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Stalin Means Business, Mulls White Paper On State Of State

Looks like the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin has decided to bring out a White Paper on the state of the economy. It is easy to blame a previous regime for populist doles and non-essential schemes that have emptied the coffers. Media watchers are nonplussed by a new energised Stalin, who is vocal, vociferous, and vituperative about the huge debt burden of TN, the inequitable share of the tax, Vat and GST allocated, the staggering cost of the corona pandemic and huge losses in livelihood. People openly talk about how Stalin was ridiculed at election rallies for his hesitant and almost rambling campaign mode. What a transformation after winning! What then happens to the election promises like the monthly stipends to women, cut in fuel VAT and other propositions? His advisors suggest that a plea of empty coffers left by AIADMK could prove useful to get through for now. But apparently Stalin stuck to his resolve… “A promise is a promise.” A staggering debt burden of Rs 5 lakh crore (for 20-21) is his inheritance. Meanwhile, it is rumoured that Stalin along with his wife Durga and son-in-law Sabareesan and key bureaucrats are likely to travel to London in July. Insiders say it could be for his routine health check-up plus woo investments in Tamil Nadu.
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BJP-Sena To Bury The Hatchet and Form Govt In Maharashtra?

Is it a truce between the two estranged partners BJP and Shiv Sena? According to reliable sources, BJP has renewed its efforts to form the government with estranged ally Shiv Sena in Maharashtra – a move that gathered momentum after CM Uddhav Thackeray’s exclusive meeting with PM Narendra Modi. It is learnt that the Union Cabinet expansion has been deliberately delayed in view of the new development in Maharashtra. Sena will be accommodated in terms of cabinet berth. Devendra Fadnavis is likely to become CM for the third time while the name of Aaditya Thackeray for deputy CM is doing the rounds. Party insiders indicate that the “Maha Vikas Aghadi government may fall in the next 72 hours or in two weeks”. The deal is that the BJP-led government will not pursue various legal cases against Sena leaders. It may be recalled that Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik, in a letter to Thackeray, had urged him to patch up with BJP to avoid harassment from Central agencies. Coming together will also help in the coming civic elections. Now the ball is in Thackeray’s court, and he has to decide whether to once again play a second fiddle in the interest of the party’s future or remain in the driver’s seat with the NCP and Congress.
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L To R: Sushil Kumar Shinde, Prithviraj Chavan & Nana Patole

Can Congress Regain Its Pristine Glory In Maharashtra?

Congress party’s ‘going solo’ call by the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president Nana Patole has not gone down well with the alliance partners Shiv Sena and NCP. But, he has received strong support from two former CMs Sushil Kumar Shinde and Prithviraj Chavan. Both have hailed Patole’s efforts in a short span to rejuvenate the party and recharge the cadre. Both said there is nothing wrong to declare party’s resolve to regain its past glory and become No. 1 again and assume power single-handedly. In fact, Chavan went a step ahead saying that the MVA was formed with the single point objective of keeping BJP out of power and that has nothing to do with the Congress party pursuing its expansion plan. Chavan said Congress can tolerate Shiv Sena’s ideology but not that of BJP. With dissensions within the party, and the Congress leaders speaking out of turn, can this number four party in Maharashtra regain its pristine glory? That’s a wager nobody is willing to take.
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L To R: Raghuram Rajan, Aravind Subramanian & S Narayan

Is Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Stalin Wooing The Brahmins?

Dravidian politics is hard to comprehend. Often, it is riddled with inconsistencies. How else could one interpret the composition of the just-announced economic advisory council (EAC) for Tamil Nadu? The MK Stalin-led government of the DMK has set up a high-profile EAC comprising Nobel laureate Esther Duflo (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Raghuram Rajan (former Governor of Reserve Bank), Aravind Subramanian (former Chief Economic Advisor to the Centre), Jean Dreze (Development Economist) and S Narayan (former Union Finance Secretary). Who said DMK is anti-Brahmins? Well, the just- formed EAC has three Brahmins – two high-profile ones at that! Rajan and Subramanian, in particular, turned much bigger than the institutions they headed. Narayan is all too well known in the political and bureaucratic circles in Tamil Nadu. If these three have roots in Tamil Nadu, the other two are rank outsiders. Not surprisingly, tongues have started wagging. DMK is a party which has vociferously articulated the cause of reservation in higher educational institutions and government jobs. In the formation of the state’s highest policy-advisory body, the DMK regime of Stalin appears to have quietly overlooked its own relentless demand for reservation for dalits, backward classes and the like. Is there a paucity of talent within Tamil Nadu? Inconsistency is the sign of development, it said. DMK has embarked on a growth path, it appears.
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India’s Youngest Mayor Arya Rajendran You Can’t Mess With

Arya Rajendran, all of 22, adorns the mayor seat of Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram with the distinction of being the youngest elected mayor in the country. This BSc maths second year student, stood and won from the Mudavanmugal ward under the CPI-M banner. Arya is no greenhorn test case politician, fielded by her party. Daughter of an electrician father, a CPI-M activist and working mother (LIC agent), privilege and power did not boost her rise, having been inducted into the Balasangam (the children’s wing of CPI-M) when she was in Class 5.  Politics being what it is, the accolades she got from all over the country when elected mayor, must have rankled the major opposition incumbents, the BJP and the Congress among others. Recently, BJP Councillor Karamana Ajith took her on for lack of supervision and accountability in her duties. The ward’s garbage disposal and inventory and high-cost equipment obviously got flak.  “The AKG Centre’s LKG student probably thinks of this as a play school. Taking on a Mayor’s duties is not child’s play.” Ouch, that must have hurt.  But Arya is no wilting wallflower. Her repartee, “No one needs to judge my capability and efficiency by my age. I am confident of holding my own.” Don’t mess with this Miss.
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Grand Old Party Awaits Metamorphosis

How many obits are to be written for the Grand Old Party? It is a sad and heart-rending feeling when one thinks of the role of this august group that fought so fearlessly for our independence, downed in disarray, retreating disheartened. Today, all tail waggers and party swaggers, the neo Tarzans of politics, covered in their capitalist chain armour are thriving only on this stage laid by the Congress. But what an ending, friends and countrymen! What is left of this great movement for which Gandhiji, Sardar Patel, Rajaji, Pandit Nehru, Lal Bahadur and other stalwarts gave their blood, sweat, toil and tears? Saying that this sorry state is because one Family is hell-bent on tightening its vice like grip on the party, knowing fully well that it is riding a snarling tiger. So, what if the Congress collapses? The Gandhis won’t let go of their own. The Congress won’t collapse totally: it may disintegrate, pulverised beyond salvage as a macro entity. But its atoms still have the power to radiate heat and light. This is the metamorphosis many are eagerly waiting for: another multihued butterfly emerging, yet another Phoenix rising from the funeral pyre of the erstwhile organisation. This will require the Kapil Sibals, Chidambarams, Manu Singhvis to allow the Gen Next to take centre stage. The Shashi Tharoors, Pilots, Milind Deora…..If ever a millennial Sun Tzu is wanted/needed…it is now. Sun Tzu who compiled The Art of War.
ajit_uddhav_nana

Growing Trust Deficit And Widening Rift In Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi

Cracks in the Shiv Sena led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) became clear with the latest, unilateral announcement by the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee President Nana Patole that the party will go solo in the next assembly elections. (Congress has one MP, 44 legislators and insignificant presence in local and civic bodies). He also added that if approved by the High Command he would like to be the party’s face for the post of Chief Minister. Clearly, Patole is posing challenge to his colleagues like Balasaheb Thorat, Ashok Chavan, Nitin Raut and Vijay Wadettiwar. Meanwhile, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar snubbed Patole for his ‘CM statement’. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray seem to be playing his card well too. His closed-door meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi has created heebie-jeebies among his rivals. Informed sources say that Thackeray has killed two birds with one arrow. He has snubbed BJP by showing that he has kept his communication channel open with Modi. Brave Sanjay Raut said, “It’s a rumour that Shiv Sena CM will be replaced after 2.5 years … CM will be Uddhav Thackeray for 5 years.” For the NCP and Congress, the message is not to take Thackeray for a ride despite lacking administrative experience. Meanwhile, within the BJP too the rift is widening between former CM Devendra Fadnavis and the state BJP unit chief Chandrakant Patil.
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Thackerays send Chadar to Ajmer Sharif -- Photo : sarkarnama.com

Hindutva Vs Secular Identity: Can Sena Do The Balancing Act?

