Arun Jaitley might have left the Cabinet because of health reasons but he is still a senior Rajya Sabha member. He was nominated in 2018 and so has five more years. But he made a gesture not usually seen among Indian politicians. Once he was no longer minister, he left his ministerial bungalow at 2 Krishna Menon Marg near Rashtrapati Bhavan and returned to his house in Kailash Colony. The Prime Minister had requested him to take the bungalow at 6 Krishna Menon Marg where Vajpayee used to live. After the former prime minister’s death, his family had left immediately without any publicity. There had been a proposal to make Vajpayee’s house a memorial but the BJP has taken a decision to actively discourage the practice. The Government did not give permission to build a memorial for Charan Singh and Babu Jagjivan Ram too. Modi apparently told Jaitley he needs him to stay nearby for his counsel but Jaitley was insistent on not using Government accommodation. He has become an example of refusing Government largesse.
New God on the Block
The Finance Ministry has had several gods and goddesses present in its headquarters. From Pranab Mukherjee’s time onwards, Lakshmi and Ganesha idols were there in his office. Now a new god has arrived. Near the staircase, a statue of Hanuman is now a visible newcomer. It is said that this metallic Hanuman was actually installed by some staff during election time when Arun Jaitley was in charge. The day Nirmala Sitharaman took charge, North Block staff put a garland on Hanuman. One old gatekeeper said that with the Budget coming the god will help because he is a great crisis manager.
June 19th was the birthday of Rahul Gandhi and Parliament was also in session. The Prime Minister tweeted a message wishing him a long life. Many Congress leaders also wished him but Rahul apparently told party members not to come to his Tughlak Lane residence with flowers. He spent the evening at a private dinner with his mother, sister, brother-in- law and close friends. Earlier on the day of oath taking, Rahul came late after lunch to Parliament and got caught in an amusing incident. After the oath the protocol is to sign on the register of Members of Parliament. He forgot to do so and as he was leaving the officials had to remind him. He came back and signed!
Though a lot has been written about the Narendra Modi biopic whose release was stalled by the Election Commission, what is not as well known is that in West Bengal too a local director made a movie on Modi. Also in Bengal, there was another movie inspired by the life of Mamata Banerjee ready for release during the election period. Its main character’s name, Indira, might have been different but she wore Hawai chappals, a white sari and spectacles typical of Mamata. The Election Commission had stopped this movie’s screening too then, but now both the Bangla Modi and Mamata movies are releasing. The two leaders are now contesting for the vote of the screen audience.
The Governor Question
West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi’s tenure will complete five years on July 24th. The Governor has no set time in the Constitution. On the appointment letter, it is stated that he will continue till the next Governor takes charge. Mamata is not happy with Tripathi and has publicly said that he is working as a BJP agent. She wants a new governor before state elections. Meanwhile, there is a suggestion from some state BJP leaders to send a former bureaucrat, perhaps a retired intelligence officer. There has been a tradition to make retired IB chiefs like TV Rajeswar and MK Narayanan, the governor of West Bengal. But state BJP leaders like Dilip Ghosh and Mukul Roy support the continuance of Tripathi because he understands the state and has legal knowledge. Ultimately, what will happen will hinge on what Amit Shah wants. A senior BJP leader said that is the most difficult thing to know because Shah listens a lot, talks very little and acts decisively.
The situation in West Bengal’s government hospitals after doctors went on strike following a mob assault on a junior doctor was threatening to take ominous proportions, jeopardising the healthcare sector. It was even spiraling outside with doctors in Bihar, Maharashtra, Delhi, etcetera, agitating in solidarity. In West Bengal, initially the Bharatiya Janata Party unit tried to make political capital out of the situation but Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have none of it. He told Health Minster Harsh Vardhan to talk to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to resolve the crisis. Modi said that it was not a political issue because people’s lives were being affected. He also, through an advisory from Amit Shah, told the state unit not to fan the flames of the agitation. Modi has been keenly interested in healthcare. He reportedly told the health secretary to give priority to addressing concerns of hospitals and doctors. In July 2015, he launched an e-hospital initiative in which patients visiting government hospitals across India were enabled to take appointments and would not have to stand in queues. So far only 322 hospitals have come on board. Modi demanded to know from the health ministry why it has been so tardy in implementing the scheme and that he would not countenance any more laxity. Nirman Bhavan is apparently now following up on it on a war footing.