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Rahul Gandhi’s hands full of challenges as party chief, needs new formulas

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Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s long-delayed elevation as party chief is eventually taking place at a time when Congress faces an “existential crisis”, as a party leader put it, and has huge electoral challenges in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Gandhi, 47, will be the sixth member of Nehru-Gandhi family to take the top position of the 132-year old party.

The change at the top is coming on the eve of assembly polls in Gujarat and the outcome there would be interpreted in terms of Rahul Gandhi’s ability as a campaigner and vote getter.

But the next round of assembly polls in 2018 — first in Karnataka and later in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh — will be absolutely crucial for Rahul Gandhi for building the momentum to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha polls. The state elections, with Bharatiya Janata Party as the key rival, will also be first major polls directly under Rahul Gandhi’s charge as party chief. Assembly polls will also be held early next year in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura.

The challenges for Rahul Gandhi include fostering a new energy and enthusiasm in the Congress and evolving a new strategy to galvanise the party after a string of electoral losses since the 2014 Lok Sabha debacle. The Congress has to work hard at the grassroots to take on the relentless election machine of BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party chief Amit Shah.

Gandhi has to take a call on forging a larger opposition alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls under a “collective leadership” or projecting himself as the alternative against Modi with support of different parties. He was the face of Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Gandhi has been perceived as a reluctant politician due to some of his longish trips abroad, the delay in stepping up to the role of party chief, his not taking up a ministerial responsibility in two UPA governments and not properly following through some of the issues he raised.

Of late, he has been able to counter the perception with his sharp and aggressive attacks on Modi and the BJP. A trip to the United States where he had had interactions with think tanks appeared to have done a sea change to the image about him.

In Gujarat, where success will be a big morale-booster for the Congress, Gandhi has sought to create a broad social coalition and has forced Modi to react.

Congress’ only major success since its debacle in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls has been Punjab while the BJP, in comparison, has tremendously expanded its footprint by winning states it had never done in the past. The BJP is making efforts to expand its base in states it has been weak including West Bengal, Kerala, Odisha and Tamil Nadu.

Another major challenge for Rahul Gandhi is to revive Congress in Uttar Pradesh, the state that sends the largest contingent of 80 MPs to parliament. Gandhi has twice led the party’s campaign in the assembly polls but had come a cropper.Rahul Gandhi

The results of the recent local body polls in Amethi and Rae Bareli, the Lok Sabha constituencies of Rahul Gandhi and his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, have not been flattering for his image.

Congress has shrunk electorally, being now the fourth player in states such as Bihar, third in states such as West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu as also Delhi. In the polls held to various assemblies since 2014, it has largely finished third or fourth. Sections, which were strongly with the party including Dalits, have drifted away.

Rahul Gandhi had been projected as a young leader who understands the language and idiom of the youth but Modi has been more successful in weaning away the section that has large electoral presence. The Congress also has to devise ways to woo the large middle class.

Gandhi, who is stepping into shoes of his mother Sonia Gandhi who helmed Congress for 19 years including 10 as the chief of the party heading the ruling coalition at the Centre, will need to be dexterous in his dealings with allies as also other opposition parties such as the CPI-M.

The crumbling of the ruling alliance in Bihar has been a setback for the party.

Senior leaders like Mamata Banerjee and Lalu Prasad have a comfort level with Sonia Gandhi and it remains to be seen how Rahul Gandhi fits into the role.

Within the party, Gandhi has to take several decisions including whether to project chief ministerial candidates in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan and who they will be.

Bringing about unity in faction-ridden state units and making the balance between the “old guard” and the younger aspirants will be other challenges.

Congress had to project nonagenarian Virbhadra Singh as chief ministerial candidate in Himachal Pradesh in the absence of a younger acceptable option.

Congress is now ruling only five states and a union territory and if it loses Gujarat and Karanataka next year, its chances of staging a comeback in 2019 will be further squeezed.

Though Gandhi’s experiments to democratise the party’s youth organisations have not entirely succeeded, he has had some political successes, including forcing the Modi government to go back on its proposed changes in the land acquisition Act.

The concerted opposition attack on the “flawed” implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) as also perception of unease among traders in poll-bound Gujarat has apparently forced the government to extend several concessions.

