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Yogi makes waves in Kerala

Arati R Jerath | New Delhi |

Yogi Adityanath is grabbing eyeballs across the country. Even down south in Kerala. Keralites seem fascinated by this saffron clad chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. An interview done by a leading Malayalam television channel soon after Adityanath took over as CM proved to be a hit in Kerala. The interview was conducted in Hindi and telecast without subtitles. No problem. Keralites are now quite familiar with Hindi thanks to Bollywood.

The interview was shown several times because of popular demand. Such is the interest in the country’s first priestturned-politician-turned-chief-minister who is a staunch Hindutva face as well.

Unfortunately, the interview got little play in the north although it was probably Adityanath’s first one after becoming CM. The one he gave to Doordarshan is being touted as his first full length interview.

Power of saffron

The power of the BJP’s stunning victory in the UP assembly election is having its effect in Parliament. The most vociferous opposition party, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, has gone into silent mode, paving the way for one of the most productive sessions in a long time.

The most visible sign of the changed dynamics was the attire of TMC MP Idris Ali on the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the Lok Sabha for his question hour time. That day, Ali came dressed in a bright saffron kurta, as if to celebrate the colour of the moment.

He did something else that caused eyebrows to go up. After walking up to the table where officers of the Lok Sabha Secretariat sit and asking a question, he didn’t take the usual route straight back to his seat in the opposition benches.

Instead, he made a detour and walked around to the treasury benches straight up to the PM. They shook hands and had a whispered exchange for several minutes. When he walked back to sit with his TMC colleagues, they asked him what that exchange was all about. He said he had gone to congratulate the PM on the BJP’s UP victory.

The Trinamool party line is silence. But Ali charted his own course. He is known to wear his loyalty to his leader Mamata Banerjee on his kurta. He is a flamboyant dresser and is often seen sporting kurtas with Mamata’s face emblazoned on them. The saffron coloured kurta was a first. Was it a signal that times are changing even in West Bengal?

The Lady Don

When heavy industries minister and Shiv Sena MP Ananth Geethe got into a physical scrap with civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapati Raju inside the Lok Sabha last week, the only person who managed to calm the agitated Sena leader was Smriti Irani.

Several ministers rushed to separate Geethe from Gajapati Raju including Rajnath Singh, SS Ahluwalia and some junior ministers. But Geethe ignored them and shoved some of them aside physically.

It was only when Irani came and caught hold of Geethe physically that the Sena leader quietened down. It seems Irani is known as "Lady Don’’ in Sena circles for her tough no-nonsense attitude. The title was given by Sena MP Sanjay Raut.

Some of Irani’s female fellow MPs were worried when they saw her rushing towards Geethe. They warned her that Geethe was in such a towering rage, he could even manhandle her.

But Irani has worked with Sena leaders for a long time when she was in Mumbai and knows them well. In fact, Raut coined the term Lady Don for her during that period.

Sitaram’s plight

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury’s fellow MPs, particularly those in the opposition, are wondering what will happen after July. Yechury’s term in the Rajya Sabha ends that month and the CPM has an iron-clad rule that no MP will have more than two terms in the Upper House. The party has paid dearly on account of this rule, losing several good parliamentarians like Nilotpal Basu and M A Baby who have not returned after two terms. Yechury too has completed two terms in Rajya Sabha.

The CPM could of course always make an exception for its general secretary who is also one of the most effective parliamentarians the opposition has in the Upper House. The question is whether it will break a rule for Yechury.

This is where the internal dynamics of the CPM may come into play. The party has so few MLAs in the West Bengal assembly that unless the Congress lends a helping hand, it cannot get a seat in the Rajya Sabha.

It has good strength in Kerala where it won the state election last year. But Kerala is considered Prakash Karat’s patch. Will hardliner Karat allow a long standing rule to be broken for Yechury with whom he has an old rivalry?

Changes afoot

The passage of the GST bills in Parliament will not only transform the tax structure of the country’s economy, it will change the name of the tax department. The Central Board of Excise and Customs will be rechristened the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs. In other words, CBEC will now become CBIC.

The CBIC will supervise the work of all its field formations and directorates. It will also assist the government in policy making with regard to GST, central excise levy and customs functions. So, not only a name change but big changes in functioning as well.