Age no bar
Has Mahathir Mohamad rubbed off on the BJP? For, it seems the margdarshak mandal may have a parliamentary life beyond 2019 after all! Chief Amit Shah informally told his party’s national executive members that the 75-year age bar for contesting elections “is being relaxed”. Of course, Malaysia has nothing to do with it! Cornered by the sudden opposition bonhomie and disgruntled allies showing a new readiness to bolt from the NDA stable, Shah is not taking any chances.
The logical fallout would be, no denial of tickets to veterans L K Advani, M M Joshi, Sumitra Mahajan et al. Since Modi- Shah’s new criterion for ticket-worthiness is ‘winnability’, not age, as many as 15 BJP MPs from the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are heaving a sigh of relief after the signal change. The 2019 race looks tight, and the top duo can ill afford any internal dissension, like the one sprung by the two Sinhas, Yashwant and Shotgun.
Without a Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha berth, housing in Delhi becomes a big headache for many outgoing MPs. Joshi is said to be particularly perturbed, since he does not enjoy high-level security or a ‘former deputy PM’ tag like Advani. Besides these fringe benefits, it seems there would no bar on 75-year-olds from holding any office either.
Not a Nirmal experience
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was in for a shock when she recently visited Chennai for the BJP’s ‘Samparak for Samarthan’ programme. It seems the otherwise articulate minister was left dumbfounded by the level of peeve she faced on the situation in the state, the handling of the anti-Sterlite agitation, ‘Left extremism’ et al. A shaken Sitharaman has since sought a one-to-one meeting with the PM and the BJP chief to brief them on what she heard—“the inside information”.
Piloting booth management
Among the next bunch of elections, Rajasthan is being billed as the best bet for the Congress. Sachin Pilot, therefore, is not leaving any stone unturned, especially on booth-level activation of workers, always the INC’s Achilles heel. But Pilot’s ‘Mera booth mera gaurav’ (my booth, my pride) scheme seems have boomeranged, as all-out infighting ensued. It seems those who fancied their chances for a ticket tried to physically stop workers loyal to rival factions from participating. At its crescendo, the AICC state in-charge was reduced to mutely witnessing the flying fisticuffs.
New Visa policy?
In the midst of much finger-pointing on how Maldives ruling party MP Ahmed Nahin was sent back from Chennai airport—he had come for medical treatment—External Affairs Ministry sources pointed out, rather curtly, that India’s visa policy is naturally dependent on relations with the relevant country. Well, that’s more or less the universal standard. Does that mean New Delhi’s lines to Maldives have gone cold? It’s true the Maldivian regime has been acting difficult—not allowing Indian cargo to land, for instance—probably to please China. But the denial of entry to a ruling party parliamentarian as retaliation has left a few red faces in the MEA. Particularly as it comes close on the heels of visa denial to Pakistani academics for the Asian studies conference in New Delhi. This puts the bilateral relations status of Maldives with India on the same plane as the unfriendly western neighbour’s.
It’s been a few days since Pranab Mukherjee delivered a 20-minute speech at the RSS headquarters, but speculation shows no sign of dying down. Many TNIE readers too have written in to us wondering what prompted the former President to visit Nagpur. One conjecture stands out: Mukherjee was called in to admonish the vigilantes who are neither listening to the Sarsanghchalak nor the Prime Minister! In turn, Mukherjee got a stage wider than what he ever had as President of India.
A lease of life
Danish Ali, the JD(S) spokesperson, is much in demand. Always ready with a quirky remark or two, he has become rather popular with the bite-hungry Delhi media. His latest interaction at the IWPC was no different. When asked by a journo if the JD(S) is worried about the survival of the Karnataka government, or of possible poaching, he quipped: “HDK knows how to counter-poach!’’
The author is Political Editor,
TNIE. Email: santwana@ newindianexpress.com