Former prime minister Manmohan Singh seldom speaks. But when he rarely does he always has something interesting to say. Singh’s style of campaigning for his party is not to address rallies but to hold a single press conference in the poll-bound state. In Bengaluru, while speaking to the media, Singh came up with an interesting nugget of information. Someone mentioned the recent controversy over the Muhammad Ali Jinnah photograph at Aligarh Muslim University. The former prime minister recalled his own indirect encounter with the founder of Pakistan. Singh, as a student, was playing in a hockey match in Peshawar in 1945 when the ball hit a bystander. The man turned out to be none other than Jinnah.
Doubly secure seat
Judging by his tweets and actions, rebel BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha sounds more like a Congressman than a member of Narendra Modi’s party. Sinha cannot formally quit the BJP since he will lose his Lok Sabha seat. But come 2019, Sinha is looking for a new party. Mamata Banerjee has offered him a TMC nomination to fight from Asansol — one of the two BJP Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal — presently held by Babul Supriyo, who is also incidentally in the entertainment business. But Sinha is more interested in fighting from his traditional Patna Sahib constituency, with former foe Lalu Prasad promising to back him all the way.
Not taken at flood
While speaking to a group of Bengaluru citizens, Rahul Gandhi announced that he was “ready” to become prime minister of India in 2019 if his party wins the maximum number of parliamentary seats. If Rahul had expressed this sentiment in 2009 nothing could have prevented him from being sworn in as PM. But the tide was not taken at the flood. Next year there will be other contenders for the top job in the anti-BJP camp and the Congress no longer calls the shots on behalf of the Opposition. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi deliberately snubbed Narendra Modi, staying away from the May 2 meeting to discuss celebrations for Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary and deputed Ghulam Nabi Azad and Manmohan Singh to attend. However, Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik made it a point to be personally present. The TMC, RJD, DMK, BJD and the AIADMK refused to join the Left parties and the Congress in the impeachment resolution against the Chief Justice of India. In Karnataka, JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy announced last week that Mayawati would be his party’s choice for prime minister in 2019 and Behenji did not demur. Banerjee and TRS president K Chandrasekhar Rao are also contenders.
Sidda wide awake
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has been nicknamed ‘Neendha Ramiah’ by his adversaries, who accuse him of being sleepy and a non-performer. Siddaramaiah has on occasion been caught dozing on the stage, probably because he suffers from sleep apnea. But the term ‘sleepy’ is not apt. He has shown himself to be wide awake in battling the challenge from the BJP. The Karnataka elections are viewed as a contest between Modi and Siddaramaiah. BS Yeddyurappa and Rahul Gandhi are secondary players. Siddaramaiah’s smart and witty counters to the BJP on social media have given a new dimension to his rustic image. The tweets, largely in English, are the brainchild of a four-member team headed by a bureaucrat in the CM’s Secretariat. Some believe that the transformation of Siddaramaiah from sleepy to hyperactive came about because of the tragic death of his elder son Rakesh, who was to have been his political heir. His younger son Yathindra, a doctor, who was a reluctant recruit to politics, has, however, turned out to be an asset.
Breath of fresh air
At a time when the judiciary is making news for all the wrong reasons, the farewell of Justice Shiavax Jal Vazifdar as the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court came as a breath of fresh air. Vazifdar, a Parsi from Mumbai, was accorded a grand farewell by bar and bench. Lawyers thronged the court complex cheering and showering rose petals while, in a grand gesture, former chief justices pushed his car. Vazifdar earned goodwill for his apolitical nature and fair play. When V P Singh Badnore was sworn in as the Punjab governor, Vazifdar said he was willing for any time provided it did not disrupt the court schedule. Usually the swearing-in of political figures is held mid-morning, as it is considered an auspicious time, and no judge demurs.