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Odisha’s Metro Rail Project: An Election Gimmick Or Serious Intent?

With Lok Sabha elections a few months away all states are investing in infrastructure projects to reap the electoral dividends. The Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik is no different. Without the Centre’s support he has announced a metro rail project involving a big investment of nearly Rs 6,000 crore. In the first phase, the 26 km long rail line will connect Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. This is the single largest investment made in any infrastructure project in Odisha. The state has signed a pact with DMRC and expects the project to be completed in four years. The underlying objective of the rail project is to reduce the road traffic density. Political analysts are asking why is Patnaik going solo without seeking investment from the Union government? Reportedly, Patnaik government has been chasing the Union government for years to support this project but did not get any positive signal. Instead of waiting endlessly, the Patnaik government decided to go on its own. This is a flagship programme under the 5T Initiative that will also symbolise the emergence of a new Odisha. The Opposition BJP dismisses it as an election gimmick and it will be shelved once the elections are over in 2024. Only time will tell.
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Fadnavis Hits Back At Uddhav, Says Shiv Sena Had No Role In Babri Razing

The verbal war between the BJP and the Shiv Sena (Uddhav) over taking credit for the Babri demolition in 1992 is intensifying by the day. Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis took it to another level. Fadnavis revealed that the Sangh Parivar activists had been asked not to claim credit for the demolition and hence had never done so. He was livid since some Sena leaders, including Uddhav Thackeray, have castigated the BJP by asking about its contribution in the razing of the disputed structure. In a sharp retort, Fadnavis said the entire world knew that LK Advani, Uma Bharati and Murli Manohar Joshi were among those present in Ayodhya on 6 December 1992 while not a single Sena activist was involved in the demolition. Replying to questions about Balasaheb Thackeray’s statement that “I am proud if the demolition is carried out by Shiv Sainiks,” Fadnavis said that it was done in response to a media question, nothing more. However, those people who did not venture out of their house were trying to claim credit for the demolition, he said, taking a dig at Uddhav. He said he himself had attended the Kar Seva in Ayodhya repeatedly and was once in jail, too.  “The moment the structure came down was so joyful that it can’t be described in words,” recalled Fadnavis.
premlatha vijayakanth

Legacy Of Late Vijayakanth, Can Captain’s Widow Fit Into His Shoes?

The crowds that came to mourn late Captain Vijayakanth, founder of Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam(DMDK), were unprecedented, harking back to the same heart-rending sorrow when MGR passed away. The intelligence wing conveyed that 1.5 lakh people had come in person. Starting his political career in 2005, Vijayakanth aka “dark MGR” had not just made a significant transition from films to politics, but had become the leader of the opposition when J Jayalalithaa was in power — a rare feat.  Apparently, Vijayakanth’s demise has not left a succession void or clamour for leadership. Wife Premalatha, who is also a party treasurer, had taken charge even as he was in and out of hospitals in the last few years. She is no pretender inheritor. A little known fact about her. A BA in English literature, Premalatha is a former national level Shotput and Discus Throw athlete. Even as she stood by her husband’s cortège in the heat with crowds milling around, the determination to swim through this was evident. So were the efforts of the BJP, and other local TN parties to bring her into their sphere. Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman who attended the funeral was seen conveying the woman to woman empathy. Would the cosying up translate into an alliance? Premalatha is a canny and savvy woman. She must be fully aware of the worth and weight of Vijayakanth’s legacy. The ensuing months will show how strong and agile a sharpshooter Premalatha turns out to be.
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Is Time Is Running Out For Nitish Kumar As CM?

For a leader who was hoping to emerge as the PM face or at best as national convenor of the I.N.D.I.A front, it is odd that Nitish Kumar should find himself once again at the starting line. Yes, at the end of 2023 the Bihar CM found he was almost back to the  beginning, getting unanimously re-elected as president of Bihar’s ruling Janata Dal (United), a party he had help found nationally in October  2003. At the party’s national executive in Delhi, he was re-appointed party chief after close aide Lalan Singh stepped down. It is widely believed JDU Lok Sabha MP Lalan Singh had to make way for Nitish as the CM had become extremely suspicious of growing proximity between RJD leader Lalu Prasad and Lalan Singh; it was speculated that Lalan Singh could join a Tejashwi Yadav-led government in Bihar as deputy CM. Nitish who is prone to be circumspect of those close to him, grew very suspicious of Lalan Singh after Union Minister Giriraj Singh claimed Lalu Yadav had told him that “… the JDU will merge with RJD soon”. That buzz was dismissed by Tejashwi Yadav himself. With Lok Sabha polls 2024 round the corner, it is likely that time is running out for  Nitish Kumar  to hand over the baton to RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, who is now Deputy CM. Nitish’s lasting contribution to Bihar would be hiking reservation from the existing 60% to 75%.
Sonia ayodhya

Sonia In Ayodhya: Why Is The Cong Playing With Ram Sentiment

A day ahead of PM Modi’s visit to Ayodhya to inaugurate its airport and its redeveloped Ayodhya Dham Railway Station, the Congress decided it must also draw media attention to its wobbly Ayodhya stand. The party felt the best way to keep media interest alive would be to half disclose whether any of its top leaders would be attending temple inauguration on January 22. While initially a top party leader at an informal media interaction did indicate that Sonia Gandhi would be attending the event, for some reason effort was made by the same leader to obfuscate that Sonia’s participation would only be known on January 22. “A decision will be taken at an appropriate time, and communicated at an appropriate time,” said Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh.  Why was the Congress playing hide & seek with Bhagwan Ram’s sentiment?  “For the Ram temple opening, someone from the Nehru-Gandhi parivar has to be there.  As a Rae Bareli MP, Soniaji would be best advised to accept the invite — never mind what her partners in the I.N.D.I.A front like the TMC, the DMK or the Left Parties may say.  Only we have a political stake in North India. None of I.N.D.I.A partners have any stake in the Hindu votes in north India,” pointed out a Congress leader. After all it was late PM Rajiv Gandhi, who had opened the locks of Babri Masjid in 1985. Party sources also admitted that Sam Pitroda’s views on Ram Temple were so out of sync with today’s India and had boomeranged on him, forcing the party to officially distance itself from his views
jarvis

BJP Appoints Prive Election Strategist In West Bengal For 2024 Lok Sabha Election

Amid growing differences between the senior bloc and the new bloc of state BJP and several lobbies of the top functionaries of the Bengal unit, the Central BJP unit has decided to work with a private political consulting agency for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Jarvis Technology & Strategy Consulting has been appointed to counter ruling Trinamool Congress’ political strategist the Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC), created by Prashant Kishor. Party sources said that there won’t be any conflicts in the functioning of the agency and the BJP state unit. While the party’s state leadership will handle political campaigns and grassroots outreach initiatives, the agency will carry out on-the-ground and backup research to provide information to the state leadership which can enable political tactics for the state unit. Interestingly, State BJP president, Sukanta Majumdar hasn’t acknowledged or refuted the development, though asserting that election strategies are private and internal affairs. Meanwhile, party insiders said that as per initial plans, the consulting agency will operate not only from Kolkata but will set up camp offices in different districts of the state as well. Incidentally, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and National President JP Nadda who recently visited Kolkata made it categorical to the state unit that they will have to frame their strategies and policies to target 35 LS seat-win in 2024. Further, they must intensify social media campaigns from now on.
trans harbour

Efforts On To Bring PM Modi To Inaugurate Mumbai Trans Harbour Link Project On 12 Jan

The ruling alliance in Maharashtra is making intense efforts to coincide Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Nasik visit on 12 January next year with the inauguration of the massive Mumbai Trans Harbour Link project, connecting Mumbai with the mainland. Modi is scheduled to open the National Youth Festival on that day in Nasik on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekanand. Preparations have started for the mega event in which thousands of participants from across the country have been invited. To benefit from the slated visit in view of the coming general election, the Shinde-Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar triumvirate has decided to invite Modi for declaring open the longest sea bridge in the country, being constructed at a cost exceeding Rs 18,000 crore. In fact, it was to be commissioned on 25 December but this did not happen since some finishing touches remained. The link will prove to be of immense political importance for the ruling side since it will open new vistas of development. Similarly, the choice of Nasik for the youth fest is crucial since the city is identified with Lord Ram’s footprint and a major pilgrimage centre. Senior Maharashtra minister Girish Mahajan has been entrusted to make adequate preparations for the PM’s visit, during which some major announcements eyeing the polls are anticipated.
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Is A Reconciliation Between BJP And AIADMK In The Offing?

