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Thackeray : Caught Between A Rock And A Hard Place

Can an embarrassed and troubled Uddhav Thackeray ask his Home Minister Anil Deshmukh to resign after former Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh’s allegation that Deshmukh had asked his officers to extort Rs 100 crore per month for him? Given the tradition in Maharashtra’s coalition government, the Chief Minister is helpless unless the alliance partner NCP agrees to let him go. In this case, it is the NCP which must decide. Had it been a Congress minister, it would have been entirely that party’s call. Should Pawar decide to nominate him for another ministry from those allocated to the NCP, Uddhav would have to allow that. Had it been a Sena minister, Uddhav needn’t ask anyone at all. Technically, it is the CM, who heads the cabinet, but the team members are decided by each partner. When Chhagan Bhujbal was the Deputy Chief Minister to Sushilkumar Shinde, they both got along like a house on fire. But Pawar asked Bhujbal to resign when it was alleged that his supporters had violently attacked a TV station’s offices in 2003. He was replaced by Vijaysinh Mohite Patil while Shinde just had to grin (which he literally does as a habit) and bear it. If Uddhav goes against the delicate alliance arrangement, a serious crisis in the coalition could arise.
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Lone Wolf Premchand

Like the Texas ranger J.J. McQuade in the Hollywood thriller Lone Wolf McQuade, this 60-year old Parliamentarian NK Premchand too likes to work alone. He is the one-man army who has made his presence felt in the Lok Sabha. A four-time MP from the Kollam district of Kerala, he is the Central Secretariat Member of the Revolutionary Socialist Party. Whether it is debate or raising questions, he is in the forefront. According to PRS.Org, between June 2014 and February 2019, Premchand asked 471 questions (national average: 293), participated in over 300 debates (national average: 67), and had attendance record of 87% compared to the national average of 80%. He introduced a private member bill overturning Sabarimala verdict and it was the first private bill introduced in the 17th Lok Sabha. Everybody from the prime minister to speaker to MPs acknowledge his dedication and commitment. And nothing misses his sight. He raised the question about a Supreme Court-appointed panel issuing an advertisement in a leading newspaper inviting comments on new farm laws. It was “unfortunate” that the Apex Court was encroaching upon the domain of Parliament, he said. If the panel can seek comments on the new laws, “then what is Parliament meant for”. Quite.
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TMC: Who’s Quitting Next?

Trouble, they say, never comes alone. At least that is what West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee may be discovering much to her dismay. Many famous personalities who helped build Trinamool Congress from scratch and were part of her inner circle are quitting the party. Respected and seasoned politicians like Dinesh Trivedi, Adhikari brothers, Rajib Banerjee and film personalities are attributing their quitting to Didi’s temperament; as they are not able to put up with her angry outbursts, insults and uncharitable remarks. Add to this, the phenomenal rise of her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, who is rubbing senior party leaders the wrong way. The exodus continues and the latest news wafting from the Writer’s Building, according to reliable sources, is that the current Finance, Commerce & Industries Minister Dr Amit Mitra may relinquish his office after the assembly elections.  It is learnt that Dr Mitra is keen to spend more time with family and focus on his health. It may be recalled that Dr Mitra was the familiar face in Delhi when he served as the Secretary General of the FICCI.  Born in an illustrious family, economist Dr Mitra joined the All India Trinamool Congress in 2011 and defeated the then Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta belonging to the CPM. Incidentally, Dr Mitra is part of the ministers and MLAs who have been denied party tickets for the current Assembly elections.
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Andhra Pradesh Staring At Fiscal Crisis

As Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is busy in settling scores with his political rival and TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu, the Andhra Pradesh government is heading for a debt trap. The CM is busy in spending on welfare schemes and social security cover. But what is worrying is the high level of borrowings. Amid Covid-19 stress and downturn, Andhra Pradesh’s borrowings in 2020-21 is estimated at a whopping 142% — a cause of concern for the state’s ruling YSR Congress party government. What has also increased the state government’s worry is the high fiscal deficit, which is put at Rs 68,536 crore, while the revenue deficit crossed Rs 48,809 crore in December 2020. Clearly, the economists and experts say the situation is alarming as they predict a fiscal emergency in the state. It is a crucial time for YSR whether he continues to neglect fiscal impropriety or adhere to fiscal prudence to save the state from a major financial crisis.
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Do Politicians Have Sartorial Taste?

