Wednesday, May 25, 2016

2 Years Modi Government: BJP in Namo Grip- A Case of Child controlling his Mother

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has certainly left a mark with his unique aplomb during last two years. But at times his grip over BJP has also raised questions: Is Modi bigger than Bharatiya Janata Party?

"Can politics be so ruthless where a son is in competition against his mother," Modi had said in December 2007 after his major electoral victory in Gujarat answering criticism that  henceforth Modi would play bigger than his party.

In the interim period especially since 2014, the name of BJP is, however, synonymous with Modi's name or at least about "Team Modi". Politically for the BJP, the last two years offered a typical mixed bag and more than that - a see-saw kind of situations. But overall the story of BJP has been story of Narendra Modi and his control over the party. The year 2014 undoubtedly belonged to it. 

Besides winning parliamentary polls with record 282 seats, BJP made optimum use of "Modi-wave" and installed its own chief ministers in Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. It finished second in Jammu and Kashmir. By the turn of 2015, BJP had scripted history with 1058 state legislators across the country as against 949 of Congress.By May 2016, as BJP completes two-years in office, the successful forays into power in Assam with 30 percent vote share and entry into Kerala and West Bengal and sharing of power with PDP in Kashmir has made BJP a pan-India party.

The BJP victories in several state elections after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls have helped build the perception that the Narendra Modi government continues to enjoy the support of the people in various regions. In the last two years, the party has been able to install its chief ministers in Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Assam. 

It also emerged as the second biggest party in Jammu and Kashmir, where it is part of the ruling coalition. 

But calendar year 2015 was an electoral nightmare - particularly for Modi and his handpicked BJP president Amit Shah.BJP was humbled in Delhi in February and Bihar in November. Worse both the defeats came at the hands of ardent Modi-baiters -- AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.In parliamentary politics too, the legislative business was lukewarm. The handicap of numbers in Rajya Sabha often left it clueless vis-a-vis economic reforms the party promised.The crucial Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill still stands stalled, the Land Bill now is almost derailed. Individually top ranking BJP leaders got embroiled into corruption scandals – Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje and even Modi’s “eyes and ears” Arun Jaitley. Though none of the allegations stuck, the gory Lalit Modi episode on Sushma and Raje and a past irregularity in Delhi cricket board against Jaitley often left the BJP on defensive.

Though none of the allegations stuck, the gory Lalit Modi episode on Sushma and Raje and a past irregularity in Delhi cricket board against Jaitley often left the BJP on defensive.

The poor electoral showing in Bihar and Delhi dispelled notions that Modi cannot be vanquished. Minorities were isolated further with nuns and churches attacked. There was an unnecessary beef debate after Dadri killing and a number of awards were returned.

Questions came up in the corridors of Lutyen's city: Has the countdown for BJP’s decline begun? 

Displaying intra-party differences, BJP veterans led by L K Advani and M M Joshi  lashed out at the Modi-Amit Shah duo. 

But a quick learner and an ear-on-ground politician, Modi acted fast and took corrective steps. 

In Assam, a locally popular leader was appointed as chief ministerial candidate and effective coalition worked out by roping in tribal forces and regional AGP.

Team Modi’s campaign in Assam revolved around Sarbanand Sonowal and focused more on local issues especially playing up the foreign immigration issue.

The BJP victories have also dealt a severe blow to Congress, which now has governments only in six states - with Karnataka being the only big state in its kitty. The party had won only 44 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections - to the BJP's 282 in a 545-member house.  BJP leaders say that the victory in Assam will have an impact on national politics and help build its campaign for the crucial Uttar Pradesh assembly polls early next year. 

"The Assam victory will have an immense impact on national politics. It has sparked off debate about surgery in Congress and has energised the BJP cadres for the Uttar Pradesh elections," BJP MP Jagdambika Pal told IANS.

Uttar Pradesh sends 80 MPs to Lok Sabha and will be among five states where assembly polls will be held early next year. Party leader Tapir Gao said the BJP would also be looking for victory in Manipur next year.

The party’s coming to power in Assam, its entry in Kerala assembly and being part of the ruling coalition in Jammu and Kashmir has made BJP a truly pan-India party. BJP has appears to have replaced Congress as the primary pillar of national polity. BJP leaders say the party’s performance in the future polls is directly linked to the peopleÂ’s perception about the Modi government's performance. "As a ruling party and a government, we may be doing far better job. But we need to do a lot in terms of the perception battle,” BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya said.

Apparently, "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" brand of politics also got people's nod. “Voters seem to endorse aggressive nationalism as was seen during JNU-Afzal Guru episode,” said one key leader. 

Of all the things said by rival politicians on BJP;  Congressman Shashi Tharoor’s eloquent remarks deserve dissection. “An ambitious man, Narendra Modi appears to realize that ….. he wants to make a success of his government,” wrote Tharoor in his blog for The Huffington Post in 2014. 

Two years have gone. Public pressure is mounting about governance. “Prime Minister Modi does not have an excuse for failure,” says Subhash C Kashyap, former Secretary General of Lok Sabha.Others too agree about a national debate on whether the Modi government which came with a boom of fresh breeze has proved to be a boon or a bane.

Lone Nagaland MP, Neiphiu Rio told IANS: "“it is time to implement, mere slogans won’t help”.
In between came in BJP’s spoilsports. Many insiders lament blunders like Uttarakhand.
On the flip side, the BJP has had to tick off some of its own MPs for remarks that created controversies and sought to take away focus from governance. There also have been controversies created by fringe elements. 

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan BhagwatÂ’s remarks about quotas, which the organization subsequently clarified, are believed to have cost BJP dearly in the Bihar assembly polls. The party also suffered as its campaign was seen to be aggressive and it had no local leader as chief ministerial candidate.
BJP’s inherent challenges, however, would be “Bhagwa brigade’ (hardliners); and the likes of Dharm Jagran Manch reviving Ghar-Wapsi (re-conversion) bogey threatening to derail Modi, the catalyst of development.  

