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...Like it or not he is, and will remain till 2019 and probably beyond, the pivot around which national and state politics revolve, much like Indira Gandhi in her time. It is no mean feat that more than halfway into his term Modi successfully recreated the 2014 wave to storm UP as comprehensively as he did three years ago. The ripples reached two other states, neighbouring Uttarakhand which gave BJP a decisive majority, and faraway Manipur which has seen a saffron surge for the first time. With this Modi has washed away the opprobrium of the twin defeats he suffered in 2015 when he was bested by rookie Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi state poll and the grand alliance of Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad and Rahul Gandhi in the Bihar assembly election. ...TOI on March 13, 2017, 2:15 a.m.
...“BJP phans gayee hai yahan (BJP is stuck),” a party supporter admitted confidentially. The BJP’s difficulties in Varanasi present a confounding picture of UP’s complex electoral calculus. In the absence of a ‘Modi wave’ — if there was one, it should have been visible here of all places — caste, community, local factors, candidate selection and myriad other issues have come into play across the state to make it impossible to call the Battle for UP. As someone put it, there are 403 elections happening simultaneously and the dynamics are different in each, despite the BJP’s overt and covert efforts to polarise voters on caste and religious lines. The BJP would like to believe that Varanasi is an island in a sea with otherwise favourable currents. ...TOI on Feb. 28, 2017, 1:30 a.m.
...Early opinion polls had projected her as the front runner in the forthcoming assembly elections. They now show her a distant third with many giving the BJP aclear edge. Opinion polls have gone wrong so often that they can no longer be accepted as an accurate barometer of voter mood. In any case, the picture in UP is far from clear. There are too many unresolved issues although the first polling date is less than a month away, on February 11. The Election Commission’s decision on the disputed cycle symbol of the Samajwadi Party is yet to come. It’s a huge handicap for both Akhilesh Yadav and his estranged father, Mulayam Singh Yadav. Without a symbol, they can neither finalise their candidates’ lists nor begin their campaign or put up election buntings, banners and posters. The BJP is in the throes of internal tussles and indecision over candidates. ...TOI on Jan. 15, 2017, 11:19 p.m.
...Akhilesh broke down and accused Shivpal and Amar Singh of plotting against him. Shivpal snatched the mike from his nephew and called him a liar. Mulayam stomped off after berating his son for getting too big for his boots. After such high drama, it doesn’t matter whether or not SP formally splits. The war in the family has reached a point of no return despite protestations of loyalty to patriarch Mulayam. The chasm between uncle and nephew runs so deep and wide that the party is irretrievably broken into two. And like Humpty Dumpty, it cannot be put back together again, even by a wily, domineering leader like Mulayam who is, after all, a lion in winter now. ...TOI on Oct. 25, 2016, 12:35 a.m.
...To project a CM or not to project a CM: the question has been vexing the Amit Shah-Narendra Modi team for ever so long. There are just seven months left for the campaign to begin in full earnest, but the BJP only seems to be sliding deeper into a conundrum. It’s strange really, because historically, the BJP not only crafted personality-driven elections as a strategy, but also gained handsomely from it. Till 1996, when the BJP first formally anointed a candidate for prime minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee, political parties fought on their flags, symbols and manifestos, not on the charisma and appeal of one single leader. A prime minister or a chief minister was always chosen after victory. The BJP changed the way elections are fought. ...TOI on July 18, 2016, 12:36 a.m.