No Midas touch
Amit Shah is rarely available to the media and it requires several telephone calls and messages to get a response from the all powerful BJP president. But last Sunday it was a different story when the website The Wire carried a report questioning the propriety of his son Jay’s business ventures. Shah happily spoke to a few editors when they phoned for comments. He told scribes firmly, “I don’t live in a glass house, I live in a stone house. I am not afraid of any stone thrown at me.’’
Interestingly, while there have been detailed responses to the article’s allegations and a defamation suit by Jay’s lawyers, his defenders have avoided mentioning the obvious inaccuracy in the headline, ‘The Golden Touch of Jay Amit Shah’. Anyone who reports a loss of Rs 1.4 crore on an annual turnover of Rs 80.5 crore can hardly be described as having the Midas touch. But which Gujarati entrepreneur would like to admit that he is a flop as a businessman and hence had to shut shop.
Deepak Babaria, who recently replaced Mohan Prakash as the Congress general secretary in charge of Madhya Pradesh, is an unknown entity for the faction-ridden party in MP. When Babaria, a Rahul Gandhi protégé from Gujarat, arrived at the Bhopal railway station recently, there was a throng of Congress workers from rival groups waiting to receive him. Babaria was taken aback as Congresspersons jostled with each other to hustle him into their respective cars. At the Congress headquarters, the Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia factions came to blows in front of the shocked general secretary.
While the name of the new state president has yet to be announced, it looks as if Kamal Nath has already conceded defeat to Jyotiraditya Scindia, since he knows that Rahul Gandhi will back his younger rival. Scindia, meanwhile, taking a lesson from Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, wants to be declared not just PCC president but also the Congress chief ministerial candidate for next year’s Assembly poll.
Many in the BJP wondered whether there lay special significance in the fact that L K Advani, accompanied by his daughter Pratibha and trusted aide Deepak Chopra, was present in Nagpur for RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s annual Vijayadashmi address. Particularly as Bhagwat criticised in veiled terms certain government measures and Advani, who has been ruthlessly sidelined by the BJP, was treated as chief guest.
Advani, in fact, has never attended Vijayadashmi in Nagpur in all his 88 years. Bhagwat had met Advani in Delhi a month earlier to invite him. Baba Nirmal Das of Jalandhar was to have been the chief guest, but he could not attend since he was unwell. So Advani did the honours for all practical purposes, though Devendra Fadnavis and Nitin Gadkari too were present.
Journalist Kalyani Shankar, in her recently released book The Empress on the late J Jayalalithaa, suggests that the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu secretly nursed prime ministerial ambitions. When Jayalalithaa met then West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu in 1999 to ask whether he was interested in the prime ministership, he responded jokingly, “You are there’’.
She took him seriously and canvassed Mulayam Singh Yadav for his support for her candidature. According to Subramanian Swamy, Basu wanted him to explain to Jayalalithaa that his comment was made light-heartedly. But no one was inclined to disillusion the Empress.
Normally, those who contest for the post of president of Delhi’s prestigious Gymkhana Club have reached or retired from the top-most positions in their respective service, nothing less than a Lieutenant General in the Army or a full secretary in the civil services. But this year seniors did not contest.
Prashant Sukul, an additional secretary from defence accounts, stood against Krishan Varma, a retired special secretary of R&AW. The latter was backed by six former presidents of the club. However, Sukul won decisively. Varma canvassed largely the old fashioned way, distributing handouts of endorsement.
Sukul smartly used the social media to convey his message far more effectively. Sukul won overwhelmingly among outstation members and other e-voters. He focused on attracting the youth. Many voters were influenced by their offspring since Sukul, whose own team was relatively youthful, promised to automatically induct the children and grandchildren of members as full members. Of course, those disgruntled outsiders still waiting for membership after nearly four decades, wonder if there can be such hereditary rights in a club founded thanks to the government largesse in granting land in the heart of the Capital.