The story of clout, from A to Big B

The United Progressive Alliance government drew a lot of flak when its urban development minister S. Jaipal Reddy recommended Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra and his associates for membership of the prestigious Delhi Golf Club from the ministry’s quota. The government is allowed to nominate up to four persons every year for membership of the club. As is to be expected, every government uses this to oblige its friends. The BJP, which was in the Opposition then, had privately sniggered about the special treatment meted out to the “special damaad”.

But now that it is in power, the BJP has proven to be no different. Finance minister Arun Jaitley’s son and his close lawyer friends are said to have benefited from this government’s largesse. They were recently given membership of the Delhi Golf Club from its quota. The fact that Mr Jaitley was able to get membership for his friends even though this matter is outside his ministry’s jurisdiction speaks volumes about his clout. Clearly, urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu found it hard to refuse his Cabinet colleague.

Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi is said to have invoked the Gandhi name to approach Bollywood Badshah Amitabh Bachchan to become the brand ambassador for the country’s “Save the Elephants” campaign. The superstar, who has a long list of such endorsements, recently signed up to be the brand ambassador for Maharashtra’s tiger conservation campaign. Apparently, Mr Amitabh Bachchan’s first reaction to the minister’s request was “anything for the Gandhis”, but it is not clear if he has accepted the proposal.

It would be interesting to see if he will eventually say yes. And it would be equally interesting to find out Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s reaction. For the record, Mrs Sonia Gandhi and sister-in-law Ms Maneka Gandhi have not been on talking terms for decades now. The Congress president also fell out with the Bachchans years ago although Rajiv Gandhi and Mr Amitabh Bachchan were once inseparable friends. There has been a lot of speculation about this estrangement but, so far, nobody knows the inside story about why the two families parted ways. Given this backdrop, the superstar has a tough choice before him.

Though the party keeps denying these reports, it is well known that there is an ongoing tussle between Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s camp followers and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s supporters. Leaders known to be close to Mrs Gandhi feel neglected and believe that they have been sidelined even though Mr Gandhi is yet to take over as party president.

Take the case of Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi, who taught Hindi to Mrs Gandhi and also writes her Hindi speeches. Once a member of the inner coterie, Mr Dwivedi has been in the cold for some time now as he does not share the same rapport with Mr Gandhi. He also blotted his copybook with his periodic controversial statements on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s victory and against caste-based reservations.

As a result, Mr Dwivedi has been keeping a low profile for the past several months. That he is no longer part of the charmed circle was proven when Mr Dwivedi was not fielded to brief the media after last week’s meeting of the Congress Working Committee. This task was entrusted to Mr Dwivedi in the past since he is in charge of the party organisation. Instead, senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad was asked to handle the media briefing this time.

Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav had his reasons for walking out of the Grand Alliance in Bihar, but it has had a fallout on the ongoing feud between his brothers Ram Gopal Yadav and Shivpal Yadav. The move has inadvertently resulted in Mr Ram Gopal Yadav’s ascendency in the party as he had never favoured a merger or an alliance with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal because he believes the SP should not lose its identity by merging with other parties.

Mr Shivpal Yadav, on the other hand, was all for this Grand Alliance of the Janata Parivar. It was, therefore, no coincidence that Mr Ram Gopal Yadav was fielded by his party to announce its decision to end the alliance with the JD(U) and the RJD. Mr Ram Goal Yadav is also said to have convinced the SP chief’s son and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav that he should steer clear of this partnership as he will not be able to establish a rapport with his father’s contemporaries, Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mr Kumar, when he eventually takes charge of the SP. Mr Akhilesh Yadav is said to be in agreement with him. In the process, his other uncle Mr Shivpal Yadav has been left behind,
much to Mr Ram Gopal Yadav’s delight.

The writer is a Delhi-based journalist

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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