AIADMK chief Edappadi K Palanisami (EPS) seems to have got his calculations all wrong when he broke away from the NDA to Lone Ranger status for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Was it an act of bravado or was his defiance based on ego problems with the BJP? Incidentally, EPS did not attract that overwhelming response from small political parties that cannot face an election alone, but add up to respectable strength as allies. The only party (quite unknown), Puratchi Bharatham led by Poovai Jagannathan has allied with AIADMK. Even as his cadres were focusing on flood relief work in Southern districts, EPS had to attend a “conclave“ of this unknown party in Villupuram. The veteran, better known parties and power stakeholders like PMK and Vijayakanth’s Themu Thika are not making haste to join AIADMK-led coalition. His cadres are lamenting, “What seat sharing with one party”? Are both the breakaways regretting the break-up? According to some sources, the BJP is now firmly in the saddle after the three states election wins. The talk is that the BJP high command have zeroed in on Tamil Manila Congress leader GK Vasan to bring about a face saving rapport. Vasan is perceived as a calm pacifist, capable of convincing stubborn sides and like his late father GK Mooppanar bring prickly issues to the deal making table.
Anna jarange

Is Maratha Leader Jarange Patil Going The Anna Hazare Way?

As Maharashtra gears up for yet another political fast fest called by Manoj Jarange Patil, analysts can’t help drawing parallels with state’s another fasting icon — Anna Hazare.  Maratha leader Jarange Patil call for an indefinite fast from January 20, 2024 onwards — his third since his last 17-day fast in September. Just like Jarange Patil, Hazare was also known to send shivers down the spine of governments with his call for fasts on various issues be it demanding Lokpal Bill or action against corrupt ministers or demanding stronger Right to Information (RTI) Act. Both attracted huge crowds and sustained media attention. Their fasts follow the same pattern — delegations of ministers turning up to negotiate terms and chief ministers turning up personally to end the fast by offering orange juice. This was true of Hazare who had the honours done for him by Devendra Fadnavis in 2018, a model followed by current CM Eknath Shinde for Jarange Patil in Jalna recently. Both were neither MPs, MLAs nor MLCs and yet managed to wield enough clout to get their way with the government of the day.  Both gave distinct identity to their hometowns — Ralegan Siddhi (Hazare) and Antarwel Sarati (Jarange Patil). Anna Hazare’s famous fast at Jantar Mantar in Delhi had led to the birth of the Aam Aadmi Party that is now in power in two states. So far, Jarange Patil claims to have no political ambitions, but it now remains to be seen if his Maratha reservation movement will disrupt existing equations in state.
shashank vikram

Consul General Of India In Birmingham Puts Rumours To Rest, Gets Bali Posting

Putting to rest rumours about getting an extension, Dr Shashank Vikram, Consul General (CG) of India, Birmingham has gone back to New Delhi. The New Year will see him take over as CG of Bali Island. In Birmingham, Venkat Murugan replaces Dr Vikram. The Head of Chancery, Aman Bansal at the CGI Birmingham is now the acting CG.  Dr Vikram who held the reins for nearly three years was appointed when Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak. His earlier postings in Lisbon and Durban were challenging. At Durban, it was a trying moment when his house, and family were attacked by a mob. But, he chose to soldier on. At Birmingham, he had to face the pro-Khalistani lobby who did not spare a single opportunity to protest at the CG office.  In his three-year tenure in Birmingham he managed to make significant changes that found favours with the Indian diaspora. A case in point is the exponential rise in visa applications — from 5000 to 40000. Dr Vikram may find his new posting in Bali probably less challenging as the larger section of the population is predominantly Hindu and Indonesia as a nation is a strong partner in the ASEAN with India and holds strong cultural, spiritual economic bonds.
uddhav mahajan

Uddhav Thackeray Lampooned Over Non-Invite For Ayodhya Temple Inaugural

Senior Maharashtra minister Girish Mahajan has rubbed salt into Uddhav Thackeray’s wound over the denial of invite to him for the Ram Mandir inauguration ceremony as his bete noire Raj Thackeray has been invited to attend the 22 January inaugural in Ayodhya. The absence of any such communication for his cousin Uddhav has been lambasted by Shiv Sena (Uddhav) leaders over the past few days. Taking a dig at this discomfiture, Mahajan quipped, “Uddhav is just a legislator. Perhaps he is not in the Centre’s VVIP list.” When it was pointed out that Uddhav had donated Rs 1 crore for the temple, Mahajan retorted that many people had made such donations. “Let Sena MP Sanjay Raut show me a picture wherein Uddhav is seen performing Kar Seva,” he challenged. A close confidant of deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and a trouble shooter for the three-party government in Maharashtra, Mahajan minced no words while praising the outright stand taken by late Balasaheb Thackeray about the temple, sharpening his attack against Uddhav. “It is one thing to just support some mission by staying at home and quite another to actually toil for it. We were in jail during the temple revival movement,” Mahajan said, reflecting indirectly the stock criticism that Uddhav ran the government for two and a half years by staying at Matoshree, visiting Mantralaya only thrice.
BrijBhushan

Brijbhushan Singh On The Mat, Sanyaas From Wrestling And Lok Sabha Format?

The Union Sports ministry dismissed the newly elected Wrestling Federation of India body under president Sanjay Singh, close confidant of erstwhile president, BJP MP Brijbhushan Singh whose exit followed sexual harassment allegations by women wrestlers in India. The BJP strongman MP had also thrown the gauntlet at MNS Chief Raj Thackeray last year threatening him against visiting UP to seek blessings of Lord Rama. Singh’s criminal antecedents, including live boasts of killing rivals in gunfights and acquittal by special CBI court for lack of evidence over harbouring sharp shooters involved in the infamous JJ Hospital case of 1992 in Mumbai, invited the ire of the BJP high command that had mandated an unbiased welcome for all pilgrims. UP CM Yogi Adityanath even booked the Ayodhya state guest house to facilitate the MNS chief’s proposed June 5 visit this year. A source reveals, “Brijbhushan Singh came under the radar because his outburst against Thackeray followed his closed-door meeting at Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut’s bungalow in New Delhi also attended by NCP chief Sharad Pawar. Vested foreign interests provoked Singh against Thackeray, it was learnt.” The former WFI president announced his sanyaas from WFI in December 2022 and has now started political rounds, meeting BJP national president JP Nadda, over his Lok Sabha candidature from Kaisargang. The BJP’s Sanyasi UP CM Adityanath has clearly won the bout with a knockout “Dhobipachhad’ move as subdued Singh now lives on political hope for survival. Singh’s belligerent posturing has also been replaced with humility now.
party symbol

Will BJP Go Solo In Maharashtra?

Is the BJP planning to ditch rebels of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Shiv Sena (SS) to contest solo in Maharashtra? This claim by Sharad Pawar supporter Jitendra Awhad has created a flutter and touched a raw nerve among the rebel camps of both Eknath Shinde and the Ajit Pawar. Awhad said that buoyed by the BJP’s recent victory in three North Indian states, the party’s internal surveys and deliberations with RSS had led to this strategy. Awhad also claimed that a BJP survey had found that its old cadres were getting disillusioned with it thanks to its growing proximity to tainted leaders and had wanted those to be kept away. The rebels of SS and NCP, who switched loyalties with Eknath Shinde and Ajit Pawar are now worried about whether the BJP will accommodate their political aspirations. Not only could Shinde and Pawar find it difficult to hold their flock together, these splinter groups could also be asked to merge with the BJP. The appointments of upstarts over seasoned stalwarts for chief ministership in the three states by BJP doesn’t bode well for the likes of strong leaders like Shinde and Ajit Pawar either. The strategy of going solo works well with the larger BJP strategy to wipe out the political significance and electoral value of strong regional outfits and their symbols. Though the splinter NCP and Shiv Sena groups are aligned with the BJP, the party hasn’t forgotten the 2019 Vidhan Sabha polls when it was upstaged out of power in Maharashtra despite BJP getting the highest tally of legislators.
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Udhayanidhi's Spars With FM Because Of Aunt Kani's Work In Thoothukudi?

