Inside track

Amit Shah has reached his goal of making the BJP ‘the world’s largest political party’. The party membership has crossed 8.5 crore, overtaking the Chinese communist party. Shah’s recruitment drive started on November 1, 2014, when the membership was 3 crore.


Sharad Yadav’s daughter Subhashini wanted to throw a grand party to celebrate the first birthday of her daughter. Yadav suggested that the party be kept simple and small. Subhashini retorted that he did not want to celebrate just because his grandchild was a girl. Worried about his anti-women image, both due to his opposition to the women’s reservation Bill and his recent sexist remarks in Parliament, Yadav was on the defensive. He quickly acceded to the request to host a lavish do for the child’s birthday at his Tughlak Road residence.

Refusing to leave

There are many aspirants for the coveted post of president of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India China and South Africa) Bank, which will have an initial capital of $50 billion for development projects in member countries. India gets the privilege of selecting the first rotating president. The government unofficially asked Subramanian Swamy whether he would like to be president. The maverick politician, who has taught economics at Harvard, was not seduced by the handsome salary and perks. Swamy, who has frequently embarrassed the BJP government with his statements which hurt minority sensibilities, is not willing to disappear to Shanghai, which is to be the bank’s headquarters. He made it clear he wanted to remain active in Indian politics. To make matters worse, he tweeted the news of the offer.

Numbers game

Amit Shah has reached his goal of making the BJP “the world’s largest political party”. The party membership has crossed 8.5 crore, overtaking the Chinese communist party’s, according to Dinesh Sharma, convenor, membership drive. Shah’s recruitment drive started on November 1, 2014, when the membership was 3 crore. However, old-timers in the party are sceptical about whether the techno-savvy mass campaign makes for genuinely committed members. All you have to do to become a member is give a missed call to a toll-free number. Sceptics point out that in several recent panchayat elections and the Delhi Assembly polls, the huge number of BJP members were not in consonance with the party’s low vote share. Active members paying a R100 membership fee and responsible for enrolling members are a more accurate indicator of the actual strength of the party. At the same time, the Congress has also developed an app for mass enrolment now.

Pointed comment

After Arun Jaitley’s reply to the debate on the Budget in the Lok Sabha, LK Advani congratulated the finance minister for effectively countering every point raised by the Opposition. Though a bit unhappy with Jaitley for not supporting his abortive bid for prime ministership in 2014, Advani nevertheless considers himself Jaitley’s mentor. Despite differences, he looks upon Narendra Modi and Sushma Swaraj with similar paternal pride since all three were appointed general secretaries and groomed by him when he was party president. Incidentally, when Jaitley was replying on the Budget debate in the Rajya Sabha, he referred to an Indian Express article by P Chidambaram. He noted that the former finance minister had been kinder to him than to his predecessor. It was a reference to the long-standing cold war between Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee over policies in the finance ministry.

Sleuthing in Maharashtra

Five months ago, when the Congress was still in power in Maharashtra, Digvijaya Singh sent a message to party workers to check if the names of some of those recruited by the Madhya Pradesh government in the Vyapam scam were in fact from Maharashtra’s Gondia district. This is because Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s wife Sadhna is originally from Gondia. The Congressmen were unable to provide any concrete evidence. Digvijaya did not seek the assistance of ally NCP’s Praful Patel, who is also from Gondia, because Patel is very friendly with Chouhan owing to his ties with the latter’s in-laws.

Insider trading

British writer Lance Pierce had some inside help to get the dope on Narendra Modi’s 2014 campaign for his book Modi Effect. He hired two researchers, Gaurav Bhatele and Geetika Sehmay. The former was closely associated with the NGO Citizens for Accountable Governance, which played a key role in the Modi campaign.

Upping gender stats

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee points out that even if the Women’s Bill was never passed, she has attempted to increase the number of elected women representatives in her party. The percentage of women MPs in the Lok Sabha from the TMC is 35.8%. In the Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections, 49% of the nominations have gone to women. The latest TMC Rajya Sabha member is fiery trade union leader Dola Sen.

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