Inside track: From Congress’ CM face in Madhya Pradesh to likely appointments by Modi government

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New Delhi | Updated: December 07, 2018 12:55 PM

As chairperson of the campaign committee for Madhya Pradesh and as someone who is young and friendly with Rahul Gandhi, it was assumed that Jyotiraditya Scindia would be the party’s chief ministerial choice.

Jyotiraditya Scindia, rahul gandhi congress, madhya pradesh assembly elections 2018, madhya pradesh assembly electionsJyotiraditya Scindia (IE)

Hunk’s Bunk

From his recently released autobiography, it seems actor Sanjay Khan led a charmed life as a Bollywood hunk who mixed with the high and mighty and royalty, not just in India but internationally. But some of Khan’s political stories are slightly suspect. According to him, his good friend Ghulam Nabi Azad was the man to whom the Congress turned whenever in a crisis. Azad apparently was responsible for installing PV Narasimha Rao as party leader. Khan claims he himself was offered Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha seats by the Congress. He even takes credit for arranging for P Chidambaram to be taken back into the party by Sonia Gandhi. Khan recounts how he overheard the late Dhirubhai Ambani exclaim that all ministers know nothing, which is why it is important to make detailed briefs for them. He also quotes an unnamed BJP MP to say that LK Advani, as home minister, was sitting under the table giving instructions to security officials during the attack on Parliament. The title of Khan’s book is The Big Mistakes of My Life. But the real mistake Khan seems to have made is the timing of the book’s release, in the midst of the MeToo movement. Inevitably, public memory is jogged back to the 1980s when Khan reportedly thrashed actress Zeenat Aman at a crowded hotel party and permanently disfigured her eye. The incident is bound to dog Khan again, despite his glossing over the incident in the book.

MP holds key

As chairperson of the campaign committee for Madhya Pradesh and as someone who is young and friendly with Rahul Gandhi, it was assumed that Jyotiraditya Scindia would be the party’s chief ministerial choice. But the youthful-looking 72-year-old Kamal Nath now seems to have an edge since the party’s old guard who are in key positions for selecting candidates —Ahmed Patel, Mukul Wasnik, Madhusudan Mistry, Veerappa Moily and Ashok Gehlot — are with him. Nath’s ally Digvijaya Singh has actively persuaded rebels to step aside. Rahul has stressed that unity is essential in this do-or-die battle for the Congress. If the party wins without any allies, it puts itself back in the reckoning as the lead player in the Opposition for 2019. The BJP does not seem to have grasped how crucial it is to retain the state. A defeat would put it on the back foot on the eve of the parliamentary polls. So far, CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been left largely to fend for himself. Central ministers from the state such as Uma Bharati, Thawar Chand Gehlot and Sushma Swaraj are not putting their full weight behind him. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address only 11 rallies in MP, compared to 21 public meetings that he held in Karnataka and 34 in Gujarat.

Feminist minister

While addressing the 24th annual day of the Indian Women’s Press Corps, minister for housing and urban affairs Hardeep Puri said his fierce belief in women’s empowerment was influenced both by his Sikh religion and his wife Laxmi, a former assistant secretary of UN Women, and his two daughters. While he was India’s permanent representative to the UN during the UPA regime, Puri was asked to oversee the formation of the UN Women organisation and help draw up the charter. He joked that in his zest for extending women’s empowerment, he refused to be buckled down by the Indian expert in the team, who kept nitpicking that Puri was going way beyond the Indian government’s stated position. Puri refused to back down and instead told the Indian expert that if he had any doubt, he should check with Sonia Gandhi, knowing full well that the man would never dare to do so.

Anchor away

During a programme on Atal Bihari Vajpayee soon after his death, a Rajya Sabha TV anchor asked the guests for their opinion on Vajpayee’s role in the 1942 Quit India movement. The guests brushed aside the question, but later the anchor was given a memo by her bosses and taken off all anchoring duties. (She has lately been reinstated.) The angst over the question was unnecessary since Vajpayee had more than once clarified that he had nothing to be ashamed of for his role in the Quit India movement. There was never any apology to police, as insinuated by political rivals.

Slots to fill

The Modi government will make several key appointments in important regulatory  bodies and government agencies in the next few weeks. The slots to be filled include that of the chief election commissioner by the year end, the R&AW chief and the Intelligence Bureau chief in January, and the CBI director by February.

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