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CoWin Data: Who Leaked It?

The twitter world went on overdrive over a tweet by Trinamool Congress national spokesperson Saket Gokhale over the CoWin data leak. He tweeted: “a major data breach of Modi Govt where personal details of all vaccinated Indians including their mobile nos., Aadhaar numbers, Passport numbers, voters ID have been leaked and are freely available.” Some of the people whose data were leaked are: Dy Chairman Rajya Sabha Haribansh Narayan Singh; TMC leaders Derek O’ Brien, Sushmita Dev; Congress leaders P Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh, Ahishek Manu Singhvi KC Venugopal and couple of TV journalists. So where does the blame lie? Clearly, during Pandemic anybody who travelled had to give a vaccine certificate. Besides, self-attested copies of Aadhaar/Passport/Pan cards are given by all of us for various purposes – banks, insurance companies, CAs etc. So the leak can be from anywhere. From the government side, union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar immediately tweeted: “With ref to some Alleged Cowin data breaches reported on social media, @IndianCERT has immdtly responded n reviewed this (sic). A Telegram Bot was throwing up Cowin app details upon entry of phone numbers. The data being accessed by bot from a threat actor data, which seems to hv been populated wth previously stolen data in the past. It does not appear that Cowin app or database has been directly breached.“

Not A Big Fat Wedding: FM’s Daughter Marries OSD In PMO In A Low Key Event

In a country which celebrates weddings in unbelievable opulence and obscene lavishness, the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman daughter‘s wedding was a low-key affair. So it was not surprising that the news that Sitharaman’s daughter Parakala Vangamayi married Pratik Doshi, OSD of Joint Secretary rank in the PMO, spread like a wildfire. It became talk of the town for being a low key affair. This quiet almost secret wedding held in Sitharaman’s Jayanagar home in Bengaluru was blessed by the Seers of Udipi’s Adamaru Mutt in the presence of close relatives; no fanfare or trumpeting, no glitterati or paparazzi. Naturally speculations were doing the rounds why it was such a low key affair, what did the bride and groom wear, and most importantly who is the groom was flying thick and fast. The bride, a journalist, wore a traditional pink silk saree, and Sitharaman, a Molekalmani saree. The groom Pratik Doshi is a Gujarati who worked as Research Assistant at Modi’s CM’s office after his graduation from Singapore’s Management School. Doshi’s transition to national level as OSD in the PM’s office with his portfolio of Research and Strategy was seamless and smooth as silk. Doshi, people in the know aver, is the eyes and ears of the PM. The same curious network is busy now, feverishly connecting the dots...Chanakyan intrigue, political chutzpah, or plain and simple falling in love?

What Ails AIADMK Chief Edappadi Palanisami?

Is the AIADMK General Secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) ill and advised to rest? Seems plausible, as he has not been sighted in public for the past two weeks, communicating only through his staff. He had announced anti-DMK protest marches throughout Tamil Nadu but was not seen participating in any, even the one in Salem, his pocket borough, something quite out of character for a politician who thrives on being seen and heard with his hearty smile and presence. The party cadres are on chat and chatter mode, flying speculations in every which way. Some said he was having severe joint pain after the hectic birthday celebrations, early May, and has been advised to rest. Others are concerned about bone health issues. EPS has shouldered many burdens since the Assembly elections when the DMK wrested power from his party. Then he had to take on the rivalry and bitter power struggles with O Panneerselvan, his party heavyweight which brought on a number of legal battles. The speculations about his health took on a new dimension when he visited the temple, after a visit to Coimbatore to consult doctors about “bone problems”. Was he advised surgery, even a visit abroad for treatment? For now, his party cadres are joining in the prayers at the Lord Murugan temple, and wishing him a speedy recovery so that he can return to his busy schedule.

Post Balasore Triple Train Tragedy, Railway Minister Orders Pan India Rail Safety Audit

With the Opposition parties gunning for Ashwin Vaishnaw’s scalp over Balasore’s triple train tragedy, the Railway Minister has now ordered a high level safety audit inquiry for the entire railway network across the country. The objective is to ensure that the rail network is tamper proof beyond the reach of unauthorized human elements. Those who have served senior positions in the Indian Railways say that the suave Railway minister known to deliver on his commitments wants to let the public at large know that the Railways work culture will be much better than they are today. Vaishnaw in his own inimitable style is firing on all cylinders to address the railway safety issues. His immediate meeting with the Railway Board after returning from Odisha spelling out his work expectations has set the ball rolling across the rank and file of railway employees across the country. The Railway Board chairman held a meeting with all general managers and divisional railway managers communicating what needs to be done on a range of activities which will prevent such big accidents.


Is Communal Cauldron In Maharashtra Deliberately Kept On Boil?

Communal cauldron in Maharashtra is deliberately kept on the boil in view of the forthcoming elections in the state, charges Opposition leaders. Communal disturbances broke out simultaneously in Kolhapur, Dhule and Ahmednagar on June 7 following protests called by pro-Hindu organisations protesting against glorification of Aurangzeb on social media and his pics being flanked openly in rallies. Nationalist Congress Party supremo (NCP) Sharad Pawar alleges that the ruling alliance had failed to act strongly against communal forces. NCP leader Jitendra Avhad says that if assembly elections were held in Maharashtra today the Opposition alliance party Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) would win more than 200 seats and hence these disturbances were being engineered. The tensions have been simmering in the state for some time now ever since the BJP-Shiv Sena returned to power in the state with Eknath Shinde as chief minister. The tensions rise in the backdrop of anti- love jihad rallies organised at various districts.  Anil Parab, leader from the Uddhav Thackeray group said that such tensions would deter investors away from the state. Meanwhile, deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis warned that the spurt in glorification of Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan would not be tolerated.
Ajit pawar_005

