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Netas’ new battleground

Published : Jul 4, 2016, 7:11 am IST
Updated : Jul 4, 2016, 7:11 am IST

Lookalike Trouble

Here & Now
 Here & Now

Lookalike Trouble

Pramod Maurya, a farmer from Ambedkar Nagar, was in Varanasi on a pilgrimage. He had barely emerged from the waters after taking the holy dip in the Ganga at the Dashashwamedh Ghat when a group of policemen swooped down on him and whisked him away to an undisclosed destination.

Maurya was shocked into silence and when he gathered his wits, he asked the cops why they had taken him into custody. What the cops told him shocked him further.

The cops told him that he looked exactly like Ram Vriksh Yadav, the main accused in the Mathura clashes. Since Yadav’s lawyers had claimed that he was still alive, they had arrested him for verification.

Maurya kept pleading that he belonged to Ambedkar Nagar and had never even visited Mathura but the cops would not listen.

A police team was later sent to Maurya’s house in Ambedkar Nagar to collect documents related to his identity. It took more than 30 hours before Maurya was allowed to go and the SSP confirmed that it was a case of mistaken identity.

America calling When US undersecretary of state for political affairs Thomas Shannon met West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee at Nabanna (the state secretariat) last week, he extended an invitation to her to visit Washington. This is the not the first time that Ms Banerjee had received an invitation to visit America.

In May 2012, she was invited by no less than charismatic US secretary of state Hillary Clinton to visit the US. Later, US ambassador to India Nancy Powell met the chief minister not once but twice, and on both occasions invited her to the US.

Exactly a year ago, the US-India Business Council invited Ms Banerjee to visit the US to showcase West Bengal as an ideal investment destination. Ms Banerjee suddenly became extremely popular in the US in May 2011 after she dethroned 34-year-long Left Front government. Time magazine included her in its prestigious list of 100 most influential women of the world. In fact, Ms Clinton was so impressed by her meeting with the stormy petrel of Indian politics that even after her return to the US she praised her.

In her first tenure as chief minister, Ms Banerjee visited Bangladesh, Singapore and the UK. No one perhaps remembers that Ms Banerjee had once visited the US in 1998. In fact, she had visited the United Nations headquarters in New York donning her trademark cotton sari and rubbers chappals. Trinamul Congress leaders are waiting for the day when their Didi will break bread with the US President at the White House. The US, it seems, is waiting for Didi. Killing many birds with one stone Often criticised for allegedly “hijacking” all powers of the state BJP unit and getting his protégé Basanta Panda elected as president of the Orissa BJP unit ostensibly to smoothen his path to become party’s chief ministerial candidate in 2019 Assembly elections, Union petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan was looking for an opportunity to counter the “impression”.

A crafty and shrewd politician as he is, Mr Pradhan got this opportunity at the recently-held BJP state executive meeting. He said: “I and Jual bhai (Union tribal affairs minister Jual Oram) are small fries as far as the BJP Orissa unit is concerned. Basanta bhai (Basanta Panda) is our leader. If he asks us to do one hundred sit-ups, we’ll immediately follow his instruction without any objections. Ours is a disciplined party.”

Party leaders present in the meeting looked at Mr Oram’s face to know his reaction. Mr Oram and a few other veteran and experienced leaders have been sulking for quite some time now over their marginalisation in the party’s organisational affairs.

Leaders present in the meeting had no difficulty in understanding how Mr Pradhan was shooting more than two birds with one stone — assuaging Mr Oram’s feeling, holding his protégé Basanta Panda in high esteem and sending a message across party workers that he is not as ambitious as they think.

Punjab ready for the fight With Punjab in election mode, the political parties in the state are getting ready for the fight, in some cases quite literally. A case in point is a squabble in a TV studio between Akali legislators N.K. Sharma, who is also a chief parliamentary secretary, and Congress leader Gurvinder Singh Bali. The two leaders were together in the studio of a local channel to debate the appointment of Asha Kumari as in-charge of the Punjab Congress, who hs been convicted in a land grab case.

Mr Sharma, who is also a real estate baron, reportedly lost his cool when Mr Bali pointed that `1 crore is pending as electricity bill at a project of Mr Sharma’s firm. Then Mr Bali also made general allegations of land-grab against Mr Sharma. The infuriated Mr Sharma punched Mr Bali and the two got involved in a scuffle and exchanged abuses.

The two leaders were stopped by the anchor and others present in the studio. While the matter was hushed up, it came out as another panelist present spilled the beans. The channel later held the debate with the two leaders and it was telecast.

Rumours that divide The worst phase for the Congress in Assam was said to be over with party losing Assembly elections, but suddenly the local media was flooded with news of a split within the Congress. With the demise of Assam Congress president Anjan Dutta, the responsibility of taking note of such developments has come on the shoulders of Congress Legislature Party leader Debabrata Saikia. Obviously Mr Saikia started consulting his MLAs to know their mood and all of them denied the media reports.

While Mr Saikia was trying to find out, a veteran Congress leader, Gautam Roy, whose wife and son also lost the elections with him, came before the media and said ex-chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s reckless remarks was the cause of the party’s defeat. The veteran Congress leader also praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal in the same breath.

If insiders in the Congress are to be believed, Mr Roy’s remark has come as a great relief for the Congress leadership, as most of the elected representatives had ruled out any chances of joining the BJP. In fact, some Congress veterans who lost elections have been trying to engineer a defection in the party for their smooth entry in the BJP. Now the Congress has alerted its newly-elected MLAs to be at a safe distance from such “opportunists”.

Left-Out Secretaries These days once the Union Cabinet clears a specific proposal, the secretary of that ministry is called in for media briefings on the Cabinet decisions to give a brief presentation on the matter.

Last month, when the Cabinet cleared the aviation policy, the civil aviation secretary gave a detailed presentation before the media. Later, after the textile industry package was okayed by the Cabinet, the textile secretary too explained the nitty-gritty of the package to the media.

Last week, when the Union Cabinet cleared the much-awaited recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission, finance secretary Ashok Lavasa briefed the media on its details through a presentation. The matter being of extreme public interest, it garnered all the media attention, with Mr Lavasa and finance minister Arun Jaitley facing all the questions.

Though the Cabinet that day also cleared the National Mineral Exploration Policy and the Model Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Bill 2016, and the mines and labour secretaries too were present in the briefing to field questions related to the two matters, they were relegated to the background as hardly any mediaperson showed interest in the subject.

Both bureaucrats therefore did not get any opportunity to give presentations related to their proposals and when the briefing ended, they quietly left the venue along with other officials and ministers.