Several MPs in Delhi had eyed Amar Singh’s Lodhi Estate government bungalow. As Rajya Sabha MP, Singh had spent crores converting the bungalow into a plush, super-modern, five-star villa with the latest fixtures, huge glass windows, a false ceiling, a swanky bar, swimming pool and Jacuzzi. The bungalow has now been allotted to MoS for micro, small and medium enterprises Giriraj Singh, who is known to put his foot in his mouth. The BJP MP from Bihar had controversially declared that those opposed to Narendra Modi should leave for Pakistan. More recently, he said that if Rajiv Gandhi had married a Nigerian, the Congress wouldn’t have made her party leader. Unlike others who have had to leave after completing their parliamentary terms, Amar Singh has so far managed to stay on. Giriraj Singh has surprisingly not protested publicly though he has been waiting patiently, staying meanwhile in cramped quarters at Vithalbhai Patel House.
Checked in time
When Prime Minister Modi landed in Paris, he was wearing a smart grey-brown shawl with checks that matched his grey jacket. The shawl resembled a Louis Vuitton shawl with its trademark squares. Modi’s detractors, including several in the media, took to Twitter to pan his fashion statement, both for the ‘extravagance’ and the fact that it was not made in India (Louis Vuitton shawls are in the range of R1,50,000). However, before the shawl controversy could blow up into monogrammed pin-striped suit proportions, the company issued a press release to clarify that it was not from the celebrated French fashion house. Modi, in fact, wore the Made in India copy several times on his trip to make a point.
Low key No 2
The BJP is keen to clarify that Arun Jaitley was on the stage—and not Rajnath Singh—at the BJP national executive in Bangalore simply because of a custom introduced over 10 years ago during Jaswant Singh’s tenure as leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. The tradition was that the party’s parliamentary leaders in both houses of Parliament would sit on the dais. Before the PM’s nine-day trip to France, Germany and Canada, the cabinet secretary issued a note to the five senior-most ministers that in the event of an emergency, they should refer the issue to the home minister, indicating he still maintains his No 2 position.
There is a feeling in a section of the party that Amit Shah and Narendra Modi have bungled in handling the opposition to the Land Bill. The united opposition has cleverly turned the campaign into an anti-farmer issue and the government has shortsightedly tried to counter it by getting into an academic exercise on the merits of the Bill. The choice of Nitin Gadkari and Arun Jaitley as spokespersons on the Bill is considered unsuitable. It would have made more sense to rope in BJP’s rural leaders like Rajnath Singh, Venkaiah Naidu, Chaudhary Birendra Singh and Hukumdev Narayan Yadav to mobilise support at the village level.
A month-and-a-half ago at Amit Shah’s son’s wedding, it seemed as if TMC MP Dinesh Trivedi was all set to join the BJP, though Mamata Banerjee had just appointed him vice-president of the party. Trivedi did not seem at all coy about hobnobbing with the enemy at the wedding festivities. But the BJP seems to have lost a golden opportunity to lure Trivedi and a few other TMC dissidents to its side in West Bengal. Banerjee now finds herself on a more secure footing with the dissension within her ranks scuttled, at least temporarily. She is confident of victory in the coming Kolkata municipal corporation elections.
Getting around ordinance
Rajasthan Congress president Sachin Pilot plans to launch a campaign to ‘expose’ Vasundara Raje government’s allotment of 600 mines on a first-come, first-serve basis for a 99-year-lease on December 31 last year. The allotments happened just 12 days before the central government’s ordinance on January 12, recommending that mining rights all over the country be auctioned and allocated in a transparent fashion for a limited period. Pilot has moved an RTI application to find out the extent of the ‘loss’ to the state exchequer from the hasty deal before the ordinance. Four major cement factories were among the beneficiaries, he alleges.
The IPL matches have begun but not a single cricket match has been held in Jaipur, home of the Rajasthan Royals team. This is because the dispute between the two factions of the Rajasthan Cricket Association is far from resolved. After a stormy general body meeting last month, Lalit Modi, once the czar of the state’s cricket association, was ousted. There have been charges and counter charges about the manner in which the EGM was conducted. Amin Pathan, formerly a protégé of Modi, was elected president since he was supported by the government nominees. Rajasthan chief minister Vasundara Raje ditched her old friend Lalit Modi. But the problems of the RCA seem far from over.