by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
Fly on the Wall
No political secretary for Rahul Gandhi
There may be a mad race to grab the post of Political Secretary to Rahul Gandhi, insiders say that the new Congress President will not have a political secretary. The AICC is witnessing an interesting battle with top guns throwing their hat in the ring to grab the coveted post of political secretary to “CP”, it is emerging that there will no such post available. Insiders say that Ahmad Patel is Political Adviser to Sonia Gandhi and he will continue to hold the fort. Sonia Gandhi may not remain CP. But she will continue to be the Chairman of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) and Patel will be political adviser to the CPP. But Rahul Gandhi has his own style of functioning and will have his own team in his office. But there may not be much of a tinkering in the AICC office as a number of changes have already been made. If he has Mohan Gopal, an ideologue and director of Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies (RGICS), he has K Raju a former IAS working for him as key person in his office. Then former Union Minister Ajay Maken, Kanishka Singh and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh are also in the reckoning for the key post. Jairam Ramesh's supporters say that he has all the credentials to hold the post as he writes speeches for Rahul. But Rahul's Man-Friday these days is Sam Pitroda who will play a key role in the selection of Rahul's new team. Pitroda is the man who runs the show in the Rahul Establishment. But when it comes to political secretary's post, Rahul Gandhi will not have one. It is explained that there were historic reasons for Sonia Gandhi to appoint a political adviser. Rahul Gandhi doesn't need one.
Rane left high & dry !
Naraian Rane may have been left high and dry, at least foe the time being. He quit Congress and his Legislative Council seat as well. Though there was no formal announcement of his outfit joining the NDA by the BJP, Rane made a suo-moto declaration. It was conceived that Rane will be re-contesting his Council seat with the support of the NDA. The BJP leaders also went to town about it. But after a thorough internal discussion, it is felt that no useful purpose will be served by confronting the Shiv Sena at this juncture in Maharashtra. The Sena had made it clear that if Rane is fielded as a candidate with the support of the BJP, the “war” will begin. Rane doesn't have the strength to file nomination papers on his own. He can do it only with the support of the BJP. The BJP on its own strength cannot ensure Rane's victory either. Secondly, it will provide an opportunity to the Shiv Sena to form an alliance with NCP and Congress to ensure the defeat of Rane. The BJP leadership feels that the risk is not worth taking. The last word has not yet been written on the issue as yet.
The silence for 48 hours
Prime Minister Modi had given one mantra to his core diplomatic team including External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj; to maintain total secrecy. He had burnt his fingers in 2016 when massive diplomatic effort was launched to secure the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers's group which miserably failed. But this time, the PM was very cautious and personally supervised the world-wide campaign for the victory of India's Dalveer Bhandari for the seat at the International Court of Justice. Modi was personally focusing on US, China, France, Germany and Russian and even UK who are members of the P5+1 powerful club. It was Modi who won over China in this crucial battle and in the end all 15 UNSC members voted for India. This is in complete contrast to New Delhi's widely publicized bid for the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2016. Even Justice Bhandari was told not to make any statement. The 48 hours preceding the vote for Dalveer Bhandari in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and the UN Security Council (UNSC) were crucial. It was the silence of India for 48 hours that made the difference. It was a massive diplomatic campaign but all private.
Green Tribunal in great misery
The Modi government's apathy towards the National Green Tribunal was too well known and it was felt that this may be confined to the out-going chief Swatanter Kumar. But now it transpires that the government is in no mood to fill the vacancies even in four branches of the NGT at Chennai, Kolkata, Bhopal and Delhi. In fact, the government has virtually stopped communicating except for its lawyers appearing before the body. The NGT is virtually gasping for its own survival and no vacancies are filled of judicial and expert members of the body at its four principal branches. Interestingly, even in benches where judicial members are working, there are no expert members as vacancies remain unfilled. The two names that were sent for consideration of the government to replace NGT chief Swatanter Kumar who is retiring on December 18, have not been accepted by the Modi government. It transpires that the lone judicial member in Delhi NGT justice V D Salvi is also retiring February 2018. Tragically, the other benches of the NGT in Delhi are not even functioning as there are no members.
Modi wants NHRC Act to be amended
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also signaled to the judiciary that he is not comfortable with the current law governing the National Human Rights Commission. Under the law, only a retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court can be the Chairman of the NHRC. The law was made at the prodding of the Supreme Court when the executive was weak. The government feels that the law benefits only the retiring CJIs and doesn't send a positive signal. Modi is of the view that the law be changed and scope of appointing NHRC chief be expanded. Why only retired CJIs be its chairman and why not a human rights activist of acclaim or veteran jurist, wondered Modi at a close door meeting. The UPA under the Manmohan Singh dispensation also thought of amending the law. But it could not muster the courage to amend the law. But Modi is of the firm view that monopoly of post-retirement post reserved for CJI is discriminatory and be changed. Watch out !