Over 10% ministers in Modi’s new council women | India News – Times of India

India News: NEW DELHI: Women ministers constitute over 10 per cent of the Union council of ministers sworn in on Thursday.
— Read on timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/over-10-ministers-in-modis-new-council-women/articleshow/69587306.cms

Union Cabinet 2019: Modi changes 40% of Ministry; debutants hog the show | India News – Times of India

India News: In Modi’s new Cabinet, one-third of the total ministers are debutants, including BJP president Amit Shah and former foreign secretary S Jaishankar
— Read on timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/union-cabinet-modi-changes-40-of-ministry-debutants-hog-the-show/articleshow/69592277.cms

Cabinet Ministers of India 2019: Full list of Union ministers with portfolios in Narendra Modi Cabinet | India News – Times of India

India News: The government On Friday announced the portfolios of the Union ministers with BJP President Amit Shah being named home minister while Rajnath Singh wi
— Read on timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/union-cabinet-2019-complete-list-of-portfolios/articleshow/69593860.cms

Amit Shah: EVM का विरोध देश की जनता के जनादेश का अनादर है। हार से बौखलाई यह 22 पार्टियां देश की लोकतांत्रिक प्रक्रिया पर सवालिया निशान उठा कर विश्व में देश और अपने लोकतंत्र की छवि को धूमिल कर रही है। मैं इन सभी पार्टियों से कुछ प्रश्न पूछना चाहता हूं।

twitter.com/amitshah/status/1131145457659305984

On the Campaign Trail-14: May 8 Bhopal: Running into the Adversary

May 8, 2019:  Running into the Adversary – an Interesting Experience

Today, at some point our coordinator, Vikas Jain had to take an hour off to finish his business work so he left Balbirbhai and me at Hotel J.W. Marriott to wait.  While we were sitting in the lounge, the elevator doors opened and seven sophisticated ladies stepped out. One of them came close to us, noticed my Modi in America (from Sept. 2014) t-shirt and stopped in her tracks. She blurted out, “I was going to ask you to vote for Congress but you seem to be a Modi person.” I replied in affirmative and asked her why she was campaigning for Congress.   She gave some feeble reasons like how Modi was a dictator, how women were unsafe in her rule, how farmers were compelled to suicide, etc. and I was countering her; I reminded her about Indira Gandhi’s emergency rule, Gandhi family’s hold on the party, etc. she was uncomfortable so she said, ‘you have to talk to our Neta (pointing to an older lady), I am a small neta.” My reply was ‘in our group, we are all workers, no one is a Neta.’

The so called Neta was quite abrasive and rude. She didn’t want to engage in a discussion. I told her that we could be civil and discuss our opinions rationally and that we didn’t have to agree with each other. While the junior neta was willing to talk, the elder one stopped her, saying they had a meeting to attend (most likely true) and that it was a waste of time to talk with us. somehow, I sweet-talked them into having a group photo and we parted with, ‘may the best Man (woman) win.’ She agreed to meet at the same hotel on 23rd to have a party paid for by the losing team.  Only later on, I came to know that one of the ladies was Mrs. Digvijay Singh and one was his sister,

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From left, Self, then the lady with the glasses was the senior Neta, next is Digvijay Singh’s sister, then Amrita Singh,(Mrs. Digvijay Sing,h), Balvir Taqndel, the junior neta. The person on the right is Vikas Jain,

If Kejriwal were to see this photo, he would surely say, “Arre Bhai, Sub mile huye hain jee!”

On the Campaign Trail-13: May 8 Bhopal: Meeting with Trade Associations

May 8, 2019: Meeting with Trade Associations

An independent group was engaged in making systematic calls to the opinion makers, leaders of several organizations in the Bhopal constituency. The callers were trained to note down in detail their conversation and points/issues raised by the person at the other end. Then one young woman would call the person next day addressing his concerns. This created an impression that “someone cared enough to look into our concerns and call back.”  Such leaders have a hold on several members of their organization/ association/group. This would hopefully translate into votes in favor of BJP candidate. The person who conceived the idea, put together a team and infrastructure, using his own funds without any show or pomp expects that his efforts would bring Sadhwiji 25,000 votes. His emissaries would visit these influential leaders for a one on one.

