From Narendra Modi-TS Thakur cold war, Donald Trump India link turned sour, to Con sweet revenge against BJP, an insider’s account

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New Delhi | November 06, 2016 6:25 AM

Inside Track

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief justice TS Thakur shared the dais at a function to mark the 50th anniversary of the Delhi High Court.Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief justice TS Thakur shared the dais at a function to mark the 50th anniversary of the Delhi High Court.

Visible stand-off

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief justice TS Thakur shared the dais at a function to mark the 50th anniversary of the Delhi High Court. Throughout the 90-minute ceremony, the two men did not speak to each other or even exchange glances. The CJI occasionally chatted with Delhi lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung, while Modi exchanged a word or two with law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. The body language of the two was reflective of the stand-off between the judiciary and the executive over the appointment of judges. Thakur is to retire on January 3 next year, but the cold war between the judiciary and executive is likely to continue. His successors, justice JS Khehar and justice Dipak Misra, share similar views on the need to uphold the primacy of the collegium, over the executive, in judicial appointments.

Seasonal bonhomie

The Prime Minister urged his senior party leaders to reach out to the media during the Diwali season and connect with them on various issues facing the government. In response, several central ministers threw Diwali parties for journalists and some sent gifts. Avoiding the conventional sweetmeats-and-nuts route, a few ministers opted for the unusual: one presented a packet of ghee made from cow’s milk, another four cans of deodorant spray. A particularly lavish gift was a juicer-cum-mixer and a grinder. Some scribes returned the costly gift.

Open house

It is increasingly becoming difficult for the media and party workers to get an opportunity to speak to BJP president Amit Shah. His staff fob off all callers with the promise that the message will be conveyed to the elusive party president. But a day after Diwali, on the occasion of the Gujarati new year, Shah announced that he would personally respond to all telephone callers during the day and meet every visitor at his Ahmedabad address. Having gotten wind of Shah’s open house policy, thousands came to call on him. The BJP president also spoke to over 300 well-wishers on the phone. The only catch: the conversation never extended beyond greetings and good wishes. Queries about the party and the government were politely brushed aside as well as requests for information on party nominations.

Trump card

The Trump Organization, owned by Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, is interested in developing business contacts in India, but most of its proposed deals have so far not fructified. Prithviraj Chavan recalls meeting Donald Trump Jr in 2011, when he was chief minister of Maharashtra. A local businessman had brought Trump Jr and promised the then chief minister that the Trump Organization was interested in investing crores in the state. On investigation, however, Chavan discovered that far from investing money, the Trump business house was, in fact, looking to take money out of the country by lending its name to Indian businesses. Chavan refused to facilitate the group by bending rules, but it succeeded in entering into a deal with a Pune developer, who built a 22-storey tower using the Trump name. The state government is now investigating discrepancies in the company’s land records.

Dressing down

The tiny Kingdom of Bhutan has some old-world traditions which make it different from neighbouring India. One of its customs is that people dress formally, generally wearing their national dress, to work. When film star Aamir Khan was invited to address the prestigious training institute for government probationers, the Bhutanese were taken aback that the actor came casually dressed, even sporting a bandana. Aamir’s clothes evoked much comment, both in the Bhutanese press and on social media.

Pilot strikes

The AICC headquarters in Delhi, sleepy and mostly deserted these days, suddenly sprang to life 10 days ago. Hordes of Jats descended on its lawns to witness two senior Rajasthan Jat leaders, Subhash Mehria and Dr Hari Singh, who were earlier with the BJP, announce their return to the Congress. For the Congress, it was sweet revenge after Rita Bahuguna Joshi’s switch to the BJP, and the defection of 43 out of 44 Congress MLAs in Arunachal Pradesh. Both Mehria, a former minister in the Vajpayee government, and Hari Singh, a former state minister who supported Vasundhara Raje in the last election, have considerable following in the community. The man responsible for the “surgical strike”, which brought some cheer to a rather disheartened Congress, was Rajasthan Pradesh Congress chief Sachin Pilot.

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