BOOK LAUNCH WITH A DIFFERENCE
To celebrate the publication of his wife Seema Goswami’s novel, Vir Sanghvi hosted the book’s launch in the capital recently. Since the book is called Race Course Road (published by David Davidar of Aleph), it was only fitting that two former occupants of RCR were present that evening. To the un-initiated, Race Course Road—now renamed Lok Kalyan Marg—is the lane where the Prime Minister’s residence is located. And both Sonia Gandhi and Namita Bhattacharya (A.B. Vajpayee’s foster daughter) were present that evening at the launch of a book whose fictional narrative is woven around the fight for the country’s most powerful address. What made the evening interesting was the relaxed, informal banter that went very well with the delicious snacks and biryani. There were no “boring speeches or panel discussions”, but lots of casual conversations all around the room, such as when Pavan Varma took one look at Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s dapper bow-tie and said, “I nearly mistook you for Karan Thapar.” In another corner, Jyotiraditya Scindia, looking tanned after his campaign tours in Madhya Pradesh, discussed the cow-belt with his colleagues from Uttar Pradesh, Jitin Prasada and R.P.N. Singh. The last to arrive was IPL chief Rajiv Shukla. Clearly, he still hasn’t learnt the art of on-time arrival, despite having missed his Rajya Sabha renomination recently due to a delayed flight. But being Rajiv, he caught up with all the fun in no time.
MISSING IN ACTION
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is down with a kidney ailment, was the topic of conversation during the last day of the ill-fated budget session. Interestingly, the one who missed him the most was a Rajya Sabha member from a regional party in the Opposition. He pointed out that whenever there is a stand-off with the government, it is Jaitley who uses his network across parties to smooth things out. “Now that he is in hospital, who will negotiate with us until he returns? Will it be Ananth Kumar, Ravi Shankar Prasad or Prakash Javadekar?” he asked. And also pointed out that few in the BJP knew the rule book as well as the Finance Minister. Make that both the rules, and also how to get around them, which in itself is an important rule of realpolitik.
Who does Smirti Irani blame for the recent fracas over her ill-fated attempts to regulate “fake news”? According to sources within the I&B Ministry, she blames a television channel owner-editor known to be close to the top echelons in the BJP for fuelling the controversy. And while the PM’s note reversing her order has pacified the mainstream media, online media is worried that this was only a diversion. For the ministry has followed the withdrawal with another press release announcing a committee to “frame regulatory framework for online media and news portals including digital broadcasting”, with the I&B Secretary as the convener of the committee. One wonders if this was the real end-game all along.