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Archive for April, 2011

Loved by Congress once, Joshi now sparks fresh trouble for PM

April 27, 2011 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

Not long ago, the Congress loved senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi as head of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee. So much so Prime Minister Manmohan Singh didn’t mind even offering to go before Joshi’s panel.

Joshi had then refused to slow down his mission to probe the 2G telecom scam as sought by the BJP so as to enable the Opposition press for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to do the same job.

As his public pronouncements embarrassed his party, the BJP, Joshi became a darling of the Congress. Till, at least BJP chief Nitin Gadkari deputed a party functionary to talk to Joshi to “request” him to soften and  let a JPC come up. In turn, he was given a word that he would be re-nominated by the BJP to head the PAC for the next year too.

Joshi agreed not to speak publicly against the BJP’s line pressing for a JPC while continuing to summon officials, telecom companies heads and even lobbyist Nira Radi, who figured in the infamous tapes involving ex-Telecom Minister A Raja and Rattan Tata and top journalists.

Once the government conceded the Opposition’s demand for a JPC to ensure passage of the budget in Parliament, Joshi refused to budge from his stand that his PAC would complete its work of investigating the 2G spectrum scam.

It was then left to Congress leader P C Chacko, as head of the newly set up JPC, to remind Joshi that PAC and JPC could not investigate the same thing and that the PAC’s job was restrict itself to the audit findings.

Joshi stubbornly told Chacko to not teach him the roles of PAC and JPC, and the matter went to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar. She, however, refused to intervene, saying that they must “sort” it out themselves.

The Congress and the government by then realised that the work of the PAC could be damaging and decided that it must be stopped “at any cost.” They were not worried about the JPC, which they thought, in any case, would never take off because Congress members would guard the party’s interests.

When the PAC began to move at a feverish pace, the Congress and DMK members first prevented deposition of Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati, Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar and PM’s principal secretary TKA Nair and then insisted that the PAC probe would be incomplete unless all those nabbed by the CBI are also interrogated.

The DMK, however, had own misgivings when the Congress members last week pressed for summoning Raja on the ground that he is the main “hero” of the whole scandal and the PAC probe would remain incomplete without probing him. 

Joshi, however, rejected the demand on the ground that the PAC was left with no time to summon anybody and particularly Raja who is in the judicial custody and will take long time to get him before the committee.

With the PAC’s tenure to end on May 5, Joshi thought he would write out the draft, knowing well that the Congress would play spoilsport. As he circulated his draft to 21 members of the PAC, it got leaked no time  and all hell broke loose for the government. 

Appearing to be soft on the Prime Minister, Joshi’s voluminous draft report had some unpleasant words for Dr Manmohan Singh, saying he  had kept his office at “arm’s length” in the 2G case  and, thereby, helped A Raja to execute his “unfair, arbitrary and dubious designs.”

Joshi said the PMO certainly either failed to see the “forebodings or was rendered a mute spectator.”

More than the Prime Minister, Home Minister P Chidambaram faced acute embarrassment. He called journalists close to him to say that  if he had to be criticised then he should have been called by the PAC or at least issued a questionnaire but not criticised ex-parte.

Joshi’s draft report blamed Chidambaram for his role as then Finance Minister, particularly for recommending to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to “treat the matter as closed” instead of taking action against those responsible for loss to the exchequer in the allocation of spectrum. Chidambaram wanted to know when, where and to whom he had made such a plea. 

He said he had only referred to spectrum entry fee and not about spectrum charges, adding that “Joshi does not know the difference between the entry fee, spectrum usage charges and revenue share at license fee.” (end)

Can Karunanidhi bear to see Kanimozhi being sent to jail?

April 25, 2011 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

An immediate threat to the UPA government from the DMK may have been averted by keeping out Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi’s wife Dayalu Ammal from the second charge-sheet in the 2G spectrum case.

But the big question is can 86-year-old Karunanidhi bear to see his dear daughter Kanimozhi being sent to Tihar jail when she appears before the special CBI judge on May 6.

Kanimozhi was named as a co-conspirator along with ex-Telecom Minister A Raja for seeking bribe money to be paid the first DMK family-owned TV channel, Kalaignar TV.

Even as the Congress is cocksure that the DMK cannot pose any threat to the UPA coalition in the wake of Kanimozhi being made an accused in the 2G case, Karunanidhi is said to be very upset that the Centre has put his daughter in the dock.

In fact, Karunanidhi had a telling statement issued by the DMK late Monday. It said: “The issue of questioning of Kanimozhi and Karunanidhi’s wife Dayalu had been made a publicity exercise of gargantuan proportions…. Even after it had been proved in a transparent manner that the Rs 200 crore loan given by a firm (DB Reality to Kalaingar TV) was returned with interest and that there was nothing hanky panky and no conspiracy, Dayalu and Kanimozhi were questioned (by CBI).”

