Among the many delightful nuggets in Sanjaya Baru’s controversial book, The Accidental Prime Minister, is the one where a puzzled Manmohan Singh cross-questioned his media adviser, Baru, as to the meaning of the expression, ‘Que Sera Sera’. Baru had used the words while speaking to an American diplomat and the report of the conversation had got back to Singh who wondered if his press adviser was speaking in code language.
Apparently, the PM was one of the few people from his generation who was not familiar with the popular song sung by Doris Day in the Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Man who Knew too Much. Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur was more clued in than her husband. She knew that the Spanish words meant “whatever will be will be”. Baru had recited the song when responding to anxious queries from Ted Osius, a diplomat in the US Embassy, as to whether the India-US nuclear deal was off because of Singh’s cryptic remarks at the Hindustan Times Summit the night earlier.
The diplomat reported Baru’s words back to the then US ambassador, David Mulford, who called on Pranab Mukherjee to find out what the PM’s aide meant by his remark. Mukherjee, in turn, raised the query with the PM.
Glut of Modi books
Modi mania seems to have caught the publishing industry. More than a dozen books in English, Hindi and Gujarati on the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate are out or about to be released. The new books include Uday Mahurkar’s Centrestage: Inside the Narendra Modi Model of Governance and Andy Marino’s Narendra Modi: A Political Biography. Both the authors had access to the Gujarat CM and are suitably gushing. Another recent release is Bal Narendra comic, recounting Modi’s childhood.
There is also a compilation of tweets from Modi and BJP, and a book on his poetry during the campaign trail. There are earlier biographies such as Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay’s Narendra Modi: The Man. The Times, and M V Kamath and Kalindi Randeri’s The Man of the Moment: Narendra Modi. Although Modi gave extensive time to Kamath and Randeri to interview him, half way through the writing of the book, he backed out and made clear the biography was not authorised by him, though it is suitably adulatory.
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Things are topsy turvy party-wise in Barmer constituency of Rajasthan. BJP stalwart Jaswant Singh lost his party nomination to Col Sonaram, a long-time Congressman and former Congress MP. Now in a last-minute tactical move, the Congress recently informally asked its voters to cast their ballot not for the party candidate, Harish Chaudhary, but for Jaswant Singh, who is fighting as an Independent. The Congress hopes this way it will defeat the BJP in this prestige contest.
Enemies no more
While the Congress has sought to gain political mileage out of Modi’s marital status, leader of opposition in Gujarat Assembly Shankarsinh Vaghela has been trying to play down the issue. Vaghela’s view is that one should not peep into other’s personal lives beyond a point. Vaghela’s apparent softness towards Modi has raised a few eyebrows.
Around two months ago at the wedding reception of Vaghela’s granddaughter in Gandhinagar, Modi was an honoured guest and he stayed for so long that Ahmed Patel had to wait before entering the reception venue. Patel did not want to be seen at the venue at the same time as Modi. The buzz is that Vaghela, who is contesting from Sabarkantha, may be one of the few Congressmen to win parliamentary elections from the state.
There is a proposal in the PMO to grant ambassadors to the US, China and Russia a fixed two-year tenure. This is meant to ensure that Manmohan Singh’s appointees continue under a new regime. But the Model Code of Conduct may come in the way of the move, as the department of expenditure has said that Cabinet clearance is needed for the proposal.
3D & satellite
The BJP has spent Rs 60 crore on a 3D holographic system through satellite which brings an eight- and- a- half feet image of Modi delivering a speech on the screen in over a 100 places all over the country simultaneously. The party has tried out the system thrice and plans to have 15 live shows. On an average , some 3,000 people assemble in front of the screen at each venue. Eventually, the costly communication system can be viewed in 200 different places at the same time. A BJP leader’s explanation for the expense is that in India where a crowd gathers even for the landing of a helicopter, the Modi speech via satellite will be a major hit in small towns.