Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi left this Monday for Istanbul traveling on Turkish Airways. Gandhi conveyed to his SPG that since he was making a private trip he did not need their protection as it would only attract attention. It is not known whether the SPG agreed to his request. Istanbul is believed not to be Gandhi’s final destination. He is to be away for around 10 days and some wonder whether he will re-visit Myanmar, where he had gone last year for a Buddhist retreat during his mysterious 56-day absence from India.
The Congress was completely taken aback when, at the meeting of the empowered committee of state finance ministers in West Bengal, Kerala’s Finance Minister Thomas Isaac announced that his state would support the GST Bill. Congress leaders spoke to CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and senior leader Prakash Karat questioning how the Kerala unit could backtrack on the CPM’s position. The CPM central committee’s recent meeting in Delhi was a stormy affair. Isaac was pulled up even though his Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan conceded that he had backed him on GST. The fireworks at the meeting reflect the dissensions in the normally disciplined party. However, for the record, the central committee merely announced that it would want to build a consensus around the GST Bill before taking a final decision.
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RBI governor Raghuram Rajan’s failure to get along with the Central government and secure a second term reminds old timers of the case of his father R Govindarajan, a former additional secretary, R&AW. As prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi saw to it that Govindrajan was denied a promotion in R&AW. Gandhi was unhappy because he had contacted Govindarajan on the night of the Swedish Radio broadcast alleging that payments had been made to Indians for the Bofors deal.
Gandhi wanted Govindrajan to “handle’’ the fall-out. He assumed that Govindrajan would contact Swedish intelligence agencies and ensure that a lid was put on the scam. Gandhi felt that Govindrajan failed to react dynamically. On the other hand, M K Narayanan, then director, IB, worked late into the night telephoning newspaper editors to ensure that the news was buried in some obscure place or not carried at all. (The Indian Express was the exception which displayed the news prominently.) Govindrajan was never made secretary, R&AW.
He felt he was unfairly treated and wanted to approach CAT (Central Administrative Tribunal) for redressal. However, Narayanan interceded. As a compromise, Govindrajan was appointed chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee.
The BJP’s Gujarat state executive held its meeting in Mehsana on Wednesday. The choice of the venue and date of the meeting was significant. Mehsana happens to be the constituency of Nitin Patel, a senior minister in Chief Minister Anandiben Patel’s Cabinet who holds several important portfolios, including health. Wednesday, June 22, also happened to be Nitin Patel’s birthday.
Members of the Gujarat BJP see this as an indication of Nitin Patel’s increasing clout. While some wonder whether this suggests that he is likely to replace Anandiben shortly, others are furiously trying to find out how Mehsana was decided upon as the venue. Significantly, Nitin Patel had met the PM last month. The BJP is anxious to appoint a successor to Anandiben, who has been unable to control the Patel agitation. Mehsana, in fact, is the district from where the Patel agitation originated.
After facing regional revolts in Chhattisgarh and Punjab, with Ajit Jogi leaving the party and Amarinder Singh threatening to walk out if his terms were not met, the Congress high command has become more respectful of regional satraps. In Karnataka, it allowed Chief Minister Siddaramaiah a free hand. After successfully fielding a third candidate for the Rajya Sabha by splitting Deve Gowda’s JD(S) votes, the CM dropped 14 ministers and installed 13 others in their place, a large number of them Lingayats. There were protests, but Siddaramaiah remained firm.
Congress Lok Sabha leader Mallikarjun Kharge relented when his son was inducted as a state minister. Siddaramiah’s point is that he contributes the maximum to the party’s central coffers, and if the party wants to rule the state for another term it should not interfere. Originally from the JD(S), Siddaramaiah is keen to ensure that his rivals are not patronised by the Congress leadership in Delhi.