Inside Track: From Varun Gandhi’s hitting out at Jairam Ramesh to Mamata Banerjee’s meeting with Ahmed Patel

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New Delhi | June 24, 2018 4:00 AM

Normally Rahul Gandhi celebrates his birthday abroad, disappointing his party workers keen to pay homage. But this week on June 19 Rahul remained in Delhi to celebrate his 48th birthday.

‘Varun Gandhi has taken up cudgels on behalf of his father’s controversial Maruti car project.’ (File: IE)

Car seva

Varun Gandhi has taken up cudgels on behalf of his father’s controversial Maruti car project. In a tweet, he hit out at Congress leader Jairam Ramesh for dubbing Maruti a failed car and termed Ramesh, whose book on PN Haksar and Indira Gandhi is soon to released, as “an accidental politician writing about a failed bureaucrat’’. (Haksar had consistently opposed Sanjay Gandhi’s Maruti project, which led to his falling out with Indira Gandhi.) Varun describes Maruti as India’s single largest industrial success post-independence, earning some `100,000 crore. Sanjay’s Maruti company was liquidated in 1977 and a commission of inquiry held to look into the manner in which the company consistently flouted rules and failed to produce a roadworthy indigenous car. After Sanjay’s death, Indira Gandhi as prime minister salvaged Maruti Ltd and the company entered into a partnership with Suzuki of Japan. But is there any relationship between Sanjay’s unviable Maruti and the product manufactured by the Japanese company with foreign parts? Varun’s point is that the land, infrastructure, name and concept of a people’s car were thanks to his father, even if the end product was different. Mr Suzuki, who by coincidence lived near Varun in Jor Bagh, acknowledged the debt by declaring Sanjay’s small car project as the greatest gift to India and erecting Sanjay’s statue at the factory in gratitude.

Suspicious ally

Congress leaders in the capital are suspicious of Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy’s two long meetings with PM Narendra Modi in Delhi. One private conference was ostensibly on the Cauvery water-sharing, and the other on the state’s development plans. But what aroused curiosity was that Modi did not give time to several CMs who also attended the chief ministers’ conference. Congress leaders believe that the meetings were Kumaraswamy’s way of putting pressure on his alliance partner, indicating that he could go the way of JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar if crossed. The latest bone of contention between the two Karnataka allies is the state Budget. Although the Budget was cleared earlier this year by former Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah, Kumaraswamy is keen to change it as he wants to channel the state’s revenues for farm loan waivers and reject Siddaramaiah’s schemes. He feels that ethically Siddaramaiah should have passed a vote on account and not a full-fledged Budget since only three months were left for the Assembly polls.

Birthday rush

Normally Rahul Gandhi celebrates his birthday abroad, disappointing his party workers keen to pay homage. But this week on June 19 Rahul remained in Delhi to celebrate his 48th birthday. A long queue of Congresspersons turned up at 10 Janpath, Sonia’s residence, to wish him and offer bouquets. Old-timers who feared their days were numbered in the new regime were prominent among those offering greetings. Octogenarians Motilal Vora and Mohsina Kidwai, in fact, arrived half an hour before the birthday boy.

AAP ki kahani

AAP members complain that Arvind Kejriwal’s humiliating climbdown over the sit-in at the Lieutenant Governor’s residence was because the Congress did not extend support. For a year, AAP has been wooing the Congress, but it has turned down AAP’s suggestion to adopt a shared agenda on common issues, such as the powers of the Lt Governor or on EVM machines. Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken and former CM Sheila Dikshit are roadblocks to a tie-up with AAP. They believe that if AAP is isolated from the Opposition, it will disappear as fast as it sprang up overnight. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, however, has a soft spot for Kejriwal and for his sake even agreed to make an exception to her rule of having no truck with the CPM. Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan was among the four CMs who met the PM to plead Kejriwal’s case.

Going my way

TMC chief Mamata Banerjee is a seasoned political player. Her recent meeting with Congress leader Ahmed Patel is seen as an attempt to compensate for not attending Rahul Gandhi’s iftar. Banerjee is keen to keep both the Congress and BJP at arm’s length and to project state parties as the driving force in the next general election. Banerjee phoned Ahmed Patel to wish him on Eid. He reciprocated by visiting her with mangoes and sweets. Patel and Banerjee share an old relationship since, Patel, as AICC general secretary in charge of West Bengal, had generally backed Banerjee in her differences with other state Congress leaders. Incidentally, while the Congress is keen for TMC support to get a party leader elected to replace PJ Kurien as deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, Banerjee wants someone from a regional party, preferably her own.

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