Great divide Last guard Strong bonds Save the wallet Conspicuous absence
- Published 16.07.17
While the saffron wallahs continue to hunt in a pack, the Opposition gets more and more splintered. Nowhere is the divide more apparent than in the Congress's media department, where a new bout of disquiet has set in after the Congress vice-president, Rahul Gandhi, had some media coordinators replaced. The grapevine is abuzz with fascinating stories about the reasons for the changes. Some of these people appear to have given the party inflated bills on expenses incurred by them on tours. One young leader has apparently been shunted out of Delhi because his regular darbars at the All India Congress Committee headquarters were proving to be too costly - almost a lakh of rupees per month on tea and snacks.
There could also be more credible reasons. However, what has added to the buzz is the announcement of a second list of eight veterans - reportedly on behalf of the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi - who are to serve as the "communication strategy group". These worthies - Mani Shankar Aiyar, Jairam Ramesh, Anand Sharma and others - are an addition to a media team that already has over two dozen spokespersons. The joke in the party circles is that the Congress now has more spokespersons than the party's numbers in the Lok Sabha. Many of the veterans, like Aiyar and Ramesh, have a history of agreeing to disagree on most issues. The new media coordinators are young and energetic, but they lack experience. There is also widespread groupism. The change, many fear, could prove costly to the party.
Before Gopalkrishna Gandhi can have a crack at the vice-presidential post, some momentous changes may have already set in. Once the term of the incumbent vice-president ends, it might be time for the Lok Sabha TV and the Rajya Sabha TV to merge and become a single entity. The former channel came into existence much before Rajya Sabha TV, which was launched in 2011. Both channels offer viewers different kinds of content. Ever since the National Democratic Alliance regime took over in 2014, the Rajya Sabha TV has often been accused of being too liberal and independent. But somehow, the office of the vice-president prevented any intervention.
However, Hamid Ansari's term is ending next month and, unsurprisingly, the contract of some leading scribes producing programmes for Rajya Sabha TV has not been renewed. Many in the parliamentary affairs and information and broadcasting ministries believe that a merger is on the cards.
The last time he was about to retire as Union finance secretary, Rajiv Mehrishi was asked to continue for two more years, but in the capacity of the Union home secretary. Many people believe that the bureaucrat, who is scheduled to retire next month, may be luckier this time. Apparently, there are indications that Mehrishi may earn a gubernatorial assignment and perhaps replace NN Vohra in Jammu and Kashmir.
The J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, however, is said to be opposed to him being appointed. No one is entirely sure why that is, but it could be because of her aversion to anything remotely connected to the Indian army. Mehrishi happens to be the brother-in-law of Lieutenant General Anoop Malhotra, who commanded an army regiment in the state when insurgency was at its peak and earned many accolades for his service.
Mehrishi is also supposed to be in the good books of the authorities handling internal security and national affairs.
Save the wallet
Quite a few journalists covering the Bharatiya Janata Party's 'Save Bengal' rally, along with a number of participants, were robbed of their phones and wallets at Rajghat in New Delhi. Even an editor who is a BJP parliamentarian found that his mobile phone was missing. It was obvious that the strong posse of policemen at the rally had posed no challenge to the pickpockets in the crowd.
Old-timers used this opportunity to recall how many people had lost their belongings and valuables the same way in Bhopal many years ago: while LK Advani had been thundering against terror, 'infiltrators' of a different kind had reached out to his flock in a way in which his oratory could not.
The minister of state for civil aviation, Jayant Sinha, was conspicuously absent at the launch of his father's book in the capital recently. The line-up on the stage was, in itself, a telling statement on how friendless Yashwant Sinha has become in the BJP. There were the two stars of the erstwhile Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government - the former Union minister, Jairam Ramesh, and the former deputy chairman of the disbanded Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, besides Pavan Verma of the Janata Dal (United). As for the son, he was in Jharkhand all day. Sinha Senior's book, The Future of Indian Economy, co-edited with the economist, Vinay K. Srivastava, has not only drawn attention, but has also given rise to much speculation.