Make it large; Conspicuous absence; Repeat a lie often enough; The more things change
Make it large
It is no secret that the chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Amit Shah, is a man for all seasons. The new sprawling headquarters of the BJP is the latest entry in Shah's long list of achievements. After making BJP the world's largest political party with around 11 crore members, Shah has ensured that the party office matches the size of its following. Shah, it seems, has claimed that the BJP's new headquarters is the largest of political party offices across the world. BJP functionaries, usually quick to rally behind the head honcho, are not so sure. They think it may not take long for Shah's claim to be exposed as an empty boast. Especially, since the new Congress headquarters is under construction on the same road and, if insiders are to be believed, it will be taller and more spread out than the BJP HQ. For Shah, who is most vociferous when it comes to demanding a 'Congress- mukt Bharat', nothing can be more unpleasant than being beaten by that party. Perhaps wary of Shah's reaction, BJP functionaries have kept an excuse handy. Surely, it is the long term that the Congress served in power that is to blame for the party getting access to a bigger plot of land.
Meanwhile, the architectural marvel that is the BJP HQ with large conference halls, gardens and canteens, is lacking on a key front. It has no WiFi or even televisions sets so far. For a party with BJP's online presence this is quite an aberration. Ironically, this might just delay Shah getting the bad news about having been beaten at his own game by the Grand Old Party.
The sudden demise of the popular actress, Sridevi, left the country stunned. She was mourned by people across India. However, the response in one state was decidedly subdued. Lawmakers in Madhya Pradesh were circumspect about paying respect to the deceased actress in the budget session of the assembly. This in spite of the fact that the assembly Speaker, Sitasharan Sharma, was keen on doing so. Apparently, some officials pointed out to Sharma that the circumstances surrounding the actress's death are not exactly clear. Sridevi died at a hotel in Dubai, where she is said to have accidentally drowned in a bathtub. But there are rumours that she was under the influence of alcohol at the time of her death. Sridevi's name was thus dropped from the condolence list, which included a former speaker of the Madhya Pradesh assembly and many other distinguished personalities who passed away between the December 2017 and the budget 2018 sessions of the assembly.
The Congress was quick to decry this move as being politically motivated. One member of the legislative assembly, Govind Singh, even alleged that the real reason behind dropping Sridevi's name was that she had been a supporter of secular beliefs. Sridevi was not much of a political entity though. The source of the politics may lie elsewhere. Sridevi's father, K. Ayyappan, had reportedly contested the Tamil Nadu assembly polls under the Congress in the Rajiv Gandhi era. He was the Congress candidate for the Sivakasi constituency in 1989. Was it not the bard who said that 'the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children'?
Repeat a lie often enough
Tweet (rumours)-apologize-delete seems to be the mantra of the right-wing ec(h)osystem. Or so it would seem from the frequency with which this modus operandi is being used by right-wing sympathizers. Selective information is tweeted by eminent personalities, altering popular discourse. The cricketer, Virender Sehwag, recently singled out three Muslim names from among the 16 people who were arrested in Kerala for lynching a hungry man. He apologized for his oversight and then went on to delete both the original tweet and the apology. But once an information is sent out into the wilderness of the web, it remains there forever. Which is why Twitter is popularly called an echo-chamber.
The BJP gen-sec, Ram Madhav, and a Rajya Sabha member were two others to take the same route, choosing to tweet an old newspaper report that linked the missing student from JNU, Najeeb Ahmed, to the Islamic State - a charge that has long been disproved by the Delhi police. Madhav deleted the tweet and apologized while the other MP just retracted his tweet with no apology. The report, however, has now gotten a new lease of life. Goebbels would have been proud.
The more things change
Rahul Gandhi's choices for the committees for the Congress plenary to be held later this month have raised eyebrows. Leaders from the heartland were particularly miffed at the dominance of the English-speaking elite who have no connection with grassroot politics. The sharpest snub came from Uttar Pradesh where a leader said that the only name missing from the list of 'rootless wonders' was that of Chetan Bhagat. Children of prominent leaders and Congressmen who have controlled the party in the last few decades made up 80 per cent of the nominees. Many were disappointed to note that the culture of tokenism has not changed under Rahul, in spite of his lofty claims of making a difference. The more things change, the more they remain the same it seems.
There is nothing that a bureaucrat cannot do. This became evident at the high-profile investors summit held in Lucknow. Navneet Sahgal, an IAS officer who served as the principal secretary under Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, was the prime mover and shaker behind the summit. Sahgal has also held key posts under Mayavati of the Bahujan Samaj Party and Akhilesh Das of the Congress. Sahgal is now all set to cosy up to the ruling BJP in UP - all on the basis of his efficiency, of course.