Ajit Pawar Alleges Rate-Card For Bureaucratic Transfers In Maharashtra

After Karnataka, an alleged rate-card for bureaucratic transfers is claimed to be existing in Maharashtra, too. Former deputy chief minister and now leader of the Opposition Ajit Pawar has charged that the Shinde-Fadnavis government in the state has been indulging in corruption for transfers and appointments of various officials. Pawar has also said that only a select group of MLAs has been authorized to decide on the transfers. Pawar said his interaction with several IAS and IPS officers had revealed that although they were empowered to transfer staff, they had been told orally that only those staff members should be transferred whose names appear in a list sent from Mantralaya, the state government headquarters. Pawar disclosed that some such officials had gone abroad, too. Is there any connection between the transfers and foreign jaunts of certain leaders, he demanded to know. Quoting media reports, Pawar claimed that the rate to transfer an assistant in the agriculture department was Rs 3 lakh! If officials are transferred by extorting huge amounts from them, how can they be expected to be honestly performing their duty? Unless the mindset of the officials changes, people can’t expect good administration, he observed. Pawar advised the media to speak with different officials to verify the truth in what he was saying. He lamented that such an atmosphere had never existed in Maharashtra.
Balasore train accident

Balasore Rail Accident: Political Tourism, Lip Service To The Fore

Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik has been patient and courteous to flurry of requests and inquiries from CMs of the neighbouring states about the fate of passengers from their states who could have lost their lives in the Balasore rail accident involving Coromandel Express.  However, what he must not have anticipated is the rush of some leaders to the accident site or the state for optics. At least two leaders seem to have rushed just to make a point — West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Tamil Nadu Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin. Didi made not one but two visits, just to remind she has been a Rail Minister once and even made it a point to rush to Balasore on the day of the accident and be spotted with the Union rail minister Ashwini Vaishnaw at the site. In fact, on live TV, the Rail Minister politely ticked her off as she suggested that the death count could be as high as 500. It is odd that the Bengal CM is back again visiting Odisha hospitals — in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. As for Udhayanidhi, it is being said he was quite stumped when CM Patnaik asked him if he had any back-up plan to take stranded patients back home.  Caught off-guard by probing queries, the young minister decided to play safe and chose to personally visit hospitals looking for those injured from Tamil Nadu. Only two persons hailing from TN were traced, out of a total of untraceable 8 from a list of 127 passengers with Tamil Nadu addresses.

Is Kejriwal’s Helicopter Diplomacy Threatening The Grand Old Party?

Even as the Opposition unity drive is in turbo mode, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is perceived as pushing his personal agenda that seems to irk the Congress party. He called on Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin in Chennai and this seems to upset the GoP. The Congress is well aware that its vote share has been systematically cut by AAP in Punjab, Delhi, and to some extent in Himachal. The old Congress warhorses Ajay Makan and Sandeep Dikshit had warned party president Mallikarjun Kharge about Kejriwal’s hidden agenda. A senior political analyst feels that Kejriwal’s diplomacy could change DMK’s seat sharing arrangement with the Congress; it is generally benevolent with Congress. But, senior journalist Rajagopalan feels Kejriwal is not on a good wicket as far as his imagery is concerned. The Rs 65-crore Sheesh Mahal he has built has destroyed the clean ‘Aam Aadmi’ imagery he carefully crafted over the last decade. In the wake of a SC verdict on sharing of power over bureaucratic transfers/postings, Kejriwal came down heavily on five Babus who allegedly leaked juicy details about his Sheesh Mahal to Times Now Navbharat Times TV. He is baiting the Congress, hoping to drive a wedge in their relationship with DMK. Will he be successful in his wooing strategy?

Reduce Dependency On Modi-Shah-Nadda, Says Central Leadership To BJP Bengal’s Unit

With the recent electoral defeat in Karnataka, central BJP leadership has made it categorical to the Bengal unit to reduce its dependency on Delhi. Bengal BJP insiders say that the Central leadership has given a clear directive that the state unit cannot seek high command’s opinion on all the issues pertaining to the state. Most importantly, central leadership has stated not to focus completely on PM Narendra Modi, but to give equal importance to the party’s local leaders in regard to the campaign for the upcoming Panchayat poll and next year’s Lok Sabha elections. According to the report of the Central Observers over-reliance on Modi-Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP National President J P Nadda in the election campaign is not making the organisation self-sustaining. Moreover, a large part of the state leadership thinks that Modi magic will work during last minute-campaigning. This over dependence on Modi is the cause of local leaders not being proactive and in the process becoming irrelevant. According to BJP sources, Amit Shah and JP Nadda will visit Bengal and other states regularly to directly investigate the ‘Lok Sabha Pravas Programme’. But the main work has to be done by the state leadership. One of the vice-presidents of the state BJP and MP Jagannath Sarkar said that local leaders are now being given importance since some decisions that are imposed from above, lead to mistakes.
Abhishek Didi

Didi Attacks BJP Over CBI Summons To Nephew Abhishek

Trinamool Congress is faced with one too many negative news — reports of rampant corruption, increasing infighting within the party and CBI summoning Abhishek Banerjee. Soon after the Calcutta High Court dismissed TMC chief Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee’s plea to stay CBI/ED interrogation in connection with teachers’ recruitment scam, CBI summoned him to appear before them at Kolkata office. As a result, Abhishek had to hit the pause button on his 60-day state-wide yatra, Trinamoole Nabo Jowar and return to Kolkata. An angry Didi said BJP was jittery seeing Abhishek’s outreach programme was successful. She warned stating that if Abhishek is stopped from undertaking this programme then she herself will take the yatra forward. Abhishek too challenged CBI to make two stages and publicly question him in a janata durbar and if proven guilty send to gallows and set an example. However, political analysts have two views on this development. One, Didi will now turn the heat on the BJP stating that the CBI probe on Abhishek is a vindictive act to stop them from showcasing the true colours of PM Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Second, the BJP will go all guns out stating the rural masses who are very angry over the suspension of work on many central-funded schemes due to non-disbursal of funds from the Union Government that Abhishek’s yatra is a hogwash to hide first-hand the loot of central funds meant for these projects by Trinamool leaders and functionaries.

