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Sasikala_003

As Cracks Develop In AIADMK, Sasikala Gets Her Foot In The Door To Follow In Amma’s Footsteps

The Stalin era in Tamil Nadu’s politics was firmly established, even as the wounded AIADMK tried to make its way back into people’s hearts. Probably, the return of Jayalalithaa’s aide and confidante Sasikala and nephew TTV Dhinakaran are viewed as vital to rebuilding a political challenge in the unending Dravidian narrative of TN politics. So long as former CMs Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) and O Panneerselvam (OPS) stood united, the remnants of Poes Garden rule in Sasi and her nephew were disallowed entry to the party HQ on Lloyd’s Road. Breaking that unity was key to the reunion that Sasikala was dreaming of. She was able to force a crack through her old scheming ways, favouritism and heroine-worship based politics. DMK’s success in the recent state assemblies, came after the 2019 debacle when just one MP, OPS’s son, was elected. AIADMK swept the remaining 38 Lok Sabha seats in the state, then also ruling the roost in the state legislature. In the 2021 assembly polls EPS-OPS were not totally wiped out but, local body polls saw a decisive sweep by the DMK, prompting the need for a united AIADMK. That may, however, mean a big loss for EPS, not so much for OPS, who was Chinamma’s choice for acting CM whenever Jaya had to eschew the gaddi.
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OpGanga: Modi Misses Sushma Swaraj’s Humane Outreach Rushes Four Ministers To Ukraine Neighbourhood

One former colleague Prime Minister Narendra Modi clearly misses, while handling the outpouring of parental pressure of over 15,000 students stranded in war-torn Ukraine, is the late Sushma Swaraj, former External Affairs Minister. Swaraj became known for introducing a humane touch in the ministry and, directly communicating with people via Twitter. At various times of crisis in the Gulf region, whether the hostage crisis in Iraq or, evacuation of Indian nationals from war-torn Yemen, Swaraj was visibly active. Her famous tweet “Even if you are stuck on Mars, the Indian Embassy there will help you,” remains etched in public memory. This time around, to assure parents about the wellbeing and safe return of their children, Modi instructed four ministers to supervise the evacuations from Ukraine’s neighbourhood. Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia will be based in Romania & Moldova, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju in Slovakia, Oil Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in Hungary while Minister of State Gen VK Singh is stationed in Poland. The MEA’s new twitter handle @opganga stays connected to stranded students. In a major setback to India, Naveen Shekharappa, a fourth-year medical student at the Kharkiv National Medical University, hailing from Karnataka was shot by the Russian army in Kharkiv while he was in a queue to buy groceries. Meanwhile, PM Modi called on the IAF to join evacuation efforts; the IAF is expected to deploy its several C-17 aircrafts as part of OpGanga.  
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Photo : Bjp.org

Now Trending In UP, “Tumne Namak Khaya, Namak Harami Na Karna”

After the first two phases of elections in Uttar Pradesh concluded the BJP heaved a sigh of relief. Unlike the dire predictions of a decimation for the party in western UP, both phases went off smoothly for the party with internal surveys indicating a much better than expected performance too. The two phases also featured the Mainpuri and Karal assembly seats from where SP Chief Akhilesh Yadav contested. Notwithstanding, the scheduled rallies for the remainder of the UP poll tour, Modi switched his focus on the Punjab poll challenge, a well-placed source revealed. “The first two phases were consciously scheduled to cover the difficult political terrain where BJP feared anti-incumbency. This did not happen and the remainder phases encompass BJP strongholds. We may fall shy of the 2017 mark but are winning the UP polls,” the source said. Meanwhile, a trending poll slogan reverberated in the remaining phases, “Tumne Namak Khaya Hain, Namak Harami Na Karna” (You have had the salt of this government, do not betray us now). Simply put, in the remaining phases where BJP seeks to consolidate its traditional votebanks in Eastern and Northern UP, the free rations, DBT cash transfers and other benefits are being leveraged to hold sway over voters. The BJP denies it started the new trending story though terming it a people’s calling.
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Photo : Twitter

Former Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat Holds Luncheon, Claims Majority Wins For Congress, Eyes CM's Post Again

Long before the bookies predicted a Congress win in the Uttarakhand state assemblies, former party CM Harish Rawat threw a celebratory lunch. The select few present witnessed Rawat’s claim on Congress winning the elections with a tally of 48 from the 70 assembly seats.  Oddly, there were few believers in his party over his predictions, most convinced it was Rawat’s ploy to prop himself up for CM if the Congress party won. “It is going to be a very close call in as many as 15 seats. The election can simply go either way,” said a senior Uttarakhand Congress leader. Rawat was very upset as he was not projected as the CM face and so, claiming a decisive win while staking his claim to the top office. Rahul Gandhi is learnt to be backing CLP leader Pritam Singh. As for the BJP, which is banking on PM Narendra Modi’s charisma to be voted back to power, the party admits that the organisational network in the hill state is a treacherous terrain. Even as Pushkar Singh Dhami instilled some hope among the party cadre, many seniors including former CMs worked overtime to defeat the BJP. Even for the Congress, the return of ex-party leaders like Harak Rawat into the party-fold has not proved to be a smooth affair.
Bookies

Bookies Bet On Congress In Uttarakhand, For UP On Yogi’s Saffron Attire, While Punjab, Goa Will Go To The Wire

The bookmakers’ odds is one barometer to predict poll outcomes. Their dynamically fluid odds are to be taken under extreme caution, changing as they do by the minute depending on inputs or, even the sheer weight of money at stake. Without exit polls in the currently extended election schedules, bookies are the best guide to assess likely poll outcomes. Bookies had tipped BJP as favourites to retain Uttar Pradesh but, odds had indicated a sharp climb down for the ruling party from the 2017 high of 325 seats to a mere 150 wins. First phase polls (two rounds) in western UP, which had the party worried, did not fare as badly as earlier projections said and the BJP now expects to win 225-plus seats. The Punjab odds have changed and expect a closer fight, uncertain of a clear Congress majority, though the party will likely win the Uttarakhand polls clearly, say bookies. Going by the odds, Goa is also too close to call though bookies slightly favour BJP over the Congress while Manipur is yet to vote. The bookies’ assessment may not be crystal clear on sure winners but provide a good enough poll prediction.
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Photo : Fotocorp

Kumar Vishwas' Terror Charge On Kejriwal To Dent AAP Prospects In Punjab?

With the votes cast and EVMs sealed, it may now be told that the star of Punjab’s assembly elections was neither Charanjit Singh Channi or Navjot Singh Sidhu but, the humble poet and former AAP leader Kumar Vishwas, who hijacked the political narrative from the Congress. Vishwas recalled how AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal sought the support of separatists.  “One day, he told me he would either become CM (of Punjab) or first PM of an independent nation (Khalistan),” recalled Vishwas. AAP, seen as a front-runner in Punjab polls, got dented by Vishwas’s terror-tag for Kejriwal. Though the effect his claims will have on the electorate remains to be seen, both BJP and Congress demanded to know, with Rahul Gandhi asking, “Why is Kejriwal silent on these allegations? Just say yes or no, is he lying or not?” He also cited Kejriwal regarding his overnight stay in the house of ex-militant Gurinder Singh during the 2017 assembly elections. Vishwas, who contested against Rahul Gandhi from Amethi in 2014 and lost, was given Y category security by the Centre. A livid Kejriwal has strangely taken on Vishwas but, in his UP rallies and questioned PM Modi’s consultations with “a Ghaziabad poet on terrorists, instead of the security agencies.”
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Kiran Bharti and Shaukat Khan

Amid Religious Polarisation Priyanka Gandhi Bets On Three-Decade-Old Hindu-Muslim Love Story

With polling for UP state assemblies due in Purvanchal and Awadh, polarisation on basis of religion and caste is at its peak. However, within all the hate, a fragrance of love is in the air too. A three-decade-old Hindu-Muslim romance is winning hearts of people in Bahraich district where Muslims, OBCs, SCs constitute over 50% of the electorate. Kiran Bharti, a Hindu-Dalit, and Shaukat Khan’s love story started in Delhi University’s North Campus in 1992. “I was then the secretary of the Delhi University Students’ Union,” Shaukat told shortpost.in, adding that he always wanted to get into electoral politics. However, in 2012, BSP supremo Mayawati advised him to let Kiran be the face and asked him to work from behind the scenes. Since then the duo has bagged the majority of Muslim and SC votes in Balha. In 2022, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi too fell for their love saga. Sources in the UP Congress claim Kiran and Shaukat’s jodi was hand-picked by Priyanka. “She has played a masterstroke. The party that was never in the fight is now the prime challenger in the region,” a local BJP leader confessed, adding that the couple’s influence is seen in the adjoining seats as well. “No matter which party they contest from, they’re always the first choice of Muslim and SC voters,” he claimed.
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DMK Decimates AIADMK In Local Body Polls: Is It The Beginning Of The End?

