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Baiijjal return heralds Doval comeback

Thursday, January 05, 2017
By Arati R. Jerath

It was difficult to keep the Anil Baiijjal - Ajit Doval axis out of power as the duo’s friendship and close proximity to Centre of power is a well-documented fact

The appointment of Anil Baijjal as Delhi’s new Lt Governor is expected to bring National Security Advisor Ajit Doval into play in the affairs of the Capital.
The PM’s principal secretary Nripen Mishra was the go-to person for former LG Najeeb Jung. Political watchers believe that Doval will now take over the Delhi portfolio on behalf of the centre and work closely with Baijjal.

The Baijjal-Doval aixs is an old one. Both were part of L K Advani’s core team when the BJP patriarch was union home minister in the Vajpayee government. Doval was a key person in the Intelligence Bureau and close to Advani while Baijjal was the minister’s trusted home secretary.

Baijjal’s shift to Vivekananda Foundation started by Doval was a natural progression. In fact, when Narendra Modi took over as prime minister, Baijjal’s name figured prominently as one of the choices for principal secretary. Doval was one of his big backers. Although he lost out to Nripen Mishra, it was widely believed that Baijjal would be given an important assignment sooner than later.

His name came up again to succeed N N Vohra as J & K governor. But the situation in the Valley has been so volatile that the centre decided against a change of guard at the top till normalcy returns.

The first indication that Baijjal was tipped for an assignment related to Delhi came when M M Kutty was appointed chief secretary. Kutty is known to be close to Baijjal. Modi wanted Kutty’s name to be run past Baijjal before the appointment. Significantly, Jung was deliberately kept out of the loop on this.

Doval has rarely attended a Delhi function. But he did make it a point to be present when Baijjal was sworn in as LG last week. Pure friendship may have motivated him to come but for Delhi watchers, his presence was an indication of things to come as the Baijjal era begins in the Capital.

Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP government are aware that a new power equation will dominate Delhi affairs. Will the Doval-Baijjal combo make life more difficult for AAP or will there be a truce, however uneasy, at least till the 2017 round of assembly polls ends?

Pact between Akhilesh, Cong, RLD
While there is much talk of a possible electoral pact between the Akhilesh faction of the Samajwadi Party, the Congress and RLD, not many know that scions  of the families that run these three political parties have been in touch for a long time and are good friends now.

Akhilesh, Rahul Gandhi and Jayant Chaudhary, who is heir-in-waiting to take over RLD, apparently talk to each other directly and regularly over phone and through SMSes. This is independent of their parents who often have no clue what their kids are up to. And much to everyone’s frustration, they have not kept party elders in the loop either.

The push for a grand SP-Congress-RLD alliance is coming from the three political scions. Now that Akhilesh Yadav has revolted, it remains to be seen whether the friendship will mature into a political alliance. