The Congress in Himachal Pradesh is disappointed with the Gandhi family for taking little interest in the recently concluded Assembly election. Both Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi did not visit the state and though Priyanka Vadra remained in Himachal throughout, her efforts were minimal. Since she made clear that she could not tour all the Assembly constituencies, the local leadership drew up a list of 42 swing seats in which a close contest was expected. Priyanka, however, agreed to hold rallies in only a dozen districts and finally even this programme was pared down to meetings in the four Lok Sabha constituencies. In contrast, the BJP left no stone unturned. Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally telephoned rebel candidates urging them to withdraw from the fray and he addressed several rallies. Amit Shah visited a large number of Assembly constituencies and BJP president J P Nadda, who is from Himachal, campaigned even at the village level. Congresspersons grumble that what should have been a victory for the Congress has instead turned out to be a photo finish. An MLA complained that in the BJP, the leaders carry the party while in the Congress, it is the other way round – the party carries the leaders.
There are some 40 Z-category protectees in the Home Ministry’s security list which entitles them to round-the-clock surveillance by 55 personnel, including four to six commandos and guards drawn from central security services and the local police. In the case of the Z+ security category, the Yellow Book detail includes 150 security personnel. As long as the protectees lived in government accommodation, such elaborate protection measures could be easily enforced, but it is less feasible in private residences. With the government turfing out from their government bungalows those considered inimical to Prime Minister Modi, the neighbours of the protectees in private residential areas are feeling the pinch. For instance, Priyanka Vadra resides behind Sujjan Singh Park in Lutyens Delhi and the entrance to her lane has a barrier with security men hovering around, so many assume the road is closed. For BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy’s protection in his East Nizamuddin residence in Delhi, a large sentry box has been erected on the pavement and the neighbours are taken aback by the presence of gun-toting cops with walkie-talkies moving around.
The feisty Gujarat Samachar media group commands considerable influence in Gujarat and despite often taking an anti-establishment position has managed to maintain its unquestioned number one position in the state. However, after the recent split in the Shah family, with brother Bahubali Shah in charge of the newspaper and his older sibling Shreyans Shah controlling the TV channel, the group does not always speak in the same voice. For instance, while the newspaper claims that Amit Shah is the unquestioned boss in all matters concerning ticket distribution in the Gujarat BJP, the television channel has taken a contrary line stating that C R Paatil, the Gujarat BJP chief and close aide of Prime Minister Modi, has overruled Shah in the selection of several choices in Saurashtra and north Gujarat.
Cricketing icon Sunil Gavaskar was gifted 2,000 square metres of land in Mumbai’s Bandra West three decades ago to open a cricketing academy with indoor sporting facilities in his name. But when nothing materialised even after 30 years, there were some critical comments and this May, Gavaskar decided to return the unused land to the Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority. Unfortunately, the vacant land has now turned into a garbage dump which is located right next to the trendy new Bombay Art Society building. Visitors to the recent ceramic art exhibition by innovative artist Ravi Trivedi were taken aback by the stench. MHADA’s explanation for not clearing up the mounting garbage heap is that it lacks the equipment and the infrastructure. The city’s municipal corporation, which does have the cranes and trucks to clean up the plot, feels the land does not come under its jurisdiction.
Ajit Pawar, Sharad Pawar’s nephew and leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly, appears to be distancing himself from the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance. When journalist and Sena MP, Sanjay Raut, was released recently from jail on bail, the MVA’s top brass, from Sharad Pawar to Uddhav and Aaditya Thackeray, were quick to felicitate him. Even Congress leaders from Delhi, Priyanka Vadra and Digvijay Singh, tweeted their congratulations. Ajit Pawar was, however, conspicuous by his silence. Similarly, when Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra entered Maharashtra, it was not just state Congresspersons but even Ajit’s cousin Supriya Sule from the NCP and Aaditya Thackeray from the Sena who demonstrated their solidarity. Ajit stayed away.