A southern problem
Tamil Nadu chief minister E Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam disagreed on the issue of granting permission to bury DMK leader M Karunanidhi at Marina beach. EPS wanted to take a tough stand against the DMK to demonstrate to his followers that he is not being pushed around by OPS, who is now soft on rebel AIADMK leader T T V Dhinakaran. Since the BJP’s intermediary in Tamil Nadu S Gurumurthy tweeted supporting EPS’s position, the BJP was blamed and slogans against the RSS were raised in Chennai. This embarrassed Prime Minister Narendra Modi who wants to make it clear that his party is not meddling in state politics and did not play an active role in the merger of the OPS and EPS factions. When Kanimozhi approached him over permission to bury her father at Marina, Modi was sympathetic, but pointed out it was a state government decision. At the burial, Modi greeted the Karunanidhi family warmly and even went out of his way to look for the prodigal son M K Alagiri, who initially sat in the third row.
Differences were out in the open between NDA allies and the BJP at the release of veteran journalist Rajdeep Sardesai’s latest book, Newsman. Akali Dal MP Naresh Gujral noted that the Atal Bihari Vajpayee leadership was sorely missed. The Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut made it clear that his party would not align with the BJP for the parliamentary elections, observing that, “You need a Vajpayee NDA.” BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia retorted, “Where is the Shiv Sena of Bal Thackeray?’’ Gujral is understandably furious since he was led to believe that he would be the NDA candidate for deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, but without informing the Akalis, Amit Shah opted instead for the JD(U) at the last moment. Modi does not want another Cabinet expansion before the polls to accommodate the JD(U) and this was the BJP’s compensation packet. He also calculated correctly that Nitish Kumar could bring in more undecided votes. Earlier, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had needlessly insulted Tamil Nadu Deputy CM O Panneerselvam by refusing to meet him at her South Block office.
Kill with kindness
Friday afternoon in Parliament is reserved for private member’s Bills. It’s a time-honoured tradition so that individual MPs can moot innovative legislation. But since 1952, almost no private member’s Bill has actually been converted into an Act. (A rare exception was when all the MPs supported the late Lalit Suri’s Bill seeking a hike in salaries of parliamentarians). In reality no government wants any Bill passed which is not cleared by it first. Friday before last, Akali Dal MP Naresh Gujral introduced a Bill to bring reform in Parliament and end the disruptions and adjournments. A key suggestion was that in order for MPs to earn their salaries, Parliament should meet for at least 100 days a year. And that if on any day the House was adjourned due to unruly behaviour, an additional day be added to make up for the wasted time. Publicly, all MPs supported the Bill. But privately several ministers approached Gujral and asked him to withdraw it. Gujral declined. While several BJP MPs made speeches praising the Bill, in fact they were simply filibustering. The debate ran over the allotted time and has now been postponed to the next session. A smooth way of shelving it.
Waiting for Rahul
Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan is half-way through his 55-day Jan Ashirwad Yatra. His election campaign, which was flagged off by BJP president Amit Shah, has received a positive response. State BJP politicians have joined the CM along different sectors on his route. In the Congress camp, state party leaders Kamal Nath and Madhavrao Scindia are chalking out individual strategies since a joint election campaign will kick off only in September when Rahul Gandhi visits. The delay in reaching Madhya Pradesh is because Rahul is scheduled to tour Rajasthan first and, according to insiders, he is also planning to visit Kailash Mansarovar, a promise he made in Karnataka.
Hint creates buzz
The firebrand orator Sushma Swaraj has been uncharacteristically subdued in the present regime and guarded when she does speak. But last Tuesday, at the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting, Swaraj created a stir by informing the assembled MPs that they should not be seen in Delhi after August 10 but return to their constituencies and create a buzz about the government’s many achievements. The impression she gave was that the elections were around the corner. Since she is not known to jump the gun, and PM Modi and Amit Shah were present, the MPs are worried that general elections might be called sooner than expected.