Should not the ruling party of India shun some of these gully politics?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Who’s dunn it in Sonar Bangla? Didi’s victory has a pattern of Basuism

The best part of West Bengal electoral battle of 2016 is the wash out of the communists – a long deserving gift from the frustrated people. The worst part is perhaps the increased strength of mercurial Mamata Banerjee. One is saying so with utmost restraints and respect for people’s mandate.

If people have decided to chose Mamata; none has the 'Shamta (the power)' to deny that. But amid the big hype about Didi’s success – that she has got people’s mandate once again – one wonders how much difference it would make for the state in short run and the long run! 
After all – every five years Jyoti Basu also managed such immense mandate – and he got it for three decades! He ensured decimation of Congress but in all that created a vacuum for creation of a leader called Mamata Banerjee.                           

Basu hardly encouraged discipline both among people and his cadres. His cadres were always right for him as long as they brought electoral victory to the party. Is Mamata different?
The party work and electioneering became round the year affair in Bengal and there was unleashing of violence of all sorts. But the bloodshed never stained Basu's image. He remained the ultimate Bhadralok, like the Queen of Britain, who could never go wrong.
Today, Mamata can also do no wrong!
Basu's industrialist son Chandan kept on making news and unlike the case of Devilal-Chautala elsewhere - even that did not touch the Marxist veteran reputation.  He remained the ultimate 'Bhadrolok'. Didi too has relatives, but she remains a hawai-chappal leader!

 One only revisits a comment from a sitting Trinamool Congress member of parliament – “we will win, that’s our good luck. But that is also (Banglar – dur-bhagya) bad luck of West Bengal”.
So amid the hype about Mamata Banerjee’s return to power – we have a simple question that of course offers a complex answer: Will Bengal change?
Can Didi change? Will syndicate raj end?

Hero worship or slavish mentality could be the domain of Tamil Nadu politics and the prostration (साष्टांग प्रणाम) culture of AIADMK “men in white”.

But in West Bengal, Jyoti Basu too could do no wrong. Hence even episodes like murder of Anandamargis remained part of political legacy.

My worst fear is this mandate has brought Didi in that unique club. And it happens just with one win! Luck na? For Narendra Modi – even three consecutive victories in state assembly polls and the 2014 Lok Sabha war have not made life easier for Modi ----2002 remains a stigma. But stigmas cannot touch few political cultures – Mamata Banerjee has actually mastered that legacy.

She is certainly on her road to the Red Fort in Delhi but no stigma! How? Look at the manner a clearly-pro-Christian website glorifies Mamata’s cotton sari!
Sharada Ma is a thing of past, it looks like!!
“On the death of Missionaries of Charity’s Sr. Nimala Joshi Mamata spent nearly 3 hours in the funeral Eucharist at the Mother’s House with her cotton white saree with blue boarders like other Mother Teresa nuns in the crowd. I hear that she is keen to go to Vatican to witness the canonization of Mother Teresa of Kolkata on September 4. Mamata is simple, honest with frugal lifestyle. But she is the conqueror of hearts of the million in the state,” says S J Jyothi in ‘MattersIndia’.

Where’s then the so called lawlessness in West Bengal? What was Election Commission of India so worried about? The winner takes it all. Is that taking on a platter is much easier if the politics is all about possible anti-Hindu and anti-Narendra Modi?
The Congress under Sidhartha Shankar Ray perhaps discovered the politics of violence in Bengal. Last five decades this has been the norm.
The Communist Party of India (Marxists) continued it with their Midas touch. And as the Didi dispensation only took it to a new height, look around who regrets “merciless killing” – the illustrious Sitaram Yechury!

As a Bengali by birth, one knows - Bengalis are also born moral teachers. Remember Somnath Chatterjee, who did not allow “state subject” Nadigram being discussed in Lok Sabha but when it came to his time to give up Speaker’s post – hardly 6 months before Lok Sabha polls – he turned towards Manmohan Singh and showed thumbs down to comrade Prakash Karat! But Nandigram and Singur and the subsequent mandate of 2009 Lok Sabha polls and 2011 historic assembly elections could not help Somnath da’s holier than thou politics.
The fall of Marxist rule in 2011 came in. “But the tragedy of Bengal is; all that happened in extra-ordinary swiftness. There was no change on ground – culturally and otherwise,”says an article in RSS-run The Organiser.

True, club-dadas simply changed colour! While the ‘Nandigram policy’ of Buddhadev Bhattarcharya was discredited, the blind faith of colony goondas on the age-old belief that police and political masters have to be kept in good humour stayed on. Rest is history. People have again decided to continue with Mamata Banerjee. For essentially a non-resident Bengali, Jyoti Basu has been a cult figure for us in the north east during our formative days – where Bengalis more than once have been at the receiving end.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

BJP’s conquest of Assam: Breaks a major barrier – But underneath message is "Please deliver"


Sarbanand Sonowal is all smile! BJP is in a predictable triumphant mood. The change of regime in Assam has many tales. One such a layer is of course like a day-dream -- the dream about a new Assam. These glimpses of optimism are also punctuated by elements of desperation.

Ekta bhal government paam niki – Will we ever get a good government?

Thus my argument is Assam poll results are more than mere change of regime as is traditionally understood. The electorate in this governance-starved state has voted out both Congress and the regional outfit AGP more than once. Thus the helpless voters – hit by insurgency, corruption, a ‘lahe-lahe work culture and also natural disasters – are actually looking for a new polity and a refreshing administrative system itself.

With these issues in mind, people had voted for BJP overwhelmingly in 2014 Lok Sabha elections and continued the same spirit in 2016 too. 