I was fortunate to be on this team for a day of campaigning. We met with the leaders and some merchants of four trade associations. These were Retail Merchants Association in Market 10, Sanitary and Tiles Merchants Association, Plywood Industry Association and  Iron Merchants Association.  Shri Vikas Jain, a successful builder and BJP’s local coordinator led our team. Another member was Shri Balvir Tandel, a BJP worker from Navsari, Gujarat. Almost all of the people we met over a four  hour period were positive for BJP though they had some concerns about BJP’s performance at the local level.

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With the leaders of the Plywood Industry Association. There were 20+ merchants from this trade at the meeting.

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With the president of Iron Merchants Association, giving their staff booklet on BJP’ government’s initiatives.

This campaign was totally different than the one yesterday. Here we were meeting with people who were well to do and well informed. They were also upset with the Hindu Terror tag. They all promised that besides talking with their members, they would encourage all neighbors to vote and vote early.

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with the leaders of Sanitaryware and Tiles Merchants Association. On Extreme left is Vikas Jain and second from right is Balvir Tandel.

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With the leaders of Market 10 Retail Merchants Association

All in all, this was a productive day.

On the Campaign Trail-11: May 7 Bhopal: Door to Door Campaign in Jhopadpatti

May 7, 2019 in Bhopal: Door to door campaign in Jhopadpatti (Basti, Slum)

I had to make several calls to find out where I should report and what I should be doing. I walked down to Sadhwiji’s election office (in the same complex) and met the contact I was given, He bounced me off to someone else. There was real chaos and it seemed that they were overwhelmed by the influx of the volunteers and were not well prepared. There were volunteers from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Karnataka, etc. One estimate was that there were 200 volunteers from out of state.

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Shri Komal Bisht, a volunteer. he had traveled all the way from Uttarakhand. He is doing remarkable work for the farmers of Uttrakhand and is involved in organic farming. We built a good rapport. he had offered me to take campaigning in BHEL area (where he was staying). I agreed initially but later opted out because I don’t feel too safe on a two-wheeler (in that traffic) and I avoid riding if I do not have the helmet.

This was unusual but also natural because Bhopal had assumed national importance due to BJP fielding Sadhwiji strategically against a villain, Digvijay Singh who had a big role in giving currency to the phrase Hindu Terror.

As Amit Shah said, this is BJP’s Satyagraha against the manufactured Hindu terror. We felt that it was important to win this seat, notwithstanding lack of political acumen of Sadhwiji because a victory here would put to rest Hindu Terror narrative for good. On the contrary, a loss would cement the Hindu Terror allegation. This is what we hammered wherever we went.

A nearby bungalow was used as a dormitory for the volunteers. One day, there were more volunteers than could be accommodated so they put ou coats under a canopy in the open ground.  The dormitory had a kitchen where the cooking was going on, on and on.  Sitting on the ground with folded legs and eating simple food with fingers (no luxury of spoons) itself was an experience and told me how far we have moved away from the common man.

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Front of Sadhwiji’s election office

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The scene in the front of Sadhwi Pragya Ji’s residence and election office. There was a constant flow of vehicles, media, and the volunteers

After an interminable wait from 10 am to 3:30 pm, during which I had a chance to meet Upama, sister of Sadhwiji who was coordinating on several fronts, I found a group that was about to leave for campaigning in a slum area. They had one seat available in the vehicle so I jumped in. Between two vehicles, we were 15-15 people. There were three ladies among us, two of which were “sadhwis”. There was also a guruji who had come from Maharashtra/Haryana.

We reached the chosen area shortly. I have forgotten the name of the Jhopadpati/jhuggi/slum but it was close to Chunar Bhatti area. The whole basti is on a hillock and going up and down was difficult; with debris around and water flowing down very narrow streets, there was always the danger of slipping. There were many bylanes and turns so it was easy to lose sight of your group if you fell behind as I often did as I stopped to talk with people and also take pictures.