Does Tamil Nadu minister Udhayanidhi Stalin’s public spat with Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman have more to do with the way his aunt Kanimozhi has been receiving help from the Centre in combating floods in her Thoothukudi Lok Sabha constituency? It seems so. Stalin Jr who represents an assembly segment in Chennai-Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni, seemed to be struggling to reach out to flood hit in Chennai, when Kanimozhi had already managed to reach her constituency because of a tip off from the Centre and be with her voters. Apart from taking IMD red alert warning seriously, Nirmala also had a chat with her. The FM had taken up the issue of mobilising NDRF support for southern TN districts with Home Minister Amit Shah. In fact, Kanimozhi publicly went on to acknowledge in a post on X the kind of help she received from the Centre via FM. It appears Udhayanidhi tried to step out of his home in Chennai only to compete with his aunt who seemed to be doing well in her constituency. So it seems Udhayanidhi’s petty quarrel with the FM over TN not asking “anyone’s father’s money but only a share of the tax paid by its people” could be more of a point he wanted to settle within the family
Mamata_018

Will Age Be The Deciding Factor To Distribute Lok Sabha Ticket In Trinamool?

At a time when Trinamool Congress (TMC) is rife with the debate of old guard vs new guard, there is a strong vibe of tickets being distributed on the basis of age. Party’s second in command Abhishek Banerjee has been pushing for 65 years as the upper limit of age for contesting a poll and holding party post. However, Didi thinks otherwise where in her words, “The age is in mind, and as long as you can serve people you need to continue.” Interestingly, if Abhishek’s theory is to be considered then at present out of 23 MPs, 10 MPs are above the age bracket. They are: Sudip Banerjee (71), Sougata Roy (77), Shatrughan Sinha (77), Mala Roy (66) and Kakali Ghosh (65). Besides age there are other exclusion criteria. For instance, TMC MP Sisir Adhikari, father of BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari may be replaced. Significantly, if TMC goes by age criterion then it will have to bring 29 new faces out of 42 seats that they would be contesting in 2024 polls. Besides, party sources indicated that TMC may field in the seats they lost in 2019 Lok Sabha election. Incidentally, the TMC’s candidate list in 2019 polls was a mixed bag comprising stars, youth, seniors, women and backward. They helped the party. So one has to wait-and-watch who has their way –Didi or nephew.
naveen patnaik sadhu

Odisha Chief Minister Checkmates BJP & Cong, Plays Hindu Card In A Big Way

It is no secret Naveen Patnaik’s party, the Biju Janata Dal is focusing on ancient temple development, its beautification and improving its amenities in a big way providing satisfaction to devotees. Just like PM Modi’s revival of Shri Kashi Vishwanath temple in Uttar Pradesh. Patnaik has started in a big way by focusing on improving amenities at five big temples — Lord Jagannath Temple Puri), 11th century Lingaraja Tempe ( Bhubaneswar), 16th century Samaleswari Temple (Sambalpur), Tara Tarni Temple (Ganjam) and Biraja Temple (Jajpur). By investing Rs 943 crore he has already transformed the 12th century Jagannath Temple into a modern day pilgrim centre. The inauguration is lined up between Jan 15 and Jan 17, 2024. Reportedly, 7000 invites which include VVIPs like PM Modi, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, King of Nepal, Baba Ramdev, 857 temple heads from Odisha and heads of temples across India, temple heads from overseas, corporate czars and film celebrities have been sent. Why is Odisha CM prioritising temple development in a big way? Sources say, Patnaik like Modi has opted for a soft Hindutva strategy in shrine management, improving its amenities which is expected to give BJD a leg up in the 2024 Lok Sabha election and also improve religious tourism. This is being hailed as Patnaik’s master stroke game. A political professor at Utkal University said,”Religion is a low hanging fruit and Puri being the religious capital of Odisha, Naveen is using it effectively”.
KPonmudy

DMK On The Back Foot After Ponmudy’s Conviction

The ruling DMK has been pushed onto the backfoot in Tamil Nadu. In a first, a senior DMK minister has been convicted of graft. K Ponmudy, already convicted in 2016, had the verdict overturned smartly after the party came back to power in 2021. But the wheels of justice, known to roll along slowly, caught up with him. Priding itself on having nil convictions in its long rule, the DMK used to deride the AIADMK for corruption cases, including those against J Jayalalithaa, in some of which she was convicted and did go to jail. But the smart recovery of convicted Ponmudy may not have escaped the eyes of the Madras High Court. And now other senior ministers are running scared. Having resorted to legal legerdemain to stay in power, the likes of Thangam Thennarasu, S Raghupathy and Anita Radhakrishnan are now worried if their cases would be raked up again. They are hoping that Ponmudy’s appeal to the top court would bear fruit quickly as there is an issue of latent bias in the ruling by tough judge G Jayachandran. Another uncompromising judge in Anand Venkatesan has been posted to take charge of cases against elected representatives and serious judicial action is on the cards. Tamil Nadu’s institutionalised corruption, that has enriched ruling families and close aides of both Dravidian parties, may be exposed again.
Ram mandir invite

Have Ayodhya Invites Put Sonia & Kharge In A Fix?

Exactly a month from now the Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Temple in Ayodhya would have been inaugurated by PM Modi on January 22. Yet, what  is really making news is that if those being left out of the event — like Uddhav Thackeray are complaining about being missing from the guest list, it seems those included  like Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and  Mallikarjun Kharge, are not too happy about receiving  the invites. The two leaders received the invites personally from Nripendra Misra, former principal secretary to PM Modi and chairman of the temple construction committee of Shri Ram Janmboomi Teerth Trust. Have the Ayodhya invites put the Congress leaders in a fix? Probably. That is because neither Sonia nor Kharge are known to patronise temples or are practising Hindus. Lok Sabha MP Adhir Choudhury too has been invited. When asked whether any of their leaders would be at Ayodhya, party functionary KC Venugopal curtly replied, “You will know about the party’s stand… on January 22.” Party sources said the Congress leadership seems to be guided by the Left Parties and the DMK which want to mobilise counter opinion against Ram temple. However, at the CWC meeting Kerala leader Ramesh Chennithala who took a strong position in the Sabarimala Temple issue and forced the CPI(M)to  change its stand, suggested that the Congress ought to form a panel to assess mood within the party. He felt any move against the Ram temple could cost party votes in the North. Brushing aside such fears a CWC member said,”Ram temple will matter only in UP. In Bihar, we tackle Ram with caste census.”
Siddaramiah private flight

Siddaramaiah: Courting Controversy With Luxury Once Again

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah seems to be in the habit of courting controversy with luxury. If in his last stint in office he had trouble over an expensive Hublot watch that he was wearing, this time it is the private luxury jet he took to Delhi to attend an official appointment with PM Modi. Of course, the entire blame for flying Siddaramaiah in style would go to Karnataka Minorities Affairs Minister BZ Zameer Ahmed Khan. A close aide of the CM, Zaheer had played an important role in weaning away Muslim votes towards the Congress from the BRS in Telangana. High on Telangana victory, Zaheer uploaded pictures of the CM and a few colleagues enjoying their luxury ride aboard his jet. What riled everyone in Karnataka political circles was that the CM had gone to meet PM Modi to seek funds for drought relief. By the time he returned to Bengaluru, Siddaramaiah was questioning PM Modi travelling in a special jet commensurate with his office. Hounded by queries on his travel mode, the CM lost his cool. Or maybe the info that the entire HD Devegowda family had met with PM Modi had unsettled him. In March 2016 when Karnataka Assembly had witnessed stormy scenes over a Hublot watch Siddaramaiah had worn and JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy led the charge, saying it was worth Rs 70 lakh. After days of being evasive, the CM finally admitted that the watch, a gift from a doctor friend, cost Rs 7 lakh and he would declare it a state asset.
Ajit modi

Maha State Polls To Coincide With Lok Sabha Elections, Come April?

