Your Excellency Madam Chowkidar!

Should she be called Honorable External Affairs Minister Chowkidar Sushma Swaraj or Honorable External Affairs Minister Mrs Sushma Swaraj?

Your Excellency Madam Chowkidar!

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj (Photo: AFP/File)

Foreign governments are quite confused by the “chowkidar” prefix that BJP leaders have attached to their names on their Twitter handles. They are particularly concerned about external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj because they are wondering how to address her now. Should she be called Honorable External Affairs Minister Chowkidar Sushma Swaraj or Honorable External Affairs Minister Mrs Sushma Swaraj?

The world of diplomacy functions on strict protocol rules. Consequently, foreign governments and their embassies in New Delhi have to guard against any misstep in case they tread on some toes and cause embarrassment.

The world outside is often mystified by the twists and turns of Indian domestic politics. The chowkidar prefix is one such mystery many are trying to crack. Some embassies made verbal inquiries but one actually wrote to the foreign office asking for guidance on the issue. MEA officials have had to reassure them that nothing has changed. Diplomats were told they should continue to address Swaraj the way they have been doing.


Seat tantrums

BJP MP Giriraj Singh’s tantrum over the decision to change his constituency to Begusarai is puzzling. Five years ago, the BJP decided to allot him the Nawada seat although he hails from Begusarai. At that time, Singh had thrown a fit, demanding that he be nominated to contest from his home district. But his party stood firm and ordered him to accept a ticket from Nawada.

Of course, Singh won in the Modi wave that swept the Hindi belt that year. But now, in 2019, when his party wanted to shift him to the seat he fought so hard for in 2014, Singh seems to have had a change of heart. He made a public spectacle of himself by rejecting the Begusarai offer and putting out his objections on Twitter.

Finally, Amit Shah summoned him and read him the riot act. Singh had no option but to buckle down and obey orders or lose the opportunity to fight a Lok Sabha election.

The story behind the seat tussle is interesting and reveals the extent to which the BJP has bent backwards to accommodate its ally Nitish Kumar of the JD(U). It seems Kumar insisted on the Munger seat for his close confidante and aide Rajiv Ranjan Singh also known as Lalan Singh. Munger is Lalan Singh’s traditional seat and both he and Kumar had set their heart on getting it.

Unfortunately, in 2014, when Kumar parted ways with the BJP, Munger was given to Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP to contest. Paswan put up Veena Devi from there and she won.

Kumar suggested that to accommodate Paswan, the BJP allot another safe bhumihar seat to LJP and that happened to be Nawada. Of course, there is also speculation that Kumar bears an old grudge against Giriraj Singh and was determined to fix him. Taking away his present seat was one way of doing that.

In this game of musical chairs, Begusarai fell in the BJP’s quota after Nawada was allotted to LJP in the seat sharing. Meanwhile Nawada’s sitting MP Veena Devi was shifted to the Vaishali constituency.

BJP circles can’t quite understand why Giriraj was so reluctant to get back his home district of Begusarai. It’s a bhumihar dominated area and Giriraj Singh should have a smooth ride. There’s speculation that he’s worried he may lose from there because he hasn’t done much for either Begusarai or Nawada.

Unusual request

The Modi government had an unusual request for Maldives on the eve of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Male. It wanted the government of Maldives to rename the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, one of the two major hospitals on the island.

The hospital was set up by India when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister and named after his mother in her memory. It is funded by New Delhi and managed by one of India’s leading hospitals.

The hospital was recently renovated with help and resources from India and was to figure in the joint statement to be signed by Swaraj during her recent visit to the island.

It appears there was some hesitation to have Indira Gandhi’s name in the joint statement. That’s why the request to change the hospital’s name.

However, the Maldives government turned down the request on the plea that the hospital is popularly known by its current name. The Indian side had no option but to accept that the joint statement would contain a reference to Indira Gandhi, even if only in the context of a hospital and an expression of appreciation from the Maldives government for India’s help in renovating it.

Auspicious switch

Although it was decided many weeks ago that Shatrughan Sinha would join the Congress, the film star turned politician has chosen to delay his formal entry till April 6.

That’s the first day of Navratri and is considered auspicious for any new beginning. Interestingly, Sinha has been in direct touch with Rahul Gandhi for some time now. He probably would have joined the Congress on an earlier auspicious date but for the uncertainty over whether the Patna seat would be allotted to the Congress in the seat sharing arrangement with RJD. Sinha was very clear that he would only contest from Bihar’s capital, a city in which he was born and has represented in the Lok Sabha for the last two terms.