UP there with Bihar
By: Faisal Fareed
In Uttar Pradesh this coming year, a lot of eyes will be on Bihar. The ruling Samajwadi Party here is the largest party to have entered the Janata Parivar forged in the neighbouring state, and it will be watching anxiously to see how it holds off the BJP in the Bihar polls.
The results will be even more crucial for SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, anointed the leader of the group.
A defeat will be a major boost for the BJP. The party is not likely to miss a chance to underline that even a united opposition could not beat it.
Given its unprecedented performance in the state in the general elections, PM Narendra Modi faces a tough task retaining the party’s support base here. So far it has been a mixed run, with the party running into controversy over “love jihad” and conversion campaigns and finding it difficult to control its leaders. The BJP’s tall claims of development will also be tested in the coming year.
Mayawati is yet to get over the BSP’s tally of zero in the Lok Sabha polls, and now is fighting a contest over her loyal vote bank. The Dalits are being wooed both by the BJP and the SP, particularly as part of the new Janata Parivar.
The coming Legislative Council polls will further underline the BSP’s decline. The party’s tally will fall by 14 in the House, as the SP increases its to 37 from 21 in the 100-member House, including nine nominations.
With elections only due in 2017, Mayawati has to fight hard to remain relevant as the BJP takes up the entire opposition space.
That brings us to the Congress, which seems to have surrendered completely. Reduced to 2 from 22 in the state in the Lok Sabha polls, it has shown no signs of putting its house in order, forget a revival. With no workers and only leaders left in the state Congress, whose bonhomie with the ruling SP has raised many eyebrows, some even see a battle for the party’s very identity.
The coming year will also be crucial for smaller outfits such as the RLD headed by Ajit Singh and his son Jayant Choudhary. Having lost the Lok Sabha polls, they are battling to hold on to their base.
Meanwhile, there is another small party on the horizon: Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen). As Muslims show disenchantment with the SP, he is one of those waiting to cash in.
Focus on new capital, farmers
By: Sreenivas Janyala
After a bitter parting from Telangana in 2014, Andhra Pradesh is now looking ahead. The task for the Telugu Desam Party government is clear-cut. The coming year will witness the new capital city shaping up near Vijayawada and unless CM N Chandrababu Naidu and his team, assisted by Singapore government agencies, get it right, it would impact Naidu’s and TDP’s future in the state.
Although there are teething problems in the land pooling scheme to secure land to build the new capital, with farmers in some villages unhappy with the compensation package, the real test for the TDP government is in boosting agriculture produce and helping farmers hit by poor rain and cyclone Hudhud.
The issue of rehabilitation and delay in paying compensation for the cyclone-affected has also given the main Opposition, YSR Congress Party led by Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, a handle to target the TDP government.
While the TDP is trying to implement its poll promises like farm loan waiver, round-the-clock power supply and increased government pensions, lack of funds is hampering proper implementation.
Failure in addressing these issues will only strengthen the YSRCP. Already, the YSRCP chief has threatened to launch an agitation in support of farmers, alleging that the TDP is forcefully taking away their land to build the new capital.
Next year will also see Chandrababu Naidu’s son N Lokesh, who usually remains in the background, become more visible as he starts taking stock of welfare schemes being implemented by the TDP. Although Naidu has a good rapport with the BJP with which he had tied-up for the May 2014 elections, the latter’s attempts to establish itself and gain political ground may sour the relations.
A new metro rail is being planned in the Vijayawada-Guntur-Tenali-Mangalagiri region. The AP government is wooing investors from Japan, Singapore, US and many other foreign countries. The state’s progress depends on how successful Naidu would prove to be in attracting them. Conceptualising and designing the master plan for the new capital city will take at least another five months before the foundation stone is laid.
Jaya sentencing creates void
By: Arun Janardhanan
Tamil Nadu is heading into a period of major political realignments. With J Jayalalithaa’s sentencing putting the ruling AIADMK on the backfoot, leaving in place a lame duck CM who has not even put his own nameplate on the door, the million-dollar question in TN politics is who is going to gain from this come the 2016 Assembly polls?
A senior AIADMK leader admitted that they feared the BJP would get to their cadres if uncertainty over Jayalalithaa persists. Since she obtained bail in October, the AIADMK chief has not attended a single party function or political meeting. She has reportedly been advised to curtail political activities till her appeal hearings in the Karnataka High Court are over.
The BJP may have hoped to take up the opposition space, but the alliances it had forged are strained over various issues. The MDMK has already left the fold while S Ramadoss’s PMK routinely issues statements against PM Narendra Modi. A PMK leader said they had made it clear to the BJP that Anbumani Ramadoss should be projected as the next CM candidate for the alliance to continue.
He also said that the PMK would be not be averse to aligning with the DMK. Given this rift in the BJP camp, and that the MDMK may also go with it, the DMK is expected to be the game changer. There is talk that the party may also seek to get back M K Alagiri to put own house in order.
In such a scenario, the Tamil Manila Congress (Moopanar) floated by G K Vasan may be the only party willing for an alliance with the AIADMK. The Congress, Vasan’s former party, doesn’t believe that will be too much of a loss given that he is yet to prove his mettle.
