AN AWKWARD IFTAR
AN AWKWARD IFTAR It was an awkward moment for the BJP when Union home minister Rajnath Singh, on a visit to Lucknow, his constituency, accepted an invitation to be the chief guest at an iftar party hosted by a local leader.
BJP leaders, who have been pushing for an aggressive Hindutva card for the Assembly elections, obviously felt that the event was not in sync with the party line.
Even before the party workers could digest Mr Singh’s “iftar look” — with a skullcap and scarf — there was another awkward moment. Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger daughter-in-law, Aparna Yadav, was seated right next to Mr Singh, and Ms Yadav, who is contesting the upcoming Assembly elections, bent to touch the Union minister’s feet.
A visibly embarrassed Mr Singh could do little except bless her and look away. But the shutterbugs had their moment and the photographs of Mr Singh, wearing the cap and keffiyah (scarf), and Ms Yadav found their way to the front pages of all local dailies, making BJP leaders squirm with discomfort.
“In any case, Mr Singh looks more like a SP leader than a BJP leader,” quipped a veteran BJP worker.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON Minister of state for information and broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore is an avid shooter who had brought India laurels by winning several international medals, including an Olympic silver. Ever since his appointment to the Narendra Modi Council of Ministers, the minister has been busy with the functioning of the information and broadcasting ministry.
With the ministry and politics taking up most of his time, Mr Rathore still finds time to keep up with the budding career of his son Manavaditya. Following in the footsteps of his illustrious father, Manavaditya, too, has taken up shooting and has won several medals at junior-level events around the world. The minister, while unable to accompany his son to most of his foreign and national shooting tournaments, still makes it a point to keep track of every development in his son’s career.
Jogi’s new political venture The long-awaited “Jogi Express” finally chugged into power politics when former chief minister Ajit Jogi floated his new party, Chhattisgarh Janata Congress, in his home constituency of Marwahi, Bilaspur, last month, ending his three-decade-long association with the Congress. The bureaucrat-turned-politician, who found himself at a crossroads in a career marked by many unsavoury controversies after apparently falling from grace in the eyes of the high command in recent times, had perhaps long considered it prudent to keep all his options open. Mr Jogi had also earlier given a call to Congressmen in Chhattisgarh to join his bandwagon, which he christened the “Jogi Express”, while literally challenging the leadership of Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee (CPCC) president Bhupesh Baghel a couple of years ago.
“It is ‘Jogi Express’ that alone will run in Chhattisgarh. You should board the train before it is too late,” Mr Jogi had then exhorted Congress workers and leaders of the state.
He foresaw the end of the road for him in the Congress when the high command denied him a Rajya Sabha nomination recently.
Mr Jogi has, however, yet to woo leaders of prominence to his new party to create a ripple in the Congress. The delay in naming his new party after it was floated with much fanfare has also been read as a fallout of his unsuccessful bid to rope in mass-based leaders from the Congress, bringing cheer to the PCC camp.
“Even Mr Jogi’s wife Renu Jogi, Congress MLA, did not show up at the meet where he (Mr Jogi) launched his new party,” senior Congress leader and former Union minister Charan Das Mahant quipped. “Only some phool-chap wala (BJP-leaning) Congress workers have joined Mr Jogi’s new party,” he added.
NAVEEN’s STARS HIDE IN DARKNESS Naveen Patnaik, Orissa chief minister and BJD president, now finds himself in a catch-22 situation. While one BJD Lok Sabha MP is currently in jail for a chit fund scam, a sitting MLA and an ex-MLA of the party had been previously arrested in the same case.
A few more BJD leaders, including two sitting MPs — Sidhant Mohapatra and Anubhav Mohanty — and sitting MLA Akash Dasnayak have come into the firing line of the Opposition Congress and BJP for their alleged links with the Ponzi firm Oscar Group.
Mr Mohapatra, Mr Mohanty and Mr Dasnayak are leading Oriya movie actors who, along with comedy actor Papu Pom Pom, were the BJD’s star campaigners in the 2014 elections. Often criticised for their uninspiring participation in parliamentary and legislative business, these actors-turned-politicians have withdrawn into their cocoons since television channels showed video clips of them with the incarcerated Oscar Group chief Pravas Rout.
