The Jadu carries on
Javed Akhtar was in the ITV Network studio last week for an interview on a book on his life and times. Jadunama by Arvind Mandloi is an engaging look at a man who captivated an entire nation with his writings—from his stories, film dialogues to lyrics and poems. The book has interviews with Javed Akhtar himself as well as his family, friends and colleagues and makes for a must-have coffee table read. But Javed Sahab himself was at his charming best, as he charmed all of us with his ready wit. When asked if he required any make-up he replied, what I need is plastic surgery. When he was leaving there was a scramble for selfies with the legend who has delivered us films like Sholay and Deewar. When I commented that seeing him so popular with the millennials only goes to show that his appeal transcends all ages, he whispered back saying, they are only taking my picture because the one they actually want to meet is Farhan. (The young actor director Farhan Akhtar has quite a fan following amongst the millennials.) Javed Akhtar’s self-deprecating humour was visible at his book launch too, which had him in conversation with screenwriter, poet and lyricist Gulzar on stage. Javed revealed how people often mistake one for the other and narrated an incident that happened at the airport with Shabana, and a man walked up to him and mistook him for “Gulzar Sahab”. Javed decided to play along and said that he was at the airport to receive “Javed Sahab”, and then added with a laugh that the man looked totally confused that someone of Gulzar’s standing was coming to receive me.

Across the aisle goodwill
Recently, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel raised quite a few eyebrows when he went to Raipur airport to receive Home Minister Amit Shah, when the latter was travelling back to Delhi from Korba. Coming as this does post an hour-long meeting that Baghel had with Prime Minister Narendra Modi over millet benefits, this outreach has Congress workers wondering about the sudden bonhomie. Political goodwill cutting across party lines is not something we see much of in the Narendra Modi-Rahul Gandhi era, and moreover, as a Congress worker recalls, “even when he was PCC chief Baghel used to avoid shaking hands with then CM Raman Singh”. In fact, along with his sometime party chief Rahul Gandhi, Baghel too has been a very vocal critic of the Modi regime. However this gesture of being able to separate politics from governance and protocol is something that other opposition CMs should emulate.

The Last Reshuffle
The buzz about a Narendra Modi cabinet reshuffle is growing in the capital. While earlier speculation had Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje shifting to Delhi, this rumour has more or less been nixed by BJP sources. More than the nine state elections that are due this year (10 if J&K goes to the polls), the focus would be on the 2024 general elections. So expect a lot of regional faces and caste combinations being accommodated (and yes, this government believes in caste politics, despite protests to the contrary. Does anyone remember the BJP press release on the last cabinet list which had everyone’s castes added along with their names?). Some names could also be dropped, not because of their performance but because they don’t check the right “politically correct” boxes. Again, one adds the codicil that has become a must while reporting on the Modi regime: that no one knows for sure what will happen except the Big Two i.e. the Modi-Shah duo.

The Political Checklist
Is the BJP running out of issues to target Rahul Gandhi with? First, he was trolled for wearing only a white tee-shirt in the middle of Delhi winter. In retaliation the Congress posted pictures of the Prime Minister wearing overcoats and mufflers. Seriously? Is this the level of political discourse nowadays? Now, the Congress leader is being targeted for “smiling” while consoling the late Sharad Yadav’s family members on their bereavement. Party spokesman Shehzad Poonawalla put out a tweet saying “certainly not how a Tapasvi would behave. Sensitivity demands one acts maturely. but then in 2018 Rahul was laughing during Dharam Singh’s (ex Karnataka CM) condolence meet; was busy on phone during Pulwama Shraddhanjali. Some tapasvi!” Surely the BJP can come up with some weightier issues to target Rahul Gandhi with.