Following Sushma Swaraj’s announcement that she would not contest from Vidisha in the next Lok Sabha polls, there is speculation whether the BJP Margdarshak Mandal members, L K Advani, 91, Murli Manohar Joshi, 84, Shanta Kumar, 84, and Kalraj Mishra, 77, will contest. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent half an hour with Advani on his birthday, but, according to sources, the two men barely spoke and Modi spent most of the time exchanging pleasantries with Advani’s family. Joshi is the chairperson of the Parliamentary Estimates Committee which recently embarrassed the government, questioning if any action was taken on an RBI report which listed corporate houses with huge non-performing assets. A major grievance of the Mandal is that in the Babri Masjid demolition matter Advani and Joshi have been slapped with the additional charge of conspiracy, which was not there under the Congress regime. The NDA government’s attorney general did not oppose it, adding the more serious criminal offence against the elderly party leaders.
The Akali Dal and Congress had an open catfight over who should get credit for the corridor to Kartarpur gurdwara in Pakistan, whose foundation stone on the Indian side was laid at a function at Dera Baba Nanak last week. The two sides fought over everything, from the colours on a tent to the names on the inaugural plaque — the Congress questioned the Badals being named. The dais got overcrowded as each political party kept adding to its numbers on the stage. Initially, it had only Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Central ministers Nitin Gadkari, Hardeep Puri and Harsimrat Kaur. Then Gadkari invited Sukhbir Badal, though he has no official designation. Amarinder followed suit by calling Congress MP Sunil Jakhar to come to the dais. Harsimrat’s lengthy speech gave the former Akali government and Modi all the credit for the corridor plan. Jakhar’s rebuttal speech compared the Akalis to crocodiles in a swamp. Harsimrat’s brother Bikramjit Majithia along with his followers raised slogans to drown out Jakhar’s words. The one person missing from the cacophony was Navjot Singh Sidhu who preferred to make his grand entrance on the Pakistani side.
Dry run, No fun
The attraction of hosting the International Film Festival of India in Goa are the beaches, sunshine, ambience and booze, than the films screened. But this year some Ministry of Information and Broadcasting officials put a dampener on the Goa festivities. The penny-pinching officials ruled that there would be no budget for booze at the traditional dinner hosted by the Press Information Bureau for the media. Not surprisingly, the dinner was a damp squib and the international media wondered whether it was worth their while to come back next year for the event.
Actor-politicians Shatrughan Sinha and Raj Babbar were asked by the anchor at a recent event in Delhi how they reacted to poll defeats. Sinha admitted that he wept when he lost to Rajesh Khanna in a by-election in Delhi. Babbar, who was fielded by the SP against Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1996, said he once happened to travel in the same plane as his opponent. He said he went up to Vajpayee to assure him there would be nothing personal or derogatory in his campaign. But Babbar seems to have forgotten his own code of conduct. PM Modi has taken very personally Babbar’s comment linking the rupee’s value against the dollar to his mother’s age.
Manmohan Singh’s term in the Rajya Sabha ends next April and the Congress is keen that he remain in the Upper House. Singh cannot be re-elected from Assam as the BJP has an overwhelming majority in the Assembly. The party is looking at Tamil Nadu, with its six vacancies. The Congress wants help from the DMK, especially as Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi is reportedly keen to move to the Lok Sabha. But DMK president M K Stalin has been avoiding calls from Congress leaders.
All in the family
The Bhanwari Devi rape and murder in Rajasthan in 2011 had shaken the Ashok Gehlot government. A Dalit auxiliary nurse, she was assaulted three days after she claimed she had a sex CD which would expose the Gehlot government. Mahipal Maderna, a minister in the Gehlot government, and Congress MLA Malkhan Singh Bishnoi were imprisoned for the murder. But with both men from families with considerable clout in their respective communities, the Congress has given poll tickets to Maderna’s daughter Divya and Bishnoi’s son Mahendra from Jodhpur district.