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

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

‘Nepo Baby’ Jay Shah Among Most Influential People Now

He has been described as the biggest ‘nepo baby’, meaning nepotism got him to where he is as the Secretary of the all-powerful BCCI. He has been voted among the 50 most powerful people in India by a newspaper rating people for 2022. While many decry the engineering graduate as a member of the dynasty corps of India, and quite ironically because his Union Home Minister father is the biggest anti-dynast, belonging as he does to the ruling BJP and its known bias against dynasties. Even so, Jay has quietly achieved in his job, exerting the power and heft of Indian cricket to get some of the biggest television and digital deals in cricket history. Also, he has been bullying Pakistan into accepting secondary status in ACC, running rings around them in terms of making them play in the World Cup in India while India will not play in Pakistan. He is also swinging a big deal out of the ICC money chest by getting India a share of revenues that is about five times that of England and Australia, a sum in excess of $200 mn a year as compared to the once mighty powers of the Imperial Cricket Conference getting a pittance. In short, he is the undisputed Shah of cricket administration.
new parliament

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post Karnataka Victory Has Didi Softened Her Stance Towards The Congress?

Two days after Congress won Karnataka Election, Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee has actually given an overt signal of having the Congress in the Opposition fold to take on the BJP in 2024 General Election. Didi reiterated her stand that states with strong regional presence must take the lead and at 200-odd seats across the country where Congress has a strong presence they must be supported by other parties. However, her softened stance also came with the rider that “Congress must sacrifice at some places also” – clearly hinting the Congress High Command to ask Bengal Congress to go soft on TMC in the state. Incidentally, TMC and Congress are at loggerheads, despite Mamata being known to have good relations with Sonia Gandhi. According to party insiders, Didi’s earlier reluctance of supporting Congress stemmed from the alliance between the Congress and CPM from time to time in Bengal and also from Congress’ back-to-back poll setbacks. Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury pointed out Didi never attributed Karnataka’s victory to Rahul Gandhi or during Bharat Jodo Yatra even though Didi’s ascent to power in 2011 was with the help of Sonia Gandhi when the party went into an alliance to oust Left Front. Political observers also pointed out, understanding between Didi and State Congress will remain distant as TMC will never sacrifice a single of 42 Lok Sabha seats for the Congress or for any other parties.
Nana patole Rahul gandhi

Maharashtra Congress In Aggressive Mood, Says Will Fight BMC Election On Own Strength

The Congress party’s confidence has suddenly heightened in Maharashtra following the sweep in the Karnataka assembly election. Maharashtra Congress since has begun to adopt an aggressive stand by indicating that it aspires to be the main partner of the three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi which has started planning for the 2024 general elections. Presently, the Congress is the smallest constituent of MVA. State Congress president Nana Patole has announced that the party’s election strategy will be discussed on 21 May at its Osmanabad meet, to be followed by a conclave in Mumbai on 23 May. MVA has decided to fight the assembly and Lok Sabha elections next year jointly. A committee consisting three members from each partner will be formed to discuss and finalise seat distribution. The MVA meeting was held at NCP president Sharad Pawar’s residence. However, the first litmus test will be the civic election in Mumbai, likely to take place at the end of the year. While earlier the party said that the MVA banner will be the collective front, a survey carried out by the Congress has forecast that it can emerge as the second largest party. Now, Patole is saying that the Congress will consider facing the BMC election on its own strength. The response by the NCP and the Shiv Sena (Uddhav) will determine the future course of action.
Nitish Kumar

‘Rest Of India’ Team To Take On BJP?

The one thing that the Karnataka verdict has done is to energise the moves for Opposition unity. The term itself may be a myth given the complexities of the Indian political scene. What the Opposition needs is a broad understanding of the ‘BJP versus the Rest’ formula for their stated ambition to bring the ruling party down in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. There is no need to pay psephologists or such fancy titled analysts and data crunchers to come up with the finding that a seat sharing formula is the best chance for the combined opposition to come up trumps. A simple analysis shows that in about 180 to 200 seats it is a straight contest between the BJP and the Congress. If the Congress, despite its euphoria of a Karnataka triumph, accepts that and is prepared to play second fiddle to regional parties in about 330 seats or so, there is a mighty good chance of the Opposition coming close to upsetting the BJP applecart. Nitish Kumar is hunting for acceptance of this formula in which many parties must ditch their egos, sacrifice their great national ambitions, and accept to be a member of the ‘Rest of India’ team. The search for unity in seat sharing will begin at a Patna meeting of like-minded parties he is hoping to convene very soon.

