Why Nitin Gadkari is a favourite of MPs and the Odisha government
The Union minister for road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari, seems to be the favourite among members of Parliament and the government in Odisha. When it comes to sanctioning projects, Gadkari is accessible to leaders on short notice and it is easy for them to get work done on time. Earlier this week, two Odisha MPs — Suresh Pujari and Aparajita Sarangi — met Gadkari at his office in Delhi and managed to get projects worth Rs 6,000 crores sanctioned, including the capital region ring road project. Such is Gadkari’s popularity that even one of the ministers of Naveen Patnaik government maintained that it was because of the former’s personal intervention that the street light project on the national highway was approved and as well as the lighting of the new bypass road connecting Cuttack to Puri, avoiding the congested capital city, Bhubaneswar.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders in Kerala have started taking up the cudgels on behalf of some of the disgruntled elements within the Congress. The CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member, AA Rahim, has likened Congress leaders referring to their own veterans, KV Thomas, as “thirutha Thomas” — thirutha being a fish — to the Kerala Congress president, K Sudhakaran, repeatedly referring to the chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, as the son of a toddy tapper. The fish stench has stuck to Thomas since he apparently supplied thirutha to the former chief minister, K Karunakaran, in the early 1980s to get a party ticket.
Thomas even defied the party leadership to participate in a seminar at the CPI(M) party congress, sparking a row. Rahim used the instances of insults being heaped on Thomas and K Sudhakaran’s repeated digs at Vijayan to make a point about the Congress. While such insults cannot be condoned in any civilized society, the Communists have one eye on widening the rift within Congress by placating unhappy leaders.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party mayors of South and East Delhi pushed for a ban on meat during Navratri, one Central BJP minister threw a lavish feast with the best selection of non-vegetarian delicacies from his state, highlighting the diverse cultures of India despite his party’s monolithic concept of nation-building. The junior Union minister, G Kishan Reddy, organized a Ugadi lunch, featuring not just his native Hyderabadi biryanis and mango mutton but also prawn fry and other delicacies from Andhra Pradesh.
The treat for journalists and officials of the three ministries he handles came at a time when several meat sellers in Delhi downed shutters fearing a backlash from Reddy’s party, which controls all the municipal bodies in the city, although no such rule has been promulgated. During the nine-day Navratri period, the sale of meat falls and abattoirs stop slaughter for maintenance as many Hindus in Delhi abstain from all meats as well as onion and garlic. When Reddy asked a senior journalist how she found the food, she replied that she could only have curd rice as everything else on the menu would violate her abstinence. The minister replied that curd rice was his favourite too.
The Congress’ effort to expose the All India United Democratic Front for the loss of the joint Opposition candidate, Ripun Bora, in the recent Rajya Sabha elections in Assam was blunted even before the campaign could take off because of the Pradesh Congress Committee working president, Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha, claimed that Bora paid Rs 1.6 crore to the AIUDF to secure its support. He subsequently withdrew his cash-for-vote claim but the damage was done, leaving the Congress embarrassed and providing the AIUDF an exit route on a platter.
Congress insiders said that the state unit was pulling in different directions because of the appointment of too many working presidents. And when persons holding responsible posts do not know what to say and when to say very little can be expected by way of revival. That no apparent action has been taken against Purakaystha, a senior MLA from Barak Valley has left many party workers dejected. There is no cure for self-destruction, insiders added. The disquiet is palpable. The ruling BJP-led alliance, which won both the seats despite not having the numbers, understandably cannot stop grinning.
HD Kumaraswamy is on fire, especially when it comes to communal issues raked up by the sangh parivar. While his party, the Janata Dal (Secular), had an understanding with the ruling BJP in the legislative council to push through essential bills, Kumaraswamy has never been so vitriolic against the sangh as in recent years. With issues like religious conversions, love jihad, hijab ban and ban on Muslim vendors at temples, it was Kumaraswamy whose voice was the loudest among Opposition leaders. While the Congress was quite muted in its reaction to the brazen sectarianism, Kumaraswamy was spitting fire against the BJP and its allies.