The ongoing developments in the Yogi Adityanath government have not only put the focus back on the Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s centralized style of functioning but also revived talk about his bias against Brahmins. The first salvo was fired by deputy chief minister Brajesh Pathak, who also handles the health portfolio, when he complained that large-scale transfers had been ordered in his department without his knowledge and when he was out of town. Though Yogi Adityanath set up an enquiry panel to look into this matter, it is said the transfers had the blessings of the chief minister who had taken note of the media attention Mr Pathak was getting as health minister. Mr Pathak’s camp followers maintained the deputy CM was being targeted because of his caste. It’s the same story with PWD minister Jitin Prasada whose OSD was suspended by the chief minister and a vigilance probe ordered against him. As in the case of Mr Pathak, these transfers took place during Mr Prasada’s absence. The fact that Mr Pathak and Mr Prasada handle lucrative ministries is also a factor here.
When Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar announced that former Rajasthan governor and senior Congress leader Margaret Alva would be the joint opposition’s candidate for the vice-president’s election, it set off a furious discussion about who had suggested her name. As it is to be expected of the Capital’s political grapevine, there was no dearth of conspiracy theories. One story doing the rounds is that it was Mr Pawar who proposed Ms Alva’s name as the two politicians are known to be good friends, having worked together in the Congress. And that Mr Pawar had done so to irritate Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Once a member of the party’s inner circle, Ms Alva had a falling out with Sonia Gandhi when she charged that tickets had been sold in the 2008 Karnataka Assembly polls after her son was denied a ticket. Ms Alva was removed as party general secretary and sent to Rajasthan as governor. Later, her autobiography created further ripples in which she spoke at length about the testy relationship between Sonia Gandhi and P.V. Narasimha Rao.
Over the years, there have been murmurs in Madhya Pradesh political circles about a tacit understanding between the Bharatiya Janata Party and Gwalior’s Scindia family. It was said that except for a couple of instances in the past, the BJP would not field strong candidates against members of the Scindia family during elections thus ensuring a victory for members of the erstwhile royal family. And as a quid pro quo, the Scindias would use their influence in the Congress to make sure the party did not put up strong candidates against the BJP in assembly and other local elections in Gwalior and surrounding areas. Though a subject of informal chatter till now, Scindia baiters in the Congress and the BJP today gleefully refer to the results of the recent local body elections in Madhya Pradesh to proclaim, “We told you so.” Used to a winning spree, the BJP got a jolt when the Congress bagged the mayor’s post in Gwalior after 57 years. Congress insiders maintained these results proved there was more than an element of truth in what was earlier dismissed as mere conjecture.
Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad had been keeping a low profile ever since he was divested of his ministerial portfolios a year ago. He was barely seen or heard during this period. This was in sharp contrast to the earlier days when the party fielded Mr Prasad regularly to take on the opposition and brief the media about government policies. However, Mr Prasad’s spell in hibernation appears to have ended after the National Herald case hit the headlines once again with the Enforcement Directorate summoning Sonia and Rahul Gandhi for questioning. The BJP has fallen back on the services of its former law minister to counter the Congress on this high-profile case. As the matter came to light when Mr Prasad was heading the law ministry, he appeared to be the appropriate choice here. The current law minister, Kiren Rijiju, probably lacked the seniority and the necessary aggression required for the latest operation against the Gandhis.
First, accredited media persons were denied access to various ministries. Then, their entry to Parliament House was restricted and the Central Hall was closed to the press. And now photographers and camera persons are not being allowed for important events. For instance, only official media — Doordarshan and Sansad TV — was permitted to cover the recent unveiling of the national emblem in the under-construction new Parliament House by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Going a step further, photojournalists and video cameramen have been denied access to the August 15 Independence Day programme at the Red Fort on the pretext of Covid restrictions. Seeking information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur’s intervention, the Working News Cameramen’s Association pointed out that since this is the 75th Independence Day, it is a historic occasion for visual coverage and that the government’s decision had frustrated professional photojournalists. This is in keeping with the government’s consistent policy to keep the media at a safe distance.