It seems the top priority in the week for Nirmala Sitharaman is to discuss matters of Indian and American security with US defence secretary Jim Mattis, in New Delhi. This is the first cabinet-level official's visit to India under the Trump administration. The secretary will hope to convey that the United States views India as a valued and influential partner, with broad mutual interests extending well beyond South Asia.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has visited seven forward areas in six states, thereby briefing herself on the border situation. Daily, she takes stock of border security from the three chiefs of armed forces. It is believed that on instructions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Defence Minister has initiated these interactions.
During such meetings the preparedness for any eventualities are also discussed. The Chief of Army Staff has taken the Defence Minister to the top secret site where the nuclear button is kept. Only four dignitaries have been this place, as the location nuclear button is known only to Prime Minister and Defence Minister.
Since her taking on the office as Defence Minister, she has been spending five hours on a daily basis on briefings and at least eight to 10 hours on studying the Defence-related documents. Her primary task this week is to brief the Prime Minister about China and India.
News from the Central Hall of the Parliament
Central Hall of Parliament is not quite active when the Parliament is underway, yet the buzz that comes from the Central Hall usually is enough for one to guess what’s coming next.
On Monday when the Parliament opened, at least 20-25 MPs and two Ministers had spent considerable time in Central Hall. The salient political points from the Central Hall can be summarised as follows:
1) Trinamool Congress MP Mukul Roy resigned from TMC membership and is planning to join BJP
2) Narayan Rane, the leader of Congress in Maharashtra, is meeting Amit Shah in New Delhi with a plan to launch a state party in Maharashtra. This is a great jolt to Maharashtra Congress Committee.
3) Rahul Gandhi tour to USA was being summarised by two of his close confidantes who also accompanied Rahul . They said at least 350 visiting cards, 2000 emails addresses were collected during Rahul’s USA visit and are now being sorted out. Rahul Gandhi wants to personally thank all of them for interacting with him. This public relations endeavour hasbeen taken over by a private company, which works from Nehru Place in New Delhi
4) Mayawati is gaining ground in Uttar Pradesh. There are unconfirmed reports that Mayawati and Akhilesh had met twice and wanted to forge an alliance between BSP and SP in the 2019 elections for the Lok Sabha. Intermediaries from both political parties are active.
5) Murmurs have begun in BJP that voters are angry and visits to the constituencies are becoming too difficult with huge rise in petrol prices, GST and also because of demonetisation. Few MPs were heard openly discussing this in the Central Hall. This is the first time such whispers are being heard against the BJP government from their own MPs.
Disqualification does not matter for Sharad Yadav
Sharad Yadav, the Rajya Sabha MP is not bothered about his disqualification because of his daughter, Suhasini. She was recently blessed with a son and granddad Sharad Yadav is now busy cajoling and playing with his one-month-old grandson. He expressed immense pride in the growth of the Yadav khaandan.
It seems that Sharad Yadav nowadays is not in talking terms with senior BJP leaders, however, few union ministers went to see the new born. Sharad Yadav wants to celebrate the new arrival with a great fanfare during the Parliament session when many MPs and ministers will bless the new child.
Sharad Yadav is ready to face any consequences including that of his disqualification as Rajya Sabha MP of JDU. Reason BJP and Nitish Kumar are bent upon creating an uncomfortable situation for Sharad Yadav.
R Rajagopalan is a senior correspondent in New Delhi. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect those of Asianet Newsable