Inside track by Coomi Kapoor

Shashi Tharoor throwing his hat into the ring for the Congress president post has upset the party high command and the G23 rebels alike.

Inside track by Coomi Kapoor
Shashi Tharoor (File Image).

PM’s rebuke
Modi’s ministers are worried about changes after central ministers and senior secretaries were rebuked by the PM at two separate meetings in the space of a fortnight. One reason for Modi’s annoyance was ministries ignoring background notes sent by the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), such as an advisory warning against continuing dependence on imported pharmaceutical ingredients for manufacturing drugs. Modi felt there was too much complacency and non-application of mind in government instead of constantly updating thinking in view of changing international relations. Coincidentally or not, several central ministers have been visiting poll-bound Gujarat on work-related assignments to demonstrate that they are no shirkers and are on the ball. Smriti Irani came for a Women’s Conclave and also took part in garba celebrations; Anurag Thakur inaugurated the National Games sessions in Gujarat; and Bhupinder Yadav was with Amit Shah when he inaugurated a 300-bed ESIC hospital in the state. Even External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, a Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, invited 50 foreign envoys to Vadodara.

Me too unitea
In what seems to be a Me Too inspired by Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo yatra, Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy has organised a Unity Week to coincide with Sardar Patel’s birthday on October 31. There are to be week-long festivities ending with special celebrations at Kevadiya, Gujarat, the site of the towering Statue of Unity commemorating Patel. The concept is, however, a trifle puzzling. Unity is to be spelt Unitea and the theme will be posting selfies of prominent personalities and influencers drinking tea with groups of people to demonstrate “unitea”. District magistrates have been ordered to organise around 100 marches and runs on this theme in every district.

Charm offensive
Shashi Tharoor throwing his hat into the ring for the Congress president post has upset the party high command and the G23 rebels alike. Tharoor, by his sheer effrontery in taking the Congress’s claim of a democratic contest at face value, has left his party red-faced. He claims he consulted Sonia and Rahul before standing, but in the Congress culture, it is understood that such matters don’t have to be spelt out. The fury of most of the senior G23 signatories stems from a Johnny-Come-Lately, who is not even a member of the CWC and was never a cabinet rank minister, stealing a march over them. Most were quick to endorse the “unofficial official candidate”, Mallikarjun Kharge. Tharoor’s assets are undeniable when compared with his lackluster, inarticulate electoral rival. He has youth on his side, his 66 years appear young compared to Kharge’s 80, good looks, wit, star charisma and verbal brilliance, which never crosses the line of defying party discipline. His slogan calling for change strikes a chord. Kharge, on the other hand, famously mishandled Punjab, precipitously dumping Amarinder Singh as CM, and more recently, muffed up the moves for a replacement for Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan. If Tharoor manages to win 20 per cent of the vote, unlike the late Jitendra Prasad who secured a mere one per cent in 2000, it will be construed a moral victory and open a hornet’s nest.

Also Read: Across the aisle by P Chidambaram: Whistling in the dark

Straws in the wind
Ashok Gehlot forgot the proverbial saying that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. After being removed as the unofficial presidential candidate for the Congress, he may also end up losing the chief ministership of Rajasthan for his defiance of the high command. The Gandhis have put on hold the potentially explosive question of who should be the next Rajasthan chief minister, but the signs are not propitious for Gehlot, even if media advertisements daily proclaim him chief minister. His faithful OSD, Deviram Saini, who has been by his side for decades, has applied to become a member of the Rajasthan Public Service Commission. Pratap Singh Khachariyawas, the state’s perennial weathervane, who stoutly defended the short-lived Congress MLAs’ rebellion against Sachin Pilot last fortnight, was seen confabulating with Pilot last Tuesday. Finally, an investigation by the Congress organisation revealed that the dissenters who submitted their resignation letters to Speaker C P Joshi came in a single bus and were far fewer in number than the figure of 100 that was bandied about.

Birthday greetings
Arun Jaitley’s widow Sangeeta Jaitley phoned Narendra Modi on his birthday to wish him and also convey some good news. But the prime minister was out of Delhi and could not take her call. He telephoned Sangeeta on his return to the Capital and informed her he was already aware of the auspicious news that she wanted to convey to him. Jaitley’s daughter-in law Meher, wife of his son Rohan, had given birth to a baby girl on September 17, Modi’s birthday. The baby, named Aadhira, meaning moonlight, has her grandfather’s nose and brings much light to the late minister’s family.

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First published on: 09-10-2022 at 06:15:00 am