This mandate from Assam is actually a clamor call: please deliver!

So the question that begs answer can an ‘effective and purposeful alternative’ regime be offered by the BJP – of course assisted by powerful Narendra Modi phenomenon ? Can the new dispensation likely to be headed by Assam's second tribal chief minister bring in new standards of economic honesty, political inclusiveness and administrative transparency?

To start with, this year’s Assam polls also have been elections of tribals and about tribals. So on this front the new state government has to act first and show quick results.
The story of agony of Assam is incomplete without the tales of sufferings and neglect of the Adivasis along with the hardships in Bodo areas or the issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh. To make it worse, a few Congress leaders in the past added insult to the injuries on Adivasis, generally given to tea-planters.

Not long ago, P R Kyndiah, a controversial Congress leader in Meghalaya, as the union Tribal Affairs Minister under Manmohan Singh had said, “Considering ST status for Adivasis would involve examining the case using the criteria of tribal characteristics including a primitive background and distinctive cultures and traditions”. The then Home Minister Shivraj Patil, also considered close to Sonia Gandhi, had said that these Adivasis “had lost their tribal characteristics”.   

The Adivasis have thus turned more assertive and had reasons to go anti-Congress.
The Adivasis had even endorsed the path of noisy demonstration and violence. On November 24, 2007 in Beltola, there was ‘clash’ between Adivasis demanding ST status and the ‘locals (that is Assamese)’.  Not quite surprisingly, the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) through its mouthpiece ‘Swadhinta’ had alleged that some politicians were trying to ‘separate’ the Adivasis and tea tribes of Assam from the other Assamese. Two militant outfits — the Birsa Commando Force (BCF) and the Adivasi Cobra Militants of Assam (ACMA) – also had joined the All Adivasi Students Association of Assam (AASAA), All India Adivasi Students and Youth Association and Adivasi Mahila Parishad to set an ultimatum to the Centre demanding ST status.

But overall governance is a different ballgame in Assam. It is a state known for lahe-lahe (take it easy) work culture hence catastrophic changes in governance delivery level once Sarbanand Sonowal is coronated as chief minister is beyond consideration. Then there are instances of promising of moon.

Besides the scheduled tribe status for some select tribes, the new regime is expected to act on Bangladeshi foreign national issue. How and by when can he resolve the issue will be a big puzzle for Sonowal, who himself knows pretty well all the complexities involved!
But centre and BJP leader say there are definitely some actions happening. The Broad Gauge (BG) line between Lumbding and Silchar is now a reality. The goods train in this section has been flagged off.

Railway officials in Delhi say interiors in the states of Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura will also be on broad gauge gradually. These are long pending demand and these three states including Barak valley in Assam are dependent on this line for supply of food grains, fertilizers and petroleum products. Some issues remain related to hyrdo electric power project too. The natives of Assam along with anti-big river dams and also Assam BJP had in the past opposed the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri hydroelectric power project. 

Sonowal has promised about concrete steps on the flood management. This is again easier said than done as natural calamity visits Assam regularly every year.

Whom can he blame?
BJP has drawn out an elaborate 2016-2025 Vision Document and promises among other things law to punish those who employ Bangladeshi infiltrators. This is a complex matter as the moment Sonowal is asked on how to deal with this promise, a simple answer is “smile”.
Moreover the promises like sealing of border too would be quite unrealistic. It is a central subject and there is a court directive already to that effect. But making a forward movement on the same is a challenge by itself. More such issues can be discussed.

Never in its electoral history, Assam polls had generated so much interest nationally.
Among the states that went to polls in April and May 2016, the battle for Assam had turned the mother of elections for the year in more ways than one.
Assam battle was a war of prestige for Congress and BJP as BJP's triumph card Narendra Modi failed to bring any electoral success in 2015 - both in Bihar and in Delhi. For Congress, retaining power in Assam would have been a face saver for Rahul and the dynasty. But wishes are not horses!
The reality is : there will be a new government and it has to perform.
How Prince is surrounded well by Gen Next

Tail Piece:

This tail piece is indeed synonymous with "moral of the lesson".

A former Congressman turned BJP poll strategist in Assam on Thursday said the dynastic politics of the opposition party led to its defeat in the north-eastern state.
The Congress also needs to do some introspection and change its style of functioning, BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma told Times Now. 

"The Congress is run on a concession basis. (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi made Rahul Gandhi the party vice president not because of merit but he is her son. Similarly, Rahul conceded some ground to Assam chief minister (Tarun Gogoi)," he said. "This culture of concession starts from 10 Janpath and goes down to the panchayat level. As many as 34 of the 126 Congress candidates in Assam were sons and daughters of big politicians," he added.

Sarma, a minister in the Tarun Gogoi-led government in Assam, left the Congress following conflict with the chief minister and joined the BJP in 2015.

"Rahul Gandhi should make the Congress a normal opposition. To keep the party growing, he has to change. This is a clear message. He is no god, and should not behave like one," the BJP leader said.

"You (Rahul Gandhi) became the Congress vice president because you are the son of Sonia Gandhi. You made Gaurav Gogoi an MP over and above the normal 'karyakarta' of the Congress because he is the son of Tarun Gogoi. This politics has been rejected by the people of India," the BJP leader added.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Narendra Modi's 'Somalia' remarks: Bongs and Malayalis - The bond is beyond Karl Marx !

Subhash Mukhopadhyay (Bengali: সুভাষ মুখোপাধ্যায়) (16 January 1931 – 19 June 1981) was a physician in Kolkata who created the world's second and India's first child using in-vitro fertilization. Unfortunately, Dr. Mukhopadhyay was harassed by the state government, and not allowed to share his achievements with the international scientific community. Dejected, he committed suicide on 19 June 1981. 

