Despite the AIADMK whip, the party does not seem to be in any hurry to act against the 11 MLA supporters of O Panneerselvam who did not vote for Edappadi Palaniswami as chief minister in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. The ruling AIADMK fears that if the MLAs are disqualified, fresh elections would be held in their constituencies and could expose Sasikala’s unpopularity. For the same reason, the party may hesitate to take action against the nine Lok Sabha MPs who have spoken out against Sasikala and who could vote differently from the party line in Parliament. Incidentally, Panneerselvam, the former chief minister, has already received a notice to vacate his ministerial bungalow in Chennai, which was allotted to him in 2012. Panneerselvam sees this as a vindictive move of the Palaniswami government as he is permitted to stay on in a government bungalow for two months on paying the market rent. Panneerselvam has decided to shift to a private residence.
Cutting off funds
The MEA has dealt a virtual death blow to the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) by ending the annual R1-crore grant that was being allotted to it for the past six years. As a result, many of the think-tank’s academic projects may now have to be wound up. In future, the ICS will receive government money on a project-to-project basis. The independent institute, run by scholars, foreign policy experts and diplomats knowledgeable on China, has at times taken a stance not in conformity with the government’s position. Another bone of contention is that the institute’s new director, IFS officer Ashok Kantha, is not the government’s preferred choice, even though he was formerly India’s ambassador to China and successor to foreign secretary S Jaishankar in Beijing. The MEA and the NSA had wanted a retired Army general with a more aggressive approach in charge.
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Although Akhilesh Yadav refused to allow Lalu Prasad to be part of the Congress-SP alliance in Uttar Pradesh, he provided him with a helicopter to campaign on behalf of the alliance. Akhilesh is aware that Lalu is a good entertainer and mimic of Narendra Modi, who can deride the PM in language that would be inappropriate for a chief minister. In contrast, the Congress’s two star campaigners have backed out from the campaign: Sonia Gandhi did not show up at all, possibly because of ill health, and Priyanka Vadra, despite the initial hype, has appeared at only two public meetings in Amethi with Rahul.
United but separate
In the third round of voting in Uttar Pradesh last week, the original plan was for chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s entire family to put up a united front by making a joint appearance to cast their votes at their home village of Saifai in Etawah district. The family, however, eventually decided to vote separately and showed up at different times. The explanation offered was that they would get more TV time if they made individual appearances than if they had all come together. Akhilesh was the first to visit the polling booth accompanied by his cousin Dharmendra Yadav, an MP. Later, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s wife Sadhna voted along with her daughter-in-law Aparna. Prateek, Mulayam’s second son, drove down to Saifai from Lucknow in a Porsche. Akhilesh’s wife Dimple and Mulayam also came separately. Mulayam was asked by camerapersons to raise his left hand to show that he had voted but he instead raised the index finger on his right hand before Sadhna quickly corrected him.
From left to light
The Patriot was a staunchly left-leaning newspaper started in the early ’60s by legendary editor Edatata Narayanan and freedom fighter Aruna Asaf Ali. The newspaper, which functioned from Link House on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg in New Delhi, was rigidly doctrinaire, reflecting the CPI’s world-view, highly political, preachy and rather dull. Its readership was limited to the party faithful and academics interested in understanding the Left’s take on any major issue. After being shut down for over two decades, the newspaper has resurfaced, but in a totally different avatar. The latest Patriot, now a weekly tabloid, has glamour girls from Paris on its front page and offers such bourgeois fare as beauty tips, entertainment and the scandals of F1 entrepreneur Bernie Ecclestone. The difference is that the newspaper title is no longer owned by the party but by the Bhagat family which runs the BI group of companies and which bought Link House many years ago.