Prime Minister Narendra Modi was annoyed by the negative media coverage on Kashmir and felt that his ministers were not doing a good job of explaining the true facts to journalists. Four senior ministers, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Venkaiah Naidu, were deputed to brief the media and put the Kashmir story in the “correct perspective”. The meeting was meant to be strictly “off the record’’, meaning that there could be no attribution of the sources. The media the next day carried reports on the Kashmir confrontation weaving in the data they had been provided, and attributed the background information to unnamed “sources”. Ironically, it was Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu who broke the cover by happily tweeting about the names of the ministers who had interacted with the media. He even tweeted that he had met the PM to brief him on the interaction.
The BJP has decided not to reveal its hand about the presidential and vice-presidential elections due next year, until the UP Assembly polls. While the NDA is comfortably placed in the electoral college for vice-president, the election for president is still open. The electoral college for president is much larger since MLAs are also voters. Already some backchannel proposals are being floated. The Congress and CPI(M) might want to nominate Vice-President Hamid Ansari. Since the AIADMK has some 50 MPs, and around 124 MLAs in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, Jayalalithaa would like to bargain with the NDA. She would give her support for the NDA presidential nominee provided she gets a Tamilian as vice-president. The name making the rounds is that of M Thambidurai, the present Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha, who is in his fifth term as MP.
Out in the cold
That former chief minister Anandiben Patel is out of favour with the powers that be in Delhi is clear from the fact that she has not been made a state governor and continues as an ordinary MLA. With the backing of BJP president Amit Shah, the new Chief Minister, Vijay Rupani, is in the process of undoing several appointments made by his predecessor. Three promotee IAS officers in key positions in Surat, Gandhinagar and Morvi, all Patels, are reportedly the first slated to be transferred. All were close to Anandiben’s daughter Anar.
Bonanza for book
In 2012, Jayesh Shah, a resident of Ahmedabad, wrote a book in Gujarati claiming that Narendra Modi had made many tall claims and he wanted to expose them. The book, titled Feku, did not create much of a ripple. But two years later, when Modi became Prime Minister, the author changed the title and got it translated into English. The English title of the book was ‘Bluff-master Now in Delhi’. With the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections round the corner, the book may get a new lease of life. It is being translated into Hindi, and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav wants to place an order for a huge consignment to be distributed in UP villages. A BJP worker in Gujarat approached the Gujarat High Court for a ban on the book, but his plea was dismissed.
The media wing of the Rajya Sabha, which handles accreditations and passes to journalists covering the Upper House, has been treated in a cavalier manner. Its spacious office on the ground floor of Parliament, next to the staircase, was a permanent fixture for many decades. Some time ago, the office was shifted to a small poky room to the rear, next to the post-office, which appeared to be a cordoned-off passageway. There was not enough place for journalists to stand, let alone sit. Now even this tiny room has been snatched away to make space for the personal staff of a senior official. Those summarily ejected from the room have been left to fend for themselves. Even furniture, including cupboards with important files, are lying out in the open.
At the G20 meet in Hangzhou, China, the host government made arrangements so that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could eat Indian food, which he is accustomed to, rather than Chinese meals where vegetarian fare is sometimes suspect. Sudhir Mittoo, the manager of Tandoor, an Indian restaurant in Shanghai, was flown in to ensure that Modi got Indian meals of his taste, including kadi and pakoras. The only Chinese preparation on the menu was stir-fried vegetables. Incidentally, Mittoo was a male model and actor in India in the 1980s.