Anita Katyal | Why Opp. is soft pedalling Adani; Diggy comfy in Cong post-gaffe
The Adani-Hindenburg Research controversy provided sufficient ammunition for the Opposition to mount a spirited attack against the government in Parliament last week. This issue was especially picked up because Gautam Adani, the man in the eye of a storm, is close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Despite the protests witnessed in both Houses, many senior Congress leaders refrained from issuing any statement on the controversy. There was radio silence from Congress chief ministers — Ashok Gehlot, Bhupesh Baghel and Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu — and the party’s state chiefs. These leaders are obviously constrained from commenting as the Adani Group has large projects in their states. In fact, this is true of other Opposition-ruled states as well. Consequently, the notices issued by the combined Opposition in Parliament focused on the investments made by LIC and public sector banks in “companies losing market value” and did not target Mr Adani personally.
Where does senior leader Digvijaya Singh figure in the party’s pecking order? It’s a question which is proving difficult to answer. It was believed Mr Singh was out in the cold after Rahul Gandhi dismissed his controversial statement that there was no proof about the 2016 surgical strikes conducted by the Indian Army across the Line of Control in Pakistan. Congress communication chief Jairam Ramesh also put out a sharp tweet, distancing the party from Mr Singh’s comment. When mediapersons asked him about his comment, Mr Singh pointed to Mr Ramesh with a caustic remark, “ask Jairam, he’s the power bank of the party”, suggesting there was tension between Mr Singh and Mr Ramesh, currently close to Rahul Gandhi. While Mr Singh was among the chief organisers of the foot march, he was pretty much invisible during the yatra, seen as yet another sign that Mr Singh’s clout in the party is waning. However, it’s not all over for the veteran leader. Despite the recent controversy, the Gandhis have reposed faith in Mr Singh for he has been given charge of planning the next leg of the yatra — from the Northeast to western India.
No one had heard of Aashish Chandorkar, director of Bengaluru-based think tank Smahi Foundation of Policy and Research, till he hit the headlines two years ago with his appointment as counsellor in India’s Permanent Mission in the World Trade Organisation, the first “private” person to get this job. It was no secret that he was being rewarded by the Narendra Modi government for amplifying the ruling dispensation’s right-wing agenda. Mr Chandorkar was in the news again recently after he authored a book titled Braving A Viral Storm on the successful management of the Covid pandemic by the Modi government. As a government favourite, Mr Chandorkar’s book was appropriately promoted in Delhi. He was also invited to speak on Covid-19 by several organisations, including the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, which is essentially mandated to showcase the country’s cultural heritage. Mr Chandorkar’s lecture at a dinner organised for delegates participating in the ICCR’s Gen Next Democracy Network Programme appeared to be a last minute inclusion. The buzz is that the ICCR was probably prodded into inviting Mr Chandorkar as the first invite for the dinner did not mention the lecture. It was appended two days later.
Ever since Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari publicly declared that he wished to step down, Mumbai’s political circles have been busy speculating about the names of his successor. Om Mathur, former Rajya Sabha member, and a senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader from Rajasthan, is said to be a chief contender. Mr Mathur is known to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has done a stint as the party’s Gujarat in charge. Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh was also mentioned as a possibility but the former maharaja is far too free spirited to be caged in a Raj Bhavan. Besides, Maharashtra is an important state for the BJP and it would prefer that a party loyalist occupies the Raj Bhavan in Mumbai. The BJP is currently drawing up a list of leaders who can be entrusted with gubernatorial responsibilities as the terms of several governors, including Anandibehn in Uttar Pradesh, are to end soon.
Given that “Make in India” is the Modi government’s flagship programme, potential investors and or those who can facilitate investment in this ambitious scheme are wooed assiduously. These visitors to the Niti Aayog office, which handles the Make in India project, are at pains to explain the benefits of investing in this scheme. This hard sell includes plying visitors with gifts, which are obviously home-grown items. One such recent visitor was taken aback when he was given a bottle of red wine called “J’Noon” with his name embossed on it and told that it was a local product. Though foreign visitors are routinely given gifts, these usually comprise Indian handicrafts and textiles. The presentation of a wine bottle by government officials was, therefore, a surprise. This was particularly so as the present ruling party espouses the consumption of non-vegetarian food and is certainly not in favour of imbibing alcohol as it does not sit well with its “dharmic” beliefs. However, the recipients of the gift are not complaining as it turned out to be a good wine.