The day when CBSE class xii results were published the political leaders were busy scrutinizing Smriti Irani’s educational qualification. Congress spoke in conflicting voice unsure whether this will be a repetition of the “chaiwala” barb. BJP on a fire fighting mode dragged educational qualification of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi into the public discourse. In short only in the third day, the brief truce between the political parties have broken down and its business as usual in the Delhi durbar.
Narendra Modi though is trying to ensure that the status quo is broken in governance. According to reports he has made it clear to his ministers that they can’t handpick “personal staffs”. All the appointments will be done by PMO’s office. This is to ensure that no Minister can employ his/her close relatives as staff in the Ministry which has been a common practice till date.
Taking cue from the Prime Minister, BJP Ministers are also cracking down on corporate lobbyists, a possible source of crony activity. Piyush Goyal, Minister for power, coal and renewable energy, has made it clear that no agent will be entertained in his office. Usually lobbyists are a regular sight in the corridors of “ATM Ministries”. All those may soon become a thing of past.
Some reports suggest that Modi sarkar will save nearly 125 crores in the next 5 years if it continues with its lean shape. This government has 25 ministers less from UPA2, thus freeing up nearly 375 officials and saving all the associated costs involved with it. In total the figure comes to an estimated 125 crores. There are reports though that Modi sooner than later will incorporate addition members in the government. PM’s meeting with Murli Manohar Joshi set the rumour mills churning about his possible second wind in a NDA government.
Two important appointments were made by Modi sarkar to expedite the process of governance. Former TRAI chairman Nripendra Misra has been appointed the Personal Secretary of Prime Minister. TRAI guidelines indicate no member can get a government job within two years of leaving the post. Hence an ordinance was passed to ensure Mishra can start his duties without any legal hitch. Country also has a new Solicitor General in Mukul Rohatgi. Mukul who is an eminent lawyer of the Supreme Court served as an additional Solicitor General in the Vajpayee era.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is looking to have a close rapport with the state governments to pass GST. There is a possibility that a global investment summit may be called soon where delegates from more than 100 nations are likely to be invited. Market though continued to remain flat for the second consecutive day. It is carefully looking at the next monetary policy of RBI to gauge Modi sarkar’s overall notion towards growth. In heartening news Venkaiah Naidu today said that interest on home loans are likely to be slashed soon. He also promised that 100 small cities will be created and all citizens will have housing by 2020.
Sushma Swaraj today formally took charge of the Ministry of External Affairs. She gave a briefing of the talks between Modi and Nawaj Sharif. According to Sushma, PM has made it clear to his Pak counterpart that talks and violence can’t co-exist. The senior politician confirmed that issue of speedy trial in 26/11 case was also discussed. Sushma said that the government is trying to think out of the box to wriggle out of various contentious diplomatic issues. A proposal has been floated by Modi to SAARC leaders to make it a potent forum in the world stage rising above bilateral conflicts.
Mahindra Rajapakse’s visit to Modi’s swearing in ceremony got a negative response from parties in Tamil Nadu. Sushma tried to allay their fears saying India has raised the issue of safety of fishermen and concerns about condition of Tamils in Sri Lanka to the Rajapakse government. There has been a rancor in America- Modi relationship in the past specially with it declining to issue visa to the then Gujarat CM. However, Modi sarkar is hoping to start a new chapter. Sushma Swaraj said that she will soon talk with US Foreign Secretary John Kerry.
An interesting piece of anecdote that has come into public domain is that Modi spoke in Hindi and used translator to communicate with SAARC leaders. This according to many was a conscious ploy to show India’s cultural and linguistic sovereignty.
Coming to the controversies, Article 370 continued to hog the limelight. On Tuesday, Omar Abdullah virtually threatened to secede from India if special status for his state gets withdrawn. Today he was returned the favour by RSS, BJP’s ideological brethren. Sangh leader Ram Madhav said that Omar shouldn’t treat Kashmir as his “parental estate” and reiterated that Kashmir will always be an integral part of India, with or without the provision. Omar though refused to bow down asking names of the stakeholders government has consulted before contemplating such move.
Omar slightly reduced his rhetoric today attacking the government more on technical grounds. He said that only a Constituent Assembly can abrogate article 370, which approved the secession of Jammu & Kashmir to India in the first place. He said that Constituent Assembly has to be recalled for such talks to start. Congress too today took refuge of technicalities to avoid taking any categorical stand in this extremely sensitive issue. PDP, another influential party of the state said any such move may incite communal tensions in the region. Home Minister Rajnath Singh today met RSS leaders to consult in this issue. Sources say that they have advised him to try to initiate talks in this matter rather than taking any hasty decision.
But the most contentious issue of the day undoubtedly was that of Smriti Irani’s educational qualification. After Ajay Maken’s hostile ridicule of new HRD Minister’s educational qualification Congress tried to slightly recalibrate its position perhaps fearing backlash. It is now alleging that Smriti Irani submitted incorrect information in her declaration to EC. Records indicate in 2004 while contesting from Chadni Chowk, Smriti said that she has completed her BA in 1996 from Delhi University’s School of correspondence. But in 2014, her affidavit claimed that she did B.COM Part 1 from that same university, that too in 1994. Congress leaders like Abhisekh Manu Singhvi deemed this mismatch as a criminal offence for furnishing wrong information in a sworn affidavit. Another Congress leader Manish Tiwary however said that criticism should not be done on superficial issues. Digvijay Singh gave a different twist to the controversy asking why MM Joshi was overlooked for HRD Ministry.
BJP on its part has hit back asking uncomfortable questions about educational qualification of Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. From Uma Bharati to Santosh Gangwar all attacked Congress in this issue. Interestingly degree or lack of it of the Gandhi Family has always been a pet project of Subramanian Swamy, but BJP has sought to play it down till now owing to political courtesy. Seems like that Laksman Rekha of decency has been breached today.
The temporary stand-off between Shiv Sena and BJP has been resolved. SS MP Anant Geete didn’t initially take charge of the heavy industry portfolio but after talks between Modi and Udhav Thakre, he commenced his work from today. Elections in Maharashtra are due shortly and many believe this tension is a precursor to intense negotiations in ticket distribution between the two parties.
Finally a look at the key economic parameters as of today…