Ram Madhav, national general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party, has, for long been associated with the organisation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mega-events with the Indian community on his trips abroad. But the high-profile BJP functionary, once described as the Prime Minister’s ambassador-at-large, was not at the forefront of the Howdy, Modi event held in Houston on Mr Modi’s recent visit to the United States. Instead, it is the low-profile Vijay Chauthaiwale, head of the BJP’s foreign affairs cell, who planned and coordinated the entire event. Mr Madhav and Mr Chauthaiwale are a study in contrast. While Mr Madhav is media-friendly and has become a well-recognised name and face, Mr Chauthaiwale is understated and virtually shies away from giving interviews to the press.
Little is known about Mr Chauthaiwale, who hails from Nagpur and belongs to an old RSS family. He was handpicked by Mr Modi when he was Gujarat chief minister and Mr Chauthaiwale was working with a firm in Ahmedabad. He subsequently joined the BJP and was an important member of the party’s war room in the 2014 Lok Saha election. He is currently involved in promoting Mr Modi’s foreign policy initiatives.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis suffered a major setback on the eve of the Assembly polls when the Supreme Court ordered that he would have to face trial for failing to give details about two pending criminal cases in his 2014 election affidavit. The development has predictably set tongues wagging in the BJP. Everyone was taken by surprise when the Supreme Court prioritised this case, given that it is overburdened with far more important matters like the petitions on the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the Ayodhya land dispute case. It is also being whispered in the BJP that the case against Mr Fadnavis had been pursued by his detractors in the party who are clearly not happy with the young chief minister’s rising popularity graph. Then there is also a growing feeling that Mr Fadnavis has the potential to emerge as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s successor. He is young, has a clean image, and hails from Nagpur, which has helped him gain the confidence of the BJP’s ideological mentor, the RSS. And most importantly, he happens to be a brahmin, the right caste as far as the RSS is concerned. This has obviously not been well-received by other state BJP leaders who also nurse chief ministerial ambitions. Among those mentioned in this connection include Chandrakant Patil, state BJP president and revenue minister in the Devendra Fadnavis government. Incidentally, Mr Patil is known to be close to BJP president Amit Shah.
The Congress has, for long, held the patent on sycophancy. But the BJP is fast catching up. It has now become virtually mandatory for every BJP minister, MP, and leader to refer to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his achievements every time they speak at a public forum, irrespective of the occasion, which could even be the launch of a book which has nothing to do with the party or politics. True to form, the BJP’s Lok Sabha MP Meenakshi Lekhi found a way of referring to Mr Modi when she was recently invited as the chief guest for the release of well-known nutritionist Ishi Khosla’s new book, Eating Right at Work. While speaking about her battle with the bulge, Ms Lekhi mentioned how she decided to go on a diet after her children lectured her constantly about the benefits of healthy eating. “Look at your Prime Minister, see how he is so fit and alert... how hard he works,” Ms Lekhi quoted her sons, thus ensuring that she had ticked the right box. It is no coincidence that Ms Lekhi has been eyeing a Cabinet berth, especially since she was beaten to it by her party colleagues — Nirmala Sitharaman and Smriti Irani — who were on the panel of party spokespersons along with her in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
During his recent stay in New York, well-known actor Anupam Kher was invited to a reception at the art gallery DAG to talk about his autobiography, Lessons Life Taught Me, Unknowingly. He shared the dais with artiste Madhvi Parekh, actor Manisha Koirala and India’s consul general Sandeep Chakravorty. The reception was held on the eve of a three-day literature festival which was organised by the team which holds the annual Jaipur Literature Festival. According to reports from New York, the festival bosses were nudged by the Indian Consulate in New York to organise an event for Kher where he could discuss his book. The unusual interest shown by the New York-based Indian diplomats in this instance is understandable as Kher’s actor-wife is a BJP Lok Sabha member while the actor is a self-confessed BJP fan. In fact, the function for Kher’s formal book launch in August was held at the Indian Consulate. It obviously pays to be an insider in the ruling dispensation.