True, tension had eased in the DMK after the CBI kept out Dayalu Ammal, who holds 60 per cent share in Kalaignar TV, which allegedly got Rs 200 crore from the 2G scam beneficiaries.

Also, Dayalu’s son, Union minister M K Alagiri, who was very upset by reports that his mother would be named as an accused, quietened down. Earlier, he had wondered loudly to his aides, “why should I continue if mother is made an accused in the 2G case.”

But Karunanidhi surprised his party leaders by calling an emergency meeting of his party’s executive on Wednesday after he learnt that Kanimozhi was in deep trouble though his wife Dayalu was out of it for now.

Karunanidhi is worried that the special CBI judge who has denied bail to other scam accused could do the same to his daughter when she appears before the special court on May 6. In case, she is unable to get an easy bail, tension in the party might re-surface. Proceedings in the Delhi High Court, where appeal for bail of other 2G accused are coming up, would be keenly watched.

The Congress’ calculation is that the DMK cannot do anything till May 13 when the results of the Tamil Nadu assembly polls are declared. The DMK had contested only 119 seats leaving the rest to its alliance partners, the largest chunk of 63 to the Congress. Therefore, the DMK may need the Congress’ help to form the next government. If it loses power, it is all the more the DMK needs a foothold in power in Delhi.

But, will the DMK being the third largest constitutent of UPA after the Congress and Trinamool Congress and having 18 MP in the Lok Sabha, just wait and watch Kanimozhi being sent to jail?

Karunanidhi is known to already suffer from guilt. He didn’t do much for Kanimozhi. In fact, for many years, he had not acknowledged his marriage with her mother, Rajathi Ammal.

With his first wife Dayalu in a safe position, Rajathi is bound to mount pressure on Karunanidhi to save their daughter from the law. It’s then the trouble for the UPA could really begin.

How will Congress reward Amar Singh?

April 21, 2011 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

Rebel Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh joined hands with Congress’ crack team to demolish the team of Anna Hazre.

Now he expects Congress president Sonia Gandhi to shed her inhibitions about him– and reward him “suitably” before the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh next year.

Though he is saying there’s no “quid pro quo”,  Amar Singh expects the party to open its doors to him since his own party, Lok Manch, appears to be a non-starter –ever since he broke away from his former mentor, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Amar Singh came to aid of the Congress after Sonia Gandhi’s political aide Ahmed Patel wanted him to provide his “expertise” in  procuring CDs to demolish the Bhushans — former law minister Shanti Bhushan and his son, Prasant Bhushan — who were the driving force behind Hazre.

The Congress’ plan to scuttle the Team Anna was put into operation after top leaders were upset that the government was “blackmailed” into conceding a joint committee for writing the Lokpal Bill.

But one thing is clear that Amar Singh does not do anything  without a bargain. 

If he is attacking the Bhushans for the sake of the Congress, and Digvijaya Singh is backing it up with repeated attacks on Hazre and his team, it means something is cooking. 

Singh’s earlier efforts to get into the Congress didn’t succeed because Sonia Gandhi had not forgiven him for bad mouthing her.

But, with the changed circumstances, Singh is hopeful that the Congress chief will “appreciate” his role in “defusing” the anti-corruption stir that had got the government and the party worried about their future.

As a sign of shape of things to come, Amar Singh shared company  on the dais with two Congress stalwarts Salman Khurshid and UPCC units in-charge Digvijaya Singh at a school function at Farukkhabad in UP. 

This meeting set off speculations about an impending merger between Amar Singh’s fledgling Lok Manch and the Congress `any day’. Digvijaya Singh hailed Amar Singh as a brother and a friend. The latter promptly reciprocated and declared that he had learnt the art of keeping personal ties intact despite political difference from `Digvijayji’. 

Salman Khurshid, one of the bitterest critics of Singh during his days as UPCC president, declared he held nothing against Amar Singh and his differences lasted till he was a part of the Samajwadi Party. 

Of  course, when he was asked if he was coming back to the Congress, Amar Singh evasively remarked that he would be doing it publicly whenever the time came. Digvijaya Singh dismissed the meeting as of “no political significance.” 

But Congress sources say that, since Rahul Gandhi is not keen on a tie-up with Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Gandhi family may not mind Amar Singh’s entry. Any proximity with Amar Singh naturally rules out pre-election tie-up with the Samajwadi Party. 


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Money or Election Commission, who will win in Tamil Nadu?