That was supposed to be golden era of Marxism politics in West Bengal.

Those of you are not moved by this tale, please see Pankaj Kapoor-Shabana Azmi starred “Ek Doctor ki Maut”. 


May be in my subconscious mind, I always consider myself lucky. Lucky because, I am born Bong. That gives me an added advantage – something of a birth right – I am intellectual, I am patriot ! I know more than many other Indians!

My father always had other opinion. He used to taunt and literally curse me saying, “You (his eldest son) think like a Naga”. I have spoken about this in these blogs earlier also. But here is a small tale, among Nagas – the Ao tribe is also known as “Naga bangali” – whatever that means. Former Nagaland chief minister S C Jamir, now Odisha Governor, also an Ao Naga used to take it as a compliment!

Among various communities, I have often found similarities of Bengali traits in citizens of Kerala and also non-resident Keralites – Malayalis – or commonly known as “mallus”. Bulk of my friendship in media world is incidentally among “mallus” – and I always feel proud about it. Bengalis are certainly a class apart.


But who has ‘classified’ us into that high pedestal? Karl Marx? May be. Among several lacunae in their society, like most communities engrossed in them, we Bengalis find it distasteful to admit anything has gone wrong among us.

We also find it immensely blasphemous when others tell something wrong about us! “Arey oi beta-ra ki jaane (Arey, the hell about other people’s knowledge)”.
Hence, we have politics of Jyotism – succeeded by Didi’s dispensation blessed with Goddess Sharada Ma’s immense “kripa”.

The same “kripa” element works in Mallus also, I guess! The politics of violence is one of them. Everybody knows about it in Bengal and Kerala - but hardly anyone would speak about it. Hardly anyone would have also speak about long years of neglect of Muslims welfare in Bengal or tribal welfare in Kerala. Recall Basu’s famous “barbarous” description of BJP and Vajpayee government.

In Kerala and in Bengal, whatever we have is all virtuous rein! Jadavpur University students achieved that epitome when they screamed: “Manipur maange azadi”.

Under attack for the jingoism – they twisted intellectually – the target obvious is easy: Narendra Modi.

In Kerala too, Modi is the latest “villain”. How come he – a Gujju- compare Kerala – our God’s own country to Somalia.

In Lok Sabha, however, an Anglo-Indian nominated member Richard Hay did not mince words about deteriorating law and order situation in Kerala.

“I strongly urge upon the Government of India to intervene and  look into this heinous and barbaric crime that occurred in Kerala, a 100 per cent literate State, in daylight. Kerala is described as ‘Gods Own  Country’. Does that description suit Kerala? I call it a ‘Devil’s Own Country’ now,” said Richard Hay, who has been lately leaning towards  BJP.

Modi’s “Somalia remarks” is being used repeatedly to find fault with Gujarat’s development index.

But the fact of the matter is Modi is not the original author of such a commentary.

"The infant mortality rates in Kerala and Somalia are not comparable. But Modi is not the first politician to make such comparison with Somalia. Opposition leader VS Achuthanandan visited the tribal village of Attappadi in Palakkad district in 2013. When he met the media persons, he compared the child mortality rate of the village with that of Somalia itself. CPI(M) leader and Politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan visited the place later and said life in the village was worse than that in Ethiopia,” wrote Sreejith Panickar in a well-publicised article in Daily-O website.

So what does this bring about? Mallus and Bongs have something common to talk about.

My wife articulates it in her own wisdom: “West Bengal’s politics for last five decades has been essentially based on violent control of territory and merciless elimination of political rivals. Every Bengali worth his or her salt knows this. But when it comes to glib talks, most Bhadraloks will talk about jungle-raj in Bihar and insurgency-related killings in Assam and beyond”.

Hence my mallu friends are wasting no time to suggest that Modi has insulted Keralites! 


The reality is otherwise. The “Somalia-Modi” controversy suits sickular media because essentially it suits Sonia-Rahul-own Congress party!

Moreover, Oomen Chandy’s principal rival in the state, the Marxists are also alongwise Congress when the target is Modi!

In 2013 itself, various media reports said, "A survey conducted by Thampu, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) dealing with tribal rights, found that out of the 300 tribals affected by malnutrition 200 were children. K.Venugopal, the district medical officer, said that 412 cases of anemia and 67 cases of malnutrition had been noticed by the health department”.  
Taking it further: the Integrated Tribal Development Programme conducted a survey between 11 April 2013 and 19 April 2013 in Attappady, covering 7,565 households and a population of 23,599, and found that the number of tribal people with anemia/malnutrition was 463/69, the number of children aged below five with anemia/ malnutrition was 68/57 and lactating mothers with anemia and malnutrition was 62/0”.

Look no further.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Highlights from Lok Sabha proceedings: Manohor Parrikar on AgustaWestland

Defence Minister Manohor Parrikar in Lok Sabha on May 6, 2016 assured parliament that unlike Bofors gun deal where accused could not be brought to book, the on-going CBI probe will be able to fix the wrongdoers. 


"I can assure you all, I will not fail. What we could not do in Bofors, we may be able to do in AgustaWestland," Parrikar said in response to a Calling Attention discussion in the lower house of parliament.

BJP parliamentarians Anurag Thakur, Kirit Somaiya and Nishikant Dubey, Saugata Roy (Trinamool) and Jyotiraditya Scindia (Congress) also spoke.

The Bofors controversy had erupted after allegations surfaced regarding kickbacks from Bofors AB company of Sweden for winning a bid to supply 155 mm field howitzer to India. It led to the ouster of the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government in 1989.

However, Ottavio Quattrocchi, an Italian businessman, who was being sought until 2009 in India for criminal charges for acting as a conduit for bribes in the Bofors scandal, later died on July 13, 2013.