It was a landslide victory for DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance in recently held corporation, municipality and panchayat elections. AIADMK was decimated. DMK won all the 21 corporations, 130 out of 138 municipalities and, 350 out of 489 town panchayats. AIADMK had won 10 civic corporations in 2011. Flashback to the MGR-led AIADMK, that ruled from 1977to 1987. MGR, the popular star, quit DMK in 1972 frustrated with corruption and the authoritarian culture of the founding family. When terminally ill MGR chose his protégé and film star, J Jayalalithaa, to be his successor. The AIADMK thrived under Amma’s rule. She kept the DMK at bay for 10 years. TN’s electorate is not binary and; savvy enough to punish or reward, in equal measure. Corruption, in-fighting, leadership duels in AIADMK, coupled with the Sasikala factor seems to have done the party in. The BJP, after initially befriending the AIADMK, has seen the writing on the wall and begun distancing itself. Under TN chief K Annamalai the BJP wants to become a political force to reckon with on its own. The fresh poll results clearly indicate Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin’s model of governance has got the people’s mandate. Stalin also dreams of becoming a deputy PM of India and, is grooming his son Udhayanidhi to take over the mantle from him.
Vijayan_Thani_Al_Zeyoudi

Vijayan with Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Trade

Red Flags Turn In To Red Carpet, As Kerala CM Courts Investment

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is a changed man. In his heydays, as a CPM trade union activist he red flagged businesses, organised strikes, hartals and lockdowns. But as CM now, his government has rolled out the red carpet to turn Kerala into a popular business investment destination. Recently, he visited the UAE and wooed investors. Ironically, trade union leaders in his party are busy closing down or threatening MSMEs in the name of Nokku Kooli, an euphemism for extortion. What takes the cake is two controversial decisions by Vijayan’s government. After Air India was privatized, handed over to the Tata Group, the Kerala government took back land it provided for AI’s headquarters in Trivandrum. The logic: the land was provided when AI was a Government of India undertaking. For the record the original owner of the land, the Royal family of Travancore and AI had paid for the land. The same government is courting another Tata Group flagship, TCS to set up offices in Trivandrum’s Techno Park. The other googly Vijayan delivered is over the Trivandrum airport, set up in 1932, run by Adani Group. Post privatization, the Left government has placed one too many hurdles on its expansion plans. It will be interesting to see how the Adanis tackle this challenge even as they are struggling to develop a greenfield Vizhinjam port, also located in Trivandrum.
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BJP To Keep Mum Till BMC Polls, Then Target Maharashtra's First Family And Raut's Kin

Maharashtra is on edge, focused on forthcoming BMC elections, the semi-final match for Lok Sabha and assembly prospects of 2024. BJP says the 416 seats it won in January’s Nagar Panchayat polls is proof the voter base of third placed Shiv Sena with 301 seats (NCP/376 and Congress/297) is eroding. Truth being, Sena fared well in Mumbai, Thane, Palghar with limited success in Konkan. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has entrusted the task to raise Sena’s tally in BMC to over 100 corporators to son and suburban Mumbai’s guardian minister, Aaditya Thackeray. Meanwhile, erstwhile BJP CM, Devendra Fadnavis seeks a CAG audit over financial irregularities in Mumbai’s jumbo Covid centres, apparently run by unregistered medical operators, with familial ties to Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut. Did Raut make a distressed late-night call to Amit Shah recently? Union Minister Narayan Rane said Maharashtra’s politics will change post March 10 which was interpreted as fresh efforts to dislodge the MVA government. “Post BMC polls no elections are scheduled in Maharashtra till 2024. After March 10 fresh efforts will commence to dislodge the MVA government. Whether this means cases registered against the CM, his wife or Raut’s kin being arrested has to be seen. After March 10 they will come to us,” a BJP leader told Shortpost.in. Clearly, the battle for BMC has begun.
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Photo : Twitter

Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik Prays, Meets The Media, So Rumours Of Ill Health Fizzle Out Before Panchayat Polls

Every time Odisha faces a poll, the rumour mills work overtime regarding Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s fragile health. Patnaik knows this game is played by opposition parties to cut into his vote base. Now, with Panchayat elections around the corner, Patnaik took the wind out of the opposition sails by addressing the media while on a visit to the Lingaraj Temple. “I am fit and fine,” he conveyed to waiting newspersons. Although appearing slightly under the weather he fronted supreme confidence. Voters in Odisha know Naveen babu’s health is not in the best of pink but, they simply adore and love him for his delivery. No other chief minister in the country enjoys his kind of popularity. The rumours of his ill health also served as a wake-up call to his party, the Biju Janata Dal. Succession talks on taking over the mantle of the BJD have begun. While there are no clear answers, political analysts feel the BJP which was waiting in the sidelines for years feels the inevitable political vacuum being created and its double engine formula may fill this space in the coming days.
Ramnath_Venkaiah

Photo : Twitter

President Kovind, Vice President Naidu Mingle With The Crowd And Meet Friends, As Their Tenures Reach The End

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu is spending his last few months in office reaching out to old friends from across the aisle. This was on display when he made a point to call upon senior DMK leader Arcot Veerasamy during his visit to Chennai recently. Veeraswamy, who is undergoing medical treatment for a fractured leg, was the Power Minister in the Karunanidhi Government (2006-11) and, close to the late DMK supremo M Karunanidhi. His son, Kalanidhi Veerasamy is at present Lok Sabha MP from Chennai North. Naidu spent about 15 minutes with Veerasamy.  Naidu’s businesswoman daughter Deepa Venkat also lives in Chennai. Likewise, a week after Mughal Gardens at Rashtrapati Bhawan was thrown open to the public, President Ramnath Kovind invited Supreme Court judges to come visit. Guests led by Chief Justice N V Ramana, accompanied by his wife, grand-daughter and brother judges went for a stroll. A lawyer by training, Kovind played a perfect host to the CJI’s grand-daughter, Sriya, a kindergarten student, showering her with chocolates.
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Stalin’s Deputy PM Plan Counts On Congress Alliance, Or Not At All?

