Insider-out: From Rahul's sudden trip to hunt for new President

The release of Jairam Ramesh’s book ‘Indira Gandhi – A Life in Nature’ saw a rather exclusive gathering at the Safdarjung Road memorial.

Published: 18th June 2017 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th June 2017 05:38 AM   |  A+A-

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi speaks at the launch of commemorative edition of National Herald newspaper in Bengaluru on Monday. | Express Photo Service

Express News Service

Rahul’s sudden flights

The release of Jairam Ramesh’s book ‘Indira Gandhi – A Life in Nature’ saw a rather exclusive gathering at the Safdarjung Road memorial. Apart from close confidants of the Gandhi family, only two Congress leaders were invited, Manmohan Singh and Karan Singh. In the midst of the small group of old friends, Sonia Gandhi was far less guarded than her usual self. She even chatted about how Rahul called her just as she was about to come for the event.

The Congress VP was to be present at the release of Ramesh’s book on Indira’s commitment to nature and its preservation, but he suddenly took off for Harmandir Sahib. It appeared to those present that Priyanka Vadra was standing in for her brother. Rahul had similarly represented an ailing Sonia and read out her speech at the release of Anand Sharma’s book on Indira at Teen Murti Bhawan, a week ago. Rahul’s impromptu travel plans have often left the Congress and its leadership red-faced, like his flight to Italy right after his visit to Mandsaur farmers.

In search of a President

The capital’s air is thick with speculation over who would be the BJP/NDA’s presidential candidate. Having exhausted all possible analysis around Sumitra Mahajan and Draupadi Murmu (the PM was apparently curious about the latter’s unusual name), the Lutyens circle’s attention has now shifted to Sushma Swaraj and Thawar Chand Gehlot. Speculation is rife that it could be a toss-up between the two although Swaraj has cleared the air.

Well, once the suspense is over, the level of the Sangh’s influence behind the choice would become apparent. It seems the PM has not imposed his wishes over Nagpur’s yet—and the top-brass there would prefer a person from the ideological fold with some stature, and not mere political-social engineering. Meanwhile, from the opposition camp, Sharad Yadav is rather keen. He has been personally approaching other leaders, expressing his wish to join the race.

Maharaj vs new Raja!

A team of CPI-M’s farm-unionists led by former Lok Sabha member Hanan Mollah managed to reach the ground zero in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, where five young farmers died in police firing. They drove through dirt roads from Rajasthan with the help of locals, mostly undetected; while other opposition bigwigs, including MP heavyweight Jyotiraditya Scindia, failed make headway.

Mollah’s team not only recorded the farmers’ version of what happened, they also picked up video footage of how the agitation for MSP (not loan waiver) turned violent under police hostility. In contrast, Scindia had to come back from the district border after a scuffle with the worried local cops. While leaving, he quipped that he was ‘no longer the maharaja, but a mere praja of the new raja in Bhopal’. Shivraj Singh Chauhan, no doubt!

Tenure of PS

Much has been made of prominent Revenue Service Officer Seemanchal Dash’s shift from Finance Minister’s office as his private secretary to CBDT as OSD. But those in the know say that there’s no way Dash could be given an extension as the service rules do not allow a joint secretary-level official to remain a PS to a minister.

That an exception was made for him earlier showed the minister’s clout then. Usually PSs are supposed to be picked up from a pool of under-secretaries or director-level officials. Manmohan Singh had similarly put his foot down when his Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh had asked for a joint secretary close to him, to be appointed his PS.

Santwana Bhattacharya

The author is Political Editor, TNIE. Email: santwana@ newindianexpress.com

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