Inside Track by Coomi Kapoor: Rahul Gandhi’s trusted lieutenants

Former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh (File image)

Security Blues
Morning joggers on Altamount Road and Carmichael Road are miffed over the presence of the CRPF, Bombay Police, and sniffer dogs outside the Ambani home Antilia long after a Scorpio with explosives was seized near it. They are concerned it may lower the tone of the posh neighbourhood perched on a hillock, the tenth most expensive street in the world. Carmichael Road residents are particularly aggrieved as skyscrapers like Antilia and Lodha Altamount — which boasts that one of its apartments is the most expensive in India — are on the Altamount Road side, and feel Carmichael Road has been dragged in just because the Scorpio was found on the Carmichael Road border. Many of the older residents on Carmichael Road regard the new skyscrapers as eyesores, compared to heritage buildings such as the residences of the general manager of the Bombay Port Trust, the RBI governor, the municipal commissioner, the old Parsi bungalows and the stately mansion of Sir Homi Mody’s descendants. Some wonder if the excessive, in-your-face security presence on the street is to reinforce the demand for additional enforcements for India’s richest family. Incidentally, only the post-office seems aware that the roads were long ago re-named S K Barodawalla Marg and M L Dahanukar Marg.

A Single Unit
Political analysts are unanimous that Dattatreya Hosabale, who last week took over as general secretary of the RSS, will have a smooth working relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Hosabale is affable and younger than Modi. Both are on the same page on key matters concerning the Sangh Parivar. Pundits often rake up the prickly relationship between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and K Sudarshan to make the case that it is the RSS which pulls the BJP’s strings. They are out of date, the narrative has changed. The BJP and RSS are today practically a single unit. Most of the chief ministers, governors, Cabinet ministers and a large number of BJP MPs are RSS products. Government policies on education, Kashmir, Article 370, the CAA or ‘love jihad’ mirror RSS thinking. Differences in the economic sphere, especially concerning foreign investments, genetically modified brinjal, privatisation, etc, have not caused major hiccups. The RSS may have also had reservations on the farm sector reforms, but in all these matters Modi seems to have the last word.

Pawar Point
The confrontation between former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh and state home minister Anil Deshmukh has reinforced the impression that NCP chief Sharad Pawar, rather than Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, calls the shots in the three-party ruling alliance in Maharashtra. NCP ministers holding important portfolios, including home and finance, regularly take directions from Pawar. Though he holds no official position, he virtually plays the insider, insofar as nothing major is decided without his prior concurrence. Singh, before his Rs 100-crore-a-month letter bomb, met Pawar to complain. After the meeting, Pawar flew to Delhi and summoned Deshmukh to the national capital. A relatively junior NCP leader from Vidarbha, Deshmukh was reportedly chosen for the key Home portfolio for his pliability. Now, Pawar still believes he can ride out the storm, though Thackeray may be keen to move Deshmukh from Home.

Politician Cop
The Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance accuses Devendra Fadnavis of using Param Bir Singh, who was promoted out of turn as Thane police commissioner when Fadnavis was the Chief Minister, to de-stabilise the state government. Param Bir, whose son, incidentally, is married to former Congressman-turned BJP leader Datta Meghe’s grand-daughter, acted more like a savvy politician than a government official. He dispatched his letter not just to the CM but also to the governor, and hence the matter could not be hushed up. His WhatsApp messages were cleverly framed to get ACP Sanjay Patil, among others, to corroborate his version of events.

Trusted Lieutenants
Rahul Gandhi continues to ignore G-23 dissidents, even though Sonia Gandhi has given the go-ahead to Ambika Soni to attempt to broker peace. Meanwhile, Rahul is leaning more and more on Jitendra Singh, apart from trusted lieutenants K C Venugopal, Randeep Surjewala and Ajay Maken. Singh, 49, is a Doon school alumnus and scion of the Alwar royal family. Like the three others, Singh is a political lightweight, having lost the last two Lok Sabha elections. The pleasant, if reserved, Singh was appointed general secretary in-charge of Assam in September and has been travelling extensively. He is also credited with finalising the alliance with the AIUDF’s Badruddin Ajmal. It is the first time the Congress has tied up with the AIUDF, though it has been accused earlier of having a tacit understanding with Ajmal, who has a large following among Bengali-origin Muslims. Singh could get kudos or brickbats depending on how the alliance fares.

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