Ever since the stand-off between India and China, the movements of Chinese Ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui have aroused curiosity. Zhaohui not only called on Rahul Gandhi but has also met other Opposition leaders: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, his son Gaurav. He also met former national security advisor Shivshankar Menon and even the Darjeeling district magistrate. An unusual trip, which went unnoticed, was that of Zhaohui’s wife, counsellor Dr Jiang Yili, who flew to Bhutan and called on the royalty there, including the Queen Mother. Such a visit is reportedly unprecedented since China has no diplomatic ties with Bhutan.
Too many cooks
If you add the 20-odd Congress spokespersons to its 30-odd media panellists, their combined strength exceeds the 44 MPs the party has in the Lok Sabha. Despite, or because of, the huge number of spokespersons, goof-ups keep occurring. Recently, the Congress first denied that vice-president Rahul Gandhi had met the Chinese Ambassador and, later, to much embarrassment, confirmed the meeting. After the bungling, Randeep Surjewala, the communication department head, on behalf of Rahul, announced the formation of a national media coordination group to bridge the communication gap. Ironically, the group consisted of even more unfamiliar names such as Sanjeev Singh, Anil Chaudhary and Rohan Gupta. Within a week, Janardhan Dwivedi announced a new team, this time at the behest of Sonia Gandhi, and comprising eight heavyweights — Mani Shankar Aiyar, Mallikarjun Kharge, Jairam Ramesh, P Chidambaram, Anand Sharma, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sushmita Dev. This team is to meet daily and assist the communication department. Does the right hand of the communications team know what the left is doing?
With the CBI swooping down on Lalu Prasad and his kin for alleged corruption involving among others, land deals, ownership of Patna’s biggest mall and the management of two hotels in Puri and Ranchi, the rattled RJD leader has hastily set up a crisis management group to deal with the cases filed by law enforcement agencies. Some in Lalu’s team want five-time Rajya Sabha MP Prem Chand Gupta, his long-time Man Friday and financial adviser, kept out of the strategy sessions. They fear that since Gupta’s wife Sarla is an accused in the land deal, the CBI could persuade her to turn approver so that she is let off the hook.
Casting a spell
Bollywood is normally in awe of political bigwigs, but in the case of Shanoo Sharma, Mumbai’s most powerful casting director, the boot is on the other foot. Sharma, credited with discovering stars such as Ranveer Singh, works on behalf of many big producers. The kin of several political heavyweights, keen to break into Bollywood, have exerted their clout to get introduced to her. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s wife Amruta (an aspiring playback singer), Ram Vilas Paswan’s son Chirag (once keen to be a movie star but now a politician) and former Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel’s granddaughter Sanskruti (a model) are among those who have sought out Sharma.
The Additional Secretary in the Department of Financial Services, Girish Chandra Murmu, is known to be close to BJP president Amit Shah. Since Murmu has not been empanelled as a full secretary, the buzz in babudom is that he will be transferred back to Gujarat, perhaps to take over as the chief principal secretary to the chief minister. The post has been held for several years by K Kailashnathan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trusted aide when he served as the Gujarat chief minister, and who continues to be Modi’s eyes and ears in the state. Kailashnathan may then move to Delhi. The transfers could take place before or after the Gujarat elections.
Request to order?
Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Governor E S L Narasimhan, while congratulating fellow governor Ram Nath Kovind on being picked the NDA presidential nominee, could not resist a joke. Narasimhan, as doyen of the governors, being the senior-most, is expected to voice the views of his colleagues to the president and government. Kovind had several times requested Narasimhan to take up the issue of hiking governors’ allowances as they do not stand to benefit from the Pay Commission recommendations. Narasimhan joked that as president, Kovind would be in a position to fulfill his own earlier demand.