To mark the 140th birth anniversary celebrations of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the government has set up a task force to study and put forward an authoritative account of Patel’s achievements, most notably his integration of the princely states. Two of the members on the committee are columnist and former ambassador G Parthasarathy and former chairperson of the National Dairy Development Board Amrita Patel. Interestingly, both members’ fathers were contemporaries in the Indian Civil Service and had worked under Sardar Patel when he was free India’s first home minister. Another Gujarati being honoured by the Modi government is Morarji Desai. It has taken a decision to name Surat airport after the former prime minister.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France in April, French President Francois Hollande presented him his old enrollment card as a member of the Alliance Francaise in Ahmedabad. Back in 1981, when Modi was an RSS pracharak, he had studied at the institution. The fact that the French could trace the records of Modi’s admission at Alliance Francaise—membership card no. 11—is an eye opener. It shows how methodical the French are. It also presents a new angle to Modi’s personality. Not many are aware that he was interested in learning French and watching French movies.
Dynastic circle widens
Jairam Ramesh and Madhusudan Mistry who were once among Rahul Gandhi’s key aides no longer seem as close to him as before. The Congress vice-president now turns increasingly to a younger group of party MPs. The new favourites are Deepender Hooda, Gaurav Gogoi, Sushmita Dev and Jyotiraditya Scindia. All four belong to political dynasties. Deepender is the son of former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Hooda, Sushmita the daughter of former cabinet minister Santosh Mohan Dev, Gaurav Gogoi the son of Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and Jyotiraditya the son of the late Madhavrao Scindia. Considering that Rahul has time and again emphasised that he aims for the party to be truly egalitarian and everyone can rise through the organisational elections, his new charmed circle does not suggest a departure from dynastic tradition. Meanwhile, the rise of Scindia is perturbing for Digvijaya Singh. If Scindia is appointed party general secretary when Rahul is made party president, Diggy Raja might feel marginalised since he has a vital stake in the party’s Madhya Pradesh unit.
7, Race course, just as before
When Manmohan Singh called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his 7 Race Course Road residence-cum-office last month, he was struck by the fact that his successor had made no alterations to the décor of the reception room. The chairs and tables were placed in the same position as during Manmohan Singh’s time and the upholstery of the sofas was the same as before. Singh’s first remark on entering the room was that it was exactly as he had left it. To which Modi laughed that even the spare pens left behind in the pen holder were the same number as before. He did not believe in waste or change for change’s sake, the Prime Minister said.
The other Mulayam son branches out
There are nearly a dozen politicians in Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family. Elder son Akhilesh is chief minister of Uttar Pradesh while several family members are in Parliament. But Akhilesh’s stepbrother Prateek is now charting a career for himself in fitness. Prateek, who keeps his 5’11” frame visibly well toned, has opened a gymnasium in Lucknow and plans to set up a chain of fitness centres. His mother Sadhana recently was a regular at her son’s gym seeking to keep in shape. Prateek is in a way following in the footsteps of his father Mulayam, who was a wrestler before he plunged into politics. In the middle, it had appeared that Prateek had political ambitions. At the time of the Lok Sabha polls, a group of SP workers had staged a protest seeking a ticket for Prateek. Prateek’s wife Aparna has also made political noises in the past.