Resort to tactics
When they accepted a dinner invitation at a minister’s house in Chennai last week, most AIADMK MLAs had no clue that they would end up instead as guests at the Golden Bay Resort, some 100 kilometres from the state capital. The resort, owned by those close to Sasikala, is surrounded on three sides by the backwaters and there is only one way out. According to reports, there were two toughs outside each room—most of them from Mannargudi, Sasikala’s hometown.
For the first two days, television was disconnected, no newspapers were supplied and mobile phones were confiscated. Nevertheless, three MLAs managed to escape. One jumped off the bus when it was on its way to the resort. Another donned yellow bermuda shorts and deceived the guards by pretending to be a jogger and slipped away. The third one took off his dhoti, and used a spoon to pretend to be a gardener who was digging. He then climbed over the wall.
To add to the strange goings-on at the hotel, one night three ambulances turned up at the beach at 2 am responding to a call for help. It was later claimed that it was simply a case of an upset stomach. However, even after controls were relaxed and mobiles returned, the overwhelming majority of MLAs opted to stay on at the resort, which offers water gliding and massages, among other attractions. Tailors on the verandahs stitched new clothes for the MLAs.
The Panneerselvam camp alleged that the MLAs stayed confined for fear of reprisals. But the fact is that a large number of legislators were handpicked by Sasikala and feel obliged to her. Her nephew TTV Dinakaran, who has been named acting party general secretary in her absence, was in charge of the Golden Bay operation. Most police officers and administrative staff also fell in line doing Sasikala’s bidding.
Sasikala was in a hurry to assume the chief minister’s post partly because she feared the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment, but also because she had been warned by her astrologer that the most propitious time for her was between January 26 and February 14. After that, her luck would not sustain. When Sasikala was jailed and EK Palaniswami was named chief ministerial candidate, it was hoped that O Panneerselvam would fall in line. There have been attempts at a rapprochement. Although Sasikala’s side has the numbers, it is fearful that mounting negative public opinion might influence legislators, if not now, later. The normally pliable Panneerselvam came up with two non-negotiable demands. He wants an inquiry into Jayalalithaa’s death and that Poes Garden be turned into a memorial.
The CPWD has been looking for a suitable residence for President Pranab Mukherjee when his term ends in July this year. One of the bungalows under consideration was 10, Rajaji Marg, once allotted to Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and at present occupied by MoS for culture Mahesh Sharma. However, Mukherjee may save the CPWD the trouble since he is reportedly keen on returning to his old home, 13, Talkatora Marg, where he lived for 17 years before he was elevated as President. Even though he was entitled to a bigger bungalow as a senior minister, Mukherjee preferred to stay on at Talkatora Road which he considered auspicious. The house is presently occupied by his son, Abhijit Mukherjee, an MP from Bengal.
The people of Gwalior were surprised by the absence of Jyotiraditya Scindia, the head of the royal house of Scindia, from the wedding reception of his cousin, Akshay Bhansali, son of Yashodhara Raje Scindia, the minister for commerce, employment and industries in Madhya Pradesh. True, Jyotiraditya’s two aunts Yashodhara and Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje are in the BJP while he is a Congress MP. But party affiliations do not normally stand in the way of family ties among former royals. In fact, the royal bride Krutika Raje’s grandfather was a seven-time Congress MLA from Karnataka. Perhaps a point of friction, apart from long-pending disputes about inheritance, is that both Akshay Bhansali, presently working as an MTV producer in New York, and Jyotiraditya’s son Mahanaryaman may be interested in a career in politics. It is surmised that both have their eyes on Shivpuri, presently Yashodhara’s constituency and part of the erstwhile Scindia kingdom.
Must every morning
Home minister Rajnath Singh is regular about two things every morning. Come what may he must do his 40-minute puja. When in Delhi, at 10 am, he holds a meeting, with national security adviser Ajit Doval, IB chief Rajiv Jain, R&AW chief Anil Dhasmana and interlocutor for Naga peace talks, RN Ravi.