Was Jaitley's absence a factor in the hounding of Chidambaram?
The timing of the Central Bureau of Investigation’s hounding of the former finance minister, P Chidambaram, in order to arrest him was keenly discussed in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s corridors. Many leaders linked Chidambaram’s plight with Arun Jaitley — the finance minister in the first Narendra Modi government who passed away on Saturday, August 24, 2019 — being taken ill. Among the whispers were questions about why no action was taken against Chidambaram, despite the case being old, when Jaitley had still been active. The leaders felt that their political differences notwithstanding, Jaitley and Chidambaram had shared a warm relationship. “I think Subramanian Swamy was right when he accused Jaitley of protecting his friend, Chidambaram,” one leader was heard saying. “Both of them were lawyers and leading members of the Lutyens’ power circuit,” added another. The absence of Jaitley, the leaders felt, would give the prime minister and his confidant, the Union home minister, Amit Shah, a free hand to act. The fresh first information report against NDTV promoters is also being linked with Jaitley’s absence.
The senior Congress leader, Jairam Ramesh, whose words of caution about demonizing the prime minister raised eyebrows in his party, has been singing this tune for the last few months. He was heard comparing Narendra Modi with Indira Gandhi, going to the extent of describing the Emergency as a dictatorial act that the current PM will never impose. Ramesh believes that Modi is just a Hindu nationalist; calling him a fascist is dangerously irresponsible and betrays a poor understanding of contemporary politics. Reportedly, BJP leaders also hold Ramesh in high esteem, often pleading with him in Parliament to convince the Congress to cooperate with the Union government.
Interestingly, when some young leaders praised the government for the abrogation of Article 370, Ramesh told them not to speak without understanding the subject. He vehemently denies the possibility of joining the BJP, arguing that differing with the Congress’s tactics does not reflect a desire to defect. He also says that Rahul Gandhi is too democratic to object to contrarian views.
The first appointment made by Sonia Gandhi in her fresh avatar as the Congress president bore the clear imprimatur of Rahul Gandhi. She formed the screening committee to shortlist candidates for the Maharashtra assembly election with all three young leaders — Jyotiraditya Scindia, Harish Chaudhary and Manickam Tagore. Although the committee also has the customary presence of the general secretary incharge, the state chief and the legislature party leader, for the first time ever, all three members are young.
Rahul had also inducted one or two young loyalists in screening committees in his time as party president, but never all three. So the process of a generational shift is certainly not going to be reversed or slowed down because of Sonia’s return and Rahul’s exit. This also indicates that Sonia, too, appreciates the need for creating new leadership to take on the BJP over the next five years, by which time the established senior leaders will be too old to lead the party. Interestingly, such a transformation, led by Sonia, may generate less heartburn among the senior leaders than it would have if the push had been made by Rahul.
Nuptials on hold
The Aam Aadmi Party spokesman, Raghav Chadha, turned down a wedding proposal on Twitter by blaming the economy. However, the leader of his party, Arvind Kejriwal, said he had full faith in the Centre’s ability to revive the economy. Chadha, a 30-year old chartered accountant, is considered the party’s most eligible bachelor. The AAP’s social media handles often get spammed with marriage proposals, prompting a senior leader to joke that his hand could be given in marriage for the party to seal an alliance in the future.
Chadha replied to a woman from Punjab named Kirti Thakur, who tweeted asking if he would marry her. Chadha said, “Sorry Kirti, it’s a bad time to get married considering the state of the economy. Let’s talk again after Acche Din arrive.” Now that could be a long wait.
Amid the angry cacophony by Indian doctors against an editorial on Kashmir by the international medical journal, The Lancet, one medic has pointed out a contrasting silence. The Lancet’s commentary had not questioned the political decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir; it had merely pointed out the health consequences of protracted exposure to violence on the people of Kashmir.
Among other organizations and individual doctors, the Indian Medical Association — the country’s largest body of doctors, with over 3,00,000 members — had decried The Lancet’s commentary, saying it represented a “breach of propriety”. But it has remained silent about a World Medical Association call to the president of the Honduras to end violence against protesters who are striking with regard to the government’s policies. The IMA is a member of the WMA, which had, in a recent statement on the Honduras, said that it “condemns in the strongest terms the violence and threats against protesters”. The doctor who requested not to be named says: “The response by [the] medical community to violence anywhere in the world should be uniform.'
KS Eshwarappa stunned everyone by touching the feet of the Karnataka chief minister, BS Yeddyurappa, before he took oath as one of the 17 ministers to work under the Lingayat strongman. Never has he spared a chance to take a dig at Yeddyurappa, considered the biggest stumbling block to his chief ministerial aspirations. Perhaps Eshwarappa thought it would be better to patch up, since he made it to the mini cabinet while several top leaders were left sulking.