Mystery deepens over race  to Rashtrapati Bhawan

In a few days, the mystery will be solved about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s choice: whether it would be a man or a woman for the race to the Rastrapati Bhawan.

The RSS, backbone of the BJP, has apparently “offered” only one name, that of Dr Murli Manohar Joshi (83), veteran party leader, highly placed sources confided. Asked how come, as he along with L.K. Advani, Uma Bharti and some others were recently charge-sheeted by the CBI in a Lucknow court for criminal conspiracy to demolish the controversial Babri Masjid, the sources said: “They are innocent. The court has not yet pronounced them guilty.”

 Further asked why the Sangh Parivar decided to ignore Advani, as it was his rathyatra to Ayodhya that helped the BJP come to power for the first time under the leadership of Atal Behari Vajpayee, they said, “We acknowledge his immense contribution to the party’s growth. But we have not forgotten the ‘secular certificate’ that he gave to Jinnah during his visit to the mausoleum of Pakistan’s founder over a decade ago.” 

Meanwhile, strangely, the Congress and other Opposition parties do not have many names to flaunt. They have fiddled with two names only, again and again—of former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi (71), grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and Meira Kumar (72), former Lok Sabha Speaker; she is the daughter of late Dalit leader Babu Jagjivan Ram. The name of Sharad Yadav is still doing the rounds in some quarters. Meira Kumar missed the bus last time when the UPA government fielded Pranab Mukherjee. The BJP has “collected enough ammunition” to target Meira thanks to noted RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal—if she emerges as the united Opposition’s candidate. Several Opposition parties are also not keen to back her 

Two top Union ministers have interacted with the Opposition leaders but they have not discussed any names. Perhaps, they are not aware of the identity of the lucky person to be Modi’s choice.

Some senior Congress leaders feel that there is no harm in backing Modi’s candidate, provided it is a good name, to avoid an election. But Modi should in return back their candidate for a new Vice President. Modi is, however, confident of getting his candidates for both the posts win on his own strength.

The capital continues to buzz with known and unknown names. Old names include Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan; Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu, who is a tribal from Odisha, where the BJP is desperate to make inroads. 

If Draupadi turns out to be PM Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah’s ultimate choice, it will be a belated happy birthday gift to her as she turns 59 on 20 June. A new name that has surfaced is of Kerala Governor, Palanisamy Sathasivam (68). He earlier served as the 40th Chief Justice of India. Some have also added the name of “Metro Man” E. Shreedharan to the list.

Little girls waiting for Big B

At a modest rented office of a noted non-governmental organisation, Aarohan, in Malviya Nagar in south Delhi, a group of school-going girls were busy writing a letter to “Uncle Amitabh Bachchan”, each one giving her own line to be incorporated. They were upset as the actor had failed to keep his promise to come and meet them. Under the watchful eyes of Aarohan’s founder president Rani Patel, they were trying to pen a decent letter. It was learnt that 28 Aarohan girls from underprivileged families were picked by the Prime Minister’s Office last year for a gala event at India Gate to celebrate the Modi government’s two years’ achievements. Amitabh Bachchan had interacted with them while anchoring a special “Beti Bachao, Beti Padao” segment, and promised to visit them soon. Pinky, who has written the letter to Amitabh Bachchan on behalf of other girls, specially interacted with him. He was surprised when she told him that she had scored 92% marks in the CBSE Class 10 exams and that she wanted to be a cardiac surgeon. She is now pursing Class 11 in the science stream and scoring nearly 100% marks in each subject. Aarohan has organised special coaching classes for her science subjects. Her mother is a domestic help and father an alcoholic. “Aarohan follows Swami Vivekananda’s philosophy that if a child cannot reach the school, the school must reach the child,” says Rani Patel. Aarohan focuses on education, health, skilled training, environment and social awareness. It organises coaching classes and computer training for the Municipal Corporation and government-run schools and build toilets.

The girls are not optimistic about “Big B” accepting their invitation. One of them said, “We see him every day on our television screen, selling all kinds of things, from lal tel (red hair oil) to chocolates and cement. He must be making a lot of money out of these advertisements. Can’t he just spare one hour to come and meet us?” Her friend, a naughty one, said, “I think we should complain to Jaya aunty (his wife) and Modiji.”