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin would like to be a player on the national scene but, on his own terms. While his ambition to the Deputy Prime Minister’s post isn’t a secret anymore, the Tamil Nadu CM won’t pursue it unless ally Congress fits into the scheme of things. Stalin feels Mamata Banerjee is no national leader, not KCR, Uddhav Thackeray or, Pinarayi Vijayan either. Stalin will only play ball if Congress is in the loop. After openly promoting Rahul Gandhi’s PM candidature before the 2019 polls, Stalin will not abandon him and his party. Stalin looks at Mamata Didi’s national front initiative as a meeting of non-BJP CMs in New Delhi to forge unity for a combined national opposition ahead of the 2024 polls. Stalin is convinced on Congress’ national party status and, cling to its coattails forgetting old grievances against Indira Gandhi for sacking the DMK government and put Stalin in jail under MISA, no more relevant after decades of built-up friendship. He sees no non-BJP, non-Congress front possibly gaining national ascendancy. While he seeks a national role, while placing his son on the TN CM’s seat at Fort St George, Stalin will only do so provided the Congress joins the political front..
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Not Leaving Anything To Chance, Akhilesh Gets ‘Netaji’ To Karhal For Political Vote Seeking Dance

Battle to secure the Karhal seat, which goes to polls on February 20, intensified on the second last day of campaigning as the key candidate and, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav brought his 83-year-old father Mulayam Singh Yadav popularly called Netaji on the campaign trail with him. The ageing and ailing SP patriarch came to Karhal from Lucknow. He was accompanied by the extended Yadav family including brothers Shivpal Yadav and Ram Gopal Yadav. Mulayam made a brief appeal seeking votes for his son and promised development. Mulayam’s last-minute effort of an appearance for his son exposed the chinks in Akhilesh’s armour. This was simply explained by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who was campaigning in Karhal for BJP candidate and Union Minister of State Prof SP Singh Baghel. Taking a swipe at Akhilesh for dragging his father to campaign for him, Shah said it exposed the weakness of the Samajwadi camp. Incidentally, Baghel was a PSO to Mulayam and was brought into politics by Netaji himself. In the past few elections, Karhal has traditionally been a SP seat. Though both Akhilesh and Baghel are now Lok Sabha MPs, the BJP has made winning the seat a prestige issue. “If lotus blooms here in Karhal it will be equal to getting 300 seats in UP, ” thundered Shah.
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Amit Shah’s Courtesy Call To Kanimozhi, Irks Stalin Who’s Keen To Anoint Son Udhayanidhi

For some strange reason, news of Union Home Minister Amit Shah reaching out to DMK MP Kanimozhi to greet her on her birthday on January 5 became public only a month later. The Shah-Kanimozhi conversation apparently irked Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, who is her brother. Disclosures about the birthday wishes were confirmed by one section of DMK that is unhappy with the manner Stalin is launching ahead with his succession plans to anoint son Udhayanidhi as heir apparent in the DMK. Udhayanidhi, who heads the DMK youth wing, had also started inducting young women into the party fold to the annoyance of aunt Kanimozhi, since she heads the DMK’s women’s wing and, is deputy parliamentary leader of the party.  It is also being said Udhayanidhi won’t allow Kanimozhi to thrive once he takes charge.  Besides, both Kanimozhi and A Raja are aware of the pending CBI appeal in the 2 G case and may seek a patch up with Delhi.  Senior leaders like TR Baalu does not fancy spending his remaining years in the Lok Sabha – till 2024 – as an opposition MP and has been frequently seeking an appointment with PM Narendra Modi. For its part, the BJP dismissed the Shah-Kanimozhi conversation as a routine courtesy call with no political overtones whatsoever. Only time will tell.
manish tiwari

Manish Tewari Rebuts Priyanka Over Her ‘Pagari’ Sporting PM Statement, Dismisses Speculations Of Exit From Party

When Congress spokesperson, former Union Minister and, Anandpur Sahib MP Manish Tewari called for a press conference, there was palpable excitement in the media. Would he also quit the party like his colleague Ashwini Kumar did? Manish had nothing nice to say on Kumar’s exit and stated, “Ambition for a Rajya Sabha seat makes people do many things”. So where does this leave Tewari? “I have called the press conference in support of the Congress,” he said. True, he had canvassed for Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi in Chamkaur Sahib, that is part of his Lok Sabha constituency. But, he complicated equations with the party high command by rebutting Priyanka Vadra’s remarks, “(PM Modi) Wearing a turban on stage doesn’t make (him) one a Sardar”. Tewari knows the pagari is a sensitive issue in Punjab and sought no politics over it. He also dismissed talk of his quitting the Congress, even after having tweeted “never seen such chaos and anarchy as what is playing out in Punjab Congress today.” He had also lashed out at the Punjab government for non-implementation of the Centre’s move to extend BSF jurisdiction and, also defended his close family ties with Capt Amarinder Singh. Tewari has now asserted he was “elected for five years” and would stay unless, of course, he is pushed out.
Bjp akhilesh poll

Did EC Ease Campaign Curbs After Western UP Voted To Help BJP, Cause Rallying Heights In Five States Now?

The timing was too convenient for it to be a random decision. The moment the polls were over in Western UP where the Samajwadi Party is more popular, all curbs on poll rallies were gone. A BJP insider concedes that it was planned like this so as not to give any ground to SP, which might have been able to gather big crowds at rallies in its stronghold. It would have been bad optics for the ruling BJP if the opposition was seen displaying its popular appeal while the party struggled to get crowds for its star campaigner in Prime Minister Narendra Modi in eastern UP. The moment the vote got over in the first phase of the UP polls on February 10, the Election Commission convinced itself that Covid was no more a threat and that rallies and road shows were allowed in all the five states going to the polls. The BJP, with sufficient pull in the central and eastern parts of UP to be able to match SP in crowd-pulling rallies, was at it again with rallies and meetings taking over from virtual campaigns starring the PM and the UP CM. The party with the biggest funding for elections was back to dominate the scene with a pliant EC back in its comfort zone backing the ruling forces.
Congress rally

Congress’ Punjab House Is In Disarray, As Sulking Sidhu, Squabbling Gill Won’t Play, Just Ahead Of Voting Day

Punjab assembly elections are barely a week away and the Congress is quite aware that its house is not in order, though some last-minute fire-fighting is on. Many party MPs have opted to stay away from the field after their wishes were ignored. Khadoor Sahib MP Jasbir Singh Gill tweeted about AICC in charge Harish Chaudhury as “Thug of Barmer” responsible for the mess. Gill had secured his Lok Sabha seat for the Congress after 43 years in 2019 but the party did not give an assembly ticket to his son Gursant or brother Rajan Gill. Instead, it chose to field sons of Jalandar MP Santokh Chaudhury and Fategarh Sahib MP Amar Singh — both Dalit MPs. The Congress was equally tough on Anandpur Sahib MP Manish Tewari, who as part of G-23, was not included among star campaigners. “We are on a hara kiri in Punjab. Why not use Manish in Punjab, he is after all our MP,” rues an old-timer. PCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, one-time star campaigner, shunned by party cadre in Amritsar (East) is relying mainly on wife Navjot Kaur and daughter Rabia to campaign for him. With the CMO out of his reach now, Sidhu has completely turned against CM Channi — he refused to speak at a joint rally where Priyanka Vadra was present.
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Photo : Twitter

After Hiring Prashant Kishor, Is KCR Planning Early Elections In Telangana?

The Congress is not swayed by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao’s antics — be it the high-pitched offensive against PM Narendra Modi, raising doubts over the surgical strikes or, even his lashing out at Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswas Sarma for comments against Rahul Gandhi. Congress leaders dismiss the KCR outreach to the Gandhi family by way of targeting the BJP. They feel it is probably just KCR’s effort to stay ahead of the game and other political parties even as anti- incumbency hits him hard. After all, he is into the end of his second term and has lost two by-elections–Huzurabad in November 2021 and Dubbak in November 2020. Both the elections were won by BJP. The buzz is KCR has plans to advance assembly election dates, just like he did in 2018 and he has hired poll strategist Prashant Kishor. “From what we know KCR is planning an early assembly poll which is due only in December 2023 like he did in 2018. That time he did not want assemblies coinciding with the Lok Sabha polls,” says a senior Telangana Congress leader. Of late, he has been hitting out at the Modi government as he is keen to move to national politics and hand over the reins to his son KT Rama Rao.
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K Annamalai and Edappadi K Palaniswami

Money Can’t Buy Edappadi Love, As BJP Jilts AIADMK On Valentines, In TN

Did BJP leader Amit Shah decline funds offered for UP elections by AIADMK’s Joint Coordinator, Edappadi K Palaniswami? The same Edappadi’s fundraising efforts were praised during the Karnataka, Bihar polls. Why? Five state elections with Tamil Nadu local body polls has exposed the worst in political expediency – the use and throw model.  Strangely, poll campaigning in TN is reverberating over happenings in North India. Jothimani Sennimalai, Congress MP from TN, threw the gauntlet and said, “Dissolve AIADMK, Merge it with BJP”, “AIADMK is BJP’s B team”. The BJP, however, won’t piggyback on the TN party anymore. In TN, under state chief K Annamalai BJP has charted a new course. After the Rajinikant fiasco, Annamalai has been given carte blanche by the high command to create an enabling environment for BJP’s entry into TN on its own although Rahul Gandhi proclaimed that, “BJP can never set foot in TN”. Insiders say, the real action will start after election results of the five States are known. Annamalai, it seems, does not hide his contempt for Edappadi and has even advised Amit Shah to eschew AIADMK funding. The BJP distanced itself from the southern state party by not joining issues with AIADMK on the NEET subject. Edappadi and his flock may now pay a price for kowtowing and their BJP compromise.
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Dr PK Jayasree