In recent times one has been noticing Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray formally dressed like an office-goer – trousers and tucked-in full-sleeved shirts instead of his traditional kurta-pyjama.  Last December he mandated that all the State government employees should refrain from wearing T-shirts, jeans and slippers to work. He is leading from the front. Most politicians are well dressed. The immediate name that comes to mind is that of the Congress leader Shivraj Patil who held important positions in the Union government. He was known for his sartorial taste. At times he used to change his dress several times a day. Likewise, Sonia Gandhi is always elegantly dressed in a well-draped cotton saree. Rajiv Gandhi’s kurta-pyjama was accompanied with Gucci shoes, Rolex watch and Cartier sunglass. Politicians started becoming dress conscious because of two reasons. One, both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha TV channels were telecasting live the daily proceedings. Two, the entry of youngsters, including film stars. I recall BJP leader Pramod Mahajan saying: “Even when disrupting parliament our voters like us to look good!” Narayan Rane as Maharashtra’s chief minister always preferred an odd two-button jacket but never a full suit. Many like Sharad Pawar preferred white trousers and half-sleeved bush shirts. Gopinath Munde preferred kurta-pyjama and a Nehru jacket but never wore trousers. The bandhgala was the favourite of two chief ministers in Maharashtra: Sudhakarrao Naik and his uncle VP Naik.
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Why Has Congress Agreed To Play Second Fiddle To DMK In TN?

Once bitten twice shy. After a poor show in the Bihar elections and being publicly insulted by the RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav for spoiling the alliance prospects as Cong could win only 19 seats against 70 contested, the Congress party seems to have gone soft in its seat-sharing talks with the DMK Supremo MK Stalin in Tamil Nadu. Against its original demand for 54 seats, the Congress has quietly settled for 25 legislative seats. And for the by-elections, the party is pleased to get the Kanyakumari Lok Sabha seat. It is learnt that Rahul Gandhi does not mind playing second fiddle as his only objective is to counter the BJP-AIADMK in Tamil Nadu. Rahul, who has visited Tamil Nadu twice in recent times, enjoys a good equation with Stalin who is very confident of the DMK-Congress win this time. Even poll-strategist Prashant Kishor is talking of DMK winning. What makes the fight interesting is the BJP’s Hindutva appeal while in Tamil Nadu it has always been the Dravidian plank for all parties. Fearing backlash, it is learnt that the BJP’s alliance partner AIADMK has advised it not to push the Hindutva agenda. Rahul is likely to campaign extensively in Tamil Nadu, sharing dais with Stalin and address crucial joint meetings. For Rahul, the idea of playing second fiddle is also to revive Congress in Tamil Nadu. Will his bet pay off? Only time will tell.
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Is Prashant Kishor An Ideology-Neutral Strategist?

With election fever rising, poll strategist Prashant Kishor seems to be the man of the moment. Already three major political parties -– Trinamool in West Bengal, DMK in Tamil Nadu, and Congress in Punjab have signed him up. Looks like political parties woo him before they woo the voters. This is the first time Kishor has three states on his worktable. And he has already given his verdict: DMK led by MK Stalin would return to power in TN and Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal. More. He has dared to stick his neck out by saying BJP would not cross 100 seats in W Bengal.  So one has to wait till May 2 for the final result.  But in the past he has had a good strike rate. He shot into the limelight by ensuring Narendra Modi became the Chief Minister of Gujarat for the third time. Post that he worked closely with the BJP for the 2014 Lok Sabha election. His string of success includes the unprecedented victory of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi for the second time; the YCR Congress win in Andhra Pradesh, and Nitin Kumar’s JDU in Bihar. But, he miserably failed his client –the Congress in Uttar Pradesh’s Assembly poll in 2017. It won only 7 seats against BJP’s 300 plus. Be that as it may, the Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has accorded him a cabinet rank. A lot is indeed riding on him. The moot point is with such diverse clients does it make him ideologically neutral or is he nursing a political ambition? It may be recalled he did take a political plunge when he joined the JDU in Bihar but it proved to be a short-lived honeymoon.
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The Murkier, Curiouser World Of Tamil Nadu Politics

