Political Gup-Shup: Of Shah, Gandhis & dhoklas

Amit Shah has been a regular visitor to the Central Hall of Parliament where he is immediately mobbed by mediapersons.

Ever since he became a member of the Rajya Sabha, Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah has been a regular visitor to the Central Hall of Parliament where he is immediately mobbed by mediapersons on the lookout for news. And Mr Shah has been happy to oblige them as he sits patiently and chats with them over steaming cups of coffee. Perhaps it is a coincidence but the political grapevine says that Mr Shah’s informal interactions probably prompted former Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to come to the Central Hall last week when the Lok Sabha was adjourned briefly. Since their visits are rare, the Congress leaders were equally sought-after by journalists. Though the conversation eventually veered around to the current political scene, it was preceded by a lengthy discussion on different types of dhoklas and Gujarati snacks. While Mr Gandhi attempted to describe the dhokla he recently ate which, he said, was like an idli, Mrs Gandhi said she was partial to dhokla but preferred those made at home to the ones available in the market as they are soaked in syrup. Let’s be objective, she remarked, Gujarati snacks are delicious. She then proceeded to partake of the dhokla available in the Parliament canteen.

Sachin Pilot, president of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee, is the man of the moment after he led the party to a resounding victory in the three bypoll seats — Ajmer, Alwar and Mandalgarh. It now transpires that party president Rahul Gandhi was keen that Mr Pilot should contest the Ajmer Lok Sabha seat since it happens to be his constituency. However, he was dissuaded from fielding Mr Pilot when told that there was a possibility that Mr Pilot could lose the seat despite the public mood in the party’s favour as former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, could sabotage the election to show down his bête noire. On the other hand, if Mr Pilot did win the parliamentary seat, he would have to shuttle between Delhi and Rajasthan and would not be able to concentrate on managing the party’s state unit. This would leave the field open for Mr Gehlot, who still harbours ambitions of returning as chief minister in case of a Congress victory in the year-end Assembly polls. Mr Gandhi gave in after he was assured that Mr Pilot would deliver a victory in this crucial bypoll. It was deliberately decided to field Raghu Sharma, a Gehlot protege for the Ajmer seat, making it difficult for the former chief minister to play spoilsport in the election. In fact, all the Rajasthan Congress factions worked harmoniously to ensure a handsome victory for the party.

Ahmed Patel, former Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, is reputed to be an excellent organiser with an eye for detail. This was evident at a recent function at the Teen Murti auditorium when former President Pranab Mukherjee released former finance minister P. Chidambaram’s new book, Speaking Truth to Power. Mr Mukherjee made a brief speech on the occasion but left before the panel discussion which followed the formal release. As the former President was on his way out, Mr Chidambaram was seen wending his way the stage for discussion. However, he was stopped by Mr Patel who was seated in the front row. Though their conversation was not audible, it was fairly obvious that Mr Patel suggested that Mr Chidambaram should escort Mr Mukherjee out. The former Union minister was seen nodding his head after which he changed direction and rushed towards the exit to see Mr Mukherjee to his car.

Like Congress members who never forget to pay obeisance to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in their public utterances, BJP ministers have also acquired the habit of showering praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in their speeches. But finance minister Arun Jaitley chose to depart from this script in his Budget speech. In a refreshing change, there was no reference to Mr Modi while the Budget was described as “My Budget”. Needless to say, BJP members are busy decoding whether this omission was deliberate or an oversight.

( Source : Columnist )
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