It is almost akin to running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. Shiv Sena, which heads the Maha Vikas Aghadi government with NCP and Congress, is not only striving to maintain its Hindutva identity but also projecting its secular credentials. Recently, party MP Rahul Shewale stoked a controversy after he proposed to rename flyover on Ghatkopar-Mankhurd link road after Ajmer’s Khwaja Gareeb Nawaz Moinuddin Chishti. The BJP and VHP slammed Shewale for his demand. Shewale reacted saying that he was unaware of BJP MP Manoj Kotak’s proposal to name the flyover after Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja or demand by locals for Krantikarak Vastad Lahuji Salve and Lokshahir Annabhau Sathe.  Earlier, Sena leader Pandurang Sakpal, Vibhag Pramukh of south Mumbai likened ‘Azaan’ (a call for Muslim prayer) with Hindu ritual of ‘aarti.’ And mooted the idea of holding an ‘Azaan’ recital competition for Muslim children. The BJP accused Sena changing its stand to remain in power. Interestingly, CM Uddhav Thackeray has told BJP not to teach him Hindutva reiterating that the party has not left it despite joining hands with the NCP and Congress with an agreement to follow secular principles.
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TN Chief Minister Stalin Seems To Be A Man In A Hurry

Yes, ever since the DMK win, it has been a Stalin overkill about how he is everywhere, doing everything, covering everything. Just the other day, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin visited Mettur Dam, to inspect desilting preparations to receive the annual inflow of Cauvery waters from neighbouring Karnataka. This is very crucial to irrigate the TN kuruvai (short term) crop that has seen many a parched and lost year in the past, with both states fighting over river water sharing. With his new found confidence, Stalin announced that Mettur dam would be opened and that he expects Karnataka to open the hatch, a fait accompli decision, no longer up for negotiation. Is this a positive shift in the power equations of these two warring states? The same strong narrative in demanding vaccine stock for TN, reaching out to non BJP CMs for possible Third Front to leverage more federalism….the canvas is big. But some chinks in the armour are evident too: the opening up of liquor outlets (opposed earlier) as the state needs revenue (TASMAC revenue is Rs 30,000 crore plus) to back emergency healthcare. There are also serious concerns and talk about the Omandurar Hospital changing yet again to become the TN Assembly building, the original dream project of Kalaignar. The historic King Institute may take the place of this hospital. Taxpayers are the obvious beasts of burden.
chennai_flyover

Stalin Unveils Singara Chennai 2.0

At 69, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin knows that he has to hurry up and deal an impressive hand to the people who voted him in. May be even take on the issue of enhanced federalism. In his earlier avatar as lieutenant to Karunanidhi, and his mayoral stint, Stalin earned the sobriquet of Flyover Man with a visible preference for flyovers. Singara Chennai (Beautiful Chennai) was his other pet project to leave a lasting impact on the Chennai landscape. The Greater Chennai Corporation, under Gagandeep Singh Bedi, has launched Singara Chennai 2.0 with a slew of plans for beautifying its beaches (even far flung beaches of Thiruvottiyur and Uthandi with 21 km of coastline are to be developed as coral reefs). An integrated scheme for making a dramatic aesthetic impact on urban spaces, including water bodies, roundabout gardens, an underwater aquarium and numerous other breath-taking schemes! Ambitious? The cynical say, “Ah, new brooms sweep clean. Let’s see when all these sprout.” The practical punters are happy….so much to gain, invest and of course, earn. Who is the Catalyst powering this State Vista?  Could it be that Chanakya who orchestrated the party’s telling win? Or did a certain Wall Street wizard motivate Stalin? Whatever the genesis of Stalin’ takeover makeover, Gagan Deep Singh Bedi will lead the charge of the light brigade to make Stalin’s plans take shape.
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Sasikala, Former CM E.Palaniswami

EPS, OPS Thwart Sasikala’s Attempt To Re-Enter AIADMK

For more than three hours she was not just the elephant in the room. Sasikala, confidante to J Jayalalithaa who ruled Tamil Nadu more like an empress, was the hot topic of discussion within the party founded by MGR and consolidated by his protege Jaya. Former CMs E Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam joined ranks to keep Sasikala out of the party while expelling her loyalists who had the temerity to speak to her on their mobile phones seeking her comeback. So long as the two heads of AIADMK keep their flock together, they can stave off any attempts by the discredited Jaya aide to create confusion in the party about her imminent comeback. But she seems determined to get back in and seize control by manipulating sentiment among the party rank and file. Jailed for graft, Sasikala’s strength is a seemingly infinite access to funds. Disqualified as she is from standing in elections for another six years, Sasikala aims to become a party boss like Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is under a similar cloud. Her strategy before the polls was to announce retirement from politics in the hope that once the AIADMK was trounced at the polls, there would be a clamour for her re-entry. That didn’t happen with the party winning 66 of 75 alliance seats. But Sasikala lurks, waiting for that chance to pounce.
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Malaysia to Amnesia – Hate Story Revived

Why be a spoiler…watch this recently released hilarious movie, Malaysia to Amnesia directed by talented director Radha Mohan. Enjoy. Here we talk about another Malaysia to Amnesia theme: former AIADMK Minister, M Manikandan, who held the IT portfolio as one of the youngest elected from the party, is now facing serious charges of cheating, sexual exploitation and blackmail from an Indian actor, Shantini Theva from Malaysia. In her police complaint she has alleged that she was cheated, exploited, and blackmailed. Manikandan is an MBBS from Annamalai University, MS from Ramchandra Medical College, is a Fellow of the Indian Association of Endo Surgeons, taught surgery as an Asst Prof in Madurai Medical college where he was considered a strict disciplinarian. Such charges from exploited women are now frequent, especially when a high profile person is alleged to be involved. But even more intriguing is the allegation that Manikandan lured the lady with promise of investments in IT sector in Malaysia. Why is the news about an alleged relationship that had gone on for five years, brought to light as soon as the erstwhile government falls? And the lady from Malaysia is shouting hoarse that she has enough proof that the former minister is having Amnesia about her pregnancy, subsequent miscarriage. Now an even more murky allegation… that he threatened her and her family by posting pictures on the net about her promiscuity. Affairs of the heart are taking more precedence than affairs of the state.
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Round One Goes To Yogi, No Cabinet Reshuffle In UP

The top leadership of BJP — Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Party President JP Nadda — seems to be having one too many problems on their plate. From handling of Covid-19 second wave to dissent in key states where it is in power. According to highly placed sources, the move to appoint PM’s trusted aide and former IAS officer AK Sharma as Deputy CM of Uttar Pradesh (so as to rein Yuva Vahini apostle turned Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath) has been dropped with Yogi raising strong objections to Sharma’s inclusion as well as cabinet reshuffle. It is learnt that RSS tried to reason out with Yogi but he remained adamant. BJP has to tread cautiously here as any move to antagonise Yogi will see the revival of Yuva Vahini which may impact its poll chances not just in the assembly polls but also in Lok Sabha elections slated for 2024. So for now BJP and RSS will continue to hold Chintan Baithaks and gives suggestions to Yogi from time to time.
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Discontent Brewing In BJP Ruled Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh

In Karnataka, the Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has been under attack from the party ministers and legislators who are running a campaign for his removal. Yediyurappa who is serving as Chief Minister of Karnataka for the fourth time is under tremendous pressure to resign and pave the way for his successor. Last week Yediyurappa, a prominent leader from influential Lingayat community, ultimately yielded and announced that he will step down if directed by the central leadership. Modi and Shah have yet to take a call. RSS functionary BL Santosh, who hails from Karnataka, does not get along well with Yediyurappa. In Madhya Pradesh, the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s leadership has been challenged by few party legislators who want the central leadership to immediately change him. Sources say that the state’s Home Minister Narottam Mishra and state BJP chief VD Sharma have thrown hat in the ring. Former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is now BJP MP in Rajya Sabha, went to Bhopal, after which speculations of change in leadership sparked a row. BJP General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who camped in Bhopal and met many state leaders has clarified that MP will run only under the leadership of Shivraj Singhji. However, BJP insiders claim all is not well in MP; it is a wakeup call for Shivraj Singh Chouhan, popularly known as Mamaji.
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TN Finance Minister Is Stalin’s Brahmastra To Take On BJP

