The outcomes of Amaranth attack
The terror strike on Amaranth pilgrims was dastardly, but it brought about a change in the atmospherics of the Kashmir Valley. Srinagar civil society’s condemnation of the attack prompted the Union home minister to defend the common Kashmiri and Kashmiriyat. A single tweet of Rajnath Singh instantly got 5.1K replies, 3.5K retweets and 13K likes, mostly from the much-maligned secular brigade. It also earned him the wrath of what is now called the ‘Hindian right-wing’. The impact of the tragedy was felt at Makemytrip as well. The free-for-all on Twitter cost the travel portal its second high-ranking personnel, now one each from the two above-mentioned camps.
Shivshankar Menon in Rahul-nama
Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with Chinese ambassador Luo Zhaohui may have triggered a chain reaction, including a detailed all-party briefing on the border standoff by the government, but speculation about what prompted it refuses to die down. And what led to the flip-flop? Former NSA Shivshankar Menon, who was instrumental in getting Rahul Gandhi to meet the Chinese and Bhutanese envoys, was also behind the initial denial. With Congress media coordinator Randeep Singh Surjewala caught up in a personal crisis at PGI Chandigarh -- where his father, Congress veteran Shamsheer Singh Surjewala, was getting a blood clot removed -- his usual control that normally helps calibrate the party response abandoned him. It seems Menon not only advised them to deny the meetings totally, but also assured them that he would get the Chinese embassy to issue a denial. Congress insiders now lament that Menon overrated his China connections and also forgets that 'he is now ex-NSA'. As a result, TV channels like Republic had a field day panning the Congress VP, who’s always the easy target, till the issue got struck down by the Amarnath Yatra tragedy.
News agency vs news agency
Manish Tewari recently came out with insider information that Prasar Bharati plans to sideline the premier news agencies PTI, UNI and ANI, for not falling in line and get their feed replaced by Hindustan Samachar, which is ideologically close to RSS. Together the two new agencies get no less than Rs 15.75 crore for their wire services. However, PB board members claim this was a one-year-old move initiated by IIMC director K.G. Suresh when Jawhar Sircar was still the Prasar Bharati CEO. Two proposals had been pushed simultaneously, one was getting defence and strategist expert Nitin Gokhale to do a show for DD, the other was Hindustan Samachar. Gokhale’s show took off with aplomb, but the Samachar file got stuck. It has been revived again at the I&B Ministry’s behest as an additional feeder, not at the cost of axing the services of PTI, UNI or ANI.
The quiet class monitor
There’s no doubt that the I&B Ministry is getting more active under the new secretary, N.K. Sinha. Not the flamboyant type, Sinha, who was formerly the culture secretary, was handpicked by the Prime Minister to be a hands-on sort of I&B secretary. Sure enough, the unassuming senior bureaucrat chose a Saturday to drop in at the Electronic Media Monitoring Centre, a subordinate office under the I&B Ministry, which monitors TV channels for content violations. Neither were officials present nor could the personnel in the newsroom recognise him as he stood monitoring the monitors. The receptionist was apparently unable to sufficiently recover from the shock upon being told that the secretary himself was standing in front of her, to be able to alert the team. She had shown the temerity of asking who he was.
Who'll be Veep?
So Gopalkrishna Gandhi has agreed to contest the vice-presidential election as a "non-party" opposition candidate. But it’s not yet clear who’ll actually get the post. The BJP/NDA has an overwhelming majority — MPs of both houses vote to choose the vice president — but is taking time to name its candidate. Amit Shah retorted the other day, “What’s the hurry? Don’t worry, we’ll put up someone with legislative experience."