Inside Track: Who’s with whom in this battle?

If the CBI is on the boil, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), where Director Karnal Singh’s term has just ended, is simmering.

Written by Coomi Kapoor | Updated: October 28, 2018 12:31:00 am
cbi and ed, rakesh asthana and alok verma The Central Bureau of Investigation headquarters in New Delhi. (Express Photo/Tashi Tobgyal)

If the CBI is on the boil, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), where Director Karnal Singh’s term has just ended, is simmering. Much of the mess is because cops in both organisations have made a practice of cultivating allies in different political camps as well as senior police officers. They assumed that this way they could not be touched.

Keeping track of who is with whom is difficult, since equations can change. For instance, Karnal Singh, who is stepping down as ED chief, fell out with the government because he supported his powerful junior Rajeshwar Singh, who in turn is friendly with the furloughed CBI chief Alok Verma and some influential politicians.

If the CBI’s Rakesh Asthana has the backing of a VVIP from Gujarat, another from the state opposes him. A K Sharma, also a well-networked officer in the CBI who was shunted out, was closer to Verma than Asthana, who is from the same cadre. The Congress, Common Cause and Prashant Bhushan, who once opposed Verma’s appointment as CBI chief, are now fighting for his retention.

Hannah Montana moment

Ironically, in view of their bitter split later, it was Amar Singh who had first proposed Akhilesh Yadav’s name for president of the Samajwadi Party. His suggestion came in the wake of the SP’s defeat in the 2007 Assembly polls. Mulayam Singh Yadav, Jaya Prada, Jaya Bachchan and Ram Gopal Yadav were all present at Singh’s residence when he observed that new age politics needed a new age neta.

He turned to one of his twin daughters and asked which was her favourite TV serial. Her reply was Hannah Montana. A show which Mulayam had never heard of. Singh pointed out that Akhilesh’s daughters were of the same age as his so he could relate better to the younger generation. Others at the meeting concurred, except for Mulayam, who said he would refer the issue to party ideologue Janeshwar Mishra. To Mulayam’s shock, Mishra backed the proposal.

In fact, from then on, Mishra assumed the role of a father figure in grooming Akhilesh in politics. One valuable piece of advice he gave was for Akhilesh to stop touching the feet of his seniors in the party. He pointed out, “How will you discipline them if you keep showing them deference?”

This is one of many nuggets related by veteran journalist Priya Sahgal in her new book The Contenders, which focuses on Generation Next in political parties.

How to lose friends, a lesson from TN

Earlier this month Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E K Palaniswami and suggested that the three feuding factions of the AIADMK, led by E K Palaniswami, O Panneerselvam and T T V Dhinakaran, should join together if they want to work out an alliance with the BJP.

Juggling the competing claims of the three rival camps is a difficult task. Besides, AIADMK leaders are getting suspicious of the Central government’s intentions. Both the Income Tax Department and CBI have been targeting relatives of ministers in the AIADMK government. The CBI is also investigating scams in the state’s highway department, gutka sales and the Sterlite case.

Surely, the best way to lose friends rather than to make allies.

Out of his depth in the Congress media cell

Jaipal Reddy’s appointment as a spokesperson of the Congress surprised many. At 76, he is more than double the average age in the Congress media cell. In fact, many in the cell are still in their 20s. Reddy may have served as an able spokesperson for both the Janata Dal and the Congress in the past, but times have changed and so has the media. The social media requires instant smart alec comments on Twitter and Facebook. Reddy’s explanations even on TV are too long-winded and ponderous, whereas crisp soundbytes are expected.

Reddy was selected probably to speak on the Rafale deal because of his brilliant exposure on the Bofors scandal. But Bofors was two decades back. Reddy is now fielded only for the odd press conference at the Congress headquarters.

Belated homage to Shekhawat

During his lifetime, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje did not exactly share the best of relations with former BJP CM Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. But on Shekhawat’s 95th birth anniversary, the BJP left no stone unturned to claim his legacy.

At the Shekhawat memorial in Jaipur last week, Raje and her entire Cabinet were present, along with senior BJP leaders Prakash Javadekar and Om Mathur. The BJP knows it is crucial in the state to retain the support of the Rajputs, who are alienated because of the Padmaavat controversy, the appointment of a non-Rajput as the BJP state president and the recent resignation of Manvendra Singh from the party.

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