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BJP has hands full with Swamy

Arati R Jerath |

A tussle has developed between the BJP leadership and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy over the Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir case currently being heard by the Supreme Court. It seems BJP president Amit Shah wants Swamy to withdraw his petition in the case or else have the petition dismissed by the Supreme Court. The reason, say BJP circles, is that the party leadership doesn’t want Swamy to claim credit in case the SC gives a verdict in favour of building a temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.

But Swamy is not someone who can be easily evicted from such a high profile case with important political implications. Remember, it was his petition that resulted in the SC fast tracking the case and listing it for early hearing. And Swamy never tires of reminding everyone and anyone about this.

The Court almost obliged the BJP leadership a few weeks ago when it threw out Swamy and other activists and denied them the right to intervene in what it termed as a land dispute. The Court ruled that neither Swamy nor the other activists who had filed petitions were party to the original land dispute and therefore had no locus standi in the case.

But Swamy refused to retreat. He then asked the Court to revive his original petition for restoring his fundamental right to worship at the disputed site. The Court had no choice but to agree. But a couple of weeks later, it again tried to swat him away by ordering him to wait till July for a hearing on his petition.

Swamy has agreed for the moment. But those who know him say he is a persistent man and will find a way to bounce himself back into the case. He has no intention of giving up any credit he can claim for a possible decision in favour of a temple in Ayodhya. And to keep the spotlight focused on him, he argues his case personally in court.

It looks like Swamy is proving to be a tough nut for Amit Shah to crack.

PIB muddle

Now that the government has a new principal spokesperson and DG PIB in Sitanshu Kar, information service babus are wondering whether there will be a truce between Prasar Bharti and PIB on the one hand and I&B minister Smriti Irani on the other. Tensions between the two sides had peaked during the tenure of Kar’s predecessor Frank Noronha who was blamed by Irani for her problems.

The optimism may be misplaced for there is unfortunate history between Irani and Kar, or to be precise between Irani and Kar’s wife, Esther, who is also an information service officer.

Esther Kar is an old hand in PIB and well liked by her colleagues and media persons alike. But during her tenure as DG DAVP, she ran foul of Irani. The minister transferred her and put her on something called permanent wait, which means no assignment was given to her.

Now her husband Sitanshu has become DG PIB but Esther remains out in the cold. Information service circles are wondering whether Sitanshu will succeed in rehabilitating this efficient officer.

It is not quite clear whether Irani had a say in the appointment of Norohna’s successor. The buzz is that Irani suspected Norohna was working on instructions from the PMO and it’s the PMO that decided who would succeed him to perpetuate its control over the government’s chief information department.

Guest anchors

The print media had started a novel practice of inviting celebrities and political leaders to be guest editor for one day. Now TV channels are following suit by inviting political leaders to be guest anchors for an hour long debate during one of the prime time slots.

Political leaders are tickled pink by the idea because for once, they are in the driver’s seat driving the debate instead of being at the receiving end of attack and criticism.

But one political leader who recently did a guest anchor slot said the experience gave him much food for thought. The main challenge for him was to be objective about his own party and fire hard hitting questions at his party spokesman so that he would not be accused of being biased.

It meant walking a fine line between being a critic and a party faithful. But what tickled him the most was that the debate he conducted was more sober and orderly than the ones anchored by well known TV journalists. He felt that party spokespersons were more careful and tried to sound reasonable instead of shouting their heads off as has become the norm on most debates.

VHP in 2019

The appointment of Vinayak Rao Deshpande as the new organizing secretary of the VHP has sparked off speculation that the RSS wants to revive the VHP’s temple activities in the run up to the 2019 elections.

According to BJP sources, Deshpande is a temple hardliner and part of the Maharashtrian Brahmin lobby that rules the RSS. His promotion to the key post of organizing secretary suggests that the RSS wants the VHP to get active again, they feel.

Ever since the Vajpayee government deflated the temple movement, the VHP’s profile in the Sangh parivar has reduced considerably. Once a prominent wing of the RSS, when the Ram Mandir movement was at its peak, the VHP has been keeping a low profile for more than a decade now.

This was true even when Narendra Modi’s bête noire Praveen Togadia was VHP international president and tried to embarrass the government every now and then.

It will be interesting to see what role the VHP plays in the coming months as the build up for the 2019 elections gains momentum.