When she first took the oath of office as HRD minister on the lawns of Rashtrapati Bhavan, Smriti Irani stood out because of her sari, a garish synthetic print with huge lotuses all over. But after she became Textile Minister, Irani’s dress sense has improved noticeably. Now, Irani wears mostly handlooms and though the Ikats, Pochampallys, Chanderis and Sanganeri block prints she favours may be colourful, they are also tasteful and showcase the diverse tradition of the country’s weavers. Irani uses Twitter both to propagate handloom and, more recently, cotton fabrics. Many of her ministerial colleagues have joined in her ‘#CottonIsCool’ campaign on social media.
Tweet her right
Her detractors accuse Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi of constitutional impropriety because of her tweets on government decisions. (She once described Puducherry chief secretary Manoj Parida’s action as “immature, unprofessional and irregular’’ for transferring the municipal commissioner without consulting her). Bedi’s ongoing feud with Chief Minister V Narayanasamy of the Congress is similar to former Delhi L-G Najeeb Jung’s battle with Arvind Kejriwal, but the latter was more publicised because it was in the Capital. Bedi points out that as L-G of a Union territory, she is also an administrator and not just a titular head as in most states. There is nothing in business rules and service matters which says she can’t tweet. She has nearly 10 million followers and has over 26,000 tweets since 2009. Using the social media helps her communicate government policy, she says; in fact she nixed the CM’s ban on using social media for official work by government employees. Bedi has also held up several decisions taken by the CM without her consent and forwarded them to the Centre for clearance.
Lacking family trait
There are some rare photographs of India’s Iron Lady in the book India’s Indira, edited by Anand Sharma, to mark Indira Gandhi’s birth centenary celebrations. Sharma spent nine months scanning some 30,000 pictures to select the photos. The collection includes a photograph of Indira and Nehru with Albert Einstein and another of Indira and Fidel Castro in Moscow. A snag at the function, where President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari released the book, was that Rahul Gandhi broke protocol and arrived at the ceremony after the President and Vice-President. Rahul, who read out his mother’s speech, since Sonia Gandhi was unwell, did not display the poise, so characteristic of Indira and Sonia, when he sat on the dais.
Akhilesh Yadav has alienated many Gujaratis with his thoughtless remark that he had never heard of a martyr from Gujarat. He was voicing a fallacy that Gujaratis do not join the Armed Forces. An Ahmedabad newspaper was quick to quote statistics to dispute the point. It noted that there were 26,656 Gujaratis in the Army, 20 Gujaratis died fighting terrorism and 24 protecting our borders. Amar Singh, who was expelled from the SP, noted gleefully that in view of Akhilesh’s remark, the Congress will have problems in the forthcoming Gujarat polls if it allies with the SP. Singh these days is keen to cite instances of Gujarati valour and even rake up the submerging of the INS Khukri in Diu, beside Gujarat, in which 200 sailors lost their lives in 1971. Asked whether his special interest in Gujarat is because the Prime Minister and BJP president are both from the state, Singh points out that he had his own Gujarati connection. His wife is from Bhavnagar.
Expelled BSP general secretary Naseemuddin Siddiqui could end up joining forces with Shivpal Yadav who feels marginalised in the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP. Mayawati loyalists believe that Siddiqui has always had a secret understanding with Shivpal — despite the Lokayukta’s strong strictures, no action was taken against Siddiqui by the Akhilesh government. In 2014, Siddiqui offered a big monetary incentive to Akbar (Dumpy) Ahmed to contest from the Firozabad constituency in a bid to prevent Akshay Yadav, son of Shivpal’s arch rival Ram Gopal Yadav, from winning the seat. Siddiqui ensured that no other Muslim leader could rise in the BSP. After his departure, Muslim leaders such as Anis Ahmed and Abdul Mannan, have decided to return to the BSP. Last week, BSP chief Mayawati called Dumpy for a meeting in Lucknow, which extended for an hour-and-a-half. Dumpy, who has been with Mayawati since 1996, found Siddiqui, who once stayed in his outhouse, suddenly calling all the shots in the party regarding Muslim members. Siddiqui attempted to undercut him and did not allow him to contest from Azamgarh, a constituency he had represented twice as an MP.