At the Diwali Milan held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the media, a surprise topic of discussion among politicians and scribes was how to lose weight. Party president Amit Shah said Nitin Gadkari’s wife had told his wife that Shah should learn from Gadkari’s example and shed weight. Shah took the comment seriously but decided he would lose weight the natural way and not like some of his colleagues “through artificial means”. He was referring to the fact that three BJP Union ministers, M Venkaiah Naidu, Arun Jaitley and Gadkari, have all undergone bariatric surgeries to reduce food intake. Shah’s formula for weight reduction is rather simple. He eats everything, but only till 7 pm. So far his method has not shown any marked result.
Waiting to return?
When former minister Kumari Selja was asked by the CPWD to vacate her ministerial bungalow at Motilal Nehru Road, she provided a list of alternative vacant government bungalows, which she could be allotted as a senior MP. She mentioned 27, Lodhi Estate, which was formerly occupied by Amar Singh. This, in fact, is an MP bungalow coveted by many parliamentarians since Amar Singh spent a fortune on extensive renovations, including changing the flooring, installing large glass windows and building a terrace garden. Amar Singh also installed fountains, though these have been removed. With all the alterations, the bungalow is now double the size of the original building. The CPWD, however, informed the court that the bungalow was allotted to minister of state Giriraj Kishore, though there is no sign that Kishore plans to move in. Although Amar Singh vacated the house a while ago, Kishore continues to reside at Vithal Bhai Patel House. The deserted 27, Lodhi Estate, is looked after by a private security guard and there is no sign of any preparation for a new tenant. The buzz among MPs is that Amar Singh actually hopes to get a fresh Rajya Sabha term and return to the bungalow in which he has invested so much money. However, whether Amar Singh will be re-elected to the Rajya Sabha is uncertain. Although there have been hints for months suggesting that Amar Singh is about to rejoin the Samajwadi Party, his return continues to be opposed by Akhilesh Yadav, Azam Khan, Jaya Bachchan and Ram Gopal Yadav. Amar Singh has managed to bring Mulayam Singh Yadav around with the help of Mulayam’s wife Sadhana and brother Shivpal.
A new approach
There was an informal directive at the BJP parliamentary party meeting that MPs should avoid saying anything confrontational in the House that could aggravate the hostility between the BJP and Congress. The BJP wants the GST Bill passed and is trying to ensure its members curb their instinct to hit out at the Opposition. BJP spokespersons have also been told to avoid appearing intolerant of criticism on TV. Which explains why spokesperson Sambit Patra looks uncharacteristically calm these days on television. Kirron Kher has stopped appearing on the intolerance debate on TV. The party appears to be having lesser success controlling motormouths such as Sakshi Maharaj, Yogi Adityanath, VK Singh, Mahesh Sharma, etc.
Suiting his style
In his portrait in Parliament’s Central Hall, BR Ambedkar is seen wearing a sherwani and pyjamas. But this was not the characteristic dress of the father of the Constitution. Ambedkar generally wore suits. According to former MP Shyam Sunder Lal, whose father was a contemporary of Ambedkar, the latter had over a hundred suits, as well as a large collection of shoes and watches. Ambedkar, according to Lal, believed that Dalits should not hesitate to enjoy the good life and indulge themselves in the things they once aspired for and associated with the upper castes. Dalit leader Mayawati also follows this advice.
Narendra Modi’s record as a traveller pales in comparison to that of his foreign secretary S Jaishankar, who is perennially out of the country, busy with preparatory work before the PM’s official tours. In the last 10 months, Jaishankar has travelled to Bhutan, Maldives, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, central Asia, east Asia, south-east Asia, Europe, the US and Canada, among other destinations. Jaishankar took charge at the end of January and, ever since, gets to go home only fleetingly.