Deadline close, BJP asks Gov for more time
By: Arun Sharma
The BJP Thursday sought some more days from the Governor over government formation in Jammu and Kashmir, but hinted at its likely tie-up with the PDP, saying “talks” with prospective alliance partner have already started.
“People of J&K have given mandate for government formation to how many parties?” asked BJP state president and sitting MP Jugal Kishore Sharma, when asked to name the outfit with which the saffron party has begun talks. He was talking to the reporters after meeting Governor N N Vohra over government formation.
In the 87-member Assembly, PDP has 28 members, followed by BJP (25), NC (15), Congress (12) and others (7). These parties, as per constitutional provisions, have time till January 19 to form new government, otherwise President’s rule would have to be imposed.
“We sought time from Governor for submission of our proposal,” Sharma said. “We told the Governor that people have given mandate for government formation in favour of BJP and we were working in that direction.Our talks for having a stable government have started.”
Sharma was accompanied by Avinash Rai Khanna, in charge of BJP’s affairs in the state, besides party state general secretary and newly elected MLA Dr Nirmal Singh.
“Whatsoever alliance comes into existence, BJP wants it to be a stable one,” he said, adding that the party did not want to act in haste. “It may take some time if government has to be made for the welfare of the people… We told the Governor that the party wants some more time so that its talks reach some logical conclusion.’’
Will fight tooth and nail to foil a PDP, BJP tie-up: Separatists
By: Bashaarat Masood
With the PDP warming up to BJP to form a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, the separatists have started building pressure against any such alliance.
“He (Mufti Mohammad Sayeed) is deliberating on tying up with communal and anti-Kashmir party BJP just for the lust of power,” Hurriyat leader Shabir Ahmad Shah said on Thursday. “People didn’t vote for the PDP patron so he could tie up with the Sangh Parivar”.
This is the first time separatists have spoken on the issue since the Assembly election results threw up a fractured mandate and BJP emerged as a strong contender for power.
Shah maintained that “pro-India” political parties such as the PDP, National Conference and the Congress are “different faces of the same coin”, and added that the people of the Valley will resist any such alliance. “(We) will fight tooth and nail against any such communal attempt aimed at eroding the special status of J&K or its demographic change,” he said.
On Wednesday, firebrand woman separatist leader Syeda Aasia Andrabi said the way BJP is trying to come to power is “part of the long-term programme of right-wing Hindus”, and asked people to remain vigilant.
Modi picks secy in earth sciences ministry as interim ISRO chief
By: Johnson T A
An old ISRO hand with roots in Gujarat, 61-year-old Dr Shailesh Nayak, who is currently secretary in the Ministry of Earth Sciences, has been chosen by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to briefly hold the reins of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Department of Space following the retirement of Dr K Radhakrishnan on December 31.
Nayak, chairman of the earth commission, will be the secretary Department of Space, chairman ISRO and chairman of the space commission for an interim period of one month till a full-fledged chairman is chosen, officials in ISRO said quoting a government order.
The interim arrangement will see Nayak, a PhD holder in Geology from the M S University of Baroda, return to ISRO after a break of nearly eight years. He had served ISRO’s Space Application Centre as a scientist for 29 years from 1977 to 2006 before moving to the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
Radhakrishnan had been due to retire in August 2014 when he turned 65, but he was given a four-month extension by the Centre to see through programmes that had reached a critical stage, including the Mars mission.
Nayak will be the first earth sciences researcher to be in charge of ISRO. Past chairmen have had physics, aeronautical, communications or electronics engineering backgrounds and have been in charge of rocket or satellite development projects before being at the helm of ISRO. The interim chairman’s primary role will be to supervise ongoing programmes since no major launch or rocket tests are scheduled for the next month, ISRO sources said. “It is an interim arrangement at present for a duration of one month as per the government order,” sources said.
ISRO has had a tradition of grooming in house leaders to take over the mantle of guiding the space programme since the days of Prof Satish Dhawan (chairman from 1972-84). Only once in the past has an interim ISRO chairman been appointed — Prof M G K Menon who held additional charge as ISRO chairman for a few months in 1972 following the death of ISRO’s founding chairman Dr Vikram Sarabhai.
Like Nayak, Radhakrishnan had also served in the Ministry of Earth Sciences before returning to ISRO to be chairman. Nayak has also been a director at the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services and the Indian National Tsunami Warning System. According to Nayak’s biodata, he “conceptualised, installed and operationalised the tsunami early warning system for India”.
The scientist, who researched the geology of bauxite deposits in the Kutch and Valsad districts of Gujarat for his PhD, also initiated efforts because of which “the forecast for weather, climate and hazards has improved considerably”. Significantly, Nayak also delivered the inaugural address at a SAARC seminar on “High Impact Weather Events and their Prediction over the SAARC Region” in December 2013.
With using space science as a tool for regional diplomacy a clearly stated strategic goal of the PM, the appointment of Nayak, who believes in larger societal uses for space technology, could be part of a larger plan, said ISRO insiders.