Inside Track: Coomi Kapoor

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Rashtrapati Bhavan was in a tizzy last week when President Pranab Mukherjee discovered that his Aadhaar card was missing. (PTI)

Prez’s card hunt
Rashtrapati Bhavan was in a tizzy last week when President Pranab Mukherjee discovered that his Aadhaar card was missing. A search was launched for the missing document in the huge mansion with dozens of rooms. Since it is not difficult to make a duplicate Aadhaar card, some in Rashtrapati Bhavan were curious over the anxiety to find the document immediately. One surmise from some members of the staff, hoping wistfully that they too can somehow stay on, was that President Mukherjee could still emerge as a consensus candidate for a fresh term and the ubiquitous ID card was needed to fill out the formalities for filing of nomination papers.

Unwelcome in Bengal
Prime Minister Narendra Modi believes in constant interactions with state governments to check out how central government schemes are progressing on the ground. He has held frequent video conference calls with the chief secretaries and home secretaries of most states. He has also asked his Cabinet ministers to visit the states with their respective secretaries. Venkaiah Naidu, who handles three portfolios, has visited nine states already along with a large party of officials, including three secretaries and nine joint secretaries. Energy minister Piyush Goyal has also travelled extensively. One chief minister who has refused to meet the central ministers and has asked her officials to avoid video conferences is Mamata Banerjee. The Bengal boss remains deeply suspicious of the Modi government and feels that central ministers will visit her state on the pretext of discussing projects, while doing party propaganda and interacting with the BJP state unit at the same time.

Tutoring in Gita
After Rahul Gandhi’s announcement that he was reading the Gita and Upanishads to counter false propaganda by the RSS and BJP, his party members are curious to know who is Gandhi’s tutor. Initial speculation was that Jairam Ramesh might be his guru. After all, Ramesh is very knowledgeable in Sanskrit—he knows almost all the 18 chapters of the Gita by heart and can recite important shlokas without assistance. Actually, Gandhi’s teacher is believed to be a professor in Sanskrit from Banaras Hindu University. The tutor, who is often seen in Gandhi’s office, reportedly hands him relevant quotes duly translated into English.

Note the notings
Once he demits office, President Pranab Mukherjee will continue writing his autobiography, two volumes of which have already been released. It is likely that Mukherjee will conclude the series with his years as President. The autobiography could correct the impression that Mukherjee was not a proactive President in checking the Modi government’s transgressions. Mukherjee believes the Constitution must prevail over all else and there is no point making empty political gestures by returning files unsigned. What really counts is what the President writes in his notings in the files sent to him. History will decide on the basis of these notings the role he played as President.

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Future tense
As long as Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dinakaran was in jail, there was hope that the AIADMK government would survive, with the rival O Panneerselvam and chief minister EK Palaniswami camps amicably settling their differences. Most MLAs dread the thought of a fresh election. But with Dinakaran out on bail, the situation has changed. Twenty-two MLAs and five MPs showed up at the airport to greet him. The Dinakaran camp is keen to know just what transpired between Palaniswami and Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week. If Dinakaran decides not to support Palaniswami, the government can fall, when the GST bill and Budget are taken up for a vote later this month. If this happens, the Assembly is likely to be kept in a state of suspended animation and not dissolved. That way, the MLAs can still vote in the presidential election. And the BJP hopes that the majority of AIADMK legislators will vote for its candidate.

Heralding funds
Even before the website of the National Herald is launched, let alone restarting the newspaper, the Congress plans to bring out a commemorative volume of 70 years of the newspaper which will be released by Vice President Hamid Ansari in Bengaluru. The city has been chosen as the venue and not Delhi, the newspaper’s headquarters, because there is a Congress government in place. The party hopes to raise money from advertisements for the commemorative volume, with the Congress governments of Punjab and Karnataka expected to bolster the ad kitty.

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