From Navjot Singh Sidhu’s AAP woes to when Narendra Modi broke down, here’s an insider’s account

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Published: August 21, 2016 6:17:13 AM

The arrangements at the President’s At Home party on Independence Day this year left much to be desired. The venue, a new multi-purpose convention hall situated deep in the interiors of the...

With Arvind Kejriwal refusing to name BJP rebel Navjot Singh Sidhu as the AAP’s chief ministerial candidate from Punjab, the cricketer-turned-politician is in a dilemma over his next move. (Reuters)With Arvind Kejriwal refusing to name BJP rebel Navjot Singh Sidhu as the AAP’s chief ministerial candidate from Punjab, the cricketer-turned-politician is in a dilemma over his next move. (Reuters)

No party spirit
The arrangements at the President’s At Home party on Independence Day this year left much to be desired. The venue, a new multi-purpose convention hall situated deep in the interiors of the Rashtrapati Bhavan Estate, was not the most suitable location. The invitees, all dressed up in their finery, found to their surprise that the journey to the tea party was quite an exertion. First, they had to get down from their cars and be transported in golf carts to the bus stop, where they had to wait for the bus which ferries passengers to various stops within the President’s Estate. In the convention hall, there was little opportunity for the invitees to intermingle freely since central ministers were kept in a separate room from the other guests. The VVIPs sat at the edge of the hall on a cordoned-off dais.

Eyeing Punjab
With Arvind Kejriwal refusing to name BJP rebel Navjot Singh Sidhu as the AAP’s chief ministerial candidate from Punjab, the cricketer-turned-politician is in a dilemma over his next move. An option is to float a new party, which could accommodate dissidents from all political parties, including AAP. Kejriwal, meanwhile, is seriously considering assuming the mantle of Punjab chief minister if the elections go in AAP’s favour. Since he belongs to Haryana, he does not want to announce his candidature beforehand, as not being a Sikh is a disadvantage. Although Kejriwal is still the Delhi chief minister, he has handed over all key portfolios and responsibilities to deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and spends very little time in the capital.

Noisy neighbours
On Independence Day, loud firecracker blasts disturbed the peace in Delhi’s East Nizamuddin colony. They were burst by a noisy group of Congress supporters who were celebrating the birthday of Sandeep Dikshit, former east Delhi MP and son of former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who lives in the colony. Since it’s just outside the boundary of Lutyens Delhi and is known for its  sylvan surroundings and historical monuments in the vicinity, several politicians, who have had to relinquish their government bungalows after losing elections, have opted to settle here. The politicians can at times disrupt the tranquillity of the neighbourhood. For instance, a large number of TV OB vans crowd around the houses of former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Vijay Bahuguna whenever there is a political crisis in their respective states. East Nizamuddin residents Subramanian Swamy, Mohammad Azharuddin, MS Gill and Kamal Farooqui are all magnets for TV OB vans running on noisy, polluting diesel engines. Swamy, as an MP high on the security list, however, has now moved to a government bungalow.

Speechless Modi
The prime minister’s 95-minute address on Independence Day was one of his least inspiring. He spouted scores of statistics and spoke of everything under the sun from bio-toilets to seeds and solar energy. After the speech, Narendra Modi flew to Sarangpur in Saurashtra to pay his last respects to Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the head of the Swaminarayan sect, who died on August 13. Here, Modi was at his oratorical best. He broke down thrice as he spoke about the Swami, remarking, “You may have lost a guru but I have lost a father.” He recalled his close relationship with the Maharaj, whom he first met in 1971. A large per cent of the Patels in Gujarat are followers
of the sect and the Prime Minister’s speech went down very well
with them.

In reverse gear
Not everyone is enthused by BJP president Amit Shah’s directive that party MPs and MLAs should take part  in the Tiranga Yatra between August 15 and 23. Central ministers have been assigned various  states and regions. Party legislators are expected to post a thousand photographs each on Facebook to prove  their participation. There is a general feeling that a Tiranga programme should have been launched before August 15 and culminated in flag-hoisting on Independence Day. Instead, it looks as if the programme is moving backwards. Ministers have been asked to travel on two-wheelers and not use cars. Shah himself is practising what he preaches. On the very first day of the programme though, there was a glitch, with ministers Piyush Goel and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore caught in Rajasthan riding on a two-wheeler without helmets.

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