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Analysis

Ahmed Patel barely survives to keep Sonia’s Rahul hopes alive

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It would be rank bad form to describe Ahmed Patel as a form of life under Sonia Gandhi’s furniture, because the entire Congress Working Committee defers to him as “Ahmad Bhai” with varying degrees of insincerity.

Look, how he came out of the throng which was blocking his path to the Rajya Sabha. P. Chidambaram, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma would not be marching back and forth from the Election Commission past midnight pleading for “Ahmad Bhai” had the Congress President not monitored the events, remote in hand, on a minute by minute basis.

She must have been close to a nervous breakdown when the numbers of Gujarat party MLAs sank from 57 to 43 who had to be whisked away to a Karnataka holiday resort to stop further hemorrhage. Even then a couple dug burrows to sneak out. If those two exhibitionists had not been caught flashing before “unauthorized persons”, Ahmad Bhai’s goose had nearly been cooked.

It is, of course, fake news that in celebration, he lifted up his arms in front of Sonia Gandhi and sang:
“Hum laaye hain toofan se Kishti nikaal ke.”
(From the eye of the storm have
I rowed the boat to the bank)

Parties fight to advance their mission or when parties face adversity. The Congress fights when chosen leaders are in trouble. A reversal for Ahmad Patel in Gujarat would have been an enormous loss of face for Sonia. By helping her keep her face what does the party gain? That would be a hurtful question to the deluded who are convinced that one day the Congress, like the Phoenix, will rise again.

There are other important, unproven stories. Sonia and, by extension, “Ahmad Bhai”, have to be somehow saved because they have the key to the treasure. This is the testimony of Congressmen who have picked up their marbles and walked away from the game. And their tribe is growing.

That “Ahmad Bhai” made such heavy weather of a solitary seat reflects on a matter of some political value. “Ahmad Bhai” is no mass leader. He would not be able to collect 100 persons for a meeting. He is a maestro in pre- and post-electoral politics – the consummate fixer across the political field, particularly in Gujarat where a great deal of back scratching between him and the likes of Amit Shah has gone on for some time.

In direct proportion to the growing self-confidence of the Modi-Shah duet, such deals may now onwards be at a discount. They may even be discontinued without notice. Were Ahmed Bhai’s travails part of this shifting of gears by the two “Gujjus” because they are on a winning streak?

Ahmed Bhai’s deal making abilities in Gujarat became the subject of some speculation even on the eve of the 2014 election when Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, warned of an impending Congress rout, turned up to save her mother and brother by campaigning in Rae Bareli and Amethi. She did save them.

Her pitch was shrill. Her family was being “humiliated” by the BJP. They were targeting her husband’s land deals. Like her grandmother, she would fight back, she said. She then unleashed her finest invective on Narendra Modi’s “snoopgate”, how the Gujarat strongman had allegedly organized surveillance of a woman architect across these states.

Poor Priyanka did not even know that a few days ago there was a front page cabinet announcement that matters of such sensitivity will now only be handled by the next union cabinet. Priyanka could scream herself hoarse on “snoopgate”, “Jashodaben”, “Ishrat Jehan” but it was now so much shouting into the wind.

Her leaders, “Ahmed Bhai”, and Manmohan Singh included, had waved a white flag at Modi. An electorate on the eve of a key election may be forgiven for being totally befuddled at the turn of events. How should the common man know that the deal has been struck because Sonia does not want Priyanka to worry herself sick about Robert Vadra’s travails.

That even so, there is an occasional eruption of fierce sloganeering against each other is, according to Congress sources, a possible part of a broad understanding.

What Shankersinh Vaghela told a group of journalists during the 2002 Gujarat riots sheds light on “Ahmed Bhai’s” genius. Just imagine, the leader of the opposition, Sonia Gandhi, did not even visit Ahmedabad after it had witnessed the most ghoulish pogrom.

