After human resource development minister Smriti Irani delivered her impassioned speech on Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the JNU agitation in the Lok Sabha, she was congratulated effusively by MPs on entering Parliament’s Central Hall. However, the NCP’s Sharad Pawar struck a cautionary note saying it was not customary in Parliament to make such personal attacks and that she should tone down the rhetoric
A leading news channel had invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be its chief guest for its annual award presentation ceremony. But the Prime Minister backed out at the last minute and the function had to be postponed. There was speculation that the PM’s sudden cancellation was related to the fact that the jury had voted Nitish Kumar as politician of the year. The jury was first requested to take a fresh vote, and later it was decided not to give an award in this category.
There is a feud on between the finance ministry and the ministry of external affairs (MEA). The finance ministry issued a notification to the MEA saying that instead of its top officials in New Delhi frequently travelling abroad, the ministry should utilise the services of embassy officials abroad, as well as use Skype and digital services for conducting business outside India. The MEA, however, feels that only its senior officers are capable of conducting sensitive and intricate negotiations. The MEA has hit back in its own way. It is in charge of clearing foreign travel for bureaucrats in other ministries and, of late, seems to be taking its own time to clear requests. Half the delegation from the home and finance ministry could not make it to a conference in France as a result.
Poll strategist Prashant Kishor’s lengthy discussions with Rahul Gandhi and his team for the Uttar Pradesh elections came as a surprise to many party veterans. The earlier impression in the party was that Rahul had not been impressed by Kishor. Congresspersons fear Kishor could take over the party’s Gurdwara Rakab Ganj war room and replace young techies dedicated to the Congress with his own team. Partymen are also anxious to know whether Kishor will play a role in candidate selection. Incidentally, Kishore is writing a book on how to win elections.
The Jat way
Home minister Rajnath Singh and BJP president Amit Shah succeeded in temporarily pacifying Jat leaders from Haryana who were leading the agitation for quota. Hordes of Jats carrying hookahs had descended at Shah’s residence. Some of them had a curious explanation for why they felt it necessary to go on a rampage. They told the BJP’s top brass that they wanted to establish that they were not well-educated and from a forward caste, as the Supreme Court had asserted while rejecting their reservation claim.
As a result of the violent Jat agitation in Haryana, the MoU signed by chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar this January with the Wanda real estate group in China for some $10 billion could fall through. The Wanda group was to be granted land in Jhajjar for developing a mega city. Jhajjar was the epicentre of the riots.
Hormusji Cama, the chairperson of the Press Trust of India Board, denied claims that the government is putting pressure for selection of its new editor-in-chief. He said a few board members, all of whom represent major newspapers, did claim to have received suggestions for candidates from MPs, but no such request had been made to him personally. Cama also said a meeting of the board members had decided to set up a four-member committee to shortlist suitable candidates for the post, and that anyone was eligible to apply.
After HRD minister Smriti Irani delivered her impassioned speech on Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the JNU agitation in the Lok Sabha, she was congratulated effusively by MPs on entering Parliament’s Central Hall. However, the NCP’s Sharad Pawar struck a cautionary note saying it was not customary in Parliament to make such personal attacks and that she should tone down the rhetoric. A party member also urged her not to be confrontational with Mayawati, a potential ally and Dalit leader. Irani’s advantage in the Lower House was that the Congress had staged a walkout and there was no one to challenge her. Irani ignored Pawar’s advice and virtually repeated the speech in the Rajya Sabha. This time, the Opposition did not take her remarks lying down, particularly when she seemed to have tripped on facts. She faces a breach of privilege in both Houses. Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, was criticised for the walkout, thus giving Irani a free run in the Lower House.