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Navy, Coast Guard rescue 319 from two barges

Preeti Sompura

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Battling extreme weather, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard have so far rescued 319 people on board two barges that went adrift in the Arabian Sea near Mumbai hours before Cyclone Tauktae made landfall on the Gujarat coast, an official said on Tuesday.

Three barges and an oil rig with 707 personnel on board had gone adrift on Monday. These included accommodation barge P305 with 273 persons, cargo barge GAL Constructor with 137 personnel on board, accommodation barge SS-3 with 196 personnel on board and the Sagar Bhushan oil rig with 101 personnel on board, a Navy official said.

While all the 137 people on board the cargo barge GAL Constructor have been rescued, 182 of the 273 onboard P305 have been rescued so far, the official said. There is no word yet on the progress of rescue operations for the accommodation barge SS-3 and the Sagar Bhushan oil rig. All 137 crew of barge Gal Constructor which had gone adrift under the impact of Cyclone Tauktae were successfully rescued and are safely ashore. The rescue mission is accomplished, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) informed on Tuesday.

A Coast Guard helicopter Chetak operating from Coast Guard Air Station Daman rescued the crew from the stranded ship at sea off Satpati GAL Constructor. Another Chetak helicopter operating from Coast Guard Air Enclave Goa winched up and rescued two distressed and stranded employees of Light House Authority from Vengrula Lighthouse, 38 Nautical miles North of Vasco. According to ICG, the lighthouse had a total power failure and was badly damaged due to high-speed wind and rough weather conditions at sea.

Meanwhile, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) said all drifted vessels, except barge P305, were taken in control, and their crew is safe. Indian Navy and ONGC are actively engaged in rescuing the crew of vessel barge P305, and 182 people have been rescued so.

The Indian Navy had deployed three warships in high sea for search and rescue (SAR) assistance of the two ships—barge P305 and barge GAL Constructor—with 410 people on board, after they were stranded in Bombay High due to Cyclone Tauktae on Monday afternoon. INS Kochi, INS Kolkata and INS Talwar had been pressed into carrying out the rescue operations.

Navy ships were deployed on Monday after receipt of a request for assistance for barge ‘P305’ adrift off Heera oil fields in Bombay high area with 273 personnel on board. The oil fields are around 70 km southwest of Mumbai.

Four Coast Guard vessels, two Navy ships and one merchant vessel were deployed to rescue the four barges, which serve as living quarters for men working on several offshore rigs of the oil PSU. The four vessels began sending distress signals after getting caught in Cyclone Tauktae to the Coast Guard, shipping ministry control room and their own control room.

Earlier, Indian navy rescued Satish Narwahal who was on barge P305. He was working on the barge as a technical assistant, and his right hand has been injured, he told The Sunday Guardian. According to a Satish Narwahal, the anchor of the ship was destroyed due to the heavy wind and rainfall on Saturday. The ship had started sinking and all of them jumped into the water. He was in the Arabian Sea with the support of a life jacket. After 18 hours, the Indian Navy rescued him, he said.

The Sunday Guardian spoke to the Sandeep Singh who was a cook on barge P305. Sandeep said that due to the gusty winds, the ship was moving in 90 degrees and it was difficult for them to even hold a rope. When the water came inside the barge, all of them jumped into the water. He has no idea about his other friends who are still missing. GAl constructor technician Pramod said the anchor of the ship was damaged due to the cyclone. The lower deck of the ship was filled with water and all of them went in to the upper deck as even the engine room had been filled with water. They were praying for their life. They were on a sinking ship for 21 hours when the Coast Guard rescued them.