He comes from a political lineage famous in the south of Tamil Nadu. Palanivel Thiaga Rajan or PTR, the finance minister in MK Stalin’s cabinet, is the weapon the DMK government will be using to take a hard look at the Centre’s financial policies. The suave former investment banker has been told to deconstruct BJP top brass moves in finance and take them down whenever the opportunity arises. The finance minister’s contempt for the Goa transport minister Mauvin Godinho, who attended the GST meet and kept parroting lines in support of the Centre, will rate as an all-time classic. Dipping with sarcasm, the TN finance minister had a lot to say about Godinho, which he topped off with the throwaway line that said a lot: “Finally, I sincerely request the [Bharatiya Janata Party], even across the political divide, to impose some minimal quality control on its ‘MLA Acquisition’ procedures. If it had done so, Goa, and the Nation would be saved a lot of pain.” Some might say that sarcasm is the lowest form of art but it is an art form the 55-year-old may have perfected. The DMK has always been short of polished speakers in English who could take on Delhi and it has found a champion now. The finance minister and his vitriol could turn out to be a double-edged sword but right now he has been told to sharpen his skills.
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Sangh Gets Poll Ready As UP CM Yogi’s Decisive Covid Leadership Saves The Day

For BJP the battle ground has now shifted to Uttar Pradesh. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the guiding force for Sangh Parivar, has already swung into action to help UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who seems to have got a bad Press for handling the coronavirus pandemic. To make matters worse, there has been strong rumours of a cabinet reshuffle including induction of a new deputy chief minister. To allay fears and indicate full faith in Yogi’s leadership, BJP’s national general secretary BL Santosh praised Yogi Adityanath’s “effective” management of Covid-19. He tweeted: “In five weeks, Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh reduced the new daily case count by 93% … Remember it’s a state with 20+ Cr population. When municipality CMs could not manage a city of 1.5 Cr population, Yogiji managed quite effectively.” Having put one problem to rest, the next step was to up the ante. It is learnt that RSS along with VHP, Bajrang Dal, Sewa Bharati will mobilize their swayam sevaks and karyakartas in the run up to the next assembly elections in 2022. It may be recalled that in the recently held Gram Panchayat Election Samajwadi Party won big in PM’s constituency Varanasi. So, Sangh Parivar is leaving no stone unturned. UP with 403 assembly and 80 Lok Sabha seats is critical for the BJP which is aiming at a record hat trick in Lok Sabha elections slated for 2024.
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New Era In Tamil Nadu Politics: Stalin Gives Free Hand To His Ministers

It’s not without reason that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, son of the DMK patriarch late M Karunanidhi whose birth anniversary was on June 3, is being thought of as someone with the potential to match the brightness of the Rising Sun in the party symbol. He may have spent decades in the shadow of his father but Stalin, as CM, seems determined to be the change in a new era of politics in Tamil Nadu. His visit to inside a Covid-19 ward may have been stage-managed to some extent to ensure he was not at risk but he was willing to make the bold gesture to reassure patients, nurses and doctors that treating the disease is a priority. In fact, the TN CM has made Covid-19 management such a priority that he has eschewed any celebrations in the whole of May after ascending the Fort St George throne. Freely delegating powers to his senior ministers to handle their portfolios, meet Union ministers in Delhi and take a call on their subjects, he has only told them that they would be accountable for their actions and that the buck in their fields stops with them. All the while he has sent soft-spoken diktats to them on sensitive matters. Right now, Covid-19 is his priority and his image as CM second and he has been willing to make any number of concessions to be an acceptable face to all.
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After Opting To Retire To Be With CM, Bandyopadhyay Writes To Centre

West Bengal’s ex-Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, who has been served notice under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 for refusing to comply with its lawful direction, is being made a scapegoat amid political fight between PM Narendra Modi-HM Amit Shah combine and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, political observers feel. The babus in the corridors of power claim Bandyopadhyay has an upper hand in arguing his case and let the political bosses continue to settle scores against each other. Bandyopadhyay, who opted to retire and be appointed as West Bengal CM’s chief advisor for three years — instead of reporting to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), has dashed off a letter to the Centre in which he makes his case, adding he has all the respect for the PM.  The undersigned was privy to the letter which says: “The CM to whom I reported directly was also doing disaster management and she wanted me there. I followed protocol by going there. CM had taken permission, so I thought it applies to me. I left. If I was wanted there I would have certainly waited. I had nothing against the PM or cyclone review meeting. Both were important but CM wanted me to accompany her. After I got the recall notice, I consulted the CM and my understanding was I cannot go unless CM asked me to go. She flatly refused.  With such a situation I was in a quandary. I had all the intention to come and report to DoPT. In any case I decided not to continue as CS, so I had no hesitation in coming but I was stopped. If I had decided to report to DoPT against the CM’s wish, she could have ordered a department inquiry against me and not allowed me to retire or suspended me for subordination. So, I decided to go with the CM’s express order.’’ The ball is now in the Centre’s court for further action.
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PHOTO : FOTOCORP

AIADMK Startled As Sasikala Sets The Cat Among The Pigeons

Last night’s YouTube news channels were on overdrive with news of the Return of the Pink Panther…er, Small Mummy as a popular Tamil weekly gave her this moniker. VK Sasikala, confidante of the late J Jayalalithaa, is supposed to have dialled a few loyalists and reassured them that her return to active politics is imminent. The effort to find if the caller was truly Chinnamma’s voice is now viral. She seems to have set the cat among the already rustled pigeons, even as an uneasy peace reigns among the warring AIADMK factions, with an EPS and OPS face off, after the election results. But OPS is seen frequently in the DMK confabulations on Covid, even being seated next to the health minister. Sleeping with the enemy? Running with the Hare and hunting with the Hounds? Sasikala finds this the ideal entry point after her mega welcome scheme coming out from jail, fell flat. In fact, the widespread view is that she was more newsworthy behind bars! …Sasikala goes to the mall in Bengaluru with a snazzy handbag, has a suite of rooms at the Parpana Agraharam Jail, superintendent Ms Rupa complains to the State government….. She was more Memed trolled, fake newsd, YouTubed than any other inmate. So, her home coming was built up to unbelievable heights. ..700 cars, roads lined with AIADMK loyalists, 7 Hours to travel from Hosur to Chennai! AIADMK deputy co-ordination, KP Munusamy said acerbically, “In this pandemic time, vested interests are trying to create chaos.” Chinnamma is definitely up to some sinister plans ….Will the AIADMK withstand her onslaught and serious comeback plans?
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PHOTO : FOTOCORP

Eye On Election: Modi’s Trusted Aide AK Sharma Tipped To Be New UP Deputy CM?

