Inside Track: No house calls
Anand Sharma tried unsuccessfully to force the ruling party’s hand to set an early date for the Monsoon Session of Parliament. The excuse cited for a probable delay in summoning Parliament is that the 24 parliamentary standing committees must first meet and submit their reports. Sharma, as chairperson of the parliamentary committee on home affairs, invited members to meet at Parliament House on June 3. He felt that those MPs unable to attend in person due to lockdown protocols could participate through an Internet platform. Even Britain’s venerable House of Commons, on which our Parliament is modeled, conducted a virtual session because of the pandemic, with 120 MPs participating through a Zoom platform. Parliaments across the world have adopted such strategies. But Sharma’s proposal was scuttled claiming that it would violate the secrecy of the committee’s proceedings. Strangely, this constraint did not prevent BJP MP Rita Bahuguna Joshi from summoning a virtual meeting of the salaries and allowances committee to take a decision on a 30 per cent allowance cut just before the lockdown. An early session of Parliament to discuss the prevailing crisis in the country is surely imperative in these troubled times.
During the Doklam standoff with the Chinese in 2017, discussions took place between then home minister Rajnath Singh, then army chief Bipin Rawat and NSA Ajit Doval. The trio were once again key participants in the meeting of the PM’s study group on May 18 to discuss the Chinese advances in Ladakh, even if they had different designations. The unusual build-up along the LAC was observed from April 19, and finally around May 1, the People’s Liberation Army moved forward across the barren hilltops. It was only on May 17 that alarm bells started ringing in New Delhi.
While the general impression is that Mamata Banerjee invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit cyclone-hit West Bengal, actually the initiative came from the Prime Minister’s side. Bhaskar Kulbe, adviser to the PM, who is from the West Bengal cadre, approached the CM’s principal secretary Gautam Sanyal. Mamata Banerjee had little option but to invite Modi, after she was informed of the PM’s desire to tour the areas devastated by the cyclone. The BJP’s Bengal unit got full mileage out of the visuals of the PM’s trip and his promise of Rs 1,000 crore aid to the state, which goes to polls next year. Banerjee wanted to make clear that she was not overwhelmed by Modi’s visit. At the airport, while the BJP state leaders led by Dilip Ghosh bent over while greeting Modi, Banerjee, carrying some files in her hand, gave a rather perfunctory namaskar and kept her distance on the aircraft. Later, she upped the ante and demanded Rs 5,000 crore for the damage.
The DMK’s M K Stalin is the latest provincial leader to seek the advice of Prashant Kishor, who has emerged as the most popular poll consultant in India. Stalin tweeted three months ago that he was hiring Kishor. Now, the pollster may have conceived the broad outlines for the DMK’s Assembly campaign next year. He has drawn up a concept which proposes that only Stalin be projected and the smaller anti-AIADMK groups play a secondary role. The slogans coined by Kishor include: “Tomorrow is Ours” and “Stalin as CM”. The DMK plans to contest around 170 of the total of 234 Assembly seats. The rest is to be divided among the eight-party alliance. The Congress’s share is pegged at 30 seats. Some DMK veterans are unhappy with Kishor’s induction. They feel he and his workers are highly overpriced and he should, in fact, be subservient to the party’s district secretaries. They point out that it is also embarrassing from an ideological point of view that the chief adviser of the Dravidian party should be a north Indian and a Brahmin to boot. Kishor’s full name is Prashant Kishor Pandey.
Back in favour?
Ram Madhav, who was the man to turn to for government thinking on foreign policy issues concerning our neighbours and the diaspora, was silent towards the end of Modi’s first term in office. He was missing from both the Howdy Modi convention and the Namaste Trump rally in Ahmedabad earlier this year. But, of late, Madhav is back in the forefront, even as relations with Nepal and China take a turn for the worse.