Sending a strong signal
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi have both declined an invitation from senior leader Birender Singh to attend his rally at Jind, Haryana, on the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (August 20). Singh, a known detractor of Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, had projected the rally as a show of strength though he had maintained that he was trying to unite the state leadership. By declining the invitation, the Congress leadership gave a clear signal that it will not encourage any dissidence in the party, especially when the general elections are less than a year away. The Hooda camp is happy with the decision of the senior Congress leadership and is organising a rally at Panipat on the same day to launch the UPA’s flagship food security scheme in the state.
A royal alliance
Two royal politicians in the Congress — former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh and Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh — have become relatives. Angadh Singh, maternal grandson of Amarinder Singh is engaged to Aprajita, daughter of Virbhadra Singh. The couple is likely to settle down in Delhi.
Don’t read too much into this
On Sunday, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi got a pat on the back from unexpected quarters. Much to the surprise of many at the party’s election committee meeting, BJP patriarch LK Advani, who had earlier taken potshots at Modi, praised the Gujarat chief minister for suggesting that the party should take the election campaign right to the booth level and reach out to all sections of society. Modi’s supporters praised Advani’s statesman-like approach. Some believe that Advani is trying to reach out to the party’s mainstream because he knows that he still has a chance if Modi doesn’t garner enough numbers for the BJP. The RSS has reportedly assured Advani that they would think of another prime ministerial candidate if the BJP doesn’t get enough seats. Sceptics, however, feel that this may be Advani’s calibrated strategy and another veiled attack may not be far off.
Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad recently sparked off a controversy when he used the proverb “kaha Raja Bhoj kaha Gangu Teli” to suggest there’s no comparison between Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi. BJP spokespersons went hammer and tongs at Azad, demanding an apology for not only “insulting” Modi but also his community. Modi belongs to the Ghanchi (OBC) caste in Gujarat, which is an equivalent of Teli (also an OBC) in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Apparently, senior BJP leaders were unhappy over the way party spokespersons responded to the Congress attack on Modi. However, Congress leaders maintained that the usage of the proverb was unintentional.
In the same week that it launched the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) for the public distribution system, the Planning Commission also approved an in-house evaluation study on the impact of the politically-sensitive Bundelkhand Special Package on the people of the region. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi had sought the package before the last Uttar Pradesh assembly elections but the panel believes that it has not changed the lives of those living in Bundelkhand. But instead of asking the IEO to conduct the study, the panel had opted to do it itself considering the political sensitivities involved.
Once bitten, twice shy
Defence minister AK Antony may be the ultimate team player, but he is annoyed about how he was made a scapegoat when the Opposition hauled the government over the coals after he gave a clean chit to Pakistan on the August 6 LoC killings in the Poonch sector. Much to his disappointment, neither Prime Minister Manmohan Singh nor his senior colleagues came to his rescue when the Opposition targeted him and he had to retract his earlier statement. The first statement was drafted by the defence secretary, the director general of military operations and the joint secretary dealing with Pakistan in the external affairs ministry in consultation with National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon. Antony was also in touch with both the PM and the NSA on the issue. So when it came to drafting the revised statement, Antony did not allow anyone to touch the crucial paragraph on the Pakistan army’s direct involvement in the LoC killings.