Inside track: Leak-proof

To ensure that there was no leak, Law Ministry officials were asked to wait in the Finance Ministry, and the Intelligence Bureau kept tabs till the PM’s announcement.

Written by Coomi Kapoor | Published:November 13, 2016 1:07 am
demonetisation, Rs 500 note, Rs 1000 note, Rs 2000 note, salt shortage, arun jaitley, demonetisation process, ATMs, narendra modi, indian express, india news Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. (PTI Photo)

Arun Jaitley is a newsman’s delight since he is far more frank and forthcoming than the average politician. But Jaitley demonstrated that when he chooses to, he can keep a secret better than most. Even his wife Sangita was unaware that the demonetisation policy was in the works, although the plan was first conceived more than six months ago. Only a handful of people in the government were aware of the full picture, others were provided limited information on a need-to-know basis. Before Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the public announcement on Tuesday night, procedural requirements had to be met and clearances obtained from the Law Ministry and the RBI Board. To ensure that there was no leak, Law Ministry officials were asked to wait in the Finance Ministry, and the Intelligence Bureau kept tabs till the PM’s announcement.

The formal permission of the RBI Board was obtained before the Cabinet meeting and the Board members were asked to stay on for coffee. They had to remain much longer than the coffee session since, apart from the Cabinet, the PM had to also inform President Pranab Mukherjee of the move before the decision was made public. Even Cabinet ministers were kept cloistered in the meeting room until the PM’s speech.

No pressure, please

Rahul Gandhi has given no categorical assurance to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) about soon taking over as party president. Rahul is reportedly upset with the pressure tactics to get him to accept the party presidentship. A K Antony led the ‘draft Rahul campaign’ at the CWC meet last week. Gurudas Kamat even went to the extent of remarking that it was the wish of Sonia Gandhi that Rahul replace her. This annoyed Rahul since Sonia, who was ill and had stayed away from the meeting, had expressed no such desire publicly. Rahul is still not sure of the right timing for his anointment.

Behind the PM’s rap

Two months ago, the corridors of power were abuzz with the story of a minister who was pulled up by Prime Minister Modi so severely that he virtually broke down. Not many, however, are aware of the reason for the PM’s displeasure. It appears that the IB had informed Modi that there were complaints against an aide of the minister, who was close to a member of the minister’s household. The charge was that the aide was taking a cut on all advertisements issued by public sector undertakings under the minister. The IB began an investigation after a newspaper group complained that the aide was asking for a bribe.

Flying ambitions

The late former president A P J Abdul Kalam’s unfulfilled dream was to be a pilot. After he completed his education, Kalam had appeared for the pilot exam and personality test at Dehradun, but unfortunately, he was not selected. Disappointed, he went to see Swami Sivanand at Rishikesh, who assured him that other avenues would open for him. Kalam eventually joined the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) as a research scientist and later worked with ISRO and DRDO. The rest is history. This little known fact is revealed by S M Khan, the late president’s press secretary, in his recent biography on Kalam. Khan recalls that as president, Kalam got a chance to fly a Sukhoi on June 8, 2006.

Modi’s man

When Narendra Modi was chief minister of Gujarat, his chief principal secretary K Kailashnathan was considered the second most important man in the state. Even after he retired, Kailashnathan was retained as the chief minister’s key officer. When Modi moved to Delhi, it was assumed that Kailashnathan would follow him, but to everyone’s surprise, he remained in Gujarat. Kailashnathan continued to be chief principal secretary to Anandiben Patel as CM, and now holds the same post with the new CM, Vijay Rupani. Modi seems to have retained Kailashnathan in Gujarat so that he can keep the PM posted on what is happening in his home state.

Second thoughts

After eight men accused of being SIMI activists escaped from the Bhopal Central Jail and were shot dead in an alleged encounter, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced that he would request the Central government to get the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe the jail break and the encounter. He was advised by his party seniors that it was a bad idea to call in the NIA since there were too many loose ends. Chouhan has now announced a judicial probe by a retired judge, not necessarily a better idea.