Pawar’s Power Ploy
It is not without reason that Sharad Pawar, leader of the NCP, is regarded as one of the shrewdest Indian politician of all times. No one understood the real reason behind his offer to give the BJP unconditional support, if it formed a minority government in Maharashtra. The offer of his support was made as the last results were trickling in and it was becoming clear that the BJP would not be able to have majority of its own. He said that the NCP would unconditionally support a BJP government from outside. This offer took even the BJP unawares. General reaction to the NCP’s offer was that Sharad Pawar wanted to pre-empt inquiries against himself and Ajit Pawar.
But the real fact is that his own members, once hope of power sharing receded, were restive. Pawar, it is said, felt a large exodus was likely. The members who leave could either join the BJP or sit as independents and support a BJP government. Pawar by offering support stopped the exodus and reduced his party to almost a rump.
Sonam’s Modi Selfie Hotted Net
The selfie taken by Sonam Kapoor with Prime Minister Narendra Modi went haywire on the net. Most ladies went green with envy. Shailaja Bajpai writing her column said Modi “looks different each time we see him, whereas Singh was always a study in white and blue”.
The verdict on media interaction with the Prime Minister—Diwali Milan—was also clear-cut. There is no polite way to say this: the media went gaga. We watched journalists rush forward to greet the PM, shake his hand, take a selfie with him.
Barkha Dutt (NDTV 24×7) and Navika Kumar (Times Now) fairly gushed about how Narendra Modi was trying to open a new chapter with the media. Shailaja wrote further, “They noted the differences between Modi’s informality and his predecessor Manmohan Singh’s stiffness at press conferences. Another feather in the PM’s cap.”
She also drew difference between Modi and Dr Manmohan Singh. “There’s another remarkable difference between the two: Singh appeared in the same combination of clothes throughout 10 long summers, whereas Modi changes clothes every 10 hours! Sometimes more often. He has quite a wardrobe—for the media interaction he wore pink, for the NDA MPs’ tea party he was in brown and beige. At Siachen, we saw him in top gear with natty goggles, jacket etc. This makes good visual sense because he looks different each time we see him, whereas Singh was always a study in white and blue.
Uddhav Thackarey was a happy man when the BJP fell short of enough numbers to form a government on its own. His ambition and political avarice shot up. Sources reveal that he immediately sent message demanding around 10 to 12 cabinet berths and important portfolios like home, finance, industry etc. His emissary also said Chief Minister should be from Shiv Sena. Such a ridiculous demand exposed the political sagacity of Uddhav, who it seems, considers himself to be as powerful as Balasaheb. While he was day-dreaming, Pawar’s offer turned to be somewhat like Rahu and Ketu entering the chart in Sena chief’s horoscope.
He had also failed to recognise the organisational skills of Amit Shah. He got 16 out of 18 Independents who were elected. They did not need much persuasion, saffron is the political flavour of the season. Sources said that while Uddhav has been deflated, his members are anxious to be part of the BJP government. If Uddhav had not virtually surrendered and put his fate in the BJP’s hands, many of his MLAs would have done the Houdini and got saffronised. The BJP is sitting pretty in Maharashtra. Uddhav’s greed reduced Sena to a political beggar. “This is what happens when small feet are put in a big pair of shoes,” said a livid Sena official. The latest, after Uddhav climb down, was that a formula of 2:1 was likely to be the meeting point between the BJP and Shiv Sena.
Who Bungled The Black Money Issue?
It is most unfortunate that when everything was going fine for Narendra Modi and his popularity appeared to be soaring higher and higher the black money imbroglio took some shine off Modi’s stain-free record. During his intensive campaigning for the Lok Sabha election, Modi made black money a major issue. Blaming Congress for dilly-dallying in getting details from foreign banks and in revealing the names it already had, Modi in his speeches during his rallies for Lok Sabha election promised a crackdown on corruption and to get the billions of illegally stashed in foreign banks back to India.
So the government wanted to be seen to be fulfilling the pre-election promises. But the way the issue was handled, it seemed the government was acting slowly on the issue of “black money”. The issue has everyone interested as Indians are estimated to hold $500Obn (£297bn) in overseas tax havens. One paper reported that one of those named in the government’s affidavit to the Supreme Court—Goa-based mining company owner Radha S Timblo—donated funds to both Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress party. Of the others named, bullion trader Pankaj Lodhya denied having any foreign bank accounts, while Pradip Burman, a former director of health products giant Dabur, said his account was opened legally when he lived abroad. But almost all papers highlighted the fact that those named include no politicians. The Hindustan Times on front page said “No big bang in government’s new black money list”, while the Indian Express calls it a “mountain out of a mole hill”.
Ram Jethmalani in a scathingly written letter to Arun Jaitley accused him of not doing enough as Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and later misleading the Supreme Court as Finance Minister. “I strongly suspect that your conduct shows that you too, like many others, do not want the truth to come out.
Among other things he wrote, “I am sorry to write this to you on Deepawali,” the three-page letter begins, later going into the details of the black money case. Towards the end, Jethmalani writes, “You recently had a near brush with death. This should have created in you, a change in your moral make up and devotion to the nation. You are destroying what Modiji has built during his last election campaign.
Jaitley’s predecessor as Union Finance Minister and senior Congress spokesperson, P Chidambaram, ironically criticised Jaitley, although his government was more sluggish in getting the names or money back, told a TV channel that the Centre’s application in the Supreme Court created a massive controversy, with opposition parties led by the Congress accusing the Modi government of doublespeak in the black money issue. Calling it a u-turn by the NDA government, the Congress asked Jaitley to stop blackmailing the party and dared him to release the list.
Jaitley seems to be at the receiving end for no fault of his.