Learnings from a Book Launch
Mumbai Press Club had a crackling session on the recent political developments in Maharashtra during a book release in the city amidst the backdrop of the government crisis. Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who released author-journalist Rasheed Kidwai’s book “Leaders, Politicians, Citizens”, commented that one reason why Uddhav Thackeray, the MVA Chief Minister was in the dark about Shiv Sena MLAs deserting the party was that he did not have home portfolio with himself or with his party, the Sena. Chavan said that even in the past, when the Congress and NCP had formed an alliance government, he had argued for home portfolio with the party. Even then though the Congress had the chief ministership with Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan as CMs, the home portfolio was with the NCP. Similarly, in the MVA government, the NCP had claimed the portfolio. Chavan was of the view that this factor alone robbed Udhav Thackeray an opportunity to have prior information about a large chunk of the Sena MLAs leaving for Surat. In fact, this could be one important takeaway on coalition politics from the Maharashtra crisis. Chavan also regretted the delay in appointment of a new Speaker in the Maharashtra Assembly. Kidwai’s book was released by a panel consisting of Chavan, BJP state spokesman Rajiv Pandey, Mumbai Press Club president Ayaz Menon and Gurbir Singh. The book highlights the role of 50 prominent figures who are no longer in this world with some riveting, anecdotal profiles, includes sketches of Indira Gandhi, Balasaheb Thackeray, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Sheikh Abdullah, A.R. Antulay, Motilal Vora, Namdeo Dhasal, Ahmed Patel, Amar Singh, Chandraswamy and others.

I am Where I am
Of late, there has been much speculation as to where Manish Tewari is headed. The Congress leader is known to speak his mind on key issues and is one of the party’s most articulate speakers in the Lok Sabha. He is also one of the G-23, however, which marks him as a suspect with the party high command. Recently, Manish was heard supporting the government’s new recruitment scheme for the armed forces, the Agnipath. This set off speculation, especially on social media, as to whether he too was headed for the BJP like some of his erstwhile colleagues. However, speaking to NewsX, Manish laughed and said, “I am where I am”, but also added that he did not believe in criticism just for the sake of opposition and the way he saw it the Agnipath reform was much needed given the fact that the Kargil Review Committee had recommended a leaner and younger army in 1999. He added thar globally too, armies are going in for a lighter footprint using the budget instead for modernisation. One thing is for sure, on matters of national security, Manish has steered clear of playing politics. He was one of the few Congressmen who did not deride the Prime Minister’s “security breach” during the Punjab polls when the PM was left stranded on a flyover in the state. All this is still understandable, what is not so easily explained is his sudden outreach to jailed Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu in Patiala prison recently, for Sidhu and Tewari have never seen eye to eye. For one Sidhu has always opposed Captain Amarinder Singh, while Tewari has always regarded the Captain as a sort of mentor like figure.

(Left) Jairam Ramesh’s tweet, and Dhiraj Nayyar’s comment.

Natter on Social Media
The Maharashtra crisis has kept social media fairly busy, but the best one-liner came from Nikunj Shah, who immediately tweeted (with due apologies to Spielberg), very aptly labelling the Maharashtra potboiler as, Shinde’s List. Meanwhile, we also saw Jairam Ramesh, the newly appointed chief of the Congress Media & Communication Deptartment cutting some motormouths down to size as he took to Twitter to admonish Congressman Pramod Krishnam for blaming Uddhav Thackeray’s love for the CM’s chair as one of the reasons behind the current crisis. More than what Krishnan said, what is interesting is the signal sent by Jairam that from now on dressing downs will be pinned on Twitter, a rather public notice board. And then there was the appointment of Param Iyer as the new CEO of Niti Aayog that had Dhiraj Nayyar (a former member of Niti Aayog) commenting that both Suman Bery (the recently appointed Niti Aayog VC) and Param Iyer both went to the Doon School, whereas both the former VC, Rajiv Kumar and the departing CEO, Amitabh Kant were from Modern School. This had Sandip Ghose, political columnist commenting that “So, gradually the Doscos are taking over? Lutyenisation of the Modi Govt?” To which Sanjaya Baru (former media advisor to Dr Manmohan Singh) added that “both Suman & Iyer are ex World Bank, so not just Lutyens but Globalized Lutyens. Empire crawls back!” As you can see, it’s been a fun week on social media, and we haven’t even talked about Suhel Seth’s Twitter timeline as yet.