Ottavio Quattrocchi

Attacking the Congress government, Parrikar, however, tried to show sympathies to former defence minister A.K. Antony and dubbed him "bechare (helpless)".

"Bechare Antony sahab ke haath baandhe they (a helpless Antony had his limitations)," Parrikar said adding, once an arrest was made in 2012 in Italy in the case, "Antony was virtually in panic".
"...because Antony wanted to protect his image," Parrikar said, adding, "within two-three hours, Antony moved the file, cleared papers and ordered a CBI probe".
He also said the field trials of the chopper outside India were initially opposed by Antony. "But he was later convinced to change his stand". 
However, the minister said, the CBI just sat over the matter and "did nothing" till January 2014.

Congress members including Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi staged a walkout at a later stage after Kharge's demand for a Supreme Court monitored probe was rejected by the government.
At one point of time, Parrikar said, the Congress leaders during their days in power 
had almost "lost a sense of proportion" and violated basic norms of tender formalities.
"It was as if the sight of Euro or the smell of money was attractive....they thought they will be in power permanently," Parrikar 
Defence minister said the tender for the contract was submitted by Italy-based AgustnaWestland but given to the UK-based Agusta Westland International. 
"This was my biggest shock. I have never seen that tender was submitted by one company and given to some other company," he said. 

Parrikar said former Air Force officer N.V. Tyagi and city-based lawyer Gautam Khaitan, the two accused in the Rs.3,600-crore chopper scam, were only “small people”.
"Be it Tyagi or Khaitan, they are small people," Parikkar said. 
Defence Minister tabled a paper in the house and said this was minutes of an important meeting of May 9, 2005, wherein it was made "mandatory" that the cabin height of the VVIP choppers should 1.8 metre.

He also referred to a fire mishap in an office wherein important files are stored. 
"The fire was caught mysteriously and many files were destroyed. But three files were safe as they 
were retained in a locker by an official. I will now even ask the CBI probe the cause of the fire as it 
raises some questions," Parrikar said.

Parrikar said Antony put on hold the deal only on May 12, 2014, the fag end of Lok Sabha elections, and wondered 
if it was driven by the results of exit polls, which was nevertheless going in favour of BJP.
"Some concessions were given, especially to a single vendor. It was not given to other companies. This showed the favour," the defence minister said.

During the debate, Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy said, while the defence minister spoke "some truths", he hastened to add, some of these would not be palatable for the BJP.
Congress member Scindia cautioned BJP of working with vendetta against Sonia Gandhi saying, "you all know what happens, when a tigress is provoked".

Defence Minister Manohor Parrikar on Friday (May 6) also sought the assistance of Lok Sabha Speaker 
Sumitra Mahajan in translating a Marathi word which the chair obliged. 

In his opening remarks to the Calling Attention notice on Agustawestland VVIP chopper deal, Parrikar used a Marathi phrase to strengthen his argument that the guilty conscious hits only a "wrong doer".
"I don't know the exact Hindi word madam. In Marathi we call it 'Aru' is said one who eats Aru, he only gets
the feel of it on his throat," Parrikar said.

"Aru ki bhaji jo khata hae, unke hi gale lagta hae," Parrikar said to which the Speaker offered to translate
saying Aru means: "Arbi ka pata". 
'Arbi' in Hindi is a common vegetable/leafy item also known as Taro or Eddoe and is eaten across India. It is known as "kochu" in West Bengal and eastern India and Aru in Maharashtra.  
The Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan is elected member from Indore seat in Madhya Pradesh and was born to a Chittpavan Koknastha Brahmin Marathi family, says Wikipedia. 

Parrikar also said:

"There were lot of discussions over Pilatus in 2012, when I came, around 62 planes were already flying. 

I thought if I raise it now, the Air Force (pilot) shortage, which has come to 164, would have gone up to 1000". 

"So sometimes you are under strain to continue even not very healthy...I will investigate but will not stop flying the equipment," Parrikar added. 

Focus on CAG Sharma

Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy also made a veiled reference to the incumbent Comptroller and Auditor General Shashi Kant Sharma vis-a-vis AgustaWestland chopper scam.
"I want to ask whether you have questioned the DG procurement," Trinamool member Saugata Roy asked Defence Minister Manohor Parrikar participating in the discussions on the high-profile controversy.
Roy, however, did not take any name. 
The Dum Dum MP from West Bengal questioned the defence minister specifically, "What action have you taken in the one-and-a-half yearsagainst corruption?"
He also alleged that while the NDA government has been "shouting from the house top against corruption", it did not have 
anything "specific" to divulge. 
"You say that Rs.124 crore bribe has been paid," Roy pointedly told Parrikar and asked him, "What has the CBI under your government done in two years? If bribe has been paid, you should have recovered it". 
Blogger in Parliament
The CAG Shashi Kant Sharma held the post of Director General (Acquisition) -- which Trinamool MP called as "procurement" - in the defence ministry in 2007-10. 
Allegedly Sharma's name or designation as "DG (Acq.)" - short form of Acquisition figures in the list of people named by 
middleman, Christian Michel as documented in the Italian court order.
Michel is now a fugitive, Trinamool and BJP sources alleged.

BJP member Nishikant Dubey also made a veiled reference to the CAG and few other people who continue to hold constitutional positions. 

Shashi Kant Sharma belongs to the 1976 batch of Indian Administrative Service and joined the Ministry of Defence in 2003 as a Joint Secretary. 

Sharma became DG acquisition in 2007 and has been "literally controlling" the basic process of controversial AgustaWestland chopper purchase. 

He continued in the key position till 2010 and became Defence Secretary later in 2011.

