First Day, First Row

Jyotiraditya Scindia seems to have had a soft landing in the BJP. Although he had to cool his heels for over a year, he was given the Civil Aviation Ministry in the recent Cabinet reshuffle. The ministry comes with its legacy appeal, for this was a portfolio once held by his father, the late Madhavrao Scindia. While Scindia may not have the same walk-in access to the top leadership that he enjoyed with the Congress, he has managed front row appearances in most of the interactions so far, whether it was the PM’s meeting with the new team before they were sworn in, or the group photograph later at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. But then again, as Scindia knows all too well, nowhere is the game of musical chairs more lethal than in the slippery slope of politics. And, Narendra Modi’s BJP comes with its own brand of political earthquakes, as Ravi Shankar Prasada, Prakash Javadekar and Nishank Pokhriyal will tell you.

You win some, and…

Not all the losers in the recent ministerial reshuffle were shown the door. Piyush Goyal lost the hefty Railway Ministry only to be under-compensated with Textiles and Nitin Gadkari’s portfolio has also shed some weight. The winners of course are Amit Shah, Ashwini Vaishnav, Mansukh Mandaviya, R.K. Singh, Hardeep Puri, Anurag Thakur and Kiren Rijiju. There are already those wondering if Ashwini Vaishnaw is the new Piyush Goyal,given the array of portfolios he is holding. With the Petroleum Ministry having a track record of changing ministers every three years, it is to the outgoing minister Dharmendra Pradhan’s credit that he managed to last six plus years. He has been adequately compensated with the key Education portfolio along with Skill Development. The new minister Hardeep Puri will see his diplomatic skills tested both in global oil diplomacy. Social media is already talking about how Puri-and-Tel (oil) are a good fit. As for Civil Aviation, the Gwalior Maharaja has been given the task of disinvesting the ministry of its other resident royal—the Air India Maharaja.

Reading between the Lines

There has been a lot of buzz on social media about the new Ministry of Cooperation, with Amit Shah at its helm. The press brief states that one of the objectives of this ministry would be to develop multi-state cooperatives but this has also led to some apprehension amongst the Opposition Chief Ministers,who are wondering if this would encroach on the federal nature of the Constitution. What also created a buzz was a note that was circulated prior to the swearing in, outlining the key principles and priorities of the new Council of Ministers (CoM). It is interesting that the note highlights not just the average age, the gender composition, MBA degrees but also the caste of the new CoM. There are apparently 27 OBC ministers (a division of the various sub-castes in this group is also made public), 12 SC and 8 ST members in the new ministry. As Dr Sanjaya Baru pointed out on the “Newsx-Sunday Guardian Roundtable”, this was unusual, for the BJP had always reached out to the Hindus as a monolithic blocand had in fact derided parties like the SP, RJD and BSP for their caste divisive politics. Is this the final shift away from the Brahmin-Bania BJP of Vajpayee-Advani?

The Right Frame

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s son Raihan is debuting his first photography exhibition in the capital this weekend. On display are 26 photographs, a mix of wildlife, street photography and some abstract work.  He’s come up with an intriguing title, calling the exhibition: “Dark Perception”. The way he sees it, he says, “darkness is freedom and perception is the prism”.To highlight the theme, the gallery is shrouded in darkness, with the lights coming on for a brief spell, giving you enough time to study the works but also allowing you the space to make what you will of your impressions once the frame is shrouded in darkness. The photographs have been clicked over a span of nine years from April 2012 onwards (a year before he got his first camera), and have been taken in locales ranging from Delhi, Ranthambore, to New York, Italy and London. The 20-year-old undergraduate is clearly very passionate about photography, saying, “It’s definitely something I want to take more seriously”. It’s also a passion he has inherited from his mother and grandfather. Speaking about legacies, what about politics? That draws a smile, “Well, I am studying politics, but that’s as far as it goes.” There you have it, that play of light and shade, both in his photographs, and in his answers.