Ticket tamasha begins, as does my BIMARU vs your BIMARU

There  are no easy routes to ticket distribution, whether leaving it for too late to prevent those left out to create trouble, or handing them out so early that there is time to soothe shattered egos. Both the BJP and Bharat Rashtra Samithi would attest to this.

The BJP hoped to get an early mover advantage in Madhya Pradesh in 39 seats where it lost in 2018 by naming candidates for them, as reported by Liz Mathew and Anand Mohan J. As for the BRS, it didn’t just announce names for Telangana Assembly polls well in advance, it covered 115 of the 119 constituencies at stake in one go, reported Sreenivas Janyala. Now reports are coming in of disgruntled candidates in both camps.

The BRS is trying to nip trouble in the bud, with reports that one of those left out, MLC Patnam Mahender Reddy – an aspirant for a ticket from the Tandur seat – would be inducted as a minister on Thursday.

A damage control exercise of another kind by the Modi government appears to be holding for now in Maharashtra. Onion auctions at all APMCs in the state’s Nashik district will resume from Thursday, after remaining shut for three days in protest against the Centre imposing 40% duty on exports of the key kitchen staple.

The farmers are angry over the government’s move just when they were hopeful of gains after a long slump in prices. However, the government appears to have bought peace for now by announcing procurement of 2 lakh extra tonnes of onions at Rs 2,410 per quintal. Harikishan Sharma and Shubhangi Khapre reported on the government’s claim that this high price was “historic”, and its insistence that the decision to announce extra procurement was not an afterthought, following the farmers’ protests.

Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Bharati Pawar, who is an MP from Nashik, which has Asia’s biggest onion wholesale market, Lasalgaon, met representatives of traders before they announced the start of auctions at APMCs.

Pawar also assured farmers that “we will request the Union government to rethink and take a positive decision” on the export duty issue.

The crisis over a vegetable known to reduce governments to tears might have blown over for now. However, the promised rethink on export duty might not happen soon, as the government keeps a wary eye on retail prices ahead of the coming Assembly elections.

Also on the government’s table Thursday will be India-UK free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations, with Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch arriving for bilateral talks on the sidelines of the G20 trade meeting to be held on August 24-25.

As per a UK Department for Business and Trade spokesperson, both sides are “laser-focused on goods, services, and investment” as part of the deal. However, an agreement is unlikely in a rush, given Rishi Sunak’s first visit to India as British Prime Minister next month for the G20 Leaders’ Summit.

The Sunak regime has tried to distance itself from his predecessor Boris Johnson’s stand demanding a deadline for the FTA. Officials now say that most importantly, “it’s the deal not the date”.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s extended trip to Ladakh continues on Thursday, with his office tentatively planning a public meeting at a stadium in Kargil, followed by tributes at the Kargil War Memorial, Drass.

The Congress on Wednesday shared videos of Rahul’s interaction with people in Zanskar valley, and with Army veterans at Leh – the underlying message being the Modi government’s silence over Chinese “incursions” in Ladakh.

Ahead of the Haryana Assembly Session beginning on August 25, Leader of the Opposition and former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda will hold a CLP meeting Thursday. On the agenda is laying the ground for the Congress offensive against the BJP government in the House.

Sources said the Nuh violence, the subsequent demolition drive in the area by government authorities, the cancelled Common Eligibility Test held by the Haryana Staff Selection Commission, compensation to farmers for crop loss during the recent floods, and unemployment are among the issues the party is sharpening its knives about.

As farmers in Punjab and Haryana count their losses in the wake of the receding waters, there is no let-up in battered Himachal Pradesh. Heavy overnight rains triggered more landslides in the state Wednesday, claiming two lives – taking the total tally of dead in the past 10 days of the rains to 26 – and blocking over 200 more roads. Shimla continued to be among the worst-hit.

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