Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani Asked Congress President Rahul Gandhi to Step Down

Scoffing the Congress President Rahul Gandhi for “misleading the nation” on Rafale deal, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani castigated Gandhi while addressing a press conference here, Rupani said Gandhi made the issue concerning national security a tool to grind the Narendra Modi government.

The chief minister was speaking as part of the BJP’s move to hold press conferences in 70 cities across the country to attack the opposition party against the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Rafale jet deal last week. “Even if all thieves come together and call the chowkidar a thief, the people will not accept it,” Rupani told reporters here, referring to Gandhi’s barb against the prime minister.

Rupani said only “those who are afraid of the ‘chowkidar’ make repeated noise about thieves. But, the people know the truth”. “The Supreme Court judgement is a slap on the face of the Congress and those misleading the nation. Now, Gandhi should quit as the president of the Congress for misleading the nation,” Rupani said.

The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale jets, saying there was no occasion to “really doubt the decision making the process” warranting setting aside of the contract.

The Congress has repeatedly criticised the deal for the 36 Rafale jets, alleging that the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government.

The government has, however, denied any irregularity in the deal. Rupani also came down heavily on Gandhi for raising questions over the deal even after the apex court held that there were no irregularities in it.

The Gujarat chief minister said there should be no doubt on the decision-making process in the procurement of Rafale jets from France. “We are ready for a debate on the issue. After the Supreme Court made it clear that there is no irregularity, there should be no question of a probe into the matter,” Rupani said.

Kamal Nath Crowned As New CM of Madhya Pradesh; Gehlot Is Picked Up for Rajasthan

This time it seems Rahul Gandhi is on board an expedition for experience, which is evident from the course of action he undertook while picking up the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. Senior leader Kamal Nath became his first preference over Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Since the advent of Rahul Gandhi on the political scene, the tussle between Congress’ ‘old guard’ and ‘young turks’ has gathered pace.

The seniors were mostly the ones who had started their political careers under Sanjay and Rajiv Gandhi, and then stayed loyal to Sonia Gandhi, as she revived the party. Sonia, who was the Congress president at the time, worked closely with them and depended on them for advice. The younger leaders who entered Parliament in 2004 or 2009 were mostly of Rahul Gandhi’s age group, and shared interests with him, worked on political projects and recognised that as they grew in the party, he would be their leader.

It was in this climate that Rahul Gandhi eventually took control of the party as vice-president in 2013 and then eventually as president in 2017. The old guard was sceptical and feared it would be sidelined. But one of the things that Gandhi promised he would do was combine experience and youth. He would capitalise on the talent and energy of both at a time when his party was at its lowest. And he would be a bridge.

A key test of this balancing act for Gandhi was in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Pilot had worked hard, spent time on the ground for four years, was popular with the youth, believed the ongoing Congress revival was primarily due to his efforts, and wanted to act as autonomously as possible. Gehlot, as a former two-term CM, saw himself as the natural leader of the party in the state despite a loss in 2013. He retained active interest in state politics, had loyal followers and connections in each constituency and had higher recall value. Both wanted to be CMs.

In MP, the problem was more complicated as there had been intense factionalism for over a decade. Kamal Nath, who had largely been in national politics, despite being an MP, wanted to return. He was resourceful. The organisation needed him. And former CM Digvijaya Singh backed him. But Jyotiraditya Scindia was the most popular face of the party. He was strong not only in the Gwalior-Chambal region, but had a pan-state connect with the young in particular. He was an indispensable campaigner. Both had ambitions of leading the state.

Gandhi told all of them that the party only had one priority — defeating the BJP. And he divided responsibilities with the brief to win the election. Pilot, Gehlot, Nath and Scindia recognised that the party was confronting its deepest crisis in modern times. Gandhi was right. They had to win first.