After Kottayam, Kerala Govt Goes All Out To Bring 8 More Districts To Zero Poverty Level

Kerala is making news, not because of Shashi Tharoor or Arundhati Roy but the effort the State made to eliminate poverty through progressive measures and improving human quality of life. India’s recent first ever Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) of NITI Aayog has revealed that Kottayam District in Kerala has no poor residents. District Magistrate PK Jayasree of Kottayam said “Kerala has eight more districts Ernakulam, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Kannur, Palakkad, Alappuzha, Kollam, and Pathanamthitta which are below 1% poverty line, efforts are on to make it to the level of 0 % poverty in the next financial year.” The District Magistrate is now introducing ISO standardisation at Kottayam Collectorate followed by other government offices in Kottayam’s District Headquarter. Political observers say, “It is a reflection of the Left Government’s unwavering commitment towards social welfare and initiating updated standardisation which makes it stand out against the rest.” Kerala’s national average of poverty index stands at 25.01%, whereas Kerala, Puducherry and Goa have stable poverty levels, while the worst performers today are UP, MP, Jharkhand and Bihar. NITI Aayog’s MPI index has three quality parameters spread between health, education and standards of living conditions which comprise cooking facilities, sanitation, drinking water, electricity, living conditions, assets and bank accounts. India’s MPI measures use globally accepted robust methodology by the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative.
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FM Nirmala Sitharaman Shuts Up Tharoor And Maran, Over Sick MTNL/BSNL And Her Rajya Sabha Nomination

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman took DMK MP Dayanidhi Maran and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor to task during a budget discussion. Maran had questioned Nirmala’s absence in the Lok Sabha saying she was not ‘elected’ and, Tharoor condescendingly sought a bail out for BSNL and MTNL ‘even if the UPA Government had mishandled them’. Ticking off Maran, Nirmala said a point being “raised that I am just a nominated Member, and how arrogant can I be? Though he is not here to hear my speech, I would like to correct the fact as I am not a nominated Member. I was elected to Rajya Sabha. I want to add that (even) nominated members are dignified members. If that is hurting, let me ask, why they sat in the cabinet of Dr Manmohan Singh, a Rajya Sabha member (himself)?” Sitaraman then exposed how Maran, as telecom minister, made BSNL and MTNL sick. Even as the FM was listing out how the UPA sickened Indian telecom companies, Tharoor countered, “You have been in power for eight years, why don’t you bail them out?” An upset Sitaraman shot back, “Look at his courage. Come on Shashi Tharoorji. This is not done,” she said and pointed out that her Government had decided on a Rs 69,000 crore revival package for BSNL/ MTNL and also allotted 4G to them.
Hijab Protest

Photo : Fotocorp

Priyanka’s Bikini Gaffe Divides Congress In Karnataka Over The Hijab; Even As SC Refutes Urgency To Hear CFI SLP

The contentious issue of the hijab is taking a heavy toll on the Congress in Karnataka. The party stands divided. While former CM Siddaramiah is more worried about alienating Muslims, PCC chief DK Shivkumar is devastated and, feels the issue could botch up Congress prospects of returning to power in the 2023 state assemblies. Common citizens are upset with the aggressive pro-hijab campaign being run by the Campus Front of India (CFI), an arm of the Islamist Popular Front of India. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s faux pas, equating “uniform” and “bikini”, hijab and jeans, has pushed Shivkumar into damage control mode and fighting for the uniform in educational institutions.  Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray wisely aired his views; saying students must wear uniforms as prescribed in schools and colleges and, keep political controversies out of the centres of education. On the hijab row, PM Narendra Modi finally opened up in the Muslim-dominated Saharanpur, UP. He said people were inventing ‘new ways to block the rights and development of Muslim women’ in India. “When Muslim women started openly supporting the Modi government, (political) opponents got anxious. But we stand with every Muslim woman.” In a tight slap to the CFI, the Supreme Court declined an urgent listing to hear the Special Leave Petition against Karnataka High Court’s orders regarding the hijab petitions.
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Modi’s Praise Of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Ruffles BJP Feathers In Odisha As Panchayat Elections Loom

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently praised Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, citing him as the best example of cooperative federalism which raised hackles of BJP leaders in Odisha. Why did Modi praise Patnaik even as Panchayat elections are just round the corner? The PM knows BJP won’t make a dent in Odisha where Patnaik has delivered on all fronts. Moreover, he is a dependable ally who stood by Modi on issues like NRC, CAA, the GST bill, Triple Talaq, even walked out of Parliament when a no trust vote was moved against Modi and refused to be a part of the Mahagatbandhan alliance. His sole interest is to take Odisha towards progress by focusing on populist programmes, industrialisation and infrastructure development. Patnaik knows crossing swords with the Centre would stop the free flow of funds needed for his multiple programmes. Patnaik’s relationship with Modi is based on the “live and let live premise” without kow-towing and maintaining his independence respectfully. By doing so, Naveen also avoided the potential Damocles’ sword of the CBI inquiry pertaining to the mining scam following Shah Commission report which has remained frozen over the last eight years. Naveen is invincible today but does not challenge Modi’s leadership as he nurses no national ambitions apart from Odisha’s socio-economic development, which suits Modi quite well.
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Is The Rift Between Didi And Nephew Abhishek Banerjee Widening?

Just before elections to 108 municipal bodies in February, Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Banerjee has gone all out to empower party seniors. Didi’s decision came after protests over the candidates’ list in the Purba Medinpur district. Conscious of emerging differences between Abhishek Banerjee and senior TMC leaders, Mamta decided to act particularly upset over ongoing sparring between TMC chief whip in the Lok Sabha Kalyan Banerjee and her nephew. She announced that party MPs must consult Sudip Bandopadhyay while party MLAs likewise engage with TMC deputy leader Partha Chatterjee and Bengal unit chief Subrata Bakshi. Placing Sudip in charge of the party’s parliamentary formation is a major divergence considering TMC leader in the Rajya Sabha, Derek O’ Brien’s proximity to Abhishek. A miffed Abhishek slipped out of the TMC meeting as Mamata announced the organisational changes and subsequently joined the meeting via Skype from home. The nephew, credited with getting her re-elected for a third term, has allegedly told his aunt that any attempt to undermine him would weaken the party. Mamata is well aware that young Turk MLAs elected in 2021 pledge their loyalty to Abhishek, who has also clearly been pushing Didi to expand TMC voter base beyond Bengal.  So far, TMC efforts to capture the Goa assemblies and Tripura civic bodies have failed to yield success.
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Mumbaikars May Dream Of Life That’s King Size, But BMC’s Rs. 46,000 Crore Budget Is Surreal Style, Not Real

As the BJP and the Shiv Sena led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) square off for the BMC elections, the latter has announced an unrealistic high Rs 46,000 crore budget for Mumbai, the city that never sleeps. Ironically, in 2017 then BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta announced a mere Rs 25,000 crore outlay for Mumbai city and its suburban region, a Rs 12,000 crore reduction from the preceding year’s budget. When asked, Mehta had stated, “It was done to make spending more realistic. Earlier budget figures were much higher than what was actually spent. The capacity to spend was disproportionate to the allocated funds, even to the extent of our revenues (actually) generated. But the realistic budget from Mehta came a year after the BMC elections were held and the administration could politically afford to become realistic but, with elections for the BMC pie only days away now, not only unrealism but also, surrealism appears to be at play now with the whopping Rs 46,000 crore plan outlay that holds the promise of the sky for Mumbaikars and yet, may only fall short in terms of actual expenditure that takes place. A senior civic administrator told shortpost.in, “A lot of window dressing happens in an election year including double paper entries, due to the accounting format followed by the BMC, to make it look larger than life.”
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Will The Congress’ Gamble Of Naming Channi As CM Face Win Punjab Again?