Like Alice In Wonderland, the Tamil Nadu politics seems to be getting curiouser and curiouser. It all started with Superstar Rajnikant throwing in the towel thereby dashing BJP’s hopes of making significant impact in the upcoming Assembly polls. For MK Stalin of DMK, this announcement was music to ears. But the news of VK Sasikala or ‘Chinamma’, confidante of the late J Jayalalithaa, former Chief Minister, saw both the ruling party AIADMK and the DMK pull a long face. She came out of Bangalore jail after serving four-year term, and entered the fray .So much so, Chinamma was prevented by the very people who prostrated before her from going anywhere near Jayalalithaa’s Samadhi at Marina Beach. At the same time, to keep her in good humour mediators have been holding talks with her nephew TTV Dinakaran to work out a possible merger of his party AMMK with the AIADMK so that they can fight the common enemy DMK. But in a new political twist, Chinamma dropped a bomb, announcing to stay away from politics. The DMK and the Congress spokespersons on the TV channels are saying she must have been pressurized by the BJP! Apparently, local BJP leaders have welcomed the move. In the fast changing political contours, is it advantage AIADMK? Does DMK stand a better chance minus Chinamma?  And where does Kamal Hasaan’s party Makkal Needhi Maiam figure?
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Mumbai Tourists Get A Different Khushboo Of Gujarat

The Khushboo Gujarat Ki campaign run by the Gujarat Tourism since 2010 has been very effective, giving a massive boost to the number of in-bound tourists. But our Short Post Team discovered a shocking case of tourist alienation – with two Mumbai-based businessmen confiding in about a horrendous experience. It was a different khushboo when they drove down to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan from Mumbai. On return, their car bearing Maharashtra number plate was stopped by the Gujarat police at four different checkpoints. And from the word go it was mindless harassment and heaps of insult. At the first check-post, they were questioned whether they carried drugs, guns or alcohol and then asked to turn their bags upside down. At the second check-post they were asked why they did not cover the top portion of the headlights with yellow scotch tape? At the third check-post, they were fined for not wearing their mask properly inside their car. But, their real nightmare began at the fourth check-post. The cops once again rummaged through their bag and separated an empty liquor bottle. Immediately, they shouted with glee “Milee Gayo”, “Milee Gayo” (got it). Their reactions shocked these two businessmen. The cops forced one of them to sit in the driver’s seat and clicked pictures with an empty bottle on his lap. Then, they were told that now an FIR would be filed; and that they would have to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh or else they would be jailed.  Physically and mentally exhausted because of this senseless extortion the businessmen decided to loosen their purse strings and after which they were allowed to go.
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Fotocorp.com -- L To R: Uddhav Thackeray, Nitin Gadkari, Sharad Pawar

Thackeray Pulling Out All The Stops To Woo Airbus

Political parties in Maharashtra are known for not practicing untouchability in politics. But when it comes to the issue of protecting the State’s interest and maintaining Maharashtra’s pre-eminence as the most favoured investment destination then all political parties sink their difference and put up a show of unity. This unity is important as Maharashtra faces tough competition from other States like Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka to bag big projects. A case in point is that of luring Airbus SE, a European multinational aerospace corporation, for its proposed investment of over Rs15,000 crore to manufacture 56 aircraft and helicopters in Maharashtra. Knowing the importance of Airbus’ entry into the state, the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi government has swung into action. Chief Minister and Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray has written to NCP Supremo Sharad Pawar and Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari for taking up Maharashtra’s cause with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The government has cited a site in the MIHAN project at Nagpur for Airbus’ proposed investment. Airbus is expected to join hands with the Tata Group for the proposed venture. Incidentally, Nagpur is the home city of Gadkari.
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Rakesh Tikait: Playing Farmer’s Tune?

There is nothing striking about this farmer leader who has kept the Modi government on tenterhooks. It seems like he has deliberately cultivated the image of a rustic leader with a green Kisan cap, accompanied by a green-white gumchha and an unkempt beard. The 51-year old Rakesh Tikait, who holds a Master’s degree from the Meerut University, would definitely know what style is, having served in the Delhi Police department as sub-inspector till 1992 and hailing from a high profile family. He quit police force during the farmers’ agitation at Red Fort in 1993-94 and joined the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) set up by his father Mahendra Singh Tikait, a firebrand farmer leader. Political ambitions took him to contest the assembly elections in 2007 and Lok Sabha in 2014 but he lost both. With the farmers’ agitation regaining momentum (after he broke down on the national television), he has declared the agitation would continue till October 2021. His message to Modi: “We have so far talked about Bill Wapsi (Repealing the three farm laws). What will you do if the youth call for Gaddi Wapsi (removal from power)?” There is a sense of déjà vu listening to this kind of veiled threat.
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Thackeray Mulls A 2-Shift Plan, Staggered Timings For Businesses

