Howdy, Modi! Why Madison Square mastermind Ram Madhav missed action
Rajat Sharma, the President of the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), was in such haste to get the credit for re-naming the Feroze Shah Kotla Stadium after Arun Jaitley that he did not bother to check the due process of first consulting the Delhi Land and Development Office (L&DO), which owns its ground. The DDCA only leases the land. After first making the announcement, Sharma had to clarify later that the name of the ground remained unchanged, only the stadium was named after the former president of the DDCA, who was responsible for remodelling and modernising the stadium.
Since the L&DO was unlikely to have objected, it was simply a question of following due procedure. Sharma seemed more interested in an immediate re-naming ceremony to showcase himself, perhaps with an eye on eventually taking over the BCCI, which is presently controlled by Supreme Court appointees. He had not bargained that chief guest Amit Shah, till recently the President of the Gujarat Cricket Association, is a cricket enthusiast and would steal the show.
Many in the audience were distressed at the light-hearted and glitzy tone of the ceremony, instead of a sombre and dignified atmosphere befitting Jaitley’s recent demise. The function was conducted as if it was a postmatch cricket celebration, with the anchor making cracks and calling cricketers and other VIPs to the stage and exchanging banter.
During a visit to Gandhinagar as a state guest, Finance Commission Chairperson N K Singh, a non-vegetarian, was fed up with the vegetarian fare. Gujarat’s Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Nitin Patel was to host a dinner for the chairperson. So Singh’s staff approached Patel’s office with a list of dishes which their boss would like included on the dinner menu. Patel’s aide showed the note to the minister and suggested that he could make the necessary arrangements by ordering the non-vegetarian fare from an outside caterer. Patel protested that since he was the host it was his prerogative to decide the menu. The officer suggested that it would be undiplomatic to offend the chairperson considering the Finance Commission defines the financial relations between the Central government and the state. But Patel was unhappy since he is a vegetarian and baulked at the thought of sitting next to someone tucking into chicken. The bureaucrat helpfully suggested a way out. He would signal to the minister the moment the non-vegetarian fare was served and Patel could move unobtrusively to another table.
Missing the action
Conspicuously absent at the Howdy Modi event in Houston was Ram Madhav, the BJP general secretary who started the tradition of organising mammoth rallies for the Prime Minister abroad, attended by enthusiastic NRIs. Madhav was the mastermind behind the PM’s first mega rally at Madison Square Garden in New York in 2014 and many other mega meets of the diaspora. Originally from the RSS, Madhav seems to have fallen out of favour, perhaps because the BJP high command feels he is too high profile and sometimes speaks out of turn.
Out of favour
The snubs and omissions are too marked not to be obvious. Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has been largely kept out of the Maharashtra Assembly campaign. He was not present when Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis wound up his state-wide yatra in Nashik in the presence of Narendra Modi. He was also missing from Amit Shah’s rally in Mumbai. Recently, a letter from the PMO warned the National Highways Authority, under Gadkari, that rather than focus on more projects and accumulate debts, it should concentrate on asset management. Gadkari’s response to a journalist was that the note was merely an advisory. In Modi’s second tenure, Gadkari has not been included in any major Cabinet committee on infrastructure, including the committee on disinvestment of Air India, of which he was a member in Modi-1. It was noticeable that after the implementation of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, introducing steep fines for traffic violations, it was BJP-ruled states, starting with Gujarat, which decided to whittle down the Act, lowering the penalties for traffic offences. The message is clear: You are either totally with the powers that be or out in the cold. The RSS cannot protect you.
The Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019, radically reconstituting the state, was introduced and passed in Parliament last month within two days, taking everyone by surprise, including those who drafted the Bill, which has far-reaching consequences. On September 12, more than a month after the Bill was passed, the government brought out a three-page corrigendum to correct 52 typos, spellings and grammatical errors in the Act.