The Congress may have boxed itself into a corner by declaring Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi as its poll face for Punjab. Many in the party couldn’t but agree with PM Narendra Modi who said in the Lok Sabha “I think you (Congress) have made up your mind not to come to power for the next 100 years”. Channi as the CM face is not the first time the Congress has opted for a non-Jat Sikh. Back in 1972, a Ramgarhia Sikh, Giani Zail Singh was its OBC Chief Minister. Channi became the obvious choice for being a Dalit but, the Congress may weaken its strong bonds with the dominant Jat Sikhs and Hindus as a consequence. The party’s Hindu leader Sunil Jakhar announced his withdrawal from active politics in apparent disgust while, Jat Sikh leader Navjot Singh Sidhu, who ended Captain Amarinder Singh’s Congress reign, has not opened his cards yet. Sidhu’s gameplan may now only commence after the polls as he was counting on Rahul Gandhi to opt for a clean image candidate as the CM face. The Gandhis stunned Siddhu and settled for sand mining scam tainted Channi instead. Looks like though the ED raids on Honey (Channi’s nephew) established the money trail, it also cemented Channi’s claim to the CM’s post for the Gandhi family.
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First Didi, Then Punjab’s Channi, And Now KCR Refuses To Receive Visiting PM Modi

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Hyderabad, on February 5, to inaugurate the ‘Statue of Equality’ commemorating 11th-century Vaishnavaite Saint Sri Ramanujacharya, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao skipped his airport reception, deputing his Minister Srinivas Yadav to stand-in for him. KCR only emulated West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who started the trend a few months back and was copied by Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi, more recently. Political analysts say KCR lost out in terms of sheer optics the historic event could generate.  So why? Regional parties say Modi single-mindedly seeks to expand the BJP footprint across India. And for this, he goes all out especially, during election campaigning; even name calling political opponents and ridiculing them. Modi’s style was evident even during the West Bengal polls and, during the Delhi assemblies. Few can forget his “Didi O Didi” jibe at Mamta. Additionally, Governors in non-BJP ruled States are prone to political interference and both Didi and Stalin found out the hard way after their legislative bills were kept pending by their respective heads of state. Non BJP CMs in India desperately hold on to the federal structure refusing to be bulldozed by the Centre. The proposal to repatriate IAS and IPS officers from States to the Centre at will that is currently the flashpoint between states and the Centre.  
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Lata Didi’s Rakhi Ties Bonded Her To Modi And, Her Mother Was Gujarati Too

Legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared a very special bond. In 2013 when Modi was Gujarat’s Chief Minister, Lata Didi invited him to inaugurate a super-speciality hospital built in memory of her father Deenanath Mangeshkar in Pune. During the event, Lata Didi had said: “I pray to God that we see Narendra bhai as PM (someday).” She repeated her wish even before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In fact, on every Raksha Bandhan day Lata Didi unfailingly sent a Rakhi and her wishes to PM Modi and was anguished when unable to send her sisterly tie of Rakhi due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions in 2020. In June 2019, shortly after Modi’s thumping win in the general elections and second consecutive term as Prime Minister, Lata Didi wrote a letter in Gujarati to Heeraben, Modi’s mother, congratulating her son and and “my brother” for becoming Prime Minister for the second time in a row. The Gujarat Government has now shared this letter. Two years back a recording of Modi’s Maan ki Baat, also featured his conversation with Lata, wishing her on her birthday. In that conversation, Lata praised Modi, saying, “Modiji, you do not know what you are. You are doing so much for India.” Modi recalled that she also told him that her late mother Shevanti too was a Gujarati.
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L To R (clockwise) Divya Rane, Swati Singh Aditi Singh & Jennifer Monserratte

Married Couples Face Political Discord In UP & Punjab Polls, As Marital Bliss Blesses Goa Couples To Take A Chill Pill

Marriages are made in heaven and, in politics it makes for a certain winning combination. However, this round of States assemblies has witnessed married political couples being given the shaft by both, the BJP and the Congress. UP minister Swati Singh and husband Daya Shankar Singh were both vying for the Sarojini Nagar assembly constituency. The BJP leadership instead fielded Rajeshwar Singh, IPS and former joint director in the Enforcement Directorate from the seat. The Congress in turn, punished a husband for his wife’s rebellion. Former Rae Bareli MLA Aditi Singh quit the party to join the BJP and, discovered her husband Angad Saini, sitting MLA in Punjab denied a Congress ticket. Furious, Aditi Singh alleged harassment by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and said, “Bin baap ki beti ko pareshan kar rahi hai Priyanka Gandhi.” (Priyanka Gandhi is harassing a fatherless daughter). She took a further jibe at Congress’s slogan ‘ladki hun lad sakti hun’, saying “I am a girl and will fight on.” Her husband Angad also alleged that Congress was treating him like “a criminal” for marrying Aditi and, filed his papers as an independent candidate from the Nawanshahr assembly constituency. The only state where couples had their way is Goa where the BJP gave tickets to Vishwajit Rane and wife Divya. The party also accommodated Atanasio Monserratte and his wife Jennifer.
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Congress Tele Poll Reiterates Channi As Punjab CM Face, As Siddhu Seeks Divine Intervention To Ward Off Old Road Rage Case

Notwithstanding the arrest of his nephew Bhupendra Singh Honey by the Enforcement Directorate in a sand mining case, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi is all set to be reiterated as the Chief Ministerial face of the Congress party on February 6. He apparently aced the opinion poll conducted by his party via phone calls. It is ironic that the Congress, stridently critical of the AAP that picked Bhagwant Singh Mann as its CM face via phone calls, should emulate the rival party’s newfound strategy. It was not immediately clear whether AAP’s method was copied as it is surging ahead in Punjab’s political arena? What did PCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, who played a crucial role in ousting Captain Amarinder Singh as CM, get for his efforts? Last seen, he visited the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu seeking divine intervention, not to be installed as CM but, for legal relief even as an old road rage case of 1988 in Patiala has caught up with him before the Supreme Court. The family of the deceased person has pursued the matter through a review petition. Meanwhile, in Amritsar (East) the contest will be most watched as Sidhu’s bete noire Bikram Majithia of the Akali Dal has entered the fray to defeat him; a common goal Captain Sahib also shares.
Pinaki Mishra

BJD MP Pinaki Mishra Takes Cue From Presidential Speech To Lok Sabha, As Modi’s Goodwill Spares The Rod On Rogue MP, Union Minister In Odisha

BJD MP Pinaki Mishra gave some anxious moments to the treasury benches by referring to the violent conduct of a tribal Minister/ MP in Mayurbhanj, Odisha in the Lok Sabha. Even as alert BJP members warned Mishra against naming the MP without due notice, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahalad Joshi said the name may be invoked after due process was initiated, meaning, Odisha was free to act on the incident. For his part, the tactful Supreme Court lawyer did not mention the BJP minister’s name but picked up a line from the President’s address to Parliament while narrating how two district officials in Odisha were beaten up. Mishra pointed out how the minister had brutally assaulted district director planning and his assistant during a meeting to discuss MPLAD issues last month. While highlighting the incident, he also showered encomiums on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The Prime Minister is unfailingly courteous; he is unfailingly polite with everybody he meets. I think the Prime Minister must take a very serious view of these things. These things should not be easily countenanced.” The goodwill that Modi enjoys with Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik has reportedly spared the heat on Bishweshwar Tudu, who was inducted as Union Minister of State in July 2021.
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TN Opposition Leader EPS Mocks Stalin Over Letter To Political Leaders For National Social Justice Alliance

Leader of opposition in the Tamil Nadu Assembly Edappadi K Palaniswami has found his political voice and enthusiasm to tear into TN Chief Minister MK Stalin over his pan India plan to lead a combined opposition, come 2024 general elections. Stalin wrote to 37 political leaders, including Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi, inviting them to be a part of the All India Federation for Social Justice assuring ‘Everything for Everyone.’ Stalin aimed to bring all leaders on a single platform along with members of civil society and like-minded individuals and organisations towards “achieving the principles of federalism and social justice at the national level.” This has given Palanisami his political voice, lost after his party AIADMK lost the TN assemblies. Says Palanisami “For 10 months, Stalin and ilk only worked on serial flops. Where is TN lacking in social justice? For 17 years, (either) as part of the Congress group looting or, under HD Deve Gowda, then Atal Bihari Vajpayee and finally, Dr Manmohan Singh the DMK enjoyed undiluted power taking the (Karunanidhi) family to mind blogging heights of prosperity.” He added that AIADMK fought for 50% reservations, though Stalin flaunts 27% as his own accomplishment. DMK is known for corruption, commission, and collection, he said. Staging a Social Justice platform and, fishing for all India support, how many of the 37 leaders have even responded? Only time will tell.
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Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami

Can Congress Cash In On Uttarakhand's Anti-Incumbency Curse, Wrest Holy Dhams State From BJP?

