time what has foxed Congressmen, how did the government come to know of what exactly Rahul had spoken at Cambridge? Wasn’t it supposed to be in-camera? Congress leaders close to Rahul were flummoxed that the BJP was making such an issue of Rahul’s speech in the UK. Looks like TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee was perhaps right when she said the BJP was keen on making Rahul Gandhi a hero for PM Modi’s “TRP”. 
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Have Rahul Gandhi's Utterances Become A Liability For The Congress?

In this election season, has Rahul Gandhi’s utterances during the UK tour become a liability for the Congress? Well, the speeches delivered by him at a number of events in London have been a flashpoint between the BJP and the Congress and have led to the stalling of the Parliament for the 7th day in a row during the Budget Session. Rahul may have asserted that criticizing PM Modi or his government is not an “attack on India”, but party sources admit that his Cambridge speech where he spoke about “democracy in India” is under attack has not been liked by people at large. In fact, Congress leaders say at a time when the party is in a good position to win the Karnataka assembly elections, Rahul should not be “visible” during the election campaign. “The more Rahul Gandhi campaigns, Congress will stand to lose,” points out a party strategist. There was poor public response to his first rally in Belagavi on March 20 where he announced a series of sops such as Rs 3,000 to every unemployed graduate every month for two years as is done in Chhattisgarh. In contrast to the kind of reception PM Modi recently received in Belagavi, the crowds were simply not enthusiastic about Rahul.  Besides, many in the Congress felt the Chhattisgarh model of unemployment dole cannot hold well in a progressive state like Karnataka where more educated jobless youths will be found.

In Midst Of Chaos, Rajya Sabha Chairman Dhankar Ensures A Lively Tribute To Oscar Winners

Must give it to Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankar for bringing lighter moments to house proceedings while recording praise for Oscar winners. He even acknowledged that had he not become a lawyer he could have become an actor. He got the House to appreciate India’s mega double-win at the Oscars with MPs across the political spectrum praising the achievement. While Union Minister Piyush Goyal lauded the role of women in ‘The Elephant Whisperers’, LoP in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said “This award is given to Naatu Naatu and The Elephant Whisperers. Both mostly come from South India. It is a great pride for us.” His only worry was the Centre should not take “credit” for directing the film. His quip left the House in splits with senior ministers S Jaishankar and Piyush Goyal enjoying it. Goyal was quick to point out that V Vijayendra Prasad, “RRR” scriptwriter, was a President’s nominee to the House from July 2022. Danseuse Sonal Mansingh reminded about the genesis of the word “Naatu Naatu (Dance,Dance) and said it gets its roots from Nataraj. The entire world is singing to the tunes of the song. Secondly, the award won by the documentary, ‘The Elephant Whisperers’, we are devoted to Ganesha, he is Prathamesh and the elephant is extremely auspicious for us.”  The MPs may get to see the Oscar winning films as I&B minister Anurag Thakur assured the House to arrange for their screening.
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PM Modi's Speech In Karnataka Sets Agenda For Parliament

For the second consecutive day both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were adjourned soon after they met as the heated exchange between the BJP and Congress over Rahul Gandhi’s remarks. It was quite clear that the Parliament was following the agenda set by PM Narendra Modi who took on Rahul for his remarks on India. Speaking in Karnataka, Modi had warned people to be wary of those “who raise questions about Indian democracy”. At a London event Rahul said India’s institutions are under attack and a large chunk of Indian democracy has “come undone” and are not likely to end any time soon. The BJP has demanded an apology from Rahul Gandhi. The Congress has trashed the ruling party’s allegations and said “those crushing democracy are talking of saving it”. The party also dubbed it as an attempt to divert attention from its demand of a JPC into the Hindenburg report on Adani. “A member of the House goes to foreign country and talks against the democracy of India. I am shocked that some parties are also backing him. I appeal to all parties to criticise how a senior MP tried to defame Parliament on foreign land,” said Rajya Sabha Leader Piyush Goyal. Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil has filed a breach of privilege notice against Goyal for criticising a Lok Sabha member “without truth and was intentionally going on with derogatory remarks”.
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Why Congress Is In No Hurry To Play Opposition Unity Number

