A prestigious periodical wanted to carry a facsimile of the first draft of Pandit Nehru’s famous Tryst with Destiny speech in which India’s first prime minister had made some notes along the margins. The draft was published in the ‘Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Volume 3’, for which the Gandhi family holds the copyright. As a formality, the periodical sought permission from the Nehru Memorial Fund, housed in Teen Murti Marg and funded largely by government grants, to reproduce the draft speech to commemorate the 70th year of Independence. However, the publication was informed that they would have to first write a cheque for Rs 10,000 to the family. Surely, the Prime Minister of India’s speech to the Constituent Assembly in August 1947 belongs to the nation and the national archives and is not the personal property of the Gandhi family?
PM and media
Prime Minister Narendra Modi follows the media keenly, especially when the issues concern him. Clearly, he had received an immediate feedback on TV reactions to his Independence Day speech, judging by the informed comments he made to some of the journalists he met at Rashtrapati Bhavan’s ‘At Home’ function the same evening. Speaking to a TV commentator who had questioned his statistics in his Red Fort speech, Modi joked sarcastically that either he needed to take a course in economics or she did. To another editor who is active on Twitter, he remarked that he started receiving his abuses from early in the morning. When a journalist tried to flatter him by praising his August 15 address, Modi responded by saying that when people from all over start praising a speech, that too can be worrying.
Prez’s baraat ghar
An invitation to the President’s At Home tea party on Independence Day has lost some of its charm because of the crass setting. Earlier, the function used to be held at Rashtrapati Bhavan’s well-manicured Rose Gardens or, in case of rain, in the majestic Darbar Hall. It is now held in the Ceremonial Hall of the Culture Centre in the Rashtrapati Bhavan compound. This modern monstrosity was built during President Pranab Mukherjee’s tenure and resembles a large wedding banquet hall. Instead of replicating the gracious columns, high ceilings and tasteful but muted décor of the Lutyens building, the new hall is ablaze with lights, including an enormous, glittering chandelier and dozens of bulbs embedded in the ceiling. The curtains are green and the walls yellow and the doors and pillars not in conformity with the carefully conceived original concept.
The NCP is still trying to keep up the pretence that Jayant Patel (known generally as Bosky), one of its two MLAs, had voted for Ahmed Patel in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha election. Surprisingly, BJP leaders back the NCP’s dubious claim. The Congress knows better. Bosky’s ballot paper was a giveaway. In the mock voting practice runs carried out by the Congress, it was noticed that Bosky was the only MLA who always used the English numeral 1 to mark his first preference vote instead of the Gujarati numerals that other MLAs used. When the ballot box was opened, only one ballot had the English numeral and it gave the first preference to the BJP’s Balwantsinh Rajput. Similarly, the JD(U)’s Chhotu Vasava’s ballot paper and Congress defector Kamshi Patel’s ballot papers could be deduced since they were both one of a kind. While other MLAs gave first and second preference votes to the same party, Vasava’s vote was presumably the one which put Ahmed Patel as his first preference and Amit Shah as his second. Kamshi’s ballot paper had Balwantsinh Rajput as the first preference and Ahmed Patel as his second. The BJP’s cover-up for the NCP is presumably because it does not want the NCP volte-face to be perceived as a quid pro quo for any future attempt to soft-pedal the controversial Rs 50,000 crore aircraft purchase order for Air India when Praful Patel was Civil Aviation minister.
Before Venkaiah Naidu’s name was announced for vice-president, he sought to scotch rumours with his typical witty quip. “I neither want to be Rashtrapati nor Uprashtrapati. I am happy being Usha’s pati.’’ Naidu had to eat his words when nominated as the vice-presidential candidate. During the week of his election and swearing-in, Naidu’s wife Usha appeared briefly in public. But ever since, the vice-president’s spouse is not to be seen. She did not show up even at the Independence Day reception. Naidu explained that his wife has shied away from the limelight throughout his political career and prefers to stay at home.