BAMBOO GREETINGS FROM GADKARI
No, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not created a new “Bamboo Ministry” and made Nitin Gadkari its head. But many have started dubbing Gadkari as the Bamboo Minister, seeing his growing love for bamboo. Gadkari is holding charge of Ministries for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping, Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
At a simple Diwali evening get-together for the media at his house’s sprawling lawns, an excited Gadkari talked about the virtues of bamboo. He showed very light-weight bamboo-made white shirts, which, he claimed, contained 30% cotton. “Yes, yes, it is a bamboo shirt,” he said, although some were not ready to believe this. Then, like a good magician, the Maharashtrian host produced some light-weight trays, which, he said, with a twinkle in his eyes, “are made from bamboo and your newspapers”. Asked which newspaper he found “strong” in the making of these trays, Gadkari smiled.
Another guest wanted to know whether he was also learning, like some of his Cabinet colleagues, how to bamboo his rivals. Gadkari replied, laughing, “I am neither a bamboo man nor a Rambo…I don’t like to bamboo anyone.”
Gadkari is on record saying that the government is likely to bring a policy to promote bamboo cultivation which could be used to harness bio-fuel. Gadkari learnt about bamboo qualities from some NGOs and his China visit, where bamboo shoots are a delicacy. In India, bamboo pickle is also a delicacy.”
When a print journalist wondered whether or not there were firecrackers at his party, the minister said, “The Supreme Court has banned the sale.” Told that there was no ban on bursting them, he commented in a lighter vein, “Now the courts tell us what we should do and don’t do.” He then nudged the guests to enjoy the Maharashtrain delicacies prepared by cooks brought from his hometown Nagpur.
SHARAD, ANWAR’S RS DISQUALIFICATION PUT ON FAST TRACK
“Fearing that 2019 is approaching fast like a bullet train, the BJP is trying to drain the rival opposition parties to fill their coffers,” expelled Bihar Janata Dal (U) Rajya Sabha leader, Ali Anwar Ansari told The Sunday Guardian, when it was mentioned that the Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu himself was going to decide his and Sharad Yadav’s membership fate in the House of Elders. It is learnt that Vice-President Naidu is examining the JDU petitions against Yadav and Ansari and their replies. Instead of referring both the cases of the rebel leaders to the privileges committee, Naidu will take a call himself. Sources say “both Yadav and Ansari will be disqualified very soon.” All available indications say that “the job” to disqualify them may finish before the coming winter session of Parliament in mid-November. So far, disqualification petitions against members have gone to the privileges committee. It is not a hard and fast rule. But the chairman has the discretion to settle the matter on the plea that the privileges committee takes long to reach a conclusion. At present, the privileges committee is headed by Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman and Congress leader P.J. Kurien. The NDA fears that Yadav and Ansari may not be disqualified till the 2019 Lok Sabha elections on one excuse or another.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has urged swift action against Yadav and Ansari. Nitish Kumar says that they have “broken their ties with us” and have become “spokesmen of the opposition”.
Naidu’s office has reportedly examined the precedents in disqualification cases. There is the case of Jai Narain Prasad Nishad, who fell out with the BJP in 2006. The MP retained his membership for 27 months. Another case is of BSP’s Isam Singh. It took 16 months to disqualify him. The privileges committee took nine months to examine the matter.
‘ONLY MODI AFTER MAHATMA CAN CHANGE INDIA’
After Mahatma Gandhi, Narendra Modi is the only leader who can change India. Who is making this strong statement? No, it is not a politician from the BJP stables. It is a simple 101-year-old man, Shyam Saran Negi living in the tribal Kalpa village of Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh, which goes to the Assembly polls on 9 November. Negi has cast votes in 16 Lok Sabha and 14 Assembly elections post-Independence, and is excited to exercise his franchise in the coming polls. With a broad smile, Negi told The Sunday Guardian over a video phone call with the help of a local man that “I am the first voter of Independent India by default as the first elections in the tribal area were held in 1951.” Negi makes it clear that “leaders should rise above caste, creed and regional politics and must work without any bias. Unfortunately, that is not happening.” In his early age, Negi worked as a forest guard but left as he says “there was too much corruption in the department”. Then he worked as a school teacher. Asked which leaders have impressed him the most, Negi says, “I am a great admirer of PM Narendra Modi. His passionate speeches have impressed me a lot. He talks from his heart. In my opinion, after Mahatma Gandhi, he is the only leader who has surfaced to bring about a change.” In his view, “Modi is a good and strong leader who will be remembered by the people for long.” Asked to comment about his home-state, Negi says that several scams have hit development and political parties should field only those candidates who enjoy good reputation and have a strong will to serve the people.
