True story: Ahmed Patel is part of Cong inner circle, ED or not
Rumour mills started churning out false reports about the Rajya Sabha parliamentarian, Ahmed Patel, not getting the support of the Congress in his struggle with investigative agencies in a case related to the Sandesara group. It was said that Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were silent even as officials of the Enforcement Directorate grilled Patel thrice. It was insinuated that even the party spokespersons were quiet.
The truth, however, is that Patel remains an integral part of the Congress high command structure and the entire party stands with him. He is the Congress treasurer and an important functionary who enjoys the full support of Sonia Gandhi. The party avoided raising a storm over this issue because that would have amounted to falling into the Bharatiya Janata Party’s trap. The primary purpose of sending the ED to Patel’s residence was to divert attention from the border crisis with China. In response to questions, all spokespersons condemned the government’s vendetta politics. Priyanka also quietly indicated the party’s mind by tweeting, “Sending the ED to harass [Ahmed Patel] ji in the middle of the COVID pandemic shows the perversion of this government’s priorities. Thousands are dying, our health workers are desperate for supportive measures, the economy is facing an unprecedented crisis, the Chinese are... entering our territory, our soldiers are being killed, and this is what the Government is busy spending time on. They say crisis unveils the true nature of people, it appears the saying applies to governments as well”.
Patel also avoided making it a political issue and calmly put out this tweet: “Thank you officials of [ED] for coming to my house thrice. I answered each of their 128 questions but they failed to answer my one fundamental question — Who in the Gujarat state government was responsible for bestowing multiple benefits, privileges & honours on the Sandesara group?” The answer to this question will open a Pandora’s box.
In spite of having lost the politically significant Union home ministry, Rajnath Singh seems to be enjoying his stint as defence minister. In Narendra Modi’s first government, Rajnath was the home minister, but was hardly seen or heard. In Modi 2.0, he was given charge of defence, which many, including, perhaps, Rajnath himself, felt was a demotion. A year down the line, Rajnath, according to people close to him, feels that the defence ministry has been a blessing in disguise. In this short period, it has given him what he could not get in five full years: visibility. As defence minister, he has got wide media coverage and the opportunity to travel abroad. Recently, he was in Moscow to attend the Victory Day parade. He became the first defence minister to fly in the indigenous Tejas fighter plane. Add to this his visit to France to see the Rafale fighter jets. He had hogged the limelight by performing “shastra pujan (arms worship)” of the Rafale jet with lemon and green chillies.
On the political front too, Rajnath now gets to address many more party rallies and head ministerial committees. On Friday, however, he must have been very upset. He was scheduled to visit Ladakh to meet the soldiers after the Galwan valley clash. He had to drop out at the last moment since the prime minister decided to ‘lead from the front’. It would have been some consolation had Modi taken along his defence minister as well. But Rajnath should know that Modi does not want anybody else in the frame.
A section of the Congress was livid with the Nationalist Congress Party chief, Sharad Pawar, for his comments on the Chinese intrusion, as he not only advised against politicizing the issue but raked up the 1962 war, pointing to the loss of land at that time. While most Congress leaders always view Pawar with suspicion, they believe politics is an art of striking balances and compromises, and hence the best option is usually to ignore things. Some even suspected that Pawar could have been pressurized into making that statement. But the Congress leadership decided to continue asking tough questions, arguing that suppressing facts about the brazen Chinese intrusion would be nothing short of a betrayal. Many Opposition parties have fought shy of confronting the Modi government on this issue, and that has caused the Congress leaders much anguish, but they believe that the party that ruled the country for over five decades has the primary responsibility of protecting the national interest.
Narendra Modi was the only leader from the democratic world to congratulate the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, for winning the constitutional referendum that cleared the way for him to extend his rule till 2036. According to a report from the Russian news agency, TASS, the only other heads of state to congratulate Putin on the day of his victory were the presidents of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan — all erstwhile Soviet republics with long stints of dominant party rule.
The big question haunting Kerala’s political landscape is this: which way will the Kerala Congress (Mani) faction, led by Jose K Mani, go? After being sacked from the Congress-led United Democratic Front, Jose has revealed his cards. The BJP, the grapevine has it, did try to rope in the party with two MLAs in Kerala and one member each in the upper and lower Houses of Parliament. But now the Congress has sent out feelers to rope the faction back in, so as to ensure that it does not drift away before the upcoming local body elections.
The former Janata Dal (Secular) state chief and one of the defectors who brought down the coalition government, AH Vishwanath, is set to launch his ‘tell-all’ account about the revolt that took them to a Mumbai hotel sponsored by the BJP. Having lost the bypolls and having been ignored for a legislative council seat to enter the cabinet, Vishwanath is a wounded man. The managers of ‘Operation Lotus’ must be biting their nails about how many poaching secrets will end up in the book.