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Since the basti is built on a hillock, it was a tough going

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Squalid residences, overflowing dirty water in the streets, etc. area norm in these slums

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This is where people live

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It is hard to imagine that this a “normal” scene in a basti

While the houses (mostly one-room tenements) were in good shape, there was hardly any breathing space. lanes were so narrow that you had to walk single file at times. Though this kind of living conditions and much worse exist all over Bharat and I was not new to it, I kept wondering, when would the real Vikas reach to these people? We, as the campaigners talk about all the nice schemes, Balakot, and defense of the nation, etc., but could these mass of humanity eeking out a living on subhuman conditions, care about those things? Could they be bothered by whether it is NDA or UPA government ruling?

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Navigating narrow lanes of the basti near Chunabhatti

Our group was enthusiastic and we were distributing pamphlets to every door; some of us talked briefly with the residents but a majority were just interested in giving out the literature and moving on. There were periodic shouts of Jay Shree Ram. There were some residents, who were already active with BJP. Some were nonchalant and some were critical of the local government.

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Walking single file

We finished the round of the basti in about half an hour. Then we came down to the main road and started giving out the pamphlets to the shop owners and the passersby. There was a tea stall cum house where a few ladies and men were sitting and our “Sadhwi” lady, who held some important post in Durgavahini in Delhi started talking about BJP (by this time, the rest of the group had moved on)and a couple of women pointed out BJP’s deficiencies. The sadhwi lost her cool and argued vehemently without any success. Finally, she scoffed at them, called them “Congressis” and said I know you guys would vote for Rahul. Then she left in a huff.  I was witness to this most childish behavior. Such campaigners do more harm than good. I stayed back, talked with the group and apologized for the lady’s behavior. I made a point that we could differ but we could have civilized discourse. Those ladies said that they were visiting from another part of the state and had already voted and voted for BJP. Overenthusiastic campaigners are more dangerous than underperforming ones!

We ended the campaign by visiting the other side of the basti which was separated by a wall and was probably built later on. While people were praising their Congress municipal counselor Pravin Saxena in the first basti, here they were unhappy with him.  An aged lady complained to us that she was a widow but didn’t get the pension.  Upon further inquiry, I found that she had lost the death certificate of her husband and couldn’t apply for pension benefits. I explained to her about how an affidavit (“Dakhaka” in local parlance) can be made but she was resigned to the fate as she hailed from a bordering village from Maharashtra and didn’t have a support system. I also came to know that if one is over 60 years of age, one can’t register for the employment scheme.

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The local worker from this slum accompanying us told us that this garbage has piled up since the government changed in M.P. I doubt it because the garbage disposal is not a state subject, it is a municipal responsibility.

When we were talking, there was a young Muslim woman selling bangles to the ladies there. As I was encouraging the ladies to vote for BJP, putting aside their local grievances, that Muslim lady said, Modi hi Aayega.

As I was about to leave, I saw one of my colleagues trying to convince a young man to vote for BJP. The guy was opposed to BJP, more likely a die-hard Congress supporter. It was interesting to note how negative campaigning takes place. When I asked him why he would vote for a non-BJP person he said,” my relative in such and such place told me that in his village BJP took out Rs.350 from the bank account of anyone who voted against BJP.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the sheer ignorance of the gentleman.

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We had a long track back to the karyalaya.The group enjoying tea at a roadside stall

This was the end of the day’s campaign. We tracked back two miles to the office, stopping in between to encourage street side vendors and hawkers to vote for BJP. Most of them had made up their mind to vote for BJP.

On the Campaign Trail-15: May 9 Bhopal: Meeting the Nishad community

May 9, 2019, The last day in Bhopal: Meeting with Nishad community

Early this morning, my host Ajay Ji took me to his farmhouse situated about 20 KM outside of Bhopal. Farmhouses are not a big deal but the reason I wanted to go there was to see firsthand work done by Ajay Ji for the upliftment of the village. Three years back he had made a presentation at a GIBV seminar about his efforts to empower the villagers.

 

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The grounds of this government schools are developed wit planted trees and a playground by Ajay Mehta with his own funds.