Forty-six-year-old Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Pushkar Singh Dhami is not an incumbent his political opponents would envy. The picturesque state, home to the most revered Hindu Dhams, also suffers an electoral curse. No party has won consecutive terms, with anti-incumbency always playing spoiler. Dhami has been CM for barely six months, though he piloted BJP to victory in 2017. Will 2022 rid the state of the anti-incumbency curse? Yes, says Hyderabad-based psephologist JVC Sreeram. Uttarakhand has 70 seats and the winner must pocket 36.  Congress leaders themselves acknowledge that Dhami has blunted the anti-incumbency factor for BJP.  Another stark reason is that Harish Rawat, a mass leader of the Congress, was treated shabbily by the Gandhis and; made to change his seat though daughter Anupama was already accommodated. He is not being actively promoted, unlike in the past when ND Tiwari held sway in the state. The entry of AAP, the spoiler, usurping the Bahujan Samaj Party’s popularity has cut into the windfall edge Congress had six months ago. The BJP denied tickets to 23 sitting MLAs and is not worried about a possible revolt factor. According to Sreeram, “If Uttarakhand is lost, and Punjab too, Congress will face an existential crisis.” That’s when the party will implode. Is the G-23 ready for the tailspin?
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Edappadi Palaniswami & O Panneerselvam

AIADMK-BJP Poll Ties No More, Politically United But Will Fight Polls Alone

The Tamil Nadu political landscape will wear a different look from now on with staunch allies of the post-Jayalalithaa era – AIADMK and BJP – going it alone. The break did not seem momentous because it occurred just before the urban local body polls but its implications are wide-ranging. The cadres of both parties wanted the split to happen with AIADMK party members wishing to test the theory that they would have done far better had they stood alone in the Assembly polls of April 2021 and the BJP cadre believing that they have greater support in certain urban areas that can be brought out only if they stood independent of AIADMK. An insider suggests that the ties will remain politically but will not stretch to elections anymore. This was the Jaya doctrine by which she chose to steer clear of the national BJP in 2016 despite her friendship with Narendra Modi. Her successors had no way of showing such independence as the party bigwigs needed New Delhi’s support to keep clear of any probes into their finances and the BJP needed all the votes they could garner in the Rajya Sabha where they don’t command a majority. The results of the local body polls this month will show where the AIADMK and the BJP stand in the minds of voters.
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Photo : Twitter

Telangana CM KCR Talks Unity Of National Political Allies, To Upset BJP For 2024 Political Pie

Having fulfilled his dream to carve out a separate state, founder of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), now Chief Minister, Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao is keen to don a national political role. KCR, as he is popularly known, seeks to leave Telangana affairs to son KT Rama Rao as his successor, even as he forays into India’s national political domain.  He has launched attacks upon the BJP-led government and wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the recent proposal to repatriate IAS and IPS officers from states to the Centre at will. Similarly, he was scathingly critical of the Union Budget for 2022.  Then comes news that KCR is pushing for a United Front of regional political parties to checkmate the BJP in the 2024 elections. KCR has launched into a bonhomie drive to woo Chief Ministers including Uddhav Thackeray, Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal, MK Stalin and Akhilesh Yadav. He has also surprisingly mellowed down towards arch political rival K Jagan Mohan Reddy, CM of Andhra Pradesh. Whether Didi or Kejriwal will give KCR the foothold he seeks in national politics remains to be seen, in the context of 17 Lok Sabha seats from down south that he brings to the united political table? KCR knows his limitations too but is taking a calculated gamble to simply increase his visibility.
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New Alignment: Amit Shah’s Overtures To RLD Leader Jayant Chaudhury Unnerves Akhilesh Yadav

For all the bluff and bluster about rebuffing BJP’s overtures to him Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Jayant Chaudhury is seriously considering the offer. Prior to his Mathura visit, Union Home Minister Amit Shah reached out to Jat leaders from Western UP on January 26. The region will vote in the first phase of assembly elections on February 10. Shah met them in Delhi to explain the futility of the SP-RLD alliance. The alliance, he said, would not help Jayant Chaudhary but allow Azam Khan to rule, a message Jats in the area also concur with. Shah’s overtures to Jayant has unnerved Akhilesh Yadav after he got a number of Muslim candidates contesting on RLD tickets from Muslim dominated areas. This left Jats with little alternative than abandoning their preferred party and shifting their vote as they were wary of Muslims since the 2013 Muzzaffarnagar riots. Shah assured Jat leaders over their demands for reservation and promised a Bharat Ratna for their leader Chaudhary Charan Singh. He emphasised the economic advantages if BJP returns to power in UP, for the completion of the Jewar airport in NCR. Summing up the mood of the Jats, Muzzaffarnagar MP Sanjeev Balyan said “Jats will still vote for BJP as they cannot see Akhilesh Yadav as CM. Jats know that BJP respects them.”
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Fully Fit Maharashtra Chief Minister On Warpath With Modi Govt!

An upset Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is on attack mode and, has thrown the gauntlet at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Emerging out of his medically proscribed limitations on offline work, Thackeray was on a signing spree for 10 days with advisor Sitaram Kunte to clear all pending files literally. Parallelly, he launched a broadside against BJP antagonists Narayan Rane and son Nitesh Rane, Amit Satam (one the Tipu Sultan naming controversy) and, Kirit Somaiya (booked for unauthorized photography in the state secretariat). More importantly, Thackeray signaled to BJP that he is the boss by clearing a file allowing the auction of the land in BKC, earmarked by the erstwhile Devendra Fadnavis government for the ambitious Bullet Train project. This was followed up by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar demanding an extension of two years for the GST regime in respect of compensation for state governments for deficit revenue collections. Pawar pleaded Covid conditions to justify his demand for extending the tenure of compensation for states by a further two years. The Union Government is unlikely to concede, according to a source in the GST department. He told shortpost.in, that “While the two year extension of compensation for states was accorded by GOI by consensus two years ago, the state governments were found wanting in the implementation of revenue enhancing measures as was mandated by the Central Government. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”
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Photo : Fotocorp

Jairam Ramesh Didn’t Fuss Over Tarun Gogoi’s Padma Bhushan, So Why Now Over Azad?