“Had Sonia gone on hunger strike outside Raj Bhawan in Gandhinagar on February 28 (peak of pogrom), the situation would have been controlled,” Vaghela said. Fingers were pointed at “Ahmad Bhai”, for having advised Sonia against visiting Gujarat.

All of this has history behind it. It fits into the Congress unprecedented victory in 1984 being seen by the party as majoritarian consolidation against the minorities, in this instance the Sikhs. But the floodgates had been opened. By 1986, the most secular of Congress General Secretaries, V.N. Gadgil, told me with considerable alarm: “A feeling is growing among Hindus that Muslims are being appeased.”

The Congress had turned. Rajiv Gandhi was to go far on this route. He gave the call for Ram Rajya in 1989 from the hallowed precincts of Ayodhya.

How appeased the Muslims were became clear after the Sachar Committee report in 2005. The Sonia-Manmohan duet did not do a jot to implement recommendations following the report.

Pundits are shy of admitting that what we have in competition are two parallel efforts at Hindu consolidation: one is pursuing an aggressive Hindutva agenda, an awesome machine on the roll. The Congress, which has already crashed between two stools, remains frozen but only on one stool. The other stool has been moved from the drawing room. The party is ever cautious not to be seen with Muslims on issues that might drive away the Hindu vote which, alas, is already proceeding towards the BJP, in single file or, maybe, two.

In this critical moment, Rahul Gandhi is inspiring poetry. A variation on the old limerick:

As Congressmen went up the stair
They met Rahul who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
We wish, we wish he’d stay away!

(Saeed Naqvi is a commentator on political and diplomatic affairs. The views expressed are personal. He can reached on [email protected])

Analysis

Ministry says yoga is not sport, but DU colleges still reserve seats

Colleges have autonomy to choose the sports under which they wish to give admissions. University cannot tell a college to pick a specific sport. It is their discretion. These sports do not come under Sports Ministry, nor are they regulated by it.

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Delhi University

New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) Is yoga a sport? The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) says it is not. Yet, 11 Delhi University (DU) colleges have this year reserved seats for the discipline under their sports quota.

The university and the colleges, meanwhile, have been shifting responsibility back and forth.

After recognising it as a sport in 2015, the MYAS reversed its decision the next year. “After elaborate discussion, it was concluded that yoga has various dimensions/arms in which competitions are not possible. Hence, it was agreed that Yoga cannot be termed a sport. Consequently, it may not be appropriate to recognise any organisation as NSF (national sports federation) for yoga,” the Sports Ministry had said in a letter dated December 21, 2016, to all national sports federations and the Indian Olympic Assocation.

“It was also agreed that the entire matter relating to yoga will continue to be handled by the Ministry of AYUSH,” the letter said.

When IANS contacted the DU Sports Council for a clarification, it said that the colleges had requested the university to conduct yoga trials.

“Yes, Yoga has been under sports quota and it has been there in previous years also. Last year, 19 colleges had applied for trial for Yoga under sports quota. The decision, in which sports admissions are to be made, are taken by the colleges,” Anil Kalkal, Director of the varsity sports council which conducts the centralised trials for sports quota on behalf of colleges, told IANS.

“Colleges have autonomy to choose the sports under which they wish to give admissions. University cannot tell a college to pick a specific sport. It is their discretion. These sports do not come under Sports Ministry, nor are they regulated by it,” he said.

Although colleges are entitled to choose a sport for trials and reserve seats under it, the list of sports from which they are to choose is compiled by the varsity.

Kalkal cited another factor in the form of inter-university competition, held by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) — a non-governmental body listed under the Societies Act — as one of the reasons for considering Yoga as sport.

“If such was the thing (de-recognition) why would AIU conduct the yoga competition? The day AIU will tell us that Yoga is not a sport and stop conducting the competition, we will stop taking admission under it,” he said.

“If colleges are requesting to admit students under yoga, what can the university do? We have to conduct the trials. You should ask the colleges why they requested us to conduct yoga trials,” he said.

An official from one of the colleges which has reserved seats for Yoga this year, when contacted, passed the buck to the university.