Is Maharashtra heading for simultaneous polls of its state assembly coinciding with general elections of Bharat? Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent statements emphasizing “One nation, one poll” compounded with a dismal political picture painted by internal surveys by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) indicate exactly such a prospect. A well-placed source says, “Results of recent assembly elections in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh enthused BJP tremendously as state level anti-incumbency was effectively neutralized by Modi’s persona bringing rich political dividends even in MP where Congress was dead sure of a win. A similar political situation exists in Maharashtra, where the Shinde led Shiv Sena faction (40 MLAs plus 10 independents), even Ajit Pawar’s NCP grouping may not perform well in the next state assembly elections after the current government’s tenure ends in November 2024. The party was mulling over simultaneous polls for over a year now.” Even the BJP retaining its 2019 figure of 105 MLAs in Maharashtra, that came down from 122 MLAs in the 2014 state assemblies, was a deciding factor. The Prime Minister is also a votary of the two (national) party system of democracy as prevalent in the USA. The I.N.D.I.A coalition of opposition political formations under a single umbrella in 2023 is viewed by the BJP as a step in this direction. The party feels public disenchantment with their current three-party alliance government in Maharashtra can be simply countered by projecting Modi’s face for the twin polls being held simultaneously. Will I.N.D.I.A stay together?
Gita chant

The Print

BJP Cadres Disappointed As PM Modi Not To Attend Bhagavad Gita Mass Recitation Event In Kolkata

In a major blow to the organisers of the ‘Ek Lokho Konthe Gita Path’ (Gita Chant in Lakh Voices) event, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reportedly not attending the Brigade Parade Ground event in Kolkata on December 24 because of a government programme. PM Modi was supposed to recite the Gita with Shankaracharya Sadanand Saraswati. Besides Modi not attending, the organiser has yet to get confirmation from the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. In a show of strength for the past three months, Bengal BJP went ahead with the plan keeping PM Modi at the forefront. It is learnt that not only the Sanatanis but also BJP workers and functionaries are hugely disappointed with this development. Meanwhile, Assembly Opposition Leader Suvendu Adhikari and BJP State President Sukanta Majumdar convened an emergency meeting after being informed by the PMO about the PM’s absence. Party sources said that frustration is evident among the workers as the city has witnessed extensive displays of banners and posters featuring the Prime Minister announcing his presence at the programme. It is also learnt that around 3,500 sants (sadhus) will be coming for the event and over 55,000 Bengali translations and 34,000 Hindi copies of the Bhagavad Gita have been sold in the last 10 days.
VKPandian

Why Is Naveen Patnaik's Protege VK Pandian Not Contesting Elections

Speculations are rife as to why Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s protege, ex-IAS officer VK Pandian, now 5T chairman, is not contesting the 2024 assembly election. Pandian, who holds the cabinet rank, is the second most influential person in Biju Janata Dal (BJD). Party sources say Pandian’s decision could not have been possible without Patnaik’s nod. This is not the right time for Pandian to contest election given the fact he is saddled with enormous party responsibilities. Pandian has to earn Naveen’s complete trust regarding his organizational capacity, people management skills, and resolving contradictions. Basically, Pandian has to ensure that BJD wins both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in 2024 handsomely. It is learnt Pandian will play a greater role including timely temple renovation of Lord Jagannath temple, all round infrastructure development, school and college transformation, fight for special category status for Odisha, manage perceptions at the grass root levels, solve interstate conflicts. Pandian now speaks like a politician when he says that he has been blessed with two things:  one to serve Lord Jagannath and another work under chief minister Patnaik.
suspension

Veep Dhankar Plays Jat Card, Could Cost Congress In Haryana, UP

More than suspension of 141 Opposition MPs, what has taken centre stage is mimicry and humiliation of the Vice President of India and Rajya Sabha chairman Jagdeep Dhankar by suspended members. The issue escalated with PM Modi speaking over phone to Dhankar on December 18 to express “pain” over disrespect shown to his office by suspended Lok Sabha MP Kalyan Banerjee who mimicked his style of presiding over the House. Dhankar shared in a post that the PM shared his own experience of being at the receiving end but “the fact that it could happen to a Constitutional office like the Vice President of India …was unfortunate.” The Opposition has also been humiliating the Chair by boycotting meetings called by him. This led him to play Jat card in the House as he made it clear to Congress leader P Chidambaram that Kalyan’s mimicry act videographed by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, had “ravaged” his office and was a personal insult to him. He said, “…I had suffered… Mr Chidambaram, your party put a video on Instagram, which was withdrawn later on. That was a shame to me. You used the official Twitter (now X) handle of the spokesperson to demean me, insult my background as a farmer, my position as a Jat, insult my position as a chairman…these are too serious issues.”  President Droupadi Murmu said she was dismayed by the incident.  Meanwhile Mamata Banerjee tried to pin the blame on Rahul Gandhi saying “you would not even come to know about this had Rahulji not taken the video.”
Sonia_mallika

INC.in

A Million Party Workers To Attend Congress Foundation Day Rally In Nagpur

The Indian National Congress has started spirited preparations for its 28 December rally in Nagpur where a million party workers and supporters are planned to remain present. Top Congress leaders like Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge as well as various office-bearers will attend the first show of strength after the recent assembly election drubbing the party has suffered. The suspension of most of its MPs from the two houses of Parliament has provided a moral boost for the party to stand up and fight back, several leaders say. To coincide with the party’s Foundation Day, the rally’s venue will be finalised within the next two days. Tentatively, two locations are finding favours. The sprawling grounds at Dabha a few weeks ago housed an AgroVision exhibition and could accommodate a huge turnout. Former minister Satish Chaturvedi’s Lokmanya Tilak Jan Kalyan Sanstha, too, has a large open ground at its Priyadarshini campus. This is in close vicinity of the airport and suitable from various angles. Party leaders have inspected these and some other possible locations. Congress general secretary KC Venugopal is monitoring the preparations. Once a stronghold of the Congress party, Nagpur slipped from its hands in 2014 to elect popular BJP leader Nitin Gadkari to the Lok Sabha. The party is determined to wrest the seat from the BJP at the RSS headquarters this time. The rally will be one step in this direction, the workers will be told and spurred to work.
Sonia mallika lalu_Inc

INC.in

Modi Links India With AI; Didi's Kharge Move Disappoints 3 Leaders

Reports about proceedings at the I.N.D.I.A meeting where Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and RJD leader Lalu Prasad made no concession to translate their Hindi speeches into English for Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin and DMK leader TR Baalu may not bode well for the Opposition alliance. Imagine TN, the second top performing state in terms of GDP after Maharashtra should be told by a state that is among the bottom 5 that the state should learn Hindi as it is a “national” language, certainly doesn’t augur well for Nitish’s transition to national politics. Let us contrast this with the way PM Modi has evolved over the years from being a three-term CM of Gujarat. As PM in the last 9 years Modi has been trying to reach out to people from across the country and now he is making an effort to reach out to them in their own language via AI-based translation Bhashini. Yes, Bhashini was a new experiment he carried out with his speech at Kashi Tamil Sangamam last week.  The simultaneous AI-based Tamil translation was done through Bhashini. As for the I.N.D.I.A Delhi meet outcome, it has left three leaders disappointed — Nitish, Lalu and Sonia Gandhi. While Nitish was hoping to be declared convenor and Lalu was hoping Nitish would demit the CM post to elevate his son Tejashwi, Sonia was completely outwitted by Mamata’s move to project Mallikarjun Kharge as PM face. Full marks to Didi for unscrambling the line-up of leaders within I.N.D.I.A. As of now, she holds the aces. A kinder view of Nitish is that he was trying to teach DMK a lesson for opposing sanatan dharma.
Bharat Jodo

INC

With Elections Round The Corner Rahul Gandhi Surprises With Bharat Jodo Yatra 2.0

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s decision to embark on the Bharat Jodo Yatra 2.0 sometime in January in the run up to Lok Sabha polls, caught party leaders by surprise. By deciding to embark on a journey from the North East — sometime in January — Rahul had clearly decided to keep away from the nitty-gritty of planning and campaigning for the 2024 elections, party sources said. Either he wants to use the yatra as a face-saver for the 2024 outcome that is expected to go in favour of the BJP. Or he is merely shirking his responsibilities towards the party as its star campaigner. Party leaders are also surprised by the manner in which he has decided to latch on to slogans against “unemployment” and “inflation”– slogans raised by those who breached Parliament security. Why is a senior Congress leader like Rahul Gandhi giving legitimacy to slogans given by two “out of work” young men who trapeze from visitor’s gallery into the Lok Sabha chamber in utter breach of security? Is it because they were echoing Rahul’s charges against the Modi government at a time when it was not finding traction among voters in the North. To make matters worse Rahul even treated security breach in Parliament as a non-issue and wanted the entire focus to be on unemployment instead. In a post, Rahul asked “Where are the jobs? The youths are desperate. We have to focus on this issue and give jobs to the youth.” Party leaders were disappointed that Rahul was in no mood to confront the government on security failure.
Udhayanidhi_Tamilasai