It seemed odd when Congress leader Jairam Ramesh posted a cryptic tweet “Right thing to do. He wants to be Azad, not (a) Gulam”, while also lauding former West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya who refused to accept the Padma Bhushan award. Incidentally, the award was announced only after getting due approval from the recipient. The Union Home Secretary had spoken to Bhattacharya’s wife who said “thanks.” Strangely Jairam politicised the award given to his senior party colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad but, had no issues when the Modi Government conferred the Padma Bhushan posthumously upon another Congress veteran Tarun Gogoi, the longest serving Chief Minister of Assam just a year ago in 2021. That announcement was made before the Assam assembly elections too. While honouring leaders from across the political aisle, Modi only emulated his predecessors PV Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh. Rao honoured Morarji Desai with the Bharat Ratna and the UPA Government honoured Brajesh Mishra with the Padma Vibhushan. The award came on the day the Congress designated Azad on the list of star campaigners for Uttar Pradesh. Interestingly, other party colleagues Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma, Manish Tewari and Shashi Tharoor welcomed the move. Was Jairam taking an aggressive stand because his RS term from Karnataka is coming to an end in July? Quite possibly.
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Photo : Twitter

Congress Leader RPN Singh’s BJP Cross Over Upsets Caste Math In UP, Another Leader, Daughter May Follow

The exit of RPN Singh from Congress was anticipated, though the party officially called him a “coward”. Now it is left with only three MLAs in UP. A former Union Minister, RPN was apparently upset over the raw deal from the Gandhi siblings even after wresting Jharkhand from the BJP in 2019. A Doon School alumnus, he had high expectations from fellow schoolmate Rahul Gandhi but got only disappointment even as juniors like Ajay Maken and KC Venugopal were promoted as AICC general secretaries, while he remained AICC-in-charge till his last day. His aspiration for a Rajya Sabha seat was dashed by Venugopal getting the slot. The current developments were in stark contrast to the times when RPN first got elected as Lok Sabha MP from Padrauna in 2009. Then he received a lot of attention from Rahul Gandhi and was made Minister of State in Manmohan Singh’s Government. As for his future in the BJP, it is not clear what it holds? His contesting the Padrauna assembly seat is not certain, as he had won from there 12 years ago. However, his BJP entry has unnerved another key contestant: Swami Prasad Maurya. The latest buzz is the Congress may also lose another prominent leader Pramod Tewari and daughter Aradhana Mishra in two.
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Is Tamil Nadu Emerging Cradle Of Innovative Startups?

The heart-breaking quest for jobs, both in the private and public space is now taking a dramatic turn from “gimme a job” to giving jobs thanks to the fast changing ecosystem of startups. Tamil Nadu for long the incubator of research through its IIT (M), and tech centres of learning has set an ambitious course to churn up the environment for creative startups.  Leading the change is Shivarajah Ramanathan CEO, TN Startup innovations Mission.  He is now eyeing the Trillion dollar dream of incubating viable ventures that are fair and inclusive. IIT-Madras Gopal Deshpande Centre (GDC) has set a flight path for youth to take wings, “nurture research for world class startups.“ Dr Gururaj Deshpande and Kris Gopalakrishnan (Infosys) are mentoring IIT Alumni to commercialise research. The theme, global think for local needs.  GDC designed a very rugged boot camp of 8 weeks duration for investors and innovators. Eleven teams form a cohort, and each team is mentored to test the strength of the ideas. CMO of one such team, Suresh Srinivasan is upbeat about the National Award won by Zentron Labs, a post-harvest startup. The company has developed Hortisort, India’s first high-speed optical fruit grading system that sorts Apples, Oranges, Mangoes, Guavas by colour, weight, quality and freshness. This business plan of integrating technology is a boon for horticulturists. Who says don’t compare apples and oranges?
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Photo : Fotocorp

Andhra Pradesh CM Spells Out Boutique Airport District Plan, As Debt Trap Allegations Fly

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K Jagan Mohan Reddy, on the back of his election promise, has got cabinet approval to carve out 13 new districts in the state each with its own swanky airport, to be completed by the Telugu New Year in April. With the AP economy burdened by people’s rising expectations, Jagan made a slew of announcements to keep people engaged and combat the building opposition onslaught about the state’s progress into an irreversible debt trap, sans any viable revenue generation scope. The joke doing the rounds of the state secretariat is that ‘Andhra Pradesh has turned into ‘Andhera Pradesh’. This probably explains why Jagan announced the development plans on January 21, 2022, pitching for the ‘One District One Airport” initiative and directed officials of the Infrastructure and Investments (I and I) department to expedite the development of the airports in all the 13 new districts of the state including, seven new airports in districts bereft of an airport as of today. Jagan is pulling out all the stops to get the Andhra economy back on track and, also plans to speak to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking central assistance and the speedy clearance of pending projects. Jagan’s, and Andhra Pradesh’s future depends on how the beleaguered state’s turnaround comes about.
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Rishi Sunak with wife Akshata Murthy and children

Can Indian Origin Rishi Sunak Replace Boris Johnson?

It would be most ironic if a businessman of Indian origin were to become the Prime Minister of Britain. A payback for three centuries of rule by the East India Company and the queens and kings of England, some might say. Rishi Sunak, son-in-law of India’s tech czar NR Narayana Murthy of Infosys, and Chancellor during the difficult pandemic years, was the bookie’s favourite to take over from Boris Johnson if the latter were to be called to account by Tory MPs. Sunak, whose image has been taking a beating lately because of runaway inflation and high taxes, was considered to be ahead of Liz Truss, the foreign minister, as he had picked up a reputation for smart management of the economy when he unfurled big spending support when the pandemic raged. But his lukewarm support of his beleaguered Prime Minister during the ‘Partygate’ scandal may not have impressed many. But Liz took off to Australia while Sunak sat by BoJo’s side during a difficult PMQ hour in Parliament. One of the richest MPs whose business links might come in for scrutiny if he vaults into the top job, Sunak is in for a big fight with Liz. An influential Indian origin community in Britain would be rooting for him.
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Modi Silences Critics With Netaji Bose Hologram, Statue Plan At India Gate; Merges Amar Jawan Jyoti With National War Memorial

Prime Minister Narendra Modi plans to unveil a fixated hologram statue of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose at India Gate before Republic Day on January 23, till a grand statue of Bose is complete and installed at the same site. Marking the 125th birth anniversary of Bose, this grand gesture by the Government is likely to silence the Opposition that criticized the decision to shift Amar Jawan Jyoti or the “eternal flame” for soldiers from India Gate to the National War Memorial (NWM) built in 2019 at a cost of Rs 176 crore. “It gives me great satisfaction that the eternal flame of Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate is being merged with the NWM. As someone who had steered the design selection and construction of NWM, I’d been of this view all along,” tweeted Lt Gen Satish Dua. India Gate was built by the British in memoriam of soldiers of the British Indian Army who died in World War-I. The Amar Jawan Jyoti was placed under the India Gate in 1971 by former PM Indira Gandhi but names inscribed on India Gate were not of martyrs of the 1971 war. Targeting the Opposition, sources term it “ironic” that people who did not make a NWM for seven decades were protesting now, “when a permanent and fitting tribute is being made to our martyrs”.
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Clockwise : Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Nirmala Sitharaman and Salman Khurshid,

Congress House Not In Order: Legal Troika Of Salman, Sibal, Singhvi Stays Mum As Sitharaman Cries Devas-Antrix Fraud

Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate is a law unto herself in the party’s media department and, not resented for her earlier television avatar as anchor but, her unlimited access to the Gandhis — both Priyanka and Rahul. When former Finance Minister P Chidambaram ticked her off for a faulty briefing on financial issues, asking her to steer clear of matters economy hereon, Shrinate flaunted her stint as “successful anchor” on ET Now (she had quit and contested as Congress candidate from UP in 2019) and, rudely asked Chidambaram not to tutor her on India’s economy. Several Congress leaders await a chance to put her down. Shrinate lost the Lok Sabha seat but, with Priyanka’s blessings, may get yet another shot to fight for the UP assembly. Meanwhile, none of the eminent Congress lawyers stood up to defend their then Manmohan Singh headed Government after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman dubbed the 2005 Antrix-Devas agreement a “fraud of the Congress, by the Congress, for the Congress”. Sitaraman’s comments came after the Supreme Court upheld the NCLT order to wind up Devas Multimedia and she said rare S-band spectrum was allocated for a “pittance” under the Antrix-Devas deal. Senior lawyers like Abhishek Singhvi, Salman Khurshid and Kapil Sibal seem all too busy to “counter” India’s FM in defence of the erstwhile PM.
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Why Are Political Parties Targeting Vijay Sardesai Of Goa Forward Party?

