Even gods failed
Last week, Rajiv Pratap Rudy met BJP president Amit Shah armed with a heavy portfolio detailing all the programmes undertaken by his Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Ministry. After the meeting, Rudy left for Patna and was in his native village, Amnour in Saran district, where he conducted a four-day havan. It appears this was not enough to save his job.
A Central minister, after a formal press conference, had an off-the-record interaction with journalists. Two rookies from business wire services, not aware that the minister’s remarks were not attributable, passed her comments on to their offices, which put out a report. The news, which was critical of an East Asian country, was flashed by two TV channels. Within minutes, the minister’s social media advisers came rushing to the press conference room to inform her. Visibly rattled, the minister charged that someone was deliberately sabotaging her ministerial prospects and warned that no one could leave the room until the guilty party confessed. The scribes explained sheepishly that they had not realised the implications of their action.
Journalists fear that off-the-record briefings with BJP chief Amit Shah, which are in any case rare, might stop altogether because of a recent incident. Shah held a get-together for scribes on the BJP beat. But this time, the news leaked and many more journalists showed up, apart from the regulars. Asked repeatedly about the judgment on Dera Sacha Sauda’s Baba Ram Rahim, Shah said he would not speak as the matter was sub-judice. However, a scribe, who was not even present, put out a report suggesting that Shah criticised the judge for keeping too many officials tied down in court. The Congress held a press conference, accusing Shah of contempt of court.
Kept at a distance
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is wary of journalists. The moment he took over as PM, he stopped the media, other than Doordarshan, from accompanying him on his aircraft within India and abroad. Now that BJP nominee Ram Nath Kovind is President of India, the same rules apply. The President recently visited Leh and Andhra Pradesh, but no journalist accompanied him. Unlike under Pranab Mukherjee, who kept an open house, journalists are no longer welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Under the new rules, those who meet the President, such as Opposition leaders, must now brief the media at Vijay Chowk. This is what happened to a delegation of the Congress, DMK and Left which met the President last week to complain against Tamil Nadu Governor C Vidyasagar Rao.
Rahul Gandhi upset many, particularly Lalu Prasad, by leaving for Norway instead of attending the RJD chief’s recent Opposition unity rally. In September, Rahul is off to the US for a fortnight. The trip, organised by family friend Sam Pitroda, is an opportunity to interact with NRIs, perhaps partly for fund-raising. The itinerary includes a lecture at University of California, Berkeley. But the timing is hardly appropriate considering that Congress organisation elections are near. This will be Rahul’s eighth visit abroad this year.
His political adversaries in the Congress and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha may disagree, but it was Subramanian Swamy, and not P V Narasimha Rao, who was responsible for persuading Manmohan Singh to return to India after working with an international forum, according to Swamy’s wife Roxna. In her book Evolving with Swamy, which is to be released shortly, Roxna writes that when the Chandra Shekhar government was formed in December 1990, Swamy was asked by the PM to suggest someone who could oversee all bureaucrats working in the economic ministries. Swamy recommended his old friend from Delhi School of Economics, Manmohan Singh, who was then in Geneva. Singh agreed to become the PM’s economic adviser on the assurance that Montek Singh would also be re-adjusted in the government. During the short spell Swamy was in office and Montek Singh his secretary, he worked out the bare bones of a new and radical economic dispensation for the country. The pragmatic Narasimha Rao, who took over, decided to adopt his blueprint.
Recounting some of her hilarious introductions to the political world, the author recalls her surprise when she called on Om Prakash Chautala. She found Chautala on the first floor of his government bungalow sitting with his favourite cow, amid stacks of fodder and cowpats. She is still puzzled as to how the cow climbed down the stairs.