Shortly before the Rajasthan Assembly polls,Srikant Jena,Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers,sent to the PMO a panel of names for the post of secretary in the ministry. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,however,rejected the panel and suggested the name of Rajiv Mehrishi,a Rajasthan-cadre officer. Jena demurred explaining that Mehrishi was likely to be shortly appointed chief secretary of Rajasthan as he was a favourite of Vasundhara Raje. Singh expressed surprise and queried,Arent we going to be forming the government in Rajasthan? Jenas political instincts were more sound and within a fortnight of Mehrishi taking over as Secretary,Fertilisers,he was transferred to Rajasthan as Chief Secretary under Chief Minister Raje.
Amma in prime minister race
The BJPs chief minister-designates in Madhya Pradesh,Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh wanted to invite Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa to their swearing-in ceremonies. But the empress of Tamil Nadu refused to take their numerous messages,having decided not to align with any national party in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. At the recent AIADMK general council,a resolution was passed that Amma was the partys PM candidate. Already posters have cropped up in Chennai hailing Jayalalithaa as the future PM. In a four-cornered contest in Tamil Nadu,Jayalalithaa believes she will win an overwhelming majority of the 39 Assembly seats. The Tamil Nadu CM is riding a wave of popularity with such common man schemes as Amma idli for Rs 1 a plate and Amma sambar rice for Rs 5 a plate. Amma water bottles are sold for Rs 10 at bus stops.
Jayanthi Natarajan was anxious to save face by claiming that she had quit the Environment Ministry of her own sweet will because the party wanted her to play an active role in the organisation in the run-up to the 2014 elections. Unfortunately for Natarajan,two of her Cabinet colleagues were busy refuting her story and spreading the word that she was forced to quit because the ministry had earned a bad name for corruption and for holding up clearances.
BJP begins to learn from AAP
The BJP has woken up belatedly to the threat from the Aam Aadmi Party. It realises that its dream of Narendra Modi coming to power at the Centre could be sabotaged by AAP. In the parliamentary elections,Arvind Kejriwals party could eat into the BJPs vote share among the youth and the urban voters,as was the case in Delhi. The BJP has decided to learn a lesson from AAP and concentrate on door-to-door campaigns and not rely just on large rallies and meetings with laser shows and other razzle-dazzle displays. It has also decided to resort to the old-fashioned way of fund collection with the slogan one note,one vote. That way there will be greater involvement at grassroots level,it believes.
Rahul shifts gears after polls
Rahul Gandhi has been in hyperactive mode after the drubbing his party received in the Assembly polls. He wrote a letter to Anna Hazare promising to ensure the passage of the Lokpal Bill. He delivered a speech in Parliament after a very long time,holding forth on the issue of corruption. He ensured the UPA government passed the Lokpal Bill. He paid a visit to Muzaffarnagar to meet the victims of the communal clashes in Uttar Pradesh. He gave his nod for the Congress to extend support to AAP in Delhi. He pushed for the ouster of Jayanthi Natrajan from the Environment Ministry. And in contrast to his waffling speeches to chambers of commerce in the past,Rahul made a clear-cut commitment to industry at FICCIs annual general meeting. His party is hopeful that Rahul has turned over a new leaf and is shedding his image as a procrastinator. Others,however,wonder if it is a case of too little too late.