THE RESHUFFLE OF the Modi Cabinet has left many in the ruling party extremely angry. Their failing to make the grade in what’s said to be the last recast of the Central team before the next General Election was one thing. What’s particularly galling was the induction of Hardeep Singh Puri and KJ Alphons, both of whom joined the BJP on the eve of the 2014 polls after retiring from government service. Senior leaders with multiple Lok Sabha terms under their belt are upset that their claims were ignored in favour of ‘outsiders’ in search of post-retirement glory. It’s a case of ghar ki murgi dal baraabar, they believe, of the homebred being taken for granted, rather than lack of talent within the party. Ministerial spots for RK Singh, former home secretary, and Satya Pal Singh, former Mumbai Police commissioner, were more acceptable because both had successfully contested Lok Sabha seats after their retirement, while Puri and Alphons would have to be found seats in the Rajya Sabha.
Alphons was once a Marxist- backed independent member of the Kerala Assembly. Aspiring to bigger things, he relocated to Delhi and joined the BJP. A near-permanent fixture at the India International Centre, he spent much of his time doing the rounds of BJP circuits looking for a suitable post. He found a patron in Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was ready to sponsor his appointment as administrator of the Union Territory of Chandigarh, a proposal that was dropped following a protest by the Badal government of the time in Punjab. Alphons’ persistence in wooing all and sundry in the ruling party did finally paid off, however, as seen on September 3rd. His detractors have not forgotten the controversial stint he’d had as an aide to Ram Jethmalani when the latter was Urban Development Minister in the first NDA Government. Alphons’ school-going son had blossomed overnight into a gifted painter, with HUDCO shelling out several lakh to the 12-year-old for ‘masterpieces’ to be used for a table calendar brought out by the Ministry-administered housing company.
Puri, on the other hand, was always considered a bright officer. But his penchant for 24x7 networking and his sharp tongue did not quite endear him to his peers in the IFS. A go-getter, he was not above ingratiating himself with the powerful for better posts and bigger assignments. From the moment he joined the BJP, he had been making entreaties to a senior minister and a few others who claimed to have the Prime Minister’s trust. What he does in the Urban Development Ministry now will be watched closely. Meanwhile, some Sangh faithfuls are cut up over RK Singh’s induction, recalling how he had nasty things to say about the RSS back when he was home secretary.
IT IS USUALLY given to Subramanian Swamy, the storm petrel of Indian politics, to roil placid political waters. But this time around it may be his wife Roxna Swamy who might cause ripples. Her book, Evolving with Subramanian Swamy: a Roller Coaster Ride, is set to be released next week. And it is said to have much vitriol against those who she believes blocked her husband’s career, a path that presumably would otherwise have led to ever higher pinnacles of political achievement. This book, one fears, might keep her busy for the rest of her life should any of the victims seek legal redressal. Even a cursory reading of the self-published book would be enough to establish that in her perception, Atal Bihari Vajpayee is the chief villain of the story. The former Prime Minister stands accused of almost everything conceivable. A devoted wife’s hagiography of her great husband might have been fine, but for the prejudice and hatred splattered liberally all over its pages. Yet, this could turn out to be a compulsive read for those interested in politics.
JUST ONE QUESTION: What is so special about Norway that the Gandhis keep finding some pretext or another to visit the Scandinavian country? Rahul Gandhi, vice-president of the Congress party, was in Oslo recently. A couple of years ago, Sonia Gandhi had chosen to go there, ostensibly to get some award. Those who keep track of such things wonder why Norway has become such an important destination for the Gandhis. Has it got something to do with the presence of an old family retainer based there who acts as a trusted Man Friday?