When France’s Nicolas Sarkozy first visited India as president, he was advised not to bring Carla Bruni, since at that time she was his girlfriend. On the second visit, Sarkozy had duly married her, so she was accorded the ceremonial protocol reserved for a visiting president’s wife. Though the present French President Francois Hollande has had several long-term companions, he has never been married. His embassy suggested that it would be complicated if he brought along to India his current partner, actress Julie Gayet. The Indian government was keen to present Hollande a portrait of himself by an Indian artist who specialises in capturing the likeness of his subjects from a photograph. Unfortunately, the artist was given a copy of a photograph of Hollande with his former partner, journalist Valerie Trierweiler. The artist included Valerie in the painting presuming she was his wife. When the faux pas was discovered, it was decided it was more diplomatic not to present the painting at all since it was too late to paint over Valerie’s face. In an interesting twist, while neither Valerie nor Julie accompanied Hollande to India, his earlier partner of three decades by whom he has four children, Segolene Royal, was part of the official French delegation to New Delhi. This is because Royal is Hollande’s energy minister and accompanied the president in her official capacity.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal likes to present himself as a modest man, but the annual advertising budget for his government went up from Rs 22 crore during Sheila Dikshit’s tenure to Rs 526 crore this year (March 2015 to March 2016) . A large percentage of Delhi government advertisements are centred around projecting the Chief Minister, whether it is 12 repetitions an hour on popular radio stations or six slots an hour on prime-time TV. Even the publicity concerning the odd-even scheme was centred around Kejriwal’s image.
Some commentators on Indian television belittled the various tableaux in the Republic Day parade for being repetitive and amateurish. They felt the parade should stick to the marching bands. But, the parade’s chief guest, French President Francois Hollande, was more impressed by the floats, camels and dancers than the marching columns. He said he had spoken to his defence minister to introduce some of the colour of the Indian Republic Day to the French parade on Bastille Day.
In what was seen as a departure from protocol, Francois Hollande was hosted for lunch after the Republic Day parade by a leading Indian businessman who heads a hospital chain. The government was represented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and his deputy Jayant Sinha, the Congress by Jyotiraditya Scindia and Shashi Tharoor. The latter was much in demand as an interpreter since not all those in the French delegation spoke English.
After the court notice to the Gandhis, the Congress is now anxious to establish that the Associated Journals Limited is keen to re-start the National Herald newspaper. A meeting was called to discuss whether to re-launch the paper from Lucknow or Delhi. It was pointed out that while there was still some space in Herald House in Delhi for setting up a newspaper, the Herald’s Lucknow property is occupied by tenants. One suggestion was to launch the newspaper initially as a website. AJL is already looking for an editor with the right secular, liberal credentials, but an added pre-condition is that the journalist should be a teetotaller. Aspiring candidates feel that the teetotaller requirement is an unreasonable demand since most journalists are fond of their tipple. Also, the party constitution does not forbid alcohol, it merely recommends that its members should refrain from drinking.
No ghost writer
Salman Khurshid presented Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi a copy of his recently released book, The Other Side of the Mountain, a defence of the Manmohan Singh government. Impressed with the tone, Rahul asked him whether Khurshid wrote the book all by himself. Khurshid was taken aback since, as an Oxford-educated lawyer and established author, he was hardly likely to need assistance in writing a book. Khurshid responded that he was indeed guilty of being the sole author. Some wondered if Rahul’s unusual query was because some books by Congresspersons, including M L Fotedar’s recent memoirs, are believed to have been ghost-written.