Now Become A Doctor In 3 Years, West Bengal Govt Mulls Diploma In Medicine

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s proposal to introduce a 3-year diploma course in medicine to become a doctor who can work in district hospitals has come under fire from the medical fraternity. Many are saying that a 3-year diploma course cannot replace a 5-year degree course for doctors. Many senior doctors are apprehensive about the quality of training and education that these diploma doctors will have in a 3-year course. The general fear is that private institutions will mushroom to offer 3-year diploma courses and the quality of doctors will be suspect. This move may create mishaps, many fears. Doctors belonging to the CPM-backed Association of Health Service Doctors said that civic doctors cannot be an alternative for the doctors who are working 24X7 in the state-run hospitals. Goutam Mukherjee, secretary of the Association of Health Service Doctors said that it is true that there is a shortage of doctors in the state, but a 3-year diploma course is not the right prescription. According to senior members of TMC-backed Progressive Service Doctors Association, the state government should rethink the proposal before taking a final call. Doctors who are pursuing their Masters said that there should be some basic criteria for those pursuing diploma courses in medicine. There should be an entrance test. It may be noted that Didi mooted the idea at a public meeting as there is acute shortage of doctors in the state. She asked health secretary NS Nigam to look into the same.
Patnaik modi nitish

Patnaik’s Two Birds With A Stone Strategy, Meets PM In Delhi

When the Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik flew to Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a gap of nearly one year on May 11, many political watchers were trying to decode the visit. Naturally. The visit came close on the heels of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar visiting Bhubaneshwar to coax Patnaik to join the Opposition brigade. Patnaik gave the answer that Biju Janata Dal will go solo in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. In a way of extracting a price for staying neutral, Patnaik asked the Modi government to support the Rs 5600-crore greenfield airport project — Shree Jagannath International Airport at Puri. The state government has already identified 1,200 acres of land in Sipasarubali for the airport. Naveen knows that having announced the ambitious project, there is no turning back. BJD supremo is aware of the reality where the impediment lies. Without Modi’s endorsement and cabinet approval the airport will be a non-starter as there is an obstacle in a little portion of the proposed airport as it comes under forest area and this requires MOEFC CRZ clearance for the commencement of construction and operation from the Centre. Patnaik’s Delhi visit is a gentle reminder to PM to help Odisha for remaining equidistant political party and silently supporting BJP at the centre all these years. Come to think of it, Patnaik has killed two birds with a stone.

Parambir Singh Reinstated, More Shocks To Follow In Maharashtra

Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court verdict in its favour, the Shinde-Fadnavis government in Maharashtra has fired the first salvo against the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) by withdrawing suspension of former Mumbai police commissioner Parambir Singh. Many more such shocks will be administered in the days to come, indications suggest. Deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has disclosed that the state government had merely implemented an order by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), which had inferred that the departmental enquiry against Singh had been illegal and had scrapped the suspension. However, the coincidence is considered too significant to be accepted as an official formality. Singh’s new posting is expected to be announced soon. Singh’s reinstatement is viewed against the backdrop of another top IPS officer, Rashmi Shukla, who has already been accommodated in a Central posting. Both these officials were in the unwritten black list of the tripartite MVA, which ruled the state for 30 months. Singh had levelled serious allegations against then home minister Anil Deshmukh, a top NCP leader, who was facing the heat in connection with the explosives planted outside the residence of industrial magnate Mukesh Ambani. The case is sub-judice. Singh was suspended and an arrest warrant had been issued against him by the previous MVA government as its clashes with the Union government had escalated into a virtual war.  MVA is girding up to face the onslaught, according to one of its leaders.

Trinamool’s New Outreach Programme Brings To Fore Factionalism, Infighting Within The Party

Trinamool Congress’ new outreach programme  Trinamool Nabo Jowar has put into question the unity of party leaders. Opening the pandora’s box of factionalism, the programme undertaken by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and second in command Abhishek Banerjee has failed to contain factionalism in the secret ballot to select candidates for the upcoming three-tier rural polls.   So there is chaos in district after district — torn ballot papers, broken ballot boxes, printed votes, tampering of voter lists, vandalism, fights among party members. The campaign began on April 25 and entered into the 18th day across eight districts — from Cooch Behar to Birbhum. Opposition parties are attacking the ruling party stating that it can no longer imagine that a non-violent, orderly vote is possible. The widespread violence of the Panchayat elections 2018 in Bengal is still in the minds of people. Questions are being raised over the deployment of police for the ruling party’s activities. Most importantly, voices of dissent could be heard among the common people where they claimed that factions directed them to cast votes in favour of the candidate that a local leader supported. Political observers pointed out that the exercise is turning out to gauge the dissent among the people for the party ahead of the polls since free expression of public opinion and democracy could be sought any time of the year.

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

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

Big Relief To Odisha CM In Lord Jagannath Temple Case

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik and his party Biju Janata Dal have reasons to smile as the Lord Jagannath temple issue regarding embezzlement allegations does not fall under the purview of the Supreme Court. So as of now, BJD is off the hook of the Apex Court supervision. The allegations were made by the Opposition parties — BJP and Congress — over Jagannath Ratna Bhandar donations which have not been audited since 1978. A Supreme Court lawyer handling the case explained that amicus curiae Ranjit Kumar brought to the notice of Justices M R Shah and C T Kumar of the Supreme Court that the action taken report of the Temple Management Committee is deficient in as much as the November 2019 order of the SC directing it to file the inventory of jewellery. Justice Shah in a lighter vein said “we do not want to make such a direction and invite any mishappening/misfortune on ourselves or on those appearing in the matter. It is a sacred place and we do not find any reason to pass such a direction. Essentially he said, “SC judicial determination is not required in this kind of matter”. Further Justice Shah, off the record, said that he was born on the day of Rath Yatra and “has the blessings of Lord Jagannath”. Clearly, SC implied that the temple issue is not a national issue it falls under the purview of the High Court.  
The kerala story

West Bengal Filmmakers Not In Favour Of Bans, Suggest Counter-Narrative Via Art

Bengal filmmakers feel West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s decision to ban “The Kerala Story” will not serve the purpose of restricting controversial narratives. A day after Didi declared Sudipto Sen’s movie “distorted”, eminent filmmakers close to Didi said that the decision has jeopardised her pro-culture and art image. National Award-winning filmmaker Gautam Ghose said that during the previous Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA, the erstwhile censor board comprising stalwarts like Shyam Bengal, Kamal Haasan suggested keeping an option where the state authorities could take legal action against the makers of any film hurting religious sentiments leading to law and order problems. Unfortunately, the suggestions never saw the light of the day, lamented Ghosh. Another filmmaker Aniket Chattopadhyay observed that the decision of banning a movie in the digital era is basically futile since a government cannot hold back the release as it has been cleared by the censor board. So what is the way out – “Make a counter-narrative”, suggested Chattopadhyay. Leftist filmmaker Suman Mukhopadhyay compared banning a film to burning books. According to him, there have been occasions of differences with the erstwhile Left Front government over his movie like “Herbert” but there are no instances of banning movies in the state.

