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During the various phases of polling in Uttar Pradesh, Congress leaders used to gauge Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance's prospects — success or failure — through "measure of happiness" which PK showed.
PK, in this case, has nothing to do with Aamir Khan's movie, but to do with Prashant Kishor, external poll strategist for Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party. After extensively covering the election in Uttar Pradesh, on return to Delhi, this writer met some Congress leaders of varying hierarchical levels. They were curious to know how the elections were progressing, but they had the same thing to say: "That could be your assessment, but we are going to win these election, our coalition would be the single largest. PK is very happy, his team is very happy. We have done very well in four-five phases of polling. Look at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's level of desperation that he had to camp in his own parliamentary constituency in Varanasi for three days. PK is very clear that we are winning it."

It didn't matter to them that khat sabha for Rahul Gandhi's month-long campaign in UP had ended in a fiasco, his idea to project a tired outsider Sheila Dikshit as a Brahmanical mascot and chief ministerial candidate, the slogan '27 saal UP behal' and the subsequent electoral alliance with Samajwadi Party, has raised an umpteen number of questions on his and Congress strategist's wisdom. The Congress workers, whose grassroots connections have been questionable, started celebrating a bit too early. Stitching an alliance with Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party was a kind of victory for them and several reports in the media was leaked suggesting that the alliance was a result of Sonia Gandhi's intervention, Rahul Gandhi's prudence and Priyanka Gandhi's hard work, as also the perseverance and push of PK. Some Congress leaders told the correspondent, "See what PK has achieved for us. Earlier, nobody was considering us to be a player, now everyone is talking about Congress and Rahul Gandhi." They conveniently forgot that it's a folly in marketing terms when a backroom strategist becomes bigger than the brand itself.

After all, after Bihar election, PK had acquired a larger than life persona. He was the chief strategist for Nitish Kumar. Lalu Yadav-Nitish Kumar-Congress combine had humbled Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. Prior to that, PK fans had credited him with Modi's victory in 2014 parliamentary elections. In 2015, he was even credited for selecting and rejecting names of probable ministers in Nitish Kumar-Tejashwi Yadav government.
He had suddenly become a cherished brand creator. He was required everywhere and became a Raj guru of sorts for Rahul. He acquired an unbeatable image. He had no other parallel in Indian political electoral strategy history. He seemed to be the one, who would replace actual election strategy and groundwork by table top strategy and his band of black T-shirt boys and girls, who would call the shots over seasoned Congressmen. The aura around PK that he could make anyone win an election — state or parliamentary — and the kind of offers that he was getting across political spectrum, barring Left and BJP, it remind one of the famous dialogue from the Shashi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan starrer Deewar: "Mere paas maa hai". In this case 'mere paas PK hai', came as the singular winning formula. Rahul and Congress thought their road to recovery passed through PK's room.

News source: First Post

Published in Politics

1404

Yuki Bhambri knocked out fifth seed and world number 147 Blaz Kavcic in straight sets to progress to the singles quarterfinals of the USD 50,000 ATP Challenger event. The unseeded Indian, playing under Protected Ranking (PR), beat his Serbian rival 6-1 6-4 in a second round match lasting an hour and 14 minutes. Ranked 341, Yuki next faces Argentina’s Agustin Velotti, who is ranked 190. The Indian broke his rival five times in the match and lost his serve only once. “I stayed solid and served well. I went for my shots when it was possible. I had good two wins and I am hoping to get more,” Yuki told PTI after the match. Yuki and Chennai Open winner Jeeven Nedunchezhiyan had lost the first round in the doubles event.

News source: Indian Express

Published in Sports

1403

American Bobby Wood had another game to remember on Sunday, scoring a late winner after his earlier goal was disallowed as Hamburger SV beat Borussia Moenchengladbach 2-1 to boost its Bundesliga survival chances. The 24-year-old Wood is steadily making a name for himself since joining Hamburg from German second-division team Union Berlin last summer. He struck with 10 minutes remaining when he left defender Jannik Vestergaard sprawling with a quick change of feet and then rifled the ball into the roof of the net from close range.