“My Himachal has grown, no doubt, but the tribal and backward areas still feel neglected on the development front,” says Negi, adding with a smile, that “whosoever wishes to listen to this old man, I only say that vote only for development and forget all other considerations”.
BJP LEADERS BURST CRACKERS DESPITE BAN
Everyone in Delhi enjoyed a less noisy Diwali this time, thanks to the Supreme Court ban on the sale of firecrackers in the National Capital Region until 1 November. But the city BJP leaders noticed that the non-availability of firecrackers angered many people.
So they went round jhuggi jhopri colonies to distribute firecrackers. The BJP’s national secretary R.P. Singh, former MLA from Rajinder Nagar, distributed sweets and crackers among children at GAS Godown jhuggi basti in Todapur.
Praveen Shankar Kapoor, Delhi BJP’s deputy media head, in a journalists’ WhatsApp group, posted a message: “Mitron, despite the apex court ban, the Delhi people, while celebrating Diwali in the traditional way, enjoyed lots of fireworks and crackers. I myself, after 20 years, burst rocket bombs”. Kapoor did not reply when a journalist asked him as to where he procured the firecrackers.
SOUL OF ‘PUL-WALA KHANNA’ SMILING IN GURDASPUR
The central BJP leadership is at a loss over the massive defeat in Punjab’s Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll. Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar defeated his nearest rival, BJP nominee Swaran Salaria, an industrialist, with a margin of 193,219 votes.
There was infighting in the BJP but how does one explain such a huge victory margin when the border seat was converted into a BJP bastion by four-time sitting party MP Vinod Khanna? The actor-politician died of bladder cancer early this year. In the bypoll, he was a talking point among the people.
The BJP and Salaria ignored Khanna throughout the campaign. They did not bother to credit him for the development on the ground. This angered the people. As a local shopkeeper said, “This was disrespect to Khanna. The actor’s soul in the heaven must be thanking the Gurdaspur voters for remembering him and throwing the BJP out.”
A crowd puller, Vinod Khanna joined the BJP in 1997. In 1998, Khanna successfully contested the Lok Sabha elections from Gurdaspur. He lost once in 2009. But he regained the seat in the 2014 elections. At the Centre, he was made a minister also. The late actor is known as the “Pul-Wala Khanna” in Gurdaspur as he was instrumental in building vital bridges in the area, making people’s life comfortable and bringing development. The people living in the border areas recall how the “pul-wala Khanna” helped construct half-a-dozen bridges: the two main ones were built across the Beas on the Gurdaspur-Mukerian road and the other across the Ujha near Taragarh. These overpasses have facilitated quicker movement of goods and improved connectivity between Gurdaspur district and the rest of the country.
Interestingly, it was Captain Amarinder Singh who inaugurated the Mukerian bridge in 2003 during his first term as Chief Minister. A few days later, Khanna asked his supporters “to cleanse the bridge” before he himself inaugurated it.
People remember Khanna’s tireless efforts to remove water logging from Dinanagar’s villages, to revive Batala’s almost dead industry and find a solution to the complicated problem of Pathankot’s railway crossings.
Salaria has reasons to be uncomfortable with Khanna’s legacy. In 2009, Salaria joined the BJP. He says that the party had promised him a poll ticket. But Khanna was nominated. Before the 2014 elections, Salaria says he was again promised the party ticket. But Khanna again got it. An angry Salaria had threatened to contest as an Independent. He was pacified with the promise he would be allotted the ticket for the 2019 elections. Ultimately, Khanna’s death “helped” him get the elusive ticket.
The name of the actor’s wife Kavita Khanna was also in circulation for getting the BJP ticket. “If she would have contested,” a shopkeeper says, “she would have given a tough fight to the Congress.”
Man Mohan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org