Rajya Sabha MP K D Singh, reportedly a confidant of Mamata Banerjee and in-charge of the Trinamool Congress’s Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir units, hosted a large reception in Delhi last week to celebrate the wedding of his son Karan Deep Singh. Vice-President Hamid Ansari attended, as did many politicians, including Manish Tewari, Salman Khurshid, Kumari Selja, Rajeev Shukla, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Bhupinder Singh Hooda. What was surprising was the absence of senior TMC leaders such as Mamata herself and Mukul Roy, even though the latter was in the Capital on the day. The order to keep a distance from Singh, a multiple entrepreneur who heads the Alchemist group, including the Republic of Chicken chain of stores, seems to have come from the top. It appears to have been a fallout of Mamata’s tie-up with Anna Hazare. Singh has a chequered history. He was found flying with large amounts of cash to poll-bound Assam. There have been income tax raids on his group and investigations into some of Alchemist’s investments. He is just the sort of individual at whom Hazare’s anti-corruption movement would point the finger.
NARENDRA Modi had an unusual visitor last month — former external affairs minister Natwar Singh, once a close aide of the Gandhis. Singh’s son Jagat is now a BJP MLA from Rajasthan. Talks between the two men, with very different backgrounds, were cordial. Modi confided that he felt that his campaign was going well, but the biggest concern was to guard against over-confidence.
Woman on lotus
WHILE a BJP victory would mean Narendra Modi as prime minister, the DMK’s A Raja, of the 2G scam fame, is convinced that Sushma Swaraj will be the next PM. Raja is an atheist who says he does not believe in superstition. But his wife is a believer and seems to have converted Raja. Raja’s wife has been regularly consulting astrologers in Tamil Nadu, who read kundalis (horoscopes) on palm leaves. Before Raja was arrested, the pandits had warned his spouse that they would be separated for 18 months because of a snake that would turn into handcuffs. The readings apparently also predicted the death of a close relative within days of his marriage. Stunned by such “unerringly accurate” forecasts, Raja sent his wife to enquire whether he would win in the parliamentary elections and who would be the next PM. The astrologer predicted that Raja would be successful and that the next PM would be a woman standing on a lotus. Raja is convinced that the lotus is the BJP and the woman is Swaraj, with whom he once worked in the Health Ministry. Raja rejects the alternative interpretation, that the woman could be Jayalalithaa, who could become the PM with BJP support.
Good manners pay
MANY are puzzled by the certificate given by DMK chief M Karunanidhi to Narendra Modi as being a good and hardworking man. Karunanidhi’s remarks were consciously introduced into his interview with a Tamil daily. Sceptics question whether the 90-year-old has even met Modi. A DMK insider, however, says that the two met in 2010 at the chief ministers’ National Development Council meeting in Delhi. Modi went up to Karunanidhi and greeted him in Tamil with “Vanakam”, adding “Sowkayama (Are you well)?”. Four years later, Karunanidhi apparently still recalls Modi’s courteous behaviour with approval.
Ram Vilas Paswan slipped out of the UPA camp purely because of Lalu Prasad’s obstreperousness. The Congress maintained a hands-off attitude and Rahul Gandhi did not take Paswan’s calls because the party had entrusted Lalu with the responsibility of working out a tie-up. What the Congress did not realise was that Lalu was deliberately delaying holding talks with Paswan. Lalu felt Paswan’s son Chirag was getting too big for his boots, and could be a potential threat to his own son Tejaswi.
Ali takes the plunge
The CPM’s Subhashini Ali is planning to contest from Barrackpore constituency, a short distance from Kolkata. Almost 50 per cent of the population is Muslim. Some 40 per cent of the voters are non-Bengali speaking, largely labourers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Ali believes her Muslim surname, Uttar Pradesh roots and work with Kanpur’s textile mill workers will stand her in good stead. But sitting MP Dinesh Trivedi, a Gujarati whose family settled in Bengal long ago, has earned a reputation for getting things done. Despite an on-again off-again relationship with TMC boss Mamata Banerjee, who ensured he was removed from the Railway Ministry, Trivedi has been re-nominated as the TMC candidate.