Off the record

Off the record

Hand in hand

Nobody in the BJP knew Ram Nath Kovind had good equations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah till he was named the party’s candidate for the Presidential elections. Insiders, however, recalled that the name of Kovind, along with that of Droupadi Murmu, was all along on their mind since they were picked by the prime minister to occupy the Raj Bhavans in Patna and Ranchi two years ago.

A soft-spoken Kovind made it a point to call on veterans L K Advani as well as Murli Manohar Joshi to take their blessings after his name was announced. On the day of his nomination, Kovind held on to the hands of Advani and Joshi to show everyone that the seniors, who could have felt left out of the race, were also supporting him. Finally, Modi too was seen holding Advani's hands as cameras clicked away.
Shekhar Iyer, New Delhi

Quick plan
The Opposition is already rattled by the JD(U)’s support to BJP Presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind. Therefore, it was no surprise that the parties did not want to leave anything to chance when they met to choose their candidate on June 22. While Uttar Pradesh-based parties SP and BSP were in a tight spot because Kovind hails from the state, NCP chief Sharad Pawar was wavering on whether to announce a candidate on the same day. 

Opposition leaders were still uncertain if all their plans would fall in line when they turned up at the meeting that decided Meira Kumar’s candidature. It was then that senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury came up with a plan — get the signatures of the leaders of 17 parties on Kumar’s nomination papers at the meeting venue itself before  venturing out of the room after the press conference.
Shemin Joy, New Delhi

Sharmishta’s strikes
President Pranab Mukherjee’s daughter Sharmishta Mukherjee has not minced words in criticising West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for her government’s “mishandling” of the Darjeeling agitation. Blaming her for triggering a huge crisis during peak tourist season in the hills, she reminded the chief minister that the language issue had to be handled carefully. In a newspaper article, Sharmishta recalled several instances when row over languages even led to creation of a new country, like Bangladesh, and trouble over Hindi left a divide in the south in the 1950s and 1960s.

Sharmishta’s piece has come as a surprise to many. Only two months ago, Mamata was not averse to backing her as a Rajya Sabha candidate from the state if the Congress nominated her. Considering that West Bengal CM has had close ties with her father, Shar­mishta’s criticism of Didi has set tongues wagging. So far, Sharmishta had confined herself to Delhi politics. But is she considering her home state of Bengal for future course of action?
SI, New Delhi

Rice blackmail
With rumours of plastic rice spreading on the social media, the owner of a hotel in Chennai  claimed that a few persons, supposedly from the media, threatened to spoil the image of his restaurant if he did not “take care of them.” Two persons argued with Kumar, the restaurant owner, and said that the food they had bought from his restaurant was of bad quality. The hotelier apologised and returned the money. However, the duo returned that evening with two others, who claimed that they were from the media. They said that the rice used by the hotel was ‘plastic rice.’

Though Kumar reasoned with them that even the government had clarified that there was no plastic rice, one of the “mediaperson” started bargaining. “He demanded money from me and threatened that if I fail to offer, he would publish a news against my hotel,” Kumar said. It was only when Kumar said he would lodge a complaint with the police, that the four left the place.
R Sathyanarayana, Chennai

Sena’s record
Veteran Congressman Narayan Rane’s son Nitesh Rane, had taken a dig at the Shiv Sena by writing to the Guinness World Records to feature a place in the record books for the “most repeated threats to withdraw from a government.” In the letter, Rane Jr, an MLA from Kankavli in Konkan, said: “We would like to register a record on his (Uddhav Thackeray’s) behalf for announcing a number of times that his party Shiv Sena would withdraw support to Maharashtra government.”

The Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray is an ally of the BJP in the Devendra Fadnavis government. The two parties have been in an alliance for close to 25 years, but there has been a blow hot-blow cold kind of a relationship between them.
Mrityunjay Bose, Mumbai