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

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

Although NCP president Sharad Pawar has staged a comeback, the Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray or the Congress in Maharashtra have refused to dilute their caustic stance towards the third partner in the Maha Vikas Aghadi. State Congress president Nana Patole and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan are in the forefront of humiliating the NCP time and again for various reasons. Patole has warned the NCP that its cosy relationship with the BJP could vitiate the atmosphere. Chavan has directly implied that a sizable faction of the NCP is still in cahoots with the BJP. Angered by the attacks, Pawar has hit back at Chavan. “Let Chavan find out his own place in the Congress party. Which category does he belongs to? A, B, C or D? Chavan’s cronies will tell you (the media) but not openly,” Pawar remarked. The NCP is already in an aggressive mood after Sena (Uddhav) mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ censured Pawar’s decision to withdraw his resignation following a high-voltage drama. The most pointed statement in the ‘Saamana’ editorial was that Pawar had not been able to groom his successor. Firebrand OBC leader Chhagan Bhujbal castigated Sena MP Sanjay Raut by telling him that Pawar’s political career was longer than Raut’s age. Pawar has thus sent out a signal that the NCP will not tolerate any such criticism and the verbal clashes are likely to become more thorny in the days to come.

Thevars Look To Regain Their Place In Tamil Nadu Politics

The Thevars, once a politically powerful community when Jayalalithaa was the CM and Sasikala her confidante wielding power from Poes Garden, are looking to regain some of the clout by seeking allies. Numerically strong in the state, the Thevars were sidelined after Jaya’s demise and Sasi’s jail term. Their once trusted leader O Panneerselvam, CM in Jaya’s place on occasion, had rebelled against the clan and had even complained about their strong-arm tactics to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who laughed it off as OPS was CM then and had the police under him. They are now joining hands again in their attempt to regain their hold. OPS’ power electorally is suspect but TTV’s AMMK has a reasonable vote share which appears to be their lifeline. The OPS-TTV combine is hoping that the BJP, in its hunt for an umbrella coalition to take on the powerful DMK alliance, will spare some seats for at least the two of them as Sasikala is out electorally until 2027 as she has been banished for 10 years from standing in polls. The BJP is said to be planning to extract more seats from EPS and use some of them to accommodate the likes of TTV, OPS and even GK Vasan. With less than a year to the Lok Sabha polls, a lot of political action can be expected now.

Karamjit Kaur and Sushil Kumar

Congress Gears Up To Clinch Jalandhar Lok Sabha Seat

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

Mastercard's Chinmay Patankar's Big Push For Mallakhamb At Los Angeles Summer Olympics

Chinmay Patankar is a hero in the making for Mallakhamb, a traditional Indian sport, that’s akin to gymnastics and wrestling practised on a pole and rope. Praised by PM Narendra Modi on his ‘Mann Ki Baat‘ programme for spreading the India brand through Mallakhamb in the USA, the Pune-boy, a recipient of Maharashtra State’s Shiv Chhatrapati Award, Patankar is going all out to present Mallakhamb as a demonstration sport either in the opening or closing ceremony of the Los Angeles Summer Olympics in 2028. A qualified engineer, Patankar who is a Director at Mastercard, USA, is very optimistic of Mallakhamb getting a global audience at LA 2028. Settled in New Jersey with his family for over a decade, Patankar is taking help from the Maharashtra Olympic Association and actor and producer Raqesh Bapat, who is going to make a lengthy documentary for creating awareness among the international community at the diplomatic, sports and cultural levels. Patankar spent $ 3000 in 2013 to get the sport take baby steps and now he has 500 plus Mallakhamb athletes, majority of them with a Grade 5 proficiency. He says the local authorities, including the Governor of New Jersey are kept abreast of the initiative taken by the Mallakhamb Federation of USA that the sport is already happening in 10 States of the USA and it is catching up in the East and West Coast.

FTA Chief Negotiator Harjinder Kang Moves To Mumbai As UK Trade Commissioner

Harjinder Kang, UK’s Chief Negotiator for the UK-India Free Trade Agreement has moved to Mumbai as His Majesty’s Trade Commissioner to South Asia and as Deputy High Commissioner for Western India. Kang will be succeeded in this role by Kate Thornley, previously Deputy Chief Negotiator for the FTA negotiations. Kang joins a team of nine His Majesty Trade Commissioners encouraging UK trade and investment and promoting Global Britain across the world. With an economy worth over £3.2 trillion, South Asia offers huge potential for UK businesses. Kang succeeds Alan Gemmell OBE. Before joining the Department for Business and Trade, Kang spent nearly 30 years at pharma giant AstraZeneca. He is also a member of the Council of the University of Birmingham. Kang will play a pivotal role in supporting the implementation of the UK-India Free Trade Agreement, which could bring huge opportunities for UK businesses. Kang said:  “I am excited about the opportunities ahead as we strengthen our economic ties and forge new partnerships in the region to create jobs, promote innovation and drive economic growth at home and abroad.”
Mamata abhishek

