During his interview with Times Now, Rahul Gandhi did not look straight into the camera. This was partly because his sister Priyanka Vadra was sitting in the room and he seemed to be addressing some of his answers to her. In fact, at one point in the interview, the Congress vice-president turned to Priyanka and said, “I keep telling my sister…”.
Robert Vadra reportedly advised his brother-in-law to grant the interview to Times Now, although another channel had been given the impression that it would be first in the queue. The venue for the interview was the Jawahar Bhawan headquarters of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. Priyanka oversees the foundation in her capacity as a trustee. The foundation’s costly art collection, including a large M F Husain, was hanging on the walls. Whether out of deference to Priyanka, or because of a prior agreement, Arnab Goswami, who did not shy away from hard-hitting questions, did not raise the issue of Vadra’s extensive land deals.
A central minister who played an active role in the 2004 and 2009 election campaigns of the Congress has questioned the need for Rahul Gandhi to have given an interview to an English-language TV channel. The minister made known his views in a letter to Rahul. He noted that in arranging interactions for Rahul in the past, he had always given preference to regional language media, and that English-language audiences tended to be critical. Partymen also complain that Rahul was not properly briefed. The question-answer session ran on for nearly two hours, leading to some repetitious answers which could have been avoided if a clear and shorter time-frame had been fixed. Rahul did not smile during the interview and appeared somewhat tense, judging from the sweat on his forehead.
Bhushan or Kejriwal?
Rahul Gandhi has made it clear that the Congress is not planning to ditch the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi. The Congress stance has left AAP taken aback as it is actually keen for its government to fall. It is one month since Arvind Kejriwal took over and the media has started asking questions about AAP’s concrete achievements. More importantly, Kejriwal needs time to campaign for the Lok Sabha elections. However, an important well-wisher of the party has mooted the name of lawyer Prashant Bhushan as the party’s prime ministerial candidate, and not Kejriwal. This has created a rift in AAP.
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Playing both sides
Sultanpur MP Sanjay Singh was nominated by the Congress to the Rajya Sabha from Assam because it feared that he was about to go over to the BJP and this would have harmed Rahul Gandhi’s chances in neighbouring Amethi constituency. During the 2012 Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress had performed disastrously in Amethi and the surrounding region, which is considered a Gandhi pocketborough. The Samajwadi Party had won 17 of the 20 Assembly seats in Rae Bareli, Amethi, Sultanpur and Pratapgarh. One reason for the poor performance, it was alleged, was that Singh had quietly sabotaged the Congress campaign to show his resentment at being denied ministership in the UPA government. For the past six months, Singh had been talking to the BJP. While Amit Shah wanted to give him a Rajya Sabha seat, most members of the BJP parliamentary board wanted him to contest from Amethi. When a rattled Congress, which now also faces a challenge from AAP’s Kumar Vishwas, offered him a Rajya Sabha seat, Singh settled for the bird in hand.
Forcing a comment
It was a senior BJP leader who suggested to the media that L K Advani would be nominated for a Rajya Sabha seat. This upset the Advani household, which made it clear that the senior leader was planning to contest the Lok Sabha elections. A senior member of Advani’s office wanted the party to contradict media reports about the Rajya Sabha nomination. Party president Rajnath Singh eventually made a statement that Advani could decide on his own seat.
Cordoning off VVIP guests at Rashtrapati Bhavan garden parties on Independence day and Republic Day was a practice started some years back for security reasons. This irked a lot of high-power invitees who wondered at the point of a party where the host did not greet his guests. However, ever since Pranab Mukherjee took over, the restrictions have been eased. Unfortunately, Army Chief General Bikram Singh this year segregated his VVIP guests, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Defence Minister A K Antony, at his Army Day party last month. General Singh did not leave the enclosed section even once to greet his guests, who were all serving or retired three-star generals, leaving them miffed.