Chidambaram refused to indulge in theatrics or even mention Home Minister Amit Shah’s name. Many see parallels with both Emergency and post-Emergency arrests.
Social faux pas
It was a major social faux pas at the President’s At Home at Rashtrapati
Bhavan on Independence Day. Ambassadors and other important guests felt slighted at the cavalier treatment meted out to them and many left without even a cup of tea. This was after, setting a new precedent, the host, President Ram Nath Kovind, left his own party before the guests could even partake a morsel. That the President was leaving was amply clear since the military band played the national anthem, which is done only after the event winds up. To add insult to injury, guests were asked to reach the venue at 4.30 pm when the function started only at 6 pm and continued till around 7.15 pm. Not even water was offered in the reception hall. In contrast, during the first two years of Kovind’s tenure many had appreciated the effort to make the function more informal and friendly by permitting guests to mix with the VVIPs, after the walkway greetings with the president, prime minister and vice-president were over. But, because of heavy-handed security arrangements, intermingling of invitees is generally near impossible in recent times with guests segregated into separate enclosures with cordons.
P Chidambaram made himself scarce for the first 27 hours after his anticipatory bail from the Delhi High Court was cancelled, because it is the normal legal strategy to avoid jail till one applies to the appeals court. Otherwise you get stuck endlessly in prison. But his party felt that it was a PR disaster to take this course of action, as many on social media mocked a former home minister for going underground.
But Chidambaram is not an emotive figure like Indira Gandhi who won much public sympathy during the Janata rule for her arrest. Charan Singh, then home minister, had vowed that he would one day put Mrs Gandhi in the same cell he stayed in at Tihar. When a case was filed against her in 1978, she refused to seek bail, summoned the media to witness her arrest and sat on a dharna at a railway crossing singing an old World War-II song ‘Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye’. Chidambaram refused to indulge in theatrics or even mention Home Minister Amit Shah’s name. Many see parallels with both Emergency and post-Emergency arrests. They believe Shah nurses a grudge that Chidambaram as Union home minister ensured Shah as Gujarat home minister was implicated in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, though the Gujarat government had got the tip-off on it from the Intelligence Bureau in Delhi. History has shown that vendetta politics seldom works.
Several opposition parties have stopped sending their representatives for TV political debates since they feel that the anchors favour the government and they do not get a fair hearing. To overcome this handicap and to appear objective, the channels invite participants whom they term sympathisers of party X, Y and Z. This too has been objected to. Misa Bharti confirmed that the RJD had written to channels that they could not unilaterally decide who could represent their party. Even the RSS has reservations to all and sundry being dubbed as ‘RSS ideologues’. At a recent TV talk show, a frequent guest described as ‘RSS ideologue’ asked sheepishly that the strap line be removed and ‘political analyst’ be inserted instead. The anchor protested that if he had to invite a political analyst he had a wider range to choose from.
The Congress straw poll among CWC and special invitees to select an interim president was fashioned so that all participants were intimidated into giving the same answer: the Gandhi family. The loaded question put to those whose preferences were sought was, “Everyone else wants Rahul Gandhi to continue. What do you think?” A disgruntled Congress leader admitted privately that “an honest conversation is not possible in the party”. While some blame the old guard, it had nothing to do with old or new guard. The truth is that the Gandhis believe they are indispensable and did not want to risk appointing a non-family member, even temporarily, to the job. They had in mind the example of Sitaram Kesri, who refused to budge once anointed.
UP’s shadow CM
The announcement of the new Uttar Pradesh Cabinet was delayed because the Delhi BJP high command had to check Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s list and make changes to ensure caste considerations, regional representation, and that some bad eggs were removed. Though to the outside world the Yogi is all-powerful in his state, in fact it is the little-known Sunil Bansal, state general secretary, organisation, who wields almost as much influence, since he has the ear of Amit Shah. Incidentally, Rajnath Singh’s son Pankaj was again omitted from the ministerial list.