Congress circles offer the following explanation in Rajasthan. The party has a fragile majority. It needs to work with allies and independents. There is a Lok Sabha election to be won with 25 seats up for grabs. If he is picked, Gehlot can hit the ground running and get a grip on the administration quickly given past familiarity with the ways of the Rajasthan bureaucracy. Yes, Pilot worked hard; appointing Pilot would have sent a message that the party was ready to empower the young. But Pilot, in his early 40s, can wait for many opportunities that will emerge. The time seems right to let the old warhorse, Gehlot, consolidate the party’s achievement for that overarching objective of defeating the BJP in 2019.

In MP, Nath – well-connected in business circles — was seen as having provided resources to a weak and cash-strapped organization. The party had been out of power here for 15 years. At 72, and somewhat frail, this is also one of Nath’s last opportunities in what has been a successful political career. The appointment is both a recognition of his contribution to the campaign as well as a signal to corporate India. Yes, Scindia is more popular; appointing Scindia could well create a ‘hawa’ among the youth in particular; Scindia has delivered a phenomenal win in his bastion of Gwalior-Chambal. But Gandhi seems to have calculated that Scindia, one of his closest political associates and the man who sits next to him in the Lok Sabha, can be used more effectively for the 2019 elections and rewarded at an opportune time. He’d be a part of Gandhi’s team for decades.

The appointment of Nath and likely selection of Gehlot reveals a ruthlessly pragmatic streak in Gandhi. But this tilt is only temporary. The story in the Congress remains one of generational change. The story of the future is the story of Pilot and Scindia and the wider cohort of younger leaders in their 40s, working under Rahul Gandhi, leading their states, ministries, and the party in different forms over the next few decades.

Kamal Nath May Likely to be the Next CM of Madhya Pradesh

After scribing the victory for itself in Madhya Pradesh, Congress is embroiled in a new discussion for the face of Chief Minister. Kamal Nath state Congress president and frontrunner for the top job, stated that “we will campaign against the kind of GST he (Prime Minister) has brought in”.

Here are some questions asked from Kamal Nath after the victory.

Did you think of the assembly election like a semi-final before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls?

No, I did not think of it like a semi-final. It was inevitable…we ended 15 years of misrule of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. We had seen the resentment against the government build up in every section of society. The defeat had to happen.

To what do you attribute the very narrow margin of victory in the state? Did you expect the fight for Madhya Pradesh to be such a neck-and-neck finish?

That was because of the organisational might of the BJP and the money power they used. The victory margin was also narrow because the Vindhya region let us down. It was in this region that the organisational might of the BJP was at its peak and our preparedness was not good. In a fiercely contested election, the organisational capacity can prove to be very crucial.

Any other pushback factors?

We were pushed back by the massive publicity campaign launched by the BJP and the state government. Huge budgets were used and the media was part of this lavish spending.

Did the very long counting day have its moments of anxiety for you?

The counting took long because of the new rules coming into play. Then there were some disputed rounds of counting and it all ended at 3 am.

Any attempt at foul play?

All I can say is that all efforts were made to influence the returning officers.

What will be your priorities now? For instance, you had recently tweeted that the number of people living below the poverty line has increased sharply in Madhya Pradesh, so will the fiscal state of affairs be top priority?

I am worried about the fiscal health of Madhya Pradesh and we will have to do some innovative out-of-the box thinking on how resources can be raised for the state. We will have to do something new since there has been such a drain on resources.

You have been Union Commerce Minister. What are the economic policies of the Modi government that you feel would be key to the 2019 general election campaign?

We will expose the Prime Minister, both at the state and national level. For instance, we will campaign against the kind of GST he has brought in. And the mishandling of demonetisation which has badly hit small businessmen and traders. There is clear lack of confidence in him which is visible. Plus, people are seeing that the CBI is now divided, the RBI is divided, the entire society has been divided by the Modi government.

The pre-assembly election alliance with the BSP did not work out but today both parties reached out for government formation in Bhopal. Will this pave the way for a Congress-BSP alliance for 2019?

We do want a firm national alliance with other parties who want the BJP to be ousted. What we must remember is that in the 2014 elections, while the BJP got a large number of seats, their vote share was only 31%. They must be the only party in the world in such a predicament. So what is the mandate they are boasting about?

