Power Games: The man shooting up the Team Modi ladder
For purchases under the emergency route, the three services will not have to seek approval from the ministry.
The rise and rise of Gajendra Singh Shekhawat
BJP leaders can underestimate the importance of the party’s parliamentary party meetings at their own peril. The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has resulted in making and unmaking of many careers. The Prime Minister’s usually longish address at these meetings have largely centred around highlighting his government’s achievements and exhorting party MPs to inform people of their constituencies about these achievements. In one of these meetings, Ballia MP Bharat Singh annoyed the Prime Minister by saying how could they publicise the achievements because ministers did not have time to meet MPs and inform them about these achievements and the bureaucrats do not meet them either. Singh was denied a ticket in the next election.
In another meeting, the Prime Minister was pleasantly surprised by an MP’s power-point presentation to his fellow members on the reach and benefits of the Modi government’s schemes. This MP’s career has skyrocketed after that day. He was made a minister of state the same year, and elevated as the Cabinet minister after 2019 elections. The name of this MP is Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. He has risen in the party ranks so fast that the joke in the BJP is that the top two’s trusted troika of J P Nadda, Dharmendra Pradhan and Bhupendra Yadav has now turned into a four-horse carriage with Shekhawat joining the ranks. The 1967-born Shekhawat started his political career by winning the student union election of Jodhpur’s Jainarayan Vyas University as ABVP’s presidential candidate.
He has gone on from there to win two Lok Sabha elections, defeating Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s son in 2019 by a margin of over two lakh votes. He is now the Prime Minister’s pointman for executing critical projects. He has been made in charge of elections in Punjab and Haryana. He was appointed as convenor of the 14-member committee for coordinating with state units and allies for the election of Droupadi Murmu as President of India. Sources say he will play a crucial role in the upcoming elections in Rajasthan.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh gives emergency powers to forces for overseas purchase
In light of the situation on the border, especially on the north and north-eastern fronts, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has given financial powers to the three services to buy weapons from overseas using the emergency acquisition route. Under this emergency power, Army, Navy and the Indian Air Force would be allowed to buy any weapon or ammunition valued up to Rs 300 crore from any overseas manufacturer to meet the shortfall of critical operational requirements. For purchases under the emergency route, the three services will not have to seek approval from the ministry. The deliveries of these purchases, however, will have to be made within one year.
The three services have been given this emergency power for the next six months. This decision was taken at a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), which the minister chaired in New Delhi on August 22. The three services chiefs who are part of the DAC, the ministry of defence’s apex procurement body, had emphasised on early acquisition of critical ammunition. Sources said that the three armed forces have also been allowed to approach the defence ministry for seeking approval for emergency procurement of new weapons under $300 million to meet the critical shortfalls.
The armed forces will use the emergency powers to make fast-track purchases of GPS-guided Excalibur shells for ultra-light Howitzer guns, Derby-I and MICA air-to-air missiles, Spice-1000 and Hammer precision-guided munitions, Barak and Spyder air defence missiles, Spike anti-tank guided missiles, Heron MKII drones, land mines, and small arms ammunition, etc. It is expected that the three armed forces will get new weapons and ammunition worth $750 million through fast-track purchases. The Indian Army is likely to buy ammunition for T-90 tanks, BMP-II, AD guns, artillery guns, small arms, rockets, missiles and mortars, while the Indian Air Force is expected to buy air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, smart bombs, chaffs, flares and precision-guided munitions. Besides, the Indian Navy wants to procure 10 Naval Shipborne Unmanned Aerial Systems (NSUAS) from Israel through a fast track procurement route.
The writer is Associate Editor and Chief of Bureau at TNIE, New Delhi.