BJP gets poll ready: Modi in Delhi, Gadkari set to make comeback

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A day after the CBI filed its charge sheet in the contentious Ishrat Jahan case, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi isn’t taking it easy and is presently in Delhi to regroup the party’s leadership, assess the party’s preparations in the Parliamentary Board meeting and work on how to take on the Congress.

The BJP leadership had prepared for the political fallout from the CBI’s charge sheet but there is a rather belated realisation for the party’s top leadership to present a unity of purpose. As a result, there has been a lot of hectic ground work and some important announcements could be made at today’s party meetings.

Modi has already begun the ground work for a poll campaign. Party vice-president, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi will have an important role to play in Modi’s core campaign committee team. While Naqvi already looks after poll campaign management and programme implementation, Modi picking him for a important assignment is an indicator that the Gujarat chief minister wants to send a message that a Muslim face from UP matters in his scheme of things.

Modi wants a special focus on Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where he wants to capitalise on the charged atmosphere in the party following the severing of ties by the JD(U) and Nitish Kumar. The party campaign committee chief also will lay an emphasis on doing better in  Karnataka, Odisha, Rajasthan and such other states. He has already been to Mumbai to hold a meeting of party’s state core committee to discuss poll strategy for Maharashtra, numerically the second most important state after UP.

Apart from Modi, another leader who will feature prominently in the meetings despite his absence is  former BJP president Nitin Gadkari. Sources told that Gadkari is going to be placed in charge of the most crucial assignment of the party: to wrest power from the Congress in two states, Rajasthan and Delhi, which will go to the polls along with Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in November. Though Gadkari’s proposed role isn’t  exactly what party patriarch LK Advani had sought for him, it is seen as a honourable solution in the top circles of the BJP.

The truce with Gadkari was worked out in a meeting  between Gadkari and BJP President Rajnath Singhlast weekend. Sources said on 29 June, Singh drove straight to Gadkari’s Teen Murti lane residence from Ghaziabad, where he had gone to inaugurate a BJP Mahila Morcha conclave. Singh had some other engagements scheduled in Ghaziabad, since it is his parliamentary constituency, but went to meet with Gadkari since the former party president was leaving for a 10-day-long tour to Norway.

Gadkari’s appointment to head a proposed election management committee for the states was mired in controversy as it coincided with Modi’s rise to head the party’s campaign committee in 2014. Even though Singh couldn’t constitute the election management committee that party patriarch Advani had sought, the BJP president had been in talks with his predecessor on an alternative assignment for him.

In their meeting on 29 June, Gadkari was clearly sounded out about his new role about taking charge of the party’s campaign management in Delhi and Rajasthan.  The BJP had drawn a blank in 2009 elections winning only seven parliamentary seats in Delhi and only four seats in Rajasthan out of 25.

Gadkari is said to have been satisfied with the offer and Singh has taken all senior leaders  into confidence on the matter. While the party normally names a prabhari (in-charge) of a state, Singh did not name one for Delhi due to an internal party conflict. For Rajasthan he picked Kaptan Singh Solanki, an RSS appointee. During his tenure as party president Gadkari had already re-established Vasundhara Raje pre-eminence in organisational matters in the state.

Gadkari had made his importance in the party known by playing  a crucial role in resolving the party’s crisis following LK Advani’s resignation. Gadkari’s role not only re-established his proximity to the RSS, but also his capacity to bring the warring factions of the BJP to the negotiating table.

The debate over whether the RSS should have so many say in the functioning of the BJP remains debatable, but the control of the Sangh over the party is almost total on organisational matters since the 2004 election debacle. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s recent meeting with Advani and other senior leaders in Delhi dealt with how could the party could portray a common  sense of purpose given that the constant reports of infighting were only damaging the party prospects.

Presently an effort is being made to portray a united leadership at the top of the party.  Modi has taken the initiative to meet with Advani after the party patriarch’s resignation and withdrawal and is said to have had a candid chat on critical issues in his  hour long meeting with his one time mentor. The meeting was a result of Modi wanting to shed the impression that he was bypassing the senior leader, a charge erstwhile ally Nitish Kumar had levelled.

Party leaders are hoping with Gadkari’s return to the party’s leadership a positive signal will be sent to both to the cadre and its opponents, that the clash of titans in the BJP is taking a back seat to achieve the goal in a national election they know is only months away.

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Why a BJP-JD(U) split will be good for India

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The impending exit of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) from the BJP-led NDA is the best thing that could have happened to both the parties – and the polity. Reason: alliances should be based on fundamental principles and similarity of views, not mere electoral math or convenience.