Jubilation is In All Quarters for Congress Who Succeeded in Three States Out of Five

Succeeding in constituting majority in three states- BJP’s bastion-Rajasthan, Hindi heartland Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Congress has traversed this hard-nosed competition with flying colours. In Rajasthan, the forte of BJP where the BJP had been at the helm since 15 years, the congress managed to clasp as many as 99 seats out of a total of 199 assembly seats. Vasundhara Raje has to face a crushing defeat with a piddling 73 in its account, RLM got 3 votes while others got 24.

Where the Congress squeeze out BJP in its own haven with a razon-thin edge, MNF and TRS took over the turn from the resurgent Congress in Mizoram and Telangana respectively. In Mizoram its MNF which is riding in the driver’s seat with a bewitching majority of 26 seats out of 40 in the North-eastern sanctum. Telangana doesn’t have a different scenario from Mizoram, here TRS managed to give a sweeping defeat to Congress with a majority ramped up by 95 seats out of 199 seats.

Madhya Pradesh- the Hindi heartland, where BJP hoped to win with on faith, seems to have backstabbed BJP with a majority been endorsed to Congress at a spellbound number of 114 out of 230 total Lok Sabha seats.

If looked at Naxal-smacked Chhattisgarh, the picture only corrodes for BJP. Congress finishes off first at gleaming number of 68 out of 90 seats manifesting a sizeable majority whereas BJP got only 15 seats in its lap.

KCR Led TRS Pitched Lead over Congress-Chandrababu Naidu Alliance

Telangana Rashtra Samithi led by K Chandrashekar Rao has considerably secured a leading position in Telangana according to the counting till now. K Chandrashekar Rao’s gambit to dissolve the Telangana assembly has paid off humungusly as it helped the party to lead by 82 of the state’s 119 seats, whereas the alliance is in 24.

K Chandrashekar Rao’s move to dissolve the Telangana assembly appears to have paid off handsomely as his Telangana Rashtra Samithi established a huge lead over the Congress-Chandrababu Naidu alliance in the Telangana assembly elections today. The party is leading in 82 of the state’s 119 seats, the alliance in 24.

Early leads also show the BJP leading in two seats.

For the Congress and Mr Naidu, a setback in the state will have ramifications for their efforts to forge a united opposition. Mr Naidu has taken on the task of forging a united front for which, a huge 21-party meeting was held in Delhi yesterday.

Exit polls had predicted a win for KCR, as Mr Rao is popularly known. But the victory margin was smaller.

The counting was preceded by high drama In the state. Yesterday, despite the exit poll predictions, the Congress and Mr Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party had met Governor EL Narasimhan and requested that in case of a split verdict, they be given the first chance to form government.

The state BJP, which had bitterly criticized KCR and his party during the election campaign, hinted that they were open to backing the TRS if it distances itself from the AIMIM. But it was shot down by the party. State BJP leader K Laxman, who made the unauthorized offer, was severely reprimanded by his party.

For the Congress and Chandrababu Naidu, a setback in Telangana will have ramifications for their efforts to forge a united opposition.

Congress leader Hanumantha Rao said they were open ally with AIMIM, but Asaduddin Owaisi ruled it out. Mr Owaisi said the TRS would win the election on its own and had a three-hour meeting with Mr Rao later in the afternoon.

Elections for the 119-member state assembly were held on December 7.

5 States Election Results Under Computation

Rahul Gandhi appears to be a lucky charm of the Congress party which barged on the verge of extinction in 2014 elections, is now swirling the poll counts as the leading party in the five states.

With the sudden slump in electoral fortunes of the BJP, 2019 is no longer a walkover for Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. The result is a fresh lease of life for the Congress which now has a stronger claim to leadership in the proposed grand alliance of non-BJP parties in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

In Telangana, however, the party’s alliance with Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP has failed to dent K Chandrashekar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samiti which is zooming towards a thumping return to power. It’s a vindication for KCR who had called snap polls to capitalise on interim popularity. In Mizoram, the ruling Congress has lost out to Mizo National Front with CM Lal Thanhawla trailing.

