PM’s efforts to please old and new friends
Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have attained many political objectives through the appointment of chairpersons of various parliamentary standing committees.
Former ministers, left out of the government in Modi’s second term as PM, NDA partners and friendly parties such as the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), YSR Congress Party, and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) — all stand mollified.
Former union minister of state for finance and civil aviation Jayant Sinha has been appointed chairperson of the committee on finance — a late and grudging acknowledgement of his talent in a small measure. Sinha, one of the brightest minds in the BJP, never got his due, thanks to his father and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha’s constant diatribe against the Modi government.
Other former union ministers who were appointed chairpersons of parliamentary committees include former tribal affairs minister Jual Oram (committee on defence), former MoS for corporate affairs and law P.P. Choudhury (committee on external affairs), and former agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh (committee on Railways).
Jagdambika Pal, known as ‘ek din ka CM’ (CM for one day) in Uttar Pradesh and who has been waiting for some reward ever since he switched his loyalty from the Congress to the BJP ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha elections, was appointed chairman of the standing committee on urban development.
Amid jitters in Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s camp, which was given a push by a section of the BJP to fight it alone in next year’s assembly election, JD(U) MP Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh was appointed chairman of the committee on energy.
Meanwhile, there are three non-NDA parties that have been more loyal to the BJP than many of its allies in terms of extending issue-based support in Parliament — the BJD, the YSR Congress and the TRS.
BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab was appointed chairperson of the committee on labour, YSR Congress’ V. Vijaya Sai Reddy was made the head of the committee on commerce and the TRS’ K. Keshava Rao of the committee on industry.
Meanwhile, controversial Bhopal MP Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur was made a member of the committee on railways.
Congress jittery as Rahul Gandhi becomes a member of House panel
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi becoming a member of the parliamentary committee on defence has left some of his party colleagues nervous. Given that any remark during the committee’s deliberations could become a matter of parliamentary record, Congressmen are not confident about Gandhi’s stand on national security issues.
He was the one who had endorsed the electorally ‘suicidal’ manifesto promise to review the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and repeal the sedition law. Gandhi also went on to oppose the removal of Article 370 that gave special powers to Jammu and Kashmir, and questioned the government’s claims of normalcy in the Valley.
No wonder Congressmen are in a panic mode within hours after his appointment in the defence committee. They could only hope that he remained a mere listener — the way he was as a member of the committees on external affairs and human resource development earlier.
The ‘Rahu’ in Modi government
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) publicly supports the NDA government’s economic policies but it is not very amused by the way Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has sought to answer questions on the economy.
Amid a raging controversy over Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal’s blooper on ‘Einstein gravity’, an RSS functionary in Delhi said, “Modiji can’t help it. This is not about Nirmalaji or Piyushji. As a journalist once wrote, every government comes with a Rahu (a planet in Vedic astrology that is supposed to be inauspicious).”
The RSS functionary, however, didn’t clarify who he was referring to as Rahu in the Modi government. He was quick to add though: “And every political party with a Rahul.”
When Jaishankar invited a journalist to his home state
At a recent gathering in Delhi, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar faced a very unique situation. A foreign journalist accosted him for a small chat and asked him about the alleged restrictions on foreign journalists travelling to Assam, which is in the midst of the NRC storm.
Jaishankar listened very patiently and then asked the journalist why foreign journalists were so interested in Assam. “Come and visit my beautiful state of Gujarat. I am an MP from the state. You will really like it,” said Jaishankar, without even a hint of a smile that would betray humour or sarcasm.
(Contributors: D.K. Singh and Snehesh Alex Philip)