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IN DEEP FINANCIAL MESS, ANDHRA NEEDS TO PUT ITS ACT TOGETHER BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE

Dinakar Lanka

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Andhra Pradesh has earned for itself the sobriquet of “Annapurna” or Rice Bowl of the country, which symbolizes the entrepreneurial spirit that the hard working citizens of the state are known for. At present, Andhra’s GSDP is projected above Rs. 13.38 lakh crore and the state revenue comprising own tax and non tax revenue stand at Rs. 76.55 thousand crore and its share in Central taxes at Rs. 32.24 thousands crore along with grant-in-aids from Central Government for Rs. 53.17 thousand crore for the financial year 2022–23 as estimated in the state budget, with an estimated size of the budget at Rs. 2.56 lakh crore. However, the fiscal deficit for this period is estimated at Rs. 48.29 thousand crore.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy during the foundation stone laying ceremony of the world’s largest Integrated Renewable Energy Storage Project (IRESP), in Kurnool on 17 May. ANI

Post-bifurcation, the financial health of the state suffered for initial two to three years and, thereafter, the average growth the state registered was remarkably sound, while leaving behind other states in ease of doing business (EODB), even though there were several constraints. After 2019 general elections, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSRCP came to power with a huge majority. Though the growth of the state has been registered constantly above national average in many parameters, it has failed to attract major new domestic and foreign investments for the past three years, lagging behind in EODB rankings. With an increase in suicides of farmers, a huge debt without productive asset creation, diversion of funds and a huge debt-to-GSDP ratio at 38%, the state is deep in financial crisis so much so that even it has paled a state like Bihar.

The present financial outlook of the state is bleak as per analyses by experts of key financial indicators as per the prevailing systems, procedures and methods of the Finance and Accounting Guidelines and Standards as stipulated by the CAG, Finance Commission Recommendations and Union Finance Ministry parameters. With around 60% of new net debts of the state spent on servicing existing debts alone, there is no debt balance available to repay the principal, thus adversely impacting its credit rating. According to financial experts, Andhra Pradesh has fallen in serious debt trap and needs immediate remedial measures to extricate itself from an impending financial emergency.

Notwithstanding the statements pouted by Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, state Finance Minister Buggana Rajendranath Reddy and others saying the situation is under control, the debt burden of the state has reached alarming proportions. A cursory look at the figures is enough to draw such dire inferences:

(A) Debts as on 2nd June 2014 soon after state bifurcation:

Budgeted debt: Rs. 90 thousand crore

Corporation loans: Rs. 18 thousand crore

Total debt: Rs. 1.08 lakh crore as on 2nd June 2014

(B) Incremental debt from 2nd June, 2014 to 31st March 2019:

Budgeted debt: Rs. 1.79 lakh crore, including outstanding bills of Rs. 25 thousand crore

Corporation loans: Rs. 31 thousand crore additional loans were raised

Total incremental debt: Rs. 2.10 lakh crore of total additional debt was raised between 2014 and 2019

Total outstanding debt as on 31st March 2019 was Rs. 3.14 lakh crore.

C) Incremental debts from 1st April 2019 to 30th April 2022:

Budgeted debt: Rs. 3.40 lack crore including outstanding bills and other liabilities of Rs. 1.69 lakh crore raised

Corporation loans: Rs. 1.46 lakh crore additional loans raised

Total incremental debts: Rs. 4.86 lakh crore raised between 1st April 2019 and 30th April 2022

Total outstanding debt as on 30th April 2022 was Rs. 8.00 lakh crore.

Analysis of above data is required to be done in a sensible manner taking into account five indicators to assess the health of state’s finances for the last three financial years: revenue deficit, primary deficit – meaning deficit before serving the interest, interest, debt servicing and fiscal deficit – overall deficit in a financial year.

(1) Revenue Deficit : (In Cr) :

2) Primary Deficit : (In Cr)

3) Interest : (In Cr)

4) Fiscal Deficit : ( In Cr)

5) Debt service : ( In Cr )

If we observe columns 4 and 5 above, total budgeted new debts (fiscal deficit) of Andhra Pradesh have been raised for serving the existing interest and instalments only (debt servicing). This means no additional revenue is being generated to serve the existing debts. What about the new debts to be served in the future? Where are the resources that have been generated out of these debts? This all indicates that the state has fallen deep into the debt trap.

Analysis of columns 2 and 3 as depicted in the above table shows a serious financial crisis at hand in the form of a huge fiscal deficit and the biggest financial disease that ails the state exists in the form of primary deficit.