 

Among the big players in fray, Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan are leading in Jhalrapatan and Budhni seats, respectively. Congress candidate and Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra Singh is trailing against Raje in Jhalrapatan. Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh is also trailing against Congress candidate Karuna Shukla, who is Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s niece.

BJP chief Amit Shah also had a discussion with party general secretary and MP Bhupendra Yadav on results of Rajasthan elections. In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP says that their vote percentage is higher than the Congress so all’s not lost. They are in the game. Party incharge of MP, Dharmendra Pradhan, is in touch with state leaders and is monitoring leads coming from all counting centres.

Crucial meeting is underway in Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s residence. BJP national VP Prabhat Jha and other top leaders are present. Discussion is being held on BJP’s results in the state.

“People are tired of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Unemployment, farmers, rupee are worrying trends. Trend shows it is going to be a change in 2019,” says former J&K CM Farooq Abdullah.

“People know that ‘achche din’ have not come. They know that black money didn’t come. They know that there is no employment. PM Modi should not have been so proud and isolated others. We won’t do that. We will keep opposition with us and we’ll reach out to Independents,” says Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan.

If the prevailing trends continue, BSP presently leading at five seats in MP, could emerge as a kingmaker as both BJP and Congress are away from the magic figure of 116.

Record High Turnout in MP Not Against or For Anyone | The record high voter turnout in Madhya Pradesh is clearly not a wave for or against anyone. Early trends suggest that of the 81 seats which saw huge voter turnouts, BJP is leading on 35 seats and Congress on 42 seats. When MP saw a record voter turnout of 75% on November 28.

However, Congress supporters had argued that it was a vote for their party considering the remarkably high voter turnout of 80% in rural areas and was therefore a vote for change.

Congress’ Shashank Bhargava is leading from Vidisha. In the 2013 Assembly elections, BJP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had defeated Bhargava by a margin of 16,966 votes from Vidisha. However, BJP’s Umakant Sharma is leading in Sironj. Sharma is the brother of Vyapam accused and former minister of higher and technical education Laxmikant Sharma.

Vasundhara Raje now leading in Jhalrapatan by a margin of over 4,000 votes.

In Mizoram, Dr BD Chakma, who quit the Congress to join BJP leading from Tuichawng, while Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) is leading in two — Aizawl North I and II.

Raman Singh Trailing Behind Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Niece | Early trends in the Hindi heartland of Madhya Pradesh, where CM Raman Singh is battling for a fourth term against Congress and a third front. The Congress has fielded former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s niece Karuna Shukla against Singh in Rajnandgaon.

Whose Favor Does Voters’ Tide Turn In?

After the 75% turnout in Madhya Pradesh, the highest in an Assembly election in the state so far, many might have believed, and as the common perception goes – that anti-incumbency in the state and a high voter turnout could favour the opposition.

However, contrary to the belief, this high voter turnout or voting percentage in Madhya Pradesh is not an adequate indicator of the anti-incumbency wave in the state. On the contrary, though, past trends from the earlier elections reveal that a change in voter turnout mostly helps the BJP.

In Madhya Pradesh, both BJP and the Congress increased their vote share in the 2013 assembly election. The Congress saw an increase of 3.97% in its vote share, the BJP recorded a vote percentage of 44.87 %, surpassing its previous high of 42.5% in 2003.

In 2013, the BJP also had higher victory margins on average. Of the 165 seats it won in the 230-member assembly, the BJP had a victory margin greater than 10% in more than 90 constituencies. In contrast, the Congress won only 17 of the 58 constituencies with a victory margin greater than 10%.

These high margin victories for the BJP were equally distributed in reserved and unreserved constituencies of the state which play an important in the government formation in the state.

The party also secured 31 of the 47 scheduled tribes (STs) seats.

However, the recent controversy over the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities Act) could threaten BJP’s prospects in Dalit dominated constituencies.

Congress Sacked Middleman Christen Michel’s Lawyer Aljo K Joseph

Congress handed a pink slip to Christian Michel’s lawyer on charges of arbitrary pursuance of AgustaWestland case without party’s cognizance has forced this decision of expulsion of Aljo k Joseph from the party.

