An ego clash between two wings of the Finance Ministry could have serious implications in recovering dues from absconding diamantaire Nirav Modi. The Enforcement Directorate is attempting at the eleventh hour to sabotage an auction organised by the Income Tax authorities for the end of March to sell 68 contemporary and modern Indian art paintings by leading artists worth between Rs 30 and Rs 50 crore, seized during raids on the Mumbai office of M/s Camelot Enterprises Private Ltd. It is believed to be a shell company of Modi, who owes Rs 96 crore in taxes. Someone from the ED claimed to a TV channel that the directorate has already attached the very same paintings and will file an FIR if the IT attempts to go ahead with the auction. The ED’s unprofessional approach will not merely frighten away potential buyers, but also make India look foolish in the eyes of the world, since the auction is well-publicised. Modi had excellent taste in art even if some of his diamonds were duds.
Bowled out at start
FORMER cricketer and sitting BJP MP from Darbhanga Kirti Azad had been suspended from the party in 2015 after he targeted Arun Jaitley, who headed the Delhi and District Cricket Association at the time. Azad, however, did not resign from the BJP as he would have lost his seat. But with elections around the corner, last month, Azad joined the Congress in the presence of Rahul Gandhi. It was ghar wapsi for him since his father, Bhagwat Jha Azad, was a Bihar Congress chief minister and central minister. Azad presumed that he would be contesting from the family seat Darbhanga, but discovered to his shock that Congress ally Lalu Prasad was insistent that the constituency go to the RJD. Azad has made some 10 trips to meet the jailed Lalu, but has had no success in making him change his mind. The former cricketer is unwilling to stand from any other parliamentary seat in Bihar.
Taking a back seat
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s debut on the national scene in Gujarat was not quite the command performance that the Congress had been hoping for. There were cutouts of Indira Gandhi at the rally, but Priyanka’s appearance and style did not quite replicate her grandmother’s. Her delivery was measured and not strident. But her savvy political instincts and spontaneity are far more pronounced than Rahul’s. In her short speech Priyanka emphasised issues which common people relate to and reminded them of broken promises by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She did not harp on Rafale or bandy words about Pulwama and Balakot, as did her brother. At the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, she won many hearts by taking an interest in all its activities and asked detailed questions about spinning a charkha. Priyanka did not want to overshadow Rahul and at the Gandhi ashram, she sat quietly in the fourth row, not with her mother and brother. At the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, her only suggestion was an acronym for the Congress promise of minimum income guarantee — Nyuntam Aay Yojana, or NYAY.
Gen Next Out
2019 will be the first election when the BJP leaders once described by the media as the party’s Gen Next will be mostly out of the fray. Student leaders who came into prominence during the JP movement and the Emergency, they are now in their mid- or late 60s and will not be standing for the Lok Sabha elections. Arun Jaitley, though in charge of the party’s publicity campaign, and Sushma Swaraj are not contesting because of health issues. Ananth Kumar and Pramod Mahajan have passed away. Venkaiah Naidu is the Vice-President. Only Ravi Shankar Prasad will represent Gen Next at the hustings. While Prime Minister Modi is in the same age bracket as Gen Next, the former pracharak emerged on the political scene much later than them. Some reports suggest that party president Amit Shah will permit
L K Advani, 91, Murli Manohar Joshi, 84, Shanta Kumar, 85, and Bhagat Singh Koshyari, 77, to stand from their constituencies, though they will be given no ministerial berths. But the older generation has not actually been sounded out so far about standing for elections.
Not in one voice
Anand Sharma, who heads the Congress’s 2019 publicity campaign, briefed the media after the CWC meeting in Ahmedabad. This seems to have ruffled Randeep Surjewala, head of the party’s communication cell and normally the Congress’s chief spokesperson. Surjewala put out on WhatApp that he would not be going to Gujarat as he had injured his back and could not travel. The excuse would have sounded more convincing had he not addressed a press briefing in Delhi the very next afternoon.