But the Congress or other opposition parties could not reap political dividends on demonetisation though it caused a lot inconvenience to people.

Though Gandhi had promised to “involve people in ways you cannot even imagine now” after the party lost in Delhi in 2013 assembly polls, the party fared far worse in the next polls.

Gandhi, who is into his third term as Lok Sabha MP, was made party vice-president in 2013 as a stepping stone to his eventual elevation.

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Royal Orchid announces the opening of group’s newest hotel in Nashik

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 Royal Orchid Hotels, the fastest growing hospitality chain in India today announced the opening of its new hotel in Nashik named ‘Regenta Resort Soma Vine Village’. Nashik popularly known as the wine capital of the country has gained immense popularity among the tourist in India.

Regenta Resort Soma Vine Village, with 32 rooms offers boutique accommodation with varied dining and banquet facilities. The glorious property will give travelers a mesmerizing experience and contemporary luxury.

On-site amenities at the hotel include a completely refreshed restaurant, a winery, a state-of-the-art fitness center and outdoor pool, as well as a business centre, and spa services. The hotel has a wide range of facilities that let the guests choose from various room categories designed in keeping the touch of the city with elegance and relaxing atmosphere.

Located in the northern part of the state of Maharashtra, Nashik is developing as a lively city with a blend of the ancient and modern touches attracting tourists from across the country. The city has numerous forts, temples, historic sites as well as a home to industries. The city offers green pastures, mountains and tours of the wine yard.

The most important attraction of the city includes Vineyards and Hindu temples situated in and around Nashik. May it be an important corporate event or a business meet or a simple getaway to explore nature and feel the essence of spirituality, Regenta Resort Soma Vine Village allows enormous options to its guests. The guests can experience the beauty and culture of Nasik just by availing one of the several facilities that the hotel provides to its patrons.

Chander K. Baljee, Managing Director, Royal Orchid Hotels said, “The hotel is the perfect complement to our recently refreshed Regenta portfolio of hotels across India. We are taking continuous steps towards expanding our presence all over India. The new hotel in Nasik is one such move towards achieving our aim. The government push toward tourism sector is giving us the much needed enthusiasm to go aggressive in adding new properties to our bouquet. Going forward we will continue to add more properties to both-explored and unexplored tourist destinations”

By now we have added eight properties – Mysore, Ahmedabad, Dehradun, Kanpur, Dwarka, Indore, Pushkar and now Nasik in the current fiscal year taking the number to 49 hotels. We will continue our efforts in expanding our presence all over India”.

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Nationalism of Narendra Modi is under question

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The economic bungling by Jeweller Nirav Modi, Business tycoon Vijay Mallya  and Lalit Modi has put a serious  question mark on the nationalism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His conspicuous silence on  India’s largest banking fraud to the tune of Rs 11,400-crore and still counting is shocking as he repeatedly claimed to have won the huge mandate on the basis of giving achhe din to the people of India but crony capitalists have escaped India with taxpayers’ money and there is no clarification from Narendra Modi who has taken the voter for a ride.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi advised Prime Minister Narendra Modi  to speak on  the Nirav Modi and Rafale scams rather than seeking suggestions for his Mann Ki Baat programme from the general public.

The intentions of Modi government are also conspicuous when the central government  opposed a plea seeking an independent Special Investigation team ( SIT )probe and deportation of billionaire diamond merchant Nirav Modi in the Supreme Court,citing an FIR has already been filed and that a probe was on.

The Supreme Court has already admitted the PIL, filed by lawyer Vineet Dhanda in the Rs 11,400 crore PNB fraud and has now been listed for further hearing on March 16.The PIL has made Punjab National Bank, Reserve Bank of India and the ministries of finance and law and justice as parties.

Modi has been touring the world citing that his government is enhancing the status of India as an investor friendly country and where there is an ease of doing business. On the contrary, his reforms of demonetisation and GST has benefitted selected Business people having links with the ruling party and crony capitalists and general public has been made to bear the burnt. The economic frauds have dented the image of India globally and these types of  incidents would amplify questions about distress in the country’s financial sector reeling under bad loans.

What type of image is being projected when the  picture in which billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi is seen with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Davos where the 48th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum took place  from 23 to 26 January 2018. The summit was attended by world’s leading figures .