Be it Assembly election or Lok Sabha poll, Uttar Pradesh has always remained at the centre of electoral calculations for all political parties in the country. The five year term of the BJP government led by Yogi Adityanath ends on 14 March 2022. So the election for 403 seats will be held some time in February.  It is against this backdrop one has to see why all political parties are going to town to smear Yogi Adityanath’s government’s performance on all fronts — handling of second wave of Covid-19 pandemic, law & order issues, unemployment, minorities appeasement etc. Even the Sangh Parivar with its ear to the ground is not taking any chances.  It is learnt that the RSS held a chintan baithak with home minister Amit Shah and national president JP Nadda to discuss a comprehensive strategy for image makeover ahead of elections. The agenda also included maintaining the much-needed coordination between the party organization and Yogi’s government which they feel is currently missing. According to informed sources, various remedial measures were discussed by the BJP and RSS leaders, including SD Hosbale; and UP BJP’s organization secretary Sunil Bansal.  According to insiders, a cabinet reshuffle is imminent with some non-performers being dropped. Besides, there is a strong possibility that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trusted aide and former IAS officer AK Sharma, who was elected recently to the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council may be appointed as new Deputy Chief Minister. Sharma can play a crucial role to streamline the administration and curb anti-incumbency. One thing is loud and clear: BJP cannot afford to lose the UP Assembly election as 80 Lok Sabha seats are at stake which are crucial for them to retain power at the Centre in the 2024 elections.
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Swamy Warns Against Orchestrated Slandering Of Chennai PSBB School

“I will legally defend Chennai PSBB school if TN Govt does not stop goons slandering them, says Dr @Swamy39 jee.” This was retweeted by Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy early morning Thursday (May 27) to reiterate his stand on Chennai’s distinguished Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Senior Secondary School (PSBB). The legally sharp BJP leader has decided to step in, sensing that the prestigious institution could be unfairly targeted for an employee’s alleged misdemeanours – in a highly polarised Tamil Nadu polity where Brahmins are often at the receiving end of toxic, hate campaigns. Reacting to caste-phobic slurs, he tweeted earlier: “Only a Gyani and Tyagi can be a Brahmin. So Muthuramalinga Thevar is for me a Brahmin. School teachers, Pujaris etc are Brahmins. No one is born Brahmin per se. If some teacher misbehaves by an inquiry, he should be disowned.” The accused teacher was suspended by the school administration – after complaints of online harassment; and later arrested under POCSO Act sections 11 and 12; IPC Act 354 (a) and 509; and IT Act section 67 and 67 (a). While the law will take its course, the schools are required to raise the bar on compliances to protect children. PSSB was founded by educationists. The allegations come close on the heels of the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women directing Chennai’s Loyola College to pay Rs 64.3 lakh to a woman faculty member who was allegedly harassed by a Jesuit Father and terminated from service.
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Why Is Chennai’s Padma Seshadri School Being Singled Out?

The Chennaite, housebound and locked down, a salacious incident has ignited his voyeuristic interest for the past three days. A teacher, from the Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan, Rajagopalan, allegedly sexually harassed his female students, both online and in person. Sexual harassment in workplace, and educational institutions is nothing new. But this school, PSBB, considered a Holy Grail institution, founded by two eminent academics, the late YG Parthasarathy and his wife Late Yecha Gunja Rajalakshmi Parthasarathy or Mrs YGP and the scandal garnered more than normal attention. Why? For the Brahmin bashers, this has come like manna from heaven for those who are bent on denigrating the well-disciplined and highly respected Brahmin community of Tamil Nadu, not just for their scholarly ethos but for the top bureaucratic positions held by this small community.  YG Mahendran and his daughter, Madhuvanthi (who stood for the BJP ideology in the just concluded elections), both trustees on the School’s Board are facing scathing criticism, as they are seen responsible for what happens in the school under their Board. Agreed, sexual harassment by anyone has to be dealt with an iron fist, no one should take shelter under any community label if proved guilty. But using this incident as a rallying point for political mileage, to shame and bash to pulp the reputation of an entire community crosses all boundaries of decency.
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Is Uddhav Thackeray Eyeing A Bigger Role In National Politics?

He shocked and surprised everybody by severing ties with BJP after 32 years. Not without reason. The Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray was very clear from day one — he wanted to be the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.  Here, the NCP supremo Sharad Pawar played a key role by bringing NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena to form Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi, and in the process cocked-a-snook at BJP. But, ever since Thackeray took over the reins he has been battling crisis after crisis — first wave of Covid-19 lockdown, Sushant Singh Rajput case, Sachin Vaze conspiracy to second wave lockdown.  In all fairness he managed to stem the Covid wave in Maharashtra with Mumbai becoming a role model for other states to emulate.  According to insiders, Thackeray is nursing a bigger ambition; he is keen to play a bigger role at the national level. It may be mentioned that Thackeray was a prominent signatory to two recent letters signed by leading Opposition leaders demanding free vaccination and supporting the farmers’ agitation. Thackeray, it seems, has already dropped sufficient hints not to rejoin hands with the BJP but will play a crucial role in the anti-BJP front. He enjoys good relations with veteran opposition leaders like Sonia Gandhi, Farooq Abdullah, Mamata Banerjee and Akhilesh Yadav.  Shiv Sena MP and Saamana, Executive Editor Sanjay Raut has reportedly launched backstage activities to project Thackeray as a leader who managed the second wave of Covid outbreak successfully, and can be the leader to lead the anti-BJP front.  Thackeray is indeed getting ambitious.
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Is TN Finance Minister Deliberately Stirring Hornet's Nest?

Tamil Nadu’s finance minister Palanivel Thiagarajan is in demand internationally as his old contacts, especially diplomats, ask for him whenever they are thinking of routing aid to the State in the time of the pandemic. When Rev Jesse Jackson Sr wished to contact Tamil Nadu to say he was pressing US President Joe Biden to release US vaccines for India, the civil rights leader could think of no one better than ‘PT’ to be his go-to man. As a finance professional, the graduate from MIT and former investment banker with a British bank, ‘PT’ is accustomed to calling a spade a spade. But, as a politician, he is struggling to control his propensity to let loose barbs aimed at various personalities. He was in the news straightaway as he took on Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, founder of the Isha movement, putting him down as a land-grabbing godman who will have to face the law soon. Isha Foundation said they were “appalled that a man of his (Jaggi Vasudev) stature has been subject to the Minister’s unparliamentary and uncalled for personal attack.” The media dream of having a politico come out with all guns firing to offer the public lively bytes is being fulfilled almost on a daily basis. The other day, ‘PT’ came up with “barking dogs” to classify a rabble rousing right wing politician of Tamil Nadu. The world of finance may be a grey area surrounded by figures in black and white but the TN finance minister is proving to be colourful when in front of the media as he is never shy of sharp and witty retorts.
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Making Sense Of Tamil Nadu's Stricter Lockdown

Looks like the second corona wave has deluged Tamil Nadu in unprecedented ways. Agreed, TN Chief Minister MK Stalin has proactively taken the views of all the stakeholders concerned in several meetings. After nearly 15 days of a regulated lockdown, when shops remained open from 6 am to 10 am, a sudden decision on Saturday, May 22 to impose very strict lockdown, and yet allow shops to remain open till 9 pm on both Saturday and Sunday sent the people into a feeding frenzy. Within minutes, commercial neighbourhoods were inundated with pushing, shoving and elbowing crowds, wanting to stock up, sending black marketing up ….the lowly Lauki or Bottle Gourd cost Rs 70 a kilo, Snake Gourd Rs 80, as for other exotic veggies, the middle class would rather do without these. It is hard to judge such decisions by the ensuing fallout. The parable of the blind men trying to decipher an existentialist truth is so very apt. The bigger the round table, the more varied the solutions. Probably, the government’s view that at one stroke traders would liquidate most of the inventory, and allow the people to stock up for a week’s strict lockdown was the logic behind this. Unfortunately, this decision could make matters worse in an already frightening situation. Instead, the TN authorities would have done lasting service by opening up neighbourhood vaccination centers/ camps, demanded that the state’s vaccine needs were met by the Centre, and dangled the carrot of incentives for those who rushed to get the jab. Stricter lockdowns only spread a sense of panic and defiance. The blind men are still figuring out this elephant.
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Boris Heaves A Sigh Of Relief On Modi Deal

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson may have been heaving a sigh of relief after copping much criticism that he was pursuing a trade deal with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that stopped him from ordering a ban on flights from India. Scientific evaluation of the India-dominant strain of the coronavirus has been declared to be less transmissible than it was first feared. Critics had Boris in their crosshairs ever since the India strain began to threaten UK’s road map out of a strict lockdown that has marked June 21 as the day of liberation after May 17 saw people being allowed to gather indoor at bars and restaurants and even hug each other. Strangely, hugging had been prohibited since the outbreak flared up in March 2020.  Researchers say the India strain may have proved a problem because of what is called the “founder effect”, which is small numbers proving explosive in a tight community in which three generations of people may share living space. This comes after Boris was repeatedly slammed for postponing a ban on flights out of India as the UK and India negotiated on a possible trade deal and the Indian strain filtered through to Britain to threaten pronounced Asian neighbourhoods like Bolton in Northern England. The same criticism was made of Modi who had wooed Donald Trump in February 2020 and hence delayed a national lockdown.
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Why BJP Did Not Win West Bengal Elections As Expected?