If we examine the above facts, the root cause of the prevailing financial problems of the state lies in the persisting revenue deficit post bifurcation and even 14th and 15th Finance Commissions have assessed and projected the revenue deficit for Andhra Pradesh till 2025. But the problems Andhra Pradesh is beset with are beyond the assessment of revenue deficit alone, since the present government’s approach toward the governance is problematic as it has been on an unproductive spending spree, thus upsetting the balance of revenue and expenditure, leading to an increasing dependence on abnormal debts. Though the 15th Finance Commission estimated total revenue deficit of the state at Rs. 30,497 crore, to be recovered from the Union Government for 5 years between 2021 and 2026, it may be beyond 1 lakh crore. The big question is: Why and how did this huge gap emerge? The only answer is that the government has miserably failed to manage its finances and resources in a prudent manner and has rather used public funds on meeting unproductive poll promises, pushing the state toward an disaster.

Improper planning for application of funds as per budget has led to a situation where funds are least available for incurring capital expenditure, which could have helped the state create productive revenue-generating assets or social infrastructure for better living conditions. Facts and figures pertaining to the capital expenditure is as follows:

(In Crores)

(Up to Feb)

The actual capital expenditure incurred by the state government is only 45% of the estimates in the budget on average for the last three years, one-third of which was illegally combined with revenue expenditure in a deceptive manner as pointed out by the CAG. Several questions have been raised. For instance, did the government fabricate speculative assets by showing that it had spent capital expenditure though it was never incurred, according to CAG observations? CAG has pointed out that the government is inflating capital expenditure by showing the revenue expenditure as capital expenditure. This has resulted in the actual revenue deficit being reduced to the extent of inter-transfer from revenue expenditure to capital expenditure, thus artificially raising capital expenditure without creation of any asset and simultaneously scaling down the revenue deficit too. The fact is that the state government had projected a budgeted capital expenditure of Rs 32,293 crore in 2019–20, which was actually incurred for Rs 12,244 crore only. However, if the capital expenditure in 2019–20 was miscalculated to the tune of Rs 4,779 crore, as per the CAG, the actual capital expenditure could be around less than Rs 7,500 crore only. According to state government figures, the revenue deficit was Rs 26,440 crore in 2019–20, but if the revenue expenditure figures are revised as per the CAG observations, the revenue deficit would be Rs. 31,219 crore.

As far as the CAG report for the financial year 2020–21 is concerned, Andhra’s finances have reached an alarming situation as per the following observations: Rs. 1,10,509.12 crore expenditure incurred directly from the consolidated fund without prior approval from the legislature, and utilization of funds from the consolidate fund without the approval of the legislature is unconstitutional as per Articles 204 and 205 of the Constitution. It is noteworthy that payments of Rs 48,281.31 crore were made through CFMS by adjusting the consolidated fund and public accounts with special bills without following the Treasury Code and Treasury procedures. The 15th Finance Commission had recommended that a provision should be made to include corporation loans of Rs 38,312.70 crore and non-budgetary loans of Rs 88,250.82 crore in the budget note. But the state government failed to do so.

Payments made trough AP Centre for Financial Systems and Services, a public sector company, are against the code and making such payments other than though treasury can lead to frauds. The state credit rating was badly hit in 2020–21 as the government maintained 103 days on overdraft, 184 days on ways and means (short-term adjustments), 44 days on special facilities and cash balance on hand is only for 34 days. The situation continues to prevail as of now.

Apart from this, the state government has practiced what is called “single source of income used to raise double debt” in violation of the provisions as stipulated in Article 293(3). This revenue, which was supposed to be credited in the Consolidated Fund, was diverted. Whether the fiscal deficit is under control or not is a big question, as the government has projected it to be at Rs.48,724 crore, 3.64% of GSDP, for the year 2022–23. When the FRBM limits have been violated consistently and it has been agreed to waive nearly Rs. 6000 crore per annum for the next three years from the eligible borrowing limits of the state for the financial year 2020–21, then what about the borrowings to be raised above the limit pertaining to the financial year 2021–22?

