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Ahluwalia’s defeat isn’t really bad news for BJP?

May 04, 2012 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

No matter, how the media reads the defeat of senior BJP leader SS Ahluwalia’s defeat in the Rajya Sabha elections as a slap on the face of the party, Jharkhand chief minister Arjun Munda can see it as a sort of a reprieve for his government. 

If Ahluwalia had won, his coalition would have collapsed immediately. 
His victory would have meant the defeat of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha candidate. An upset JMM would have then surely walked out of the coalition with the BJP and into the hands of the Congress, which has been waiting for the collapse of the Munda government for a long time. 
Even now, the coalition may be headed for a crisis of sorts. The Congress may still look to widen the faultlnes between the two coalition partners. 
But it will take time and by then, Munda may work behind the scenes to soften JMM chief Shibu Soren.
Only a few know that Ahluwalia was originally offered the ticket to contest for the seat that had fallen vacant following the end of his tenure on April 2. But he wanted to shift from Jharkhand to Bihar. 
But the BJP had to renominate its general secretary Ravi Shankar Prasad. For the second seat from Bihar, BJP president Nitin Gadkari wanted to reward another general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan for his performance. There was a third seat in Bihar, which was vacant but the Janata Dal(U) was insisting that the BJP back its nominee to win the seat. So Ahluwalia could not be accommodated in Bihar.
So, those upset with Ahluwalia’s defeat are central BJP leaders like Sushma Swaraj who had wanted to settle scores with Gadkari by insisting on Ahluwalia’s nomination from Jharkhand–after the row over letting London-based businessman Anshuman Mishra contest an independent candidate. Right from the beginning, as Munda tried to impress upon the BJP bigwigs, it was difficult to push for its nominee and it was better to allow an independent win the polls and then ensure he joined the NDA to boost its numbers in the Rajya Sabha.
The Congress had successfully pressed on the Election Commission to countermand the Rajya Sabha elections in the state on March 30 after a seizure of Rs 2.15 crore in cash from a car owned by the brother of independent candidate RK Agarwal. 
Soon afterwards, Gadkari’s rivals ensured that Ahluwalia was given the ticket in the fresh election that was ordered by the EC.
Gadkari too despatched his trusted aides to Ranchi to see that Munda ensured he got the BJP’s 18 votes and 2 of the JD(U). So, Swaraj or Yashwant Sinha cannot blame Gadkari or Munda  for the independents, who are not under the control of the BJP, voting for the JMM or the Congress under the sway of the influence of business houses backing them. 
An angry JMM had earlier asked BJP to withdraw its candidate in favour Sanjeev Kumar but Gadkari rejected the call to ensure that Swaraj and her group was happy.  
This time, Ahluwalia, the BJP’s outgoing deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, finished third with 20 votes — 18 of the saffron party’s and two of the JD(U).
Pradip Kumar Balmuchu, Jharkhand Congress president, won with 25 votes while the JMM’s Sanjeev Kumar secured 23. Balmuchu received 13 votes of his own party, five from the RJD and seven from independents including two who are supporting the BJP-JMM coalition government.
The JMM candidate got 18 of its own party’s votes and five from the All Jharkhand Students’ Union, a coalition partner of the government. 
A total of 68 votes were polled in the 82-member house. Eleven members of the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantric), led by former chief minister Babulal Marandi, and the lone MLA of the CPI(ML-Liberation) abstained from voting. 

Why Congress mothers and sons blame Prime Minister Manmohan Singh?

