Narendra Modi plans to contest from a Lok Sabha seat outside Gujarat, probably Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, represented by Murli Manohar Joshi in Parliament. Modi has visited Varanasi twice. Unlike other cities from where Modi flies out after addressing rallies, he halted at several points, including local temples, in Varanasi. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has made two trips to the city recently and spent a week there instructing swayamsewaks. The BJP believes that Joshi can be compensated with a Lok Sabha nomination from elsewhere or accommodated in the Rajya Sabha.
Planning for PM
More than six months before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tenure is due to end, the government has begun searching for a suitable residence for him after he demits office. Initially, the surmise was that the authorities had pinpointed an empty bungalow on Thyagaraja Marg. Workmen were busy sprucing it up for a VIP. However, the house that is likely to be reserved for a retired Singh is 3, Motilal Nehru Place. The bungalow, in the heart of Lutyens Delhi, is in good order as former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit lived there till recently. The SPG is examining the corner house from a security angle.
RG’s media advisors
There was a two-day embargo between Arnab Goswami of Times Now interviewing Rahul Gandhi and its telecast. During this period, Rahul’s media managers were under the happy delusion that the interview was a grand success. The media managers had, as a consequence, scheduled interviews for the Congress vice-president with other TV channels. They stipulated that the channels would have to wait a week since the Congress wanted to extract maximum mileage from Rahul’s maiden one-on-one with a TV channel. After Rahul was universally panned, the media team had second thoughts. Interviews scheduled earlier were hastily cancelled. Rahul could have learnt from his counterpart in Pakistan, Bilawal Bhutto. The junior Bhutto last month agreed to interviews with the international media, including The Guardian and The Economist, but declined requests from the domestic media. The assumption being that foreign journalists tend not to delve deep into the nitty-gritty of domestic politics.
The Congress was kept guessing till the last moment as to whether the BJP would support the government in passing the Telangana Bill in the Lok Sabha. Sonia Gandhi’s face reflected her uncertainty. Speaker Meira Kumar called for a head count and the BJP MPs took their time to stand up and be counted. However, L K Advani refused to rise with the rest of his party, to register his disapproval at the manner in which an important Bill was being hustled through Parliament, after expelling 16 members opposed to it.
AP’s ‘Bhagat Singh’
There was outrage across the country at former Seemandhra MP L Rajagopal’s pepper spray act in the Lok Sabha. But, back in Andhra Pradesh, he is a hero. Posters have appeared with his photo hailing him as the new Bhagat Singh. Several of the suspended Congress MPs are likely to join Kiran Reddy’s proposed new party. One suggestion is that a can of pepper spray ought to be chosen as the election symbol. Rajagopal’s antics have been referred to the privileges committee of Parliament, but there is no move so far on registering a criminal case, as suggested earlier. The apprehension is that the investigating officers would have asked for camera footage of the melee in the House. Uncomfortable questions could have been asked about the presence of other MPs in the well of the House who pounced on the TDP’s M Venugopal Reddy.
The MP guards
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath had selected more than a dozen MPs from his party to act as bodyguards to senior ministers and Sonia Gandhi in the House in case of a possible attack by Seemandhra MPs. In Nath’s band of SPG (Special Parliamentarians Group), what was noteworthy was that the relatively older MPs, such as Vilas Muttemwar and Raj Babbar, seemed more spirited in taking on the enemy than their younger colleagues. Babbar confessed that he mentally recreated his filmy persona where the hero downs the villain with bare fisticuffs. But in real life, his opponent, the TDP’s M Venugopal Reddy, did not collapse from his punches. Muttemwar, who was in Sanjay Gandhi’s Youth Congress decades ago, was also hyperactive. His son has cautioned him he was now too old for such antics.