The government has ordered an inquiry into how Lord Alexander Carlile, British legal consultant to jailed Bangladesh opposition leader Khaleda Zia, managed to reach Delhi. Since Carlile had planned to address a press conference in India, the MEA instructed the Indian High Commission in London to not issue him a visa. But by the time New Delhi contacted London, an e-business visa had been granted. New Delhi hastily sent an e-mail informing Carlile that his visa had been cancelled, but it is claimed that the message went to the wrong address. Air India also does not seem to have been in the loop. Only after the plane left London was it discovered that Carlile was on board.
A high-level meeting in Delhi considered the option of detaining the plane at Moscow on the pretext of technical difficulties, but better sense prevailed. Eventually, AI 162 was diverted to the cargo area of the Delhi airport, where Carlile was made to de-board and sent back. The government panicked because Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina’s adviser H T Imam had specially flown to Delhi to request that Carlile be denied entry. Earlier, a delegation from Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party had met pro-government think tanks such as Vivekananda International Foundation and India Foundation to sound them about Carlile’s visit.
Party boy to boss
How did Naveen Patnaik — once a total stranger to Odisha who spoke no Odiya and was an apolitical party animal who hosted international celebrities and ran the Psychedelhi boutique from Oberoi Hotel — end up as the state’s longest-serving Chief Minister? Journalist Ruben Banerjee’s soon-to-be-released book on Patnaik charts his extraordinary journey, but does not quite explain the secret of Patnaik’s remarkable success. He does, however, point out that Patnaik is not as innocent and gentle as he appears and has ruthlessly taken preemptive action in cutting down any potential rival. In fact, when the BJD constitution was drawn up, Patnaik insisted that he be declared president for life. He reluctantly backed down only when he realised the Election Commission would object. Incidentally, days before the Parliament no-confidence vote, PM Modi had invited Patnaik’s sister, author Gita Mehta, and her husband, publisher Sonny Mehta, for tea and a cordial chit chat.
Always by his side
BJP favour-seekers are keen to discover who is closest to Amit Shah. According to insiders, Shah is not a person who believes in relying on any one individual but allots different duties to different office-bearers. There may be no Man Friday, but in terms of sheer physical proximity, probably the closest to him is party general secretary Bhupendra Yadav. A lawyer, Yadav tries to be close at hand whenever Shah is in the vicinity. His policy of sticking by the side of the boss has paid dividends. He was in charge of Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Bihar and Gujarat. Yadav is also a second-term Rajya Sabha MP.
Focus on Bengal
For the last 15 months, Amit Shah has spent three days a week in West Bengal and he plans to continue devoting the same amount of time to the state till the general elections. Though the BJP has a single Lok Sabha member from the state and performed poorly in the local elections, Shah is convinced that the state is ripe for the picking. Shah has already constituted 80% of the booth committees in Bengal. The other two states Shah is paying particular attention to for the 2019 elections are Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
Nectar, not poison
HD Kumaraswamy’s emotional outburst at Hubli, pulling out his red handkerchief and wiping tears saying he felt he was being poisoned, has Congresspersons seeing red. Considering that Kumaraswamy was elected CM with a mere 38 MLAs and hogged all the plum portfolios for himself and his followers in the state, a Congress MLA noted bitterly that it is not poison but nectar which Kumaraswamy swallowed. The BJP has also been checkmated, at least temporarily, by his farm loan waiver scheme.
Kumaraswamy has inherited from his father Deve Gowda the talent of keeping allies on their toes. During his recent trip to Delhi, he made it a point to meet several BJP Central ministers, ostensibly to discuss his state’s plans. Meanwhile, sulking former CM Siddaramaiah has been ordered by the Congress to keep quiet and, as a sop, has been made a member of the CWC. Siddaramaiah is planning an AHINDA yatra to attract tribals, Dalits, backwards and minorities to his side. Many believe that Siddaramaiah will eventually form his own party.