Was Sachin promised CM-ship?
Last week, while on Roundtable, a weekly political discussion show on NewsX, Sanjay Jha, who has recently been suspended from the Congress, made a startling revelation. He claimed that one of the reasons Sachin Pilot rebelled was that he had been promised by the Congress leadership that he would be made Rajasthan Chief Minister six months after Gehlot’s elevation. Hearing this, Rasheed Kidwai, author of 24 Akbar Road laughed knowingly, and later told me how Narasimha Rao, upon becoming Prime Minister and the Congress chief in 1991, had given similar assurances to both Sharad Pawar and Arjun Singh. And we all know what happened after that. Clearly, assurances in the Congress are given via intermediaries and seldom kept. A current case in point is T.S. Singhdeo, currently a senior minister under Bhupesh Baghel, for if Singhdeo’s supporters are to be believed, he was given the assurance of a rotating chief ministership between him and Baghel. That clearly is not happening. But one does wonder what will happen in August. Will Congress continue with Sonia Gandhi as interim chief, will it go back to Rahul Gandhi who had only last year insisted that the party choose a non Gandhi to lead it? As Jha says, “A non-Gandhi Congress will arrest the fast dissipating brand of the Gandhis whose political capital is now under serious question. As for the Congress, it will be a new adjustment to a meritocratic culture as internal competition will rise. The party needs raw energy. Those who say the party will disintegrate without the Gandhis are alarmist status quoists who are reluctant to change.” But that’s easier said than done: for even after Rahul spoke about promoting a non Gandhi, the Congress went ahead and chose his mother.
Cross Border Allies
Is former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia in or out with the BJP leadership? The taped conversations released by the Ashok Gehlot government seem to indicate that a conversation took place between Sachin Pilot’s camp and Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekawat. The latter denies it and the veracity of the tapes still have to be proved. But BJP sources confirm that political events in Rajasthan are being closely monitored by Shekawat, working in tandem with party president J.P. Nadda. Where does that leave former CM Vasundhara Raje Scindia—for she still holds sway over a chunk of MLAs. Interestingly, the Sachin Pilot camp has claimed that the Gehlot government went slow on allegations of mining scams against her government and hinted that she and Gehlot were in cahoots. Well, there are many layers to the desert storm that has been blowing on the political horizon for over a week now.
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray is facing a lot of criticism for his handling of Covid and especially for delaying the “unlocking”. Interestingly, most of the criticism is from his own allies, especially the NCP. And so in an interview to his in-house magazine, Saamna, he defended himself with the caveat, “I am not Trump that I will leave the people of my state to die!” Interestingly, the interview began with Saamna editor, Sanjay Raut commenting in a lighter note that Uddhav seemed to have lost hair in the last six months. To which Uddhav replied that it only appeared so as he had been cutting his own hair for the last three months and quipped, it was all about being “atmanirbhar”. But he was quick to add, “Don’t read too much into this” (i.e. his following the PM’s advice)!
Interestingly the one politician who seems to have gained hair (and lost weight) is Rahul Gandhi. That’s one takeaway from the series of video chats released by him recently. His concern over the state of the nation, especially his take on the government’s response to China’s aggression, is another.
The Doctor is In
Incidentally, where is Lav Agarwal, the ubiquitous Health Secretary who had become the face of India’s response to Covid? All of a sudden he seems to have taken a backseat and we are seeing more of Dr Randeep Guleria, the affable head of AIIMS fielding questions on television. Has the government realised that it’s getting too much flak and has fielded Guleria to bat for them knowing that the good doctor will stick to dispensing medical nuggets and avoid politics? If so, it’s a smart move.
Modi government’s Eureka Moment
If there is one argument in favour of issuing a gag order on his Council of Ministers, then the PM cannot ask for a better reason. There have been all kinds of theories being espoused by various BJP leaders as to what might be the best “Made in India” cure to combat Covid. The latest eureka moment comes from none other than Union Minister Arjun Meghwal, who was recently seen endorsing a brand of papad—Bhabiji Papad. Meghwal, who says it helps you to develop antibodies to fight corona. In a video doing the rounds on social media the minister is seen holding a packet of the said papad as he endorses it. Well, what next!