Ever wondered why the Congress stayed out of the Opposition’s open letter written on March 5 to PM Narendra Modi, alleging “blatant misuse of central agencies”, citing the CBI arrest of Delhi’s former deputy CM Manish Sisodia? The missive, believed to be the brainchild of Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao was signed by AAP supremo Kejriwal, Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Bihar deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena (UBT) head Uddhav Thackeray. While the Congress itself was sending out mixed signals on action against Sisodia, Delhi Congress leaders are happy that party chief Mallikarjun Kharge took a firm stand against AAP. Congress leaders feel now is the time to put AAP in its place and regain lost ground in the national capital. Besides, the letter made no reference to the National Herald case which had badly hit the Congress. Interestingly, most signatories seemed like affected parties — that is either they had been investigated or their kin have been under ED/CBI scanner. Congress sources said the party was in somewhat august company as JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar too did not sign. As for the Left parties, Kejriwal flaunted a letter from Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan expressing concern for Sisodia.

In Spite Of Bail, Political Options For "Corrupt" Karnataka BJP MLA Madal Virupakshappa Run Out

BJP MLA Madal Virupakshappa, whose son V Prashanth Madal was arrested by the Lokayukta police for taking a bribe of Rs 40 lakh, may have secured conditional anticipatory bail from the Karnataka High Court. But, his political future remains under a cloud, notwithstanding his proximity to veteran BJP leader B S Yediyurappa. It was his mentor who urged him to surrender to law. It is more likely that the BJP may not retain him. Party sources say, even before Rs 8 crore cash were recovered by Lokayukta police from his son last week, Virupakshappa had made it known that he would not contest this year’s assembly election. The high court has asked the MLA to surrender before the Investigation Officer within 48 hours after receipt of the anticipatory order. The judge also told him not to tamper with evidence and not to enter the office of Karnataka Soaps and Detergent Ltd Virupakshappa, an MLA from Channagiri in the Davanagere district, was booked in a bribery case in which his son was caught red-handed while receiving a bribe of Rs 40 lakh. Lokayukta then registered an FIR in the bribery case and named Virupakshappa as the number one accused.
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In The Matrix Of Winning & Losing Elections, Cong Still Clueless

For reasons best known to it, the Congress decided to toast and celebrate its by-election wins even though it was decimated in the North East. Party leader Jairam Ramesh went on to emphasize how the Congress had wrested the Kasba Peth assembly seat in Pune after 33 years and managed to make a debut in West Bengal assembly by winning Sagardighi seat after 51 years. In the last West Bengal assembly elections, the Congress had drawn a blank. Congress sources, however point out that winning Kasba Peth was more due to inept handling by state BJP; the assembly seat was handed on a platter to the Congress. Pune MP Girish Bapat reportedly wanted the seat for his daughter-in- law but he had failed to get Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis’s backing. When the party leadership refused to oblige him, Bapat sulked and did not push for a BJP win. Even as PM Modi vowed to expose the CPM-Congress alliance in Kerala, Jairam explained how the tie-up proved to be a face-saver – it had helped the party get at least 5 seats, in 2018 it was zero. In Meghalaya, of course after its entire team of 21 MLAs led by Mukul Sangma joined TMC, the party had reasons to be happy that it had won 5 seats. But then the Congress doesn’t realise that exodus to the TMC wouldn’t have happened if it had not handed over the PCC to Lok Sabha MP Vincent Pala– he lost the assembly elections.

Did Cong Plan Lokayukta Raid Against BJP MLA’s Son To Revive PayCM Campaign In Karnataka?

Emphatically returning to power on its own in Tripura in the face of the CPM and Congress alliance, there was a story waiting to spoil BJP’s party in Bengaluru. It all seemed well planned by the Congress and its cohorts of contracts. It was too much of a coincidence that the anti-corruption wing of Lokayukta should strike on March 2 evening. Prashanth Madal, a Karnataka Administrative Service officer and the son of BJP MLA Madal Virupakshappa was caught receiving a bribe of Rs 40 lakh from a contractor who supplied raw materials for the factory. Lokayukta Police were surprised when they found over Rs 6 crore from Prashanth’s residence. Following the recoveries, his father Virupakshappa quit as chairman of Karnataka Soaps and Detergents, the manufacturer of Mysore Sandal Soap. Virupakshappa is a MLA from Channagiri in the Davanagere district. Prashanth is the chief accountant at Bangalore Water Supply & Sewerage Board. Predictably chief minister Basvaraj Bommai asserted that action against Prashant could be taken only because the BJP government had appointed Lokayukta. Politically, the Lokayukta action against the BJP in South was planned by the Congress; it was essentially to help the Congress once again revive its PayCM campaign against Bommai. The Lokayukta action was possibly scripted by contractors who are pro-Congress. Interestingly, reflecting on squabble within the Karnataka Congress, a video has gone viral where potential CM candidate Siddaramaiah is heard saying bringing people to rallies by paying Rs 500.

