Not the Gymkhana Way
With a life-threatening virus and a lockdown in place, one would have thought the government had enough on its hands. But somehow it has found the time for a quick attempt at a power grab as it tries to wrest control of the Delhi Gymkhana Club. However, a closer look reveals that this is not a project being pursued by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team at the Union Cabinet, for they are clearly focusing on the essentials, i.e., how to get India safely out of lockdown. Rather, this is a power game being played by the bureaucrats, for the bureaucrats. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has before it a three-year-old petition filed by seven disgruntled club members including a former club president and his team comprising mostly bureaucrats. This team has since been voted out and its subsequent attempts to hold on to power through proxies haven’t been very successful either. The petition has given the MCA a handle to look into the club’s affairs. Sources even hint at a sweetheart deal between this lot and bureaucrats at the MCA. Interestingly, an ex-bureaucrat member of this lobby had lost favour with his own Cabinet Minister while in office, for he kept leaking the goings on at the ministry to his minister’s cabinet colleague and a bete-noir. What hurts is that the club presidentship rotates between the services and the bureaucracy with the current incumbent being from the armed forces. It is a well known fact that unlike some, our forces are known to take on their targets directly, from the front. But having said this, in the end, it is the club that will be loser because once the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) gets an opening, it would be hard to shake it off.
Striking the Right Notes
Although the PM is still to make his official stand known, the government does seem to be veering towards opening up sooner rather than later. Cabinet Minister Nitin Gadkari, for one, has spoken about restarting public transport with some guidelines and Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri, who holds three key economic portfolios including civil aviation, has indicated that domestic air travel will open soon with a lot of precautions. An SOP is currently being worked out. In a recent interview to ITV Networks, Puri admitted, “I personally believe the time has come for us to open up significantly and substantially…Unless we start the economy our ability to deal with the virus will be affected because our resources are not limited. When you open up something there is a risk, when we bring back 190,000 people there is a risk (as part of our evacuation program of Indians stranded abroad). But because there is a risk doesn’t mean we stop the transportation.” These are words the country needs to hear to get out of lockdown mode and back to living.
The Rahul Show
Whether it is through his interview with the likes of Raghuram Rajan and Abhijit Banerjee, or the increasing frequency of his press conferences, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has ensured one thing—he is not invisible during the corona lockdown. In fact, the two interviews conducted by him have been watched by 7.5 crore people, according to the Congress social media team. As Rahul said at the press conference, it wasn’t as if he wasn’t having these conversations earlier, but what he did different was to open these up and share his interactions with the public. The unstated comparison being of course with the Prime Minister whose communications have been one way. Whether that’s a good strategy or not is still open for discussion because there have been mixed reactions on social media. Some argue that a leader is meant to lead and not search for answers in public; other appreciate the humility and ability to listen. It could go either way, but anything is better than doing nothing. That’s a lesson Rahul has learnt the hard way.