April 18, 2012 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

When you lose elections, you can blame anyone but yourself. But if you are in the Congress party, you can always blame Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Well, that seems to be the trend ever since the Congress lost Punjab, Goa and Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai civic polls and, now Delhi municipal polls.
The humiliating defeat in Delhi has quickly prompted Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and her son and East Delhi Lok Sabha MP, Sandeep Dikshit, to point fingers at the image of the UPA-II headed by Dr Singh. They have blamed price rise and allegations of mega corruption under the UPA for turning Delhi voters away from the Congress!
Not surprising, say other Congress leaders. When Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi reviewed the UP results, many defeated candidates blamed the UPA government’s image for their drubbing!
“Why, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi could be thinking on the same lines,” commented a Congress functionary.
Sheila Dikshit split the Municipal Corporation of Delhi into three units, hoping that the Congress would win at least in one of them. Her rivals in the Congress warned her against the trifurcation of the 53-year-old civic body ahead of the polls, saying it could prove expensive for the party. They say it is no surprise that the BJP won 59 of the 104 seats in North Delhi and 35 of the 64 in East Delhi. It emerged as the single largest party in South Delhi, winning 44 of the 104 seats.
Dikshit believes that “this is not an election for me. It is an MCD election. When it comes to my election (assembly polls next year), my referendum will come then.”
Her son, Sandeep Dikshit attributed the defeat to a “disconnect” between the party and the people and the BJP’s success in taking advantage of a series of mega scams inclduing those connected with the Commonwealth Games, in which his mother’s name too figured.
Typical of his style, a cool Dr Manmohan Singh has, naturally, sought to play down the Congress’s dismal show, saying the MCD polls were fought on local issues. “These are local elections, local issues, people who work for the people. These are the qualities that count. In every election, there are winners and losers and one has to accept it with good grace,” he said.
But many Central Congress leaders and even Union ministers acknowledged that the results of the elections were a reflection of the larger “national mood” against the party.
Of course, the most optimistic among the Delhi Congress leaders give a spin. “Last time, the BJP had won the MCD polls but the Congress came to power in the Delhi Assembly,” Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said, adding: “The Congress even went on to win all the seven Parliament seats. The MCD polls should be seen only as MCD polls.”

Who is keeping the Army on the boil and why?

April 04, 2012 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

Who is working behind Army chief’s early exit and why? 
Who is out to keep the government in crisis? 
Who is out to besmirch reputation of  potential candidates for the Presidential polls?
Everyone knows Army chief V K Singh will retire in May and will be gone. Yet, one cannot escape the feeling that someone is out to ensure that he goes early. Is there fear lurking among a group of people who want him out soon because Gen Singh may force more skeletons to stumble out of the South Block cupboards?
Why should a section of the media be endlessly fed with stories? 
First, it was a leak of letter that Gen Singh wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the state of preparedness of the Army because of the inordinate delays in weapon acquisitions. 
That was timed with the public outrage over Gen Singh’s assertion that an officer had approached with him a bribe offer of Rs 14 crore to clear the controversial Tantra trucks. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) concluded that the leak was not from the Army chief’s end. 
A matured Defence Minister A K Antony put the issue behind and did not let the so-called “anger” of a section of the political class work to force the government’s hand to send the Gen Singh on “forced leave.” The PM concurred. 
Earning all-round praise, Antony reaffirmed his faith in Gen Singh, who in turn debunked stories about his intention against the government. The situation appeared to be settling down. 
But that upset the same class and its motivators in the government to come out with this yarn of Gen Singh’s alleged plan to  display force in the Capital—when his dispute over the date of his birth was before the Supreme Court!  
That story turned out to be rehash of an article in Rediff.com, which was about the Army’s routine exercises in and around Delhi to meet exgencies at times of fog, which is common in north India.
Naturally, the Prime Minister is angry. The Defence Minister is too livid. No wonder, Dr Manmohan Singh said it was “alarmist” and wanted everyone to put an end to a  “non-issue.” 
Barring one or two TV news channels, the bulk of the media saw through the game and went to trash it.
But the bigger issue is who is working behind the scenes to keep the Army’s pot boiling? Why? Are some weapon sellers and their lobbyists behind this game? Are rivals of the PM and Antony in the UPA government and the Congress party doing this to damage their image?
There are many Congress leaders who think that Antony is Sonia Gandhi’s preferred choice — if ever she wanted to chose by herself —  for being the next President or Prime Minister. If Antony’s name gets further entangled in the mess inside the Defence Ministry, can she still rely on his name? 
Secondly, there are business majors who are very upset with the government’s thinking on many issues ranging from the price of natural gas from offshore fields to the Vodafone tax issue. They are upset that the government won’t look askance at avoidance of capital tax by entities that shrewdly managed to hive off their operations and units abroad and then sell their assets in India. Are they out destabilise the set-up?

Will DMK make Ram Sethu issue next pressure point for UPA?