On January 31, PNB filed a case of “criminal conspiracy and cheating” against the gem trader, members of his family and others two weeks ago alleging a 2.8 billion indian rupee ($44m) fraud.

The Modi government is busy creating eyewash by deploying agencies to probe the scandal  and the Central Bureau of Investigation  on Tuesday arrested five senior executives in connection with the multi-crore PNB fraud including Vipul Ambani (President, Finance, Firestar International/Diamonds group), Kavita Mankikar (executive assistant and authorised signatory of 3 accused firms), Arjun Patil (senior executive, Firestar group), Kapil Khandelwal (CFO, Nakshatra and Gitanjali group) and Niten Shahi (Manager, Gitanjali).

Modi asked people of India in 2014 to vote out corrupt UPA regime then how he and his government is defending the scandals that have occurred under his tenure of just four years . Modi is even trying to bring back the culprits to India .

The question should be asked to the ministers of Modi government what type of nationalism they carry with them when they do not value the life of Indian citizens ,when Dalits are being thrashed ,security personnel get killed on the border when our ruling political class provokes the enemy country just to showoff the Indian voter (woo voters) that they are superior than other political parties. Modi should have strengthened  the country militarily, economically and cohesively as an answer to the huge mandate given by the voters on trust.

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By: Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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Arun Jaitley blames Auditors, Management for failing to detect PNB scam

PM Modi cannot afford to campaign in 2018 and 2019 elections on giving corrupt free government as massive scams are coming to light and government is assisting capitalists to run away with taxpayers’ money.

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Arun Jaitley

After five days,Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was quick to blame the PNB management and auditors for the Nirav Modi’s Rs. 11,300 crore fraud. It is pertinent to remind Jaitley that Dr Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister was charged for being responsible for the 1992 Harshad Mehta scam, therefore in the present context Finance Minister Jaitley cannot acquit himself of the eroding credibility of India’s banking system that has a direct cost on the country and the taxpayer and an indirect cost on borrowings and development as well.

Finance Minister and Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot absolve their constitutional and democratic responsibility for the enormous scale of the scam which has many dimensions including fake bank guarantees or letters of Understanding.

Firms associated with Nirav Modi got fake LoUs from the Punjab National Bank (PNB), which is distributed to other banks stationed overseas seeking credit.The fraudulent transactions worth Rs 11,400 crore by Nirav Modi and his maternal uncle Mehul Choksi has embarrassed the government that claims to provide scam-free governance.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot afford to campaign in 2018 and 2019 elections on giving corrupt free government as massive scams are coming to light and government is assisting capitalists to run away with taxpayers’ money.

PM Modi’s silence is amazingly stunning as he is not at all worried about India’s economy,one of the country’s biggest bank frauds, security and other problems of the common man but is rather living in his own false world and brags of giving good governance , acche din and Mann ki Baat where he continues on giving one sided communication.

Modi has fielded Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Education Minister Prakash Javadekar  to defend the government and clean the blot that could not have taken place without “top leadership involvement”.

Modi should step down for the financial fraud as 293 letters of undertaking (LoU), many letters of credit (LC), were issued during March, April and May 2017. Trying to hide failures of NDA government, the centre has sought the aid of seven agencies (Enforcement Directorate, Interpol, Central Bureau of Investigation, Income Tax department, Central Vigilance Commission,Ministry of Corporate Affairs) both at home and abroad to investigate the entire scam and investigators are conducting t searches at PNB branches and Nirav Modi’s properties.

Modi even claimed that his government had deregistered over 3 lakh dormant and shell companies listed with the Registrar of Companies but How is it possible that the ministry of Corporate affairs failed to identify the 200 shell companies of Nirav Modi and Choksi which the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate found to have been used to invest the Rs 11,400 crore of fraudulently obtained money.

The Indian banking sector is already struggling under the weight of bad loans or the NPAs valued as high as $150bn. and the government recently announced it would inject $32bn into the sector to help banks clean up their books, but analysts have questioned whether the money is enough without reforming the banks themselves. The Bharatiya Janata Party is also diverting the attention by saying that the Nirav Modi scam occurred during UPA regime and trying to accuse the Opposition for their failure to detect scams.

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By: Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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