Flying too high It doesn\u2019t pay to have too high a profile in the Trinamool Congress (TMC), as the party\u2019s Rajya Sabha leader Derek O\u2019Brien has learnt. O\u2019Brien is the TMC\u2019s most visible face in Delhi, close to many\u00a0senior newspersons and also NDA leaders such as Arun Jaitley. His recently released book, Inside Parliament, has further enhanced his profile. During a televised conclave, a leading\u00a0journalist who interviewed West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee made the mistake of clubbing O\u2019Brien and her together as \u201cfellow authors\u201d. Banerjee\u00a0snapped, saying that whatever O\u2019Brien\u00a0had written was in his personal capacity and did not reflect the party line. He had not even consulted her before publishing his book, she said. When another journalist commented that O\u2019Brien\u2019s book was a bestseller, she was keen to make the point that her books had fared much better in sales without any self-publicity or gifting of free copies to fellow MPs. A sign of Banerjee\u2019s displeasure is that she has\u00a0asked Manas Bhunia to speak on the Budget, since several TMC Rajya Sabha MPs had complained that O\u2019Brien doesn\u2019t give them a chance. While O\u2019Brien\u2019s stock is down, TMC MP Dinesh Trivedi\u2019s star is rising. He has been asked to speak on the Budget in the Lok Sabha and entrusted with other responsibilities. No change for now Those who expected that in Rahul Gandhi\u2019s reign the old guard would be\u00a0eased out fast are taken aback to find that Rahul is in no hurry to do so. For instance, it was assumed that young faces\u00a0Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia would be automatically named as CM candidates in Rajasthan and\u00a0Madhya Pradesh, where elections are due later this year. But the Congress is waffling about offending old-timers such as Ashok Gehlot and Kamal Nath. Eventually, no one may be projected\u00a0as a CM candidate. It was also assumed that Ahmed Patel, who resigned as political secretary after Sonia Gandhi stepped down as party chief, would disappear from the decision-making process. But after the recent protest by fellow judges against the Chief Justice of India, when Rahul met with a few Congress MPs to discuss the party line, the only one outside of the legal fraternity was Patel. Last Monday, when the Congress parliamentary party met briefly after the President\u2019s address, Rahul asked why Patel was missing. Patel, who had just returned from Gujarat that morning, was summoned urgently. Sparkling tea party There was a striking change for the better at the Republic Day \u2018At Home\u2019 hosted by President Ram Nath Kovind. The oppressive security, with queues of guests lining up to be frisked, was eased, mobile phones were permitted and, in the absence of rigidly defined enclosures, invitees could mingle far more freely with VIPs. The Mughal Gardens, in full bloom, were once again the venue, rather than the marriage-hall-style reception hall constructed two years ago. To make security less stringent, the guest-list was pruned down \u2014 from over 3,000 to 724. The practice of including special quotas for friends of Rashtrapati Bhavan employees was ended. President Kovind set an example by not inviting even his immediate family. (During President Pratibha Patil\u2019s term, family and friends from her state formed a sizable contingent.) Kovind and PM Modi deserve credit for restoring the garden party atmosphere of yesteryears rather than the unseemly squeeze it had become in recent times. There was a downside to the changes, though. Those knocked off the guest list are fuming. For instance, the media list was pruned from 350 to 75 and the media adviser has to face the flak. Kissa kursi ka The Congress charged that the Modi\u00a0government had deliberately slighted Rahul Gandhi by placing him in the fourth row at the Republic Day parade. (In fact, Gandhi eventually sat in the sixth row because the SPG wanted a corner seat for security reasons.) But protocol for opposition leaders was the same during the UPA regime. One recalls that on one Independence Day at the Red Fort, Sushma Swaraj, as then leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, protested at being placed in the fourth row. Congress ministers tried to assuage her and Ghulam Nabi Azad even offered her his wife\u2019s\u00a0 empty seat, which she haughtily declined.\u00a0Incidentally, Sonia Gandhi was allotted a\u00a0 front-row seat this year as usual. But she did not show up. Perhaps because she is invariably placed right next to Amit Shah. The empty seat was eventually occupied by Nitin Gadkari\u2019s little granddaughter, who kept Sonal Shah, Amit Shah\u2019s wife, busy, with her numerous queries on the parade.