TMC Does A BJP, Inducts New Faces For The Upcoming Panchayat Elections

Taking a cue from the Karnataka election, Trinamool Congress (TMC) has decided to engage young talented new leaders for the upcoming panchayat election in West Bengal. Sources in the TMC said that the tainted image of some senior leaders has forced TMC to adopt a BJP strategy of going for newer and younger faces. TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee has instructed senior party leaders to give priority to young, dynamic talented leaders. Besides, Didi has asked a few senior leaders like Chandrima Bhattacharya, Sasi Panja who have a clean image to guide the junior leaders. Junior leaders like Saayoni Ghosh, president of TMC youth Congress, Birbaha Hansda, Ritobrata Banerjee, former CPM MP, Raj Chakraborty, June Maliah are some of the young talented leaders who will be given more responsibility for the upcoming panchayat election. Besides, the party is also looking for fresh faces. Political analysts are of the opinion that the move also reflects a trend among regional parties. Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has taken the mantle from his late father and has chosen to appoint many young leaders. Imankalyan Lahiri, senior political analyst said “Bringing in new faces is a part of the brand strategy aimed at brand renewal. The selection of leaders who will be projected in the forefront and who will work behind is based on feedback and pre-planned strategy.

A Cong Sweep In Shimla Boosts Sukhu, Priyanka

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

Congress Propensity To Shoot Itself In The Foot May Lead To Close Contest In Karnataka

In a tense run to the finish in Karnataka, the BJP is seeing a small swing thanks to the propensity of the Congress to shoot itself in the foot. The grand old party can be said to have picked up a genius for defeat since it began stumbling as UPA-II leader from 2009. The run continues with the current Congress chief keeping up the tradition with his “snake” comment that boomeranged on the party. Most private surveys were showing a distinct swing for the Congress which seemed set for a clear majority on its own in the 224-seat Assembly. The BJP campaign was on a staid double engine refrain even as the Prime Minister was elaborating on a corruption plank, although it was his party that was in power in the State. Things began changing the moment the snake comment came and it was too late by the time Malikarjun Kharge came up with an apology. Whoever is advising the party may not have gauged the backlash of a proposed ban on the Bajrang Dal which found its way into the Karnataka poll manifesto. Waiting to pounce on any plank that could stoke the majority Hindu sentiment, the BJP drummed up a fierce campaign chanting “Jai Bajrang Bali.” While only the exit polls on May 10 can offer pointers to the result, expect the battle for seats to be much closer than previously forecast.

Pawar’s Continuation Starts Looking Likely, Rebels In Party Isolated

A committee of top NCP leaders has rejected party chief Sharad Pawar’s resignation, sending out clear signals that the supporters of Ajit Pawar have been isolated. The decision of rejection will be conveyed to Pawar, whose final response is awaited. Senior leaders Praful Patel and Jayant Patil briefed the media about the committee’s decision, claiming that there was mounting pressure on Pawar by important leaders across the political spectrum in the country. The committee’s verdict was more or less expected since barring Ajit Pawar, none had endorsed Pawar’s announcement to lay down reins of the party, formed in 1999. Over the past two days, Pawar loyalists had been lobbying for consolidating the situation in their favour. Expectedly, the rank and file fell in line, reiterating the demand that Pawar should continue. Whatever decision Pawar takes, it has become evident that he will control the party affairs. The moment chosen by Pawar to resign is considered fraught with many tacit messages, especially as he has castigated former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and Ajit Pawar. At the same time, Pawar has blunted the constant grievance that there are plans at the Centre to wean away Mumbai from Maharashtra. ‘There is no such move,’ Pawar has declared in no uncertain terms, deflating Uddhav’s persistent campaign to rouse pro-Maharashtra sentiments. Pawar’s continuation, at least till the next general elections in 2024, has started looking probable now.

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

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

Uddhav Was Unable To Handle Crisis, Ajit Shocked, Pawar Reveals In His Revised Autobiography

NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s revised autobiography ‘Lok Majhe Saangaatee’ has made several sensational disclosures, including the fact that then chief minister Uddhav Thackeray felt short in handling the situation within the Shiv Sena, created after he decided to form Maha Vikas Aghadi. Admitting that he did not foresee such momentous developments in the Sena due to the formation of MVA, Pawar said with Uddhav, he did not enjoy the ease he felt while talking with Balasaheb. “Owing to Uddhav’s health and his medical appointments, it was necessary to seek his appointment,” Pawar has revealed. About the revolt by his nephew Ajit Pawar to form a government with BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, the NCP boss has noted that he was shocked when his telephone rang at 6.30 am on 23 November 2019. He was told what Ajit was up to. This was going to be a major jolt since the NCP was in the forefront of forming the MVA government. Had this happened, it would have finished NCP’s credibility. Pawar then rang up Uddhav and broke the news. Soon, it became evident that about 10 NCP MLAs had gone with Ajit. Immediately, Pawar sprang into action and the revolt was nipped in the bud. The book is replete with many interesting nuggets but was ignored after Pawar declared his decision to step down.
BJP rally 2

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

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

Tamil Nadu’s Finance Minister has escaped the guillotine – at least for now. He will neither be dropped from the Cabinet nor will his portfolio be changed at the impending reshuffle before CM MK Stalin heads to Europe on May 23. Before the Cabinet met on Tuesday, PTR Palanivel Thiaga Rajan had a bit of a frosty meeting with the CM on Monday when Stalin spoke his mind and conveyed his family and party’s unhappiness with the audio tape episodes. PTR received a very cold reception from other Cabinet members at the meeting when only the CM spoke to him. He also excused himself after reading out matters connected to finance saying he had to attend a function at Meenakshi Amman temple in the evening. What Stalin has decided thus far is that by dropping PTR or changing his portfolio he would be sending a wrong message to his opponents that DMK is accepting the truth of the audio having been recorded secretly while PTR spoke to someone. Unless the BJP takes it further by registering cases against PTR, the CM and his party would like to let the status quo be. The CM also wrote on the subject in his Q&A that he did not want to waste time on a matter that had already been clarified by his finance minister.
Maha day

