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Opinion Columnists 31 Dec 2017 Political Gup-Shup: ...
The writer is a Delhi-based journalist.

Political Gup-Shup: Of pally netas & the charming Ms Swaraj

Published Dec 31, 2017, 2:14 am IST
Updated Dec 31, 2017, 2:14 am IST
Ever since the Modi government came to power in 2014, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj maintained a low profile.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj
 External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj

Ever since the Modi government came to power in 2014, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj maintained a low profile. This was put down to the fact that Ms Swaraj was close to veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani and that she was not very comfortable with Mr Modi. There was also a perception that she had a limited role in her own ministry, which was actually being run by the Prime Minister’s Office. Ms Swaraj was, at best, the go to minister for any Indian in distress who needed help from the external affairs ministry. However, a lot has changed in the last few months. Mr Modi has publicly praised Ms Swaraj for giving a “human face” to her ministry and for her strong speech at the UN General Assembly. Consequently, Ms Swaraj is more relaxed and approachable now. The minister was at her charming best at the annual lunch she hosted recently for mediapersons. Not only did she make it a point to chat with her guests at each table, she also assured them that she will meet them more regularly. To begin with, Ms Swaraj spent an hour in the Central Hall of Parliament last week, the first time in the last three years.

Given the differences in their political affiliation, personalities and ages, it is difficult to imagine that junior parliamentary affairs minister Vijay Goel and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could possibly have anything in common. But apparently the two have a very good equation, which dates back to the time when Mr Goel was a minister of state in the Atal Behari Vajpayee-headed Prime Minister’s Office. As Prime Minister, Dr Singh had surprised everyone when he attended the wedding reception of Mr Goel’s daughter Mr Goel took advantage of this personal relationship and went to Dr Singh’s residence to persuade him to break the logjam in the Rajya Sabha over the remarks made against the former Prime Minister by Mr Modi in his election speech in Gujarat. Mr Goel told Dr Singh that he should not allow the stalemate to continue, especially since he had always kept himself away from controversies. It was Mr Goel who went to obtain Dr Singh’s approval to the draft of the statement, which eventually broke the ice between the two parties and allowed the Upper House to resume normal business.

 

With senior leaders like Shaktisinh Gohil, Tushar Chaudhary, Siddharth Patel and Arjun Modhwadia losing in the Gujarat polls, the Congress has to find a new leader to head its legislative party in the Assembly. Since the BJP has given wide representation to the Patidar community in its council of ministers, the Congress is under pressure to name a Patel for this post. As the Patidar community has never supported the Congress, the party is worried about an adverse reaction from other communities, which have reposed faith in it. At the same time, the Congress also has to contend with demands from other contenders. First-time MLA Alpesh Thakor is said to be pressing the leadership for his own candidature as a reward for his campaign among the BCs. Unable to hand over the reins of its legislative party to a newcomer to politics, the Congress is secretly relieved that another young leader — Jignesh Mewani — did not join the party. For the moment the 41-year-old Paresh Dhanani has emerged as the front-runner. Not only is he young and feisty, he also belongs to the Patidar community from Saurashtra, one region where the Congress made maximum gains in the recent elections.

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