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Raisina Whispers

Raisina Whispers

Varahamihira, Oct 30, 2017

At the annual Diwali Milan organised by the BJP for media persons, PM Modi extolled the virtues of inner party democracy. He urged those gathered to examine whether political parties actually followed democratic values within as this has a crucial bearing on the concept of democracy in our country. The context though not mentioned explicitly was to the upcoming polls within Congress which will see Rahul Gandhi being elevated to the post of President. With a number of state committees and frontal organisations backing Rahul's claim to the President's post already, questions are emerging whether the elections are just a formality. However, with Modi's controversial track record right from Chief Ministerial days where he gradually reduced media access to the Gujarat Assembly and Secretariat, to the current rule at the Centre where most big policy decisions are centralised around his office, many were left wondering whether he was the right person to wax eloquent on democracy.

On the dais with Prime Minister Modi and Party President Amit Shah at this event were Ministers Smriti Irani, Dr Jitender Singh, Nirmala Sitharaman and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. In the past, top Ministers like Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu would attend. While Venkaiah is now Vice President, Jaitley and Rajnath were travelling and thus unavailable. However, this did not stop the crowd gathered from speculating whether this is a signal to others about the future team Modi.

In a first, Party President Amit Shah went and greeted every single media person gathered for the Diwali event with folded hands. This is the fourth edition of the Diwali Milan in NDA II and Shah generally mingles with a few front rows of top editors and journalists. This was the longest time he has spent with the crowds. This is also the first such public interaction with the media following reports of his son Jay Shah's exponential growth of wealth after the BJP came to power and the ensuing political onslaught. It also comes in the run up to the Gujarat Assembly polls. While one journalist was heard asking a senior about whether this was a sign of nervousness, the veteran journalist complained "If they don't meet you say they are arrogant. If they meet you, say they are nervous. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t".

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi met journalists at the Diwali Milan he came across journalists from 2 competitor channels known to be currently engaged in an open bitter war standing together. The PM asked them in Hindi whether they meet each other. "Aap sab saath milte hain kya?" triggering giggles. Borrowing from the Govt's slogan, prompt came the reply from one of them - "Sab ka Saath hai Sir!!". The PM responded with his trademark hearty laugh.

In an outreach to the Sikh community, the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, an affiliate of the RSS, recently organised a function to mark the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh. RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat and Home Minister Rajnath Singh too were invited for the event held at Talkatora Stadium, Delhi. However, rather than bringing the Sikh community closer, it has ended up in a controversy. Apparently Sikh bodies have not taken kindly to the RSS organising the event for the Sikh guru, and see it as an attempt to appropriate the Sikh religion. The Jathedar (head priest) of the Akal Takht (the highest temporal seat for Sikhs) Giani Gurbachan Singh passed an edict, asking Sikhs to boycott the convention. Following this, the Chief Guest of the event the Patna Sahib Jathedar Giani Iqbal Singh opted out citing bad health. The BJP's Punjab ally SAD is also not too happy with the perceived encroachment on its domain. The SAD incidentally, controls the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) in not just Punjab but in New Delhi too.

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