For any political party growing from 3 to 77 seats is a big achievement. Not for BJP. It was hoping to form the government by winning over 200 seats in West Bengal 2021 Assembly Elections. But in the end Mamata Banerjee’s party Trinamool Congress won 211 seats. Now, everybody is doing soul searching – BJP, political analysts, bookies, journalists, pollsters. But, the real answer has come from a karyakarta Sourav Chakraborty (@Mahakal_k_Bhakt). In his 10-part tweet to PM @narendramodi and HM @AmitShah he has lucidly explained the reasons for BJP’s failure. He says everybody is blaming Bengali Hindus for not voting for BJP. But the ground reality is totally different. Some of his reasons are: 1. Many of their karyakartas were ex-CPI-M, who joined BJP only to save themselves from TMC but did not accept BJP’s ideology. They made BJP’s ground organisation weak in many constituencies. 2. Welcoming and promoting TMC leaders and ignoring its own dedicated karyakartas. 3. Ignoring Hindutva for Muslim votes. 4. Ignoring the warning of RSS by taking corrupt politicians from TMC and compromising with party’s idealogy. 5. No CM face in front of Mamata. 6. Scam in MLA ticket distribution. 7. Congress and CPIM aligned with TMC to stop BJP. And finally poor management of polling and counting agents. Clearly, you don’t need to be masters in political science to read the writing on the wall. Political strategist Prashant Kishor saw it long back but a confident BJP did not take him seriously.
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Prashant Kishor To Re-Enter Bihar Politics?

The photograph on poll strategist Prashant Kishor’s Twitter handle says it all. It has Mahatma Gandhi’s quote: “The best politics is right action.” So he took the right action by shutting down his outfit  IPAC at the peak of its success.  Both his clients Mamata Banerjee and MK Stalin won the 2021 Assembly Polls. Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh who had appointed Kishor as political advisor with a Cabinet rank for 2022 Assembly election is awaiting clarity from Kishor. So what next? Politics it is …and that too from Bihar his home state — he was born in Rohtas; his father Dr Shrikant Pandey practiced in Buxar. The Brahmin boy grew up without his caste surname — like many in the state do in the hope of a more egalitarian society or to escape caste-based biases. After finishing higher education, he moved to New York to join the United Nations. He came back to India some times in 2010 and has been a poll strategist since then. His clients: BJP, INC, AAP, AITC, YSRCP, DMM and TMC. He has been nursing political ambitions; he joined Nitish Kumar’s party JDU as vice president in 2018 but was expelled in January 2020 for opposing NDA’s Citizenship Amendment Act. Analysts who have read his mind say that Kishor knows the future is Bihar. Reason: Congress presence has shrunk. Nitish Kumar’s JDU is losing its grip and Tejaswi Yadav of RJD may be popular but carries lots of baggage. Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party is no threat. That leaves BJP – and he knows every chink in the BJP’s armour. But, the key question everybody is asking: Will he float his own party? Will it be an AAP sort scenario in Bihar? So, for now it’s watch-and-wait.
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With Trusted Aides Deserting, Uncertainty Looms Large Over Kamal Haasan's Political Future

Kamal Haasan is busy picking up pieces of his shattered ego, his political outfit and his cinematic charisma bartered away for an ephemeral Chief Minister’s Gaddi. The media in Tamil Nadu is as vitriolic in its scathing commentary of failure as it is in showering praise on victors. The other day a popular Tamil magazine’s prime time show called Kamal’s ambitious venture, Makkal Meedhi Maiam (The remains of the outfit). Ouch! That hurts. True enough, a number of Kamal’s key functionaries quit, Makkal Needhi Maiam, in quick succession. First it was Dr R Mahendran, VP and most visible fundraiser, Kamila Nasser, Dr Santosh Babu  ex-IAS, who came on board with high mutual expectations, activist Padma Priya. More exodus is predicted. Kamal reacted with cinematic flare and Shakespearean style: “Traitors and fair weather followers, be gone. It’s good that I didn’t have to de-weed the ungratefuls.” The quitters too have their grouse and lament, “The fault dear Brutus…..we are underlings”. There are many who now gripe that inner party democracy was missing, Kamal took key decisions advised by two acknowledged carpetbaggers, an ex-PR consultant Suresh Iyer and a mercurial media consultant, Mahendran, building an impenetrable barrier around the leader. His admirers and followers have to now accept that he could not morph into that all conquering cinematic hero who could punch the opposition one-handed. In essence, has Kamal burned his bridges and used up his life lines?
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Stalin’s New Approach To Change TN Political Landscape Forever

Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin has ushered in a new era of healthy politics. In forming an anti-Covid committee of all-party MLAs he was signaling that he is ready to take the bi-partisan route to politics.  An immediate beneficiary was his own Covid relief fund that attracted a contribution of Rs 1 crore from the opposition AIADMK as well as a month’s salary from its 66 MLAs. More than the money, the gestures towards fostering healthy political ties carried a trend-breaking message of amity. This is a sea change from the frosty relationship between the two Dravidian majors, which have been daggers drawn for decades, especially after Assembly incidents involving Jayalalithaa whose saree may have been tugged by ruling DMK legislators. A series of walkouts or boycott of Assembly proceedings used to be a constant feature as the parties refused to see eye to eye on anything save the most popular issues.  Stalin seems determined to change all that and ex-CM Edappadi K Palaniswami is also playing up to it by being a graceful loser while tweeting his congratulations to Stalin on the popular verdict. While it is not certain how long the bonhomie will last, a positive change in the political atmosphere is owed to Stalin’s willingness to be the diplomat.
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Wall Street Rockstar Takes Over As TN Finance Minister, Sends Expectations Soaring

Of the charmed circle of MK Stalin’s cabinet, the new Finance Minister,  Palanivel Thiagarajan is seen as a Wall Street poster boy, with his MIT Sloan School credentials, stints at Lehman Brothers (ahem, a not so bespoken qualification), and his stint at StanChart, Singapore. But above all his political DNA and public service provenance is impeccable. Born to wealth, grandson of a Justice Party Leader who was Tamil Nadu CM in the late 30s, and son of PTR Palanivel Rajan, former Speaker of TN Assembly and a cornerstone of DMK strength in Madurai. The famous Meenakshi Amman is the family Deity for their unshakable faith.  Palanivel Thiagarajan has a compelling telegenic presence. Add to this public profile mix, an American wife in the correctly saree clad Margaret Thiagarajan and two adorable sons Palani and Vel and you have the perfect formula for newsworthy curiosity. But don’t let all these optics divert your attention from what the newly minted Finance Minister is facing; a never before debt ridden and fiscal deficit reality in the second most industrialised and developed state in India. PTR has to grapple with the frightening Covid, face the problems of a nearly 5 lakh crore debt and a catastrophic drop in production and new jobs. Definitely a hot seat to cut one’s teeth as a finance minister. Goddess Meenakshi may be invoked with much faith by this family.
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Former TN CM Palaniswami Faces Enemies Within And Without

Former Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami won his first battle post-polls when he was elected “unanimously” as leader of the AIADMK legislature party and appointed as Leader Of The Opposition. O Panneerselvam, former deputy CM, also former CM, waged a protracted bitter fight for the post until he knew he would be outvoted in the party and compromised. But the war is far from over.  EPS was bent upon retaining control of the party for the simple reason that OPS is seen as a Sasikala loyalist who would like to bring back the discredited “General Secretary” into the AIADMK fold. OPS may have been shabbily treated by the Sasikala’s Mannargudi Thevar clan when he was interim CM after Jayalalithaa’s death in December 2016. He was said to have even complained to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about it but the PM laughed it away saying he was CM with the police department under him and should face no threat from anyone. EPS knows he has to be on constant guard. Though Sasikala announced her retirement from active politics, it was believed that it was strategic move on her part to wait for election results and try to take back the party if it was trounced in the polls. The good performance by EPS has saved him but his position and the party is safe only for now.
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Open Defiance Once Again By G23: Can Gandhis Rein In Dissenters?