Telangana Governor Ticks Off Stalin Jr Over His Intemperate Language

The DMK and its high decibel love for Tamil seems to have bypassed the loyalty of heir-in-waiting Udhayanidhi Stalin. Hardly had the dust and diatribe settled on Udhayanidhi’s interpretation of Sanatana Dharma, he has taken on himself yet another controversial indiscreet challenge. The Tamil Nadu government has sought Rs 5,060 crore relief from the Centre to rehabilitate people affected by Cyclone Michaung. The Centre, after the visit of its two senior ministers, sanctioned Rs 450 crore in two tranches. Irked by this amount, Stalin Jr said, “We did not ask for anybody’s father’s property…just our tax money.” Put off by the tone and tenor of such intemperate words, the Governor of Telangana & Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, Tamilisai Soundararajan, took on Stalin Jr and said “Is this Kalaignar’s grandson for real? The Kalaignar we all knew and respected would never use such words. Even ticking off someone would be in chaste Tamil with all the niceties intact.” Adding further she said that any DMK member can ask, is this monolith your grandfather/father’s property that you just walk in and claim as yours? The Governor further warned the young colt, your diatribe on Sanatana Dharma has raised the hackles of many in the I.N.D.I.A front. Udhayanidhi who feels that he is entitled to the last word said “Ok, I shall rephrase my comment. Is this the venerable Governor’s father’s estate?
Mamata_Abhishek

Trinamool Leaders Coin New Line To Keep ‘Old Guard Vs New' Rift At Bay

For several days, the issue of the age of political leadership rocked Trinamool Congress. The party which is reportedly divided between Mamata front and Abhishek front found a smart way to move an end to this discussion. During the foundation day celebration of the Indian National Trinamool Trade Union Congress senior Trinamool leader and MP, Sudip Banerjee said that the senior leadership feels that the party must address workers as “Under the leadership of Mamata and commandership of Abhishek.” Echoing similar lines, veteran TMC leader and minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay has observed that he would rather like to portray Mamata as the driving force behind the party and Abhishek as the emerging leader of the party. Incidentally, Didi recently during a party programme made it clear that the ‘new’ has to pay respect to the ‘old’ and the ‘old’ has to bring the ‘new’ closer. Significantly, post this unexpected debate, Abhishek for the first time stated that party workers need to derive inspiration from veterans and yet it’s important to consider work efficiency and productivity after a certain age hence there should be a retirement age in politics. Incidentally, 10 out 23 of its Lok Sabha MPs are aged over 65 years, with many party seniors feeling the heat of their age as contestants in next year’s Lok Sabha polls swirl through the party ranks.
Eknath Devendra

Maratha Reservation Highlights Rift Between Shinde And Fadnavis

The Maratha reservation agitation issue has helped chief minister Eknath Shinde get one-up over his deputy and predecessor Devendra Fadnavis. Shinde’s political acumen has helped him win favour with Maratha leader Manoj Jarage Patil, who publicly proclaims that Shinde could be the only person who can make reservations for Marathas possible. Patil though reserves his ire against Fadnavis for creating unrest by ‘poisoning’ the minds of Maratha leaders and has even advised the BJP to expel him from the party and the state. Jarange is upset at Fadnavis for propping up Chhagan Bhujbal for challenging and consolidating the Other Backward Class (OBC) community against him. Jarange and Bhujbal have been involved in a bitter war of words that has stretched to personal lows. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s shift in stance that the Maratha community cannot be granted blanket reservation, has also upset Jarange, who claims that it was an assurance given to get him to withdraw from his 17-day hunger fast on the issue. Police cases against Jarange’s supporters for stone throwing against policemen, has further fuelled anger against Fadnavis, since he holds the home portfolio. While tendering his resignation, state backward class commission member BL Killarikar had claimed that Shinde was ready to conduct a large-scale survey of communities, but was opposed by Fadnavis. The Opposition believes that both the Maratha and OBC agitations are state-sponsored to divert attention from genuine issues affecting the state.
Uddhav thackeray_March

Uddhav’s March Against Adani For Dharavi Project Generates Fireworks, But Not Concrete Outcome

Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray’s protest march against the government’s decision to entrust the redevelopment of Dharavi, the largest slum of Asia, to the controversial Adani Group has been highlighted more for the fireworks between the protagonists and detractors of Adani than forcing the authorities from taking any concrete action. The redevelopment of the project worth thousands of crores of rupees had been pending for decades. During Uddhav’s chief ministership, too, the plan to redevelop Dharavi was hanging fire. While Uddhav made several demands while leading the protest in Mumbai on Saturday (Dec 16), his opponents trapped him by demanding to know what steps he had taken during his tenure for Dharavi. Some went to the extent of alleging that the tacit intent of the march was quite different and was linked with Uddhav’s new residence, Matoshree-II, at nearby Kala Nagar in Bandra East. The present plan which Adani will implement envisages giving units of 500 sq ft each to the eligible slum dwellers. Earlier, units of 400 sq ft were offered. Uddhav has demanded units of 750 sq ft. The oft-repeated charge that the Union government was bent upon separating Mumbai from Maharashtra was once again heard and the BJP’s expected response that no such conspiracy is hatching has followed. The fate of the beneficiaries will depend upon the turns the state politics takes as changing sides is becoming a commonplace activity in Maharashtra.
Karti chidambaram

Karti Sets Record As Most Searched Indian

Karti Chidambaram has a healthy contempt for the powers that be and the central investigating agencies. He has probably set a record for being the most searched Indian with the ED constantly after him. In the latest episode, Karti countered them by asking for time since they were only on a fishing expedition and that he had to get his documents ready to satisfy them. He has greater ambitions within the Congress and would rather see them fulfilled. For starters, he would like to head the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee which has a veteran politician holding the post of President now but there is reason to believe he is out of touch with the changing scenario in which traditional media houses are being overtaken by the social media channels as purveyors of news. If the TNCC, once famous for felicity in flipping between the DMK and AIADMK despite the Centre having toppled both the governments of M Karunanidhi and MG Ramachandran and bringing in President’s Rule. Currently with the DMK in the ruling alliance with a prominent position and commanding eight MPs in the Lok Sabha, the Congress is hoping to lean on the Dravidian party for more seats in the 2024 polls. Expect a promotion any time soon for Karti Chidambaram to head TNCC and drive the bargaining for seats.
sugarcane

Centre Revises Ethanol Curb, Maharashtra & Karnataka To Benefit

The Union government’s sudden move to permit the use of sugarcane juice and B-heavy molasses for ethanol production with a ceiling of 17 lakh tonnes for the current marketing year has hardly surprised sugar barons in Maharashtra and Karnataka since these two major states are the ruling BJP’s strongholds. Together, they produce around 60% of India’s total sugar output. Though Karnataka has voted against the BJP in recent assembly elections, the party is preparing to storm the state for the upcoming Lok Sabha election. The same logic applies to Maharashtra. Veteran leader Sharad Pawar’s power base is dependent upon the massive sugar lobby, which now is fractured. Its one section has followed his nephew Ajit Pawar, who has now joined the Shinde-Fadnavis government and started praising PM Narendra Modi as well home minister Amit Shah. Immediately after the Centre’s decision about the ethanol production restriction was announced, there was a wave of anger in Maharashtra. The Opposition cornered the state government and Ajit Pawar had to assure the legislature that he would visit Delhi to plead with the Centre to reconsider the decision. Now that it has happened, the Opposition ranks have been re-planning their strategy. The victorious three-party government, on the other hand, will exploit the political benefit of the revised decision. The Centre’s reassurance that there will be adequate sugar availability in the country in the months to come will assuage the sentiments of the middle class, too, it is felt.
ChhaganBhujbal_002

Bhujbal Faces Life Threat, Sticks To His Pro-OBC Stand

Firebrand OBC leader Chhagan Bhujbal has stopped his morning strolls due to the perceived threat to his life. “I will be shot down, I have been warned by my people,” he has alleged in an interaction with the media. Bhujbal’s explosive speech in the Maharashtra legislative assembly on December 11 has gone viral as he has caught Maratha leaders in a cleft stick. “Tell me, do you want to be registered as a Kunbi,” he asked top legislators like Balasaheb Thorat, a powerful cooperative sugar Maratha baron. There was silence. For Marathas, accepting to be Kunabis means admitting that they belong to the OBCs, traditionally considered a rung down from Maharashtra’s ruling clans in the generational caste hierarchy. As Bhujbal is emerging as the sole OBC leader in the state, the verbal attacks against him are becoming sharper. Bhujbal has been championing the OBC cause for half a century and is perhaps the first mass leader to speak out openly against the Maratha domination, albeit in a veiled manner. Though he has repeatedly stated that he is not opposed to the Maratha demand for reservations, he has also made it clear that the OBC reservation quota must not be sliced to accommodate the Maratha caste in the reservation cover. Manoj Jarange Patil, who is leading the Maratha demand marches, has reiterated that the December 24 deadline for fulfilling the Maratha demand must be implemented at any cost. The state government is assessing the situation.
EPS_003

EPS Wants Place For AIADMK In I.N.D.I. Alliance

Politics might be well-known for its propensity to bring together the strangest bedfellows. In today’s context of political alliances that are firming up before the 2024 polls, the strangest alliance being sought is that of the AIADMK pressing for a place in the I.N.D.I. alliance. Edappadi Palaniswami is hankering for it and is pursuing it through talks with the likes of Mallikarjun Kharge. His reasoning is simple. The DMK is not an ideal partner in the alliance because of its anti-Hindu stance. He is pointing out that Kamal Nath not only spoke about it but also wrote a letter to the Congress high command complaining against the anti-Sanatana Dharma stand of Udhayanidhi Stalin that is against the interests of the Congress party. In fact, he blames the anti-Hindu posturing of the likes of junior Stalin and A Raja for the Congress losing the Madhya Pradesh election. The Periyarist philosophy based on atheism may have a few followers in the Dravidian heartland, but it has few takers outside Tamil Nadu and publicising it will only hurt the Congress in the Hindi-Hindu-Hindutva heartland. Palaniswami has indicated that his party is willing to be part of the I.N.D.I. alliance regardless of whether the DMK is part of it or not. He is keen on making the point that the DMK will bring down the alliance’s chances in the 2024 polls.
Opposition meet bengaluru

Will State Poll Defeat Make “Flexible Congress” Take Backseat In Seat Sharing Talks?