In May 2013, BJP had opposed appointment of Sharma as CAG.
Even last year, a section of BJP leaders made an issue over the powers of CAG. 
In fact, on the sidelines of a conference of Public Accounts Committee chairpersons in parliament premises, BJP MP, Nishikant Dubey, also a member of PAC, had sought CAG to be made accountable to the parliament. 
"We have the incumbent CAG Shashi Kant Sharma, a former Defence Secretary, who is now auditing his own actions as the Defence Secretary when a few deals materialized,” Dubey had said.

Apparently, it is understood now that the ruling establishment is now making a case for the CBI to "question Sharma". 
The argument for the same has only gained currency once the Italian court judgment has included the "bribe list" as given by fugitive Michel as annexure.

However, Saugata Roy of Trinamool Congress has tried to argue in the Lok Sabha on Friday that the words and testimonies of a fugitive should be "taken with a pinch of salt".

Dynasty's chosen son remained silent!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Defence Minister in Rajya Sabha: Part 2: Parrikar Waxes Eloquence on AgustaWestland

Part 2

(Speech of the Defence Minister Manohor Parrikar in Rajya Sabha)

These changes in SQRs eliminated the EC-225 helicopter which had met the Operational Requirements earlier and allowed AW-101 helicopter to enter the fray. As highlighted by the CAG in its Report, instead of making the SQRs broadbased to increase the competition, those were made more restrictive, thereby narrowing down the choices to a limited range of helicopters. 


The purpose of avoidance of resultant single vendor situation could not be met and the acquisition process, again, led to a resultant single vendor situation. 

In effect, by changing the SQRs, a situation was created in which EC-225 helicopter, which had met all Operational Requirements earlier, was eliminated by putting the requirement of 1.858 metres of cabin as an essential criterion from the competition and facilitated emergence of AW-101 as a single vendor. While the RFP was issued to M/s AgustaWestland, Italy, the response to RFP was received from M/s AgustaWestland International Ltd., UK, which was not the entity to whom RFP was issued. Did the then Government examine the serious legal implications of this aspect? 

It later emerged that the Memorandum of Association of M/s AgustaWestland International Ltd., (AWIL) does not provide for any activity of M/s AWIL as an OEM and its Annual Report indicated that its business was coordinated with other group company, wherein its responsibility extended to customer relationship and coordinating customer requirements. I think that is what they did. The bid of M/s AgustaWestland International Ltd., UK, should have been rejected outright as it was not the agency to whom the RFP was issued. But for the logic, purpose and motive best available with the leadership of the then Government, this did not happen. Instead, the relentless push in favour of AWIL continued. 

In effect, the Government of India was signing an agreement for supply of helicopters with a company that had no OEM capability, which would appear highly irregular. There is also no tangible reason stated for this unusual structure. During the processing of the case, the following deviations from RFP or DPP were approved by the then Raksha Mantri. Now, I come to conduct of field trials abroad. I agree that you initially objected; that is your nature. The CAG Report has highlighted that the Field Evaluation Trial..(Interruptions).. of AW101 of AgustaWestland was conducted on representative helicopters Merlin MK-3A and CIV01 and mock-up of the passenger cabin and not on the actual helicopter, whereas actual S-92 helicopter of Sikorsky was evaluated. Even at the stage of FET, the helicopter offered by AgustaWestland was still in its development phase. 

DPP mandates that FET must be carried out in all conditions where the equipment is likely to be deployed. RFP has categorically stated that FET would be carried out in India-- this was the specific requirement of RFP-- in varying climates, altitude and terrain conditions, on 'no cost no commitment' basis. 

Conduct of trials in India is extremely critical, especially, for helicopters meant to carry VVIPs because the terrain, climate and topographic conditions greatly vary with those of USA and UK. This crucial aspect has been given a go-by by permitting trials in foreign lands. The serious nature of deviations from standard FET conditions for the AW-101 in terms of trials being held outside India and not on the actual helicopter was exacerbated by the fact that even at the time of FET, the Augusta Westland helicopter was in developmental stage. ...Sir, this created some problems when the three helicopters were received and were being put on test trials. 

I will just read one para from a file of Air Force where the trials were taking place. 
I will read one para only. I quote, "At Srinagar, 5,400 feet above the sea level, effective payload of this helicopter is nil in OGL configuration at all ranges of temperature. Even in IGE configuration, a reduced payload is to be accepted. The common VVIP sorties to Nehru Helipad cannot be undertaken. Similar is the case of Gulmarg, Pahalgam where VVIP sorties have been flown in the past using Mi-17iv helicopter." 

This file luckily was saved from a devastating fire which took place on 3rd of June, 2014 which burnt down all the records in that particular office. But this file remained in the drawer of the officer. So, it survived. ...(Interruptions)... This could not be further verified because obviously the helicopter was stopped from testing after that. ...(Interruptions)... Additional commercial quotes sought from both the vendors. 

Third, acceptance of the partial compliance of the two SQRs in respect of AW-101 non-VIP version helicopter. Neither S-92 nor AW-101 fully complied with SQR in the FET. However, AW-101 was recommended for induction in spite of emerging as a single vendor by waiving off two parameters, while no such concession was granted to S-92. The warranty of 'three years/2000 hours whichever is earlier' on the airframe and 'three years/1200 hours whichever is earlier' on the engine offered by M/s Sikorsky and 'three years/900 hours whichever is earlier' offered on the whole helicopter by M/s AWIL was accepted instead of RFP stipulation of 'three years/900 hours whichever is later'. 

Acceptance of option clause for three years instead of five years. Inclusion of additional items such as Traffic Collision and Avoidance System, Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System for all 12 helicopters and Medevac system for 8 VVIP helicopters at CNC stage. ...(Interruptions)... Deletion of Active Missile Approach Warning System, Incorporation of Rear Air Stairs in 04 non-VVIP helicopters. ...(Interruptions)... Completion of helicopter delivery in 39 months instead of 36 months. The accepted principle in procurement is that deviations must be approved only under exceptional circumstances, for robust rationale and exercising extreme caution. ...


