Investigations into the source of the BSP’s large deposits of old currency notes post demonetisation have made Mayawati jittery. There is a discernible change in her behaviour towards the media. Earlier she held press conferences rarely and her attitude was cavalier. Her press meets followed a fixed routine. She would put her signature purse down, read out a prepared text and then without answering questions ask those present to proceed for lunch. Of late Mayawati has started interacting with the press more frequently and is a gracious hostess. Last week at a press meet she conceded that it would be inappropriate to simply read out a statement, and she would answer questions. She was all affability as she insisted the scribes stay for lunch.
Since 2006, the US State Department has interacted officially with the RSS. Its annual meeting with an RSS representative, Ram Madhav, on foreign policy and disarmament evoked protests from some US Congresspersons in touch with secular liberal forces in India opposed to the Sangh Parivar. However, the State Department did not yield. But, ever since Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister, the annual meeting has been discontinued. This is probably because Ram Madhav, formerly a spokesperson for the RSS, is now in the BJP and part of its think tank. The BJP general secretary continues to interact with the US government in a different capacity.
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A much appreciated Christmas gift dispatched to a few influential journalists and politicians in Delhi was a generous chunk of best quality smoked salmon from the North Seas. The gift was by the Norwegian Embassy, which made some wonder if it was a peace offering, considering at the moment Norway is not very popular in India. Norway’s child protection authorities have again separated an NRI child from his parents on an unverified complaint.
Throwing her weight
Smriti Irani lost her HRD portfolio because of complaints that she was throwing her weight around. Now there are similar allegations against one of the youngest members of Modi’s council of ministers. Last month when the PM came to a cultural festival at Banaras Hindu University, Anupriya Patel, MoS, Health, was keen to organise a health camp in the vicinity which Modi could drop in for. Ministry officials, however, were unable to oblige and Patel complained to the PM who, in turn, spoke to Patel’s senior minister J P Nadda.
Disunited we stand
If the attendance at JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav’s residence on the late Charan Singh’s birthday is any indication, then the unity of opposition parties is still a distant dream. Yadav invited representatives from all parties to attend the release of the Hindi translation of US professor Paul Brass’s book on Charan Singh. The Congress was represented by Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel, the RLD by Ajit Singh and the JD(S) by H D Deve Gowda. But there was no one from the JD(U)’s ally in Bihar, the RJD. Relations between Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad are strained ever since Nitish welcomed the PM’s demonetisation move. Lalu read this as a signal from the Bihar Chief Minister that he had other fish to fry if the RJD chief and his family did not stop making things uncomfortable for him in Patna. Curiously, the only SP member present was Amar Singh, whom Akhilesh Singh wants thrown out of the party, and who represents only himself.
Uncertainty in TN
The suggestion that Veda Nilayam, the late Jayalalithaa’s residence at Poes Garden for some 35 years, be turned into a museum was first mooted by expelled AIADMK MP Sasikala Pushpa to spite Sasikala, who still resides there. But there is increasing support among AIADMK cadres to the idea. For two days the public was even permitted to tour the interior of the heavily guarded bungalow, which as long as its owner was alive was out of bounds to all but a select few. However, the tours of Veda Nilayam stopped abruptly. Also private security guards have taken over from the Tamil Nadu Police. Sasikala, meanwhile, reportedly suspects a conspiracy by the Central government in ordering Income-Tax raids on then chief secretary P Rama Mohana Rao. CM O Panneerselvam is silent on the raids and has appointed a new chief secretary, though Rao claims he still holds the post and the Centre has breached constitutional authority. In TV interviews he thanked Mamata Banerjee and Rahul Gandhi for supporting his position. With Sasikala named party general secretary, events in the state are still unfolding.