The Congress debacle in Hindi heartland in the recently held assembly polls puts it at a disadvantage to negotiate seat sharing for the 2024 general elections. According to sources, the Congress leadership has started preliminary talks with the leaders of several regional parties on seat settlement. Regional parties in I.N.D.I.A are in an ‘advantageous’ position with Congress losing three states. Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar in Bihar have got the opportunity to put Congress ‘under pressure’. Amid allegations of being a dictator in the coalition front, Congress felt the heat after several regional party heads Mamata, Akhilesh, Nitish saying “no” to Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge’s hasty calling of the I.N.D.I.A. meeting. According to Delhi Congress sources, Rahul Gandhi has already held initial discussions with Mamata about seat sharing. It may be noted that Trinamool Congress has agreed to allot three seats out of 42 seats to Congress in the Lok Sabha polls. Two of the three constituencies are Adhir Chowdhury’s Baharampur and Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury’s Maldah South. The third constituency is the late Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi constituency — Raiganj in North Bengal. The agreement on these three seats is considered to be virtually final. Mamata who will be in Delhi on December 18, will attend the I.N.D.I.A. meeting which is called mainly for the seat sharing agreement between the alliance partners in the state.
Dayanidhi Azhagiri

Family Bonding Evident As Stalin’s Nephew In Apollo ICU After Suffering A Stroke

On December 6, even as Chennai reeled under the horrific hit of cyclone Michaung, the first family of Tamil Nadu was hit by another body blow. Young Dhayanidhi Azhagiri, Alagiri’s son, late Kalaignar’s grandson, Udhayanidhi Stalin’s cousin and the heir who missed the TN gaddi due to his stormy father’s confrontational nature, was battling a stroke and possible serious complications of high BP and cardiac blockage. The fourth floor Apollo Hospital ICU had turned into an unusual family bonding space. For years the internecine blood and power dynamics of this DMK founding family was a public subject of conjecture. So when Stalin’s entire family,  Maran brothers family, Stalin’s sister Selvi and husband Selvan, half sister Kanimozhi and family, MK Thamizharasu gathered around Madurai strongman Alagiri and wife Kanthi even through the stark seriousness of this occasion, the family bonding was evident. Dhayanidhi Azhagiri, is as adept as Udhayanidhi in film centered business ventures and his Cloud Nine Movies Flagship had profited by his business acumen. He had been drawn into controversies for a mining scam. But with the unfolding of Udhayanidhi’s elevation as heir, Dhayanidhi was not much in the news. It is poignant family events like this which heal festering enmity and foster rapprochement. We wish Dhayanidhi a speedy recovery.
Nirgude

TV9

Maharashtra Backward Commission Chief Quits, Opposition Aggressive

The State Backward Class Commission’s chairman Anand Nirgude’s resignation soon after two of the members had quit has armed the Opposition in Maharashtra with a hefty stick to hit at the Shinde-Fadanvis-Ajit Pawar government. The timing of the resignation is significant since the Maratha caste’s deadline for the government to take a decision on its reservation demand expires on December 24. While it is alleged that the resignations have come on account of the ruling side’s interference in the working of the commission, Nirgude himself has clarified that he has put in his papers for personal reasons. Moreover, he has declared that he will not come before the media to speak about what has happened. Immediately after the news about Nigrude leaked out, Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray demanded that the matter should be investigated through a Special Investigation Team. The two members who had resigned earlier, Balaji Killarkar and Lakshman Hake, had complained of governmental meddling. Uddhav said the names of the two MLAs who were pressurising the commission must come out. Legislative assembly’s leader of opposition Vijay Wadettiwar and Uddhav’s spokesman Sanjay Raut, too, came out strongly against the government. Senior minister Shambhuraje Desai said the reason for the resignation of Nirgude would be ascertained before making any comment.  But he has flatly denied that the government has in any manner tried any intrusion in the commission’s working.
Yadav bjp

Modi's MP Choice Shocks Party Cadres & Leaders, Shivraj Gets A Raw Deal

In a hurry to show “mamu” Shivraj Singh Chouhan the door, did PM Modi go for an unflattering pick in Madhya Pradesh? Well, that’s what came across when news of Mohan Yadav, an OBC leader and three-time BJP MLA, replaced a popular leader such as Shivraj, who has been CM for18 years. Party cadres and leaders were shell- shocked that no courtesies were shown to either Shivraj or seniors like Narendra Tomar, Kailash Vijayvargiya and Prahlad Patel who had contested the polls. While Tomar has been offered the Speaker’s post, Patel who belongs to the influential Lodh community was in the race for CM’s post. Was Modi making the same mistake in Madhya Pradesh that he did in Uttarakhand where he had tried a series of three CMs before settling for Pushkar Singh Dhami? Or is he trying to reduce MP to Gujarat, where only Modi Guarantee would matter. Yadav was apparently not aware that he was being picked for the top job. Party sources say that what went in Yadav’s favour was he was seen as a vocal Hindutva leader. As a higher education minister he had announced plans to make Hindu epic ‘Ramcharitmanas’ as an optional subject in colleges in 2021. But then he got embroiled in the controversy of alleged irregularities in the construction of Mahakal Lok corridor. Not many can forget that the 900-metre-long corridor had suffered damage in May due to a windstorm. The Congress had made it a poll issue in his election. Did Modi pick him only because he managed to defeat the Congress?
Dhiraj Sahu

Cash Haul Exposes Jharkhand MP's Clout In Cong

The I-T department has seized ‘unaccounted’ cash amounting to upwards of Rs 300 crore in multiple raids across Odisha and Jharkhand reportedly linked to Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Jharkhand, Dhiraj Prasad Sahu. Even while the department has apparently been still trying to get more counting machines to record its haul, the Congress has been battling to disown any connection with Sahu’s cash hoarding. In fact even before I-T put a final figure to Sahu’s cash stash, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh pontificated about how ”only the MP can and should explain” how the huge amounts of cash that “have been reportedly unearthed by the I-T authorities from his properties”. He clarified that the Congress had nothing to do with Sahu’s business. But then images of cash bundles stock-piled in Dhiraj’s home got BJP leader Amit Malviya to post a video linking Dhiraj with Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, dubbing it a journey to connect “the thieves of India”. Malviya captioned the video “Congress is CorruptionKiDukan”. “Nearly Rs 300 crore recovered from the premises of Congress Rajya Sabha MP Dhiraj Sahu in Jharkhand is a living proof of this.” Meanwhile, Sahu’s colleagues are surprised how he managed so many terms in the Parliament without substantially participating in the proceedings. “He hardly opened his mouth in the House. The raids now reveal his real clout in the party,” recalled an old timer.
Chennai flood

Angry Chennaiites To Get Some Money From Helpless Govt

When people are angry, give them some money. That is what they did in 2015 when Chennai was overwhelmed, both from torrential rain from cyclone and poorly planned and desperate discharge from an overflowing lake. Jayalalithaa’s government gave Rs 5,000 per ration card in Chennai to try and assuage the anger people felt at the rulers for the apathy that led to a civic disaster in floods. Stalin’s government went one better in announcing Rs 6,000 per ration card. But that is no guarantee Chennaiites will vote for them when they turn up at the polling booth the next time. This is what happened to Jaya’s party when Chennai rejected almost all their candidates in the 2021 elections. The Tamil Nadu government is aware of that, but the bureaucracy and the rulers could not think of anything else to cool down the extreme anger displayed by the people whenever the leaders and officials came to visit them in their wet dwellings five days after the rain stopped on December 4. The disaster of 2023 was no less than that of 2015 with huge swathes of Chennai still under water while small pockets got back to normalcy quickly after the deluge. The State Chennai was in may have been made apparent to the defence minister who surveyed the disaster by helicopter. Nothing has changed in eight years except that the ration card holders of Chennai get Rs 1,000 more this time.
Samruddhi express

Maha Samruddhi, Pune Expressways Fail ITS Test, Lost Human Lives Post Car Accidents!

