In an unusual move, students protesting against the new citizenship law and the National Register of Citizens have laid claim on the Indian tricolour and the Constitution. It has now become a regular feature at these protests to read from the preamble of the Constitution, wave the Indian flag and display photographs of Gandhi and Babasaheb Ambedkar. This has stumped the Narendra Modi government which has been on an overdrive to appropriate both Gandhi and Ambedkar and equally quick to dismiss dissenters as anti-nationals. Meanwhile, the Centre has also stepped up its efforts to reclaim the Constitution as its own. The culture ministry, for instance, has directed all associations and institutions attached to it to hold regular programmes on the Constitution. These could include a lecture, a discussion or a workshop. Maybe this exercise is not related to the ongoing protests but the Centre’s directive has acquired urgency against the backdrop of the students’ agitation.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi may be out on his travels but he continues to call the shots in the party through his band of loyalists. For instance, Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal, who is said to speak on behalf of the Nehru-Gandhi scion, played a key role in drawing up the list of party leaders to be included in the Maharashtra Cabinet. According to party insiders, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who is officially in charge of Maharashtra, was a mere token presence in these discussions. Then there is Rajiv Satav, also a member of Team Rahul, now heading the screening committee to shortlist candidates for next month’s Delhi elections. Furthermore, Rahul aides Meenakshi Natrajan and Sachin Rao have been instrumental in the appointment of “friends” — Sachin Naik and Bajirao Khade — in Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s team. But nothing beats the appointment of Vijay Inder Singla as Congress secretary attached to treasurer Ahmed Patel, with the specific charge of properties and assets. This is an additional responsibility for Mr Singla as he is also a minister in the Punjab government. Needless to say, Mr Singla is close to Rahul Gandhi. Congress leaders are wondering if Mr Singla’s appointment is an attempt to clip Mr Patel’s wings.
Rajendra Kumar Miglani, adviser to Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath is easily the most powerful man in the state government. Known for his four-decade-old association with Mr Nath, Mr Miglani has been a permanent fixture in his office and has been the point person managing the chief minister’s constituency Chhindwara. Today in Bhopal, Mr Miglani controls access to the chief minister. All those employed both in Mr Nath’s office and residence are handpicked by him and are popularly referred to as the “Miglani Service Cadre” (MSC). Predictably, Mr Miglani is kept abreast of all developments in Mr Nath’s office and home by MSC members who owe their jobs to the chief minister’s right-hand man. As a result, no one and nothing escapes Mr Miglani’s attention.
That Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy Sachin Pilot are not exactly on best terms is an open secret. The two are constantly engaged in a cat-and-mouse game. So far, Mr Gehlot was forced to treat his younger colleague with kid gloves. But the CM is now comfortably placed after six legislators from the Bahujan Samaj Party crossed over. A more confident Gehlot is said to be planning a Cabinet rejig. There is talk that the newly-inducted MLAs are likely to be rewarded with ministerial berths while Mr Pilot’s nominees could be dropped on the pretext of accommodating the former BSP legislators. As a result, the tension between the two has resurfaced. It was, therefore, no surprise when Mr Pilot publicly criticised his own government for the infant deaths in Kota.
The February 8 Delhi Assembly election has forced finance ministry officials to postpone the customary post-budget dinner for media-persons. The dinner is usually organised a day or two after the presentation of the budget and is hosted by the finance minister. Officials who are in charge of planning the minister’s schedule and booking the venue realised just in time that since the model code of conduct is in place, it would have to be held after the poll results are declared on February 11. Nirmala Sitharaman’s last post-budget dinner became controversial as a large number of journalists did not adhere to the boycott call given by their colleagues to protest her decision to deny access to accredited correspondents to the ministry.