Off the record

Vintage performance

After almost a month-long battle over the controversy involving her and former IPL chief Lalit Modi, Sushma Swaraj's  performance at the press conference on Saturday evening was seen as her vintage best as she cleverly drew India’s red lines for Pakistan over the National Security Adviser-level talks. She did not duck or fudge any questions and made it clear over and over again that NSA talks will not take place if Pakistan’s Sartaj Aziz were to stick to his two “pre-conditions” of discussing the Kashmir issue and meeting Kashmiri separatists in New Delhi.

True to her style, she did not say that Aziz won’t be allowed to come to India. She only said that if Aziz were to go ahead with his pre-conditions, there won’t be any talks. She dismissed Aziz’s argument made at his own press conference in Islamabad two hours prior to her presser that India was attaching “pre-conditions” for the talks and it was indulging in “media diplomacy.” For a person who has chosen to play a second fiddle to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy objectives, Swaraj’s performance was seen in the BJP circles as reinforcing her political standing, which had come under severe strain in the wake of the Lalit Modi row.
Shekhar Iyer, New Delhi

Unfazed Owaisi

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi’s decision to field 25 candidates in the Bihar polls has seen charges being levelled at him by the non-BJP parties that he is helping the BJP by splitting Muslim votes, which account for 16 per cent of electorate and are crucial for Nitish Kumar-Lalu Prasad combine and the Congress. Owaisi has remained cool to the charges. His standard response is, “Some people used to say I am an agent of Pakistan.

Now, some people are saying I am agent of BJP. I do not support Prime Minister Narendra Modi and will never do in future.”

Owaisi blames the Congress and secular parties for making Modi the PM. “Honestly speaking, I would say 95 per cent of Muslims had not voted for BJP, neither will they do in future... Mistakes of secular parties led to Modi’s huge success," he adds. Owaisi is likely to field his candidates from the minority-dominated areas of Bihar – the Seemanchal belt, where Muslim voters outnumber others. After Maharashtra where he tasted success, Bihar is too tempting for him. The next stop could be Uttar Pradesh where the Samajwadi Party government has prevented him from holding rallies.
SI, New Delhi

Costly egos

The internal politics of Congress leaders has again led to a massive defeat of the party in the municipal polls in Rajasthan. Several senior leaders like Girija Vyas were given important responsibilities in the elections but none of them took keen interest in the polls. Despite the visit of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi to Rajasthan a few weeks ago, senior Congress leaders could not work in mutual cooperation. This was the only reason that the Congress failed to capitalise on the decreased vote share of the ruling BJP, while independent candidates took an advantage of it.

Senior leaders like former chief minister Ashok Gehlot, PCC chief Sachin Pilot and state in-charge Gurudas Kamat were touring Rajasthan to convince voters but the party failed to achieve the desired results. Party workers are of the view that if the Congress wants to revive itself in Rajasthan, senior party leaders will have to leave aside the mutual differences.
Abhishek Gaur, Jaipur

B’day wishes

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury was a little surprised when a letter from Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed on his desk on August 12 – a day before the acrimonious monsoon session of parliament came to its end. The CPM was with the Congress and rest of the opposition in stalling the proceedings of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, and thereby, the legislative agenda of the Modi government. Modi’s letter was in Bengali and Yechury, whose mother tongue is Telugu, had to take help from a party worker from Kolkata to read it. It was, however, not an offer to buy peace in parliament.

The PM rather greeted the communist leader on his birthday. But, why did he choose Bengali? The most plausible explanation was that Yechury, who was born in Chennai and grew up in Hyderabad, represents West Bengal in the Rajya Sabha. Yechury, too, wanted to reply to the PM in Bengali, a language which he can speak fluently, but cannot write. So, he had to finally take help from party MP Ritabrata Bandopadhyay, who wrote the thanksgiving reply on behalf of his leader.
Anirban Bhaumik, New Delhi

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