Learning golf: Despite his hectic schedule of late, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is learning to play golf at the prestigious Delhi Golf Club. Gandhi was seen recently working out on the range, as well as practising putting. Since he is not a member of the club, he has to pay the guest fee. Gandhi is learning golf presumably because he wants to eventually apply for membership. The ability to play the game is a pre-requisite for joining the club. Although there is a long waiting list for the club, there is a special tenure membership quota of 25 for MPs during their term in Parliament. In addition, minister for urban development Venkaiah Naidu has the discretion to nominate two persons for permanent membership annually. Gandhi will have to write to Naidu to recommend his case to the club even if he wants a temporary membership. His brother-in-law Robert Vadra has been a member for several years and was recommended for the discretionary quota by former minister Jaipal Reddy. When they were younger, even Priyanka’s children used to come to the club for putting practice.
Narendra Modi media monitor: Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a dig at the media during a recent interaction with senior journalists. Asked whether he anticipated any trouble with China along the border during his trip to that country, as had happened during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India, Modi replied wryly that it was certainly possible since the Indian media would be there.
The PM was in a relaxed mood, laughing and cracking jokes. Asked by a scribe whether West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had had a change of heart towards his government, Modi retorted, “I don’t have access to her heart.”
Modi added that the media, contrary to its claims, does not really have an insight into what is happening in the government. For example, recent reports about a Cabinet reshuffle were completely speculative. When he actually decides on a Cabinet expansion, he said, he was certain no one would get to know about it in advance, not even any of his ministers.
Modi also countered the impression that the decision-making in his government was completely Modi-centric. He insisted his ministers were free to take their own decisions.
While he felt the media was sometimes not objective, the PM noted good-naturedly that TV news had limited reach. In the evening, most viewers watch entertainment serials.
Right to his views: Narendra Modi was asked why former NDA minister Arun Shourie had given an interview criticising him, Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley when Shourie had met the PM only recently. Modi was unfazed. He said he met Shourie every month and would continue to meet him, and that he had a right to his views.
Second thoughts: Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav shocked the RJD and JD(U) leadership when he frankly stated that the merger to form a Janata Parivar was not possible before the Bihar Assembly elections. The SP is having second thoughts about the merger on several counts. It is by far the richest of the parties planning to merge, with a huge cash chest and a long list of physical assets spread all over Uttar Pradesh. It does not want to surrender this to the common pool. The SP symbol of the cycle is to be the common symbol for the united Janata Parivar, but in the Election Commission records, the cycle is listed as a symbol reserved for regional parties only. If the new party after the merger gets more than 6% votes nationally, it will be designated a national party and will lose the cycle symbol. Akhilesh Yadav and Ram Gopal Yadav also fear that given Mulayam’s fragile health, Nitish, Sharad Yadav and Lalu Yadav could gobble up the new party. Besides, Yadav is currently the SP leader in the Rajya Sabha and doesn’t want to surrender the post to JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav. Finally, the SP does not want arch enemy Amar Singh back in the party fold.
Special request: Shashi Kapoor’s daughter Sanjana Kapoor sent a personal message to information & broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley requesting him to make a trip to Mumbai to hand over the Dadasaheb Phalke award to the ailing actor, who is confined to a wheelchair. Sanjana pleaded that the entire Kapoor khaandan and the extended Bollywood tribe would be present on this very special occasion. They would feel let down if anyone other than the minister himself graced the occasion. Jaitley agreed to make a special trip to Mumbai for the occasion.