The BJP has been consistent in its vehement protests against the “glorification” of Tipu Sultan by the Congress. It was therefore mortified when President Ram Nath Kovind praised the 18th-century Mysore ruler in the Karnataka Assembly. A red-faced Karnataka BJP, which believes that Tipu was anti-Hindu, tried to cover up by claiming that it was Chief Minister Siddaramiah’s office which wrote the speech for the President. But to the BJP’s discomfiture, it turns out that the speech was in fact written at Rashtrapati Bhavan, with inputs from the office of the Karnataka Assembly. The President personally cleared the speech before it was finalised. So either someone from the Rashtrapati Bhavan media department who wrote the speech’s first draft was ignorant of the confrontation between the BJP and Congress over Tipu’s legacy, or else, as seems rather unlikely, President Kovind is genuinely appreciative of Tipu’s role in Indian history, despite his former party’s position.
Specs for facelift
With the Gujarat Assembly elections due in December, the BJP leadership is scratching its head over how to give Chief Minister Vijay Rupani a facelift. Rupani is so soft-spoken and low-profile that outside his native Rajkot, few recognise him. Rupani’s spin doctors wanted to project the CM as a great administrator who is weeding out corruption. But they were stopped by former chief minister Anandiben Patel. Any attempt to promote Rupani as a ‘performing CM’ would reflect poorly on Patel’s own record in the chair. Rupani’s image-builders know they cannot antagonise Patel, who has patched up with Amit Shah. Patel was in charge of the all-important task of ensuring that Ahmed Patel did not poach any of the discontented BJP MLAs during the state’s recent Rajya Sabha elections. Finally, the only makeover approved for Rupani was to wear spectacles so that he looks more distinguished.
The new PK
The tide appears to have turned against the BJP on social media. The anti-BJP responses in Gujarati to the slogan ‘Vikas gando thayo che (Development has gone crazy)’, have gone viral. Another plus is that Rahul Gandhi’s Twitter followers have jumped by a million in a week. Credit for the Congress’s new high-profile presence on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and YouTube goes to Divya Spandana a.k.a Ramya, the head of the Congress’s social media cell.
Ramya, an actress and a former Karnataka MP, replaced Deepender Hooda in May as the party’s social media head and has direct access to Rahul. She has managed to up the cell’s budget manifold and more than doubled the strength of the team. Congress old-timers, who feel sidelined, refer to Ramya resentfully as the new PK (Prashant Kishor), suggesting unkindly that she, like Kishor, will eventually fall flat on her face. They are even willing to cite BJP sources that the phenomenal spike in Rahul’s Twitter followers is primarily because of bots, an inanimate software-driven effort.
They also comb the Congress websites for bloopers. For instance, in the Know Your Legacy feature on the Congress’s Twitter handle, a question to the participants recently was, “Which item did Gandhiji always carry in his loin cloth?”. The answer is his false teeth, but unsurprisingly, there were a spate of lewd jokes in response to the stupidly drafted question. Similarly, the donkey was included among the four possible answers to a question asking which animal had Pandit Nehru rode on to travel to Bhutan in 1953, giving a field day to Nehru-Gandhi baiters.
The popular explanation for the delay in the Election Commission declaring the dates for the Gujarat elections is that the BJP is running scared. Amit Shah’s astrological and religious beliefs are a more likely explanation. Gujarat remains closed for five days from Diwali day till Labh Pancham. Gujaratis consider the fifth day after Diwali to be auspicious for launching any new venture — and that is when the EC made its announcement. Also, most astrological predictions suggested that the BJP hold elections after November 28.
Make in India
The latest Indian naval ship, INS Kiltan, was commissioned by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Visakhapatnam earlier this month. It is very different from its predecessor ship of the same name, now de-commissioned. The first Kiltan, commissioned in 1969, was built almost entirely by the Soviets. In the new ship, over 80 per cent has been through indigenous efforts. This includes the entire process of training, building, fitting and the innovative use of carbon composites for the super structure. A woman prime minister, Indira Gandhi, was in power when the old Kiltan was commissioned, a woman defence minister is in the saddle when the new ship was commissioned.
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