In name only
Now that it has been confirmed that the Janata Dal (Secular) will be joining the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance for the Lok Sabha polls, the party’s name has become a paradox. It was formed in 1999 in Karnataka by the former prime minister, HD Deve Gowda, who retained his socialist moorings by adding ‘secular’ to the name of his splinter faction. But can it remain secular after joining hands with the BJP? The Kerala unit of the party that is part of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front is in two minds about staying on in the state. Once the handshake between the JD(S) and the BJP is formalised, Gowda’s party would not remain ‘secular’, at least in spirit.
Smoke and mirrors
Now that the special session of Parliament is over, many are wondering what happened to the tentative business that was published by the government after convening the session. Reacting to the Opposition’s criticism about the shroud of secrecy around the session, a tentative list of business was published in the bulletins of the two Houses. The women’s reservation bill was not on this list but it was the only bill that was introduced and passed in this session. Since this was the first session in the new Parliament building, members are wondering if this is how India’s Central legislature will function under Narendra Modi’s watch. This is unprecedented even by this dispensation’s track record of disdain for parliamentary procedures.
The chief minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik, will miss his elder sister, Gita Mehta, more than anyone else in his family. Patnaik enjoyed a strong bond with her and they shared a common interest in literature — both were writers and loved books. Mehta passed away in New Delhi on September 16. Although the CM tried to appear calm at Mehta’s cremation, his pain was quite visible. He is certain to miss the time they spent together whenever she visited Bhubaneswar. Patnaik used to take her to bookshops and gift her books during these visits. Mehta, too, was very fond of her bachelor brother and tried to spend as much time with him as possible; most of this time was spent discussing books.
Several BJP members of the legislative assembly fell ill after the Union home minister, Amit Shah, visited Jhanjharpur in Bihar for a public rally. They complained of bodyache, fatigue, cramps, dehydration, fever and so on. The police had cordoned off the entire area around the venue and the place where Shah’s helicopter was to land. People were allowed inside only on foot and all vehicles were stopped outside the cordon. “It was fine to do so to ensure the safety of the Union home minister, but the cordon was put in place far away from the rally venue and helipad. We all had to leave our vehicles and walk around three kms to reach the venue and then walk back. The sun was scorching and many of us became unwell after the trek. I got fever. Many others also fell ill. The common people also suffered,” a senior BJP MLA said. Other legislators sniffed a conspiracy and asserted that such tactics were used to dissuade people from attending the rally.
The damage that hot mics can wreak is no secret. Yet, there are those who speak carelessly even when they are surrounded by microphones. The Kerala State Congress president, K Sudhakaran, and his party colleague and leader of the Opposition, VD Satheesan, were caught out by a hot mic recently. While their internal tussle is quite well known, mics of a bunch of TV channels at a press conference clearly picked up their argument about who should start speaking after winning the Puthupally by-election. A visibly peeved Satheesan even pushed the mics to Sudhakaran who kept telling him he would only make the introductory remarks as the party president. The end result was fodder for the troll army.
The Congress member of Parliament, Gaurav Gogoi, and the Assam CM, Himanta Biswa Sarma, engaged in a duel on X (Twitter) over a Central grant given to a company linked to Sarma’s wife. Gaurav requested an inquiry into the Rs 10 crore grant “for a BJP Chief Minister’s family”. Sarma refuted the claim by asserting “neither my wife nor the company she is associated with received or claimed any amount” from the Centre.
Things soon got personal. Sarma recalled how the government had provided the best Covid care to Gaurav’s father, the late CM, Tarun Gogoi, and how he visited the latter in hospital risking his life. Gaurav responded by uploading a video where Gogoi Sr is heard saying, “I have never met a person [Sarma] who could touch my feet and put a dagger in my back at the same time.” The online sparring reflected that old wounds have not healed. Sarma was one of Gogoi Sr’s closest aides in the Congress. The exchange seems to have rattled Sarma, who had referred to Gaurav as a bachha over an issue related to Manipur. The kid sure is growing fast.