In his farewell address to Parliament, President Pranab Mukherjee nostalgically recalled his 37 years as a member. He mentioned the names of many former colleagues, some not so well known, and praised them for their contributions. He waxed eloquent on Indira Gandhi, praised the wisdom of P V Narasimha Rao, the oratory of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the calming presence of Dr Manmohan Singh, the mature advice of L K Advani and Sonia Gandhi’s passionate support for social issues. But, according to a minister, who was given an advance copy of the speech, Sonia’s name was missing from the original text. It seems to have been added as an afterthought, when the President saw the Congress president sitting in Central Hall. A noteworthy omission from the speech was late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv had sidelined Mukherjee, the senior-most minister in his mother’s Cabinet, suspecting that he had prime ministerial ambitions. As a result, Mukherjee spent some years in political wilderness.
Falling in line
Two BJP women leaders who were in the bad books of party president Amit Shah are back in favour. When Shah first took over as chief, Vasundhara Raje and Smriti Irani did not feel it necessary to pay obeisance. They soon learnt the hard way that it does not pay to cross his path. Irani was riding high as HRD minister and believed she could do as she pleased. On a trip to Goa, she created headlines alleging that there were hidden cameras in the changing room of a well-known chain of stores. The news overshadowed coverage of a meeting of the BJP National Executive, of which Irani had not been made a member by Shah. Irani woke up to reality when she was abruptly transferred from the HRD Ministry to the relatively low-key Textile Ministry. She got back into Shah’s good books by working hard for the party — touring Uttar Pradesh frequently, particularly Amethi. Recently, she was rewarded with the high-profile I&B Ministry.
In case of Raje, the Centre did not come to her rescue when the Lalit Modi issue blew up yet again. Many believed that Raje would not get the party’s nomination for the 2018 Assembly elections. So when the party president visited Rajasthan last week, Raje pulled out all the stops, according Shah a maharaja’s welcome. Uncharacteristically, she and her entire cabinet were at the airport when he landed and she accompanied him wherever he went. The former royal even squatted on the floor and ate a meal with him at a Dalit worker’s residence.
Indian ministers and officials were somewhat taken aback by the backgrounder on Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop, who was in India recently. The CV, handed out by the ministry of external affairs, included Bishop’s status on the personal front. It noted that she was once married, had three live-in partners at different times, and that her current status
TV correspondents who visited the homes of Indian women cricket players reported a gloomy atmosphere, with most of the parents in tears over the team’s loss to the English. The exception was the home of allrounder Harmanpreet Kaur, in Moga, Punjab. Her father Harmander Singh Bhullar, a former basketball and volleyball player, beamed with joy. He offered sweets to all, saying, “Victories and defeats are part of sports.” Since the team’s spectacular show in the World Cup, politicians too have taken notice of the players. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi were quick to tweet their best wishes to the team, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh appointed Kaur to the Punjab Police. Her application had been ignored in the past.
Former president Pranab Mukherjee was concerned that a number of governors did not get on with chief ministers of their respective states. He felt that tension between constitutional authorities was not healthy. West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi recently wrote a letter complaining against chief minister Mamata Banerjee. In Puducherry, chief minister V Narayanaswamy’s stand-offs with Lt governor Kiran Bedi are frequently in the news. In Tripura, governor Tathagata Roy often publicly expresses his partisan views. Mukherjee, however, appreciated that his successor, Ram Nath Kovind, had set a good example with his cordial relations with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, when he was governor of the state. Another such amicable relationship is between Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh and governor VP Singh Badnore. Though they both have different political allegiances, they share a common bond — both belong to royal houses.