The reason why Subramanian Swamy could not join the BJP earlier was due to the perception of a sizeable section of the senior leadership that he was too outspoken to conform to party discipline. A BJP MP pointed out that they had only just recently managed to get rid of one loose canon,Ram Jethmalani,who had caused considerable embarrassment to the party. However,the BJP was left with no option since RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was pressing for Swamys admission. One reason the RSS is sold on Swamy is that he took up the Ram Sethu issue and prevented the DMK from building a ship channel. The RSS also feels that unlike the Delhi party leadership,Swamy will not pussyfoot about attacking the Congresss first family. Swamys role in the fall of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1999 has been forgiven. In the BJP,one man solidly rooting for Swamy was Nitin Gadkari. Swamy has taken over from Gadkari the responsibility of drafting the BJPs vision document. Since Murli Manohar Joshi has been entrusted with the task of preparing the partys manifesto,it remains to be seen if the two documents will reflect a common vision.
Warrant of precedence
Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley,leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha,made their unhappiness clear when they were seated in the third row of the Red Fort VIP enclosure for Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs Independence Day address. They accused the ruling party of trying to downgrade the Opposition. Three ministers,Ghulam Nabi Azad,Anand Sharma and Salman Khurshid,tried to mollify them. Azad offered the empty seat meant for his wife. Swaraj declined to sit as a ministers spouse and said it was a case of adding insult to injury. The protocol officer in charge of seating arrangements claimed that he had gone strictly by the rule book and that leaders of the Opposition came after cabinet ministers. President Pranab Mukherjee tried to make amends for the mornings ruffled feelings by insisting that at the Rashtrapati Bhavan evening reception,Jaitley,Swaraj and L K Advani be included in the inner cordon enclosure which is reserved for the president,prime minister and just a handful of other VVIPs.
At the start of the Parliament session,Speaker Meira Kumar hosted a lunch for all MPs. She waited along with leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and NDA chairperson L K Advani to greet the chief guest,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,who was a little late. However,Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath,who was not part of the reception committee ate his lunch even before Manmohan Singh arrived and departed just as Singh was sitting down to eat. Nath would never have dared show Congress president Sonia Gandhi such discourtesy.
Narendra Modis team knows how to generate publicity. The idea of charging Rs 5 as admission for the Gujarat Chief Ministers Hyderabad rally made a good talking point,though in fact payment,which was to be donated to the Uttrakhand relief fund,was not compulsory. A Canada-based Indian tweeted to Modi that his 75-year-old mother wanted to meet him but feared she would be trampled in the crowd. Modis staff arranged that the mother could come to the dais and Modi touched her feet. Similar treatment was accorded to an 85-year-old freedom fighter who had gone on hunger fast because he wanted to meet Modi. The party also arranged tea with leading lights of the city. They included four former judges,a former governor,retired police officers and bureaucrats,heads of media houses,chairpersons of leading hospitals and CEOs. Modi similarly managed to grab headlines when he let it be known that his Independence Day speech would counter the Prime Ministers,and went on to ensure that.
Emerging from her shell
Defence Minister A K Antonys wife Elizabeth has in the past maintained a very low profile. Throughout her husbands political career,she has been a bank employee and only retired recently. Even as the head of a cancer-related NGO she ensured that not many knew her identity as a prominent politicians wife. After her retirement though,Elizabeth appears to have emerged from her shell. She has attended functions hosted by the Defence Ministry recently and on Monday,was very visible at the launch of INS Vikrant. She was in the news earlier when Air India and the Airports Authority of India purchased her paintings at her maiden exhibition in Delhi. The cost of each painting was over Rs 1 lakh,which seemed a trifle steep for an amateur artist,though the money was for charity. Elizabeth has now enrolled as a lawyer in Kerala.