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NORA CHOPRA
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NORA CHOPRA

Nora Chopra is a senior journalist with a finger on the pulse of the Indian political scene

Mulayam remembers he is Hindu

Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, often known as "Mullah Mulayam", has suddenly discovered his Hindu identity. He got the Mullah sobriquet after 1989, when he took an anti RSS-VHP stand in the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi movement and in November 1990, as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, he was accused of ordering the police to fire at Vishwa Hindu Parishad volunteers. Several died in the incident. Suddenly, after all these years, during a speech in Lucknow on Dr Ram Manohar Lohia's 105th birth anniversary this week, Mulayam admitted that it was wrong to open fire. Realising that a sharp Hindu polarisation has taken place against the Samajwadi Party in the state, the UP government has announced Rs 50 crore for the Manasarovar Yatra and Rs 10 crore for the Shrawan Yatra, in which the government is taking over 900 Hindu devotees to Haridwar and Rishikesh.

Deepa’s ouster surprises colleagues

Deepa Dasmunsi, who counts Rahul Gandhi as one of her backers, has been dropped from the party spokespersons' panel, to the surprise of most Congress insiders. Dasmunsi, who belongs to West Bengal, is a strong critic of state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. So her ouster from the panel is being seen as Sonia Gandhi's attempt to keep the Opposition united. There are indications that West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee chief Adhir Chowdhury, also known to be anti-Mamata, might get replaced. Dasmunsi has been replaced by Sharmishtha Mukherjee, daughter of President Pranab Mukherjee in the panel. Another Bengali, Sushmita Deb, the articulate MP from Silchar in Assam, has also been made a spokesperson. The erstwhile chairman of the communications department, Ajay Maken too has been made a spokesperson under his junior colleague Randeep Surjewala, who now heads the department and the spokespersons' panel.

Tom gets promoted

In his 16 years in the Congress' communica-tions department, holding various posts such as grievance cell chief, media co-ordinator, and department secretary, Tom Vaddakan has switched loyalties from V. George to Ambika Soni to Ajay Maken to the current communications chief Randeep Surjewala. Finally, he has been elevated to the post of spokesperson in the committee of 17 spokespersons headed by Surjewala.

Anurag, Jagdambika spotted

The colleagues of BJP MPs Anurag Thakur and Jagdambika Pal say that they always try to be in the limelight. Each time a senior BJP minister rises to speak in Parliament, one can see Anurag Thakur sitting behind him. In TV grabs, his face often pops up behind the speaker. Pal, who was originally in the Congress, is an expert in his former party's tradition of sycophancy. He is quick to oblige journalists hungry for sound bites, and whenever he speaks, he throws in a line of praise for the Prime Minister. One day, when he was seen talking to a TV channel in the Parliament campus, a former Congress colleague was overheard taking a dig: "Lage raho, Munna Bhai."

‘Rahul doing Vipassana’

There is speculation that Rahul Gandhi is in Burma. He is said to be doing Vipassana at the Satya Narayan Goenka Institute of Vipassana in Yangon.

Ramesh’s rally flops

Jairam Ramesh, who is keen to project himself as a leader of farmers organised the flop Congress rally against the land bill at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. It was attended by barely 3,000 people. Many senior Congress leaders gave the rally a miss, including Janardan Dwivedi, apart from Rahul Gandhi favourites such as Madhusudan Mistry, Mohan Gopal and C.P. Joshi. Interestingly, when Manveer Tewatia, a farmer leader associated with the Bhatta Parsaul land agitation offered to support Ramesh's rally, the latter did not give him any importance. And this even after Tewatia pointed out that Rahul Gandhi had supported him. A miffed Tewatia organised a separate protest rally, which was attended by around 20,000 farmers on the same day of the Congress rally.

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