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Rahul plays it safe with CWC

Arati R Jerath |

Rahul Gandhi has played safe in the constitution of his new Working Committee by keeping it as free of controversy as possible. He has inducted only those who maintain a low profile and do not embarrass the party with off-the-cuff remarks that whip up a storm.

Congress circles are buzzing more about notable omissions from Rahul’s CWC than about those who have been included. There are six such leaders who were widely expected to find a berth in the party’s top decision-making body. They are Digvijay Singh, C P Joshi, Janardhan Dwivedi, Jairam Ramesh, Salman Khurshid and Shashi Tharoor.

The chatter is that they were left out because all of them have embarrassed the party on more than one occasion and forced official spokespersons to disown their statements. Had they become CWC members, the Congress would have found it difficult to draw a distinction between the official view and the personal views of these leaders. After all, CWC is the apex body that decides the party line.

There is considerable surprise in the party that they did not make the grade. All of them are considered close to the Gandhi family and have served mother and son well in different ways. For instance, Digvijay was Rahul’s political mentor and worked closely with him in his early years in politics, particularly in UP. Dwivedi has been the party’s Hindi scholar well versed in the scriptures. He has been Sonia’s Hindi speechwriter for years.

Khurshid has been a prominent Muslim face of the party. Just recently, he organized Rahul’s meeting with leading Muslim opinion makers. Jairam has been a sounding board on all kinds of issues, from environment to economy. And Tharoor brings intellectual heft.

But as a top Congress observer pointed out, all of them have a tendency to land themselves in a controversy which also rocks the party. Just recently the party had to distance itself from Tharoor’s “Hindu Pakistan” remarks which the BJP seized on to slam the Congress. And Jairam ruffled feathers with his latest book on Indira Gandhi’s eminent principal secretary P N Haksar. The book contained many critical references to the late prime minister.

Rahul clearly doesn’t have the patience for constant firefighting on behalf of those who sometimes cross the fine line between independent thought and being embarrassing motor mouths. He can ill afford controversy at a time when the Congress is engaged in sensitive and difficult negotiations to put together an anti-Modi front for the 2019 election.

Show-stopper

The Lok Sabha Speaker’s decision to take up the no-confidence motion on Friday wrecked two big events. One was Trinamool Congress’s show of strength at a massive rally in Kolkata on Saturday. With her MPs forced to stay in Delhi for Friday’s vote, Mamata was deprived of much needed extra hands for mobilisation. The Trinamool MPs flew out on the first available flight early Saturday morning after a grueling discussion that ended shortly before midnight.

The other event that took a blow was the wedding celebrations of NCP leader Praful Patel’s daughter in Mumbai. Most of the invitees were planning to fly to Mumbai on Thursday for three days of fun. While Rajya Sabha MPs left, Lok Sabha MPs had to stay back for the debate and consequently missed attending the mehendi and sangeet. They had to settle for just the wedding reception on Saturday night.

Fortunately, Patel’s boss Sharad Pawar is a Rajya Sabha MP and so managed to escape to Mumbai. But Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule is a Lok Sabha MP. She had to skip the earlier functions to be present in Parliament for Friday’s voting.

Not good enough?

Chairman of Parliament’s food committee Jithender Reddy of the TRS was very upset by the snacks served at the all-party meeting held before the monsoon session began.

The snacks were delicious but they were ordered from a well known privately owned south Indian restaurant. The Parliament canteen always provides the snacks and meals for all functions held in the building. The government broke with tradition by ordering from outside for the all-party meeting at Parliament House Annexe.

Reddy was so upset that he raised the issue at the meeting. He wanted to know why snacks came from a private restaurant, almost as if to suggest that Parliament catering is not good enough.

Of course, he didn’t get an answer. But it has been a morale downer.

Farooq’s case

There was much speculation whether former J&K chief minister Farooq Abdullah would join the club of “wanted” Indians living in London. The speculation began when the CBI suddenly revived a four-year-old corruption case against Abdullah and filed a chargesheet in the CBI court accusing him of misusing funds when he was president of the J&K Cricket association.

Abdullah was in London when the chargesheet was filed and his lawyer stated it in court. That’s what set off chatter that Abdullah may not come back to India now that he is wanted by the CBI.

But Abdullah silenced all the gossip by showing up in Parliament when the monsoon session opened. He is a Lok Sabha MP from Srinagar. He was also present for the discussion on the no-confidence motion and marked his presence with a short speech.

So much for the rumour-mongers. Clearly, Abdullah has no intention of being equated with fugitives like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi who managed to flee the country before investigators came after them.

At the same time, it is a puzzle why the CBI has suddenly woken up to a case it had opened in 2014. It looked like it had given up on the case with claims that vital papers pertaining to the accounts of the cricketing association were missing. Now those papers have magically appeared just as J&K has come under governor’s rule.