Under Modi, the party spokespersons are more visible than a majority of the ministers.
BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain was travelling on a domestic flight with a Cabinet minister. The airline staff came up to him and asked if they could take a selfie with Hussain. The Cabinet minister felt left out since no one asked for his photograph. The fact is that the minister, like many of Modi’s ministers, is so anonymous that no one knows what he looks like. Hussain, thanks to being party spokesperson and having been a minister in the Vajpayee government, is well-recognised. Under Modi, the party spokespersons are more visible than a majority of the ministers.
The selection of BJP candidates for the Bihar elections was an out and out Amit Shah operation. During two meetings of the party’s chief election committee, it was Shah who proposed most of the names, while Narendra Modi kept nodding his head. Minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj, who is not close to Shah, did not bother to propose a single name.
Clout, not numbers
Reacting to Outlook magazine’s recent report on the large number of Gujarat-cadre IAS officers posted in the capital, the government came up with statistics pointing out that it was, in fact, Uttar Pradesh, followed by Kerala, which contributed the largest share to the central government’s IAS pool. UP, after all, is the largest state in the country and the Kerala cadre had a special advantage during Manmohan Singh’s 10-year regime, when TKA Nair, the PM’s principal secretary and later advisor, was at the helm. In the present regime, what stands out about the Gujarat officers in Delhi is not their numbers, but the power they wield. The PMO is heavily populated with people from Modi’s home state, be it principal secretary PK Mishra, joint secretary AK Sharma, or private secretary Rajeev Topno. Gujarat-cadre officers also seem to dominate economic ministries: revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia, joint secretary (expenditure) GC Murmu, joint secretary (economic affairs) Raj Kumar, power secretary Pradeep Kumar Pujari, corporate affairs secretary Tapan Ray and commerce secretary Rita Teotia. Murmu is expected to take over shortly as Enforcement Directorate chief. The buzz in the corridors of power is that the post was basically kept vacant for him for the last 16 months. First, heavy industries secretary Rajan Katoch was given additional charge as ED chief and Karnal Singh’s recent appointment is only a temporary charge. The officer tipped to take over the key position of budget joint secretary is also from Modi’s home state.
Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, education minister in Anandiben Patel’s government, has a 17-year-old tradition of offering 1.25 lakh bilva (bael) leaves to the Shiva lingam at the Surpaneshwar temple on the banks of the Narmada. Chudasama started the ritual when he was chairman of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam and there was opposition to increasing the dam height to 163 metres. Chudasama believes that it was thanks to his offering to the gods that the state was permitted to increase the dam height to 138 metres. He hopes that with more offerings, the height restriction might be relaxed even further.
Still riding high
The internal complaints committee (ICC) at TERI found director general RK Pachauri guilty of sexual harassment on the basis of a complaint filed by a woman research analyst. But while Pachauri continues as acting director general at the institute, signing files and deciding appointments, the victim has not been able to rejoin service. Ranjana Saikia, the head of the ICC committee, which gave the report against Pachauri, has resigned and has reportedly also sent in a letter asking to be relieved of her job at TERI. The TERI governing council, which includes such distinguished names as Deepak Parekh, Naina Lal Kidwai and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, seems unconcerned by these developments and has permitted Pachauri to continue till the end of October, when Ajay Mathur is due to take over. In fact, the 75-year-old Pachauri’s sway over the institute he founded may continue for longer despite the damning report against him. He seems confident that the court will ask for a review of the ICC committee findings.