The likely reunification of the warring AIADMK factions, with the ‘delinking’ of Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dinakaran from the party, is being facilitated by the Modi government. The AIADMK MLAs had been apprehensive of their future after the Election Commission froze the party’s symbol and countermanded the RK Nagar by-election. Incriminating ledgers were also seized during income tax raids on the offices of state health minister C Vijayabaskar (the ledgers were so incriminatingly precise reportedly because Sasikala in jail had to be kept in the loop). Matters took a turn for the worse when Dinakaran was accused of trying to bribe an EC official. There was very real apprehension that the central government may impose President’s rule in the state, something every MLA wanted to avoid at all cost. The Paneerselvam camp, with far fewer MLAs, was requested to rejoin the Sasikala group, on the understanding that Sasikala and her family members would be shown the door. The man who has emerged the most powerful in this backroom manoeuvring is Lok Sabha deputy speaker M Thambidurai, who is in touch with BJP leaders and hopes to become a minister in the Modi Cabinet. The BJP, in turn, may have gained a powerful ally in the south. The new camaraderie was on display last week, when the Navy arranged a day out at sea for AIADMK MLAs, MPs and their families.
Uma Bharti has reason to feel aggrieved. While the media has been proclaiming Yogi Adityanath as the first religious leader to be appointed as chief minister of a major Indian state, it is in fact sadhvi Uma Bharti who holds the distinction. Bharti was elected as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh in 2003—a fact that seems to have been forgotten because she lost her post in less than a year. She was told to resign because of an arrest warrant against her in an obscure Hubli riot case of 1994. Bharti presumed that she would be recalled as chief minister once the matter was resolved but Babulal Gaur usurped the top job and he was followed by Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Bharti complained that it was a case of bachcha chor—her baby, Madhya Pradesh, had been unfairly snatched away from her. After last week’s Supreme Court judgment on Ayodhya, the now Union minister for water resources made it clear that she had no intention of resigning this time around. She welcomed the reminder that she was one of the original campaigners for the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and that Adityanath is a relative newcomer to the cause.
Unquestioned number two
Rajnath Singh is number two in the Narendra Modi Cabinet’s pecking order. Unfortunately this does not seem to bring Singh any benefits. Amit Shah presided over a recent BJP parliamentary party meeting in the absence of Narendra Modi, who was out of Delhi, though he is not an MP. At the recent National Executive of the party in Bhubaneswar, there were only four people on the dais—Modi, Shah, Arun Jaitley as Rajya Sabha leader, and LK Advani, out of deference to his seniority. In earlier times, many more BJP veterans would be accommodated on the stage.
The PMO has quietly conveyed to those in charge of the government’s publicity that there is no need to give undue credit for decisions in the state to chief minister Yogi Adityanath. In fact, a Central minister close to Modi and Shah went out of the way to explain that all measures announced by the UP government, since the BJP takeover in Lucknow, were in conformity with the party’s manifesto for the state. It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had cleared the promises in the manifesto, after scrutinising them in great detail for feasibility. This included shutting down illegal abattoirs, the minister said.
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Age no bar
LK Advani is upset that many in his party assume that old people are doddering and need to retire. At 89, his mind is as sharp as ever and his capacity to work remains the same as before, he pointed out to a newsman. Advani certainly remains the most alert and active of all his contemporaries in politics. The only sign of his advancing years is his nostalgia for his early years in Sindh and the time he spent as a student at St Patrick’s School, Karachi. In fact, even when he was felicitating Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at a recent reception by the India Foundation, he brought up the topic of Sindh and regretted it was not part of India, much to the puzzlement of the Bangladeshi delegation.