Reports in a section of the media last week that when the Congress organisational elections are held at the end of the year, Sonia Gandhi may continue as president since her health has improved, can be taken with a pinch of salt. The news stories seem to have emanated from those who fear they would be marginalised when Rahul formally takes charge. While Sonia is reportedly uneasy that her son has not shown signs of growing into the role expected of him, she, nevertheless, still wants him to take over. A compromise being contemplated is that while Rahul becomes party president, Sonia will take over as chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Board (CPB). According to the party constitution, the CPB is, in fact, the real decision-making body, more powerful than the Congress Working Committee. But for some reason, there has been no CPB since 1991. If the board is to be reconstituted, Sonia could pick a majority of its 10 members from among her long-time advisers.
Not a secret
Unlike the secrecy surrounding the announcement of Ram Nath Kovind’s name as the NDA presidential candidate, till two days before M Venkaiah Naidu was nominated as its vice-presidential choice, there were rumours that he would get the prestigious post. Naidu only strengthened the suspicion by putting out an unusual statement last Sunday evening, stating that it was not proper for the media to speculate on names for a Constitutional post. On Monday morning, inside Parliament, MPs from different parties congratulated Naidu on his vice-presidential nomination, long before it was officially announced. Naidu did not appear overly jubilant; he had hoped for the president’s post, not that of the V-P. (He, however, explained his lack of enthusiasm by saying he was sad at having to leave the party he had worked for since childhood.) Ironically, even some of Naidu’s fellow Andhra MPs from the TDP were unhappy with the NDA’s decision. Their objection was that Naidu as Minister for Urban Development had facilitated all of Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s plans for the new capital Amravati. They felt that the state would now be at a disadvantage without a powerful godfather in the Cabinet.
Aam aadmi president
Unlike some of his predecessors, BJP president Amit Shah makes it a point not to travel by chartered planes, except during poll campaigns. He generally takes commercial flights. Even when he travels to distant regions such as Leh or the Northeast, Shah hops on to Pawan Hans choppers, that operate in the region, along with other passengers. During official trips, he does not book into hotels but stays overnight with party workers at their homes. He feels this gives him a better insight into the political mood in the region he is travelling.
Two English news channels have been so strident in supporting the ruling party and mocking the Congress, that the Congress’s media cell has decided to ban spokespersons from appearing on them. However, since the boycott is unofficial, not all Congress members are aware that the channels have been blacklisted. Media in-charge Randeep Surjewala was upset when he saw a senior Congress MP holding forth on his recently-released book on one of the blackballed channels. He chided the MP, who explained that he had no clue about the ban.
The Centre was puzzled that the attention-grabbing agitation by Tamil Nadu farmers had continued uninterrupted for nearly 100 days in Delhi. Normally, demonstrators from outside the Capital leave within a few days because they have no arrangements for food and shelter. Enquiries showed that the Tamil farmers had discovered that the nearby Gurdwara Bangla Sahib offers free food at its daily langars. The farmers have developed a relationship with the gurdwara workers to such an extent that they are even being provided free accommodation at the gurdwara. Good reason why they don’t feel inclined to pack up and go home.
No loss, only gain
When M Venkaiah Naidu was filing his nomination for vice-president, Sushma Swaraj joked that his new job would deprive him of two key passions — the media and frequent travels. Arun Jaitley pointed out that, in fact, Naidu would not be losing out. He can still give his irrepressible sound bytes, since as chairperson of the Upper House, he will have Rajya Sabha TV at his command. And as V-P, he is entitled to use the Air Force special plane whenever he wants to travel on official work, either within the country or outside.