OPINION: Hasina’s two private meetings

NEW DELHI (The Statesman/ANN) -  It seems Doordarshan is facing a serious funds crunch.

The much-talked about meeting between Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra took place at the former’s insistence. The Bangladesh PM expressed a keen desire to meet two persons not on her official list of appointments during her four-day visit to New Delhi. One was Priyanka Gandhi Vadra; the other was former President Pranab Mukherjee’s daughter Sharmishtha.

She had brought exquisite jamdani saris from Bangladesh especially for them and wanted to present them personally. So, when Sonia Gandhi called on her along with Manmohan Singh and Anand Sharma, Hasina immediately inquired about Rahul and Priyanka and asked to meet them. She was told that Rahul was away in Cambodia but Priyanka was in Delhi.

The Bangladesh PM requested that Priyanka be called so that she could give her the present she had brought for her all the way from Dhaka. And that’s how Priyanka came to meet Hasina and had that photo clicked of the two of them hugging. The photo went viral along with Priyanka’s tweet about the “long overdue” meeting. These are old family ties Hasina maintains and honours. When she was in exile in Delhi after her father’s assassination, the Gandhi family looked after her.

Hasina stayed with the Mukherjee family for months under the watchful eye of the Gandhis. Hasina has not forgotten that and makes it a point to keep up with both families. Mukherjee was away in his village as he always is during Durga Puja. It’s an annual ritual and he personally performs the puja for four days. Fortunately, Sharmishtha was in town and Hasina was able to meet a member of the Mukherjee family.

Raising eyebrows

BJP general secretary Ram Madhav raised eyebrows with his speech at a recent book release function. The book was on Modi’s 2019 victory. It is widely accepted that the credit for the stunning performance goes to Modi and of course his Man Friday Amit Shah. But Ram Madhav said in his speech that the contribution of the RSS to the victory should not be ignored or forgotten.

The point he made was that RSS had stood firm behind Modi during the elections and this played a role in the sweep the BJP registered, winning more seats in 2019 than five years earlier. His comments caused a stir as the BJP line is to project the victory as the result of Modi’s achievements in his first term. Remember that the entire election campaign was spun around Modi’s personality.

The BJP as a party hardly figured in the speeches, hoardings or posters. The buzz in BJP circles is that Ram Madhav was probably letting off steam with his comments. He has been pretty much sidelined by both Modi and Shah after the elections. BJP circles say this is his way of reaching out to the RSS.

Congress’ Haryana woes

Congress leaders in Haryana are seething internally at the delay in changing the state leadership for the elections. Bhupinder Hooda and Selja were made leader of opposition and state president just a week before the election dates were announced. It’s left the party with very little time to prepare its campaign. It seems the delay was due to Rahul Gandhi’s reluctance to remove Ashok Tanwar who headed the state unit before Selja.

Congress circles knew that Tanwar was close to Rahul but many realized just how close only recently. It turns out that Rahul treats Tanwar’s wife, Avantika, as a sister. When the two got married more than a decade ago, Rahul performed the rituals of a brother at the wedding, say Congress sources. The reason for the relationship is obvious. Avantika is the daughter of slain Congress leader Lalit Maken and grand daughter of former president Shankar Dayal Sharma, a Gandhi family loyalist.

The Gandhis took Avantika under their wing after she was orphaned at an early age. Maken and his wife were assassinated outside their residence by militants at the height of the Khalistan agitation in Punjab.

DD needs a lift

It seems Doordarshan is facing a serious funds crunch. Four of the eight lifts in DD’s nine-storied building have not been functional for several months. And there are no signs of them being repaired. Consequently, many employees simply walk up the stairs rather than spend time waiting for one of the four functional lifts to open. The lifts were shut down after a minor accident. One of them suddenly crashed to the ground.

There were people inside but fortunately, no-one was seriously hurt. After the incident, the lifts were examined and four of them were found to be malfunctioning. So, they were shut down for maintenance. Till date, there is no sign of the maintenance crew, leaving DD employees wondering whether the lifts will ever be repaired. Meanwhile, they can console themselves with the thought that climbing stairs every day is good for health,

SJM’s pinpricks

Even as Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for their second informal summit, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch is determined to stop the import of Chinese goods into India. On the eve of Xi’s visit, the Manch shot off a letter to Modi objecting to the ongoing talks to finalise a trade agreement with countries that comprise the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

China is one of them. While Modi usually ignores such pinpricks, much depends on how seriously the RSS decides to back the demand of the SJM.

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