Finally, Supreme Court Draws The Line On High-Profile People Knocking Its Doors For Instant Relief

It is good to see that CJI DY Chandrachud defying expectations. From the manner in which Congress leader Pawan Khera had secured pre-arrest bail in a case of defamation filed by Assam Police against him for taking a jibe at PM Modi’s middle name, the Aam Aadmi Party was confident that it could also secure bail for its leader Manish Sisodia from the CBI in the liquor scam. AAP had engaged the same learned counsel who had represented Khera. But the express relief which the Apex Court granted Khera, simply did not come Sisodia’s way. CJI Chandrachud refused to entertain Delhi Dy CM Manish Sisodia’s plea against his arrest by the CBI and suggested he move the High Court as he felt it would open a floodgate of such pleas. “We will be asked to interfere in every such case…we cannot intervene in this at this stage,” he said.  The judges also felt just because an incident happens in Delhi, it does not mean the matter should come to the SC. Best part was when Sisodia’s counsel wanted the Apex Court to direct that the bail be decided expeditiously, the Solicitor General made it clear that further remand of the AAP leader would be sought.  After SC refused to provide any urgent relief, Sisodia resigned as minister from Delhi govt. So did another jailed minister Satyendra Jain. Now the AAP will have to move the Delhi HC. As more details of Sisodia’s efforts to secure his liquor policy surface — how he got a PR agency to send 4,000 emails to the Delhi government — it looks like it could get a bit tough for the AAP leader.

As CBI Gets 5-Day Custody Of Sisodia, AAP's Political Journey In Tatters

The arrest of Delhi’s Deputy CM Manish Sisodia in the multi-crore excise scam was inevitable though it has sent shock waves in political circles. With the CBI getting his five-day custody, Sisodia’s detention and questioning in various aspects of the excise policy for 2021-22, which the probe agency found suffered from irregularities both in its formulation and implementation, is bound to embarrass the AAP leadership. The CBI had found that profit margins of liquor wholesalers were increased from 5% to 12% in the new excise policy on the insistence of the ‘South Lobby‘, a coterie of politicians and liquor businessmen who allegedly swung the policy in their favour. Ever since the CBI started its investigation, Sisodia, it is believed, systematically destroyed evidence by changing his phone — as many as 140 phones. Crucial to cracking the case has been the arrest of Butchibabu Gorantla, a former CA of K Kavitha, a BRS MLC and daughter of Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao. Babu had allegedly met several accused named in the FIR in Delhi, Hyderabad, and Mumbai and was one of the prime negotiators from the South Lobby, which wanted to swing policy in its favour. It is not just the BRS, even AAP and YSRCP leaders are involved in the scam. A close relative of Telangana PCC chief Revanth Reddy too is involved. In fact, Reddy has instructed his party leaders not to speak against Kavitha.
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AICC Plenary Session: From Missing Icon To Finding New One, Cong Hits Refresh Button In Raipur

Senior Congress leaders are downplaying the controversy over the party’s advertisement of the 85th plenary session in which a photo of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s — India’s first education minister and former Congress president– went missing. Congress sources said Azad’s picture was very much on display at the AICC plenary function in Raipur. “As for the advertisement, all I can say is that it was not released by the AICC. It was handled locally by the PCC,” said a CWC member. He said the only new inclusion was that of former PM PV Narasimha Rao.” This is the first time that Rao saab made a comeback to the AICC motif after he stepped down as Congress President in 1996.”It is ironic that Rao should find a place only when Sonia Gandhi bowed out after presiding over the Congress for 25 years. Sonia had not allowed Rao’s body to be brought to the AICC office or allowed his cremation in Delhi in 2004. It was left to PM Modi to build a memorial in his honour in 2015. Meanwhile, questions are being raised about the inclusion of Dr BR Ambedkar among the list of former Congress presidents. Sudheendhra Kulkarni tweeted, how Ambedkar, who was never with the Congress and was its bitter critic both before and after Independence could be included? Also Netaji Subhash C Bose, who was forced to step down as Congress President? Is it because Modi has begun bestowing Netaji with so much prestige and honour?
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AICC Plenary Session: Gandhis Arrive In Raipur As Cong Decides To Vest Powers With Kharge For Key Appointments