The Samruddhi Expressway connecting Nagpur and Mumbai witnessed over 1000 vehicular accidents in exactly one year claiming 142 lives. Bharat’s fatality rate is 1.5 lakh human beings annually in 5 lakh road accidents. Human error, tyre bursts, highway hypnosis caused a small percentile of accidents on national highways though more lives could have been saved were ITS (intelligent transport system) in place. An IAS source reveals to shortpost.in, “Fact-of-the-matter is though we laid optic fibre cables alongside Samruddhi Mahamarg, Mumbai-Pune expressway exploiting this resource to set up ITS was not accomplished. The golden hour of critical importance, on high-speed road routes, makes the difference between life and death after motor accidents but is non-existent. High manpower requirements may be the reason.” The Mumbai-Pune expressway was Gadkari’s first infrastructure accomplishment in the 1990s when Shiv Sena led the Maharashtra government with the BJP alliance. Gadkari inaugurated ITS on the Eastern Peripheral Expressway in Uttar Pradesh in 2021 and yet, Maharashtra doesn’t adhere to internationally prescribed road safety standards to ensure ambulances reach crash sites within 15 minutes. Common sense to check tyre pressure at the cold start of the day’s travel can avert tyre bursts due to faulty pressure checked on warmed up tyres just before entering highways. Meanwhile, Shiv Sangram Maratha leader Vinayak Mete (Pune expressway), Cyrus Mistry (Mumbai-Ahmedabad expressway) and thousands perished on Maharashtra’s high-speed expressways without ITS. Last heard, the Maha government was working on erecting fake boulders on Samruddhi corridor to break highway hypnosis. What about ITS lethargy?
Mahua Moitra_003

Mahua Moitra Expulsion Leaves West Bengal Cong-CPM In Dilemma

Having stood by expelled Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra has left both Pradesh Congress and CPI (M) in a dilemma. In Bengal the party workers from both Cong and CPI (M) have questioned the stand as Trinamool is their rival and feels that the State BJP would be encashing the move. Significantly, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has announced that Mahua will again contest from Krishnanagar seat. According to Pradesh Congress sources, having supported Mahua, will any Opposition candidates have a chance of winning? Moreover, the anti-BJP and minority votes are expected to go in favor of Mahua. It is further added that the party workers are skeptical of how to establish “setting” theory between Trinamool and BJP as claimed by Pradesh Congress President Adhir Chowdhury and CPI (M) State Secretary Mohammad Salim. A section of Congress and CPI (M) leaders feel that this will be giving Opposition leader Suvendu Adhikari an upper hand of establishing his claim of Congress-CPI(M) being the B-team of Trinamool. However, Adhir has made it clear that support to Mahua since the beginning was similar to that of Rahul Gandhi where both were targeted for voicing against Adani, which is no way connected to opposing a corrupt Trinamool government in Bengal. Similarly, Salim, CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya and State member Sujan Chakraborty said that protesting against Mahua’s expulsion was because it was arbitrary, however, the party to continue its protest against both BJP and TMC in Bengal
Praful Patel

Praful Patel Is Opposition Target, Sharad Pawar’s Silence Generates Speculation

Nationalist Congress Party founder Sharad Pawar’s silence over the political slugfest that is raging in the state is intriguing since his one-time right hand Praful Patel is now made the whipping boy to corner the three-party regime in Maharashtra by the Congress and the Shiv Sena (Uddhav) after former minister Nawab Malik’s arrival in the picture. Patel had been Pawar’s emissary in Delhi over the past two decades and had represented him for resolving various ticklish political crises. Very recently, Patel had played a significant role in establishing the Uddhav government by holding talks with then Congress leader Ahmed Patel. Now he has joined the NCP faction led by state deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. As the BJP has publicly objected to Malik’s inclusion in Ajit’s party, the past of Praful Patel is dug up to embarrass the Shinde-Fadnavis-Ajit government. The Congress and the Sena (Uddhav) have reminded the rulers that Patel had been raided by ED some time ago and have alleged his connection with infamous fugitive Iqbal Mirchi. “If Nawab is not OK, how come Patel is OK?” the barbs from the two parties have asked. While so much has been happening in the state, Sharad Pawar’s total mum regarding his former Man Friday has given rise to fresh speculation. Ajit has added to the mystery by refusing to say a word about Malik, who as well has remained mute
Vishnu Deo Sai_ Raman

BJP Picks A Tribal Face In Chhattisgarh With Raman Singh's Blessings

In a much anticipated move, the BJP picked up a tribal leader and former Union Minister Vishnu Deo Sai as its new chief minister of Chhattisgarh. BJP leader and Union Minister Renuka Singh Saruta, who was in the race described Sai’s selection as “for the first time a party worker from the tribal community belonging to a farmer’s family has been elected”. She underscored the fact that Sai had won the recently concluded assembly polls from Kunkuri in north Chhattisgarh, a region that the BJP had swept picking up all the 14 seats in the region. It was in this region that the BJP managed to defeat the Congress including its deputy chief minister TS Singhdeo from Ambikapur by 94 votes. In the run up to the elections, home minister Amit Shah while addressing a meeting in Sai’s constituency had already indicated that he would get an important assignment if he was elected. Besides, Sai became a natural choice as he is considered close to former CM Raman Singh. Having been a prominent figure in the BJP, Sai has held various positions as he hails from the influential Sahu (Teli) community which has a sizable presence in the Durg, Raipur and Bilaspur divisions. He served as BJP State President from 2020 until 2022. And has also worked with PM Modi in his first cabinet. In fact after being appointed, all that Sai had to say was “I will work to fulfil ‘Modi Ki Guarantee’. Congress leaders conceded that they could never have a tribal CM in the state after late Ajit Jogi — the state’s first CM –got ruled out as an ST in 2019.
pankaja munde

OBC Politics Revives Pankaja Munde’s Fortune Within BJP

After being sidelined since her defeat at the hands of her own cousin Dhanajay Munde in 2019, Pankaja Munde’s political career is steering back into active mode within the BJP, thanks to a sharp consolidation of the OBC vote bank in Maharashtra. The ongoing Maratha agitation to demand reservation under the OBC category, has upset the OBC’s in the state, who have thrown their political weight behind the leadership of Chhagan Bhujbal. Though Bhujbal is currently with the Ajit Pawar faction of NCP, he is fighting the OBC agitation under his own outfit Samata Parishad. Pankaja, who hails from Vanjari caste, commands strong support from the OBC community especially in the Marathwada region, a legacy she inherits from her late father Gopinath Munde, who was responsible for getting the OBC votes for the BJP. Pankaja is now back in the reckoning within the BJP to woo the OBC votes. Her party had earlier refused to let her participate in the joint OBC rally called by Bhujbal at Nashik, deputing others instead. But, shifting equations in state caste politics led Devendra Fadnavis, who blamed her for downswing within BJP, to get the cousins — Pankaja and Dhananjay — to bury the hatchet and work together. A BJP internal survey showing slip in support for BJP among the OBC’s also worked in her favour. It is learnt that the BJP is considering fielding her for Lok Sabha and adjusting her MP sister Preetam Munde in state council.
Mayawati

Mayawati Names Nephew As Political Heir, Critics Say Only For Properties

BSP supremo Mayawati officially appointed nephew Akash Anand as her successor in the party. She will, however, continue to monitor Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. In naming her UK educated nephew Akash as her political heir, Mayawati may not have disappointed those who have worked closely with her. Anand’s appointment comes days after the BSP drew blank in the recent round of assembly elections where Mayawati had made an effort to campaign Akash’s name. His name figured in the second place in the list of BSP’s star campaigners for the Himachal Pradesh assembly election. However, Akash’s steady rise in BSP has come with a cost as it has alienated all those who worked with Mayawati as a team. “All those who founded BSP have left. She has named a successor only to manage BSP properties.  The BSP which was a movement that we all long worked for is now virtually over,” pointed out a former BSP leader. He recalled how over the years the party has been steadily losing steam. “We came to power on our own in Uttar Pradesh in 2007 with 205 MLAs — that was a year after Kanshi Ram passed away. There was a huge sympathy wave in favour of the BSP. In 2012, our numbers went down to 80 MLAs. In 2017 our numbers was reduced to 19 and in 2022 only one BSP MLA won. In 2027, I can see we will be wiped out,” predicts Ambeth Rajan, who had once worked with Mayawati.
Chidambaram kharge