If Uddhav Thackeray’s instructions to the top officials to work out a plan to have the Mantralaya function in two shifts, and his earlier appeal to the private sector to stagger their office timings come to fruition, the face of transportation, work dynamics, and work-life balance across Mumbai metro region would change. Months ago the BMC, and the Western and Central Railways had offered to rework their schedules during the lockdown itself and asked the State Government to initiate theirs. Apparently after discovering nine infections in the Revenue Department and also seeing the entire entourage of Chhagan Bhujbal hit by the virus, Thackeray set the wheels moving. But the private sector is yet to respond. Thackeray had also told the NITI Ayog about staggered work hours because it may not be within his remit to ask the Central Government offices to stagger their timings. If this does happen, overcrowding on public transport, congestion of Mumbai region’s roads would ease to an extent. But it is a complex task – ministries function in a synergy not perceived by outsiders. Also, the home to station to workplace bus connectivity has to be worked out. Else the solution could be worse than the problem. If only all this had been thought of during the lockdown! A classic case of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.
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Are Some Politicians Violating Covid Norms In Maharashtra?

Nitin Raut, Maharashtra’s power minister, had come to invite Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to attend a wedding reception to be held by his family. When the subject of the quick spreading Covid surfaced in the conversation, the minister announced that he was cancelling the reception. Uddhav had cited it as cooperation in fighting the virus and asked the public to fall in line. But it’s a fact that the CM’s warning that only the mask-less public defying Covid protocols would force another lockdown in Maharashtra hasn’t found immediate traction. Other leaders seem to be entirely on another page. Thousands thronged the streets as the convoy of Minister Of State  For Forest Sanjay Rathod reached Pohradevi temple in Washim district on 23rd February. BJP leader, Dhananjay Mahadik’s son’s wedding in Pune on 22nd February not only had 1,000 guests (prescribed limit being 100) but was also graced by two men of eminence in politics — Sharad Pawar and Devendra Fadnavis. To be generous, these two worthies may not have known that the protocols were being ignored. And it was a day prior to Pawar’s tweet that informed that he was cancelling all public events. Reportedly, the Pune city police has booked Mahadik and two others for violation of Covid norms. In a related development, the State’s Food & Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbul who attended wedding of NCP MLA Saron Ahire along with Pawar has tested positive.
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Is Congress Going The Sena Way?

Once, the Congress was ideologically different from the Shiv Sena. It disapproved of the Sena’s aggressive style of politics — though it couldn’t exactly stop the saffron party. The Congress would often complain about the alleged street violence of the Shiv Sena and the MNS – and their penchant for public warnings. After partnering with the adversary to form the Maharashtra coalition government, the Congress seems to have soaked in Sena’s methods. Its newly appointed chief Nana Patole has announced that if the two actors — the Big B and Akshay Kumar — do not tweet against high petrol price (as both had tweeted against price rise during UPA-2 regime), they would not be “allowed” to shoot the films they act in nor will their films be screened. Exactly the methods of the Sena in the past and a practice which the MNS continues to follow. The Congress, hurting at the status of being a junior partner in Maha Vikas Aghadi where the third party is the assertive NCP, wants to be seen as being muscular and has learnt how to: by being like the Sena. Interestingly, Patole, as Speaker of the Assembly, was in a constitutional position and ensured the Assembly functioned under Democratic rules. What a transformation by Patole overnight!
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Governors & CMs: In A Ding Dong Battle

