Two significant appointments by BJP president Amit Shah in his team of office bearers tell us of changing power equations amid the raging row over Lalitgate. Shah recently inducted two confidantes of home minister Rajnath Singh as general secretaries. For BJP circles, this was the clearest sign yet that Rajnath has come in from the cold and is all set to emerge as a powerhouse while the Modi government battles its biggest crisis of credibility.
The two new general secretaries are Arun Singh and Anil Jain. Singh&’s appointment is particularly significant. He is not only Rajnath&’s co-brother (they are married to two sisters), he was even denied a Lok Sabha ticket in 2014 on the principle of no tickets to relatives. Singh was twiddling his thumbs till Lalitgate and Rajnath&’s consequent importance brought him an unexpected bounty in the form of a leading position in the party hierarchy.
Jain is known as a committed Rajnath loyalist. He was put in charge of the Haryana assembly election but was relegated to the sidelines after that, despite the BJP&’s stunning victory in a state where it was never more than an also-ran. By bagging a coveted office bearer&’s position against aspirants supported by rival factions, Jain is back in action. And so too is his mentor, Rajnath, BJP circles believe.
Party insiders feel that these appointments are a clear sop to Rajnath who positioned himself firmly with Sushma Swaraj when Lalitgate broke. He not only got an important RSS voice in Indresh Kumar to speak out in her defence, he also rustled up support for her from Shah and more significantly, from Arun Jaitley whose antipathy for Lalit Modi is well known.
In fact, Rajnath&’s hyper-activity on behalf of Sushma raised the spectre of an emerging Rajnath-Sushma axis with the potential of challenging Modi&’s iron grip over his government. By accommodating two of Rajnath&’s closest aides, Modi has shrewdly extended an olive branch to his home minister who has been sulking about his marginalization since the government was formed. Remember, he was not even allowed to choose his personal staff. The PMO did that for him. Lalitgate may have given Rajnath an unexpected infusion of power in Modi sarkar.
There may be more than meets the eye to BJP leader Ram Madhav&’s controversial tweet against Vice President Hamid Ansari and Rajya Sabha TV on International Yoga Day. Ram Madhav had slammed Ansari for skipping the Yoga event on Rajpath and RSTV for blacking it out.
Political circles suspect that the tweet was part of a move by the BJP to wrest control of RSTV from Ansari&’s office. The vice president is also chairman of Rajya Sabha which owns and operates RSTV, much like Lok Sabha TV is owned and operated by the Lok Sabha headed by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan of the BJP.
Since both are Parliament channels, the government has only marginal influence. But BJP circles want to pack RSTV with their own people along the lines of LSTV. Presently, RSTV is headed by Gurdeep Sappal who is also OSD to Ansari and a former Congress activist.
It is felt that Ram Madhav deliberately criticized Ansari and RSTV for ignoring International Yoga Day as part of a larger BJP game plan to tame the Upper House channel and push for a personnel overhaul. Of course, it was an ill-advised move because Ram Madhav got his facts all wrong. Ansari didn’t attend Yoga Day celebrations at Rajpath because he was not invited for protocol reasons and RSTV showed the full event live and did several shows around yoga.
Yoga the savior
If RSS circles are to be believed, yoga saved the life of its senior leader Suresh Soni. Soni had a massive heart attack recently while in Kanpur. It was afternoon and RSS workers at the city headquarters were all on siesta break. So although he called out for help, he was weakened by the attack and could not be heard.
He desperately needed a tablet of Sorbitrate (a drug used during heart attacks) and emergency medical attention. With neither forthcoming, Soni turned to yoga. He is apparently a regular practitioner. RSS circles say he kept himself alive through breathing exercises meant specifically for the heart. By the time, he was found, he was barely conscious but still alive.
RSS leaders in Kanpur immediately contacted former health minister Harshvardhan who arranged to transport Soni to Delhi in an air ambulance. He was admitted to a five-star hospital in Gurgaon where he is now recovering. RSS circles insist that this was a miracle of yoga.
It is interesting that after spreading the word that the RSS wants Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje removed because of Lalitgate, the BJP is now bending over backwards to defend her. BJP sources say the party line changed after Raje threatened to split the party if the BJP leadership doesn’t back her or if she is removed. She is a popular mass leader and has huge support among MLAs, most of whom were given tickets by her. So her threat cannot be taken lightly.
The timing of the party&’s change of heart can be traced to a telephonic conversation between Raje and Amit Shah the day before they were scheduled to share the dais at a rally in Punjab. The very next day, BJP spokespersons were on TV fighting for the beleaguered CM.