Face-to-face: Jayalalithaa thunders, Sasikala shivers
When the AIADMK Rajya Sabha MP who was in the news recently for the wrong reasons, Sasikala Pushpa, was summoned by her boss, Jayalalithaa, on a Sunday, it was clear to her and the rest of her party that she was in deep trouble. Amma never meets anyone on Sunday. Especially not at her Poes Garden residence. It’s a self-imposed rule that she rarely breaks.
Sasikala went trembling to Jayalalithaa’s imposing residence, wondering what was in store for her. Her public spat with close friend and DMK Rajya Sabha MP Tiruchy Siva had gone viral. Someone had caught her on video slapping Siva in full view of passengers at Delhi airport.
The second signal of Jayalalithaa’s mood came when the Tamil Nadu chief minister called Sasikala into an ante room for a face-to-face meeting. Jayalalithaa is famous for talking to people over an intercom rather than meeting them face-to-face. Even when Vajpayee had sent two top aides Pramod Mahajan and George Fernandes to Chennai to negotiate support for his government in 1998, Jaya refused to meet them and communicated with the two senior leaders over the intercom. Jaya’s message to Sasikala was short and curt: resign from the Rajya Sabha immediately. Sasikala obeyed but shrewdly sent her resignation letter by fax to the Rajya Sabha chairman, knowing full well that it would be rejected.
Sasikala’s fate now hangs in the balance. She is hoping to retain her Rajya Sabha seat as an unattached member. But with Jaya determined to punish her for getting too close to an MP from the enemy camp, Sasikala may find that she is fighting a losing battle.
Cutoffs make BJP nervous
With outgoing Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel offering age as the reason for her abrupt resignation, many in the BJP are wondering who set 75 as the official retirement age for party leaders. It’s certainly not written in the BJP constitution. And during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s tenure, no such rule was ever imposed. In fact, Vajpayee himself was 80 years old when he stepped down as prime minister after losing the 2004 poll.
It turns out that the 75-year age bar was Yashwant Sinha’s brainchild. He came up with the idea before the 2014 polls to excuse himself from contesting so that his son Jayant Sinha could take his place in Parliament. Yashwant Sinha was turning 82 that year and he told the BJP leadership that 75 would be a good cutoff for phasing out the older generation to make way for a younger lot of leaders. Narendra Modi eagerly pounced on the idea and used it to keep out ageing leaders while forming his cabinet when he assumed office. Recently, the PM used the rule to ease Najma Heptulla out from her ministerial position. Many in the BJP believe that Najma was a sacrificial goat to prepare the ground for Anandiben’s exit.
While Anandiben’s resignation was on the cards, the timing has puzzled BJP circles. She turns 75 only in November this year and was expected to quit after that. Obviously the Dalit agitation hastened her exit as CM.
Amar Singh is mysteriously silent
Newly elected Samajwadi Party Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh is making news this time not because of controversial utterance but because he has barely spoken. He is unusually silent both inside the House and outside.
When questioned, he said he has learnt a bitter lesson from past controversies. He said he no longer wants to provide fodder for newspapers to target him and damage his reputation. So he has decided to maintain a dignified silence.
Within SP circles, the chatter is quite different. These circles say he has been advised by Mulayam to stay under the radar, at least till next year’s state Assembly polls are over. The party is under huge pressure in UP and faces a strong challenge from BSP, BJP as well as Congress. Mulayam has cracked the whip on everyone in the party to stay out of controversy. Even the loquacious Azam Khan has gone quiet. One wonders how long this good behaviour will last.
Gag orders seem to be in place
Another person whose silence is a talking point in the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament is Subramanian Swamy. The MP whose middle name is controversy has hardly spoken in the Rajya Sabha and is not tweeting much either.
He tried to make a splash by raking up Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination on the first day but he was quickly shouted down by the Congress and has not opened his mouth since.
He maintains that this silence is only till August 15. In other words, he didn’t want to set off a storm till the constitutional amendment bill for GST was passed by the Rajya Sabha. Nor does he want anything to spoil Modi’s Independence Day speech on August 15.
So, will Swamy break free from August 16? BJP circles are waiting with bated breath to see what he will do. While many believe that he is irrepressible and impossible to control, highly placed sources say he has been warned by the top bosses to be careful with his tweets and his language.