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At the farm of Dr. Ajay Shankar Mehta. He has transformed the village with his own efforts and funds.

Ajay Ji has built three lakes to store rainwater, built a road, encouraged children to go to school and runs children’s camps. The success rate is quite high. Determination of one man can do wonders.

upon our return from the farmhouse, we went to the Hanuman temple in the development where I was staying. There I had a chance meeting with Sadhwi Pragya Ji who had come to offer an Aarati.

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Sadhwiji performing Aarati

 

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Myself and Dr. Ajay Shankar Mehta (my host) with Sadhwiji

I also had the pleasure to meet with the young leaders one more time.

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Being with young keeps you young! I am flanked by MoMo (Modi Once More) group’s leaders Rekha Sharma and Sumit Tripathi

From electioneering point of view, my last day in Bhopal was mostly wasted. The day before, we had decided to meet at 2 PM, to go around to meet more business leaders.  Since I was going to be home till then, the host insisted that I take lunch at their home before leaving. however, as I was about to sit down for lunch, I got a call that we had to leave right away (11:15 AM) and I should rush. So I skipped lunch and went over to the office. We piled in the car and were driven to where all government offices and secretariat are. At short notice, it was decided to canvass the government employees during their lunch hour and also have accompanying rickshaw with a P.A. system. There was already some confusion because Digvijay Singh was also supposed to be there for a rally, We waited for a long time while our leader tried to get the vehicle with the P.A. system to come where we were; it never happened. We wasted 90 minutes and in the meantime, Digvijay Singh’s caravan came in, so we decided to postpone the idea to next day. It was a super hot day, so a glass of cold sugarcane juice did wonders.  Our leader contacted several businesses for setting up meetings but was not successful. So he left us at BJP election headquarters (different than Sadhwiji’s election office) to relax. The place had big air coolers but it was pretty much deserted. A couple of guys were taking a nap on sofas. maybe, rest were in the field.

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Outside of the BJP election office

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BJP Election Headquarters, Bhopal

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Various banners of Sadhwi Pragya Ji

F

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Advertisement on a bus stand

finally, at 6:30 PM we were asked to go to a Muslim dominated area where a Hindu Nishad community (fishermen) lived. There are only a handful of families that live near the Muslim majority area but they were determined and strong. A group of lady volunteers that we had accompanied took the local ladies to go for door to door campaign in that difficult terrain.

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Nishad community members receiving us

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Outside volunteers (like us) listening to the host families

 

 

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I am appraising them about efforts made by NRIs

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NaMo is now really a brand! This is a store at Bhopal airport

I took an early morning flight back to Varanasi, this time, via Hyderabad!

On the Campaign Trail-12: May 7 Bhopal: An Eye-Opening Experience

May 7, 2019: An eye-opening experience

in the previous blog, I wrote about my campaign experience in a slum area. I met a lady who was quite vocal. I asked her permission to record her and she readily agreed. Here you can listen to her praising the Congress municipal counselor for getting them water connection and electricity.

What remained unrecorded was, in the ned, she said she will vote for Modi. Since she was all praise for the Congress, I asked her, why? her answer was, ‘because Modi works for the people.’

May 7 Evening, on the way home from campaigning- Lighter Moment

I saw this billboard. I never realized that making Ravan, Kumbhkarna, etc. could be a big business. Somehow, looking at the billboard, I thought about Digvijay Singh, the evil promoter of Hindu Terror bogey. But then, isn’t Congress and the secular gang in the business of creating Ravanas of all kinds since before the independence?