Former Congress Presidents Sonia and Rahul Gandhi arrived in Raipur, Chhattisgarh for the 85th AICC Plenary Session only after the Steering Committee meeting decided that incumbent party president Mallikarjun Kharge should be given the power of selecting CWC members. It was as if the Gandhis did not want to be seen as the “invisible hand” behind the move. In fact, the Congress made it seem as if there was no way the Gandhis could have even communicated their view via phone. “Every member tabled their opinion and with everyone’s consent the Select Committee decided that the party president should pick CWC members,” said Congress leader Jairam Ramesh. He asserted that all the 45 members were present and there was no zoom meeting. The consensus was to go for appointments, though some had batted for elections as the party was going for affirmative action; there were going to be 16 amendments to the party constitution. Party sources said the AICC delegates list itself was highly doctored as it did not have adequate representation from the states. Not having elections is a bit odd and could go against Kharge as at least under two non-Gandhi Congress Presidents such as PV Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri, there were CWC elections. Rahul had encouraged elections to the party president’s post but Gandhis were not happy when Shashi Tharoor entered the fray last October. Kerala PCC is still recovering from the impact of Tharoor’s contest.
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Congress Puzzled As PM Modi Shuns Political Rhetoric In His Election Speech At Nagaland, Meghalaya

It was amazing how Prime Minister Narendra Modi kept the focus of his poll campaign in both Nagaland and Meghalaya on the development he delivered in the last eight years and simply did not focus on the Congress attacks on him. In Dimapur he highlighted how the Congress always ran the Nagaland government on remote control from Delhi and indulged in familial politics and pointed out how he was developing a railway network to connect Kohima. In Shillong too, PM Modi kept the focus of his attack on development issues. Zeroing in on a Congress barb about ‘Modi teri qabar khudegi‘, he said “Some people who have been rejected by the country are immersed in sadness as the people of the country are saying “Modi tera kamal khilega“. In contrast, both Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi who campaigned in Nagaland and Meghalaya made contradictory points on Opposition unity. It was as if they belonged to different parties. Both Kharge and Rahul were not in sync. While Kharge pitched for Opposition unity led by the Congress in Nagaland, there was Rahul Gandhi puncturing the Congress’s 2024 story by attacking Trinamool Congress in Shillong. “Why should we be attacking TMC at this stage? In contrast, post-Adani controversy, PM Modi has been pitching himself as a statesman focusing only on development issues. He is shunning political rhetoric,” observed a party veteran.

Pawan Khera Pays For His Word-Play, Needlessly Dragging Modi's Father Costs Cong Leader

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera who attempted a word-play on PM Narendra Modi’s middle name was arrested on his way to Raipur at Delhi Airport. The Delhi Police asked him to de-board and detained him upon receiving complaints from Assam Police. He was released on interim bail by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud. “We have protected you but there has to be some level of discourse,” said Justice Chandrachud hearing the Congress petition against cases registered in Uttar Pradesh and Assam. The main nub of the Congress plea was that many FIRs had been registered against Khera in Assam and UP for insulting the PM in his Press Conference on February 17 in Mumbai. A complaint was lodged in Lucknow which was converted into an FIR. Another FIR was registered at Varanasi. While his lawyer wanted clubbing of the FIRs across states and did not plead for its quashing at this stage, the government counsel submitted that the expression used by Khera was not “unintentional and was deliberate”. She submitted that the “derogatory remark was made to incite disaffection against the PM. After all he is the duly elected Prime Minister of the country.” In a mischievous word-play on PM Modi’s name while demanding a JPC probe into the Adani-Hindenburg row, Khera said, “If Atal Bihari Vajpayee could form a JPC, then what problem does Narendra Gautam Das…sorry Damodardas…Modi have?” appearing to confirm the middle name with a colleague. He had apologised shortly thereafter.
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Kesavan's Exit From Cong Is More About His Failure To Get A Rajya Sabha Berth Than Party Politics