“Aljo K Joseph appeared in his personal capacity. He did not consult the Youth Congress before appearing in the case. IYC does NOT endorse such actions. IYC has removed Aljo Joseph from IYC’s Legal Department and expelled him from the party with immediate effect,” Krishna Allavaru, Joint Secretary of All India Congress Committee, tweeted.

Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper deal, in court today, has been expelled by the party.

Mr Joseph representing Christian Michel in court has turned into a controversy as the BJP has been targeting Congress leaders Rahul and Sonia Gandhi over the case.

Mr Joseph, however, defending his decision to represent Michel, earlier today said his relations with the Congress were separate, and his profession was separate.

“One of my friends, who was having some Dubai connections, through him the lawyer in Italy had requested it. So I was just helping in appearing and assisting him in this matter,” he apprised media.

“I’m an actively practicing advocate. I appeared for him (Christian Michel) in my professional capacity. If somebody asks me to appear on behalf of a client…I’ve only discharged my duty as a lawyer. It has nothing to do with Congress,” he added.

Christian Michel was sent to five-day CBI custody today. The government is investigating charges that Michel, a British national, organised bribes to push a Rs. 3,600-crore contract for VVIP helicopters to be purchased for top Indian leaders.

The AgustaWestland case involves the deal to purchase 12 luxury helicopters for use by the President, Prime Minister, former prime ministers and other VIPs, when Manmohan Singh’s Congress-led coalition was in power.

In 2014, the government scrapped the contract amid allegations that AgustaWestland, whose parent company Finmeccanica faced charges of bribery in Italy, had paid kickbacks in India.

The Enforcement Directorate has accused Michel of receiving 30 million Euros (about Rs. 225 crore) from AgustaWestland as kickbacks. Michel is one of the three alleged middlemen being examined in the case, along with Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.

In July, Michel’s lawyer alleged that he was being pressured by Indian agencies to frame Sonia Gandhi in return for amnesty from criminal proceedings.

Rajasthan Will Be Sticky Wicket for Congress to Win Over, Says Analyst Prannoy Roy

The forte of Congress for more 50 years till 1993, Rajasthan is anticipated to be a risky game for Congress which is seeking to turn the tide in its favor in the wake of anti-incumbency tradition of Rajasthan polling. Rajasthan’s win will be an ace up their sleeves for Congress.

The Congress is hoping to ride this tide. But pointing out that the state had kept the Congress in power for 50 years, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje claims her government has worked tirelessly and she is “happy about the general… sort of mood”.

Since 1993, the state has swung between the Congress and the BJP every alternate election. But to come to power this time, the Congress needs a huge 8 per cent swing.

Data from the three by-elections in the state in February, however, shows a massive 17 per cent swing against the BJP.

Recent panchayat and municipal elections in the state also produced worrying results for the ruling party.

The BJP defeated the Congress in the 2013 elections, winning a clear majority in the 200-member Rajasthan Assembly.

Since the 1993 elections, Rajasthan has alternated between the Congress and the BJP every five years.

The Congress needs an 8 per cent swing to win a majority in the 200-member Rajasthan assembly.

A look at how castes are spread across Rajasthan and the possibility of a major shift in the way they vote. The BJP has support among the forward castes, Gujjars, the Jats and the Rajputs. The Scheduled Castes and Tribes and Muslims have traditionally lean towards the Congress.

Election Commission figures show a higher turnout in the assembly elections, rather than Lok Sabha polls in the state.

In the 2013 Rajasthan elections, more women voted than men. This time, the turnout of women voters could be even higher.

The state has 21 bellwether seats to watch out for during the counting. Kumbhalgarh has always voted for the party that had won the state in the last 37 years. Sujangarh has done the same for 24 years.

Can the BJP defy tradition and win a second consecutive term in Rajasthan? Here’s what opinion polls suggest. Voting for the 200-member assembly will be held on Friday. The results will be declared on December 11 along with four other states.