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

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

Odisha’s Ex-Chief Secretary Joining Congress Surprises Everybody

Odisha government’s former chief secretary Bijay Kumar Patnaik has surprised everybody by joining the Congress party. Patnaik who served in public service for 37 years worked closely with the Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik. He advised the CM on all matters of policy and administration. For his proximity to CM he was appointed chairman of the Odisha Staff Selection Commission and Member of Human Rights Commission, post retirement in 2013. This close connection with the CM saw him landing a job as president of Vedanta University promoted by Anil Agarwal. He quit the job as the project was a non-starter.  In December 2022 with Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra peaking he thought it prudent to take a political plunge by joining Congress. Observers say his yearnings to stay relevant explains why he has preferred to become a full time politician by joining Odisha Congress formally.  No sooner he joined the Congress, Bijay Patnaik started lashing out at BJD, accusing it of poor governance and rampant corruption. The questions political analysts are asking: Can Bijay Patnaik give a big push to Congress in the state and push its ranking to the second place displacing BJP?  Not an easy task but Congress could see marginal improvements in electoral scoring is the general feeling.

TMC Supremo Puts Nephew On Acid Test Through Jana Sanjog Yatra

The much hyped new campaign of the ruling Trinamool Congress Trinamoole Nabo Jowar had raised several eyebrows in terms of expenditure, party’s slipping hold at panchayat level and increase in rebel leaders. In April, the party Supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced that her nephew and second in command of the party Abhishek Banerjee will start this new campaign where he would be undertaking Jana Sanjog Yatra comprising 250 public rallies.  Abhishek’s 60-day outreach programme started on April 25 from Alipurduar and it will culminate in Kakdwip of South 24 Parganas on June 24. It is learnt that over 292 luxurious tents costing Rs 25,000 per tent/night were set up in Alipurduar-Coochbehar for party functionaries. Besides this a luxury caravan has been brought in for Abhishek’s stay. Significantly, the exercise of secret ballot to determine the preferred candidate for the upcoming panchayat elections was marred by clashes between two factions of party that broke out in Alipurduar and Cooch Behar. Not only this, the party’s sitting MLA from Islampur in Uttar Dinajpur district, Abdul Karim Choudhury threatened that he will send the names of probable candidates for the upcoming rural polls. Meanwhile, several senior party leaders view that Didi has put Abhishek on an acid test to translate this new campaign into a success by ensuring a win in the upcoming three-tier rural polls and also prove his acceptability.
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Pawar Steps Down Following Succession Battle In NCP

The succession battle within the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) seems to have led to Sharad Pawar’s decision to step down from the NCP. A battle for succession had been brewing in the NCP that had led to Ajit Pawar’s forthright claim for the chief minister’s and almost threatened a vertical split in the NCP. Ajit Pawar, who is Maharashtra’s longest deputy chief minister – he has held the post four times — clearly is tired of waiting for the CM’s chair. Ajit Pawar has already muscled his way within the NCP, way beyond his contemporaries like Jayant Patil, Dilip Walse Patil, Sunil Tatkare. Analysts believe that Ajit Pawar is ruffled by the fact that the NCP won’t hand him the CM’s post even if the MVA wins in 2024, preferring either Uddhav Thackeray or Supriya Sule, instead. The reluctance of senior Pawar, now 82, to spell out his party’s succession plans, has evidently made Ajit Pawar uncomfortable. When Supriya first entered politics, the broad understanding in NCP was that she would work at the national level, while Ajit would lead charge at the state level. But, now with Sule clawing back her way in state politics, to claim her father’s party, has clearly made him restless. NCP may have lost its tag as a national party but analysts believe that it retains enough clout to bounce back with a winning tally in 2024, higher than the 53 seats it currently holds. The brewing succession battle threatens to disrupt equations in the NCP, the coalition arithmetic and politics in Maharashtra.

As SC Verdict Date Nears, Race For Maharashtra CM’s Chair Hots Up

Suddenly there are many aspirants for the post of chief minister of Maharashtra. Or so it seems. All seem to have concluded that the Supreme Court verdict, to determine the fate of the Shiv Sena rebels, will go against Eknath Shinde and his 15 legislators, leading to a change in government. Aspirants range from Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The BJP’s ex-CM Devendra Fadnavis’ continues to stay in the race with state BJP leaders regularly pegging him as “our own CM.” Uddhav Thackeray continues to be a strong contender despite a drastic fall in his legislators’ strength from 56 to 16. Supriya Sule could be the dark horse in the fray.  Not to be left behind, Ramdas Athawale too wants to be counted in for the race. Incidentally, in February, posters had sprung hailing NCP leaders like Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil and even Supriya Sule as the future CM of Maharashtra. However, NCP leaders termed it as the work of mischievous elements. Now, when Ajit Pawar has already thrown his hat into the ring, posters are springing up yet again, hailing him as the future CM. At this juncture, a statement by NCP chief Sharad Pawar about the need for change in government, has only further fuelled the speculations. Incidentally, the man at the helm right now, Shinde, is tight-lipped and maintaining a low-profile.
Mamata banerjee

