Political Gup-Shup: Exotic spreads at MPâ€™s bash; Derek, too, is â€˜entertainingâ€™
Winter in Delhi is a season for political parties and weddings. After former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda's Lohri lunch, it was Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot's turn to host his annual Kisan lunch for media-persons last week. Then there was Bharatiya Janata Party MP Prabhat Jha's son's wedding reception, which was nothing short of a mela. The five-star hotel where it was held was packed with party workers and leaders, making it virtually impossible to reach the stage to greet the bride and groom. Though the food served was vegetarian, there was a sumptuous spread including a variety of exotic imported fruits and salads. BJP's Rajya Sabha member C.M. Ramesh's son's wedding reception being hosted at a Delhi five-star hotel also promises to be a lavish affair. He presented silk shawls to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah when he went to invite them for the reception. In comparison, RSP Lok Sabha member N.K. Premachandran's son's wedding reception at the Western Court was low-key and the décor simple. There were no flashy invitation cards either, only a note on his official letterhead asking people to attend the reception.
Though the high-profile Trinamul Congress MP Derek O'Brien did make his presence felt in the Rajya Sabha during the ongoing Budget Session, he did not participate in the debate on the motion of thanks to the President's address and will not be participating in the discussion on the Budget. This is unusual as O'Brien has always been his party's leader speaker in the Upper House. His detractors maintain that Trinamul chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has ticked him off for hogging all the limelight and directed that others be given an opportunity to take the floor in Parliament. O'Brien, however, insists he has not fallen out of favour with his leader and that he is actually preoccupied with his niece's wedding. At present, he is more concerned about entertaining the family's guests, especially at Bhagalpur, the venue of the Hindu wedding ceremony. This poses a big problem as Bihar is a dry state.
A number of Congress members, who were sending text and WhatsApp messages to Rahul Gandhi for the past several months were in despair when they did not get any response from him. Pratap Singh Bajwa, Rajya Sabha member from Punjab, who was among those whose messages had gone unanswered, finally got a chance to check with Rahul Gandhi when he met him in Parliament recently. The former Congress chief then revealed that he had changed his phone number and that Bajwa's messages had obviously been sent to his earlier one. Apparently, Rahul Gandhi was extremely reluctant to share his new number with Bajwa and did so only when the party MP assured him that he would not bombard him with messages. It appears not many in the party have the Congress leader's new phone number, resulting in stiff competition among Congress members over who has access to Rahul Gandhi.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman's marathon budget speech exhausted her and listeners. Even former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was left speechless. When asked for his reaction by a media-person, he said the speech was so long that it was difficult for him to absorb everything. Several Lok Sabha members left midway as they had made prior travel plans. Others poked fun at the finance minister with a senior BJP leader insisting that Nirmala Sitharman was in no hurry to wind up her speech as she had been told that she would be divested of her portfolio after she finished presenting the budget. And when Ms Sitharaman did take her seat without reading the last two pages of her speech as she was feeling unwell, it prompted another BJP leader to remark that she cut short her speech after she learned she had been served an income tax notice.
Recent advertisements, released by the Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh governments clearly reflect the contrasting personalities of the chief ministers of the two states. The advertisements put out by the Chhattisgarh government, headed by the earthy Bhupesh Baghel, focus on farmers and tribal communities. The Madhya Pradesh ads are all about hard-selling its wildlife and culture to international tourists and also inviting them to sample the cuisines from the royal houses of the state. Unlike Baghel, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath is reputed to be an international jetsetter. As a central minister, he travelled across the world where he fraternised with international leaders and made powerful friends. A regular at Davos, Kamal Nath lost no time in organising an investors' summit in Madhya Pradesh on coming to power. Next on the list is this year's International Indian Film Academy awards function, which is being held in Madhya Pradesh for the first time.