After receiving drubbing in the recently held five assembly elections, the dissenting group, G-23 within the Congress party, has once again become active. Its member, the Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal fired the first salvo; so did others targeting the Gandhi family — Sonia, Rahul, Priyanka — and their man Friday, KC Venugopal, Congress General Secretary (Organization). The G23 group’s main contention is to have an elected president instead of a nominated one. Seeing the built-up and media coverage, the Congress Working Committee held a Zoom meeting on May 10 with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot parroting, “How can we hold elections during Covid?” Interestingly, Ghulam Nabi Azad supported Gehlot. So, for now the problem has been laid to rest. Sonia Gandhi will continue as CWC President. According to an insider, they were sure about the outcome of CWC meeting. Now, they will hold secret parleys to mount pressure for an elected president. Among them there is a consensus to project the candidature of Shashi Tharoor for President’s post. Tharoor has a strong CV. The insider is at pain to point out that they are not against the Gandhis per se but want to protect the legacy of Congress so that they can bounce back under new leadership. The question is will the Gandhis listen?
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Durga, The Positive Force Behind Stalin

It was undoubtedly one of the most dignified and significant swearing in ceremonies of any Government in Tamil Nadu. But amidst the solemn dignity of a historical event, it was Durga Stalin, the Chief Minister MK Stalin’s better half, who quietly cornered the focus. As her husband took the oath, she shed tears, wiped away quickly from her masked face. And why not? He had waited in the wings for 10 years. Durga was married in 1975 into this politically strong milieu, lived in a bustling joint family in that iconic Gopalapuram house, as the daughter-in-law of Kalaignar and his wife, Dayalu Ammal. Only when Stalin moved into the Chennai mayor’s chair, could Durga could set up her own home, run her nuclear family to bring up her daughter Senthamarai and son, Udhayanidhi. She recollects without a trace of self-consciousness that they were like any other household. Stalin helped the kids with their homework, getting them ready for school. Durga would fret and lose her cool if the kids grades suffered. Stalin was and still is Mr Cool, the Cucumber. They loved watching every Tamil movie released, opting for the late-night show. What is most striking is her unfailing faith in religion, in contrast to the public stance of a self-styled atheist family. She has visited many temples and performed several religious rituals for her husband’s success. Religion and faith have been her mainstay.
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BJP Does Balancing Act In Assam, Rewards Poster Boy Himanta Sarma

BJP has stepped one step backward and opted for a former Congressman turned the party’s poster boy, Himanta Biswa Sarma, for the Chief Minister’s post in Assam, over giving second term to Sarbananda Sonowal. BJP’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was clearly against Sarma’s anointment but BJP had no choice in a serious bid to avoid a rebellion from Sarma who enjoys clout among the newly elected legislators. Due to strong claims made by Sarma on CM’s post, BJP did not project Sonowal or him or any other leader as party’s CM candidate in the run up to the assembly elections. Instead, BJP took cautious decision to reach out to the Assam people on the development and welfare plank while deftly handling the CAA and NCR issues and hitting out at the Congress promoted MahaJyot alliance, led by leaders like AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal, seen by many as the allies of the illegal immigrants. Sarma is widely lauded for his effective management of Covid-19 as the State’s Health Minister; as well as for his intuitive leadership that has helped the BJP win assembly elections in 2016 and 2021. According to some observers, he will have to skilfully handle the CAA and NCR matters even though the Congress led front failed to mobilize the voters on this tricky issue. On the other hand, Sonowal, who gracefully signed off as Assam Chief Minister, having completed the full five-year term since 2016, has declined a Union cabinet post. He had earlier served as the Union Minister of Sports & Youth Affairs (2014-16) – and is now seeking to stay back in Assam.
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Giant Killer Suvendu Adhikari Bags A Bigger Role In W Bengal

BJP, after its failure to unseat the Trinamool Congress Supremo Mamata Banerjee in the high-octane West Bengal elections, decided to do course correction. Reward and recognize people even if they had joined BJP recently. There was intense lobbying within BJP and RSS for electing the Leader Of Opposition. But finally, Modi-Shah duo decided in favour of the giant killer Suvendu Adhikari who had defeated Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram as promised. Adhikari’s presence inside the Assembly as Leader of Opposition is bound to give heebie-jeebies to TMC leaders, especially Didi. He will be a constant reminder of her defeat. Maybe that seems to be BJP’s strategy. Three other names doing the rounds were that of the party’s state president Dilip Ghosh, Mukul Roy and Ashok Lahiri. RSS had made a strong case for the economist Lahiri. According to RSS insiders, even though BJP’s number has grown from 3 to 77 but winning the election and forming the government after five years largely depends on the kind of role the Leader of Opposition plays. RSS therefore hinted that aggressive posturing won’t do party any good. They should succeed in reaching out to all sections by effectively selling an alternate development agenda by questioning TMC. RSS, it is learnt, does not want BJP to repeat its mistake of targeting Didi personally.
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Make Gadkari Health Minister Chorus Grows Louder As Covid Crisis Deepens

The chorus for appointing Nitin Gadkari as Health Minister – even if for time being — is growing louder by the day amid deadly second wave of pandemic. The Union Minister of Road & Highway Transport – also fondly called as Mr Phoolkari in Maharashtra owing to some incredible feats of engineering, including Mumbai Pune Express and some 55 flyovers in the Maximum City – is now being talked about as the Man of the Moment who could address the unprecedented demand for Covid beds and oxygen – needed critically to save lives. Not only his own BJP fraternity, but also political stalwarts and corporate leaders cutting across ideological lines acknowledge that the minister never fails to walk the talk. The way he managed the raging Covid situation in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region – drawing goodwill of all parties – is the sort of leadership that his admirers expect him to carry forward. This leadership was amply evident in the way he secured about 300 ventilators from Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy; and also got leading industrialists committed to higher oxygen supplies. Despite lockdown, he delivered a record 36.4 km a day construction of highways – and has set even higher targets for the current fiscal. His handling of the MSME portfolio too assumes critical importance as he continues to shore up morale of small businesses hit hard by the virus, reaching out with over 500 video conferences. With rumour mills doing overtime since 2019, he has strongly denied that he is eyeing the highest office in the country – nor is he keen to be the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Looks like Gadkari is born to serve the people. May his tribe increase!
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A ransacked Amma canteen

Will Stalin Reverse Popular Schemes Of The Previous Regime?

In Tamil Nadu, MK Stalin is firmly in the saddle but has work cut out for him. So far, he has done everything by the book, keeping to protocols.  But, all of a sudden, some DMK “extreme loyalists” targeted Amma canteens, an abiding symbol of J Jayalalithaa’s populist policy. They ransacked one, bringing down the nameboards, smashing the cooking and serving utensils — with a vulgar show of strength, post victory.  Since 2013 when JJ’s Government started these Amma Unavagams (eateries), lakhs of the poor and marginalised people have eaten their fill here, all over TN. Idlis at Re 1, curd rice at Rs 3, sambhar rice at Rs 9, a subsidised system where no one was discriminated against. Other states have emulated this model.  Stalin reacted immediately and the anti-socials were booked. The DMK cadres have a reputation for violence and unruly behaviour, and Stalin has to reign in such overkill. But the AIADMK too has not been beyond reproach. The people here cannot forget the vindictive response of Jayalalithaa, when AIADMK stormed to power in 2011, and promptly overturned the decision to convert the newly minted legislative and executive complex at Omandurar Estate, a dream project of late DMK chief M Karunanidhi. The charismatic statesman had personally overseen the design of this aesthetic complex. JJ converted this into a super-speciality tertiary hospital, later adding a medical college and retained Fort St George as the seat of Government. An entirely serendipitous, fortunate fallout as taxpayers’ money did not go down the drain. It’s in the interest of the new ruling dispensation to ensure that election triumphalism does not lead to malevolent political actions. But who cares? Taxpayer and his money are soon parted.
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Is Kissa Kursi Ka Driving Sidhu Towards AAP, Ditch Captain?

