The government is searching for a reliable replacement for CBI chief Alok Verma, who retires in January next year. It does not want a repeat of its unhappy experience with Verma. Though a Modi appointee, Verma has embarrassed the government by declaring open war on Rakesh Asthana, a Special Director in the CBI with powerful Gujarat connections. But Verma has a fixed two-year tenure and the government cannot get rid of him. The Department of Personnel has already started shortlisting names for the key post. But the PMO may not necessarily have its way. The committee to select the CBI chief consists of the Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India. Whether or not the government accepts Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge as the leader of the Opposition, since his party does not have the requisite number of MPs, CJI Ranjan Gogoi certainly has a valid vote. And it remains to be seen whether he and the government will be on the same page.
The sudden removal of T K S Elangovan as the DMK spokesperson is reportedly because he jumped the gun and announced that Sonia Gandhi would arrive in Tamil Nadu on November 20 to unveil the statue of M Karunanidhi even before party president M K Stalin could make the announcement. But there is more to Elangovan’s sudden removal, considering that he was the face of the party in Delhi for years and has easy access to the Capital’s media. Part of the reason may be that Elangovan is suspected of having a soft corner for the BJP, but the buzz is that it is more a reflection of the growing clout of Stalin’s son-in-law Sabareesan. Though he has no official position in the party, Sabareesan has emerged as the DMK’s Prashant Kishor. His advice on all party matters, whether modernising the dress code for DMK workers by switching to trousers and T-shirts, or popularising the slogans ‘Namakku Naame (By Us, For Us)’ and ‘Naalai Namathe (Tomorrow is Ours)’, is accepted by his father-in-law.
Rahul Gandhi did not announce a prospective chief ministerial candidate for Rajasthan, even though the Congress feels confident of winning the state, because he did not want in-fighting between Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot supporters. But now Rahul has made the mistake of showing too openly where his preference for CM lies. He has given Pilot a free run in selection of office-bearers and other campaign-related issues. Pilot is usually the only person he speaks to on the dais while campaigning in Rajasthan. Seasoned Congresspersons fear that a wily veteran like Gehlot, who has been CM of the state twice, has enormous potential for damage if he believes he is not in the reckoning for the top post. In the 2008 Assembly elections in which he had gone on to become CM, several of his detractors in the party had been defeated, with main rival C P Joshi losing by one vote.
Reminder of others
Despite objections from former PM Manmohan Singh and other Gandhi loyalists, the Modi government has gone ahead with the bhoomi puja for a museum for all Indian PMs within the Teen Murti Bhavan complex in New Delhi. Those opposing the project argue that the complex is closely associated with only Jawaharlal Nehru and that its character should not be diluted. Shakti Sinha, the director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, counters that the land belongs to the government and not to any one family. The compound of the stately colonial bungalow, originally meant for British army chiefs based in India, has 25 landscaped acres. It is an ideal, centrally located space for a museum to showcase the achievements of the remaining 14 PMs, of whom only two others, Indira Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri, have separate museums in their memory. The new museum building will be behind the Nehru museum, which will remain untouched. Incidentally, much of the Nehru museum has been closed for the last two years for renovation because of the poor upkeep by the CPWD over the years. The plan is to incorporate the archival material of Nehru, including photographs and manuscripts from the library, within the main Nehru museum.
Wrong photo op
Religion plays an important role in Madhya Pradesh politics, so it is but natural that Rahul Gandhi should stop by at places of worship on his campaign tour of the state. In Datia district in MP recently, he prayed at the Pitambar Peeth and then moved on to the Moti Masjid. The visits were practically back to back. No one in the Congress team thought to advise the party president to wipe off the vibhuti from his forehead before donning a Muslim prayer cap for the benefit of photographers.