A fierce ding dong battle is playing out in West Bengal and Maharashtra. In WB, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have been at loggerheads from Day One. During the Lockdown, the Governor wrote to Didi why she was deliberately breaking all the curfew protocols recommended by the Centre. A few days later she asked the Governor to refrain from summoning senior officials without her knowledge. Recently, when BJP President JP Nadda’s convoy was attacked, the Governor told Mamata “Don’t play with fire.” This verbal duel continues unabated. Hopefully, things should cool down after the state elections in April-May this year. In another battle, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari — who administered the oath of office to the Devendra Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar government which lasted for three days — is taking on Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and NCP Supremo Sharad Pawar. Pawar took pot-shot at the Governor for having time to meet film star Kangana Ranaut but not the farmers. Also, the recent controversy around the Maharashtra governor being denied permission to use state plane has added to the bitterness. Now an editorial in Sena’s mouthpiece Samna says the Governor is acting like the BJP puppet and should be called back by the President. This tug-of-war battle brings to fore the old debate whether the Governor’s Office should be abolished.
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Of Ghulam Nabi Azad And Secular Fundamentalists

This one is interesting. Veteran Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad retired from Rajya Sabha as the Leader Of Opposition on February 15, 2021. All politicians in the house praised his outstanding contributions. In his farewell speech, Azad shocked and surprised a whole generation when he said he was among the fortunate people who never went to Pakistan. “When I read about the circumstances in Pakistan, I feel proud to be a Hindustani Muslim,” he said. His remarks on visiting Pakistan comes as a sharp contrast to the Secular Fundamentalists like Mani Shankar Aiyar who would have lost count of how many times they visited Pakistan. And Iyer’s interaction with the Pakistani media would often leave many in India stunned and embarrassed, especially when he told Pakistanis: “The first and the foremost thing is to remove Modi (Modi ko hatana hoga). Only then can the talks (between India and Pakistan) move forward.” On the other hand, Azad has always been a picture of grace and dignity, urging all to build compromises and understanding instead of reinforcing antagonism.
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Narayan Rane Finds A New Mentor In Amit Shah

Everything is fair in love and law — and loyalty is not static but flexible. None other than Narayan Rane epitomizes this saying. Thanks to the blessings of Shiv Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray – Rane grew from strength to strength. From a corporator to legislator to Chief Minister, his rise was meteoric. However, Thackeray’s decision to appoint his son Uddhav as Executive President of the Sena changed the equation, forcing Rane to quit the saffron party and join the Congress. Here, he was made a minister – but not the CM as promised. Irked by the deceit and denial, Rane floated his Swabhimani Party. The new party didn’t do too well – and he subsequently joined the BJP that has placed him in the Rajya Sabha. His new mentor is Home Minister Amit Shah, who visited the state to inaugurate the SSPM Medical College at Kudal in Sindhudurg. Shah’s visit has created ripples – with Rane predicting that the Maha Vikas Agadhi government’s days are numbered now. Interesting times for a party, which despite winning 105 seats is sitting in the Opposition bench.
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Mazi Mumbai Vs Mumbai Nammde

The timing behind the ongoing war of words between Maharashtra and Karnataka leaders on the long-pending border dispute is politically as significant for the Shiv Sena as it is for its former partner Bharatiya Janata Party in the run up to the 2022 elections for the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) — India’s richest civic body. With its renewed demand to incorporate Karnataka’s Marathi-speaking areas into Maharashtra, the Sena has unleashed a frontal assault to retain its supremacy in the BMC, which the party has been ruling for over 28 years. Joining forces with the saffron party are the Congress and the NCP, its partners in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the state. The Sena is hoping to stand tall with its espousal of the Marathi Manoos plank – even as it embraces the ‘Secular’ programmes of its partners, and reaches out to the Gujaratis. This leaves the BJP treading on a tricky tightrope: the BJP-ruled Karnataka’s loud opposition to the demand will only provide political ammunition to the Sena-led alliance. The BJP’s Mission Mumbai 2022, which seeks to end Sena rule and elect its own mayor, must now make sense of the new duel “Mazi Mumbai vs Mumbai Nammde’’.
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PHOTOS: FOTOCORP.COM

Can NCP Wrest Speaker’s Seat In Maharashtra?

