Rahul Gandhi has been writing to all sections of the Congress asking them to give their preferences for office-bearer posts in the party. Even factotums of past generations such as RK Dhawan and Vincent George were asked for their opinion. Congress members are curious whether the widely distributed questionnaire is part of Rahul’s efforts at democratising the party or a subtle way of finding out who is in which camp.
Segregated at home
Segregation of guests was more pronounced at this year’s Independence Day At Home at Rashtrapati Bhavan as it was held indoors due to rain. Ashoka Hall was reserved for ministers, Supreme Court judges and diplomats. The Durbar Hall was for MPs, Padma awardees and well-known personalities. The Banquet Hall and upper loggia were reserved for journalists, generals and senior bureaucrats. Unlike previous years, when the party was thrown in the Mughal Gardens, there was little opportunity for guests to mix as security personnel prevented invitees from moving from one room to another. Since it was quite a squeeze and muggy because of inadequate air conditioning, some felt a water proof air-conditioned tent in the gardens would have been more sensible.
Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel is in a quandary over the mounting demand of her own community, the Patels, for OBC reservation. The Patels had in 1989 vigorously opposed reservations. Anandiben suspects that people within her own party are encouraging the agitation to destabilise her. Recently, her supporters were upset to find that on the party website for Ahmedabad her photo was missing, whereas Amit Shah and Gujarat party chief RC Faldu figured prominently.
Ever since she had to face a journalist at an unguarded moment at the South Block entrance to her office, querying whether she planned to resign over Lalitgate, the ministry of external affairs is making doubly sure that Sushma Swaraj is kept at arm’s length from journalists. The media is no longer allowed near Gate No. 4 of South Block. Recently, after the issue of the joint statement with the Mozambique president at Hyderabad House, MEA officials prevented newspersons from exiting for several minutes, giving Swaraj sufficient time to leave the building. At the President’s tea party at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Swaraj sat in one corner and did not mix with the guests.
Since last November, there have been reports that a meeting of the Congress Working Committee is about to be held so that the modalities of Sonia Gandhi passing the baton to her son can be worked out. But the much-awaited CWC meeting is yet to be scheduled, suggesting a reluctance on the part of Rahul Gandhi to take formal responsibility till after the Bihar elections. If the CWC is not held by November, there will be a problem since Sonia Gandhi’s tenure as party president is due to expire by then. Special permission will then have to be obtained from the Election Commission if party elections are not held.
Rath yatra nixed
CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan wanted to go on a rath yatra across the state to explain that he was not at fault in the Vyapam scam and the aspersion cast on professionals graduating from state institutions was giving Madhya Pradesh a bad name. But since BJP president Amit Shah discouraged Chouhan from going on a yatra, the CM made defending Madhya Pradesh’s good name the theme of the election campaign for the state’s civic bodies.
The Meghalaya government did not provide any accompanying ambulance or doctor to Abdul Kalam when he visited the state on July 27, though this is an integral part of the security drill for former presidents. Kalam collapsed at IIM Shillong and died almost instantaneously.
Quid pro quo?
The Congress suspects that one reason why Mulayam Singh Yadav broke ranks with the Opposition and wanted to end the boycott of parliamentary proceedings was because he is rattled by a CBI probe into corruption charges against Noida’s former chief engineer Yadav Singh. A PIL said Yadav Singh indulged in corruption under the protection of the BSP and SP governments between 2007-2014. BJP leaders claim the Yadav Singh scandal is Mulayam Singh and Mayawati’s Vyapam.