“We consider Delhi University and AIU the governing bodies. If an activity is listed as sport by the university, we follow that. If DU tells us that it will not conduct trials in yoga then we will also give it up. Government doesn’t have a role in it,” M.P. Sharma, sports Convener at Hansraj College, told IANS.

Ambiguity on the legal sanction of quota for yoga got further worsened when an AIU official conceded that the association itself didn’t consider yoga as a sport.

“The competition is there because it helps in maintaining your body, mind and spirit. We do not consider it sport. This is not a sport. But we conduct the competition to improve the standard of performance,” said AIU Joint Secretary (Sports) Gurdeep Singh.

Singh also conceded that association’s decisions are not binding on the university.

“We have nothing to do with the DU sports quota. DU follows its own constitution. You talk to DU for this. A collective decision is made by our sports board. Whatever is in the larger interest of students, we do that. It’s not a sport but an activity, which helps strike a balance. The entire world has recognised the value of yoga, I don’t know why only here people have an issue with it,” he said.

However, in spite of what Singh said, the AIU website lists yoga as a sport in its “Calendar of Events” for 2017.

Although it is a thing which has been going on for years, some DU teachers, when apprised of the matter, called the decision (listing of yoga as sport by the university) as “arbitrary”, stating that it was never presented before the Academic or the Executive Council of the university.

“As far as reservation of seats under sports quota is concerned, we have an understanding of reserving them for only those sports which are recognised in Olympics. On what basis can they include yoga in it? asks Rajesh Jha, a DU professor and Executive Council member.

“This will end up undermining the chances of admission of those who are trained in genuine sports. This seems like a completely arbitrary decision,” he added.

Trials for yoga are scheduled to be conducted later this month.

Apart from Hansraj, Gargi College, Deshbandhu College, College of Vocational studies, and Kalindi College are few of those which have given their names for yoga trials and have reserved seats under the activity.

(Vishal Narayan can be contacted at [email protected])

— IANS

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Analysis

Global cues, inflation to dictate equity indices trend

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is slated to release the macro-economic data points of IIP and CPI (Consumer Price Index) on June 12.

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Sensex Nifty Equity

Mumbai, June 10 : Monetary policy announcements by global central banks coupled with the upcoming release of major macro-economic data points on industrial production and inflation are expected to set the trend for the domestic equity indices.

According to market observers, other key factors such as rupee’s movements against the US dollar and fluctuations in crude oil prices as well as developments on monsoon’s progress will impact investors’ risk-taking appetite.

“Next week will have a flurry of economic data for India,” Devendra Nevgi, Founder and Principal Partner, Delta Global Partners, told IANS.

“A negative surprise in inflation data would reinforce the hawkish stance of RBI. A weaker external sector data would have an impact on INR, especially during a negative EM (emerging markets) sentiment. IIP (Index of Industrial Production) would be watched closely for an ongoing economic expansion.”

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is slated to release the macro-economic data points of IIP and CPI (Consumer Price Index) on June 12.

Subsequently, other major macro-economic data points such as WPI (Wholesale Price Index), Current Account Deficit and Balance of Trade figures will be released.

On the global front, monetary policy announcements by the US Federal Reserve, ECB (European Central Bank) and the Bank of Japan (BoJ) will form major themes for the upcoming week.

“The US Fed rate move and language will set the tone for sentiment in EM as well Indian markets. The key is whether the US Fed pays attention to the vulnerable EM situation,” Nevgi said.

Besides, the movement of Indian rupee against the US dollar and fluctuations in global crude oil prices will also set the course for the key indices.

On a weekly basis, the Indian rupee weakened by 45 paise to close at 67.51 against the US dollar from its previous close of 67.06 per greenback.

In terms of investments, provisional figures from the stock exchanges showed that foreign institutional investors bought scrips worth Rs 1,367.22 crore during the week ended June 8, 2018.

Figures from the National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL) revealed that foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) invested equities worth Rs 3,757.94 crore, or $560.40 million, in the last week.

