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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Inside Track: A club class tussle

Last month, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs handed over the administration of the 108- year-old Gymkhana Club to MM Juneja, a government official. Juneja, who created ripples in the posh club by arriving with a posse of policemen, was soon replaced by VK Yadav from the Rail­ways.

Written by Coomi Kapoor
Updated: March 14, 2021 8:34:50 am
Harish Salve is a member of the Gymkhana club.

It was surely adding insult to injury. Last month, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs handed over the administration of the 108- year-old Gymkhana Club to MM Juneja, a government official, after first invalidating the duly elected managing committee. Juneja, who created ripples in the posh club by arriving with a posse of policemen, was soon replaced by VK Yadav from the Rail­ways. Members of the club have challenged move in the Supreme Court. However, since one of the first acts of the new administrator was to block access to funds, the members cannot avail of the club resources for any purpose, inclu­ding paying for a lawyer. The administrator, on the other hand, has issued a handsome demand draft from the club account to hire leading lawyer Harish Salve. Ironically, Salve is a member of the club.

Report without GoM: Trial balloon

The purported report of the Group of Ministers on Government Communi­cation which was recently scooped by a magazine gives details of discussions by ministers as well as statements from journalists and businessmen as to how the Modi government can better manage its image in the media. Since none of the ministers named, including Ravi Shankar Prasad, Smriti Irani, S Jaishankar and Kiren Rijiju, have denied the reproduced PDF of the report it is widely assumed to be genuine. But there is no gazetted notification of any such group of ministers. Participation in GoMs is conventionally restricted to bureaucrats or those formally invited to meetings, not stray persons who were given no indication of the purpose for which they were invited. This has led to speculation that the report may have been a trial balloon floated by the government either to serve as a warning or to test the waters.

A Birthday Bash: Better Late

Last March eminent jurist Soli Sorabjee was eagerly looking forward to his 90th birthday and his family had organised a grand bash. But as the birthday drew closer, the coronavirus spread to India as well. A day before the event, the celebratory dinner was cancelled. A belated birthday celebration in December was also called off. Finally, Sorab­jee’s 91st birthday was celebrated on March 9 last week when a biography on him was released. While most speakers praised Sorabjee’s legal acumen, Justice Rohinton Nariman mentioned another aspect of Sorabjee’s multifaceted personality: he is a fanatical jazz buff.

Why Sasikala opted out

V K Sasikala’s announcement to quit politics immediately after her release from prison came as a rude shock to her nephew TTV Dhinakaran. He was depending on Jayalalithaa’s former aide to back his AMMK in the Assembly polls, to counter the ruling AIADMK’s claim to be the true inheritor of Jayalalithaa’s mantle. Most assumed that Sasikala at 66, with nearly two dozen pending criminal cases against her, had lost her appetite for a fight, and wanted a peaceful retirement, especially when the BJP had put its weight behind Chief Minister E Palanisamy. But, a feud in the family also played a part. Sasikala’s brother Dhivakaran is opposed to Dhinakaran and helped persuade his sister that since Dhinakaran projected himself as CM, Sasikala had no stake in this battle.

Reaching out to media?

It has become increasingly difficult for the media to get appointments with senior members of the government. The Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) was therefore pleasantly surprised when last week two important politicians volunteered to interact with journalists on Women’s Day. Speaker Om Birla invited IWPC members for lunch, at which ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani and over two dozen women MPs were present. A journalist enquired about Parliament’s refusal to renew the annual Lok Sabha press pass for those in the Long and Distinguished category. Birla tried to reassure her remarking, “Maybe later.” Javadekar also sought to break the ice when he came to the club for a frank off-the-record session.

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