Delhi judge’s book ‘interests’ the Trump camp

If Donald Trump, before winning the American Presidential race, would have come to know about a New Delhi judge’s book referring to his archrival Hillary Clinton as a “violent wife”, he would have surely ordered an airlift of all the copies to counter her fierce campaign. Trump was quite upset when he faced flak over his women remarks in a television interview in 2005. It seems he is still pursuing his burning desire to “neutralise” Hillary forever. A trusted American-Indian from the Trump camp recently organised the purchase of a good number of the copies of the book from stores and the publishing house for dispatch to the US. We do not know whether they reached the White House. Or what was the purpose. Poona A. Bemba, District and Sessions Judge, Patiala House, wrote the book, Temple of Justice: A School of Life, just before the US Presidential elections. The book has nothing to do with Trump and Hillary Clinton’s bitter election fight. It only briefly refers to Hillary in the second chapter dealing with “Abusive Wives”. Bamba wrote the book when she was Principal Judge, Family Courts in Saket, South Delhi. It is a collection of Bamba’s notings in her personal diary about her courtroom experiences and observations. Some years ago, she authored her first book, Perfect Marriage: Not A Mirage. “In my books, I have shared my journey through different life stories which unfolded before me every day,” points out the soft spoken judge. Bamba has sprinkled “global anecdotes” about various aspects related to the institution of marriage in the book, and, in this context, Hillary has found a reference. In the chapter “Abusive Wives” the judge says some cases had set her thinking as to what was driving women to unleash domestic violence. 

“A general feeling is that only husbands beat up their wives, but there are several cases of poor husbands too,” Bamba observed. Stating that some celebrated personalities have been victims of domestic violence caused by their wives, Bamba’s book points out that even former US President Bill Clinton’s story is no different. “It was just a coincidence that my book had come out when Hillary was fighting to become the world’s most powerful woman,” she told The Sunday Guardian.Bamba’s book draws attention to an American book, a biography, Hillary’s Choice, and says that the author Gail Sheehy has revealed that Hillary allegedly attacked Bill Clinton on several occasions. On one occasion, Hillary allegedly slashed Bill Clinton’s face with her fingernails.Hillary’s Choice is a 1999 biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who at the time of publication was First Lady of the United States. “How must have Bill’s pink skin looked with red bloody streaks, I thought,” writes Bamba in her book adding, “Hey! No offence meant.”

Congress Dalit leader for VP?

Within the Congress, a search has started for a good name for the Vice-President’s post, for which the election will take place in August. A top party leader, close to the Gandhi family, has apparently suggested the name of former nominated Rajya Sabha Congress member (2010-2016) from Maharashtra, Dr Bhalchandra Mungekar (71), a Dalit.

Mungekar specialises in agricultural economics and is considered to be an expert on Baba Saheb Ambedkar. He has been the Vice-Chancellor of the Mumbai University and has served in the Planning Commission and the Agricultural Price Commission of India. He has also been the chairman and president of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla.

Japan uses Princess Mako’s visit to strengthen ties with Bhutan

When, Princess Mako (25) of Japan, the first grandchild of the revered Japanese Emperor Akihito (83) from the world’s oldest monarchy, landed in Thimphu in India’s backyard earlier this month for a leisurely nine-day visit, hardly anyone noticed her in this country.

India is a big player in Bhutan. The Chinese are attempting to increase their influence in this tiny strategic Himalayan kingdom. Both India and Japan share hostility and strategic doubts about China’s One-Belt-One-Road initiative. So, the Japanese took maximum advantage of Princess Mako’s visit for strengthening their ties there.

The Japanese embassy and the Japan Foundation in New Delhi fully utilised Princess Mako’s visit to jointly organise the “Japan Week 2017 in Bhutan”, in Thimphu and Paro. The ambassador of Japan to India and Bhutan, Kenji Hiramatsu, was there with full diplomatic strength. Bhutan’s King and Queen and other members of the royal family took Princess Mako around to observe the Indian Garden, Japanese Garden and Thai Garden, in that order, which were designed on the premises of the National Memorial Chorten.

The pretty Mako’s story is a real-life fairytale. In a few months, she would be a commoner and pay taxes. She is renouncing her royal title to marry a commoner. How weird does this word “commoner” sound in 2017, CNN has asked. The princess is planning to become engaged to 25-year-old ocean loving Kei Komuro, a paralegal and graduate student, who can ski, play the violin and cook. Both were students at the International Christian University in Tokyo. They first met at a restaurant party to talk about studying abroad. Japanese imperial law requires a princess to leave the imperial family upon marriage to a commoner. Princess Mako is not the first in her family to do so. In 2005, her aunt Sayako, Emperor Akihito’s only daughter, also renounced her title to marry a non-royal.

Of the royal family’s 19 remaining members, there are 14 women. Six of the princesses are unmarried, and if they, too, marry commoners, it would shrink the number of royals in the family even more. There are only four heirs to the throne—the Emperor’s brother, Crown Prince Naruhito, the Emperor’s two sons, and Prince Hisahito, his 10-year-old grandson. Imperial law allows the throne to be passed down only to men, which has sparked a debate in Japan about whether there should be a woman emperor someday. Japan, a great economy, is facing a shortage in royals.

Man Mohan can be contacted at


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