Taking root as the spokesperson
While selecting the chief spokesperson of the party, a post which went to Ajay Maken, the Congress high command had apparently considered two other names. These were of senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and former Union minister CP Joshi. Azad was not considered suitable since he has ‘Z’ plus security and is not easily accessible.
Joshi lost out as he is not very communicative and the Congress needs him for party work and its poll preparations in Rajasthan. Maken was finally selected for his organisational and government experience and also because of his roots in Delhi. It is not surprising that he has hit it off very well with the media. And his being the face of the Congress may also help the party during the Delhi polls later this year. The right face to face the challenge.
Treading very cautiously
Much to the chagrin of the mandarins in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the coal ministry has taken the Supreme Court’s directive on the coal allotment scam very seriously. While, not so long ago, all the ministry’s files were available to the powerful PMO officials, the coal ministry has now decided to share only those files pertaining to coal block allotments and that too following written requests. The PMO learnt this the hard way last month when the coal ministry sought a request in writing when a PMO secretary wanted an informal consultation on a coal allotment file. Better safe than sorry for the coal ministry.
Reading the tea leaves here
Congress president Sonia Gandhi did not think for a second before announcing that she would be contesting from Rae Bareli again in 2014, while speaking to reporters at the UPA anniversary dinner in May. “Ask her,” she had responded to a question as to whether Priyanka Gandhi would also contest. The question being open, many in the Congress are asking each other whether Priyanka would finally join the electoral fray. There is no clear indication yet, but she is keeping a close tab on political developments and also making some decisive interventions. Last heard of, she invited a celebrity journalist known for his anti-Congress rhetoric to tea. He went home a changed man! Diplomacy in a teacup.
Not one to be caught on camera
Sons or daughters being responsible for their politician parents getting into trouble is par for the course in most political downfalls. Defence minister AK Antony has been extraordinarily cautious in this regard. One of his two sons has been interested in films but Antony sensed the dangers involved in a career in glamour. The buzz is that Antony went to the extent of pouring cold water on the plans of some enthusiastic filmmakers who wanted to promote his son. A pre-emptive screening process.
A few more morsels of goodwill
Now that the UPA has brought into law its flagship food security bill, a cornerstone of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s welfare agenda, both the government and the party are pulling out all stops to publicise it. The information and broadcasting ministry held discussions with the food ministry to finalise a strategy to include the food security law in the next phase of the flagship Bharat Nirman campaign across several platforms, such as TV, radio and online. The Congress party has deployed top leaders, from MPs Renuka Chowdhury to Sandeep Dikshit, to tour 17 state capitals to push state party leaders to publicise the food programme. The question everyone is asking is whether the food law will do for the Congress during 2014 what MNREGA did for it in 2009 — help it win the elections. A lot on its plate these days.
She could have a starring role
Delhi’s BJP leaders, who do not get along very well with each, now fear that Narendra Modi may foist Smriti Irani on the party as the chief ministerial nominee for the state. BJP insiders say that Modi has a very high opinion of the TV star-turned-politician and believes that she would have a strong appeal among voters, particularly women.
She is also trying to fashion herself in the image of Sushma Swaraj, leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. What he forgets is that Irani had lost the Lok Sabha polls to Kapil Sibal from Chandni Chowk. Modi’s supporters say that is not a factor as even Sheila Dikshit who became the Delhi chief minister in 1998 had lost to Lal Behari Tewari of the BJP from East Delhi in the Parliament poll earlier in the same year. You win some, you lose some.