She has, in the recent past, taken on the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in her home state MP and is now targeting the party itself
After lying low for some time, the firebrand sanyasin and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Uma Bharati is in the news once again. Desperate to return to electoral politics (she did not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha election), the former Union minister, currently out in the cold, makes her presence felt periodically. She has, in the recent past, taken on the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in her home state Madhya Pradesh and is now targeting the party itself. Uma Bharati’s fiery oratory at a recent meeting of the Lodhi community in Tikamgarh has become a source of acute embarrassment for the BJP. She told the audience that as a loyal soldier of her party she could not say anything against it but there is no constraint on the people who must carefully assess if the BJP representatives have delivered on their promises before they cast their vote. Union minister Prahlad Singh Patel and his MLA brother Jamal Singh Patel, who were also present at the meeting, were left red-faced as Uma Bharati continued in the same vein, basically exhorting the audience not to vote for the BJP. The BJP’s Madhya Pradesh unit is predictably upset and has asked Jamal Singh Patel to explain his presence at a function where an anti-party speech was delivered.
For all the scorn heaped by the current ruling dispensation on the “Khan Market gang”, Bharatiya Janata Party leaders are not averse to being clubbed as its members. In fact, politicians of all hues — from K.C. Tyagi (Janata Dal (United)) to Derek O’Brien (Trinamul Congress) and Ram Gopal Yadav (Samajwadi Party) — can be spotted at this so-called “elite” market. Recently Union minister Smriti Irani was seen looking at shawls in one of the shops. Uncharacteristically, given her usual loud self, Ms Irani took care not to attract attention to herself. She was there alone, without staff or security personnel, and spoke in hushed tones to the staff. Fortunately for her, no one recognised her as everyone was busy shopping. Apparently, Ms Irani is a frequent visitor to Khan Market and generally comes minus her ministerial paraphernalia.
Given his penchant for courting controversy, the voluble Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar has often found himself sidelined by the party for his off-the-cuff remarks. The last time he embarrassed the Congress was a few years ago when he made some uncharitable remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. At one point, Mr Aiyar was also suspended by the party but even after his suspension was revoked, he was kept on the margins. But he appears to be back in the good books of the Congress leadership now. This was evident from the fact that Mr Aiyar was seated prominently in the front row along with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi at the party’s foundation day programme last month. Sonia Gandhi was also seen in deep conversation with Mr Aiyar after the function. On his part, Mr Aiyar has emerged from the shadows and has been participating enthusiastically in Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. He has also given a spate of interviews where he has been all praise for Rahul Gandhi’s foot march and its message of unity.
Though Union defence minister Rajnath Singh is officially designated number two in the official hierarchy, he has not enjoyed the same status as his home minister Amit Shah, known to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, of late, there appears to be a belated recognition of Mr Singh’s stature and seniority. The defence minister has been far more vocal and visible in recent months as he travelled from Arunachal Pradesh to the Andamans, inaugurating high-profile projects and issuing warnings to China and Pakistan which would otherwise be the prerogative of the Prime Minister. It is in keeping with the importance being accorded to Mr Singh at the Centre that his son Pankaj Singh, an MLA in the Yogi government, has been allotted a ministerial bungalow on Lucknow’s prestigious Kalidas Marg, just down the road from chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s official residence at number 5. Interestingly, the number of Pankaj Singh’s residence is 5A, even though it is the seventeenth bungalow down the road. One view is that it is to convey a message that the Singhs are way up the pecking order, next only to the chief minister.
An interesting experiment is currently underway in the government. According to insiders, all the Central ministers have been asked to acquaint themselves with the functioning, landmark projects and the achievements of a ministry other than their own. It is believed this proposal has come from the Prime Minister’s Office. Its chief purpose is to ensure that the knowledge base of the ministers is not necessarily limited to a particular field and that instead they should have an overview of the government’s working in other areas and also its success stories. This, it is argued, will also help the ministers in responding to queries from the media and elsewhere during their travels as it is found that questions are not always confined to one field. The government obviously does not want its ministers faltering when information is sought on issues outside their respective areas of expertise.