Former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi to attend dinner hosted by Sonia Gandhi

Foot in the mouth

Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Naresh Agarwal (pictured) on Monday joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). At a press conference, flanked by Union minister Piyush Goyal, Agarwal said the SP didn’t renominate him to the Rajya Sabha to “accommodate someone who dances in Bollywood”. Of the 10 Rajya Sabha seats falling vacant from UP, the SP can only win one, and has renominated film actor Jaya Bachchan. Agarwal’s comments left the BJP red-faced. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said the party respected people from all fields and welcomed their entry into politics. Last year, Agarwal had mocked Hindu gods in the Rajya Sabha. Social media users also dug up a tweet of the Sangh Parivar thinker, Rakesh Sinha, who had demanded that Agarwal be impeached/expelled form Parliament, and his “relations with Pakistan” be “probed” by the “RAW and NIA”. A couple of hours after Agarwal held that press meet, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted: “Shri Naresh Agarwal has joined Bhartiya Janata Party. He is welcome. However, his comments regarding Jaya Bachchanji are improper and unacceptable.”

Losing steam

Looks like the West Bengal government’s grand plan to reuse about 11,000 acres in the possession of over 400 shuttered firms for industrialisation will not take off after all. No unit with over 500 acres has come forward to lease out the plots, it is learnt. 

It was exactly a year ago that the state government had amended the West Bengal Land Reforms Act, 1955, to enable owners of shut factories to lease out their plots to investors once they received clearances from the land and land reforms department. Only about 10 units have shown interest. In 2015 also the state government had made a similar attempt by setting up a Group of Ministers to figure out how much land could be made available for industrialisation; but that too had fizzled out.

Spotlight on Manjhi

After staying in the shadows for some time, former Chief Minister of Bihar Jitan Ram Manjhi has suddenly found himself in the limelight. He has been invited by Congress leader Ahmed Patel to join the dinner hosted for Opposition leaders by United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi in Delhi on Tuesday. Hindustani Awam Morcha founder Manjhi, a Dalit leader who recently broke away from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and joined the Rashtriya Janata Dal-led grand alliance, will have Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam working president M K Stalin, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav and members of other parties from different states who are not part of the NDA, for company.

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