March 29, 2012 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

After tasting success in pushing the government to vote against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Commission last week, DMK leaders are in no mood to appear soft on the Ram Sethu issue.  

DMK MPs, belonging to Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, led by its leader T R Baalu met UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on March 29 in this regard, and said “any weakened response” on the issue would only “expose the betrayal of hope and promise” given to Tamil Nadu.  
As the Supreme Court gave more time to the UPA government to decide whether the mythological Ram Setu could be declared a national monument, the DMK began to mount pressure to quicken the legal process over the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project, which it said is essential for the economic development of Tamil Nadu. 
The Sethusamudram project is open up a shipping channel by breaking up limestone shells and shores called Ram’s Bridge or Ram to link the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka to allow large ships to get to the eastern coast of the country from the western coast without having to navigate through Sri Lanka, as they do now. 
Besides saving navigation, the project is supposed to speed up Tamil Nadu’s coastal areas, with Tuticorin as its main port and 13 smaller ports across the state. 
According to DMK leaders, after major portions of the work were completed and only 22 km of dredging work left, “some vested interests” approached the Supreme Court and obtained a stay. The Centre is said to have already spent Rs 800 crore on dredging work for the project.
It was during the UPA-I, Baalu as surface transport minister had got the project going before the Hindu groups and AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa called for a halt, citing environmental and religious reasons. She had moved the Supreme Court in 2007 asking for the declaration of the structure as a national monument.
On Thursday, DMK chief M Karunanidhi was prompted to send the delegation to Sonia Gandhi after Jayalalithaa wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asking the Centre to declare Ram Sethu as a ‘national monument” without further delay. Her response followed the apex Court seeking the Centre’s opinion in this regard.
A DMK memoram handed to V Narayanaswamy, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s office, recalled the Prime Minister had inaugurated the project in July 2005 in the presence UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Karunanidhi. The Congress chief had then
“expressed her desire in the presence of thousands of people that work should be completed within the stipulated time frame
of three years.” 

Will the government sack Gen Singh?

March 28, 2012 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

The corridors of Parliament and South Block, which houses the offices of the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister are agog with intense speculation that Army Chief V K Singh might be sacked.
The talk about his dismissal was strengthened by a hush-hush meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had with seniors ministers including Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and, of course, Defence Minister A K Antony.
A section of the government and the Congress were firming up their mind to show the door to the general following the leakage of a letter he wrote to the PM, which lay bare the state of the Army’s preparedness because of procurement delays and obsolete equipment.
Fortunately for the government, the opposition joined hands with it to virtually single out Gen Singh for unleasing a “havoc” on the defence services.
Aiding the section of the government, which wants Gen Singh sacked without delay (though he retires in May this year), allies like the Samajwadi Party and the Lalu Prasad Yadav openly called for his removal. Lalu even went before TV channels to allege that Gen Singh was “nurturing” political ambitions.
Those backing for action against Gen Singh suggested that the leak of the March 12 letter to the PM had come from his end but those backing him said it could be from the government’s side. A retired general said, “don’t shoot the messenger.”
The PM does not want to precipitate the situation because of his preoccupation with the Brics Summit and when leaders from China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa have arrived in the Capital. Even Antony does not want the matter to become ugly.
The developments cheered the arms lobbyists who said Gen Singh had become a “thorn in the flesh” and his removal would at least ensure the government’s procurement process is completed before the financial year ends on March 31.
According to a newspaper report, the Army Chief has contended in the letter that the entire tank fleet is “devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks”, the air defence is “97 per cent obsolete” and the infantry is crippled with “deficiencies of crew served weapon” and lacks “night fighting” capabilities.
Gen Singh has also alleged that there is “hollowness” in the procedures and processing time for procurements as well as legal impediments by vendors.
First, Gen Singh embarrassed the government about an alleged offer of Rs 14 crore as bribe to him from a general and later, Antony saying that the general did not want to pursue the matter when it happened. in September 2010. Anycase, Antony ordered a CBI inquiry.

Will Gen Singh have the last laugh?

