Ex-UPA environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan has burnt her boats with her former party and is keen to join the BJP. She has made overtures to BJP leaders. The problem is that Natarajan expects the BJP to accommodate her by awarding her with some post. But since Prime Minister Narendra Modi is sparing in handing out positions, Natarajan’s hopes may be belied. At a press conference, a journalist asked Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar about ‘Jayanthi Tax’, which Modi had himself talked about in the run-up to the general election. Javadekar responded that first, the letter of complaint Natarajan wrote to Sonia Gandhi needed to be investigated. Natarajan had talked about projects which she was allegedly specifically told not to clear by the Congress high command.
Vaz in trouble
Senior British Labour MP Keith Vaz faces an inquiry for having written to the director general, UK Visas and Immigration, to expedite travel documents of former IPL chairperson Lalit Modi. Modi, who had fled India in 2010, has made London his base since. Modi had applied for fresh travel papers as his British visa had expired. At the time he made the request to British immigration, Vaz headed the UK home affairs select committee and was therefore very influential. On receiving his British travel papers, Modi had even showed his gratitude, tweeting that Vaz was a “super hero”. Now Vaz’s action has been reported to the parliamentary standards commission. What is likely to raise a controversy in India is Vaz’s defence that he had checked with a member of the Indian government and he was told that India had no objection to Modi being issued fresh travel documents, although the red alert issue by the government still stood.
Exercising his clout
During President Pranab Mukherjee’s recent trip to Sweden and Belarus, several journalists accompanied him on the special aircraft. At the airport, a senior editor created a stir, insisting that he would not board the flight unless he was seated with the official delegation. He obviously commanded clout in Rashtrapati Bhavan since, after a hasty deliberation, it was decided to upgrade him and seat him with the official delegation consisting of ministers, MPs and officials. This upset the carefully worked out protocol arrangements and naturally cheesed off other journalists. Throughout the trip, the editor referred to himself as a member of the official delegation though he was not included in the delegation-level meetings. Even on the return trip, he tried to throw his weight around demanding priority service in collection of his baggage.
The arrest of Delhi law minister and AAP MLA Jitender Singh Tomar by the Delhi Police, on the complaint that he had submitted a fake degree could eventually rebound on the BJP government at the Centre. A Delhi court is hearing a petition charging HRD Minister Smriti Irani with violating the Representation of the People Act by giving false information on her educational qualifications. Irani has submitted different affidavits before the Election Commission in this regard, says the petition. During the Lok Sabha elections of 2004, the petitioner says, she had said she was a BA from Delhi University. In later affidavits, she reportedly amended this to state that she had passed Compartment I of a Bachelor’s degree from the Delhi University School of Correspondence. The magistrate has fixed June 24 to decide whether to take cognisance of the complaint.
The Bangalore municipal elections are due before September, and the 20 per cent Tamil population in the city will play a key role in the outcome. Which is why Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was initially reluctant to file an appeal against the Karnataka High Court acquittal of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case. Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge too supported him. However, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi were convinced by a prominent leader from the Tamil Nadu Congress that Jayalalithaa was firmly entrenched with the BJP. Earlier this month, the Siddaramaiah Cabinet finally decided to file the appeal.
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