Now that Jaya Bachchan has been renominated to the Rajya Sabha by her party, SP, the-behind-the-scenes story can be told. It seems two people canvassed energetically for Jaya to get a fourth term in the Upper House. One was West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and the other was Akhilesh Yadav’s wife, Dimple.
Mamata is believed to have spoken to Akhilesh several times to pitch for Jaya. The first time was some months ago when the young SP chief visited Kolkata and called on the CM. In their conversations over the past several weeks, Mamata told Akhilesh that she was willing to nominate Jaya as a Trinamool Congress candidate from West Bengal if the SP was finding it difficult to accommodate the actor.
After its rout in last year’s UP assembly polls, SP can send only one MP to the Rajya Sabha. Mamata is believed to have told Akhilesh that she would be happy to have Jaya as a TMC MP because of her Bengali roots and Mamata’s own close friendship with Amitabh Bachchan.
Remember Amitabh Bachchan has been chief guest at the West Bengal film festival for some years now. And Mamata has often said that she and Bachchan communicate frequently on Twitter.
The first indication that Jaya would be SP’s preferred choice for the lone seat came recently when Akhilesh assured Mamata not to worry about Jaya.
It is learnt that Akhilesh’s wife, Dimple, also had a role to play. She was rooting for Jaya over uncle Ram Gopal Yadav’s nominee, Naresh Agarwal. One of the arguments that went in Jaya’s favour was that she would be a bridge between Akhilesh and Mulayam, given her closeness to the Yadav clan patriarch.
Jaya has been a kind of mentor to Dimple from the time the latter first entered the Lok Sabha in a bye-election from Kannauj in 2012. She took the young first time MP under her wing and since then, the two are often spotted together in Parliament, chatting and sharing a meal.
According to SP sources, Akhilesh is not well disposed towards Naresh Agarwal despite Ram Gopal’s active support. There is an impression in the Akhilesh camp that Agarwal has links to the BJP as well as the Congress. At least Jaya has been steadfast in her loyalty to the SP and its first family.
Head for showmanship
The BJP’s showboy from the Northeast, union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju, insisted that the party flaunt its grand entry into the Northeast in the recent polls. He arranged for 300 patkas woven in typical northeastern colours of red, black and white with a touch of yellow and distributed them to BJP MPs in both Houses of Parliament.
On the first day when the budget session resumed, BJP MPs including union ministers were seen sporting the patkas. Even women ministers and MPs wore them. Parliamentary affairs minister Ananthkumar had issued an informal whip to the MPs to wear the patkas that Rijiju had flown to Delhi with so much enthusiasm.
While Ananthkumar himself and some others kept the patkas on the entire day, many took them off by lunchtime because they felt hot. After all, the patkas, which are rather thick, are meant for the colder climate of the northeast, not Delhi’s warm spring.
Show of support
Abhishek Singhvi was roped in to defend Karti Chidambaram after his arrest quite by chance. Actually, Kapil Sibal has been appearing on behalf of Karti for the past nine months after the CBI, ED and Income Tax authorities started investigating his financial transactions. But on that fateful day when Karti was picked up by the CBI at Chennai airport, Sibal was away in Kerala in connection with some other case.
It so happened that Singhvi received two telephone calls from London one after another, putting him a bit of dilemma. One call came from Salman Khurshid who had just landed in London along with P Chidambaram to participate in an Oxford debate.
They got the news of Karti’s arrest after they landed and Chidambaram told Khurshid that he was flying back to India on the next flight. Khurshid telephoned Singhvi and asked him whether he would fill in for Chidambaram at Oxford. Singhvi being a Cambridge graduate was qualified to participate in the debate.
Almost immediately after Khurshid’s telephone call, Singhvi got a call from Chidambaram asking him to represent Karti in the CBI trial court and get him released on bail.
Singhvi said he preferred to stand by a party colleague in distress than fly to the UK for a debate. So he said a polite no to Khurshid and a resounding yes to Chidambaram.
No Tamil, please
The CBI is so clumsy in all it does that on the day Karti and his father came face to face in the court room at his bail hearing, sleuths of the country’s leading investigative agency were at a loss.
Father and son chatted way to each other in Tamil. CBI investigators with Karti were all north Indian and could not understand a word of the conversation. Finally, fearing that the duo was plotting something, the investigators ordered the two to speak only in English. No Tamil, they said in an irritated tone.
The Chidambaram complied. But those who overheard the exchange laughed at the CBI’s clumsiness. Surely the agency has Tamil sleuths who they could have deputed to accompany Karthi to court.
Grace and fire
It was gracious of defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman to attend the inauguration of a major defence Make in India project in Telangana the day after the state’s chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao badmouthed Narendra Modi at a public function.
In fact, Sitharaman was under pressure from her party to boycott the function in protest against KCR’s language. It was KCR’s son and industries minister K T Rama Rao, who spoke to Nirmala personally and pleaded with her to attend.
He said the project was a major Make in India showpiece for defence production. It would harm the state and India’s image internationally if the defence minister boycotted it because of local politics, he pleaded.
Nirmala heeded his pleas but with a rider. She said after the inauguration, she should be left free to speak to the media and criticize KCR for the kind of language he had used against the PM.
Only then would her party swallow her presence on the dais with a minister of the Telangana government who is also the chief minister’s son. KT Rama Rao had no choice but to agree.