The official designation of P K Mishra is ‘Additional Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister’, but he seems to have more clout than either Principal Secretary Nripendra Misra or Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth. P K Mishra, who has been asked to attend Cabinet meetings along with Nripendra Misra, is in charge of the Appointments Committee to the Cabinet and has also begun convening meetings of secretaries, normally the job of the Cabinet Secretary. He looks after the PM’s Lok Sabha constituency and issues related to Uttar Pradesh and probably handles over 60 per cent of the workload in the PMO, with Misra looking after infrastructure and development issues. At the same time, there has been a decline in the status of the cabinet secretary. Last week, Seth turned up late at a meeting of eight secretaries with the Prime Minister, reportedly because his name did not figure on the agenda list.
Big brother listening
The jury is still out on whether the big brother snooping on BJP minister Nitin Gadkari was from his own party or the American NSA. A third theory is that there was no bugging device installed at Gadkari’s residence and the story was floated as part of internal warfare within the party. Gadkari helped fan the confusion by first tweeting an ambiguous message that media reports of bugging were “highly speculative”. It was only after he was pulled up by the Prime Minister that he denied the bugging outright. Whatever the truth, there is no doubt that ministers of the NDA government have become extremely cautious while speaking to the media and others. One senior minister moves to his lawn whenever he wants to have a serious conversation. Even the Prime Minister has reportedly instructed the SPG not to stand too close to him when he is talking to visitors.
When they were leaders of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha respectively in the last regime, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj had to suffer the humiliation of being placed in the fourth or fifth row at the Independence Day flag-hoisting ceremony at Red Fort. They were seated behind all the ministers in Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet. When on one occasion Swaraj had protested, Ghulam Nabi Azad had tried to mollify her by offering her a vacant seat meant for a minister’s wife. This had only added insult to the injury. As Defence Minister, it is Jaitley who has to vet the seating arrangement for the coming Independence Day function. And instead of paying the Congress back in its own coin, he has ensured that Azad, who is now Opposition Leader in the Rajya Sabha, is accommodated in a prominent position at the event. L K Advani, who was placed in the second row in the UPA government, has now been elevated to the front row. The same courtesy has been extended to Sonia Gandhi.
Row over ASGs
Former additional solicitor general Indira Jaising threw a party at Kota House for Pinky Anand, the newly appointed Additional Solicitor General. She had to face a barrage of criticism from many in her friends’ circle on Facebook over the invite. Jaising’s friends felt that she should not be celebrating the appointment of anyone in the Modi government, because of the allegations against the former Gujarat chief minister. A friend pointed out that Pinky was a regular defender on television of the new government and those associated with it. Joining the debate, a well-known author felt that while there were many in UPA-I and UPA-II governments who one could have steered clear of, one had to show maturity about such functions which celebrate achievements.
Either this or that
To please AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa, the Modi government is willing to ensure that her party leader Thambidurai is made deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha. But there is a snag. The NDA feels that Thambidurai will have to first relinquish his position as propaganda secretary of the AIADMK, a position of considerable consequence in Jayalalithaa’s dispensation. Legal experts have warned that if Thambidurai does not resign from his party post, his position as deputy speaker could be challenged. Modi is believed to have taken up the matter with Jayalalithaa.