Rahul Gandhi’s pet dog Pidi became an overnight sensation following his master’s jocular tweet. Specially as former Congressman Himanta Biswa Sarma was quick to tweet back that Pidi was the same frisky Fox Terrier whom Rahul was preoccupied feeding biscuits to when he should have been discussing the political crisis in Assam. A grievance shared by a number of Congress leaders. Pidi joins a long list of pets closely associated with their political masters. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as opposition leader, was devoted to his small but ferocious Apso and was tolerant of the fact that the fluffy dog at his side sometimes snapped and even lunged at his visitors; it even once bit his master. Arun Nehru warned his intimidated guests not to move from their seats because of the large hound at his feet. The hound looked suspiciously like a Dalmatian, generally considered friendly. Sitaram Kesri kept several Pomeranians. He even sent them in his air-conditioned car to eat ice cream at India Gate.
Maneka Gandhi, when she left her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi’s Safdarjung Road residence, was accompanied by her two dogs, one a particularly large and generally uncontrollable canine. The Gandhi family’s longstanding complaint was that the ferocious beast did not get on with their more disciplined pets. Since then, Maneka, an animal lover, does not keep pedigreed pets but allows an assortment of strays to wander around her living room, sitting contentedly on her sofas.
No Probing Queries
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni met the Indian media at a lecture organised by the Observer Research Foundation. But it was noticeable that though several journalists raised their hands, only representatives from the think-tank were allowed to pose questions. It was probably because neither the Italian nor the Indian government wanted any probing queries on the legal status of the two Italian marines accused of shooting two Kerala fishermen in 2012, who have since returned home. Both were permitted to leave after the Supreme Court relaxed their bail conditions, since there was no objection from the then attorney general.
At the annual Diwali Milan at the BJP headquarters, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was cordiality itself as he interacted with journalists. He conversed in Marathi with a newswoman from Maharashtra and spoke to a Gujarati scribe in her mother tongue. He enquired about the son of a popular TV anchor and asked a regular on the BJP beat about which publication she had moved to. When a veteran journalist complained that this was the first time in three years that he had been invited to the milan, the PM joked that probably they didn’t have the courage to call him earlier. More surprisingly, party president Amit Shah, known for his put-downs of the media, responded amiably to all questions. Newspersons were left speculating whether this was because of the report on Shah’s son Jay or if there was an element of nervousness about the Gujarat polls. Shah good-naturedly dismissed talk of negative feedback from Gujarat, remarking that the Delhi media habitually has the BJP losing before any election and only changes its tune when counting begins. The two women ministers present, Nirmala Sitharaman and Smriti Irani, ensured they were photographed cordially laughing and talking to each other, to make it clear that there was no rivalry there.
Visit of no use
Most Congress leaders in Himachal Pradesh, including state ministers, were taken aback when they read in newspapers that Sonia Gandhi was flown back to a Delhi hospital from Shimla after catching a stomach bug. They were unaware of the party president’s presence in the poll-bound state. Congresspersons wondered why Sonia, even if she was unable to campaign actively, could not have at least shown her face on the Shimla Mall Road to boost the party’s popularity.
Timing of the Essence
The three-member Congress Election Authority assumed that its brief moment of glory would be in fixing the dates for the presidential election. But there has been a re-think and the Congress Working Committee is to be consulted. The Congress is debating whether it should hold the elections soon or wait till after December 18, when the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh poll results will be declared. That Rahul Gandhi will take over as party president is a foregone conclusion, but many wonder if it is worth the risk to delay his elevation, in case the party does not perform as well as anticipated in Gujarat. Nobody wants a repeat of 2013, when Rahul took over as vice-president shortly after the party was rebuffed in the Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh Assembly elections.
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