After the removal of her Special Protection Group cover, Priyanka Gandhi became ineligible for a government bungalow and has got a notice to vacate her residence at Lodhi Estate. Political observers are now remembering past high-profile housing cases, one of them being of Sheikh Abdullah, leader of Kashmir. In 1967, he had been detained in a New Delhi bungalow where he continued to live even after his release. Once, IK Gujral, then minister of housing, came to see him. Sheikh’s colleagues complained to him that the house was too small. They wanted him to allot another nearby house. Gujral remarked sarcastically that earlier he wanted a country, now the demand had been reduced to a house. One of Sheikh’s friends present there retorted that something is better than nothing. Right now, the question on everyone’s lips is what will Priyanka do. Is she ready to shift to her own house? But she does not have one in Delhi. It will have to be a rented place.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam is none too pleased with Lt Governor GC Murmu. Murmu is an old hand of Narendra Modi from his Gujarat days. Recently, he nominated RR Bhatnagar as a security advisor with power that the chief secretary is uncomfortable with. The differences are over transfers and postings. The chief secretary has announced zero tolerance on corruption and transferred many officials. Now Bhatnagar has also got power to transfer, even at the Station House Officer level, in the name of security. Subrahmanyam did not attend a meeting called by Murmu, bringing to fore the differences. Amit Shah is reportedly mediating and sorting out the problem.
Rahul Gandhi has been criticising Modi’s handling of China but he is himself a member of the parliamentary standing committee on defence and never attended its meetings. BJP president JP Nadda raised the issue and requested Gandhi to be present so that he could get all information about what the Government is doing on that front. Gandhi reportedly did not reply.
After the Madhya Pradesh cabinet expansion, it is clear Jyotiraditya Scindia has got the upper hand with most of his own men getting ministries. Of the 22 Congress MLAs who joined the BJP, causing the Kamal Nath government’s fall, 11 have been made ministers. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, however, may not be happy. He was reluctant to give away so many ministries. The BJP high command in Delhi and Amit Shah tried to convince him that this was a tactical move and the agreement by which Scindia switched over. And honouring their word would send a message to other potential Congress dissidents like Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasada, Milind Deora, et al. Scindia could now have a much larger influence in the state unit since he got Chouhan overruled. He has appointed a retired bureaucrat, close to the Scindia family, to look after government appointments and postings in Madhya Pradesh. This is to break the old loyalty groups formed by the Congress.
The Dalai Lama Factor
Even as India and China are at a particularly bitter moment in their relationship, Tibetan leader in exile, the Dalai Lama, has not issued any statement. Recently, on his birthday, he tweeted generally about peace, happiness and universal tranquillity. But there is a school of thought that contends Prime Minister Narendra Modi should use the Dalai Lama at this critical juncture. A BJP MP suggested giving him a Bharat Ratna. A former election commissioner thought the road in front of the Chinese embassy in Delhi should be named after the Dalai Lama. This would indirectly put the focus on Tibetan independence. Modi is listening to everyone but is unlikely to go for kneejerk reactions.
The question of who really holds power in Maharashtra came to the fore again when the state’s home minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Anil Deshmukh transferred 10 deputy commissioners of police without taking ally Shiv Sena into confidence. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, using his powers, cancelled all these transfers. It led to NCP chief Sharad Pawar rushing to Thackeray’s residence ‘Matoshree’ to iron out the differences. There are also rumours that Rahul Gandhi is frustrated with the alliance but cannot dissociate the Congress from it because the BJP would take advantage of it. In different municipalities too, the NCP and the Sena are sniping at each other. It poached some Sena corporators at one municipality and the Sena dropped it as partner in another local body to join hands with the BJP there.
Low Profile, Long Reach
RSS leader BL Santhosh, who is also Karnataka organisational secretary of the BJP, has become a very powerful person in the state even though he maintains a low profile. Recently, three Rajya Sabha nominations from Karnataka were done by him and not by Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa. Modi and Shah both take his advice on state affairs. Yediyurappa is now apparently trying to reassert his own position as the boss of the BJP in Karnataka.
The BJP has an internal slogan—Recapture Mumbai—to wrest power back in Maharashtra. Amit Shah is taking tremendous interest in it. A new team was formed on this front and the party’s Maharashtra unit saw a change. With many loyalists of former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis included in it, Shah and Modi apparently continue to repose faith in him.