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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Inside Track: The speculation behind PM Modi’s new look

The obvious explanation would be that Modi wants to avoid barbers for fear of Covid. But when it’s Modi, people prefer a spin.

Written by Coomi Kapoor | Updated: August 16, 2020 1:16:17 pm
LK Advani, ram mandir, ayodhya ram mandir, narendra modi, rahul gandhi, rajasthan political crisis, modi new look, ashok gehlot, sachin pilot, indian express newsPrime Minister Narendra Modi at Ayodhya (Source: Info dept)

At the Ram mandir bhoomi puja, Prime Minister Modi sported a new look. His white hair has grown half way to his shoulder and his flowing beard is no longer trim and pointed but very bushy. The obvious explanation would be that Modi wants to avoid barbers for fear of Covid. But when it’s Modi, people prefer a spin. Some claim he wanted to present the look of a character in the Ramayana for the ceremony. (He once told a journalist that his favourite subject in school was dramatics and he took part in the Ramlila every year.) Another far-fetched take is that the Rabindranath Tagore-style hairdo might be with an eye on the West Bengal elections. Modi reportedly laughed heartily when told of the Lutyens media’s speculation.

Age No Excuse

Apologists for the fact that L K Advani, who led the rath yatra for the Ramjanmabhoomi mandir, was not invited for the bhoomi puja ceremony, cite his advanced age as the reason. Murli Manohar Joshi was similarly ignored. But surely it was up to the two veteran BJP leaders to take the call, or as a courtesy a relative could have been deputed for this historic event. If age was the drawback, then Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel, at 78, should not have been there and also the president of Ram Janmabhoomi Trust, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, 82. Even PM Narendra Modi and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat are both 69. One doughty Ram bhakt from the old days, Uma Bharti, embarrassed the PMO into extending an invitation. She arrived at Ayodhya and said she would spend the day on the banks of the Saryu. The PMO and temple trust belatedly requested her to attend the puja.

Left Turn

Congressmen apprehend that many of Rahul Gandhi’s advisers have a JNU Leftist tilt, at variance with the party’s centrist line. Sandeep Singh, Rahul’s speech writer, is from JNU as are four of the interns presently at Rahul’s Tughlaq Lane residence. The Left-leaning Delhi University professor Apoorvanand has mentored NSUI and Youth Congress members informally. Alankar Sawai and K Raju in Rahul’s inner circle share similar views. The joke in the party is that the best way to get attention of their leader is to send a message through Sitaram Yechury or Prashant Bhushan.

Honour Bound?

Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi approached a Delhi lower court pleading that London-based legal arbitrator Sarosh Zaiwalla’s just released memoir Honour Bound should be withdrawn as it was defamatory to his late father. Zaiwalla countered that the jurisdiction should be of a London court, as he resides there, and he has not even been served a notice. Zaiwalla’s publisher Harper Collins, however, got cold feet and withdrew the book after an ex parte order by a lower court. Zaiwalla has now shot off letters to prominent Indian authorities warning that the international perception of our justice system is being damaged because of a speedy, ex parte order by a lower court in the middle of a pandemic.

Who’s the Winner?

Surprisingly, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who was supposed to have won the day, is looking rattled. While Sachin Pilot, who has lost his posts of deputy CM and PCC chief, has suffered only notionally. Pilot had really nothing to lose since for the last 18 months Gehlot ensured that he was redundant. For instance, Rs 27 crore was spent by the state for the CM’s publicity in his first year, while not a paisa was sanctioned for a Pilot poster. Gehlot used the official plane 85 times, Pilot not once. Since Gehlot retained both the home and finance ministries, he ensured that no funds were released for Pilot’s portfolios and that he could not even choose his own staff, let alone ensure a posting in his constituency. Gehlot was certain that Pilot, a constant thorn in his side, would be finally thrown out of the party after his rebellion. On the contrary, shaken by the near loss of yet another state, the till now complacent Congress high command has decided to keep a watch on goings-on in Jaipur.

Alien Culture

Protests are mounting from DMK cadres over M K Stalin hiring pollster Prashant Kishor as consultant. Initially, the objection was simply to taking orders from Kishor, a Bihari from the north. But party workers have since discovered that many in Kishor’s team of over 700 are also not from their state. DMK veterans are furious at being assessed on performance by college kids who appropriate their phone contacts to send WhatsApp messages.

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