Cleared in 2 minutes
Narendra Modi wanted a presidential candidate who would have suitable stature, not be perceived as a rubber stamp, and also send a social message. The RSS stipulated that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to select a candidate from the Sangh Parivar, which was the reason nominated Rajya Sabha MP Narendra Jadhav was considered unsuitable. Names such as Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu and Minister for Social Justice Thawar Chand Gehlot, an SC and ST respectively, were in the shortlist.
Better known upper-caste BJP stalwarts such as L K Advani, Sumitra Mahajan, Venkaiah Naidu and Murli Manohar Joshi figured only in media speculation. A tentative bid within the BJP to moot Sushma Swaraj, who was likely to be backed by a section of the Opposition including Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar with the tacit nod of the Congress, was nipped in the bud. Amit Shah, however, was convinced of Ram Nath Kovind’s suitability for the post from the beginning. He had travelled extensively with him during the 2014 campaign in UP. Kovind’s name was not opposed or even debated by anybody at the BJP’s parliamentary board. The motion was proposed by Shah and passed in two minutes.
No diaspora meet
Initially a big NRI meet was planned in Houston on the lines of the ones held earlier in New York and California during the PM’s visit to the US this month. However, the proposal was cancelled as it was felt that, in the era of Donald Trump, such displays of ethnic migrants’ organisational skills are frowned upon by the US government. Even Ram Madhav, who normally makes the arrangements for Modi’s interactions with the diaspora, did not accompany him on this visit since he is attending the Horasis Global Conference in Switzerland. Modi will, however, be hosting a meet with representatives from various Indian organisations in the US.
Congress media in-charge Randeep Surjewala and other members of his team met at Lodi restaurant in Delhi to do a bit of brainstorming on behalf of Rahul Gandhi. The Congress vice-president left abruptly for a trip to Italy in the middle of important developments back home, including farmers’ agitations in several states and the selection of a presidential candidate. Rahul’s tweet announcing his trip simply mentioned that he had gone on holiday to meet his grandmother. The spin doctors felt that Rahul should have mentioned that his grandmother was 93 years old and ailing.
After much deliberation the media team decided that Rahul should put out a tweet that wherever he is, he is monitoring developments back home. Incidentally, Rahul was abroad on his 47th birthday, an age at which he can no longer be considered youthful, in fact he is well into middle age.
Chatur baniya okay
In Gujarat, Amit Shah’s remark describing Mahatma Gandhi as a “chatur baniya” is not seen as an insult but a compliment. Shah would know, he is a baniya himself and though some make the mistake of categorising him as a Jain baniya, he is, in fact, a Vaishnavite. On June 17, while visiting Mumbai, Shah took time off for a felicitation ceremony at a packed auditorium held by the Shree Navgam Visanagar Vanik Samaj.
The Samaj is a society for Vaishnavite baniya migrants from nine villages around Mansa, Gujarat, who have migrated to Mumbai. Mansa near Mehsana is Shah’s home village. The Vanik Samaj surprised Shah by producing an entire documentary film on him from his childhood to his college days with rare pictures of him, his family and his ancestors.
As part of the committee to form a consensus on the candidate for president, Venkaiah Naidu and Rajnath Singh met Sonia Gandhi. But instead of mutual agreement, there was a disagreement. Naidu explained that Amit Shah had set up the committee to keep the Opposition in the loop. Sonia responded curtly, pointing out that the BJP should first come out with a name, and that the Opposition needed to know if the candidate was an RSS man. Naidu shot back that the BJP was not taken into confidence by the Congress when it selected Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee as presidential nominees.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has tried to outdo the BJP on playing the nationalist card. He has issued a directive that mammoth sized the Tricolour flags and flag poles be erected at all district headquarters in the state. Last year, the CM had a huge flag installed on a 291-foot-high mast in Hyderabad. The Chief Minister has ordered that flag poles in other districts should be at least 100 feet high.
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