Friends and foes
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and TV news anchor Arnab Goswami have little in common but they have had a blow-cold-blow-hot relationship with Sonia Gandhi. In 1998-99, when Sonia formally entered politics and Goswami was a beat reporter with a prominent TV news channel, he was often spotted at 24, Akbar Road, or outside 10, Janpath. On one occasion, Sonia stopped abruptly to give Goswami a soundbite, a first for any news channel. For months Goswami gushed and seldom missed an opportunity to say “hi” to madam. In 2014, he managed a long interview with Rahul Gandhi, which subsequently damaged Rahul’s reputation as a serious politician. Congress sources insist the interview materialised, courtesy Priyanka Gandhi who offered Goswami “chai-pakoda” during the rainy season at her New Delhi residence. Goswami’s recent diatribe against Sonia, therefore, surprised and shocked 10, Janpath.
Subramnian Swamy has been both friend and foe to both Sonia and Goswami. Swamy teamed up with Sonia and Jayalalithaa to bring down the Atal Behari Vajpayee regime and caused irreparable damage to his rapport with both ladies. Incidentally, along with Raj Thackeray, Swamy holds the distinction of taming Goswami on air. When Republic TV was launched, Swamy wrote to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting taking exception to the usage 'Republic' for a commercial venture by Arnab. Swamy said that under the Emblems and Names Act, 1950, certain names and emblems such as 'Republic' are prohibited from use for professional and commercial purposes.
Sonia Gandhi has set up a consultative panel to respond to Narendra Modi government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. However, Dr Manmohan Singh, who confers with Rahul Gandhi, P. Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh and other members of the panel, is finding the video-conference meetings problematic. Often, he misses out on what others are saying. Panel members say the former prime minister looks dazed. But wife Gursharan Kaur insists Manmohan looks forward to the meeting every day.
Shivraj’s dubious choices
The recent Cabinet expansion conducted by Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan disappointed many. About a dozen BJP hopefuls had reportedly parked themselves in Bhopal even though the state capital was a coronavirus hotspot. There were reports that the state garage requisitioned 12 cars but the move was shelved and only five ministers made it. Three former state health ministers, Narottam Mishra, Tulsi Silawat and Kamal Patel (he was minister in charge of medical education), made it without anyone asking why the MP health infrastructure was so weak. The three BJP ministers are not considered personally loyal to Chouhan while the two Jyotiraditya Scindia loyalists are non-MLAs. Given the uncertainly over the coronavirus, many wonder how Chouhan would ensure Assembly by-polls within six months. MP does not have a second house or legislative council.
Mishra has in the past been accused of “paid news” during the 2008 Assembly polls. The Election Commission unanimously asked for Mishra’s disqualification but the Delhi high Court set aside the disqualification.
For the discerning viewer, Varun Gandhi’s Twitter timeline showering fulsome praise on prime minister Narendra Modi’s handling of the coronavirus crisis is not without significance. Varun tries to draw Modi’s attention at a time when the buzz is that Jyotiraditya Scindia is set to join the Union cabinet. A Gandhi surname and a series of uninterrupted electoral successes have not bolstered Varun’s chances in the Modi government even though his mother is no longer a minister. Is the PM paying attention to Varun’s subtext? Doesn't appear so.
Caste in stone
A religious figure is supposed to renounce worldly considerations like caste, sub-caste, etc. But supporters of a CM of a northern state are reportedly working on a strategy to regroup former bureaucrats, academicians, intellectuals, media and others on a caste-based platform. The idea is not new: Chandrashekhar, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Digvijaya Singh and Rajnath Singh's camp followers tried a similar tactic without success.
Trouble for Shashi Tharoor
MP Shashi Tharoor found himself in a bit of a spot after he announced with fanfare an online meeting of the parliamentary standing committee on information technology. Apparently, Tharoor, a former Union minister of state and a UN official, hurriedly made the announcement after a cursory conversation with Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla. The Lok Sabha secretariat communicated to the speaker that rules to switch over to online meetings have not been approved. The speaker’s office then informed Tharoor that having a meeting of parliamentary panels via video-conferencing will violate the confidentiality clause. A volte-face followed.