Mr Patnaik has observed a golden silence for a week now after the media expose. Realising that it’s time to strike hard, Congress stalwart and Leader of the Opposition Narasingha Mishra sarcastically said on Thursday, “Why is the CM, who claims himself clean and transparent, afraid of taking action against persons whom he made star campaigners What are the stars giving him now — light or the thick cover of darkness ”
AFTER-PARTY RAID Punjab is famous for its Patiala peg. Most of the liquor vends in the state remain open almost 24x7. Though the Punjab excise policy says liquor vends can remain open only between 9 am and 11 pm, the blinking lights on these vends are an ubiquitous sight. However, recently, there was criticism of the excise department for giving a long leash to liquor vends because they violate rules and stay open late into the night, allowing tipplers to gather and inconvenience the general public.
The excise department cracked down and constituted various teams to raid liquor vends. The teams raided 410 vends and found 83 violators. However, to the surprise of everyone, the teams conducted raids early in the morning, between 6 am and 9 am, when most of the tipplers are asleep and many liquor vends are shut after doing brisk business in the night.
The joke doing the rounds in the media is that the raiding teams may have partied late into the night and the early morning raid was an after-party idea.
The decimated left! In 2011, riding the paribartan bandwagon, Mamata Banerjee had dislodged the CPI(M)-led Left Front and come to power, becoming the first woman chief minister of West Bengal. “Aaye Buddha dekhe jaa, Mamatar khamata (Come Buddha and see Mamata’s power)” was the slogan with which Trinamul Congress workers had celebrated Didi’s triumph over Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee five years ago. Ms Banerjee was lionised as the feisty leader who brought an end to three decades of communist rule.
On the other hand, Bhattacharjee, who led the Left Front to ignominious defeat, was ridiculed and reviled. Even Left Front partners and a large section of CPI(M) satraps had blamed Bhattacharjee’s overzealous industrial drive and his decision to acquire land from unwilling farmers in Singur and Nandigram as the main causes of the Left’s electoral drubbing.
Being branded as a villain by the Left constituents and his own party leaders shattered Bhattacharjee. He stopped attending politburo and central committee meetings. The ostensible reason given was his indisposition. He virtually stopped addressing public rallies. Although he regularly attended party office, Bhattacharjee appeared a pale shadow of his former self.
If in 2011 the Left Front was defeated, in 2016 it was decimated. No wonder a pall of gloom has hung over CPI(M) headquarters at Alimuddin Street since May 19 when Didi returned to power. Surjya Kanta Mishra is facing flak both inside the CPI(M) and from the smaller front partners. His experiment of an alliance with the Congress has boomeranged and he is being pilloried for this. Buddha babu must be thanking his stars that he is not in the firing line this time.
On May 19, a middle-aged jubilant TMC woman supporter shouted: “Aaye Buddha dekhe jaa.” But before she could complete the slogan, a newly-elected MLA corrected her, “Aaye Surjya dekhe ja bolun (Come and see Surjya).”
NO COMMENTS! While ministers in the NDA government are supposed to be tech-savvy and have Facebook and Twitter accounts in order to be hands-on with the common man, it seems many of them don’t seem comfortable interacting live with the press.
A couple of weeks back, when the aviation policy was unveiled, civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and his junior minister, Mahesh Sharma, were present at the media conference to address all queries related to important decisions.
However, last week, when the new textile package was cleared by the Cabinet, only textiles secretary Rashmi Verma was present at the subsequent press conference, along with finance minister Arun Jaitley and telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, to give details of the important decisions. There was no sign of textiles minister Santosh Gangwar though the package offers one crore jobs to workers in the sector in the next three years.
The minister neither gave any official reaction on the textile package being cleared by the Cabinet nor did he tweet. His Facebook and Twitter profiles only had links to official advertisements released by the government on the package. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reactions were retweeted by Mr Gangwar. Links to the aforementioned press briefing, which appeared the next day in the media, were seen posted on his Facebook and Twitter profiles. Somebody surely knows how to maintain a low profile.