Anna Hazare as our next President?

Little was known about Mr Hazare till six years ago as his campaigns had till then been confined to Maharashtra.

As the date for the Presidential election draws closer, speculation about possible contenders for the top job has also picked up momentum.

While the names of Jharkhand governor Draupadi Murmu, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Maharashtra governor Vidyasagar Rao have been doing the rounds for several weeks now, a fresh one has been added to this list.

According to the political grapevine, social activist Anna Hazare, the face of the 2011 anti-corruption campaign against the Congress-led UPA government, is also being considered by the ruling BJP.

Little was known about Mr Hazare till six years ago as his campaigns had till then been confined to Maharashtra. However, he shot to fame after he captured the nation’s imagination when he led the anti-graft campaign in Delhi.

Besides, the fact that he is well-respected and has a clean image, the BJP is said to be warming to Mr Hazare because he has strong links with the ruling party’s ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. But most importantly, the social activist’s leanings are not public knowledge and he can, therefore, be projected as a neutral person.

In fact, it was suspected that it was the RSS which had fielded Anna to take on the UPA government. Not only does his candidature tie in with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s penchant to spring surprises, it will also be difficult for the Opposition, specially the Congress, to reject an anti-corruption crusader.

Ever since the BJP emerged as a serious contender for power in Odisha after its remarkable performance in the last local elections, the normally reclusive chief minister and BJD leader Naveen Patnaik has come out of his self-imposed exile.

The four-term chief minister has shed his earlier complacency and has become more vocal and visible. He recently rejigged his Council of Ministers, cracked the whip on party rebels and has made himself accessible to the people, even going to the extent of clicking selfies with students.

Not just that, Mr Patnaik has also hired a PR agency to publicise his activities in Delhi media circles. In an attempt to give Mr Patnaik an image makeover, the agency is trying to dispel the popular perception that Mr Patnaik is aloof and uncaring.

For instance, it recently sent out a news item for publication about how the ever-vigilant chief minister’s office reacted promptly to a tweet from a citizen drawing Mr Patnaik’s attention to a suspected case of trafficking of children. Mr Patnaik’s office, it was stated, sprang into action and lost no time in rescuing the five children hailing from Ganjam.

Mr Patnaik also tweeted appreciating the swift action of the state police and the help rendered by the “good Samaritan” who alerted the administration to the case of trafficking of minors.

Trinamul Congress lawmaker Derek O’Brien has written a blog titled “Six lessons I have learnt as an MP including the perils of Khan Market”, on the completion of his first term as a Rajya Sabha member. Among the points he has flagged, Mr O’Brien has underlined the importance of research and an MP’s quest for feedback which, he says, should take you to the grassroots for personally-felt experience and inputs from those actually affected by a bill or a policy.

“There is no point limiting your research to the two dozen know-alls permanently hanging around in the capital’s Khan Market,” he goes on to add.

The reference to Khan Market has amused all those who have become acquainted with him in Delhi. That’s because Mr O’Brien has often confessed that he has become a “Khan Market junkie” ever since he started spending time in the capital for the duration of the Parliament sessions.

Not just that, but Mr O’Brien has also admitted that he is a regular at one of the upmarket eateries in Khan Market. He keeps coming back to the place for its beetroot and herbs salad, which, he says, is his favourite.

Uttarakhand’s higher education minister Dhan Singh Rawat is seething with anger these days. And the reason is not far to seek. On a recent visit to Delhi with his family, Mr Rawat was left stranded at the railway station as there was no official car or officer to receive him on his arrival. He waited at the station for nearly an hour and it was only when he called up the officials that they realised that they had messed up.

The episode was particularly galling for Mr Rawat because the state’s protocol department is also under his charge. To make matters worse, Lok Sabha MP and former Uttarakhand chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, who also reached Delhi at the same time, was whisked away immediately by his staff in his official car.

A furious Mr Rawat did not wait for the officials but instead hired a taxi and went straight to a local hotel. The errant officials made several attempts to placate the minister but to little avail. A livid Mr Rawat ordered the transfer of the Delhi-based estate officer on his return to Dehradun.

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