Sharad Pawar is a good negotiator. Despite some NCP leaders prematurely seeking that Congress “do something soon” to prevent Sena-BJP resuming charge of the Maharashtra government in 1999, he kept Congress on tenterhooks till it accepted a power-sharing formula. He had told confidants then that had it been left to him from the start, the NCP would have got the CM’s post and the Speaker’s too, leaving some crumbs for the other. It is likely that hard bargaining for the Assembly’s Speaker’s post is in the offing. With Nana Patole quitting speakership on being appointed Maharashtra Congress President, the Speaker’s post has once again become a coveted target for all three parties constituting the government. The Maha Vikas Aghadi comprising Shiv Sena, NCP, and the Congress are not going to let go of an opportunity to grab it. Would the consummate Pawar, hailed as the architect of the coalition MVA, ensure his party gets the Speakership?  Despite being partners with some give and take between them, except for the Congress making some noises against the Sena, the government has been functioning fairly in the Covid19 environment. Patole’s exit has clearly unsettled the equations. Now the fun begins.
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Dr Swamy’s Legal Juggernaut Rolls On

BJP leader Dr Subramanian Swamy holds many incredible records. One important one: he has not lost a single defamation case. So much so that even international bodies like the United Nations are wary of taking him on. In fact, the services of Under-Secretary-General Adama Dieng were terminated for misattributing quotes to Dr Swamy. An elated Dr Swamy tweeted: “UN Under-Secretary General Mr Adaams Dieng, who defamed me in a media release by recycling my cut and spliced statement on CAA put out by Pakistani owned TV stn VICE, was terminated from UN post by “Good bye Sweetheart” letter from UNSG. I thank FS Shringla and UN Rep Trimurti.” Now, he has sent a defamation notice to Indian Express newspaper for publishing a column by Pakistani journalist Khaled Ahmed. Dr Swamy said that the Pakistani journalist wrote a lie that he said that Muslims are not equal citizens of India. This fake news was first published in a Canadian based TV known as Vice News owned by a Pakistani –  and the United Nation’s Dieng issued a Press Release based on this fake news. Incidentally, even BBC carried the same news and reportedly a legal notice has been sent to them too.
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Yediyuruppa: Is The TINA Factor Fading?

Buzz in the Karnataka BJP is that search is on to find a successor to replace the current Chief Minister BS Yediyuruppa who despite crossing the 75-years-age cut-off limit has continued to hold the CM’s post. The party insiders claim he has lost the TINA (There Is No Alternative) Factor as discontent brews among the ministers, the party men, and the RSS parivar. The rift between Yediyuruppa and BL Santhosh, BJP national general secretary (organisation) has been widening. After the recent cabinet reshuffle, Yediyuruppa was forced to change the portfolios in Day Two as Santosh raised hue and cry over portfolio distribution. Even though the Karnataka assembly elections are still two and half years away, a section of party has put up a strong argument for a new face to be the leader. Yediyuruppa’s clout, according to the insiders, is eroding and the leadership is not ready to sacrifice the BJP government because of him.
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Halwa Rituals For The Paperless Budget

The sweet scent of the ‘halwa ceremony’ at the Finance Ministry still lingers. N Sitaraman, the Finance Minister, ladled out the halwa to the face-masked officials and employees involved in the Budget preparation. This ritual marks the moment when the documents are green-flagged for printing. The final and irrevocable “go”. Not a line is added, not a line can be removed thereafter. Employees – each one involved, lock themselves in after the halwa is served till the printing is completed and sealed bundles are sent off to the Parliament House to avoid any leak of the Budget details till it’s read out in the Parliament. This time it could be “printed” in the pdf format. Yet, the media wouldn’t let go of its tradition of speculating on what the Budget may contain even after this. And lobbies often talk to the media to hopefully steer policies. The FinMin, however, has abandoned the practice of printing it on paper as in the past. The Budget, as the media have reported, has opted for a paperless Budget. But the futile speculation in the media continues. After all, who knows, at least one stone may hit the mango to boast about later!
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Jai Bangla, Jai Maharashtra

Bonhomie between Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banejree and Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray was on full display at the recent meeting of opposition chief ministers when Mamta praised Uddhav for doing a great job despite the BJP’s repeated predictions that the Maha Vikas Aghadi government will not last. Mamata also responded to Uddhav’s call for whether Humein darna hai ya ladna hai?” (Do we have to fear or fight)? She thundered: “Ladna hai (we must fight). Shiv Sena’s announcement to contest West Bengal assembly elections also comes with a tacit understanding. Sena proposes to contest polls on the Hindutva plank, working as the Team B of Mamata just as Asaduddin Owaisi’s All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen alleged to be the BJP’s Team B. Sena is insignificant in West Bengal but the Trinamool Congress insiders and the Shiv Sena think tank believe that it may split the BJP votes and thereby help Mamata in a small way. Although there will not be any formal alliance but voters may shout Jai Maharashtra and Jai Bangla together for the first time.
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BJP Trying To Break The Two-Party Hold In TN