Cricketer turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu has launched a tirade against his own party’s government in Punjab. He is demanding a fair investigation by a new SIT into a sacrilege case and has also accused the state Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, of colluding with the Shiromani Akali Dal that was in power then. The case refers to the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib by miscreants and the subsequent police shooting on those protesting the desecration. There are other Congress leaders Sunil Jakhar and Hinder Randhawa who are also upset. But the insiders suggest that the Punjab farmers are not happy with the state leadership and it would affect the party’s prospects in the coming state elections. The farmers seem to be tilting towards the AAP party in Punjab. The grapevine indicates that AAP party leadership is considering Sidhu as its next CM candidate in Punjab and Bhagwant Maan, AAP MP has consented for the same. No wonder Captain Singh has already roped in Prashant Kishor to strategize to overcome anti-incumbency factor, farmer’s negative sentiments and work for his return to power! But Kishor after steering Mamata Banerjee and MK Stalin to victory has quit the election management business. It needs to be seen whether he will fulfil the contract with Captain. Sidhu joined BJP in 2004 and won two assembly elections from Amritsar. In April 2016 BJP nominated him to Rajya Sabha but he was disillusioned with BJP and resigned in July 2016. In 2017 he joined the Indian National Congress.
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Only Prashant Kishor, Suvendu Adhikari Could Read Bengal Voters’ Mind

It was harakiri everybody thought when political strategist Prashant Kishor stuck his neck out, saying if BJP crosses 100 seats in West Bengal he will quit his business. He was bang on. BJP won 77 seats. Suvendu Adhikari said he will defeat Mamata Banerjee in his pocket borough Nandigram. He did it, by 1,956 votes. But, others starting with BJP, TMC, bookies, political pundits, pollsters and Journalists seem to have got the whole sum – numbers and strategy — wrong. Now, people are saying, “I told you” Muslims and women voted for Didi. In the case of BJP, spokesperson Amit Malviya tweeted: “The BJP in Bengal, when it set itself a target of 200, displayed audacity of ambition….” Ambition is good but there certainly was disconnect with hoi polloi. TMC, on its part, was unnerved with their MLAs, party workers quitting in droves and joining BJP (though most of them lost the elections). Worried by BJP’s juggernaut, Didi started chanting chandi path and doing temple rounds to appease Hindu voters. And also appealed to Muslims to consolidate (that led to the Election Commission of India barring the Chief Minister from campaigning for 24 hours). In the end, TMC much to everybody’s surprise won 213 seats against 211 in the 2016 assembly elections. It was a similar feat BJP did in 2019 Lok Sabha polls when it won 303 seats while market intelligence was talking about 160 seats. In 2014 BJP had won 282 seats. Clearly, the story that comes loud and clear is: one strategy fits all does not always work. Corruption may not prove to be an issue sometime, whereas at times the idea to leverage religion can backfire.
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Stardust Loses Sheen: Tamil Voters Take A Break From Old Obsession

Film stars no longer are a magnetic pull in electoral politics. Tamil Nadu is a standing example in the just decided election that this polity has moved on to more substantive qualifications for political office. Ulaga Nayakan (global hero), Kamalhaasan, with his party symbol Torchlight, lost to BJP’s Vanathi Srinivasan. Cinema options too are hard to come by as he tried to keep both pots cooking. Khushboo lost from the Thousand Lights constituency, despite standing for the minorities on the BJP symbol. Seeman, a loquacious crowd puller film director has left his filmi image far behind as the leader of Naam Thamizhar Katchi. Did Rajni have a crystal ball to foresee such rout? His pulling out of the race when so many parties wooed his superstar crowd pulling charisma, seems truly wise, even portentive. Actor Vijay, the second rung superstar and his father, Director SA Chandrasekhar recently had public spats over the launching of Brand Vijay as a political entity. Vijay ruthlessly put a gag order on his Dad and fans. Is Vijay the second wise interpreter of maladies? Fast rising stars Vijay Sethupati and Sivakarthikeyan may be tempted, but they can clearly sight the trend. Better to make hay while the sun shines in the cinema. Only Udhayanidhi Stalin, hero-cum- scion, stood and won with over a lakh of votes, a bigger margin than Dad and a foregone verdict as the DMK juggernaut rolled through on th
Mamata MK Stalin

Election Results: More Like A Thundering Referendum

The fat lady has already cleared her throat, and in full flowing lung power, has started singing. The two most awaited election results have turned out to be ….well, a whack in the solar plexus for the establishment. “It is not that I love Brutus less, but that I love Rome more.” Mamata Banerjee, despite a BJP juggernaut trying to flatten her, has shown her grit and staying power. Bengal has proved that the minorities are clearly signalling their insecurity: isn’t this what the BJP was supposed to address? Correct fake electoral rolls, and bring a sense of security? Despite that colossus, Jayalalithaa’s yawning void, an intrepid farmer, Edappadi Palanisami managed to keep Tamil Nadu going for the full term. Actually, surprising with his tenacity. An almost grudging admiration for his true grit crept in. Say the talking heads and wagging tongues: “Without the baggage of the BJP and PMK, he would have fared much better, he almost made it.” As they say, “tell me who your friends are, I will tell you who you are.” Again, the Tamilian knew exactly where to draw the line: our Tamilian identity and heritage are dear to us, we will not tolerate tampering with what we have built. In all this, the Sutradaar of these two strong comebacks is seen as the real hero: PK, Prashant Kishor, who scripted this telling victory for two of the most vocal leaders – MK Stalin and Mamata. No wonder that political punters are betting big on PK starting his own outfit, a pan national monolith to represent the aspirations of our youth, impatiently wanting to change a flawed legacy of 70 odd years.
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Now, Udhayanidhi To Get A Berth, Kanimozhi Later?

Long before the exit polls began pointing universally to DMK storming back to power in Tamil Nadu, the party chief was closeted with his family in the hills when Stalin’s family members discussed in detail which posts would go to whom once the results came. Now, the dilemma facing the Chief Minister designate MK Stalin is whether to accommodate his son Udhayanidhi in his Cabinet. The authenticity of a WhatsApp message on Stalin’s Cabinet which began doing the rounds early on Monday (May 3) — with a post pencilled in for Udhyanidhi (B Com) as Minister for Municipal Administration, Rural Development, etc — is not known, but it does contain a message about the ‘Young Turk’ of DMK. Udhayanidhi was the firebrand campaigner who took on Narendra Modi and Amit Shah of BJP in all his speeches, questioning them and daring them on many issues. He can’t be kept out of the Cabinet now though he is only 44. As a DMK historian said, “His grandfather became CM at the age of 44. Where is the question of him not being in the Cabinet?” That leaves the question of Kanimozhi being asked to join the Cabinet as someone who has become very popular in the south as the MP from Thoothukudi. But, in view of staving off any talk of family bias, Stalin might skip including his half-sister right now. The focus is on first accommodating Udhayanidhi.
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The Guessing Game Continues In Maharashtra…

The guessing game ‘will it or won’t it survive’ continues in Maharashtra.  The twitterati is on overdrive, “Wait for June”, their tweets say. But, everybody from political analysts to man on the street, are saying that the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) cart is being pulled in different directions by the three parties – Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress. Everyday there is some proof of that. A case in point being Maharashtra’s Cabinet Minister Nawab Malik hogging publicity by saying that the State will provide free vaccines for people in the 18-45-year age bracket. Congress party was peeved. Its leader and state Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat said the decision on a free vaccine should be announced by the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Likewise, Aaditya Thackeray had tweeted: “The Govt of Maharashtra has decided to vaccinate its citizens free of cost….” Realising he had jumped the gun, he deleted his tweet quickly. On the other front, Sharad Pawar, who has been vocal and active since the formation of the MVA government, has been maintaining studied silence for the last one month on various events that has engulfed the state – Vazegate, Lockdown and CBI raids on former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh. One reason could be his health problem. He was flitting in and out of Breach Candy hospital. Be that as it may but political observers are reading too much into his so-called meeting with Amit Shah in Ahmedabad in March. Political observers say that the Congress and the NCP are quietly going about building their party’s image. On the other side, former Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis is in full flow; doing everything to ensure he is back in the CM’s saddle. Hope it is not the case of Waiting for Godot!
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FM Ke Pati Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai?

