Missing in Action
The short, stormy Monsoon Session of Parliament was noteworthy for the number of prominent missing MPs. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared in the two Houses briefly at the beginning and end of the Session. Amit Shah stayed away throughout because of health reasons. Rahul Gandhi sought leave of absence to accompany his mother for her much-delayed annual check-up to the US. Sonia Gandhi’s appointment with doctors was fixed in advance and Priyanka Vadra could not escort her mother since she was in quarantine after a domestic help in her household contracted Covid-19. Other missing MPs included Manmohan Singh, Ambika Soni, P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Minister Ram Vilas Paswan. But the absence from India which has triggered the biggest buzz is not of a politician, but a leading Mumbai industrialist who has been in UK for a while.
The Opposition played into the ruling party’s hands by creating ugly scenes in front of the Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, providing the government with an excuse not to have a division on the farm reform Bills. Contrary to the impression that the NDA was running away from a head count because it lacked the numbers, the ruling party had a clear majority, even if its normal supporters, the Akali Dal, TDP and BJD deserted. The Bills had the tacit backing of the NCP, Shiv Sena, AIADMK and YSR Congress, but because of political reasons, they did not want to be seen voting in favour of the Bills for fear of alienating some of their constituents. The BJP also benefited thanks to large number of absentees from the Opposition because of the Covid scare. Nine Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MPs stayed back in Kolkata and at least four elderly Congress MPs took permission from their parties not to attend.
Not So Tweet
Pollster Prashant Kishor holds suchsway in West Bengal that Trinamool veterans are getting restless. Kishor’s band of young, inexperienced hired hands assumes that it can even select candidates for next year’s Assembly polls. His Internet army has taken over the social media accounts of Trinamool leaders and is busy tweeting in their names. Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar smelt a rat when Rajya Sabha MP Dinesh Trivedi abused him in uncharacteristically foul language on Twitter. Dhankhar tweeted back that he suspected the handiwork of mercenaries from Kishor’s IPAC organisation. Similarly, Trivedi’s tweet in Hindi, charging Prime Minister Modi of ignorance on agriculture, is suspect since Trivedi tweets generally in English.
In the recent Congress party re-organisation, many of the 23 party seniors who signed the letter to Sonia Gandhi asking for introspection into the party’s functioning were unceremoniously downgraded. However, one signatory who bucked the trend was Mukul Wasnik. He was appointed to the powerful six-member committee which takes decisions in Sonia’s absence, along with Ahmed Patel and K C Venugopal. Wasnik was also made general secretary in charge of Madhya Pradesh and a member of the CWC. Now some of his suspicious co-signatories wonder whether he was actually the enemy within.
The suggestion that the Enforcement Directorate too get involved in the case of journalist Rajeev Sharma, arrested on charges of spying for China, is surprising since until now only the Delhi Police was in charge of the probe, with inputs from the Intelligence Bureau. Some suspect the inquiry could go the way of the probe into Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, where the Narcotics Control Bureau has completely sidetracked the CBI investigations and launched a witch-hunt against Bollywood for alleged drug abuse. It is apprehended that the ED could end up harassing defence analysts who have adopted an independent line on the Indo-China border dispute.
Generally those nominated for the coveted post of Executive Director of the World Bank are from the PMO or Finance Ministry and are favourites of the powers that be in Delhi. In a refreshing departure, Rajesh Khullar, Principal Secretary to the Haryana Chief Minister who was not even empanelled but has done admirable work at the grassroots, has been selected. Khullar’s appointment is thanks to the proximity of his boss Manohar Lal Khattar to Narendra Modi. Khullar was Khattar’s right hand man the last five years.
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