TMC Loses National Party Status, But Didi Still Nurses National Ambition

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s meeting with her Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar and Deputy CM Tejaswi Prasad at the State Secretariat, make it evident that Didi has not put her national ambitions on the back burner. Her single point agenda is to dislodge BJP from the Centre. Will it be possible given the fact, her party Trinamool Congress (TMC) lost national party status? In fact, many from her party feel that Didi should continue to work towards holding its own citadel in the state. A senior TMC leader on condition of anonymity questioned the party’s decision to contest Tripura Assembly Election in 2023 and Goa Assembly election in 2022. He questioned the futile exercise of spending crores of rupees in these two states without any political gain and instead it has led to the loss of National party status. Sources say Didi was not keen on contesting elections in Goa and Tripura but it was party’s general secretary, Abhishek Banerjee’s idea. Also, some TMC leaders feel the party’s image has taken a hit with the induction of former Union minister Yashwant Sinha and former BJP member Shatrughan Sinha. Though the actor won the Asansol Lok Sabha seat, he is still considered as an outsider by the district leadership. Yashwant Sinha quit the party in 2022. The general consensus is that Didi should focus on the party’s image as some of its leaders have been jailed.

Two Sena Factions Battle Over Barsu Project, Congress And NCP Watching

While the two Shiv Sena factions are battling over the proposed mega refinery project at Barsu in Ratnagiri district, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have kept away their organisations from the imbroglio so far. Chief minister Eknath Shinde announced that the opponents of the project have gone back and peace has returned to the area. He disclosed that over 70% of those to be affected have backed the project. On the other hand, former CM Uddhav Thackeray will visit the area in the first week of May, according to Sena (U) MP Vinayak Raut. Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole has condemned the police action against the protestors though other top leaders of the party have more or less kept mum. NCP leader Ajit Pawar has objected to the lathi charge by the police but has not opposed the project. NCP chief Sharad Pawar, too, has been advising the state government to hold a dialogue with people affected by the project and proceed only thereafter. The Congress and the NCP have not organised or joined any protest march. The BJP, too, has refrained from making its presence felt, leaving the responsibility to Eknath Shinde and industry minister Uday Samant. The project issue will be the main focus of the Maha Vikas Aghadi rally to be held in Mumbai on 1 May, Maharashtra Day
Jay Panda

Jay Panda’s Recce Of Kendrapada Constituency Raises Eyebrows

BJP’s National Vice President, the 59-year old Baijayant Jay Panda has been hitting headlines in Odisha dailies for his quick visit to Kendrapada constituency. Many look at this visit as a reaffirmation that BJP may give 2024 Lok Sabha ticket to Panda from this constituency which he lost to BJD in 2019 polls. This suave, articulate ex-MP was elected four times on Biju Janata Dal ticket – twice to Lok Sabha, twice to Rajya Sabha. But, fell out of favour with chief minister Naveen Patnaik for his alleged anti-party activities and was suspended. Peeved, he joined BJP in 2019. A CM aspirant, many felt Panda, by joining BJP, would raise the profile of the party in Odisha but that was not to be. Ironically, he lost his Kendrapada seat to BJD’s film-star-turned-politician Anubhab Mohanty. For author, columnist Panda who has the statesman like presence, the formidable BJD base in Odisha poses a massive challenge because Odisha people continue to love Modi but via Naveen Patnaik.
EPS Amit shah

Beyond Karnataka, BJP Looks Ahead To 2024

The national party BJP may be preoccupied with Karnataka as the polls there are proving a challenge despite Congress missteps like Malikarjun Kharge’s ‘snake’ comment. Opinion polls are favouring the Congress, so too do some internal surveys done by the contesting parties. But the BJP is looking ahead to 2024, towards which Maharashtra looms as its next big issue as the verdict on the Sena split is due soon and preparations are on in case Eknath Shinde’s rule is disrupted. With the Karnataka polls round the corner, BJP had been asked by Amit Shah to put Maharashtra operations on hold, much as the Congress had done with its Rajasthan problem. Meanwhile, the BJP tied up its alliance with Edappadi Palaniswami as he had offered 10 seats in all to BJP – 9 in Tamil Nadu plus Puducherry – while the AIADMK would fight most of the other 30 seats, subject to what it may have to part with for allies if the likes of PMK and TMC stay with it for the 2024 Lok Sabha pills. It appears EPS had chosen to ignore whatever the TN BJP chief Annamalai may have said about alliances because he was confident that any decision would be made by Amit Shah, who he met in New Delhi. He has also requested the Home Minister that the CBI be asked to take over the Kodanad estate probe as the DMK is said to be playing games through the police.

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

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

Tamil Nadu’s Political Heavyweights Fly Into Delhi Separately To Meet Amit Shah

Three political heavyweights from Tamil Nadu — chief minister M K Stalin, AIADMK chief Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) and BJP TN Head K Annamalai – flew into Delhi on April 26, separately, to meet the Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Stalin’s visit was obviously for damage control in the wake of the recent tape leak on social media alleging huge sums of money made by his son and son-in-law, and the simultaneous raids on homes and offices of a leading realty company said to be close to the first family. In the case of EPS, after becoming AIADMK chief, he sought legitimacy to his status from the BJP boss. Even as he walked into Shah’s residence with his coterie –Thangamani, Velumani, Jayakumar — he was jolted by the looming presence of Annamalai, bogeyman antagonist whom he dreads as much as OPS. At a media meet, when asked about Annamalai’s sphere of influence, EPS caustic response was “We only deal with PM, HM and Naddaji.” There is no love lost between Annamalai and EPS but Shah made it clear to EPS that BJP works as a team with a chain of command; it’s not faction-led. In other words, he was asking EPS to bury the hatchet with his arch rival OPS, unify the party and give BJP solid support or else BJP will fight alone under Annamalai’s leadership.

Shashi Tharoor Is Taking No Chances, Keeps All Options Open

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


Technology Cannot Disrupt Original Content Provider: Short Post Editor

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

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

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