Donald Trump’s maiden visit to India in February will in all likelihood include a trip to, besides Delhi and Agra, Ahmedabad. In Modi’s home state, a town hall-style event, similar to the Howdy Modi interaction in Texas, is planned. The venue will be the Motera cricket stadium which has just been completed. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are keen to showcase the stadium, which is said to be the largest in the world with a 1.1 lakh seating capacity and built at a cost Rs 700 crore. The project took shape during the tenures of Modi and Shah as presidents of the Gujarat Cricket Association, while the junior Shah, Jay, as joint secretary, was in charge of overseeing the construction and costs. It is doubtful whether Trump will be particularly interested in the stadium as he knows little about cricket. His sport is golf — he owns two golf courses in Scotland and three in the USA.
At first, some assumed that JD(U) vice president Prashant Kishor might be speaking on behalf of Nitish Kumar when he criticised the Citizenship Amendment Act. The wily Bihar Chief Minister has often used others to send a message to his allies, as, for instance, when he was planning to quit the mahagatbandhan. But when Kishor tweeted a series of hostile messages aimed directly at Amit Shah, it was a point of no return. Shah would not have countenanced Nitish giving Kishore such a long rope. The professional election manager blames Shah for Nitish not involving him in last year’s Bihar Lok Sabha polls. Now that he is out of the JD(U), Kishor is looking for fresh pastures. The Congress is out since Rahul Gandhi and the old guard are not enamoured by the pollster, although Priyanka has a soft corner for Kishor, who wanted to handle her social media account. Kishore has taken it as a personal challenge that AAP should retain the Delhi Assembly with the same thumping margin as before. His hope is that if this happens, AAP would then find a way to reward him.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah did not merely divide India, he was also the first person who sowed the seeds for the partition of Pakistan. This is brought out by BJP MP M J Akbar in his latest book, Gandhi’s Hinduism, Jinnah’s Islam. In March 1948, an ailing Jinnah was forced by his Cabinet to visit Dhaka since he had never set foot in East Pakistan’s capital. Jinnah’s visit did much harm – he alienated Bengalis irrevocably when in a speech he emphasised that Pakistan’s state language was Urdu and no other language would be permitted. Jinnah described anyone who demanded Bengali as a state language as a fifth columnist who had been beguiled by enemies of Pakistan. His categorical statement disillusioned Bengalis proud of their language and culture. Ironically, more than 30 years earlier, addressing a gathering of Gujaratis in Bombay, Jinnah and most others spoke in English and it was left to Mahatma Gandhi to protest in Gujarati that it would have been more appropriate to have spoken in their mother tongue. Both Gandhi and Jinnah were Gujaratis and by coincidence, Jinnah’s family, like Gandhi’s, originally settled in Rajkot, just 30 miles from Gandhi’s birthplace.
No more surprises?
The Modi 2.0 BJP government has so far come up with controversial Bills at the start of the first two Parliament sessions. In the Monsoon session, it was the abrogation of Article 370, in the Winter session, it was the amendment of the citizenship Act. The grapevine is that the Budget session could see the introduction of a Universal Civil Code Bill. However, while preparations are afoot for such a Bill, it is unlikely that it will be tabled in the coming session. The government has enough problems dealing with the fallout of the earlier legislation.
Tough act to follow
J P Nadda, the new president of the BJP, is soft spoken and gentle, a contrast to his predecessor, Amit Shah. Although Nadda’s home state is Himachal Pradesh and he contested all his elections from there, he spent his formative years in Bihar. His father, Narain Lal Nadda, was a professor of economics at Patna University and later became Vice Chancellor. Nadda is the only politician in a family of academics and professionals. In the ABVP in Patna, Nadda was mentored by Sushil Modi, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Ashwini Choubey. Nadda is described as a team player, causing some to comment caustically that the team will consist of Modi, Shah and Nadda. It may be tough for Nadda to prove himself in his first year in saddle. Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP is believed to have the edge in Delhi and Mamata Banerjee is determined to hold on to her turf in Bengal in the Assembly elections.
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