It was Wood’s fifth league goal of the season. The Hawaii-born forward has eight goals in 29 appearances for the US national team. ‘Gladbach defender Andreas Christensen had opened the scoring after 20 minutes with a header off Oscar Wendt’s free kick. Wood thought he’d equalized seven minutes later but the goal was ruled out for offside amid Hamburg protests after the linesman at first failed to raise his flag. The linesman further antagonized home fans with another offside decision ruling out Lewis Holtby’s lob over Yann Sommer. TV replays showed it was again the correct call. But there was nothing wrong with Filip Kostic’s header in off the post a minute later in the 36th, sparking relieved celebrations for Hamburg and prompting a wry smile from referee Deniz Aytekin with all the players looking in his direction. Hamburg ‘keeper Rene Adler pulled off two huge saves to deny Josip Drmic and then Patrick Herrmann in the first half. Hamburg had the ball in the net again in the second, and once more it was ruled out for offside, leaving Kyriakos Papadopoulos with his hands on his face. Again, it was the right call. Knowing that a win would draw the side level on points with relegation-rivals Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen, Hamburg kept pushing for the winner until Wood proved the hero. Hamburg remains in the relegation zone but only on goal difference. Ten rounds remain. “We should keep our focus, stay calm, humble. Then we’ll manage it and get the points we need,” Hamburg coach Markus Gisdol said.

SCHALKE 3, AUGSBURG 0

Guido Burgstaller scored twice as Schalke ended its three-game winless run in the league with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Augsburg. Winter signing Burgstaller got the home side off to a flying start in the fourth minute and claimed his second in the 29th. The normally reliable Paul Verhaegh then missed a penalty for Augsburg before Daniel Caligiuri scored at the other end. The visitors’ poor afternoon continued when striker Raul Bobadilla had to go off with an injury sustained in the challenge from Benedikt Hoewedes that led to the penalty. The second half proved just a formality. Max Meyer might have made it 4-0 before Hoewedes missed another good chance for the home side. “We lost the game in the first 45 minutes,” Augsburg coach Manuel Baum said. Schalke jumped two points above Augsburg into 11th place, while the visitors were just two points above the relegation zone after Hamburg’s win in the late game.

News source: Indian Express

Published in Sports

1402

In early December, Prajnesh Gunneswaran entered an Australian Open Wild Card playoff event semifinal against Denis Istomin – the man who would later go on to beat Novak Djokovic in the year’s first Grand Slam. Prajnesh would take the Uzbek to three sets, even holding three match points before losing out. Last week, the AITA’s selection committee announced the Indian team that would host Uzbekistan in the second round Asia/Oceania Group 1 Davis Cup tie in Bangalore next month. For all the world, it would have seemed a straight-forward pick: Ramkumar Ramanathan and Yuki Bhambri to play the four singles rubbers, and Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes to compete in the doubles match. But not the Uzbeks.

For them, Prajnesh’s inclusion will keep them curious, especially since he drove Uzbekistan’s best player to the edge just months ago. It gives India’s new non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi a third singles option. And given that Bhupathi has mentioned his leaning towards a three-singles-one-doubles formula, Prajnesh, in all likeliness, could win his first Davis Cup cap. He remembers the Istomin game well. “I was nervous before the game because I had never played anyone of that calibre before. But he’s no magician and is beatable. He likes to be on top of the ball and attacking, but not as much when it comes to defending,” he says. When it came to the three match points though, the world number 69 proved his stature. “I was being a bit cautious and he went for his shots,” he adds. It’s that experience of playing Istomin, who is now at the peak of his career, that holds Prajnesh in good stead when it comes to the Davis Cup. At 27, the southpaw is the eldest among the four singles players selected in the India team, which also includes N Sriram Balaji. But Prajnesh has played the least. Mainly due to the fact that he spent five years in and out of the game due to injuries that could initially not be diagnosed. “I did a bunch of tests but nothing would come up. Clinically, there were no issues, but I’d experience a lot of pain in my knees. Initially I’d push through the pain and then I had stress fractures. Then they figured out there was some muscle imbalances that was causing the problems,” Prajnesh recalled during the last tie at Pune where he was reserve. He remembers going through a phase where his playing strategy was simply based on how much pain he could take. “I was trying to play as often as I could. If I could push for two-three days then I would, and on the fourth if I couldn’t climb a flight of stairs, then I’d stop,” he says.