Congress leader CR Kesavan, great grandson of India’s first Governor-General, C Rajagopalachari, resigned from the party on the eve of the AICC session beginning at Raipur. In a letter addressed to party president Mallikarjun Kharge, Kesavan stated that he no longer sees “any vestiges of the values” that made him join the Congress after leaving a successful career abroad and working for two decades with the party. Tamil Nadu Congress leaders viewed Kesavan exit as more about himself than the Congress; it was his disappointment over not getting a Rajya Sabha nomination as P Chidambaram was elected with support of the DMK. “I can no longer in good conscience say that I concur with what the party presently stands for..This is why I had recently declined an organisational responsibility at the national level and also refrained from participating in the Bharat Jodo Yatra.” He acknowledged it was time “for him to chart a new path”.  At the same time, his utterances post exit leave very little doubt where he could be headed. “The values which I worked for have changed. When Droupadi Murmu ji’s nomination was announced, a senior working committee member of the party said she represents an evil philosophy, another party member said no country should get a President like this. It is disheartening I felt. I didn’t belong here anymore.”

Modi Gives Jaishankar Carte Blanche To Counter Soros Narrative

In an apparent move to effectively counter the narrative of Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros and his ilk, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seemed to be getting his ministers to do all the talking. Doing all the heavy lifting was foreign minister S Jaishankar who was speaking on a range of issues — from army deployment in the LAC to land occupied by China since October 1962; he was exposing the Congress in a detailed interview to ANI. He was the second minister after Union Minister Smriti Irani to be deployed after Soros attacked Modi. Jaishankar who was Foreign Secretary between January 2015 and January 2018 and had joined Tata Sons post retirement revealed how he was surprised when PM Modi called him in 2019 to be part of his government. He said his father K Subrahmanyam, who passed away in 2011, was one of India’s most prominent national security strategists.” He became, at that time, probably the youngest Secretary in the Janata government in 1979. In 1980, he was Secretary, Defence Production. In 1980 when Indira Gandhi was re-elected, he was the first Secretary that she removed. And he was the most knowledgeable person everybody would say on defence.” Jaishankar said his father was also a very upright person, “Maybe that caused the problem, I don’t know”. And after that, he never became a Secretary again. He was superseded during the Rajiv Gandhi period for somebody junior to him who became a cabinet secretary. It was something he felt…we rarely spoke about it. So he was very, very proud when my elder brother became secretary.”
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Preoccupation With Adani Issue Robs Cong Session Of Any Focus, Agenda

For all the hype about celebrating Bharat Jodo Yatra somehow there is no enthusiasm for the upcoming 85th AICC plenary session at Raipur among Congress leaders. No, it has nothing to do with the ED raids on Chhattisgarh Congress leaders. It is because party leaders feel the Congress is not able to set a strong political narrative and is forever getting bogged down in responding to the agenda set by PM Narendra Modi. Party sources feel there are so many issues affecting the common man but the Congress got trapped into focussing on just one issue – the Adani Group. It was perhaps just as Modi wanted.  “We have wasted an entire Parliament session on Adani. Our AICC session will also be lost in the haze of the Hindenburg report. It is possible that there will be no substantial message from the plenary for the cadres,” observed a Congress leader from South. Besides, there is no clarity if elections would be held for 50% of positions in the Congress Working Committee – that is for 12 positions in the policy making body. “It will all depend on what is decided at the steering committee meeting on February 24,”says a party leader. Predominance of the Adani issue has also hit the drafting of AICC resolutions. That is, subjects committees for various resolutions did not even meet once to finalise resolutions.

ED Raids In Chhattisgarh Ahead Of AICC Meet Worry Congress Party

Clearly upset by ED raids on its leaders in Chhattisgarh in connection with the mining and coal levy scam ahead of AICC plenary that is going to be held between February 25-26 in Raipur, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge said “The raid on our Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh by the Modi government by misusing the ED shows the cowardice of the BJP before the Congress convention in Raipur”. The Chhattisgarh government has been a great source of financial back-up for the party. Kharge felt the raids were being carried out because of the success of Bharat Jodo Yatra. “We will firmly face this attempt to crush democracy”. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh claimed the ED raids were the result of his posing three questions every day for 14 consecutive days. “We have asked questions of the PM directly on how he has helped Gautam Adani perpetrate this giant fraud. The raids happened at 5 am on PM Modi’s instructions. This is clearly the politics of vendetta, politics of harassment and this is supposed to be a curtain raiser for the 85th Plenary of the Indian National Congress.” Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman dismissed the charges and said “Any agency first collects data and only then action is taken. No action is executed with a sense of revenge.” She also said that Congress should learn to listen while sitting in the Parliament.
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George Soros Sparks A Big Fight, Over His Push For Regime Change In India