In Goa’s assembly elections everyone is targeting outlier Goa Forward Party (GFP) chief Vijay Sardesai. From the manner in which the Trinamool Congress (TMC) fielded its Rajya Sabha MP Luizinho Faleiro from Fatorda to take on Sardesai, it does seem like Mamata Banerjee’s team is trying to take revenge on Sardesai who has aligned with the Congress. Sardesai himself feels the TMC is only trying to “put” pressure on him for a renegotiation. Unlike his assessment, however, the Trinamool appears to have forced Faleiro to contest the assembly elections from an unfamiliar seat. Apparently the TMC’s Bengal cadre was unhappy when Faleiro was given TMC’s Rajya Sabha nomination. Incidentally, the former Goa CM is not contesting from his traditional seat of Navelim and, his seat was allotted to Valenka Alemao, daughter of former NCP leader Churchil Alemao, who has joined TMC. Did the BJP, whose government Vijay has supported all these years, treated him any better? Of course not! The ruling party snatched his sitting MLA, Jayesh Salgaonkar and then fielded him from Saligao. “I contested four seats in 2017, won three,” recalls Vijay with pride.  If one migrated to the BJP, he lost the other seat to a Congress ally. The Congress has fielded Delailah Lobo, wife of Minister Michael Lobo from Siolim, a seat GFP won in 2017. Lobo defected to Congress recently.
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President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu

Modi's Informal Think Tank Considers Next Ideal President, Vice President Of India

With the five-year terms of India’s President and Vice President ending this July, rumour mills have gone into overdrive over likely successors respectively. And yet, political stakeholders know full well it is near impossible to predict Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Delhi-based senior journalist R Rajagopalan says an “informal, unofficial” committee (read think tank) was formed including Union Ministers, Bhupendra Yadav, Piyush Goyal and Nitin Gadkari to scope out all aspects, however, weighty as may be. How will the current selection process differ from the 2017 President and Vice President elections? On the political front now, the Shiv Sena and Akali Dal are no longer allies of BJP, the J&K Assembly is non-existent and a weakened AIADMK cannot be counted upon. Wags predict this time it may be a woman from the South? Definitely not Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in such a case, with her long drawn To Do List. Some deduce it could well be Tamilisai Soundararajan, Governor of Telangana and Lieutenant Governor Of Puducherry. Political analysts say the strategy seems fool proof as no party would generally oppose a woman SC candidate. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s name is also doing the rounds while the Grand Old party is mooting Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge’s name.
harak singh rawat

BJP Averts UP’s Maurya Moment Replay In Uttarakhand, Sacks Minister Harak Singh Rawat Before He Joins Congress

On the night of January 16, the BJP averted a repeat of the Swami Prasad Maurya moment in UP, being replicated in Uttarakhand by sacking a cabinet minister on the verge of turning rogue. In a pre-emptive strike, Harak Singh Rawat was let go after he hobnobbed with the Congress. He had blackmailed BJP, throwing tantrums over unreasonable demands for MLA seats. He wanted a ticket for daughter-in-law Anukriti from Lansdowne. Then, Rawat pushed the envelope at the late evening cabinet meeting on January 16 over pending approvals for a medical college in his constituency Kotdwar, even threatening to quit. Next, he held talks with Congress leader Pritam Singh and was to join the party on January 17 which the BJP got wind of. After being dumped by BJP, Rawat has cut a sorry figure with the Congress now disinclined to admit him right away. “Till a fortnight back, Harak Rawat was heaping insults on our leader Rahul Gandhi. Why should he get a free pass into the party?” asked a state Congress leader. Those backing former CM Harish Rawat feel the Congress should treat Harak just like Akhilesh Yadav side-lined Imran Masood, who dumped Congress to join the SP.  Masood was denied a ticket from Nakur after SP admitted sitting BJP MLA Dharam Singh Saini who had defeated him in the 2017 polls.
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L To R: Channi, Sidhu & Mann

AAP’s Bhagwant Mann Is CM Face, As Channi, Sidhu Await Congress’ Official Choice

The Aam Aadmi Party expectedly named Bhagwant Mann as its Punjab chief ministerial face after an overwhelming two lakh people phoned in backing him. Arvind Kejriwal played safe and has opted for a popular Jat Sikh, overlooking his tipeler interests. A popular comedian, Mann is a two-term Lok Sabha MP from Sangrur. Punjab has never boasted a non-Jat Sikh CMs since its formation in 1966, barring former President Giani Zail Singh (1972-77) – a Ramgarhia Sikh. The Congress has shied away from officially announcing its CM face or even its stated preference between Dalit CM Charanjit Singh Channi and Jat Sikh leader Navjot Singh Sidhu, apart from hosting a brief Sonu Sood video featuring Channi on its twitter handle. While the media views it as the crowning of Channi, there’s still no official word on it. With ED acting on a 2018 FIR of Punjab Police against companies and individuals involved in illegal sand mining including raids on Channi’s nephew, it appears less likely the Congress will prop him up. “Punjab CM and his relatives are involved in illegal sand mining”, declared Kejriwal. With AAP no longer worried about Channi as the Congress CM face, he may be eased out post elections like Maharashtra Dalit Congress CM Sushil Kumar Shinde, who won the 2004 elections but, was replaced as Maharashtra CM by the dominant Maratha Vilasrao Deshmukh.
state election commission

Battle Of Panchayats In Odisha: Can BJD's OBC Schemes Hold Back BJP's Winning Yojna?

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is on one political conquest after another! In the 2017 Zilla Parishad elections his party, Biju Janata Dal won 473 seats, even beating the collective BJP (297) and Congress (60) tally of a total 846 seats. For the 2022 panchayat elections, scheduled between February 16 and 24, Patnaik is eyeing 600 seats and will do battle with BJP, the only other serious contender. Master strategist Patnaik and his just-timed-right appeasement manifesto has already swung into action. Knowing fully well that caste politics will dominate in the Panchayat elections, Patnaik reserved 40% seats for OBC communities which constitute 54% of the State’s population. He also introduced a slew of pro-poor schemes while directing BJD MPs and MLAs to visit backward districts to ensure effective delivery of the populist benefits. Patnaik monitors progress in each district in real-time via video calling. Surprisingly, the BJP, a tad late off the starting blocks, is replicating Amit Shah’s election winning model Vistarak Yojana to be implemented through a maze of planning measures with appropriate filtration, committees and coordinators at the Block level to help capture more BJP seats. Political observers say that the elaborate process driven strategy may not help BJP secure the desired numbers given BJD’s aggressive stance and Patnaik’s ‘welfare’ measures. BJP perhaps may have to wait a bit longer to capture the State.
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Akhilesh Yadav with Dharam Singh, Dhara Singh & SP Maurya

Will OBC Ministerial Resignations Impact Yogi’s Double Engine Poll Juggernaut in UP?

Three ministerial resignations in Yogi Adityanath’s government — Swami Prasad Maurya, Dhara Singh Chauhan, Dharam Singh Saini – that rocked the poll-bound BJP bandwagon in Uttar Pradesh had been in the works for six months. All the three quit Mayawati’s BSP and enrolled BJP just ahead of the 2017 assembly polls while alleging money demands made by Behenji. Their hurried exit and joining Samajwadi Party may take some sheen off the BJP’s “double-engine Sarkar” theme but, the OBC leaders by themselves are no political Bahubalis.  A segment of BJP in UP feels the BSP imports were overrated and blame BJP general secretary Sunil Bansal, who inducted them. Sources said while Maurya and Chauhan alleged neglect of OBCs during four years that he was a minister under BJP rule, even as the ex-ministers flexed their political muscles. They fell out over their demand for assembly seats not being met by the BJP. “Maurya asked for a dozen seats including a ticket for his son. Chauhan wanted 7-8 tickets for his people”, says a BJP insider. Will the OBC leaders’ exit wreck the caste coalition BJP had stitched in UP? “What is the guarantee that these OBC leaders will fit into the SP’s Muslim-Yadav (M-Y) matrix?  As it is, there is non-acceptance of M-Y domination in UP villages,” says UP minister Sidharth Nath Singh.

TRENDS & VIEWS

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!