While the Union Finance Ministry has raised queries on the various issues pertaining to the state finances, the state government sends inconsistent answers on loans raised by it, which may not be considered by the Centre. The central government seeks information from all the states in the Indian Union on debts and other financial management tools used, the policies of states have bearing on overall economic performance of the country. But the Central government agencies follow strict accounting practices with regard to financial management though there is a risk of deteriorating state finances due to faulty financial management by the state government. As far as Andhra Pradesh is concerned, the debt-to-GDP ratio, which currently stands at over 35 per cent, is set to rise to 70 per cent after the following adjustments are made:

(1) ADJUSTMENT OF BORROWINGS LIMITS FOR FUTURE :

Loans already raised in excess of FRBM limits for the financial years 2020–21 and 2021–22 have to be adjusted against the future borrowing limits, while now the budget for the current financial year 2021–22 is 37,030 crore as per FRBM limits. According to the monthly actual accounts on the CAG website, by February 2022, the state debts had reached Rs. 51,112 crore, which means that at least another Rs 17,000 crore of additional debt had to be adjusted in the future borrowing limits. However, according to the revised estimates for the current financial year, the state government has shown Rs. 38,224 crore as debts. This means that loans made in the last two financial years exceeding the total limit of nearly Rs 35,000 crore may have to be adjusted in the future limits as per a advised by the Central Government.

(2) ADDITIONAL CREDIT LIMIT FOR POWER REFORMS:

The state budget shows that the implementation of reforms in this category will only add up to another 0.5% of the GSDP and make up to 3.64% of the 2022–23 fiscal year, which is likely to result in 4% debt. But is 0.36% for adjustment of excess debt made in previous years?

(3) ASSESSMENT OF NET LOANS:

Based on the statistics of the state Government, the open market debt, loans from the Central government, loans from foreign institutions, the amount deposited by the public in the form of small savings, PF, reserve funds and deposits are all calculated and net debt is assessed. Although this is a simple process of calculating debts, such comments can be made only when the juggling of accounts with internal adjustment is over.

(4) CALCULATION OF PENSIONS AND FUTURE PAYMENTS:

These factors are not properly reflected in the fiscal deficit, meaning that pensions and future state government burdens are crucial at the time of employee retirement. It is said that a credit limit has been set after taking into account the fact that these are not properly accounted for.

(5) CONSIDERATION OF CORPORATIONS AND SPV LOANS:

The fact is that the debts of corporations have already been diverted to state government schemes. Also, corporations and SPVs in the state do not have special income to pay their debts and interest. Budget revenues are clearly being used to reverse these, so future reversals should not be mistaken for taking these companies’ debts under FRBM.

(6) CONSIDERATION OF LOANS MADE THROUGH TAX AND CESS REVENUE:

It is a fact that in the years 2020–21 and 2021–22, the proceeds from the budget would be transferred to AP SPDCL through specialized GEOs and Rs. 25,000 crore will be covered by the FRBM as per the accounting procedures. Also, there is a situation where all such loans are evaluated to settle the loans made beyond the limit.

(7) ELECTRICITY ARREARS:

With power arrears also being brought under the debt limit in the state budget FRBM, the state government is likely to have an impact of the existing Rs. 25,000 crore discom arrears on future credit limits.

Meanwhile, many experts have suggested to impose a financial emergency on Andhra Pradesh as per Article 360 due to irregular practices to raise loan for unproductive uses, but the Central government intends to allow the state government to set right the things on its own with a responsibility. As economists suggests, welfare schemes are required to be implemented with the spirit of Antyodaya keeping in view the financial sustainability of the state. But, there are no checks and balances in place in the governance. Everything is done keeping an eye on electoral dividends. The need of the hour is that the state government should come out with a “White Paper on Andhra Pradesh Finance” to spell out a roadmap for rectification of irregularities and steering the state out the present mess.

The author is a BJP leader.

Though the growth of the state has been registered constantly above national average in many parameters, it has failed to attract major new domestic and foreign investments for the past three years, lagging behind in EODB rankings. With an increase in suicides of farmers, a huge debt without productive asset creation, diversion of funds and a huge debt-to-GSDP ratio at 38%, the state is deep in financial crisis so much so that even it has paled a state like Bihar.

