Is some kind of a thaw developing between the estranged Gandhi family daughters-in-law? Two incidents have set political tongues wagging. One was Sonia Gandhi’s unexpected visit to an exhibition organized by Maneka Gandhi and her women and child ministry at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts.
This was an exhibition of organic food made by women from different parts of the country. And the venue was just a stone’s throw away from Sonia’s 10 Janpath residence.
The other was Maneka’s unusual interest in political pictures of her sister-in-law which formed part of an exhibition of photographer Praveen Jain’s work spanning a career of 35 years in news journalism. It was a set of four photos and Maneka stood long enough to be photographed looking at it.
Those who know the family insist that these were mere coincidences, that Sonia did not know the exhibition was organised by Maneka and that Maneka was merely doing the polite thing as she walked through Jain’s exhibition.
But this hasn’t stopped political circles from speculating about changing family dynamics. This is election season and politics is in a state of flux. Will the status quo in the Gandhi family be impacted by the air of uncertainty that seems to be pervading politics?
Change of guard
The country’s premier intelligence and investigative agencies will see a change of guard at the beginning of next year. The search has already started for new bosses.
Secretary of the external intelligence agency, R&AW, Anil Dhasmana is retiring in January as is director Intelligence Bureau Rajiv Jain. CBI chief Alok Verma, currently on forced leave, is due to demit office at the end of January.
Interestingly, two of the organisations, R&AW and CBI, are in a state of flux after the officers slated to take over landed in the controversy currently rocking the CBI. Verma’s deputy Rakesh Asthana was all set to assume charge as CBI director till the ongoing tussle between the two exploded in full public view, resulting in a messy midnight raid, punishment exile for the two top officers and court cases currently being heard by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
Bureaucratic circles feel that after the controversy, it is virtually impossible for Asthana to succeed Verma. Hence, a search has started for a replacement.
Ironically, the number two officer in R&AW, SK Goel, also landed in the same controversy with his name figuring in the corruption charges leveled by Verma against Asthana. Consequently, his promotion too has become uncertain.
IB is the only agency that remains unsinged by the flames consuming the others. Special director Arvinda Kumar is tipped to take over from Rajiv Jain when the latter retires. This is in keeping with the accepted line of succession in which the number two officer is promoted when the top slot becomes vacant.
Upset with Swamy
Sections of the BJP are upset with the barrage of critical tweets put out on almost a daily basis by Rajya Sabha party MP Subramanian Swamy. The maverick MP has been carrying out a campaign against finance minister Arun Jaitley, finance secretary Hansmukh Adhia, Rakesh Asthana of the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.
In the process, he has embarrassed the government and angered Modi loyalists. In fact, Swamy has become so vitriolic in his attacks that he has threatened to not only withdraw his petition in the National Herald case against Sonia and Rahul Gandhi but also to pull out of the corruption cases he had filed against former finance minister P Chidambaram and son Karthik because he feels that not enough is being done to tackle corruption.
In his tweets, he has been alleging that certain forces in the Modi government are trying to protect Congress leaders against whom corruption cases have been filed.
Incensed Modi loyalists are now demanding that Swamy be dropped from the BJP National Executive unless he agrees to toe the party line and desist from public criticism of the government.
It may be remembered that Swamy was made a Rajya Sabha MP in the nominated category much to the dismay of many in the BJP who felt that he was too much of a maverick to be rewarded by the Modi government.
Interestingly, he has not been admitted as a member of the BJP parliamentary party because it was felt that he would not adhere to party discipline in the House.
With the upcoming state assembly elections due to end only on December 7, the Modi government is believed to be toying with the idea of postponing the winter session of Parliament. Normally, the winter session begins in the third week of November and concludes by the third week of December so that MPs from the Northeast and Goa can go home to celebrate Christmas with their families and voters.
It seems the government is considering starting the winter session after December 7, maybe even after result day on December 11. This is because the upcoming state elections are particularly crucial for the BJP which sees them as a semi-final for 2019.
Narendra Modi has reserved six days of his time in the first week of December for an intensive daily campaign in Rajasthan where the BJP is particularly vulnerable. Naturally, neither he nor party president Amit Shah want a small thing like Parliament to get in the way of this do-or-die battle.
Significantly, the government had done a similar postponement in 2017 because of the Gujarat assembly elections. Then too, the winter session of Parliament began only after the state polls were over and it extended into the traditional Christmas week holidays.