Zoom to read the billboard

May 7 night: An Exhilarating Experience, listening to Dr.Vinay Sahasrabuddhe

I was very fortunate to have an opportunity to attend a talk by Dr. Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, the BJP Vice President in charge of Madhya Pradesh. The meet was organized by the Medical Association of Bhopal for the doctors and the Medical students. Since my hosts, Ajay Shankar and Savitabahen both are doctors, I went along as their guest. I estimated the standing room only audience at about 500. संवाद देश के नाम (Samvaad, Desh Ke Naam). In a 45 minute talk, he carefully, lucidly and seamlessly laid out the case for Modi government’s achievements on various fronts. One thing that caught my attention was when he said that the BJP had made promises on 545 points/plans. They studied the promises at the end of four and a half years and 460 of the promises were met. he gave examples of how archaic rules were changed, how doing business with the government was made easier, how the decisions were taken efficiently and in a timely manner, etc. his Hindi was pure and almost poetic. I am happy to note that BJP has many stalwarts who are able to paint the canvass of the success of the Modi government on all fronts. Besides Dr. Sahasrabuddhe, I have listened to Nitin Gadkari, Smriti Irani, Peeyush Goyal, and Nirmala Sitharaman and each one is in a class of his/her own.

On the Campaign Trail-10: May 6, 7, 8, and 9 Bhopal, MP Sadhvi Pragya Sinh Thakur’s Constituency

May 6, 2019 evening Shivaram Singh’s Roadshow in Bhopal

I flew into Bhopal from Varanasi on May 6th afternoon. It was a circuitous route. I had to fly all the way to Bangalaru, wait three hours and then fly to Bhopal. So, an ordinarily two-hour journey took eight hours. Of course, it was a delight to see Bangalaru’s world-class airport. I was last in Bangalaru in 2006, when the airport was nondescript.

My hosts were Drs. Ajay Shankar and Savita Mehta. I have known them for some time as Ajaybhai is involved with our NGO, Global Indians for Bharat Vikas (GIBV) and he is also, the younger brother of my good friend and the general secretary of Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), Sanjay Mehta. my four-day stay at their home was enjoyable and Ajaybhai’s guidance proved invaluable. The whole family is dedicated to Rashtra Nirman.

Through Ajaybhai’s efforts, I was connected to a youth group, MoMo (Modi Once More), that was participating that evening in Shivraj Singh’s roadshow. I was dropped at Curfewwala mandir chawk (interesting name, isn’t it?) It was jammed pack with the evening traffic and the enthusiastic and swelling crowd of BJP supporters. It was muggy and quite hot too even at 7 PM.  There were a couple of experts who were wrapping Safa (a headgear using a long piece of colored cloth) on the team members. you can see me in the headgear in the photos.

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The young leaders of MoMo group. Rekha Sharma (on the left) was dynamic and full of vigor. Sushant Kaushal took my care as if he were my son. He held onto my hand most of the time to make sure that I wouldn’t get separated. Such loving people!

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A sea of saffron Safas (headgear)!

There were drums, band, lighted canopies, balloons, flowers, and all the paraphernalia that go into making a roadshow, a “show.” The noise was deafening and the surge of the crowd was crushing.  We had to wait for a good two hours before the caravan of Shivraj Singh Ji, the ex-chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, arrived from another rally which was about 100 KMs away. Shivraj Singh Ji is popularly known as Mama.  He was quite hassled and looked tired but energetic. Once his roadshow was on the way, we decamped for our own destinations.

These roadshows are unique to Bharat as I haven’t witnessed such things in the USA. I do not know if such shows help change the voter’s mind in favor of a particular party or a candidate but it does help build up momentum and enthuse the cadres.

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You feel young in such settings, no matter what is your chronological age.

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The Roadshow is about to start

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They put a t-shirt four sizes smaller on me (only one available), but hey! Who cares. I was proud to don it along with the scarf and the safa.

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The Dhol competition and spirited, impromptu dance by Rekha Sharma

A glimpse of the Josh!

One reason, there was so much interest, was the candidacy of Sadhwi Pragya Sinh Thakur, who has become a symbol of Satyagraha against  Hindu Terror bogey crafted by the Willey Congress party and promoted by Digvijay Singh, who as the Congress candidate for Bhopal is Sadwiji’s Bete Noire.

I reached my host picked me up and we reached home after 9 PM. At about 11:30 pm we went back to Sadhwiji’s residence and waited for her. She was out campaigning and returned only after 12:30 AM. She was totally exhausted so Dr. Ajay Mehta introduced me to her briefly and we decided to meet again. I conveyed to her that hundreds of volunteers from across the globe were working for her victory.

 

 

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