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Maruti Suzuki gets 900 acres of land in Kharkhoda for a new plant

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Under a new project of Maruti Suzuki , 900 acres of land in Kharkhoda transferred to the company lto set up a new plant. An agreement has been signed between the Haryana government and the company in Gurugram on May 19, 2022. The Agreement Signing Programme was held for the allotment of land for the plants of Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL) and Suzuki Motorcycle India Private Limited to be set up at Industrial Model Township (IMT) at Kharkhoda in Sonipat. The Agreements were signed between Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC) and Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL)/Suzuki Motorcycle India Private Limited. Maruti’s new plants are to be set up in Kharkhoda on 800 acres and 100 acres of land respectively. In the programme, a sum of Rs 2400 crore has been given to Haryana through HSIIDC. For the first time in the history of Haryana, such a big transaction has happened.

With the establishment of the plant, 13,000 people would get employment opportunities. An amount of Rs. 2400 crore has been spent to purchase the land for the said plant and more than Rs. 20,000 crore are to be invested.

Regarding this, Haryana Chief Minister, Manohar Lal said that Haryana once known as an agrarian state has progressed in the industrial sector as well and today the State has become an investor-friendly destination across the globe. Terming this as a historic event, the Chief Minister Manohar Lal said that today after 40 years history has repeated itself. He said that 40 years back an MoU was also signed which played a big role in changing the picture and destiny of Haryana’s development and today a new agreement was signed in which 900 acres of land was authorized through Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC). This land was handed over to Maruti Suzuki today, he added.

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Surrendering gave me a new life, says ex-Naxalite

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Madkam Mudraj, a former Commander in Chhattisgarh’s Naxalite ranks— now an Inspector with the District Reserve Guard (DRG) — confessed he would not be a leading a comfortable life today had he remained with the Maoists.

Madkam Mudraj with Chattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel.

Mudraj confessed this to the Chief Minister of Chattisgarh, Bhupesh Baghel, who was in Sukma as part of a public interaction drive (Bhent-Mulaqat Abhiyan) in the Bastar division. It is the second phase of the drive which began on May 4.

Mudraj, during the interaction on Wednesday, said that people do not fear Naxalites thanks to the roads and schools built in the Bastar region. People want to move forward by taking advantage of the state government’s schemes, he said.

He spoke about his life as a Naxalite and said that even his wife was a Maoist insurgent.

“I used to train her (his wife),” he said while adding, “After observing too much bloodshed and also killing of our own brothers (tribals), I finally decided to quit.”

Baghel appreciated Madkam’s return to the mainstream and said that today the Naxalites tremble at their name.

Mudraj is currently an Inspector in DRG. Initially, Mudraj joined as Special Police Officer (SPO) as part of rehabilitation, and was later promoted to a Constable and then as an Assistant Sub Inspector.

“Quitting the insurgent ranks gave me a better life. Even my children are getting education at better school now,” said Mudraj.

He sought to shake hands with the Chief Minister and the latter placed his hand on his shoulder and shook hands with him. Before signing off, the Chief Minister asked the audience to give Madkam loud applause and the whole crowd erupted in cheers.

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AFTER SC NOD TO OBC QUOTA, BJP HOPES TO WOO THE COMMUNITY IN MP LOCAL POLLS

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With the Supreme Court clearing the deck for OBC reservations in Madhya Pradesh local body elections on Wednesday, major political parties in the state have gone into an overdrive to woo and consolidate their OBC vote bank. The apex court has upturned its own ruling it delivered barely four days ago on May 10, in which it refused to extend 35 per cent of reservations to OBCs in the coming panchayat and local urban body elections, as pleaded by the BJP-led state government. There can be no reservations for OBCs, the Court observed, until the state government properly completed the triple test exercise as stipulated in its 2010 bench verdict. But the clearance comes with a rider: in no circumstance can the OBC reservations go beyond the preset limit of 50 per cent. Elections to over 23,200 local bodies are due in the state since 2019-2020.

