Political analysts are scratching their heads to decipher the implications of Mohan Bhagwat’s recent lectures. For the first time in its history, the RSS sarsanghchalak has spoken in a more liberal vein than its political wing. Bhagwat countered Amit Shah’s ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ with ‘Yukt Bharat’. The facile explanation is that the Sangh and party are not on the same page. But the RSS would not have been given permission to hold its grand show with giant screens in Vigyan Bhawan, which is actually meant only for government and semi-government events, without clearance from the very top. Amit Shah visits Nagpur every three months and reportedly has a good equation with Bhagwat. Some surmise that this is the RSS chief’s way of asserting his individual authority. Though the BJP may have ensured appointments of RSS people in key slots in government and Parliament, the selection process was not necessarily left to the sarsanghachalak himself. (Interestingly, Dattatreya Hosabale, the RSS joint general secretary, was missing on the first day of the meet). Yet another explanation is that Bhagwat is simply keen to establish that the RSS has evolved and should not be penalised by future non-BJP governments. It should also be in a position to attract a younger generation with a more liberal mindset. The key question is whether Bhagwat discussed the content of his speech with Narendra Modi.
K Natwar Singh’s latest book, Treasured Epistles, is a collection of notes to him by his celebrity friends. The letters establish the close friendship between Indira Gandhi and Singh, who kept her abreast of the latest books. What is interesting is that even in the short notes the Nehru family wrote to Singh, they did not hide their animosity towards other members of the family. For instance, Krishna Hutheesing, Nehru’s younger sister, wrote on August 12, 1960, “Natwar …my sister has played another foul trick on me and stabbed me in the back… I am going to have it out once and for all with the PM….’’According to Singh, the “stab in the back” by Vijay Lakshmi Pandit was healed by Lal Bahadur Shastri since Nehru avoided getting involved in the constant bickering of his sisters. Singh was one of the rare people who kept up a friendship with both of Nehru’s sisters. Indira Gandhi commented tartly on a review written by her cousin Nayantara Sehgal (Vijay Lakshmi Pandit’s daughter): “To me it seemed a rather pitiable self-portrait so full of hatred and pettiness.’’ Hutheesingh wrote at one point that the R K Nehrus were trying to wangle an invite for a dinner hosted by Nehru for Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh. In a letter in 1972 Gandhi suggested to the B K Nehrus about the need to write a book on the Nehru Saga. Not only were the men in the family strong personalities but so were the women they married, she pointed out.
Room for manoeuvre
Poll campaign expert Prashant Kishor may have joined the JD(U), but since he also has good relations with the Congress and Prime Minister Modi, which party’s agenda is he pushing with Nitish Kumar? On the face of it Nitish’s tie-up with the BJP is a done deed, with talks on for seat sharing for the parliamentary polls. Nitish was rebuffed from returning to the Mahagathbandhan alliance by Lalu Prasad’s two sons, Tejaswi Yadav and Tej Pratap, but informal talks with the Congress are still on. The Congress hopes a more formidable mahagathbandhan could materialise if Nitish first merges with the Congress. That way the Yadav brothers cannot voice an objection. Lalu Prasad is reportedly willing.
The Congress Working Committee under Rahul Gandhi’s dispensation has practically doubled in strength and is now over 50 strong, when one includes permanent invitees and special invitees. The number of party secretaries has shot up to 66, and there is not enough office space to accommodate them. The fiery newcomer Alpesh Thakor was made a secretary so that he could be kept away from Gujarat where he was treading on the toes of old-timers. Thakor was made co-incharge of Bihar. The problem is that his senior is fellow Gujarati Shaktisinh Gohil, a veteran who is already furious with Thakor for encroaching on his turf in state politics.
Out of control
Not since late CBI director Joginder Singh indirectly brought down the H D Deve Gowda government in 1997, has the investigative agency spun so completely out of control. This steams from a bitter and open tussle between the two top men in the Bureau, with a third exploiting the fight to play his own games. The PMO seems helpless to plug the embarrassing leaks emanating from the Bureau.