Kiran Bedi may have been declared as the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate only in the last month, but the decision to appoint her was taken nearly three months back. It took a while to formally announce her name in view of the resistance from the Delhi unit.
3 weddings, 1 poll
Many VVIPs were present at the marriage of Amit Shah’s son Jay with Rishita on February 10 in Ahmedabad, but there was understandable gloom as the trends for the Delhi assembly election became clear. On the same day in Delhi, Congress MP Subbirama Reddy hosted the wedding reception of his grandson Rajiv. The who’s who of the Congress, including Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Vadra, Manmohan Singh, Kamal Nath, Anand Sharma and Digvijay Singh, attended the function. The mood, however, was less somber. Although the Congress was annihilated at the poll, its arch rival had been thoroughly humiliated. Sonia Gandhi remarked to the CPI’s D Raja that they hadn’t met for some time and should get together. A guest queried, “Shouldn’t you all get together?’’ referring to the entire anti-BJP political spectrum. Gandhi replied, “I think so.’’ A third wedding the same day was of the son of the PM’s brother Pankaj Modi in Vadnagar. There were no VIPs at that function, not even the Prime Minister.
No room here
The bad blood between the old guard of the BJP in Delhi and the new dispensation in the party was clear from this cryptic conversation between MoS commerce Nirmala Sitharaman and one-time unchallenged boss of Delhi, 83-year-old Vijay Kumar Malhotra. Sitharaman, who was holding a press conference at the party office, apologised to Malhotra, “I am sorry, I am taking your room’’. “I have no room here,’’ Malhotra protested. When asked by journalists about the BJP’s prospects in Delhi before the results, Malhotra’s laconic response was, “Officially, I say we are going to form the government.’’ Clearly, he had an unofficial view as well.
Within hours of the Delhi election results, BJP leader Kirti Azad talked of the need for “heads to roll’’ in the party. He was taking a pot shot at finance minister Arun Jaitley who is on the opposite side of the fence in cricket politics, and the Delhi BJP holds Jaitley responsible for parachuting Kiran Bedi as the CM candidate. In fact, the decision to bring in Bedi was taken jointly by Amit Shah, Narendra Modi and Jaitley with the consent of the RSS. Jaitley is a soft target for those who really want to hit out at the autocratic Modi-Shah duo but dare not. The Delhi BJP leaders blame the choice of Bedi for the shattering defeat, but Shah, on the other hand, has a very poor opinion of those in charge of the Delhi party. He believes the real cause for the defeat is that the state bosses lead a privileged existence which is unconnected with the average Delhite. The Delhi corporators are held as particularly accountable for their poor performance, even the PM’s swatchh bharat campaign was ignored. BJP organising secretary Ram Lal has been asked to speak to the Delhi contingent. While media commentators see the vote as a reflection on Modi’s sliding popularity, in fact, AAP leaders such as Ashish Khaitan made an indirect pitch for votes from Modi supporters with the rationale that Modi for PM is not in conflict with Kejriwal for CM.
Clout at home
The NSA Ajit Doval’s clout in the home ministry is evident from the appointment of rural development secretary LC Goyal as home secretary in place of Anil Goswami who was removed unceremoniously. Rajnath Singh was keen on petroleum secretary Saurabh Chandra, a UP cadre officer who had once worked as his principal secretary. The PM’s principal secretary Nripendra Mishra also reportedly backed Chandra’s appointment. Significantly, Doval, Goyal and the new IB chief Dineshwar Sharma all belong to the Kerala cadre.
Shorn of props
Non-BJP chief ministers were unhappy with the manner in which the NITI Aayog meet was conducted in Delhi. The proceedings were in Hindi, but the CMs from non-Hindi-speaking states were asked to leave behind their translators and chief secretaries in the waiting room of the PMO. The chief secretaries are convenient reference points for chief ministers who are unfamiliar with the nitty gritty of their state projects. One chief minister even rushed to the waiting room to confer with his chief secretary, but the latter had left for the state bhavan. Instead, the state finance secretary provided him a note on the subject which he read out to the committee. The only photographer permitted was from the PMO and he simply took pictures of the CMs shaking hands with Modi. Understandably, the non-BJP chief ministers were not keen for their local newspapers to publish photos of themselves fraternising with Modi, since their respective party high commands would take a dim view.
Long pending decision
Kiran Bedi may have been declared as the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate only in the last month, but the decision to appoint her was taken nearly three months back. In fact, back in November, Kiran Bedi announced to some television journalists that she was willing to take up the challenge and join politics and lead the BJP. Since there was no official word from the party, TV viewers marvelled at her presumption. Actually, she had already been informally sounded out. It took a while to formally announce her name in view of the resistance from the Delhi unit.