Out of touch
LK Advani has been an MP from Gandhinagar for over two decades. Yet, for the first time, he has not been invited to campaign in Gujarat, at least so far. Advani, who just turned 90, was asked last week at a wedding about the state of politics in the country. The leader of the Margdarshak Mandal preferred not to comment. He no longer keeps in regular contact with political developments in the state.
Without a face
A problem for the Congress in the Gujarat Assembly polls is that it has no known face to project as its chief ministerial candidate. Shankarsinh Vaghela has quit the party and floated a new outfit to split Congress votes. Bharatsinh Solanki has decided not to stand for elections. Shaktisinh Gohil and Arjun Modhwadia are recognised only in their respective pockets of influence. The Congress rumour mill has it that Sam Pitroda is Rahul Gandhi’s nominee for chief minister. Pitroda, Rahul’s long-time mentor, is an OBC who was responsible for Gandhi’s recent successful tour of the US, and has now flown down to Gujarat to plan the election strategy. Some media reports have also mentioned Pitroda’s name for CM. Pitroda, 75, had many years ago renounced his American citizenship. But in the quagmire of state politics, Pitroda finds himself at a disadvantage. He reportedly recommended just one name for a ticket, Himanshu Vyas from Wadhwan, and even that was turned down.
Too clever by half
Ironically, our most educated and erudite politicians are far more vulnerable to foot in the mouth disease than their less accomplished colleagues. Jairam Ramesh is yet to get back into the good graces of Rahul Gandhi after his comment that the Congress faced an “existential crisis’’. Shashi Tharoor has learnt no lesson from Ramesh’s mistake and recently goofed up twice in an attempt to be over smart. Tharoor alienated Rajputs by saying that Rajput maharajas who objected to the release of the movie Padmavati, as a matter of honour, forgot that their ancestors had displayed little honour in retreating before the British army and some had even struck a deal with the enemy. Tharoor hastily retracted. But a few days later, he tried to be funny about demonetisation by punning on Miss World Manushi Chhillar’s surname, comparing it to small change. This time Jats were up in arms at the derogatory comparison to one of their tribe, and woman activists were equally furious over the cheap dig at the Miss World.
The Congress hopes that Rahul Gandhi will take over as party president on December 4, the last date for filing nominations. It is presumed that no one except Rahul will file a nomination and his name will be announced that evening itself. The only possible hitch is if some mischief-maker induces 10 PCC (Pradesh Congress Committee) members to propose another name to challenge Rahul, which would then lead to an election. Finding 10 willing members from a PCC of over 9,000 may not be difficult, but to produce a credible name willing to stand against Rahul is a task which even someone as resourceful as Amit Shah will find hard to manoeuvre.
Kapila Vatsyayan was the founding director of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), and remained the presiding deity whenever the Congress was in power. It was not surprising that in the new government, the Gandhis’ cultural czarina had no role to play. Even the books which she had earlier donated to the IGNCA were dumped in a godown. But this month the IGNCA did a turnaround and tried to make amends with the octogenarian. A new gallery was inaugurated to house Vatsyayan’s collection of 6,000 books. At the inaugural function, IGNCA head Ram Bahadur Rai did not flinch as Vatsyayan effusively praised her late mentor, Rajiv Gandhi. The sudden deference towards Vatsyayan is because Rai, a veteran Hindi journalist who played a leading role in the JP movement, is an admirer of Vatsyayan’s late husband Agyeya Vatsyanan, even though they were estranged. Agyeya, a renowned Hindi poet and journalist, was editor of Jayprakash Narayan’s publication Everyman’s Weekly.
An unintended omission in last week’s column of the list of Gujarat-cadre officers who hold powerful positions in the Modi government was AK Sharma, joint secretary to the Prime Minister. Sharma’s clout is evident from the fact that Narendra Modi will be cutting short campaigning in Gujarat by a day so that he can attend the wedding of Sharma’s daughter Chitra in Delhi next month.