April 12, 2011 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

With bundles of money being discovered all over Tamil Nadu, money and not political parties have fought the elections. So much the big question is who will win?
Money or the Election Commission, which is doing a commendable job to check the influence of financial power of those who fear they will lose the elections this time.
Their model of wooing voters had worked perfectly well in the Lok Sabha polls of 2009, and previously in the assembly polls of 2006.
Till date, the Election Commission seized Rs 34 crore of “unaccounted money” in the run up to the elections.
So much so, that in Tamil Nadu, the main opposition party today seems to be the Election Commission (EC), wrote Gnani, a leading Tamil writer and columnist.
He noted that Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi went to the extent of appealing to the Centre to rethink the powers conferred on the EC and restructure it. His son and deputy chief minister M.K. Stalin, alliance partners S. Ramadoss of the Pattali Makkal Katchi, Thirumavalavan of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and, most importantly, Union home minister P. Chidambaram of main ally Congress have all been critical of the EC during the campaign. 

According to Gnani, this is a dangerous demand and an attempt to dilute the independent nature of one of the few bodies left uncorrupted in the Indian system. Every opposition party has been lauding the EC for its strict enforcement of rules, Gnai said in his article published in Tuesday’s Mint. (http://www.livemint.com/2011/04/12004047/TN-polls-money-as-candidate.html)
Gnani said the now notorious Thirumangalam model is sought to be replicated in the assembly elections. During the Thirumangalam bypoll in 2009, M.K. Alagiri, another son of the chief minister, correctly predicted the exact margin by which his party would win. It was an open secret that voters in Thirumangalam were flooded with money distributed along with the morning milk and the daily newspaper.
Those who took the money pledged their vote by placing their hand on their head, that of a child’s head, or over a pot of buttermilk considered divine by rural people. Since then, every election in Tamil Nadu has been dominated by the cash-for-votes culture.
This election is a do-or-die contest. For Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) patriarch Karunanidhi, who will be 90 in two years and is confined to a wheelchair, this is a fight to protect his family and party interests. The succession issue between sons Stalin and Alagiri has to be resolved one way or the other. The second-generation (2G) spectrum case has wife Dayalu and daughter Kanimozhi vying for a mention in the chargesheet.
While failure will spell disaster, with the Congress dropping him and mending fences with rival All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), success could come with strings attached as he may be forced to share power with his allies.
Failure will mean the disintegration of the monopoly of the family in various spheres of public life, business and media. Success will trigger intense consolidation and liquidation of whatever dissent or opposition that exists.
Jayalalithaa Jayaram and her AIADMK become active only at the time of elections. If the party allows the DMK to come back to power, it will be in the lurch. It has managed to keep afloat as Tamil Nadu voters have been alternately voting for the DMK and the AIADMK in all elections since 1991.
Meanwhile, film star Vijayakanth and his Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) have only got a 10% vote share thus far to show for the effort expended in the past five years. The party’s alliance with the AIADMK may even erode part of that, since all its votes came from people unhappy with both the main formations. Success on the other hand would give it a fresh lease of life.
This election has also seen the death of oratory, which had dominated Tamil Nadu politics for nearly 70 years. Orators such as C.N. Annadurai changed the game of political campaigning for ever in the 1940s. This was nourished and perpetuated by the likes of Karunanidhi and Vaiko (of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam).
The emergence of television has meant the death of fiery speech-making. Orators have been replaced by film comedians and actresses. Comedian Vadivelu is on a DMK-sponsored road show to settle scores with neighbourhood rival Vijayakanth.
Money power in another form also dominates the elections. The freebie culture ushered in by a desperate DMK in 2006 has been appropriated by the AIADMK too. In a burst of competitive populism, both have promised a range of consumer goods.
The DMK’s main campaign platform is development, while the AIADMK is calling for an end to Karunanidhi’s family rule. The 2G scam has so rattled the ruling DMK that it has decided not to depend on its traditional base of urban voters. It has shifted all its major leaders, including Karunanidhi and Stalin, to rural seats. The AIADMK is worried that the rural voter may abandon it in favour of freebies offered by the DMK and, hence, it has unleashed a counter promise of more freebies to retain the rural voter.
This election will be a watershed for politics in Tamil Nadu. More political spaces will become vacant with the possibility of new formations and alliances emerging after the elections.
The fight between the arch-rivals is too close for any prediction. The margins will be narrow in most seats. But the trend will be uniform and the possibility of a hung assembly is remote.
Having watched elections since 1971, this is the first one I have seen which is run in a business-like manner, thanks to the EC’s stern measures. The sobriety thrust upon voters by the EC has, to some extent, been relieved only by their road shows.
Actually, the contest is not just among parties—money is also fighting the elections. Irrespective of the parties in the fray, for the discerning voter and citizen, who wins—money or the EC—is what ultimately matters.

Will the Congress let Anna Hazre succeed?

