J&K: Chicken First or Egg First
The PDP-BJP talks for government formation in J&K — suddenly in focus due to the JNU slogan-to-sedition row — are stuck on rather mundane issues. Not for any ideological ferment. Striking a fine balance between Jammu and the Valley, as far as the Centre’s dole is concerned, has been tough. If Kashmir gets a Smart City, so must Jammu; if a border battalion has to be raised and goes mostly to Jammu quota, Kashmir will not play ball. PDP is in Kashmir, BJP in Jammu — the political divide is clear. Plus, the talks are also suffering from the “chicken and egg” syndrome. PDP wants a few pro-Valley pronouncements first; BJP wants the government to be formed first. A section within BJP finds no harm in being a bit magnanimous, but others don’t want to give in to PDP-Mehbooba Mufti’s demands. But it may get resolved with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Budget. Both sides are eagerly waiting to see if he can take care of the imbroglio.
It’s not for nothing that Lok Sabha is running this session. Some of this is due to the quiet diplomacy of Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. She has been treating Parliamentarians to Madhya Pradesh delicacies mawa ki bati, khoprapak, et al, in batches of 50. Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge was among the MPs invited this week. After the sumptuous lunch, the Opposition leader told the Speaker, “Please don’t think we’ll now go back to the House and fall asleep,” much to everyone’s amusement.
There’s speculation that the next round of Indo-Pak talks may happen on the sidelines of the SAARC foreign ministers meet in Kathmandu. But nothing on the drawing board is expected to move unless the modalities on the JIT on the Pathankot terror attack are worked out. That’s going to be the real test, those in the know say. Also, if India wants action and talks on terrorism, Pakistan is unlikely to give up on bringing Kashmir to the table. A political intermediary involved in setting up the stage, however, asserted that Islamabad has agreed not to rake up the K-word at this stage.
Modi's New Look
Amidst the current political confrontation, there’s no change in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s body language. He maintains an expressionless, cool appearance. Only his hairdo has changed; a firm back brush, slightly long at the back has replaced the side-parting of the earlier days.
Angry Young Woman
Many ministerial colleagues of the HRD minister are wondering: “Smritiji ko itna gussa kyun aata hai (why is she so angry)?” Their conclusion: she may be angry because the Parliament playout may diminish her chances of being projected as BJP’s chief ministerial candidate during UP elections.
Diminution in Congress Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh’s bags has been cause of much mirth. From a big leather bag to a smaller portfolio and now only a compact Bendly Black polyester carrying a laptop, Ramesh’s baggage, a fellow MP quipped, has been shrinking. The former Union minister shot back, “Has to match the party’s size in Lok Sabha.”
Tied in Knots
Delhi Police Commissioner Bhim Sain Bassi is a recognisable face across the country. But the more people know of him, the more people call him up to put pressure. And he’s not known to withstand it. In fact, the JNU situation, a police report claims, turned ‘seditious’ because a Hindi news channel’s ‘doctored footage’ had BJP leaders and sympathisers screaming ‘action’. Their haranguing calls to Bassi, post-TV show, made Bassi crack down on JNU and the JNUSU president in haste, despite the advice of at least two senior officials to the contrary. A former city reporter, managing Delhi Police’s Twitter account by virtue of being the wife of a cop, complicated matters when she raised alarm on a fake tweet. The result is for all to see: the students are in custody, courts have turned into battlefields, Parliament is frothing, and the streets of Delhi have not seen as many protest marches in recent times. Not since the Nirbhaya/Jyoti gang-rape case shook the nation’s conscience.