Speculation is rife in the Capital over the outburst of political economist Parakala Prabhakar, the husband of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. In his weekly Blog Midweek Matters on YouTube, Prabhakar has openly attacked the Modi government for its handling of the second wave of Covid-19.  In his 15-minute video, Prabhakar used strong words to express his anguish and criticize the Modi government. With this video circulating on social media and stories being written in newspapers, rumour mills are doing overtime whether Sitharaman will meet the same fate as that of Jayant Sinha, son of former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha. It may be recalled that Yashwant Sinha was critical of the Modi government as he felt sidelined in the party. His father’s constant outbursts at Modi saw Jayant Sinha who was holding the prestigious Minister Of State for Finance portfolio being shunted to Civil Aviation ministry in 2016. Even though he won 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Hazaribagh with a record margin yet Jayant Sinha failed to find a berth in the cabinet. Some people are asking why Prabhakar chose to attack PM via social media when he through his wife has got direct access to PM. Meanwhile, the Capital grapevine is buzzing about an imminent cabinet reshuffle some times in May
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TN’s Oxygen Chauvinism Cast An Ominous Shadow On Covid Relief Efforts

A new form of chauvinism has been spotted. It is induced by oxygen. Within hours of the top court setting conditions for the reopening of Vedanta’s Sterlite copper smelter in Thoothukudi (earlier Tuticorin) on the Tamil Nadu coast, Opposition leader MK Stalin declared that all oxygen produced by Sterlite should be used in Tamil Nadu and that no oxygen supply from any source should serve other states until Tamil Nadu’s requirements are fully met. Stalin’s observations came because the Tamil Nadu government, peeved at censorious comments from the Supreme Court, was hedging by saying that Sterlite would not be able to manufacture medical quality oxygen. Sterlite’s lawyer Harish Salve, however, told the court that the plant will be able to supply 200 MT of medical grade oxygen within 10 days of opening. Along with oxygen, Sterlite politics is also swirling in Tamil Nadu with a few political parties, including Vaiko’s MDMK, opposing the opening of the plant even in such a dire national emergency. The plant was shut for environmental concerns three years ago after protests turned violent with 13 people getting killed in police firing. And now, local people representing the victims of the firing are refusing to nominate anyone to the committee to oversee the production of oxygen.
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Photos : FOTOCORP.COM

Can Udhayanidhi Stalin Play Double Role?

For the 43-year-old privileged crown Prince, Udhayanidhi Stalin, son  of TN DMK chief MK Stalin, riding two horses simultaneously or wearing multiple hats should not be a problem…the DNA is such. His grandfather, late Kalaignar Karunanidhi, scripted the evolution of the DMK, even as he wrote cinema scripts and thundering dialogues for hit movies, cannily built his political empire into one of the most prosperous family dominated organisations. Son Stalin won his party spurs and long successful years as the heir apparent to the DMK throne, even as he acted in a few movies, won the mayor seat of Chennai, went to jail under MISA, an event frequently dredged up as a horrific reminder of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. Udhayanidhi aimed directly for hero roles in eight movies, with big time heroines, a few of them box office hits, soaked in that alchemy of Cinema and politics. Now, the TN election scene: Udhyanidhi is the contender from Chennai’s iconic Chepuak constituency. Already the surveys predict that he will breeze through. The grapevine has even decided what his portfolios may be. Now comes the hard part. Udhayanidhi has to choose between Cinema Hero and Party Power, a hard niggling choice. Are you wishing, Kaash mujhe bhi aise chunaav karna pade?
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Is Khushboo AIADMK Combines’ New Signature Perfume?

Actor Khushboo at 51, has done it all. She has acted in over 130 South Indian films, has idlis, sarees and jhumkas named after her, and then came that icing on her popularity cake: Tamil cinema fans built a temple for her near Tiruchirappalli … all this for a ‘woman of substance’ who can hold her own in a debate, talk about premarital sex and women’s empowerment with no hypocrisy. You can love Khushboo or hate her, but not ignore her. Well, she proved it to three of the most articulate political outfits sashayed into DMK in 2010, welcomed no less than the then Chief Minister, M Karunanidhi, walked out in a huff in 2014, right into the arms of a Congress party in disarray and quit in 2020, claiming being sidelined as Queen Sonia ignored her. Then she had that Eureka moment: the merry-go-round popular star found an attractive perch in the BJP in 2020. A lesser woman would have collapsed under the trolls and media sarcasm that ensued. Not Khushboo. She took on the baiters with unashamed elan. So, what if I changed political affiliations like costumes for a film dance sequence, she shot back. The BJP had met its match…and Khushboo her rocket launch. She is the party’s candidate from Thousand Lights, a Muslim and historical DMK stronghold. Come May 2, she may well sweep the trolls or the polls.
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TN’s Game Of Thrones Heading For A Photo Finish?

The Game of Thrones for Tamil Nadu has never before seen such heated speculation. Whichever party is about to win according to the main characters, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings. DMK Supremo MK Stalin waiting in the wings like Prince Charles, AIADMK Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisami smug in his expectation of a runaway electoral win with his considerable heavyweight alliances, the BJP hopes of a breakthrough, Chinnamma Sasikala sulking at her unexpected down turn of fortunes after thumping hard on Jayalalithaa’s gravesite, the lesser political parties hoping to pull off a bargaining coup. TN is awaiting the poll results with abated breath! So wearing masks is not an option. They say in Urdu, Bade Miyan Tho Bade Miyaan, Chote Miyaan Subhanallah. This political ilk may well be outflanked by the greed and ambition of the Babu class. After a full five year stint as part of the ruling power, the race is already on for the next tranche of share in goodies — portfolios, berths, lobbies. Word on the street, many an IAS and IPS incumbent has already started kite flying. Stalin and son Udayanidhi were tracked fiercely by some bureaucrats. Stalin’s family posse of 15 including cousins Maran winged their way to Kodaikanal, to savour some quality time away from these pestering aspirants, and a savvy scheme for family squabbles to be settled.
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Is Tamil Nadu CM Putting Up A Brave Face?

The AIADMK caretaker power centre is no pushover either. Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisami found out in good time that at least 15 of his erstwhile MLAs were planning to jump ship. So he called in the Judas team, coolly read out his numbers chart — his party would be neck-and-neck with DMK according to his intelligence wing’s math. So think twice before you kick this ladder, he advised. The lost souls quickly caught on, but they are still marked. Greed can make for a tenuous perch. As they say in Hindi, Na ghar ke, na ghaat ke.  One does think, may be Super Swami Jaggi Vasudev’s popular motivational words, athanaikkum aasai padu (desire everything) inspired them. The thrills and chills of an election, and its outcome!  Meanwhile, going by the betting market predictions, it is clear that the odds are against the ruling AIADMK.
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Vaccinating The World’s Largest Democracy

The ferocity of the second attack of pandemic has rattled everybody – with Covid toll hitting 1,500 a day after new cases surged from 50K on March 24 to 261K on April 18. Ten states – including UP, Delhi and Maharashtra — account for 79% of all new cases. For the argumentative Indians, it’s a moment to speak truth to power, to hold up a mirror to the all-powerful Prime Minister – with Mann Ki Baat (words of wisdom) pouring from plucky crusader Prashant Bhushan, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Saamna editorials. Beginning February, the tone was set by Bhushan: “FM announces Rs 35,000 crore of our money to be spent on Pvt Vaccine Companies for untested Vaccines at a time when Covid is naturally dying down in India! But this money cannot be given to poor migrant labour who lost their jobs or to Farmers for MSP on their crops. Wah FM sahiba!” The tweet was as confusing as it could be. The State had the opportunity to counter the disturbing narrative: instead of wasting time haggling over the MRP for the atm-nirbhar, all-affordable jab, it could have simply taken a leaf from America’s Operation Warp Speed that made the Big Pharma the nation’s ally. India’s fresh $17-million funding to ramp up Covaxin should hopefully lead to more investments in capacities – which are needed now to save lives as much as defend its $3-Trillion economy (and also, the $5-Trillion dream).

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.