Giving up hope

There came a point when he did not touch a racquet for an entire year. In fact, according to his records on the ATP circuit, after turning professional in 2009, he did not play a single tournament till 2012. At the same time, the thought did strike him to forgo his hopes of a tennis career and instead embark on an MBA degree before joining the family business. But he decided to give his stop-start career one more shot. “At that point I was ranked somewhere in the 800s. I didn’t want to look back 20 years later and know that the highest I could ever reach was 800s. I felt I could do a lot better,” he says. That was back in 2015. A year later he played 19 tournaments – the most he has ever managed in a season, including a strong run to the final of a Challenger in Pune in October, his best-ever finish. “I played mostly Challengers that year. I could have played Futures, but figured I’m 27, so I need to get my ranking up and start taking risks. It worked out for me,” says the world number 342. It was a year that ended for him in China, in that semi-final against Istomin. If his performance in Pune gave him the indicator that his tennis was progressing, his match against the Uzbek gave him confidence to push on. “I didn’t feel out of my depth. It just showed me I’m in the right vicinity to play the big guys.” His progression up the ranks earned him his first call-up to the Davis Cup in September, for the tie against Spain where he served as a reserve. He came to Pune against New Zealand, just last month in the same capacity. But against Uzbekistan, where Istomin will be the most potent threat, Prajnesh might get his first look in.

News source: Indian Express

Published in Sports

1401

SYDNEY: A recall for one-Test pacer Pat Cummins has been a long time coming but New South Wales captain Moises Henriques believes it still might be too soon for the bowler he considers a "freak of nature".
Cummins may have only played one Test but his was a pretty impressive performance, taking 6-79 in the second innings to lead Australia to a two-wicket victory over South Africa at Wanderers in November 2011.
After more than five years of injury setbacks preventing his talent from blooming in the Test arena, the 23-year-old was called up to replace the injured Mitchell Starc in the squad for the last two matches in the series in India. A man-of-the-match performance on his return to first class cricket for the first time in six years last week was enough for selectors to give him the call, but his New South Wales captain was not so sure.
"I think Pat is a very special bowler, so in terms of skill-wise and if you want someone to play cricket for Australia, I think Pat Cummins is your man," Henriques told reporters on Monday.

"But whether he's ready physically on the back of one Shield game, that's a completely different kettle of fish. "There's a number of different factors when it comes into selecting guys to play for Australia in those sorts of conditions." Portuguese-born all-rounder Henriques made his Test debut against India in Chennai in 2013 and all four of his matches for his country were played on the continent. Perhaps a little piqued after the Australian selectors overlooked his own claims to call uncapped Marcus Stoinis into the squad as a replacement for the injured Mitchell Marsh last week, Henriques questioned their call on Cummins.

"It was only one Shield game earlier that he got ruled out and apparently he wasn't ready to play Shield cricket for NSW," he said. "Now on the back of one Shield game he's ready to play a Test series in India, that's their call. "Skill-wise, can he bowl at that level? 100 per cent he can. He's a freak of nature." Former Test pacer Geoff Lawson, a bowling coach at New South Wales, was equally bemused at the decision to call up Cummins after five years of Cricket Australia protecting the bowler. "They've already broken Pat once last year by bringing him back too early," Lawson told Fox Sports TV. "This is his third comeback from these stress fractures and they've picked him against the plan which has been intricately devised by a number of people, both at Cricket NSW and Cricket Australia. "The plan was not for him to be playing in this Test series -- it was for him to be playing Sheffield Shield cricket. From that point of view it's Cricket Australia going against its own plans -- we're just hoping it turns out well." The series is level at 1-1 with the penultimate Test starting in Ranchi on Thursday.

News source: The Times of India

Published in Sports

1406

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emerged as a clear favourite for the

Published in Politics

1405

The United States Senate has confirmed Indian-American

Published in Politics

1404

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has been given charge of the Defence Ministry in addition to his Finance portfolio, to fill in for Manohar Parrikar who resigned as the Defence Minister in order to become the Chief Minister of the BJP government in Goa.

A press communiqué from Rashtrapati Bhawan read “As advised by the Prime Minister, the President has directed that Shri Arun Jaitley, cabinet minister, shall be assigned the charge of the Ministry of Defence, in addition to his existing portfolios.” Arun Jaitley was in charge of the Defence and Finance Ministries for the first three months after the NDA government took charge in 2014. Goa Governor Mridula Sinha has invited Parrikar to form the next government in the coastal state after he submitted a letter of support from 21 legislators on Sunday. Although the Congress was the single largest party in Goa with 17 seats in the 40-member legislative Assembly, the smaller parties have said they will not support the party to get it over the halfway mark of 21.

Senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram on Monday accused the BJP of "stealing" the elections in Goa and Manipur, saying a party which comes second has "no right" to form the government. Another Congress leader, Digvijay Singh, said it was the victory of money power over people's power. The Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Goa Forward Party (GFP), with three MLAs each, on Sunday, threw their support behind the BJP. Sudhin Dhavlikar, the leader of the MGP, even went as far as to say their support to the BJP was for the “development of Goa”. The BJP, which had formed the government in 2012, faced severe losses this year. Six of the eight cabinet ministers, including outgoing Chief Minister Laxminkant Parsekar, lost their own seats in the election. The BJP got 13 seats, four less than the Congress, while the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party got 3 seats, and the Goa Forward Party got 3 seats. There are three independents while the Nationalist Congress Party got 1 seat.

News source: News 18

Published in Politics

1403

New Delhi: Two and a half years ago Manohar Parrikar needed a bit of convincing to shift to Delhi as minister for Defence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, fresh off his thumping victory in the Lok Sabha elections, had to personally step in. This time around Parrikar may not have needed much encouragement to move back to Goa as chief minister. When election results started coming in on Saturday, it became clear that the BJP had lost its hard-won majority in the 40-member Goa state assembly. The Congress, with 17 MLAs, was tantalisingly close to the magic number of 12. BJP with 13 elected members was in second position, losing six out of eight sitting ministers, including Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar.

That was when the BJP looked towards its tallest leader and troubleshooter in Goa. Parrikar swept in after the poll results, and soon, support started pouring in for the BJP. The Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Goa Forward Party (GFP) with three MLAs each threw their lot in behind the BJP.

MGP leader Sudhin Dhavlikar went on to say the support to the BJP was for the “development of Goa”. Soon, the party top command gave the nod for Parrikar becoming CM again and he proceeded to meet the Governor in Panaji. This is not the first time the BJP has looked towards Parrikar in times of trouble. The defence minister has risen through the Sangh ranks, becoming a sanghchalak (local director) in his hometown of Mapusa by the age of 26. In the 1990s the IIT Bombay graduate became heavily involved in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and was one of its chief organizers in Goa. It is due to this background as a ground-level RSS worker that the Sangh places great trust in him. Parrikar's entry into active politics happened when he was “loaned” by the RSS to the BJP. He was brought in to counter the growing clout of the MGP – ironically it is the same MGP supporting him this year. By 1999, he was leader of opposition, and in 2000 he was sworn in as chief minister of Goa for a tenure which lasted only till February 2002. He was re-elected CM in June 2002 before his government was reduced to a minority in 2005. In 2007, BJP lost the election to a resurgent Congress. The loss did not deter Parrikar who scripted the BJP’s comeback in 2012. PM Modi is known to have great faith in Parrikar. After all, it was the Goa chief minister who had been the first to endorse him as the prime ministerial candidate in 2013 and since then that trust was always been reciprocated. On Tuesday Parrikar will be sworn in as chief minister of the coastal state for the fourth time. Ahead of him lies the challenge of running a ragtag coalition with wafer-thin majority.

News source: News 18

Published in Politics

1402

Mahatma Gandhi’s suggestion to 'dissolve the Congress party post independence' has often been used as a highly demeaning weapon by its rivals. Gandhi believed that, “Congress, in its present shape and form, i.e. as a propaganda vehicle and parliamentary machine, had outlived its use.” Many leaders – ranging from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa – have taken a dig at Congress and annoyed its leaders by quoting Gandhi's remark from 1948. With its rout in the latest Assembly elections, the national leadership of the Congress party seems to have partly fulfilled this wish of the father of the nation. What remains of a national party, that once dominated India like a colossus for nearly half a century since the first Lok Sabha elections in 1951, is an inconsequential vestige. The party has no chance in the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections due late this year or the Karnataka elections next year, as it looks highly vulnerable. One doesn’t need a deep political insight to predict that BJP is going to rule India – both at the Centre and in the states – exactly the way Congress had done during the Nehru-Indira Gandhi era. And that the writing for Congress has been on the wall ever since Rajiv Gandhi squandered the bounty that his mother had posthumously gifted him. However, not many could've predicted that what would ultimately decimate the party and write its epitaph would come from within the same Nehru-Gandhi family – namely Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.

The rise of BJP has been in the works ever since it made its deceptive entry into Parliament with two seats in 1984. It had reached some sort of a stasis and had showed a decade-long decline, since 1999, till Modi seized the opportunity. Modi was not a casual self-discovery, but a strategic conqueror who predicated his rise on the imminent death of Congress as a national party. The reason behind the party's death was Sonia's obsession with family rule and the preservation of its sycophantic party organisation.

News source: First Post

Published in Politics
Page 7 of 33

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