India’s only commando who became Army chief, the soldier who saw action in the Bangladesh War took on AAP at an Anna Hazare event, showing that power was not the only motive in public life. The smear campaign against him by Army top brass, alleging he paid off Kashmir ministers and used intelligence outfits to discredit opponents, went unproved. Shared a platform with Narendra Modi at a huge rally in Rewari and is expected to join active politics. If Singh caused some heartache by taking on AAP, he also won hearts by offering “unqualified apology” for his remarks following the Supreme Court’s verdict in the age row with the Centre. Following which the court dropped contempt case against him. The 63-year-old had allegedly questioned the Supreme Court’s handling of his case against the government over his age.
Vasundhara Raje: Queen Recaptures Throne
Winning 162 seats and reducing the Congress to a mere 21, the “angrezi speaking maharani” as her critics call her led the BJP to a thumping victory in spite of the initial dissent within the saffron ranks in Rajasthan. She had used social media and other forums to effectively promote the party and her role in the Suraj Sankalp Rath Yatra played a crucial part in her triumph. The icing on the cake for Vasundhara was the full-throated backing from Narendra Modi who extensively toured Rajasthan during the election campaign. Her rise from a National Executive member of BJP to one of its most powerful leaders in Rajasthan can be attributed to her charismatic personality and strong will, which have helped her tide over political crises from within and outside in her 30-year-long career. To prove she means action, Rajasthan government has asked officials to identify 11 projects each that can be executed in two months and make a presentation on them before Vasundhara.
Bhupinder Hooda: On Road to a Hat-Trick
The Haryana Chief Minister oozes confidence and determination every time he speaks. His words carry the weight of his performance as leader of the state for almost nine years. He now has his eyes set on two goals: putting Haryana in the high-growth orbit and scoring a hat-trick in the 2014 Assembly elections. Backed by people-centric policies and the thrust given to development, both targets seem within reach. In 2013, Haryana became one of the first three states in the country to roll out the food security scheme enshrined in the National Food Security Ordinance. The scheme will benefit more than 1.26 crore people in the state. Then, wages under MNREGA were hiked to `214 per day, the highest in the country. Also, the minimum support price of sugarcane was raised to `301 per quintal, again the highest in the country.
J jayalalithaa: Amma Takes the Lead
Jayalalithaa continues to be tops in Tamil Nadu, not giving an inch of political space to her rivals anywhere during 2013—whether it was in byelections, the Sri Lankan Tamil issue, fishermen issue, in vehemently opposing the Centre on many people-oriented issues, introducing first of its kind welfare schemes or while conducting the World Chess Championship. During the year, the AIADMK led by Jayalalithaa became the most sought after political party to ally within the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections despite her declaration that the AIADMK would go it alone. Even before she asked for it, the CPI offered its support for the LS elections and the CPI (M) clearly indicated that it would be on the side of the AIADMK. Her fight for the state’s rights continued during 2013. She wrote many letters to the Prime Minister on every issue that affected Tamil Nadu. Her Amma eateries in Chennai and other municipal corporations have received an overwhelming response from the public. Another important achievement of Jayalalithaa this year has been her decision to buy shares of Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC). She thwarted the attempts of the Centre to sell NLC shares to private companies.
With great power comes greater responsibilities. So imagine how powerful the president of one of the most formidable cricketing bodies of the world would be. That Srinivasan has clout over Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is known. When the spot-fixing scandal broke in May, one of the bigger fishes to be trapped was Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, the team principal of Chennai Super Kings. Meiyappan’s arrest sparked a ‘Quit Srinivasan’ chorus. But it fell on deaf years. Srinivasan chose his chair over his son-in-law and distanced himself from Meiyappan saying he had done no wrong to let go of his post. But he had to step aside and Jagmohan Dalmiya was made interim president. Power hungry that he is, one could not keep Srinivasan away for long. He won the BCCI elections unopposed even after Supreme Court restrained him from holding office until further orders. However, the Supreme Court overturned its order in less than 10 days’ time.
H D Kumaraswamy: Losing Proposition
It was an unlucky year for former Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy. Hoping for a comeback, he got drubbed instead in the Assembly polls. His Janata Dal (Secular) lost heavily in its strongholds of south Karnataka. One-time coalition partners JD(S) and BJP tied with 40 seats each. However, Kumaraswamy became Leader of Opposition as JD (S) polled more votes than the saffron party. Even his wife Anita was defeated not only in Channapatna but also in the bypoll to Bangalore Rural Lok Sabha seat. He also incurred the wrath of his father H D Deve Gowda who isolated him from taking political decisions. Though Gowda is trying to revive JD(S) it is losing its sheen, thanks to an exodus of leaders to Congress.
Prakash Karat: Dreaming on Regardless
If there was a prize for pipe dreaming, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat would have won it. Either for his Third Front dream or his declared dream to grow red roses in North India outside the traditional red bastions. How will he explain the recent decimation of CPI (M) in Rajasthan where it had retained a strong, albeit small pocket of influence for years. It emerged in third and fourth positions in all three seats it had won last time. Karat will have to do a lot of explaining on the fact that AAP managed to establish its base among lower class voters while CPI (M), which swears by the working class, failed even to secure its deposit money. Some say Karat along with his coterie comprising his wife Brinda and S Ramachandran Pillai are resistant to any change that will unsettle their current cosy positioning in AKG Bhavan.
Amarinder Singh: Out of Favour, in the Woods
The former Punjab Chief Minister is down and out and definitely out of the good books of the high command. A string of defeats, including the unanticipated Assembly election debacle last year and this year the defeat in the Moga bypoll where Congress MLA Joginder Jain resigned from the party and joined the ruling Akali Dal and won on a SAD ticket, saw Amrinder being replaced as Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president by Partap Singh Bajwa. Amarinder retaliated by firing a salvo at Bajwa, questioning his announcement of candidates for various parliamentary and Assembly segments. This was the second controversy involving the two leaders. Bajwa had faced allegations of “harbouring links with terrorists” following a letter written to AICC. Reports indicated that Amarinder authored the letter, though he rubbished the allegations later. Then at a Sangrur rally, Bajwa and Amarinder swiped at each other as visiting party vice-president Rahul Gandhi helplessly looked on.
Rajiv Shukla: Rough Ride for Mr Smooth
The smooth talking Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs has had a rough year on the floor of the House, failing to get the Opposition cooperate with the government in letting Parliament run. This year, Lok Sabha functioned only for 172.44 hours and Rajya Sabha for 194.29 hours in three sessions and 126 bills remained stuck. The IPL spot-fixing scandal happened under his watch as IPL chairman, though he quit later. The shadow of corruption fell over Shukla after it was found the Maharashtra Congres-led government sold a `100 crore plot to his firm for under `1 lakh. Later, Shukla decided to return the land to Maharashtra, but not without crying that he lost `5-6 crore for it.