As a political appointee of former president Barack Obama, US ambassador to India, Richard Verma, was asked to quit before President Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20. Stepping down after a regime change is routine for political appointees, but what is not is Trump’s authoritarian order that all former appointees quit their official accommodation within two days. There is usually a grace period during a change of guard since it requires time to pack one’s belongings and uproot one’s family. Verma, a lawyer by profession, has perforce to stay on in India because his children are in the middle of their school term. He has rented a private accommodation in South Delhi.
Singing his way
One of the most sought after campaigners for BJP candidates in Uttar Pradesh is not a political heavyweight but is in greater demand than leaders such as Rajnath Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi and Nitin Gadkari. The big draw on this campaign trail is West Bengal MP and the Minister of State for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Babul Supriyo, who is also a playback singer and actor. Crowds at his rallies demand that he not only speak but also sing. Among the most requested songs is ‘Do lafzon ki hai dil ki kahani’.
The recent re-release of P N Chopra’s biography of Sardar Patel highlights how the Nehru-Gandhi regimes have downplayed Patel’s contributions. Indira Gandhi was always suspicious of the powerful deputy prime minister, who was seen as a rival to Pandit Nehru. In her correspondence with her father, Mrs Gandhi never used the prefix ‘Sardar’ when referring to Vallabhbhai and was ready to believe the worst of him. Although Patel died 14 years before Nehru, the latter’s correspondence was made public much earlier. In fact, Patel’s daughter Maniben Patel had to practically single-handedly take on the task of publicising her father’s papers without any official patronage. After Patel’s death, when money was collected for a memorial, Nehru felt the funds should be utilised instead for digging village wells and building approach roads. He objected to Patel’s statue being erected at Vijay Chowk. Finally Bombay Congress leader S K Patil managed to install a statue on Parliament Street from funds he had raised in Bombay and not from the Congress Memorial Fund. It was only in 1991, on the suggestion of then prime minister Chandra Shekhar, that a Bharat Ratna was belatedly bestowed on Patel.
In Madhya Pradesh, politicians from opposition parties are known to maintain friendly relations with one another despite political differences, whereas ironically, intra-party rivalries can often be bitter. It is customary for both Congress and BJP leaders to oblige each other when in power. For instance, Kamal Nath has had a large ministerial bungalow in Bhopal, facing the chief minister’s residence, for two decades. Suresh Pachouri has held a government bungalow for over 10 years. All former chief ministers were allowed to retain official bungalows, including the late Arjun Singh, Motilal Vora, Digvijaya Singh and Uma Bharti. However, since Motilal Vora also has a government bungalow in Chhattisgarh, he may lose his MP perch.
Worth the bother
Indira Gandhi requested her to donate her historic Goan villa, decorated with artifacts and porcelain from all over to the world, to the country. But Maria de Lourdes Figueiredo de Albuquerque, who represented Goa in the Portugese Parliament during the time of prime minister Salazar after Goa was annexed, declined haughtily retorting, “You are not my mother-in-law.” Later curators from London’s famed Victoria and Albert Museum paid her a visit and suggested she donate to the museum, the unique chest of drawers inlaid in two types of wood and ivory. “Why? You are not my father-in-law,” she replied. The tragedy is that today, few tourists get to see the treasures in this mansion built in the 16th century in Loutulim in South Goa, though the octogenarian chatelaine graciously guides you around the premises herself if you happen to visit. Goa’s tourism literature too has ignored this heritage site. Perhaps because the outspoken Albuquerque has publicly referred to Goa’s liberation day from the Portuguese as “botheration day” or because Albuquerque cannot be bothered to bribe tour operators and tourism officials as is the norm in Goa.