March 26, 2012 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

In January, he became the first serving Army chief to take the government to the Supreme Court. Now, he has come with a bomb shell that will make even a honest politician like Defence Minister A K Antony squirm in his seat. The Congress has yet another scam on its lap to answer.
General VK Singh said that he was offered a bribe worth Rs 14 crore by an equipment lobbyist to have a tranche of 600 sub-standard vehicles cleared for purchase. The lobbyist was a retired lieutenant-general.
General Singh also said that 7,000 of those sub-standard vehicles were already in use in the Army and had been sold over the years at exorbitant prices.
What is important to understand is that, all along, Gen Singh has been maintaing that, it was because he had cracked down on corruption that he was targeted on his date of birth.
“But things are fast unravelling and you will soon see the hand behind the drama. You will soon see who the sutradhar of the play is,” he told The Hindu.
Gen Singh’s contention has been that he acted tough on the army officers who were behind the Adarsh Soceity scam in Mumbai and those responsible for the Sukna land fraud, which involved transfer of 71 acres of land adjacent to Sukna military station in West Bengal. These officers were backed by his predecessors, Gen Deepak Kapoor and Gen J J Singh, who later became a governor.
But the government and the Congress will have a tough time answering these questions: Why has Defence Minister AK Antony been silent on the General VK Singh’s allegation all these months? Why is the CBI inquiry only being ordered now?
Of course, it will also be asked why didn’t Gen Singh insist on an FIR being lodged when he was first approached? Why has Gen Singh chosen to rake up the issue weeks ahead of his retirement? He will be gone in May.
In an interview to ‘The Hindu’, General Singh said, “One of these men had the gumption to walk up to me and tell me that if I cleared the tranche, he would give me Rs 14 crore. He was offering a bribe to me, to the Army Chief. He told me that people had taken money before me and they will take money after me.”
He also said that he reported the incident to Antony. “I told him, if you think I’m a misfit, I will walk out.”
When asked how the Army Chief could be offered a bribe, he said, “Obviously somewhere our standards of probity and integrity have fallen.”
Antony quickly ordered a CBI probe into the allegation of bribe levelled by General Singh. “Allegation of Gen Singh that he was offered bribe is serious. We have to handle it,” Antony said.
But, the Congress has reacted very sharply to the charges by the Army chief. “If someone had approached Gen Singh, he should have got an FIR registered against the person,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari told reporters outside Parliament.
According to The Hindu, the General said the lobbyist offered him the bribe in order to have a tranche of 600 sub-standard vehicles of a particular make cleared for purchase. He said the vehicles, 7,000 of which were already in use in the Army, had been sold over the years at exorbitant prices with no questions asked. He said there was no proper facility where they could be serviced and maintained and yet they continued to be sold to the Army.
The Army chief said the brazenness of the act shocked him out of his wits. “I was shocked. If somebody comes and tells you, you will get so much, what can you do?” He said the man had recently retired from the Army, indicating how deeply entrenched the problem was.
Asked what had brought the Army to the state where the Chief could be offered a bribe, he said: “Obviously somewhere our standards of probity and integrity have fallen.”
Gen Singh had wanted the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to accept that he was born in 1950 and 1951, as some army records showed. MoD rejected his claim, stating that he had accepted many promotions on the basis of his seniority, which was based on his acceptance of 1950 as the date of his birth. He had to withdraw his petition in the Supreme Court after the judges indicated that they were not inclined to entertain his plea. (end)

Will Dinesh Trivedi become Mamata’s fall guy?