There is a difference between an alliance and a power-sharing agreement. An alliance has to share some core ideas and principles. A power-sharing agreement is about compromising principles and ideals to gain power. In this sense, neither NDA nor UPA is an alliance. They are pre- or post-election power-sharing arrangements.

This is why the so-called demise of the NDA is not a bad thing. At the core of the NDA alliance are just three parties: BJP, Akali Dal and Shiv Sena. All three share the basic idea that religious identity is important to their politics. The rest of the NDA can be reconstructed only after an election shows who has what numbers to culminate in a power-sharing arrangement.

The Congress-led UPA, on the other hand, is largely a power-sharing arrangement. The only party with which the Congress shares an ideology is the NCP in Maharashtra, and the rest of the alliance is a loose grouping of so-called secular forces that just wants a stake in power. Secularism is the figleaf to talk power-share with the Congress and all these allies have been with the BJP in the NDA too. Sharad Pawar’s NCP, too, would be happy to seek the BJP’s backing in a situation where he could be PM even for a few months.

The Federal Front, or the Third Front backed by the Left, could theoretically be both ideologically aligned (in terms of broad principles, not Communism) and share power if only its leaders could swallow their own personal egos and see what is ahead of them.

The core principle of any Federal Front of state powers and parties ought to be the following: a promise to amend the constitution to devolve more powers to the states, and an agreement on what roles should be left with the centre beyond defence, foreign policy and macroeconomic and fiscal management. Plus and agreement on how power will be shared at the centre.

But such are the ambitions and egos of these state leaders that it is difficult to spot such clarity of thought as yet. All of them are state powers, but they dream like central powers. Mulayam Singh wants to be PM, and so does Nitish Kumar, when their writ does not run beyond UP or Bihar.

When, and if, the penny drops, the Federal Front could be the most potent force of Indian politics. Potential federalists are in power in UP, Bihar, Odisha, Kashmir, West Bengal, and Tamil Nadu – and futures Federal fronters exist is Andhra, Kerala, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana and the north-east. Getting to 272 in the next Lok Sabha is not an impossibility if they can sort out the basics of core ideology and leadership.

So why did I say that the BJP-JD(U) break up is good news for everybody? Five reasons why.

First, it explodes the myth that there is an alliance called NDA or even one called UPA. There are only state powers and central powers. Both alliances are essentially post-poll power-sharing deals. The Congress is the only central power, but its umbrella is shrinking faster than the BJP’s.

Second, national or regional elections make sense only if parties stand for something. In power-sharing arrangements no party stands for anything beyond power. Is it any surprise everyone is busy looting the country? A break-up between the BJP and the JD(U) over a matter of principle is this good for both.

Third, India cannot be governed well without federalism – this is a continent and immensely diverse. There can be no trust between peoples of different regions, castes and communities when there is such diversity and no sense of who stands where. Power has to go down to the states and further down to regions and even districts and cities and villages. A Federal Front, if it sees a historical role for itself, should focus on this limited objective. If it does, India can rival China over the next 10 years. If not, we will be busy neutralising ourselves internally.

Fourth, the BJP also has a historic opportunity to be partly national and partly federal. Reason: unlike the Congress, which cuts any regional leader down to size, the BJP is inherently federal in character. Modi’s rise is a tribute to this federalism. But it will work only if Modi respects this federalism in practice.

Fifth, Modi, too, is in with a chance to take BJP to the next level if he does three things:

1) Forge an internal federal front with existing BJP state powers such as Shivraj Singh in MP, Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh, Sushil Modi in Bihar, Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan, BS Yeddyurappa in Karnataka, and Prem Kumar  Dhumal in Himachal. This is the only way the BJP can fight unitedly;

2) Create an explicit promise of federalism and shift power to states in order to defang the Federal Front; and

3) Focus his own efforts in areas such as UP, Bihar, Andhra, Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, et al – places where the party is not in power, and where it has a reasonable chance to grow both immediately and phenomenally in the future.

Even with all this the BJP may not gain enough to win the next election. But the purpose of a political party is not just to gain power but to become an agent of change and a powerful force that can influence that change.

Political parties are not just about the next election. If the BJP hopes to be a party to reckon with, it should look even beyond 2014.

LK Advani’s Ayodhya movement brought the BJP to 180 seats over 20 years. Modi’s role, or his successor’s, should be to take it past 272 over next three elections.

For  the Congress, the options are simpler: if it sticks with the Gandhi family, it will shrink continuously. If it federalises, it will grow new leaders at state and centre, but the family’s role will have to shrink.

