Anita Katyal | Singhal nephew at pujan venue; COVID reprieve for Gehlot government?

Salil Singhal's presence, along with his wife Madhu, led many to ask about denying the same courtesy to children of senior BJP leaders

While most invitees seated in close proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi around the havan kund at the ground breaking ceremony for the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya last week could be recognised, people were left guessing the identity of a couple who participated in the religious ceremony.

It turned out the “unknown person” was Salil Singhal, a Udiapur-based businessman and the nephew of late Ashok Singhal, who was the international working president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad for nearly two decades and a leading figure in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.

Salil Singhal’s presence, along with his wife Madhu, led many to ask about denying the same courtesy to children of senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi who were also the architects of the movement which catapulted the saffron party to power.

Party insiders pointed out it should be remembered that Ashok Singhal was the first leader from the Sangh to declare his support for Modi’s candidature as the BJP’s prime ministerial face.

Speaking to the press at the 2013 Mahakumbh congregation in Allahabad, Singhal had said that Modi enjoyed the same popularity as Jawaharlal Nehru.

In contrast to Singhal, Advani had resisted Modi’s move to the national political stage while Joshi was also not known to be favourably disposed towards Modi.

After Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra came out in support of the construction of a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, party leaders went overboard in endorsing her stand.

While most leaders put out similar tweets and statements, many party offices in the states and districts organised special prayer meetings while others even burst crackers to mark the occasion.

However, this open display of religiosity at the party offices has not gone down well with a section of the Congress cadre. Questions are being raised in private conversations about organising pujas at party offices and whether similar celebrations will be held in the future to mark the festivals of other faiths.

Most pertinently, it is being asked if any programme will be held when the construction of the mosque begins on the plot, which has been allotted to the Muslim community to compensate for giving up their claim on the disputed site of the Babri Masjid.

First home minister Amit Shah tested positive for coronavirus. Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan was next. Both are undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Gurugram.

With the two leaders in quarantine, BJP insiders are wondering how their incarceration will affect the party’s plans to topple the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan.

It is an acknowledged fact that it is Shah who is planning and supervising the operation in the desert state while Pradhan, who has now emerged as his chief lieutenant, executes the former party president’s orders.

So does this mean a reprieve for the Gehlot government? The more optimistic in the BJP express full faith in Shah’s capabilities while underlining that it is perhaps no coincidence that the two chief players are in a hospital which is in close proximity to the resort where rebel Rajasthan Congress leaders are lodged.

Bihar’s director general of police Gupteshwar Pandey, who has been extremely vocal about the ongoing investigation into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, sounds more like a politician than a high-ranking police officer.

Like a politician he has been making all kinds of charges in public, acting as judge, jury and executioner.

It must be recalled here that Pandey nurses political ambitions and had even sought a ticket from the Bharatiya Janata Party but it never materialised.

As inspector general of police, Muzaffarpur, Pandey courted controversy when he was investigating an abduction case and was even examined by the Central Bureau of Investigation in connection with it.
Pandey took voluntary retirement from the service a few years ago but was subsequently reinstated by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, a decision which raised a lot of eyebrows.

This bit of background is important to understand why Mr Pandey is over-eager to please his political bosses.

The recent decision of the textile ministry, headed by Smriti Irani, to disband the 70-year-old All-India Handloom Board, set up by Pupul Jayakar, and the All-India Handicrafts Board, has virtually gone unnoticed.

The two panels, comprising craftspersons and other experts, served as a valuable forum for the government to get inputs from people working in the field. The official explanation for scrapping these boards is that it is prompted by the government’s vision of “minimum government, maximum governance”.

However, representatives of the sector and craftspersons, are convinced the decision flows from a belief that Irani’s ministry does not need to listen to voices from the ground.

They feel it is a deliberate attempt to deny an opportunity to those outside the system to interact with the government. Irani is particularly prickly about working with anyone who has been even remotely associated with the Congress regime.

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