In Speaker’s hands
When Parliament passed the anti-defection Bill in 1985, it forgot to include a vital clause, without which the law has been rendered toothless. No time limit was set for the Speaker of an Assembly to decide if a legislator should be disqualified for defecting. In Andhra Pradesh, of the 67 MLAs elected on Jagan Reddy’s YSR Congress ticket, 20 have switched to the TDP. Some of the showcause notices issued to the MLAs by the Speaker, who is from the TDP, date back to January 2016. With the Speaker yet to take a decision, the aggrieved parties cannot go to court. As such, the YSR Congress has no redress. In fact, four of the YSR Congress defectors were recently appointed as ministers in Chandrababu Naidu’s government; governor ESL Narasimhan did not question the Constitutional propriety of their swearing- in. Incidentally, the reason that the anti-Sasikala camp in the AIADMK suddenly appears very confident is that they have reportedly wooed Tamil Nadu speaker P Dhanapal to their side.
United on this
The three feuding Congress satraps of Madhya Pradesh — Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijaya Singh — were for once all on the same page. They were all delighted that Mohan Prakash, the party general secretary in charge of the state, was relieved of his responsibility. All three hold Prakash, a favourite of Rahul Gandhi, responsible for the Congress being out of power in MP for the last 14 years. With Prakash gone, his nominee, Arun Yadav, the president of the Madhya Pradesh Congress, is likely to be replaced. This could lead to a tussle between Scindia and Kamal Nath for the post.
A biography of India’s most improbable business tycoon, Baba Ramdev, is overdue. Against all odds, the yoga teacher emerged from abject poverty to start a business house, Patanjali, which deals in everything from creams, shampoos, biscuits, household cleaners, jeans, home-worship goods to freshly packaged prasad from popular temples. While Patanjali is growing at over 100% annually, its FMCG peers ITC, HUL and Colgate Palmolive struggle to register single-digit growth. Patanjali’s revenues were `10,000 crore in May 2017 and its target is `50,000 crore by 2020. In which case, it would have outstripped all three leading international FMCG conglomerates put together. As a yogi, Ramdev cannot own material wealth but his business partner, Acharya Balkrishna, is listed as the 26th richest Indian. Ramdev, however, doesn’t want his remarkable story made public; he has obtained an ex parte injunction from a lower court in Delhi to prevent the release of the book, Godman to Tycoon. The matter is now under appeal.
During his speech at the University of California, Berkeley, Rahul Gandhi complained that the BJP had an army led by the Prime Minister himself trying to lampoon him on social media. But the blame may not all be on one side. Recently, a clip of Kaun Banega Crorepati, the game show hosted by Amitabh Bachchan on a popular TV channel, made the rounds on social media. It featured a question asking a participant to identify the voice of a politician in a taped conversation. The voice was that of Amit Shah, but the dialogue was part of an alleged expose by a website, Snoop Gate, which embarrassed then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in November 2013. The clip, shared extensively on social media, surprised many, who wondered why a popular TV channel would dare mock the PM in such a manner. It turned out that the actual programme had a completely different tape of Shah and the Snoop Gate portion had been maliciously inserted in its place.
When former diplomat Hardeep Puri was in Sri Lanka on September 1 — for a conference on the Indian Ocean organised by Ram Madhav’s India Foundation which was attended by representatives from 35 countries — he got a call from the PMO. He was informed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted to meet him on his return. It was assumed by the party leadership that Puri was being summoned to inform him that he was to be made Sherpa (in charge) of G-20, a position previously held by Arvind Panagariya, former head of Niti Aayog, who had decided to return to the US. Modi, however, seems to have changed his mind after the meeting with Puri. Impressed by the suave, persuasive former diplomat and the paper he had written on urban planning, Modi, in a surprise turn around, offered Puri the post of minister of state with independent charge of Urban Development instead.