74% Gujarat MLAs crorepati, up from earlier 31%

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In the new assembly in Gujarat, 74 per cent, that is a total of 134 out of the 182 MLAs are crorepatis, as against 31 per cent in the previous assembly that was formed in 2007. Out of the 115 BJP MLAs elected to the 13th assembly 86 of them, that is 75 per cent, are crorepatis. While for the Congress the figure is 43 out of 61 elected, that is 70 per cent.

The average assets of Congress MLAs is Rs 12.36 crore, while that of BJP MLAs is Rs 5.82 crore followed by NCP (2 MLAs) with Rs 15.61 crore, JDU (1 MLA) Rs 2.70 crore and Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) (2 MLA) Rs 1.52 crore.

The MLA with maximum declared assets was Balvansinh Rajput of Congress from Siddhpur in Patan district. His had declared assets worth Rs 268 crore, followed by Indranil Rajguru of Congress from Rajkot East with assets of Rs 122 crore and Jawahar Chavda also a Congress MLA, from Manavadar, with assets of Rs 82.90 crore.

According to Jagdeep Chhokar, founder member of NEW, “higher the assets, the more are the chances of winning for a MLA.” He said that in Gujarat 2012 assembly election, 51 per cent MLAs who declared assets more than Rs 5 crore and above have won. “On the other hand, only 1% of MLAs with assets less than Rs 20 lakh could win,” Chhokar, former director of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) added.

The analysis by GEW has been done on basis of the affidavits filed by the candidates before the Election Commission of India.

It has also analysed affidavits of 99 MLAs who contested in 2007 as well as in 2012. Average growth in assets of these MLAs was Rs 5.06 crore or an average increase of 230 per cent. While out of the 99 MLAs whose affidavits are comparable, 65 are from BJP with average increase in assets at 177% while for the Congress the increase was 412%.

The highest growth of assets in actual terms was of Congress MLA Jawahar Chavda from Manavadar. His assets has witnessed increase of Rs 64.57 crore (from Rs 18.32 crore in 2007 to Rs 82.90 crore in 2012). In terms of percentage increase, BJP MLA from Dhrangadhra Jayanti Kavadiya’s assets went from Rs 10.50 lakh in 2007 to Rs 5.91 crore in 2012. This comes to increase of 5525%.

Highlights of the report on Asset Comparison of Newly Elected MLAs who also contested in Gujarat 2007 Assembly Elections

· Number of recontesting MLAs who have been analyzed for Gujarat 2012 Assembly elections and whose complete affidavits were also available for 2007 assembly elections – 99

· The average assets of these MLAs, as declared in 2007 is Rs 2,20,83,181 (2.20 crore)

· The average assets of these MLAs, as declared in 2012 is Rs 7,27,68,176 (7.27 crore)

· The average growth in assets for these re-contesting MLAs is Rs 5,06,84,994 (Rs 5.06 crore)

· Average percentage growth in assets for these re-contesting MLAs is 230%

· The maximum growth in assets has been for Chavada Javaharbhai Pethalajibhai of INC from Manvadar constituency with increase of Rs 64.57 crore i.e from Rs. 18.32 crores in 2007 to Rs. 82.90 crores in 2012. Assets of Patel Dineshbhai Balubhai (of BJP from Padra constituency) have increased by Rs 34.89 crore, from Rs 4.51 crore in 2007 to Rs 39.41 crore in 2012. Assets of Aacharya Dr.Nimaben Bhavesbhai (of BJP from Bhuj) have risen by Rs 32.27 crore, from Rs 2.37 crore in 2007 to Rs 34.64 crore in 2012.

· Kavadiya Jayantibhai Ramjibhai a BJP MLA from Dhrangadhra constituency has declared the highest percentage increase in assets of 5525%, from Rs 10.50 lakh in 2007 to Rs 5.91 crore in 2012. Panada Vajesingbhai Parsingbhai an INC MLA from DAHOD (ST) has shown a percentage increase in assets of 3784%, from Rs 4.40 lakh in 2007 to Rs 1.70 crore in 2012. Parmar Shailesh Manharbhai an INC MLA from DANILIMDA (SC) has shown his assets go up by 2944%, from Rs 96.15 lakhs in 2007 to Rs 29.26 crores in 2012.

· 2 MLAs have reported decrease in assets in 2012 as compared to value of assets in 2007. They are Dalal Patel Saurabh Yashayantbhai (13% reduction in assets, from Rs 65.29 crore in 2007 election to Rs 56.60 crore in 2012) of BJP from Akota constituency, and Govindbhai Ukabhai Patel (4% decrease in assets, from Rs 1.48 crore in 2007 to 1.43 crore in 2012)

· A total of 134 out of 182 MLAs i.e. 74% are crorepatis. In 2007, there were 31% crorepati MLAs.

