Capital Grape Wine
Capital Grape Wine
Weekend Special

Capital Grape Wine

Virendra Kapoor

A reshuffle of Modi team is in air again

There are no excuses now for the Prime Minister not to fully build his ministerial team which more than three years after he took office remains woefully incomplete and, some would say, even haphazard with key ministries without regular heads.

Given that Modi faces little challenge both inside and outside Parliament, he is free to induct whoever he wants from within the NDA or outside to complete the task of ministry-making. It is believed that the coming reshuffle would be crucial as the NDA is expected to fight the 2019 general election under its watch. Though the Government is prime minister-centric, with the performance of even senior ministers being constantly monitored by the PMO, accommodating various interests, including caste, regional and electoral, cannot be ignored.Indeed, latest speculation in the political circles links the on-going developments in the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu to the coming reshuffle at the Centre. Expulsion of Dinakaran, facing serious corruption charges, by the ruling faction is part of the exercise meant to pave for the induction of a few members from the AIADMK into the Modi Government. We will know the truth when the much-awaited reshuffle takes place, most probably sometime later in August.

Apropos Sharad Yadav, it seems, Modi has serious reservations on his induction, though he may not be averse to taking a nominees or two from the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) in the ministry. But for all practical purposes, the proposed reshuffle will center on the BJP component of the NDA, with some of the ministers currently holding double and triple charge shedding at least one heavy-duty ministry in favour of new inductees.

Modi’s problem is that there is not a surfeit of talent in the NDA. Actually, the bane of all ruling parties invariably is that they have but only a couple of sure hands for filling key ministerial slots in the Cabinet. With the front-liners such as Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh, Nirmala Seetharaman, Ravi Shankar Prasad, etc., already holding key ministries, the search for a full-fledged Defence Minister, --- Finance Minister Jaitley holds its temporary charge --- has not thrown up a fitting candidate. Ditto for I and B and Urban Welfare ministries.But nonetheless the reshuffle will be keenly watched for these very appointments, especially whether Defence at long last has a full-fledged minister of its own.

Venkaiah’s transition: from speaker to listener

When SomNath Chatterjee, then the leader of the CPI(M) group in the Lok Sabha, became the Speaker of the Lok Sabha in 2004, some people wondered whether he might take his job literally -- and speak the most while presiding over the proceedings. In the event, Chatterjee the Speaker did not quite disprove his critics, speakinga little more than was usual for the presiding officers.

We were reminded of the innate habit of Chatterjee to talk incessantly when the BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu became the Vice-President and in which capacity he is set to preside over the proceedings of the RajyaSabha. Unlike his immediate predecessor, Hamid Ansari, a professional diplomat who was trained to value silence, Naidu has been a life-long politician, a calling which puts a great store by public speaking. Besides, Naidu prides himself on his unique style, using alliterations and puns and repartees to make his point. It will be a challenge for him to curb his zeal for rhymes and repartees while presiding over the Upper House where the ruling combine still lacks majority.

Meanwhile, there is every likelihood that the bi-annual feast that Naidu invariably organized for the capital-based journalists and a fair sprinkling of the ruling party politicians might end with his promotion as Vice-President. The other day he hosted a huge luncheon feast at his APJ Abdul Kalam Road bungalow which many feared was probably his last. As usual, the choicest Andhra delicacies, including prawn Iguru, Nellore Chepala, chicken pulao, chicken fry, as also regional chutneys and sweets such as Poothareku, Arisely, formed part of the lavish spread.

After having his fill to his heart’s content a journalist asked the host, who most graciously went from table to table chatting with his guests, whether he would continue to extend such hospitality as Vice-President also. “… We will have to see… I will now be protocol-bound…” Well, if you know your Venkaiah Naidu, as we claim we do, he is certain to find a way around that hide-bound protocol to host those feasts for `media friends’ as he calls the capital’s press corps.

Misuse of religion for money

Show me the face and I will show you the law. Well, that alone explains why someone in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi has been allowed to colonize a whole traffic island on one of the busiest roads in the capital without the civic authorities lifting their little finger to stop this open ~dadagiri~. In case you are familiar with New Delhi, a roundabout on Kasturba Gandhi Marg (formerly Curzon Road) has now been fully built upon, with a chemist shop and an office of a little known journal running from there. So audacious are the illegal occupants of this spot that they regularly park their vehicles too on the roundabout. Why the traffic police has kept quiet is a mystery, specially when the illegal commercial activity and periodicallya huge billboard is hazardous for the free flow of traffic.

This monstrosity has come up in recent years in full view of the authorities. The MEA Hostel is within handshake distance as are the new Maharashtra Sadan and the BharatiyaVidyaBhawan. It sticks out like a sore thumb whenever you drive on KG Marg from South Delhi to Connaught Place. Yet, the New Delhi Municipal Committee, has shown no intention tostop the commercial operation from the traffic roundabout, though it is never lacking in zeal to pursue illegal roadside hawkers and others encroaching on public land.

On inquiries, we were told the reason why the civic authorities may have decided to look the other way is that the main culprit behind the illegal operation is connected with the All India Imams Conference. In that capacity, sometime ago he had established links with the RSS-BJP bosses as well, with the latter taking a benign view of his misuse of the traffic roundabout. A case of positive discrimination, the RSS-BJP style?And you still call the BJP communal?

Celebrating a cliff-hanger

A day after he won the nail-biting contest for a RajyaSabha seat from Gujarat, the Congress biggie, Ahmed Patel, staged a much-awaited entry into Parliament. After he had been duly feted by his colleagues in the House,he walked into the Central Hall of Parliament to reclaim his usual perch in the second or third row on the left side of the hall. And he was immediately surrounded by a huge group of journalists and fellow politicians. Sticking to his trade-mark response in mono-syllables to a volley of questions from the journos as to who voted for whom , Patel ordered a round of ~gulabjamuns~ and ~ balushahis~ for everyone around, a concession on this happy day, though generally he helps himself to a frugal lunch which he most generously orders for media persons as well.