BJP has a rock star, Kailash Vijayvargiya

BJP national general secretary from Madhya Pradesh, Kailash Vijayvargiya’s office at the party’s new headquarters near ITO in New Delhi has a large photograph of “Elvis Presley” playing a guitar. A closer look will show that it is not Presley, but Vijayvargiya, 62, himself with a guitar, dressed like Presley. It was clicked when Vijayvargiya appeared on stage at the Bazar Battu, an annual hasya kavi sammelan in Indore during Holi celebrations. Elvis is his favourite rock star. Onstage, Vijayvargiya, playing guitar, had sung many popular Hindi songs. So happy he was with his Elvis impersonation that Vijayvargiya, former Indore mayor, got a huge photograph made to mount it in his office in New Delhi.

This is not the first instance of Vijayvargiya’s love for “fancy dresses”. In 2017, he dressed up as Sachin Tendulkar and went on to compare him with Narendra Modi, while calling Rahul Gandhi and Opposition leaders as members of the Kenyan cricket team. Vijayvargiya has also dressed up as Chanakya, Lord Krishna, Lord Vishnu, Netaji Subas Chandra Bose and Swami Vivekananda.

This writer once saw Vijayvargiya’s style of wooing voters during an Assembly election in his home-state. Before he arrived on the scene, some street magicians and singers were performing to attract a big crowd. Then Vijayvargiya landed there and he performed some so-called magic tricks. Some people also call him “jadugar”, a magician.

Vijayvargiya has been a six-time legislator who has never lost an Assembly election. He was a Cabinet minister in the MP government for over 12 years. He was made in-charge of BJP’s election campaign for Haryana in 2014.

After the BJP coming to power in the state for the first time, his stock rose at the Centre and in June 2015 he was appointed national general secretary. As many believe that Vijayvargiya is the “future CM” of Madhya Pradesh, state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is known to be wary of him.

Expelled CPM leader may join Trinamool

Rumours are rife that expelled CPM leader and Rajya Sabha member from West Bengal, Ritabrata Banerjee may join the Trinamool Congress. After his expulsion from the party on disciplinary grounds and “leaking party secrets to the press” in 2017, Ritabrata has been cultivating TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Ritabrata met Mamata Di during her recent Delhi visit. Of late, Ritabrata, without any party affiliation, has become a self-styled champion of West Bengal’s interests in the Rajya Sabha.

Sources close to Mamata say that Didi does not want Ritabrata to join the TMC right now because the time allocated to the TMC in the House of Elders will remain the same even if the party has an additional member. But as an “unattached Independent member,” they say that Ritabrata can speak in the House at length.

They confirm that Mamata is happy with Ritabrata’s performance. “If everything goes fine,” they offer to predict, “Ritabrata may get a TMC ticket for the Lok Sabha polls.”

BJP-ruled Uttarakhand government plan goes haywire

The BJP-ruled Uttarakhand government’s calculations regarding urban local body elections seem to have gone wrong. The government has faced allegations of the Opposition and civil society of not being serious about holding civic body polls on time. The Uttarakhand High Court on Tuesday forced the government to hold the polls in May. The last poll was held in April 2013.

Chief Minister T.S. Rawat, in his zeal to ensure a favourable political climate for the saffron party, had been putting off the scheduled April elections. The government faced embarrassment when even the State Election Commission charged it with preventing it from “holding timely elections,” forcing it to approach the High Court. The HC has asked the state government to come up with a detailed notification on elections by 23 April. Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia fixed 24 April as the next hearing. The government had no option but to assure the HC that it would issue notification by 12 May.

The state was to hold civic polls in April, but that was deferred after the HC quashed the BJP government’s notification “to expand the municipal areas”. With aim to expand its base, the BJP had started the exercise of “reorganising and expanding the boundaries of local urban bodies”. This was opposed by the villagers, who did not want to be part of urban bodies, and sought legal recourse. The court turned down the notifications and asked the government to undertake a survey again. The BJP leadership has realised that reorganisation may not work in the party’s favour. Now, delimitation and reservation of municipal wards will be carried out till 12 May, after which notification for the polls can be issued.

Indian woman has a mysterious marriage in Pakistan

A new war of words is threatening to explode between New Delhi and Islamabad as a young Sikh woman pilgrim from Punjab’s Hoshiarpur district has reportedly converted to Islam and married a Lahore-based Pakistani national. The Ministry of External Affairs has asked its diplomatic mission in Pakistan to make an inquiry. On 15 April, India lodged a strong protest with Pakistan for blocking access for visiting pilgrims to Indian diplomats and consular teams. Posters of Khalistan had appeared at the places visited by the jatha yatris.

Kiran Bala (31), a widow and mother of three children, had gone with about 1,800 Indian pilgrims as part of the SGPC delegation, on 12 April to visit Sikh shrines on the occasion of Baisakhi. She went missing on 16 April. The jatha returned on Saturday without her. Bala’s children are with their aged grandparents. Her husband died in 2013.

Bala was living with her in-laws at their village house in Garhshankar sub-division, around 90 km from Chandigarh.

Her father-in-law, Tarsem Singh, told The Sunday Guardian that his daughter-in-law could have fallen in the hands of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and might have been forced to convert and remarry there. When asked how a “simple housewife” could be of “some use” to the ISI, Singh, a religious preacher, said, “I am not able to understand this; maybe she was quietly working for them… I want her back, she might have been misled.”

It is strange that Bala found a man within days of her arrival in Pakistan. Singh alleged that Bala could have been in touch with the Pakistani man (whom she has reportedly married) through social media, particularly Facebook. “She was using social media frequently on her mobile phone in the past one month.”

South Block sources quoting Pakistani media reports says that Bala embraced Islam from Darul-Aloom Jamia Naeemia in Lahore on 16 April, the day she went missing, and later performed nikah with Muhammed Azam, of Hanjarwal Multan Road in Lahore. She applied for the extension of her visa on the day of her “marriage”, citing “threats of assassination” to her life in India, before Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad.

In her application, her name is typed as “Amna Bibi”, while the signature has been done as “Amina”. Her Pakistan visa was valid till 21 April.

‘Skull of Indian soldier killed in 1857 uprising must be buried in India’

Dr Kim A. Wagner, a lecturer in British Imperial History at Queen Mary College in London, wants the skull of an Indian soldier who was among those executed after the revolt of 1857 “to be repatriated to India and buried where he participated in his last battle”. Havildar Alum Bheg’s skull was taken to England by an Irish officer, Captain A.R. Costello serving with the East India Company as a “war trophy”. He was on duty when the soldier was executed after the revolt. The skull was discovered at a pub in the eastern English coastal town of Walmer in Kent in 1963.

Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Wagner said that “it is the right time for Havildar Alum Bheg to be buried in his country of birth.”

Wagner is the author of The Skull of Alum Bheg: The Life and Death of a Rebel of 1857, which was released recently. Wagner said that Bheg’s regiment was originally raised at Kanpur, “but I want his skull to be buried near the Ravi River, at the border between India and Pakistan, where we know Alum Bheg participated in the Battle of Trimmu Ghat. Bheg’s remains must return to what was once his homeland so that he can be put to rest.”

A new owner of the Lord Clyde pub had discovered the skull stowed away in a small storeroom. Inserted in the eye-socket was a handwritten note that briefly outlined the skull’s history. The note revealed that the skull belonged to an Indian soldier named Alum Bheg, who was “accused of murdering a family of Scottish missionaries.” Bheg had been captured and “blown away from a gun”. How it landed in the pub in the coastal town of Deal remains unknown.

Man Mohan can be contacted at rovingeditor@gmail.com

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