The numerous deviations approved appear to flout this norm, as has also been pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General in their report. That CAG Report has highlighted that the allowed offsets were not compliant with DPP and many Indian Offset Partners were not eligible. Augusta Westland gave a year-wise breakup of work from 2011 to 2014 to be executed by IDS Infotech under this offset programme even though the work has been completed well before the conclusion of the contract in 2010. 

Now, this is very important. Investigation in the matter so far revealed involvement of IDS Infotech as a conduit for transfer of bribe money. We have already got court orders on that too. I would explain what action we have taken on that. The benchmark cost arrived by CNC was unreasonably high and had provided no realistic basis for price negotiations. The benchmark cost as worked out by CNC was Euro 727 million, approximately, Rs. 4,877.50 cores, which is six times the estimated total project cost of Rs. 793 crores, in January, 2006, wherein the estimated unit cost of AW-101 – this is very important – was considered as Rs. 100 crore, approximately Euro 15 million, at the time of SOC. When the recommendation was given for acceptance of RFP, this was the price quoted by the Air Force – Rs. 100 crores, that is, Euro 15 million. 

The CAG Report has stated that the base price of US $ 27 million for the year 2000 was adopted by CNC, while the base price of AW- 101 VIP helicopter was US $ 18.2 million in the year 2010, as seen from the Internet. SHRI ANAND SHARMA: Internet? 

Even the Air Force has estimated it as 15 million dollars in 2006. It is there on the records. ....I am reading from the CAG Report. I would provide whatever clarifications you may need later. ...(Interruptions)... MoF, in their observation on CCS note, stated that they are unable to support the proposal. 

The Ministry of Finance also asked that a response to the letter of the MP, Shri Nathubhai G. Patel to the CVC may be incorporated in the final CCS note along with MoD’s response thereon. The salient observations of MoF were based on following aspects: Final negotiated price being high as compared to the estimated AoN cost; SQRs not being broad-based; while the proposal of M/s ROE was rejected for want of EMD and Integrity Pact, the other two were considered despite certain features of both proposals not conforming to RFP requirements. The remaining two vendors were allowed to submit additional commercial quotes and later, M/s AWIL was allowed to make corrections in its EMD and Integrity Pact. 
FET not conducted in Indian  conditions. 

During FET/SE, the helicopter offered from M/s Sikorsky was not accepted due to noncompliance with certain requirements and partial compliance with certain others while the helicopters offered by M/s AWIL were accepted despite partial compliance with certain requirements; and changes to the technical requirements made after opening of price bid and changes to certain terms and conditions of RFP made. Similar concerns were raised by the MP before the CVC, stating that the case is in violation of CVC norms. The CCS approved the proposal for procurement of 12 VVIP and VIP helicopters from Messrs Augusta Westland, UK, in the meeting held on 18th January, 2010, for the following reasons: 

(i) Augusta Westland helicopters have been selected after multivendor competition bid, for which RFPs have been issued to six vendors, out of which only two vendors responded. (ii) Augusta Westland helicopter was the only helicopter that met the SQRs framed for the VVIP version and the operational requirements of the IAF. 

The other helicopters participating in the trial did not meet the SQR. (iii) The present fleet of VVIP helicopters will complete their total technical life in the year 2010.
The RFPs for the present procurement was issued on 27th September, 2006 and any further delay would jeopardize the requirement. ...(Interruptions)... (v) Now that considerable time has elapsed, it is likely that a fresh tender would lead to further escalation of costs. ...

The CCS approval for the decision appears predicated primarily on Augusta Westland being the “only helicopter” meeting the SQRs and multiple deviations from the SQRs including shortfalls were approved. ...(Interruptions).

The matter started about corruption appearing in the various media in Italy from February, 2012. The Government of India, instead of taking action on the company, adopted 4 Uncorrected / Not for Publication 04.05.2016 a route of writing to the Ministry of External Affairs, to the Embassy, to the Court,...(Interruptions)... 

Media reports of alleged wrongdoing and unethical conduct by M/s. Finmeccanica, parent company of M/s. AWIL, UK, in connection with the purchase of VVIP helicopters and initiation of preliminary investigation against the company in Italy started surfacing since February, 2012. ...(Interruptions)... While Embassy in Rome was approached to get credible information regarding the status of investigation and authenticity of the documents/records being cited in various reports, however, no explanation was asked from the company and the operation of the said agreement continued. ...(Interruptions)...

Even the deliveries of three helicopters were accepted in December, 2012. ...(Interruptions)... Only on receiving the reports of arrests of M/s. Finmeccanica Chief, Mr. Orsi, the Ministry of Defence, on 12th February, 2013, asked the CBI to conduct an inquiry into the matter. ...

The operation of the agreement was put on hold and payments stopped with issuance of the first Show Cause Notice (SCN) to M/s. AWIL, UK, on 15.02.2013. ...

The Italian authorities commenced criminal proceedings from 19th June, 2013, at the Court of Busto Arsizio, Milan, in this case. (Contd. by 4P - GSP) GSP-PSV-4P-7.05 SHRI MANOHAR PARRIKAR (CONTD.): The documents obtained through these proceedings have been shared with the CBI and the ED. ...(Interruptions)... Some of the documents so received were used in taking action for cancellation of contract. ...(Interruptions)... These documents included a classified document titled 'Revised Operational Requirements for VVIP helicopters'. ...(Interruptions)... After consultation with ASG, a Second SCN was issued to M/s AWIL, UK on 21.10.2013. M/s AWIL, UK raised the issue of going for arbitration in the letter dated 4.10.2013, and, again in the response dated 25.11.2013. 


