RGF next target?
With the court taking cognisance of the National Herald case, the Congress is jittery that some disgruntled ex-partyman could file a case of cheating over the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation building on Rajendra Prasad Road in New Delhi. Money for the multi-storey structure was collected in the 1980s on the understanding that it was for constructing the Congress party headquarters. All Congress members were asked to contribute a day’s salary towards the building fund. However, over a period of time, the designated party office was transformed into the private RGF Trust—partymen are unclear under what circumstances.
The Rs 90-crore loan extended by the Congress party to the Associated Journals Limited (AJL) was ostensibly meant for paying off employee dues, but a sizeable part was allegedly used for constructing high-rise buildings in Mumbai, Panchkula, Chandigarh and Chennai in the name of the defunct National Herald newspaper. However, the business model called for most of the real estate to be rented and thus garner a huge income. Although the plots for National Herald were allocated by various Congress chief ministers back in the 1970s and 1980s, the trustees did not get down to actually constructing on the plots until fairly recently. Kanishka Singh, Rahul Gandhi’s aide, is involved in the project.
Check your noodle
The timing for launching Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali noodles was bad. Maggi noodles were back in business and Ramdev’s noodles have yet to get the nod from the FSSAI. Ramdev’s marketing team is trying to popularise its new product by distributing free packets to BJP MPs and office-bearers, hoping they will spread the word to support the desi versus videshi noodles. These days visitors to BJP MPs’ houses are frequently served Patanjali noodles instead of snacks. Some MPs have gifted their noodle packets to friends.
Avoiding witness box
Sonia Gandhi has been summoned to appear before a trial court on December 19 in connection with the National Herald case. If Sonia makes a personal appearance, it will be a first for her. She has so far successfully avoided appearing in person to testify. Sonia was served notices under the Commission of Inquiries Act by the Thakkar Commission inquiring into Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the MC Jain Commission, which investigated Rajiv Gandhi’s death. But both times, her lawyers managed to scuttle attempts to call her as a witness. When summoned before the Election Commission on the issue of holding an office of profit as an MP in 2006, she resigned from her Lok Sabha seat overnight. She also avoided testifying before the EC in regard to a charge of dual citizenship for accepting an Order of Leopold award from the Belgian monarchy.
Waiting for her nod
TV channels in Tamil Nadu have been flashing the faces of six AIADMK MPs representing the flood-hit areas of Chennai, Kanchipuram and Cuddalore, pointing out they were missing from their constituencies. The MPs were all in the Capital attending Parliament and didn’t know whether they should be in their constituencies since they had received no word from their supreme leader Jayalalithaa. The state government’s tardy response to the havoc wreaked by the floods is partly because Jayalalithaa communicates sparingly with her flock. Usually, she does not speak directly to then, opting instead for the telephone, intercom or file notings to issue instructions. Even the programme to distribute relief material was held up because the Army was waiting for specific directions from the CM.
Reverse press meet
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is keen to project himself beyond the capital’s borders. Recently, the AAP leader had an informal interaction with journalists covering Parliament. Kejriwal wanted feedback on how he is viewed by national politicians and asked searching questions about AAP’s prospects outside Delhi. Kejriwal said that while he did not want to contest elections in all states, Punjab, he felt, would be fertile territory. Incidentally, the media get-together was facilitated by secretary for the Delhi Assembly, Prasanna Kumar Suryadevara. Kumar was officer on special duty to former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee. After Chatterjee demitted office, Kumar was appointed media adviser to vice-president Hamid Ansari. Delhi Speaker Ram Niwas Goel selected him as secretary of the Assembly to assist him in running the House and its secretariat.