Karti Chidambaram Meets Kharge, Sets Off Buzz About TN PCC Post

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Normally a Congress MP’s meeting with party president Mallikarjun Kharge should not be news. However Karti Chidambaram’s meeting with Kharge created a buzz that the Sivaganga MP could be in the reckoning to be the next PCC chief of Tamil Nadu. While Kharge may have no issue promoting a younger leader like Karti, it is not clear if Rahul Gandhi would accept him. For the past few days, Karti was seen toeing the party’s official line. Like he came out completely denouncing the move to expel Mahua Moitra for sharing her login password. Party sources said ahead of Lok Sabha 2024 polls, the Tamil Nadu unit has been looking for a new PCC chief. Incumbent party chief KS Alagiri is originally a P Chidambaram loyalist but he may now find he does not enjoy that sort of support within the state unit. Except perhaps from CWC member and Lok Sabha MP Manickam Tagore. As AICC functionary, Tagore has apparently been batting for extending Alagiri’s term till the Lok Sabha polls. Sources say Tagore is rooting for this as he is eyeing the post once the polls are over. Karur MP S Jothimani is known to be close to Rahul Gandhi. However, some of her initiatives such as landing up in Manipur uninvited when Rahul was there irked the leadership. She tried to recover the loss of face by launching baseless attacks on TN BJP chief K Annamalai. But nothing seems to be working for her.
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Mahua Moitra Exits From Lok Sabha Unites I.N.D.I.A

TMC MP Mahua Moitra was expelled from the Lok Sabha on the cash-for-query case within hours of the Ethics Committee tabling its recommendations. Mahua was not allowed to speak in the House following a 2005 precedent set by former Speaker Somnath Chatterjee when 10 MPs and one Rajya Sabha MP were expelled from the Parliament following a sting operation by Cobra Post in a cash-for-query scam. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla largely relied on Chatterjee’s ruling to conduct the proceedings which went off quite smoothly. Both the Congress and the TMC insisted that Mahua should be given a chance to say her version. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahald Joshi made it clear that since in 2005 the MPs who were expelled did not get a chance to speak. Ethics Panel member Aparajita Sarangi pointed out how Mahua did not use the opportunity the panel gave her to put out her version; she had walked out mid-way. The BJP fielded a tribal MP from Maharashtra, Dr Heena Gavit, to explain the enormity of Moitra’s action — how it had brought disprute to class of MPs as such and this stigma had to be removed through harsh steps. After the House expelled her, Mahua read out from a prepared text outside the Lok Sabha, cheered by senior Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.   Perhaps the hiccups in the I.N.D. I.A.front post Congress rout in assembly polls also got a makeover. Mahua’s expulsion from Lok Sabha temporarily united the Opposition.
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Centre’s Ban On Onion Exports And Sugarcane Use Unites Maharashtra’s Political Parties

Otherwise at each other’s throat, political parties in Maharashtra have shown a sense of unity after the Centre has imposed restrictions on onion exports and use of sugarcane for production of ethanol. As the state is the leading producer of onion and sugar, the Centre’s steps are bound to hit the growers of both. Already, they have been suffering due to unseasonal heavy rains which have damaged rabi crops in most parts of the state. The issue was raised in the state legislature by opposition parties, which charged that the BJP government at the Centre had been taking the decisions which were harming Maharashtra’s interests. Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who has been praising PM Narendra Modi over and over again, responded very cautiously to the criticism as the issue concerns the farming activity across the state. He informed the house that he has been in touch with Union ministers Piyush Goyal and Nitin Gadkari. “If necessary, we will go to Delhi to meet the Central leaders,” he assured the agitated legislators. The Union government has banned onion exports till 31 March next year to ensure its ample availability in the domestic market. Similarly, use of sugarcane juice or syrup would not be allowed for ethanol production by sugar mills. This restriction will cripple the sugarcane growers and cooperative sugar mills, according to leading political figures in Maharashtra.
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Photo : X

Nawab Malik Focal Point Of Maharashtra Politics, Ajit Pawar’s Next Move Awaited

Former Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik continues to be the focal point of Maharashtra politics. Released by court on bail while facing charges like indulging in anti-national activities, Malik’s arrival in Nagpur where the state legislature is in session has kicked off a virtual storm. Unfazed, he spent some time in the legislative assembly for the second consecutive day. The BJP’s opposition to his inclusion in the NCP’s Ajit Pawar faction has been backed by chief minister Eknath Shinde. Thereafter, top NCP leader Praful Patel joined the flurry of activity as the issue continued to reverberate in the second capital of Maharashtra. Deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has demanded that Malik should not be accepted by the Ajit faction in view of the serious charges against him. Ajit’s close associate Dilip Walse Patil has expressed his party’s unhappiness over the Fadnavis letter reaching the media. To douse the heat, Patel met Fadnavis and made it clear that no political talks have been held with Malik. On the other hand, Malik called on Ajit. Firebrand leader Chhagan Bhujbal, too, joined the discussion. Ajit had announced that he will decide his stand on this issue only after meeting Malik. Hence, attention is now focused on Ajit’s next step as it will determine the direction of the state polity, which is buffeted by caste-based demands for reservations over the past month.
evm

Congress Divided On The Use Of EVMs

Looks like the Congress has still not come to terms with the results of the Hindi heartland with a section of the party blaming it squarely on the EVMs. In fact the party seemed so split on the issue that former MP Digvijay Singh claimed that “any machine with a chip” could be hacked; he even ignored the fact that the Congress had won Telangana and Karnataka through EVMs. Kamal Nath complained that some candidates did not even get 50 votes in their villages. It is not clear if the Congress leaders actually started believing in the media hype they were winning the four state assembly polls. In contrast, Karti Chidambaram, Lok Sabha MP from Tamil Nadu, came out completely endorsing the EVMs. Digvijay Singh admitted that he had been opposing EVMs ever since they were introduced in the 2003 assembly elections under the Supreme Court orders. The EVMs were first used in 2004 Lok Sabha polls which had brought UPA-1 to power. With the BJP winning 163 seats in the 230-member assembly in MP, Singh appealed to SC and EC to save “democracy”. Of course, if he had only seen the kind of work and effort BJP leadership had put in his state — 40 lakh karyakartas working through the year reaching out to   64,000 polling booths to reach 51 % vote share as part of Amit Shah’s strategy.

TRENDS & VIEWS

Editor’s Note: Big Punch In Small Pack

It is the Third Anniversary of Short Post and as a news media startup launched during the Covid-19 pandemic it certainly feels better than good to find ourselves where we are today. Here, I must cite the unstinted support of our seasoned contributors, all senior editors in the country, who brought a great degree of maturity and sagacity to the Short Post newsroom. But for them, our tagline “Authentic Gossip”, an Oxymoron, would not have matured viably. Our user numbers may be small but our stories have created the desired impact among people who matter — decision makers and influencers. We offer a big punch in a small pack and Short Post with its 225-word stories has been punching above its weight category. Having posted close to 3,000 stories in the last 36 months, Short Post, I feel, is an idea whose time has come.
And this is vindicated by our two marquee advertisers – IDFC FIRST Bank and ICICI Lombard. Both believed in our story and have supported us from Day one. A big thank you to both.
If you look at the media landscape – print, TV and digital — it is a mixed bag. There are job losses as some outfits have closed down while a lucky few were bailed out by large corporate houses. Yes, there is a lot of action in the digital space. However, the entry of corporate houses has raised the question of independence of news media outfits. Sadly, there are just a handful of independent media outfits in the country that are highly respected for their neutrality. At Short Post, our credo is not to take sides, prejudge issues or be biased but, informing readers of behind-the-scenes happenings. In essence, Short Post strives to be a neutral editorial platform — neither anti-establishment nor pro-establishment.
As I said last year, disruptions in the media world are moving at a fast and furious pace. Technology is playing a very big role in how content is generated and consumed. But, we are neither alarmed nor perturbed as it is all a part of the evolution process. What gives us comfort is that AI is unable to create original gossipy content. And that is the news arena where we have achieved a distinction.