Politics, lest we forget, is the art of deception. While the saffronwallahs seemed to be lunging at the throats of the Congress topiwallahs over the WikiLeaks exposures in Parliament, there was actually a wellspring of camaraderie in the back room. It started with LK Advani writing a letter to Sonia Gandhi, expressing his regret over the black money issue after the Congress president had raised questions about the charges levelled at her in the report of the task force set up by Advani. The process continued with the prime minister using an Urdu couplet in the course of the WikiLeaks debate and Sushma Swaraj finding it “charming”. In the end, the Bharatiya Janata Party even went to the rescue of the government during the vote on the pension bill. Pranab Mukherjee, the leader of the Lok Sabha, sent a thank-you note to both Swaraj and Advani. Incidentally, it was the same day that the PM took on the BJP and Advani together.
Speaking of deception, the Uttarakhand CM, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, seems to have made his own contribution to that art recently. Under threat from within the BJP in poll-bound Uttarakhand, Nishank recently circulated an interview published by a leading newspaper as testimony to his good work. The interview was sent to the top BJP leadership and those managing the party affairs of the hill state. However, a closer scrutiny revealed that the interview was an ‘advertorial’, each word having been paid for by the Uttarakhand government. Nishank’s detractors within and outside the BJP are now accusing him of being economical with the truth.
Something is burning
The heartburn in the ministry of external affairs is getting so intense that it may soon be possible to sniff it out. The big guns — SM Krishna, E Ahmad and Preneet Kaur — do not take kindly to the pace at which the foreign-secretary, Nirupama Rao, reacts to every foreign policy issue. Be it Libya or Japan, the agile Rao tweets much ahead of her political masters. Even the MEA spokesperson gets beaten at times. But Krishna is said to be in a dilemma over communicating his reservations to top ministry officials. Till then, it is happy tweeting for Rao.
The acquired habits of ministers in the Union parliamentary affairs ministry are generating a lot of interest in Congress circles. Ashwani Kumar, minister of state, seems to be so loyal to the PM that he is believed to often forego his morning meetings with the presiding officer of the Rajya Sabha to be in the PM’s chamber. V Narayanswamy is a frequent visitor to temples and mutts across the country. His favourite is a particular Hanuman temple on New Delhi’s Tughlaq Road. The temple is close to the residence of the Rashtriya Lok Dal MP, Ajit Singh. A Congress MP was recently heard saying that if Narayanswamy paid a few visits to Singh as well, some of his floor management problems would be solved.
The Left has consistently opposed an increase in funds for the MPLAD, and there was little change in its attitude when the government recently hiked the allocation from Rs 2 crore to Rs 5 crore. However, when Pranab Mukherjee was replying to the Rajya Sabha on the supplementary grants, the CPI(M) politburo member, Sitaram Yechury, got curious. He wanted to know whether the increase would be implemented with retrospective effect. Pranabda quickly pointed out that the hike would set in from April 1 this year. For Satish Mishra, the Bahujan Samaj Party MP, the date had its own import. He jokingly remarked that one could only hope that the government’s announcement does not end up as an April Fool’s day joke.
There’s no keeping down Murli Manohar Joshi. He surprised many politicians recently by highlighting the poor conditions prevailing in Bihar while criticizing the Nitish Kumar-led government during the budget session in the Lok Sabha. Joshi’s tirade forced some parliamentarians to wonder whether he had forgotten that Bihar was ruled by the National Democratic Alliance. Many in the party, however, are getting used to expecting same-side goals from Joshi. Even as chairman of the public accounts committee, Joshi had been critical of the BJP-ruled states while pointing out the fallacies of the Central government.
Keep it simple
There are a few men who truly follow their leaders. One such individual is Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, Ahmed Patel, who appears to have taken Madam’s austerity drive to heart. The wedding of Patel’s son, Faisal, to the daughter of a well-known Kashmiri hotelier set an example of sorts. Although considered to be the wedding of the season, very few managed to get an invitation to either the nikah ceremony or the dawat-e-walima. Patel’s penchant for keeping a low profile meant that the celebrations were muted. Invitations, of course, were sent out to the AICC chief and the prime minister, but they did not bear Patel’s name. His daughter and son-in-law were named as the hosts. The only extravaganza was, reportedly, the groom’s sherwani, created by Tarun Tahiliani, and the bride’s lehenga, designed by Rohit Bal.