The AG, inter-alia, advised that in view of the fact that on 4.12.2013, M/s AWIL, UK has given notice to nominate an Arbitrator within thirty days and the consequences of not appointing an Arbitrator would be quite serious, therefore, there does not appear to be any choice but to nominate an arbitrator. ...(Interruptions)... He stated that it is also necessary at this stage to issue termination/cancellation letter simultaneously or even prior to nomination of an Arbitrator. ...(Interruptions)... Accordingly, as per the advice of the AG, the contract was cancelled on 1.1.2014 and all the guarantees / bonds were invoked. ...(Interruptions)... The warranty bond, the performance bond, the IPBG were encashed in full after court proceedings. However, against an advance payment of Euro 250.32 million given to M/s AWIL, only an amount of Euro 199.62 million towards delivery of three helicopters, were recovered. 

In addition, the Government also suffered an estimated loss and damages of Euro 398.21 million. ...(Interruptions)... From the appearance of media reports about alleged wrongdoings in February, 2012... ..

It took nearly two years to cancel the contract, and, that too, primarily as a response to an arbitration request by the supplier. .

 In fact, the very delivery of the first 3 aircrafts could have been avoided. ...(Interruptions)... We must ask ourselves as to why... ...(Interruptions)... 9 Uncorrected / Not for Publication 04.05.2016 

When even though the reports of wrongdoing and unethical conduct by M/s Finmeccanica in connection with the purchase of these helicopters and initiation of preliminary investigation against the company in Italy surfaced since February, 2012... ...(Interruptions)... 

.....followed by a report of arrest of M/s Finmeccanica Chief, ...(Interruptions)... the action of putting on hold all procurement/acquisition cases in the pipeline with the entire Finmeccanica Group of Companies and other companies figuring in CBI FIR was approved on file by the then RM only on 12.05.2014 towards the fag end of the then Government's tenure. 

As regards the issue of alleged substantial disregard and extensive delay in providing necessary documents by the Ministry in the Criminal court proceedings at Milan, it is stated that the documents were not in the custody of the MoD but in the custody of CBI before MoD became a civil party to the criminal proceedings at Milan. ...

Sir, vide its letter dated 12.02.2014, it has executed the LRs received from Italy on 27.01.2014. ...(Interruptions)... As far as the investigation by the CBI and the ED is concerned, it is strange that the CBI which registered an FIR in the matter on 12th March, 2013, based on the reference made by the 11 Uncorrected / Not for Publication 04.05.2016 Ministry of Defence on 12th February, 2013, did not bother to forward a copy of the FIR to Enforcement Directorate for nine months. ...(Interruptions)... It was only in December, 2013, that is, after a gap of nine months, CBI forwarded the FIR to Enforcement Directorate. 

Even more strangely, the Enforcement Directorate did not act on the FIR in July, 2014. It appears that invincible hand was guiding the actions or inactions by CBI and ED. 

 After the present Government took over, CBI and Enforcement Directorate have been vigorously pursuing all aspects of the investigation ..........including the arrests and/or extradition of three foreign nationals, namely, Mr. Carlo Gerosa, Mr. Guido Haschke and Mr. Christian Michel James. 

Red Corner Notices were issued in December, 2015 and January, 2016 ....Extradition request has also been made for Mr. Christian Michel James. ..(Interruptions).. One of the agencies has arrested an Indian national and attached property worth Rs. 11 13 Uncorrected / Not for Publication 04.05.2016 crores belonging to Indian nationals and Mr. Christian Michel James. ..

Pursuant to the judgment of Milan Appellate Court, Ministry of Defence have written to both the ED and the CBI to take into account the contents of the judgment and conclude the investigations expeditiously. ..(Interruptions).. MoD is initiating the process of blacklisting the concerned companies.

 It is most obvious to the entire nation that M/s AWIL was favoured at every stage. ..(Interruptions).. Even after the conclusion of the contract, when reports of wrong doing and unethical practices started appearing in February, 2012 and thereafter, ..(Interruptions).. 14 Uncorrected / Not for Publication 04.05.2016 SHRI ANAND SHARMA: Sir, after 6 o'clock, you have to take the sense of the House. ..(Interruptions).. When will the Members seek clarifications on the Statement? 

It was only after the arrest of Mr. Orsi by Italian Authorities, the matter was referred to CBI for investigation. .. Even after handing over the matter to CBI ..(Interruptions).. no concrete action was taken to terminate the contract till January, 2014. ..(Interruptions).. 

 MoD had no option but to cancel the contract based on legal advice ..(Interruptions).. 

On the verge of completion of the 2014 general election. ..(Interruptions).. If the then Government had acted in right earnest and took proactive action immediately after appearance of reports of wrong doing ..

... the country would not have been saddled with delivery of three helicopters in December, 2012 and the entire advance payment could have been recovered. 

The previoius Government recognized this and approved putting on hold of the group in May, 2014 and the present Government passed the order. ..(Interruptions).. The Italian court judgement also unequivocally accepts and on that basis has passed jail sentences against involved individuals that the deal involved bribery and corruption. 

The Italian court judgement has outlined the payment of bribes to decision makers in India, in the bureaucracy, political establishment and the Air Force. The text of the judgement also makes reference to various individuals such as Tyagi family as well as some bureaucrats. 

The central matter in this issue is that of corrupt practices. Hence the main action required is to trace, detect and unmask the means of these corrupt practices and bribery through a thorough enquiry and investigation by agencies.

Given the above background, this inquiry
will necessarily focus on the roles of those named in the judgement of
the Italian court. ..(Interruptions).. It is also important for ensuring a
comprehensive investigation that any individuals with involvement in the
AgustaWestland deal, even in tertiary manner, are removed from any direct or indirect role in investigation. ..

The Government will leave no stone
unturned to bring to justice those that have committed this corrupt act
against our national interest.