Additionally, technical charts show that the National Stock Exchange (NSE)’s Nifty50 remains in an intermediate uptrend.

“Technically, with Nifty recovering from the lows of 10,552 points, the intermediate trend remains up,” said Deepak Jasani, Head of Retail Research, HDFC Securities.

“Further upsides are likely in the coming week once the immediate resistances of 10,814 points are taken out. Crucial supports to watch for any weakness are at 10,618 points.”

Last week, the key Indian equity indices — the S&P BSE Sensex and the NSE Nifty50 — rose on the back of Reserve Bank of India’s “neutral” stance on a future rate hike trajectory, along with its reform measures for the realty, bond and banking sectors and value buying.

Consequently, the barometer 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) of the BSE rose by 216.41 points or 0.61 per cent to 35,443.67 points on a weekly basis.

Similarly, the wider Nifty50 of the NSE closed last week’s trade at 10,767.65 points — up 71.45 points or 0.67 per cent — from its previous close.

(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at [email protected])

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Analysis

CBDT says RTI replies on ‘write-off’ of IT arrears were ‘erroneously sent’

According to the RTI replies, the Pr-CCIT, Hyderabad had stated that it had written off a total of Rs 3002.20 crores in two financial years, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.

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RTI ACT

Mumbai, June 1 (IANS) In an apparent volte-face, the Central Board of Direct Taxes has said that figures of ‘write-offs’ of Income Tax arrears furnished under right to information action were sent out in error.

Responding to an IANS report “Income Tax Department writes off huge arrears, show RTI replies” on May 28, 2018, the CBDT’s official spokesperson said that the the Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (Pr-CCIT) Hyderabad had provided erroneous figures of ‘write-offs’ under an RTI application filed by Chandra Shekhar Gaur, a Neemuch (Madhya Pradesh) activist.

According to the RTI replies, the Pr-CCIT, Hyderabad had stated that it had written off a total of Rs 3002.20 crores in two financial years, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.

The CBDT spokesperson, Surabhi Ahluwalia, Commissioner of Income Tax (Media & Technical Policy) now says that the information provided was “due to an inadvertent error made by the CPIO who reported the figures of ‘Cash Collection’ or recoveries made from arrears in these years as the figures of arrears written off.”

The correct amount of arrears written off in those two years for the Andhra Pradesh & Telangana by the Pr-CCIT Hyderabad, was actually zero (Nil), as no write-off orders were passed in these (two) years, he said, adding that the RTI applicant Gaur has been informed of the mistake.

Interestingly, the IANS had sent an email to the CBDT on May 16, with specific queries on the figures and the authorisation levels for the ‘write-offs’, which was ignored for nearly 13 days.

After the IANS story was published on May 28, the CBDT swung into action with a reply.

On the figures of tax arrears, totaling to over Rs 50,000 crore, including over Rs 33,157.97 crore from Pune alone, provided under RTI by various IT offices across India, the CBDT spokesperson said it had already collected Rs 44,633 crore during 2017-2018, which was 14.6 percent higher than Rs 38,944 crore collected in the previous fiscal.

Besides, the CBDT said of the current demands, Rs 52,537 crores was recovered by the ITD in 2017-2018.

The CBDT reiterated that ‘write-off’ of arrears was a detailed and long-drawn process and only initiated for arrears which become irrecoverable “after all avenues for recovery are exhausted.”

Besides, all proposals of ‘write-off’ of arrears above Rs 5,000 are examined by a committee at Zonal, Regional and Local levels, while any proposals for ‘write-off’ above Rs 25 lakh must “be approved by CBDT” and any such amount above Rs 50 lakh need approval “by the Finance Minister.”

For small value arrears upto Rs 10,000, there are relaxations in guidelines under a fast-track process, but the rigorous process remains in place and during 2017-2018 (upto December 31, 2017), a meager amount “of Rs 5.6 crore was written off in the entire country, the spokesperson said.

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