March 14, 2012 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

The Trinanmool Congress has opposed Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi’s announcement of a marginal hike in passenger fares ranging from 2 paisa per kilometre to 30 paisa per kilometre in various categories of trains. Platform tickets have also been raised from Rs 3 to Rs 5.
Just as Trivedi finished his Railway Budget speech, his party colleague Dereck O’Brien went on the twitter to oppose the hike. A little later, Trinamool Congress senior leader and Union minister Sudip Bandhopadhyay said his party was not consulted by Trivedi.
Trivedi himself said he had not consulted his party and the decision to effect the hike was taken by him “consciously” as the Railways was going through a “difficult phase” and faced a severe financial crunch.
Interestingly, Trivedi’s ministerial colleague, Sultan Ahmed, who also belongs to the Trinamool Congress, said the hike was only “marginal” and no body should complain or oppose!
Is the Trinamool Congress deliberately speaking in two voices just to deflect criticism that it broke its promise not to effect a hike in fares? 
Is Mamata Banerjee playing the good cop and letting Trivedi play the bad cop? Or will she force him to roll back the hike or quit?
One thing is clear. The latest flip-flop has only added to the Congress’ worries over the UPA’s stability. Will Mamata strike at the UPA to pave the way for fresh elections? That question has only got more serious as Parliament’s budget session gets underway.
A day ago, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee sought to convey to the recalcitrant ally at a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister for the UPA allies not to press for amendments in an official motion in Parliament for thanking the President for her address– just because Mamata is opposed to Home Minister P Chidambaram’s pet project, the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). 
Mamata is livid with the government for including the NCTC as one of its achievements in the President’s address when she had opposed it, along with other non-Congress chief ministers.
Mukherjee tried to convey to the Trinamool Congress that the Opposition would only take advantage of a UPA-ally sponsored amendment  and force defeat of the government’s motion. But that’s the last thing she is worried about. 
An early election to the Lok Sabha, her party leaders say, could mean at least 30 of the 42 seats from West Bengal for Trinamool Congress. That translates into greater leverage in the next Lok Sabha and the next government!

With Akilesh as Uttar Pradesh CM, can Rahul Gandhi delay it any further?

March 10, 2012 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav convinced his party leaders who were opposed to his son, Akilesh Yadav, to accept his decision to anoint him as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. At 38, Akilesh Yadav will be the youngest UP CM. In 1999, when Mayawati became CM, she was 39. So Akilesh has broken the record.
With Akilesh wearing the crown, the big question that has come to haunt Congressmen in UP and elsewhere is whether Rahul Gandhi delay taking charge of their party any further?
True, Rahul, his sister Priyanka, and mother Sonia Gandhi are very upset that the party machinery let down the “yuvraj.” Despite his hectic campaigning, the Congress managed to finish fourth with just 28 seats, getting 11.6% of the votes! The only consolation, the Congress’ national rival, did no better. The BJP earned the third place, with 47 seats and 15% vote share.
But Congressmen including Union ministers who are close to Rahul think that he should not delay any further in assuming complate charge of the party as its president and Sonia Gandhi would only be glad to make way and become “patron-in-chief.”
A Union minister said he would be the first to opt for a Kamaraj-type plan if a call was given for those in the government to give up ministerial berths and take up serious party work.
In 1963, senior Congress leader K Kamaraj suggested to Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru that senior Congress leaders should leave ministerial posts to take up organisational work. This suggestion came to be known as the ‘Kamaraj Plan’, which was designed primarily to dispel from the minds of Congressmen the lure for power, creating in its place a dedicated attachment to the objectives and policies of the organisation. The plan was approved by the Congress Working Committee and was implemented within two months.
Six Union Ministers and six Chief Ministers including Lalbahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, Biju Patnaik and S k Patil resigned from their posts. Similarly, the Union minister said, time has come for everyone to focus attention on affairs of the Congress and prepare the organisation’s machinery to face the 2014 polls. Rahul Gandhi should be seriously projected as Prime Minister candidate. UP debacle should be put behind, he said.

Why attack Israeli diplomats in India?