As long as George Soros remained behind the scenes and quietly backed the Congress or endorsed Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra nobody could complain. However for some inexplicable reason the 92-year old Hungarian-American billionaire investor known for political activism chose to issue a statement attacking Indian democracy and speak against PM Modi using the Adani issue. It clearly showed his deep involvement in the country’s politics. Known for pushing regime changes across the world, Soros claimed Adani’s woes “will spur democratic revival in India.” This sparked a war of words between the BJP and Congress. Even as one Congress leader Praveen Chakravarty shared Soros statement reported by the Financial Times where he said “Modi may dodge answering questions about Adani in Parliament and in India but he cannot escape from foreign investors”. Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh was quick to distance the party from Soros “Our Nehruvian legacy ensures people like Soros cannot determine our electoral outcomes”. In a quick rebuttal to Soros, Union Minister Smriti Irani said “George Soros not only attacked PM Modi but also the Indian democratic system. Soros wants some “hand-picked” people to run the government here “pliable to his needs for making his nefarious plans successful”. She made it clear that the government would be watching with interest the kind of money — one billion dollars that Soros’s Open Society Foundations — would spend to achieve its goals.
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K Annamalai and Sasikanth Senthil

As Elections Get Tricky, Both BJP, Cong Rely On Ex -Officers Who Had Once Served Karnataka To Face Polls

It is interesting to see the way both BJP and the Congress have come to rely on two former bureaucrats who had once served Karnataka to fine-tune their battles for upcoming assembly elections. While the BJP decided to send Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai to oversee the elections — the 2011 IPS officer who belonged to Karnataka cadre and will now be assisting Union ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and Mansukh Mandaviya. Annamalai has the advantage of knowing and speaking Kannada. The Congress has for some time now appointed a Karnataka cadre IAS officer Sasikanth Senthil who quit service in 2019 to head its Karnataka PCC war room. Like Annamalai, Senthil also belongs to Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, PM Modi-Amit Shah zeroed in on a combative Annamalai as they were impressed with the way he brought the Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP into the reckoning in a short time. In fact, Modi ensured that Annamalai was given larger responsibilities as the Tamil leader was twice sent on a visit to Sri Lanka. Annamalai visited the island nation early February this year and also in May 2022. In February, Annamalai mainly went to inaugurate the Jaffna Cultural Centre, which was built with a grant from India. The Jaffna Centre is described as a magnificent example of India-Sri Lanka development partnership. India was keen to see that benefits of the Jaffna Centre were reaching Tamils in the island nation.


Technology Cannot Disrupt Original Content Provider: Short Post Editor

They say time flies. How true!  Today is our #SecondAnniversary. Two years back at the height of Covid-19 Pandemic when lockdown was the way of life we took a leap of faith and launched Short Post (Jan 28, 2021), the first-of-its-kind website in the country that focuses on Authentic Gossip. The Oxymoron is deliberate. Well, the response has been quite encouraging. That’s what has kept us going. Till date we have posted close to 2000 stories in the areas of Politics, Business, Entertainment and Sports. Each insightful story of around 225 words has been contributed by Senior Editors. There is a sense of satisfaction of creating a new segment in the market – authentic gossip — and in the process creating a brand (in a limited sense), creating demand (readers) and creating supply (writers). Well known advertisers — IDFC FIRST Bank, ICICI Lombard – supported us.  And that really boosted our confidence. Thank you!

So here we are raring to go.  But, when I look at the media landscape the disruption is indeed fast and furious. Technology is playing a very big role in how content will be consumed. In the past, we have seen how social media has disrupted the media world. Now, everybody is saying the same thing about ChatGPT. It has reached 1 million users in five days. Its scorching pace of growth is indeed frightening and will disrupt the media industry big time. My limited argument is can it do investigative stories, write gossip items using the digital world ecosystem. Unlikely. Clearly, the original content has to be created first — only then can ChatGPT do the magic. That’s what we promise to do – focus on original content.

Before I sign off, I am reminded of an old advertisement of the early sixties: “Avis is only No.2 in rent a cars. So we try harder”. Likewise I can say, we are two years old and we are trying even harder to be relevant to you readers.