Opinion

Congress — Yours, Mine and Mama’s

It would appear that the 10 candidates for Congress Rajya Sabha nominations were selected exclusively by the Gandhi family. Sonia Gandhi picked P Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh; Priyanka Gandhi‘s protégés were Imran Pratapgarhi, Rajiv Shukla and Pramod Tiwari and Rahul Gandhi decided on the others, including the fiery Ranjeet Ranjan. The selections confirm the suspicion that Mukul Wasnik was always the mole in G-23 dissidents group. Incidentally, defying protocol, Wasnik happily signed the party announcement of RS nominees which included his own name. KC Venugopal, secretary (organization), should normally have signed it. Despite a major grievance in the party against outsiders being made nominees in preference to leaders from the state, Randeep Surjewala decided to stand from Rajasthan, not his home state of Haryana. Surjewala smelt trouble from old adversary Bhupinder Hooda and switched places with Ajay Maken.

Missing guests

Ram Madhav’s India Foundation held its seventh two-day India Ideas Conclave last month with its usual hype and hi-tech presentations. The theme for the show in Bengaluru was ‘India 2.0: Rebooting to Meta Era’ with leading intellectuals, academicians, industry leaders, tech gurus and politicians as invitees. Since some of those associated with the Hindutva foundation have moved on to higher places in government after Modi came to power, most notably National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, normally few turn down a foundation invitation. But this year there was a slight hitch. Though Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and Petroleum Minister Hardeep Puri did address the gathering, Karnataka CM Basavraj Bommai was missing at the opening ceremony. RSS general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale was not present for the closing function, as announced initially.

3-pronged response

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Normally when Rahul Gandhi attacks the BJP or Narendra Modi, neither the PM nor Amit Shah respond. The task of replying to Rahul’s criticism, most often on Twitter, is delegated subject wise to S Jaishankar, Smriti Irani and Sambit Patra. Jaishankar’s domain is foreign policy. Hence Jaishankar was quick to counter when Gandhi dubbed our foreign service officers arrogant. Irani’s brief is to rebut on issues relating to Gandhi’s constituency and former seat, Amethi. Recently when Gandhi attended a wedding in Nepal, Smriti made it a point to visit his constituency Wayanad, Party party Patra responds to his general comments.

Leaves from the past

Former Delhi Police Commissioner Mukund Kaushal unravels some of the mysteries from the past in his just released book, Sailing on My Own Compass: A Policeman’s Diary. For instance, he claims it was he who decisively demolished Harshad Mehta’s much quoted claim that he had handed over Rs 1 crore in a suitcase to then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao at his residence. The SPG strangely refused to confirm or deny the story claiming it destroyed the PM’s visitors’ book after every two months. Kaushal, however, nailed Mehta’s lie by asking his officers to check PM’s movements on November 4, 1992. From the Delhi police VIP movements logs it was clear that Rao was nowhere near 7, Race Course Road at the time the alleged transfer took place. He discloses that when Morarji Desai was prime minister, his son Kanti had given oral instructions that his friends be permitted into the PM’s residence without frisking and their bags not be searched, which was in violation of the Blue Book protocol. As head of VIP Security of Delhi Police, Kaushal insisted on a written request, since his seniors were too intimidated to turn down the instruction. When Desai saw the note he smiled and agreed rules must be observed.

Akshay BJP favorite

If Kangana Ranaut is the BJP’s favorite female star for projecting the party’s viewpoint in Bollywood, Akshay Kumar who starred in the just released Samrat Prithviraj is Ranaut’s male counterpart. The chemistry between Kumar and Amit Shah was evident at the special screening of the film last week with Kumar teary-eyed over Shah’s praise. Shah, a student of history, has been reading Prithviraj Raso, the epic poem by court poet Chand Bardai since his teens and can quote every stanza and point out deviations in the movie script from the original poem. It was Shah’s first visit to a theater in over a decade and he summoned his entire family from Gujarat to Delhi for the show.

Google mix-up

Rahul Gandhi resides at 12, Tughlak Lane and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar at 12, Tughlak Road. Problem is that someone at Google Maps has mixed up the addresses. People in the neighborhood say it is common for guests to the minister’s house to turn up at Gandhi’s home only to be redirected to the right address.

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