Since 2014 the BJP has been trying very hard to make inroads into Tamil Nadu but found no takers – perhaps because its rivals have so far been successful at associating it with the Hindi chauvinism. This state, which rotates power between two parties AIADMK and DMK, has had three legendary leaders – M Karunanidhi, MGR and J Jayalalitha – running the State for almost 50 years. Now with no charismatic Dravidian leaders to turn to, the field seems to be open to a leader like Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is widely accepted in TN owing to his credentials as a crusader against corruption. Some impact is also being created by the ever-resourceful RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy, who is helping the BJP press the right button in TN. His research came in handy when the Modi government went in for demonetisation. Guru managed to convince the legendary star Rajnikant to enter politics. Thailava as he is popularly known said yes – and was all set to kick off his spiritual-political odyssey but for an unfortunate hospitalization and a health condition that stopped him in his tracks. Thailava has decided not to launch his own party or contest 2021 elections. In a new development, with Sasikala Natrajan, (confidante of the late J Jayalalithaa former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu) completing her jail term, the state’s political landscape once again changes.
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Come Back Rahul Ji Chorus Grows Louder

Despite veteran leader and former minister Kapil Sibal’s repeated criticism of the Congress party’s present state of affairs, chorus is growing louder for Rahul Gandhi to take over as the party president. The party veterans have taunted – without directly naming Rahul – that this move may not necessarily help revive the party or regain the past glory. But that has not stopped the party’s state leaders from kicking off the Come Back Rahul Ji campaign. Rahul had a major say in the recent appointments of the state-level or city-unit chiefs in various states, including Maharashtra. Senior party leaders may continue questioning the election process for the new president, but the local state leaders are unanimous that time is opportune for Rahul to take over as he is the sole leader who is fearlessly taking on the troika of PM Modi, the BJP and the RSS. So the scene shifts to the states for a moment.
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Mr Unpredictable

Eyebrows were raised when NCP MP Supriya Sule said her father and the party chief Sharad Pawar is most unpredictable. Well this view is widely shared not just by the NCP leaders but also by Pawar’s friends across parties. Be it his unilateral announcement to support the BJP to avoid fresh elections (even before the assembly poll results were announced in October 2019) or his support to the Modi government on the issue of conflict with China – the unpredictable Pawar was evident to all. Pawar also said one must not politicise matters related to national security, which irked the Congress and other opposition parties. Despite all this, Pawar is widely seen as the leader who can bring together the opposition and the like-minded parties to take on Modi led BJP in the next general elections. Though he has denied the speculation that he was eying the post of the UPA chairperson. Pawar stood out again when he welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling to stay three farm laws and appoint a four-member committee to talk to the agitating farmers. The BJP’s estranged ally Akali Dal claimed the new move as an ‘’unacceptable joke’’ while the Congress alleged that it was a partisan panel which could not be expected to be a “neutral arbiter.” Pawar’s close confidante in private admits that he would have held the PM’s post long back had he not been unpredictable! Yes, the breaking away from the Congress two decades ago was unpredictable too.

TRENDS & VIEWS

We Have Created A New Segment That Has Resonated Well With Readers: Short Post Editor

Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come, said Victor Hugo a long time ago. I felt likewise. So instead of waiting endlessly for the Covid-19 tide to ebb, I decided to take the plunge and launch www.shortpost.in on January 28, 2021. This website, the first of its kind in the country, focuses only on short ‘Authentic Gossip’. Clearly, content is king more so if it is short & crisp (225 words), as a large section of our society is steadily shifting to digital and mobile space. To achieve this, I was fortunate to muster editorial support of some of the most senior and respected journalists in the country to bring out credible content that involves, stimulates and entertains our highly discerning readers — from across continents. We have so far uploaded close to 1,000 posts covering areas like Business, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment. Yes, today we have crossed an important milestone in our journey – #ShortPostFirstAnniversary —  and we are confident many more will follow in keeping with our stated vision – to become a one stop site for authentic gossip. So, what next?  With the third wave showing signs of slowing down things can only look better. So as the year rolls by we promise to pack in more punches. Before I sign off I would like to thank our advertiser IDFC FIRST Bank, angel investors Anuradha Verma, Ashish Kakkar and you readers for making this journey possible.