Many VVIPs were present at the wedding of Amit Shah’s son Jay with Rishita on February 10 in Ahmedabad, but there was understandable gloom as the trends of the Delhi results became clear. On the same day in Delhi, Congress leader T Subbarami Reddy hosted the wedding reception of his grandson Rajiv. The who’s who of the Congress, including Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Vadra, Manmohan Singh, Kamal Nath, Anand Sharma and Digvijaya Singh, attended the function. The mood, however, was less sombre. Although the Congress was annihilated in the elections, its arch rival had been humiliated. Sonia remarked to the CPI’s D Raja that they hadn’t met for some time and should get together. A guest queried “Shouldn’t you all get together?”, referring to the entire anti-BJP political spectrum. Sonia replied, “I think so.” A third wedding the same day was of PM Narendra Modi’s brother Pankaj Modi’s son in Vadnagar. There were no VIPs there, not even the PM.
No room here
The bad blood between the old guard of the BJP in Delhi and the new dispensation was clear from this cryptic conversation between MoS for Commerce Nirmala Sitharaman and the one-time unchallenged boss of Delhi, 83-year-old Vijay Kumar Malhotra. Sitharaman, who was holding a press conference at the party office, apologised to Malhotra: “I am sorry, I am taking your room.” “I have no room here,’’ Malhotra protested. When asked before the results about the BJP’s prospects in Delhi, his laconic response was, “Officially, we are going to form the government.’’ Clearly, he had an unofficial view as well.
Within hours of the Delhi election results, BJP leader Kirti Azad talked of the need for “heads to roll’’ in the party. He was taking a potshot at Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is on the opposite side of the fence in cricket politics. Besides, the Delhi BJP holds Jaitley responsible for parachuting Kiran Bedi in as the CM candidate. In fact, the decision to bring in Bedi was taken jointly by Amit Shah, Narendra Modi and Jaitley, with the consent of the RSS. Jaitley is a soft target for those who really want to hit out at the Modi-Shah duo but dare not. Delhi BJP leaders blame the choice of Bedi for the shattering defeat, but Shah, on the other hand, has a very poor opinion of those in charge of the Delhi unit. He believes the real cause for the defeat was that the state bosses lead a privileged existence which is unconnected with the average Delhiite. He holds a particularly dim view of the party’s corporators too who, he thinks, even ignored the PM’s Swachh Bharat campaign. Post-rout, BJP organising secretary Ram Lal has been asked to speak to the Delhi contingent. While media commentators see the vote as a reflection of Modi’s sliding popularity, AAP leaders such as Ashish Khetan made an indirect pitch for votes from Modi supporters with the rationale that Modi for PM is not in conflict with Kejriwal for CM.
Clout at Home
National Security Adviser Ajit Doval’s clout in the Home Ministry is evident from the appointment of Rural Development Secretary L C Goyal as Home Secretary in place of Anil Goswami, who was removed unceremoniously. Rajnath Singh was keen on Petroleum Secretary Saurabh Chandra, a UP-cadre officer, who had once worked as his principal secretary. PM’s Principal Secretary Nripendra Misra also reportedly backed Chandra’s appointment. Significantly, Doval, Goyal and new Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma all belong to the Kerala cadre.
Shorn of props
Non-BJP chief ministers were unhappy at the manner in which the NITI Aayog meeting was conducted in Delhi. The proceedings were in Hindi, and since chief ministers had to leave behind their translators and chief secretaries in the waiting room of the PMO, CMs from non-Hindi-speaking states had a tough time. The chief secretaries are convenient reference points for chief ministers who are unfamiliar with the nitty-gritties of their state projects. One CM even rushed to the waiting room to confer with his chief secretary but the latter had left for the state bhavan. Instead, the state finance secretary provided him a note on the subject, which he read out to the committee. The only photographer permitted was from the PMO and he simply took pictures of the CMs shaking hands with Modi. Understandably, the non-BJP CMs were not keen that their local newspapers publish photos of them fraternising with Modi.
Kiran Bedi may have been declared the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate only last month, but the decision to appoint her was taken nearly three months ago. In fact, back in November, Kiran Bedi announced to some television journalists that she was willing to take up the challenge and join politics and lead the BJP. Since there was no official word from the party, TV viewers marvelled at her presumption. Actually, she had already been informally sounded out. It took a while to formally announce her name in view of the resistance from the Delhi unit.