It is unusual for either Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi to be found in Parliament’s Central Hall. But last Wednesday, perhaps for the first time, both mother and son were seen together in what has also been called the nations’s hall of gossip. When asked by a journalist whether she had found it difficult to find a suitable venue in the Capital for the collection of photographs on Indira Gandhi, to commemorate her birth centenary, Sonia acknowledged that the National Museum and the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) had refused to host the exhibition. Now the exhibition, consisting of 200 photographs, will be held at the late prime minister’s residence on Safdarjung Road, which has been converted into a museum. Because of uncertainty over the Delhi venue, the exhibition was launched at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust in Allahabad and will come to the Capital only next year in November, at the completion of the centenary year.
Discussing demonetisation with newsmen, the resourceful Samajwadi Party MP Amar Singh remarked that he himself had no black money, only black cards. He explained that even before demonetisation, he had paid a 30 per cent penalty tax to convert all his black money into white. He flashed his two black cards, the super exclusive American Express Titanium cards, which provide unlimited credit. (You can even buy a plane with it, no questions asked.) According to him, only a dozen phenomenally wealthy Indians possess such cards which are presented only through invitation. The cards notwithstanding, Singh is keen to downplay his image as a high-flying politician. He has given up coming to Parliament in his Bentley, Mercedes or Pajero. Instead, he uses an Innova and has ordered the tiny Nano for the next Parliament session.
Vying for her favour
Tamil Nadu’s political circles feel that Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave Sasikala legitimacy by putting his hand on her head in a gesture of comfort at Jayalalithaa’s funeral. Till then, no national leader, including President Pranab Mukherjee and Rahul Gandhi, had done more than formally acknowledge Sasikala’s presence with a namaskar. However, on getting the cue from the prime minister, AIADMK leaders fell in line and did not object to Sasikala assuming the premier role at the ceremonies. Modi perhaps decided to give Sasikala legitimacy knowing that the government can do with the support of the AIADMK’s 37 Lok Sabha and 13 Rajya Sabha MPs in Parliament. Meanwhile, Congress state chief Thirunavukkarasar believes that a tie-up with the AIADMK would improve the party’s fortunes in the state. He is on friendly terms with Sasikala’s husband. Rahul Gandhi took care to stay for Jayalalithaa’s funeral and the burial ceremony and, during both his recent visits to Chennai, did not call on his ailing former ally, the DMK’s M Karunanidhi. Last week, the editor of a major southern newspaper met Sasikala, reportedly on behalf of a national political party.
Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari is upset over a media report suggesting that some 50 chartered planes were hired for his daughter Ketki’s wedding in Nagpur, and that it was a lavish affair, despite demonetisation. In fact, the half-dozen private planes which flew to Nagpur were all chartered by guests, such as Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the NCP’s Ajit Pawar and industrialists such as Subhash Chandra, on their own account. True, the guest list was huge, because he is a Nagpur boy and half the city expected to be invited. But the meal offered was standard Maharashtrian fare — from puranpoli to shrikhand. The caterers were all paid by cheque, except for the suppliers of milk and paneer, and the man who tied the rope for the tents — all three wanted cash.
Last month, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan celebrated the 11th anniversary of his stint as chief minister. Surprisingly, no party office-bearer from Delhi flew to Bhopal for the event. In contrast, both BJP president Amit Shah and general secretary (organisation) Ram Lal attended the 13th anniversary celebrations of Raman Singh as Chief Minister in neighbouring Chhattisgarh. Chouhan, a popular leader in his own right, is not a favourite of Shah, who prefers his general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who aspires to replace Chouhan some day.
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