This coterie is so empowered that when Sonia Gandhi recently sent the approved names as observers for the Madhya Pradesh bypolls, K C Venugopal did not clear the names for three days.
Missing the target
The drafting skills of the top lawyers and spokespersons who signed on to the letter to the Congress president seeking changes in the party were found wanting. The letter was actually meant to target the coterie surrounding Rahul Gandhi, known as the Tughlaq Lane club, and not the Gandhis themselves. All important issues in the party are referred by Sonia Gandhi to her son’s residence. Rahul generally does not handle them personally, but delegates to a few favoured people. This coterie is so empowered that when Sonia Gandhi recently sent the approved names as observers for the Madhya Pradesh bypolls, K C Venugopal did not clear the names for three days. Rahul shies away from visitors and Venugopal acts as the gatekeeper. Both Venugopal and Rajeev Satav avoided contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha polls despite a party directive. Nevertheless, they were rewarded with Rajya Sabha seats. Ajay Maken, who has been in political oblivion losing his deposit in two consecutive Delhi Lok Sabha polls, smartly realised the benefits of cosying up to Venugopal and Randeep Surjewala. Maken has been suddenly appointed general secretary in-charge of Rajasthan, a state of which he has no knowledge.
Ad hoc approach
The manner in which the flag-hoisting ceremony took place at the Congress office on Independence Day typifies the adhocism in the party. Rahul Gandhi was first requested to hoist the flag, but declined. Then A K Antony as the eldest present was asked to do the honours. Rahul suggested that K C Venugopal, the party organising secretary , also be on the dais. Somebody remarked that with both leaders from Kerala, one state would seem to be over represented. Then Rahul asked Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the party’s Lok Sabha leader, to join, while ignoring the much senior Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. Perhaps, because the letter with Azad’s sign on it had already been dispatched.
There was speculation in Delhi over Amit Shah’s move from Medanta Hospital in Gurgaon to AIIMS, Delhi. Shah’s decision to get admitted to Medanta for Covid-19 treatment was not prompted by lack of faith in a government hospital. AIIMS, in fact, reserves a series of rooms for the PM and VVIPs with all the latest facilities. It was privacy concerns that led Shah to opt for Medanta. Unionism is rampant at AIIMS and medical information about VIP patients is often leaked. (The late Arun Jaitley’s sarcoma cancer was disclosed by the media almost as soon as it was diagnosed). The workaholic Home Minister checked out from the private hospital too early after his treatment and subsequently suffered a sudden shortness of breath. He was rushed to the nearest hospital, which was AIIMS, which is not a Covid-19 hospital. According to reports, Shah continues to work from his hospital bed, signing files in the morning. He takes a break later in the day.
K VijayRaghavan, principal scientific adviser (PSA) to the PMO, has extraordinary clout in the health sector. (He impressed Modi back in 2017 when he arranged for nine Nobel laureates to attend the Gujarat Global Summit 2017). Although a molecular biologist and not a virologist or a medical doctor, VijayRaghavan’s opinion has often been heeded over the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and health authorities on Covid-19 issues. It was VijayRaghavan who recommended the use of HCQ in the treatment of Covid-19, though its use as a prophylactic is contested. He is also believed to have nudged the ICMR to push for a Covid-19 vaccine before August 15, an objective which was universally ridiculed. Recently, the PSA gave the go-ahead for a team of 20 Israelis to gather saliva samples from four Delhi hospitals, bypassing the ICMR. He obtained permission from the DRDO, which is not the right authority. The ICMR has cautioned on the hazards of collecting 20,000 samples from Covid-19 patients. It requires expert supervision and an authorised central collecting office. Understandably, relations between the ICMR and PSA are not very cordial.
Satish Maneshinde, Rhea Chakraborty’s lawyer, was once a junior of the late Ram Jethmalani and has represented Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan. He had a photo of himself with the late Bal Thackeray as his profile picture on social media accounts. But after he took up Sushant Singh Rajput’s case, he changed it to that of himself with PM Modi. Clearly, he wanted to convey he was not taking up the case at the instance of Aaditya Thackeray, as insinuated by the BJP.