There is jubilation in the BJP camp, as the Supreme Court verdict was celebrated by the BJP with sweets distribution in the state party office here in Bhopal. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan could not hide his glee while welcoming the Court decision. Squarely blaming the Congress Party for filing the case in the Supreme Court and unfavourable verdict earlier, Chouhan said, “Finally, truth has prevailed and it has been proved again that truth cannot be defeated. I salute the Supreme Court. We had sought elections but with OBC reservations. The Congress Party had sinned. The elections were being held with OBC reservations, but it was the Congress Party people who had approached the Supreme Court upon which it was decided (by the Court) that elections should be held without OBC reservations. We left no stone unturned and submitted the (Backward Commission) report before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has ordered to hold elections with OBC reservations. We welcome the decision.”

The jubilation in the BJP camp over the Court verdict is not misplaced, though. Muralidhar Rao, in charge of the BJP Madhya Pradesh, had not long so ago said, “Brahmin and Baniya are our pocket borough.” It is Rao, in fact, who has set out a goal for the BJP to secure 51 per cent of votes in coming elections by roping in SC, ST and OBCs in the state. If the BJP is able to hit that target, it would be no less a miracle as it would help the party to remain at the helm of affairs in the state for a long time to come. Behind the OBCs becoming a hot property for both the saffron party and the Congress party lies the need to consolidate them as a reliable vote bank by making OBC reservations a cause calibre.

OBC communities constitute about 50 per cent of the 8 crore population of the state. Both parties, therefore, are making an all-out effort to lure OBCs like Lodh, Yadav, Kurmi, Kirar and Kalar, among others, into their political fold and convert them into a solid and permanent vote bank. If this tactic pays off in assembly elections, which are due in 2023 in the state, the BJP would deploy it in other states including Uttar Pradesh, where the OBCs are in decisive sizable numbers, to counter caste-based politics, and take it further in 2024 parliamentary elections, as well.

The political power in Madhya Pradesh revolves around two parties. The government will be formed either by the Congress Party or by the BJP. Regional parties in the past have tried to make inroads in the state but could not succeed. Except for the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party from UP, no other outfit could ever secure a single-digit win in assembly elections in the state. Even the Gondwana Ganatantra Party, with a firm base among the tribal population in the state, and the Bharatiya Janashakti Party formed by Uma Bharti after deserting the BJP could not make in a visible impact on the electorate.

Actually, it is the tribal constituencies that play a decisive role in bringing a party to power in Madhya Pradesh. Tribals have been a traditional vote bank of the Congress Party. After the tribals switched their allegiance to the saffron outfit in 2003, the BJP has been winning election after election to form government for the past three terms. In the 2018 elections, however, the Congress Party under Kamal Nath managed to wean them away from the BJP. The party was able to form the government, though it did not have a full majority, but could not complete the term and was removed after 15 months in a high-pitched political drama. The disillusionment of tribals from the BJP allowed the saffron strategists to introspect. The BJP is, therefore, not only trying to win over the tribals Scheduled Castes back to its fold but also trying to make OBCs its sold vote bank. Pitching for OBC reservations in local body elections is, thus, the fulcrum of the BJP poll strategy.

However, the credit of bringing the OBC vote bank politics to centre stage in the state goes to the Congress Party. It was, in fact, former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Digvijay Singh who took cognizance of the strength of this class of voters, who had been rather neglected in electoral politics until then. He tapped this potential vote bank by extending 14 per cent reservations to OBCs and formed government twice in succession. After 2003 elections, he put in place an agenda to empower Dalits and his government implemented reservations in government contracts and purchase orders to Scheduled Castes and Tribes. The Congress lost its base among the OBC in the next elections and BJP formed the government under the leadership of Uma Bharti, an OBC herself. Recognizing the community as a kingmaker, the BJP appointed OBC leaders like Babulal Gaur and Shivraj Singh Chouhan as chief ministers of the state in this order. Chouhan is the longest-serving BJP chief minister among the OBC. The BJP has won elections thrice by putting Chouhan at the forefront. He is serving the fourth term as Chief Minister. Although Chouhan has carved out for himself an image of a popular leader, especially among women and the youth as Mamu, this image cultivated through government schemes and social engineering programmes could not secure him a clean sweep in 2018 elections. Chouhan and the BJP strategists have, thus, made this strategy of wooing OBCs to their camp, rather than relying on communal polarization.