· The MLAs with maximum assets in 2012 Gujarat Assembly are Balvantsinh Chandansinh Rajput of INC from Sidhpur constituency who has declared the highest assets worth Rs 268 Crore, followed by Rajguru Indranil Sanjaybhai of INC from Rajkot East who has declared assets worth Rs 122 Crore and Chavada Javaharbhai Pethalajibhai of INC from Manavadar constituency with assets worth Rs 82.90 Crore.

· 3 MLAs have declared assets of less than Rs 10 lakh

· Lowest Assets MLAs: Rameshbhai Bhurabhai Katara of BJP from Fatepura (SC) constituency has declared the lowest assets of Rs. 6 Lakhs, Vakil Manisha Rajivbhai of BJP from Vadodra City(SC) constituency has declared assets of Rs. 7.12 Lakhs and Rathod Pravinbhai Jinabhai of INC from Palitana constituency has declared assets worth Rs. 7.50 Lakhs.

· MLAs with Highest Liabilities: A total of 28 (15%) MLAs out of 182 analyzed declared liabilities of Rs. 1 crore or above.

· The top three MLAs who have declared the highest liabilities are Balvantsinh Chandansinh Rajput, of INC from Sidhpur who has declared liabilities worth Rs. 52.33 Crores followed by Rajguru Indranil Sanjaybhai of INC from Rajkot East constituency with liabilities worth Rs. 27.14 Crores and Manibhai J. Vaghela an INC MLA from Vadgam (SC)constituency with liabilities worth Rs. 13.98 Crores. From BJP the highest liabilities have been declared by Patel Dineshbhai Balubhai from Padra constituency with liabilities worth Rs 11.53 crores.

Among major parties, the average asset per MLA for INC is 12.36 Crore, for BJP is 5.82 Crore, for NCP is 15.61 crores, for JD (U) is 2.70 Crores and for GPP is 1.52 Crores.

· 5 out of 182 MLAs have not declared their PAN details in the 2012 Gujarat Assembly Elections. In 2007 Assembly elections 54 MLAs had not declared their PAN details.

· MLAs who have declared Highest Income in ITR: Solanki Hirabhai Odhavjibhai of BJP from Rajula constituency has declared an income of Rs 3.41 Crore, followed by Pabubha Virambha Manek of BJP from Dwarka constituency with an income of Rs 3.25 Crore and Radadia Jayeshbhai Vithalbhai of INC from Jetpur constituency with an income of 2.53 Crore.

· Out of 182 MLAs, 31 MLAs (17%) have not filed ITR

· High Assets no ITR: Among them, Kandhalbhai Sarmanbhai Jadeja of NCP has the highest assets of approximately 28.29 crores, followed by Vitthalbhai Hansrajbhai Radadia of INC from Dhoraji constituency who has declared assets worth Rs 5.62 Crore and Dilipkumar Virajibhai Radadia of BJP from Charasma constituency who has declared assets worth Rs 4.73 Crore.

Over 3,000 cops to guard counting centres

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City police, already on near-constant duty, will have a busy day from morning to night on Thursday as the results of 182 assembly seats will be declared by afternoon. Candidates and supporters are expected to take out victory rallies in the evening, said city police officials.

Senior city police officials said the three counting centres, Polytechnic, Gujarat College and LD Engineering College, will all be directly supervised by a superintendent of police level officer.

“There will be restrictions on entry to counting centres. The entire campuses of these centres have already been covered by a CCTV network, which are reviewed regularly by senior officials. The strong rooms have been directly supervised by paramilitary forces and armed guards since voting day. The guards will remain till counting is over,” said a senior police official.

A senior level briefing for policemen on election duty took place on Wednesday, and the cops have reportedly been asked to be at the designated spots from early morning.

Anticipating a rush of supporters and onlookers at the counting centres, the city traffic police have made special arrangements to divert vehicular traffic away, to prevent congestion. Thus, roads near Gujarat College, Government Polytechnic and LD Engineering College will have diversions as and when required. Additional forces will also be deployed to disperse crowds.

After counting, city police will be busy tackling victory rallies by political parties. A senior city police official said they have prepared for a single-window system by the special branch to give permissions after the results are out where the area police inspector and sub-inspector will be informed about the rally. Nearly 5,000 policemen will be deployed in various city areas for this, said officials.