The Japanese have been upset about Prime Minister Narendra Modi postponing his visit to Japan. In July, the news of the trip cancellation got leaked to the Indian media before Tokyo was informed of the change. The reasons for the postponement sounded rather weak and there was speculation that the altered travel plans may have been influenced by the Chinese. Originally scheduled for July 3, Modi’s trip was re-scheduled for August 4. The visit has now been fixed for August 31. This time the Japanese wanted to take no chances. They insisted that the dates of the trip be announced simultaneously by both sides. In fact, when MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin was asked about the fresh dates for Modi’s Japan visit, he told newsmen he could not reveal the dates but could disclose that the same would be revealed on August 15.
Off with his head
In Tamil Nadu, both Dravidian parties are known to chop off the head of party faithfuls for no ostensible reason. V Maitreyan, who was removed last week as leader of the AIADMK parliamentary party, was the latest victim. Even other parties, including the BJP, Congress, Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party, were shocked at Maitreyan’s fall from grace. His fault seems to have been that instead of remaining anonymous, as AIADMK MPs are expected to be, he had developed friendly relations with politicians from other parties, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. According to reports, Maitreyan was trying to help out the Tamil Nadu CM in a messy income tax case going back a long time.
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The inclusion of Anil Baluni in the list of BJP national spokespersons came as a surprise to most who had never heard of the low-key Uttarakhand spokesperson of the party. Baluni’s inclusion, in fact, may have been because of a nod from none other than the Prime Minister himself. Narendra Modi was impressed when Baluni served a legal notice on a national newspaper and by sheer perseverance managed to get it to retract its original claim that he was the source of a story by the paper headlined, ‘Rambo act saves 15,000’. The report, which claimed that Modi had rescued 15,000 Gujarati pilgrims in two days during the Uttarakhand floods, was much derided as being too far-fetched to be plausible.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s wife Dolly and Sonia Gandhi were seen engrossed in a long chit-chat at the Rashtrapati Bhavan ‘At Home’ on Independence Day, where they sat in a special enclosure with the President, Prime Minister and other VVIPs. The discussion was not about politics. Dolly, who is from Jammu, apparently elaborated on the difference between Jammu food and Kashmiri Pandit food. Some BJP ministers were miffed at being kept out of the small elite circle. However, those in the charmed circle had a different view, forced as they were to sit stiffly in a line, able to talk only to their immediate neighbours as guests outside the cordon looked on eagerly. One of the VVIPs remarked, “There is no pleasure sitting as if in a zoo.” Pranab Mukherjee and Narendra Modi could obviously not talk freely so, later, the two moved inside Rashtrapati Bhavan and had an hour-long chat.
Tale of turban
Many, including Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, assumed that Narendra Modi was wearing a Jodhpuri turban on Independence Day. In fact, Modi’s turban was not from Rajasthan but Saurashtra in Gujarat. The colouring of the bandhini turban was inspired by a portrait of former Gondal ruler Maharaja Bhagvat Singh. The red-and-green cloth had specks of yellow and white dots and was similar in colouring to the national flag.
“If jawans can lay themselves open to attacks on the border at all hours of day and night, surely I can do without a bullet-proof shield for an hour,” Narendra Modi is reported to have told his security detail during preparations for his Independence Day speech. His objection to the glass shield was that the audience sitting on the ground does not get a view of the PM delivering the address at Red Fort. For years, a camera was installed inside the enclosure for television coverage. This time, some 7,000 policemen were posted on rooftops of buildings and next to windows, satellite imagery was used and several thousand policemen were posted on the route as part of the PM’s bandobast.