Haryana Chief Minister M L Khattar is getting increasingly infuriated with the tweets of his Health Minister Anil Vij. A five-time MLA, Vij was a strong contender for the CM post but Khattar, a newcomer to electoral politics, was appointed instead. Vij’s latest tweet expressed support for IAS officer Ashok Khemka, who has been transferred for the 46th time. Some of Vij’s earlier tweets can also be interpreted as innuendoes against Khattar. After the Delhi polls, he tweeted that by importing an outsider as a leader instead of picking from the ranks, the party had to suffer defeat. On another occasion, Vij thanked the CM for taking an interest in his department, which was read as a veiled protest against Khattar’s interference in his portfolios. Another suspect tweet was the remark that some people wanted to stop him from doing his work the way he wanted, but they would not be successful. To refute suggestions that his tweets were aimed at anyone, Vij tweeted that in politics you have to face all types of obstacles. “But my tweets have not taken any names.’’
Shaurya Doval, who is the director of the India Foundation, manages to get a string of high-profile ministers to attend whenever his think-tank holds a seminar. Doval himself is much sought after as a speaker on terrorism and national security by embassies. A major reason why Doval is considered an expert on these issues is that he is NSA Ajit Doval’s son.
Exception to rule
The Modi government was quick to transfer out all officers who were working in key positions in the UPA government. But an exception was made in the case of Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth who will complete a year with the Modi government next month. Some feel that Seth’s services were retained because the PM wanted to understand the style of working of his predecessor. The two bureaucrats being mentioned as Seth’s likely successor are Power Secretary P K Sinha and Finance Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi.
The PMO has seriously considered ending the practice of ministers carrying files into Cabinet meetings. It was felt that, instead, all ministers should bring an iPad with all files transferred on to it. It seems, however, that both the NSA and Cabinet Secretary are against the proposal since they feel there is greater danger of leaks of e-deliberations in the Cabinet.
Pots of money
An item on the agenda of a recent Cabinet meeting was to decide the fund from which the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan should draw its budget. Several ministers waxed eloquent on the subject. Nitin Gadkari expounded on what he considered the best toilet designs. Maneka Gandhi wanted the toilets to be environment-friendly. Uma Bharti warned that the campaign should not hamper cleaning of the Ganga. After over half an hour of discussions, the PM intervened testily to say the question at hand was the campaign’s funding, not toilets.
Arun Jaitley’s presence on the dais at the BJP National Executive in Bangalore along with PM Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and L K Advani when the land Bill and the J&K coalition government were discussed raised eyebrows in the party. Particularly as Rajnath Singh, the presumed No. 2 in the Cabinet, was sitting in the audience along with Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu and Nitin Gadkari.
Rashtrapati Bhavan limited the number of guests to 30 for the function to award Atal Bihari Vajpayee the Bharat Ratna at his residence. But L K Advani’s daughter Pratibha, whose father was among the guests, insisted that she would also like to attend. The award presentation was held in the drawing room and only half a dozen persons, including the Vajpayee family, PM Modi, former PM Manmohan Singh and Advani, were allowed to witness the President honouring Vajpayee. Other guests had to wait on the lawns. Pratibha wanted to accompany her father inside the house but the SPG refused, much to her annoyance.
One reason why MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin is valued by PM Modi is that he seldom loses his cool. Some scribes tried to play an April Fool’s Day joke bombarding him with queries on a series of imaginary events, including ‘MoS V K Singh’s plane being diverted and he being taken hostage on his way to Yemen’. Akbaruddin patiently responded to each scribe’s question, saying he would get back after checking. Akbaruddin is relinquishing his post to look after the India-Africa Forum Summit which will be held in October in Delhi. Later he is set to be appointed mission head in a key country as a reward for his patience.