Inside Track: Talkative ministershttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/inside-track-talkative-ministers/

Inside Track: Talkative ministers

Modi’s absence at Shakti Sthal to pay respects on the death anniversary of Indira Gandhi was criticised by Congresspersons.

Cabinet Ministers Nitin Gadkari and Ram Vilas Paswan tend to hold forth on any issue that comes before the Cabinet. To show his seniority, Paswan goes into the history of decisions taken at Cabinet meetings he had attended when V P Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee were prime ministers. PM Narendra Modi seems to be getting increasingly irritated with their long-windedness. The question is when the two ministers will get the hint.

Irani shooting?

Before the Lok Sabha election results, HRD Minister Smriti Irani had signed on to play Abhishek Bachchan’s mother in the movie All is Well. But after Irani was appointed minister, most assumed she’d bow out of the project. However, the film’s director, Umesh Shukla, is hopeful Irani will shoot after Parliament’s Winter Session.

Piqued son

The reason G K Vasan quit the Tamil Nadu Congress is that he felt the party did not give due respect to his father G K Moopanar. State Congress ID cards used to display the photographs of Congress leader K Kamaraj and G K Moopanar. However, after the Congress units in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana sought to display photos of P V Narasimha Rao in their party ID cards, Sonia Gandhi issued instructions that membership cards only carry photographs of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru. There is also a dispute between the state Congress and Vasan over a plot in the popular shopping centre of Teynampet in Chennai which houses the Moopanar memorial. The land in Teynampet belongs to the Congress but Vasan had carved out a plot where the body of his late father is placed.

Outsider gets it right

Rajdeep Sardesai’s just-released book 2014: The Election That Changed India has a lot of anecdotes about the campaign. Sardesai recalls that two days before counting, Airtel chief Sunil Mittal hosted a party attended by politicians, media barons and corporate tycoons. Mittal said he would offer a Franck Muller watch to the guest who came closest to predicting the final BJP tally. Most high-flyers at the party were way off the mark. The one who came closest to the actual figure of 282 seats was Meenaskhi Dass, a low-key member of a Delhi business family who predicted 266 seats for the BJP. Her guess was more accurate than Arun Jaitley’s, who settled for 245 seats.

Age no bar

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Although Modi has decreed that politicians older than 75 not be made ministers, there is no such limit for heads of councils or commissions. Lokesh Chandra, 87, was recently named chairman of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. Bimal Jalan, who has been appointed to head the Expenditure Management Commission, and Hari Gautam, in charge of the UGC reforms committee, are both well into their 70s. Age is no bar, specially when appointments are courtesy RSS.

Goa lucky for Modi

The offer to join Modi’s Cabinet had been made earlier to Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, but he had hesitated. Although he has a warm personal equation with Narendra Modi, Parrikar felt he might be too independent-minded to adjust to Modi’s individualistic style of governance. Parrikar once pointed out that his state has been lucky for the PM. It was in Goa in 2002 that Modi learnt he could continue as Gujarat CM, it was during a visit to Goa in 2012 that the Supreme Court-appointed SIT exonerated him in riots cases and it was in June 2013 that the BJP national executive appointed Modi in charge of the central campaign committee, paving the way for him to become the party’s PM candidate.

Sonia’s suggestion

Modi’s absence at Shakti Sthal to pay respects on the death anniversary of Indira Gandhi was criticised by Congresspersons. The PM observed Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary at Patel Chowk while Sonia Gandhi, President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari visited Indira Gandhi’s samadhi. Sonia, herself, has questioned holding memorial prayers and functions on death anniversaries. Two years back, she wrote a letter to then PM Manmohan Singh suggesting that only birth anniversaries be commemorated at the samadhis, with an exception made only for Mahatma Gandhi. She proposed that on death anniversaries of prime ministers, there should be floral arrangements and music. The presence of VIPs caused avoidable expense and inconvenience, she said. Curiously, the UPA government did not take up Gandhi’s suggestion.