Summer junkets

At a Cabinet meeting last week, there were only 11 ministers present out of the total 29 expected. Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth hesitated before starting the proceedings since he assumed more ministers would be arriving. Finally, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indicated to him that he should begin. A large number of the missing contingent had left Delhi for cooler climes. A dozen or so were on official trips abroad.

Stop Modi campaign

Rajnath Singh’s appointment of Narendra Modi’s lieutenant Amit Shah as the general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh was done in the hope that the Gujarat Chief Minister would concentrate on UP during the general elections. If the BJP is to emerge as a front-runner in the 2014 elections, a major improvement in its electoral performance in UP is crucial. But the badly divided local leadership is unable to provide any direction. Singh is banking on Modi’s development agenda giving a fillip to the BJP campaign and Modi’s OBC caste (Ghanchi) proving an asset among OBC voters. Modi, meanwhile, is keen to be declared the party’s official prime ministerial candidate before the polls and, if that is not possible, he wants to be appointed chairperson of the campaign committee. However, L K Advani is doing his best to scuttle this move. Advani is pushing for Nitin Gadkari to be made chairperson. Although Advani was among the first to demand that Gadkari step down as party chief, he is now making overtures towards him. He is aware that Gadkari remains close to the RSS and is one of the few persons who might be able to stop Modi in his tracks.

Making it official

Shakeel Ahmed, Mohan Prakash, Bhakta Charan Das, Raj Babbar and Meem Afzal were recently appointed spokespersons of the Congress. This is in addition to the existing team, which includes Renuka Chowdhury and Sandeep Dikshit. All the spokespersons get their official briefing on the party line from Janardhan Dwivedi, who heads the media cell. But the unauthorised party spokespersons continue to hog centrestage on TV, much to the chagrin of the official media team. Most prominent among them is Sanjay Jha, who lists his occupation as executive director of the Dale Carnegie Training operations. Jha had no locus standi except for running a portal titled Realising that it was unable to prevent the unofficial spokespersons from having their say on TV, the AICC has now caved in. It has added the names of more spokespersons who are entitled to participate in debates and discussions in the media. Jha and several others who are considered part of the Rahul Gandhi brigade are on the list.

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