However, if there is any politician the BJP should thank for bringing the OBC discourse in the state electoral politics, it is Kamal Nath. The veteran Congress Party leader, just before the 2019 parliamentary elections, promised to extend 27 per cent reservations to OBCs in government jobs and local body elections. It did not help the party, though. It nonetheless made the OBCs aware of the issue and the empowerment it could bring to them as a community. This development gave rise to all sorts of gamesmanship among the political outfits with regard to reservations in three-layered local body elections. The issue assumed so much significance that Chouhan was forced to promise local elections with OBC reservations.

Both the Congress Party and the BJP are competing with each other while taking credit for the Supreme Court verdict in favour of OBC reservations in local body elections.

“We did not expect the Shivraj government to work for the welfare of OBCs … therefore, we have already decided that the Congress would extend 27 per cent reservation to OBCs in local body elections and we will ensure them all rights. We will fulfil our promise come what may. We are committed to ensuring 27 per cent reservation to OBCs and we will fight for it,” said the Kamal Nath after the Court verdict.

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Kuldeep Bishnoi meets Haryana CM, sparks rumours

Kuldeep Bishnoi meets Haryana CM, sparks rumours

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The rift between Haryana Leader of Opposition Bhupender Singh Hooda and Congress MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi has widened following the appointment of Udai Bhan as the Haryana Congress President.

Congress MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi

Congress MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi

Congress MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi

Congress MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi

Congress MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi

Congress MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi

Congress MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi

Congress MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi

Bishnoi, considered to be the strongest claimant for the post, was denied the same. Since then, he has been showing dissatisfaction with the working of the Party High Command. He even met BJP leader and Chief Minister Manohar Lal in Gurugram. Sharing a picture with the Chief Minister on his social media account, Bishnoi wrote that he is thankful to him (CM) as the Chief Minister resumed status of Adampur Gram Panchayat.

Though according to Bishnoi, it was just a courtesy meeting, political experts are of the opinion that it was not so. The meeting assumes significance in the wake of his ongoing feud with Hooda.

Political experts speculate that if Bishnoi shakes hands with BJP, the Congress is likely to face a challenge for one Rajya Sabha seat which is being considered confirmed for the party presently.

There are 90 Assembly seats and 31 legislators are from the Congress. The Congress should have the support of at least 30 MLAs. In case, Bishnoi quits the Congress then the party will be left with 30 legislators and securing the same number will be the need of the hour for the party to own one seat of Rajya Sabha.

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‘Felt ignored’, says Hardik Patel on quitting Congress

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Gujarat Patidar leader Hardik Patel on Thursday took a dig at Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra saying that he resigned from the grand old party after he felt that he was being “ignored”.

“When Rahul comes to Gujarat, he did not talk about the problem faced by the people of Gujarat. Party leaders are busy arranging chicken sandwiches and Diet Coke for Rahul Gandhi. There are talks in the party that people will vote for Congress when they get bored with the other party. I have spoken to Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi and mentioned the problems of Gujarat. He asked me what the problems were and I told him. That’s when I was ignored. I decided to leave the party not with sadness but with courage,” said Hardik Patel in a press briefing here. The Patidar leader, who joined the Congress in 2019 was elevated as one of the Gujarat Congress working presidents in 2020. “Thankful to Congress for making me the working president for Gujarat. But what was the use when you are not given any work?,” he said.

On Wednesday Patel resigned from the party and stated that Gujarat Congress leaders were least bothered to address real issues of Gujarat but were more focussed on ensuring that the leaders who come from Delhi in Gujarat get “chicken sandwich” on time.

According to him, in Congress, the people who speak the truth are strategically defamed by big leaders.

“In Gujarat, whether it’s the Patidar community or any other community, they have had to suffer in Congress. Speak the truth in Congress and big leaders will defame you and that is their strategy,” added Patel.

“In Gujarat, it’s not only Hardik who is angry with Congress. There are many leaders and legislators in Gujarat who just use Congress. Sitting in power and praising the party does not mean that the party will make them Chief Minister”, said the Patidar leader.

He alleged that Gujarat Congress leaders tried to disrupt his political effort “sitting in the AC chambers”.

The Gujarat Assembly elections are slated to be held this year.

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