Budget 'nauseating', says Subramanian Swamy
Perhaps he presumed he would be finance minister, but he was pipped by Nirmala Sitharaman
- Published 7.07.19, 6:04 PM
- Updated 7.07.19, 6:04 PM
- 4 mins read
All good things do not come to those who wait. Just ask Subramanian Swamy. He has long eyed the post of the finance minister, and his crushed hopes came back to haunt him after the presentation of the Union budget on Friday. A Congress member of parliament teased the mercurial Bharatiya Janata Party leader soon after India’s first full-time woman finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, finished presenting the budget for 2019-20. The cheeky inquiry posed to Swamy went something like this: “This is yet another budget you could not present! When will your chance come?” Swamy’s response was deadpan: “Forget me, what do you think of the budget?” “Boring,” replied the Congress leader. Dissatisfied with the tepid reply, a grimacing Swamy retorted, “Only boring? Nauseating.” Swamy may have presumed that once he got Arun Jaitley out of his way, there would be no stopping his ascension to the chair of the finance minister. He targeted Jaitley from the outset, almost succeeding in portraying him as a failure in the eyes of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Although Swamy knew that there were ambitious competitors like Piyush Goyal who could outsmart him, he did not see Sitharaman, who was already among ‘top four’ as the defence minister, as a threat. But it is obvious that Swamy — also known as a one-man demolition squad — does not enjoy the prime minister’s trust unlike the relative greenhorn, Sitharaman, who seems to pose no threat to anybody.
The first-time Trinamul Congress MP, Mahua Moitra, appears to have become a star politician with her maiden speech in the Lok Sabha. The well-articulated attack on the government, which highlighted the signs of creeping fascism, went viral on social media and drew the attention of former MPs and journalists alike. In Parliament, many were spotted looking for Moitra, seeking to congratulate her. Ironically, it was the BJP MP, Locket Chatterjee, who got all the attention. People walked up to Chatterjee, another first-time MP from Bengal, and asked her: “Are you Mahua Moitra?” Chatterjee was polite at first but soon began getting upset as the frequency of the question increased. Journalists with her tried to handle the situation as the feisty leader’s face turned grim. Not everyone likes to bask in reflected glory.
Heart to heart
In the first Mann ki Baat of his second term, the PM listed three of his favourite stories by Munshi Premchand. But his choices aroused curiosity among his critics. One of the three stories Narendra Modi mentioned was “Idgah”; this raised quite a few eyebrows. Modi went to narrate the story, stressing that “it stirs human emotions to their supreme pinnacle”. It was hard for Modi’s critics, though, to imagine “Idgah” as one of his favourite stories. Modi earned the sobriquet of “Hindu hriday samrat”. That “Idgah” is a story close to his heart flummoxed his detractors. In his second term, however, Modi seems to be making a concerted effort to win over the minority community. In his first speech in Parliament after the poll victory, Modi accused the Congress of betraying the minorities and asked party leaders to win their “faith, trust and support”. Critics are perplexed, wondering whether he genuinely wants to win minorities over or was paying lip service to them in order to project a better image of himself to the West. There is also an underlying anxiety that if Modi succeeds in drawing the minorities to his side, then the Opposition will have a tough time. Only time will tell what is in the PM’s heart.
At a time when the BJP has pensioned off most of its senior leaders, the Congress is in search of old hands. The party constitution says that the senior-most general-secretary will be the interim president in case of an emergency, or if the regular president resigns. Seniority has become the bone of contention in the AICC since it became clear that Rahul Gandhi is not going to continue as president.
While Motilal Vora, the senior-most office bearer and the present general-secretary in charge of administration, was declared the interim president by a section of the media, there is a race to establish seniority among Congressmen. While some say Ghulam Nabi Azad is the senior-most general-secretary, others pointed out that his tenure had a few breaks and Mukul Wasnik has seniority, advocating Wasnik’s case even though he has no support base in his home state, Maharashtra. As a counter to this, others held out the seniority — in age and experience — of Mallikarjun Kharge, a many-time MLA, MP and minister. Some Congressmen joked that a committee should be appointed to decide seniority in the party. Does the Congress need a margdarshak mandal of its own to show it the right way?
DK Shivakumar has donned many a role for the Congress in Karnataka. The party strongman, now the irrigation minister, has always delivered whenever his party was in distress. He is now being touted as the next state president given that the Congress won just one of 28 Lok Sabha seats from Karnataka. Although incumbent president, Dinesh Gundu Rao, and the working president, Eshwar Khandre, were retained while dissolving the state unit, many in the party want Shivakumar to take over from Rao. Is an imminent departure the reason that Rao took off on a European holiday?
The ruling coalition in Karnataka was in a crisis after some Congress MLAs resigned. Top leaders were unavailable for a day and a half. But appearances can be deceiving. An aide explained, “You won’t get any of them until the game is over.” The reason for the leaders being missing in action was the World Cup match between India and Bangladesh. But in a state that has produced legends like GR Viswanath, EAS Prasanna, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, it would be a surprise if the politicians were not cricket fans.