February 13, 2012 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

Everyone may be surprised that Iran-backed Hezbollah should target Israeli diplomats in India. But Israelis themselves are not surprised though they were taken aback intially. 
As events have unfolded, Israel has close relationships with the local political leaderships in Delhi and Tbilisi, especially with the defense establishments, says Anshel Pfeffer, an Israeli writer.
He says neither the timing nor the location of the simultaneous attacks on Israeli diplomats in New Delhi and Tbilisi were hardly surprising. 
Pfeffer says it is the week of the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Hezbollah operations chief, Imad Mughniyeh, which no one has ever taken credit for but is widely attributed to Israel, was always going to be a red-letter date for attacks on Israeli targets.
The twin locations, India and Georgia, are countries where Israel has close relationships with the local political leaderships and especially with the defence establishments. 
They are also countries where the security forces are not in total control of wide regions and borders.
Georgia borders Azerbaijan, Iran’s neighbor, which in recent years has become a hotbed of regional intrigue with Israeli and Iranian agents operating at will. 
India, bordering on another Iranian neighbour, Pakistan, has long suffered from the highest number of terror attacks of any country in the world. 
Each target offered the perpetrators multiple channels to smuggle in explosives and willing accomplices to provide safe houses and logistical assistance. 
As was amply proven in the 2008 Mumbai attack, says Pfeffer, India has no lack of radical Islamist elements prepared to facilitate attacks. 
While the ten percent Muslim minority in Georgia has little history of violence, the country has been intensifying its relationship with Iran over the last couple of years, including visa-free travel for the growing number of Iranian tourists and businessmen visiting Tbilisi and the Batumi resort. 
And just over the Russian border in Chechnya, there is no shortage of well-trained jihadists.
Pfeffer concludes that if this attack was indeed carried out by Hezbollah or another Iranian-linked affiliate, the decision not to carry out a revenge attack on Israeli soil was made so as not to give Israel an excuse for retaliating against Hezbollah’s military apparatus in Lebanon. 
That is being kept for the day after Israel attacks Iran.
According to Pfeffer, who writes for Haaretz.Com, Hezbollah’s and Iran’s focus therefore has been centred on Israeli representations abroad. 
Attempts to attack targets in Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and most recently Thailand were nipped in the bud through close cooperation between Israeli intelligence and the local security services. 
A Hezbollah cell operating in Western Europe was also apprehended last year before it could launch an operation. Two years ago, a shooting at cars carrying Israeli diplomats in Jordan resulted in no casualties.
There were multiple intelligence warnings of a pending attack – and the recent assassinations of nuclear scientists in Tehran and mysterious explosions at various Iranian installations only added impetus. 
While the attacks will certainly lead to a review of security arrangements at Israeli embassies and consulates, it is hard to see how these could be intensified. 
The fact that despite multiple attempts, this is the closest the terrorists have got so far, should serve as validation for the dual strategy of reliance on Israeli security along with cooperation with local intelligence services, says the Israeli writer.

Why Pranab won’t shift out of 13, Talkatora Road?

February 01, 2012 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

As the senior most minister, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is entitled to large government bungalow, bigger than where he stays now: 13, Talkatora Road. 

It’s only a type-7 house when he is entitled to a type-8 one. Unlike other Cabinet ministers who got big bungalows with lovely garden, Mukherjee has refused all suggestions, including from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to shift to a bigger house. 
His argument is that No 13 is a lucky number for him, and this house, which has been his home in Delhi for 18 years, has brought good fortune. This house has seen him become Leader of Lok Sabha after being elected to the House for the first time in 2004. He had been a member of the Rajya Sabha since 1969.
In fact, his room in Parliament House is also no 13.
A few days ago, Mukherjee hosted a lunch for his journalist friends but not in his Talkatora Road residence but at 31, Aurangzeb Road bungalow, which was occupied by former Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat till his death in May 2010. That led to guests asking Mukherjee whether he was going to shift to this new place, which looked spruced up. 
Aides of Mukherjee dismissed the talk, saying he’d not leave the Talkatora Road house–unless he was going to move to the magnificent  Rashtrapati Bhavan atop the Raisina Hills as the next President. But if you ask Mukherjee about his chances, as some scribes have done, he will tell you that his chances are bleak.
Those who know Mukherjee very closely say that he does not think that Congress president Sonia Gandhi will choose him over Defence Minister A K Antony to occupy that post when President Pratibha Patil retires in July this year.
Mukherjee believes Antony is her trusted nominee, whom she may prefer to have in the Rashtrapati Bhavan when the Lok Sabha polls are held in 2014. The occupant decides who is to be called to take charge as Prime Minister after the elections are over. In case of a number game, Sonia Gandhi would prefer Antony to ensure that her son, Rahul, doesn’t have a problem.
Almost reconciled to his present status as a trouble shooter for the UPA government, Mukherjee,however, is not interested in the second slot, that of Vice President when the term of Hamid Ansari gets over in August this year. 
By the way, the grapevine in Delhi is that Ansari is also in the reckoning for President’s slot — since many vice presidents before him have been elevated as President. They include R Venakataraman and K R Narayanan.

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