April 11, 2011 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

The government may have caved in before anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare by agreeing to set up a joint committee to write the Lokpal bill. But the mood within the Congress is anything but conciliatory towards the 72-year-old Gandhian. 
Party leaders are already talking of ways to “expose” those allied with Hazare during his four-day fast to succeed in doing what the Oppposition failed to do. Arvind Kejriwal, the RTI activist who played a key role in the stir, has come under their scrutiny.
Some Congress leaders are nopt hesistating to blame Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for bowing before Hazare “too fast” without realizing the “consequences of accepting” his demand. 
These leaders are now counting on “fireworks” during the deliberations of the proposed joint committee to thwart any meaningful draft bill.
“Why do we panic whenever someone goes on fast?” asked a Congress functionary. “We landed in trouble over Telegana because we mishandled fast by TRS leader K Chandrasekhar Rao. Now, we have succumbed to Anna.”
In fact, Union minister Kapil Sibal’s dig at the institution of the Lokpal is believed to be a strategy by some Congress leaders though he withdrew his remark after Hazare said Sibal should resign from the joint committee “if he feels nothing will happen” out of this institution.
Sibal had told a public meeting, “I ask this question, if a poor child does not have any means for education, then how will Lokpal Bill help? If a poor man needs help for medical services then he will call up a politician. How will Lokpal bill help?”
Clarifying his earlier remarks, Sibal said what he had meant was that “the scope of the Bill is different. The problems of the common man are different. I said that if you want to educate children, then this has no connection to Lokpal. If there is no convenience of water…Lokpal is only connected to corruption and we will bring a good bill that will stop corruption.”
Congress leaders are also upset by Anna Hazare’s plean to videograph the proceedings of the joint committee for transparency. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is heading the panel, and Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid have not outrightly reject Hazare’s demand. But crisis managers led by Ahmed Patel are looking a strategy to trash the anti-corruption crusaders.
If the bill were to reach the draft stage, Congress managers hope, leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati and Lalu Prasad, who are soft on corruption, will try to block the bill in Parliament on one pretext or the other. That should serve the Congress’ interest. Eventually, the party leaders count on the movement itself cooling off in the days to come. Anna Hazare, however, is in no mood to oblige the cynics among them.

Poonam gives a lesson to PR specialists!

April 04, 2011 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

Just as Team India lifted the World Cup on Satursday night, a SMS went out to mostly journalists saying: “Poonam Pandey’d phone switched off…” Another said, “do you have her address?”
As the 19-year-old, who participated in last year’s Gladrags’ model hunt contest and offered to go nude for the cricket team just before the semifinal against Pakistan in Mohali, went silent, PR and media analysts began to draw a lesson from her publicity stunt.

”I am in love with Poonam Pandey. She’s just demonstrated how opportunistic investment can catapult a brand to become top of mind with one masterstroke,” wrote Sai Nagesh, Executive Vice-President and Executive Business Officer, Dentsu Media, in serious Hindu Businessline.
Not only has she captured the imagination of millions of men across the world, she has also elevated the World Cup finals to an unparalleled edge-of-the-seat ‘drool event’!
Much like Sachin’s straight drives, it’s all about the timing. In a world of integrated and interconnected media, proof of Poonam’s genius comes in the form of this Facebook message from a newfound fan, while all of India is saying, ‘I support India’ – ‘I support Poonam Pandey’, Nagesh wrote.
Opportunistic investment in media has been around for a while in the US, and is being practised in India more recently with a lot of fanfare during this cricket World Cup.
There are advertisers who are only seen during the Super Bowl in the US, and they are willing to spend a couple of million dollars on that alone, while being absent for the rest of the year.
Such properties are great ways to spike GRPs (gross rating points). We’re seeing this World Cup being leveraged with opportunistic investments, and my belief is that such investments are here to stay.
For challenger brands that cannot afford to spend a lot of money to buy the bulk deal packages to be visible through the World Cup, these last-minute spot opportunities on the semi-finals and final are a great way to get a spike on visibility.
Then there are these whole host of long-standing and established brands for which awareness is not an issue, and that have the advantage of being a part of the subliminal consciousness because of their legacy. These brands need not be visible through high-decibel advertising across the year, but would want to gently nudge their consumers from time to time to say that they’re around.
What better opportunity than a high-decibel platform like an Indo-Pak semi-final or a World Cup final featuring India?
The television media universe today is one where bulk ratings have become scarce on even the most watched entertainment channels.
Indian cricket is unarguably most exciting for advertisers targeting the male viewer, and has now been elevated to new high with Ms Poonam Pandey declaring her ‘bare’ intentions in going a few steps further than she did for her calendar shoot. Those visuals won’t be on TV in any case, but then, does imagination need visuals? (This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 3, 2011) http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/todays-paper/tp-others/tp-variety/article1594982.ece?css=print

In the meantime, Pandey posted on her Twitter page Monday: “Thanx a Lot All for ur Support!! I am Still on with My Commitments Stay TUNED.” Earlier, she issued a statement saying she would go ahead with her promise only if the BCCI permits.


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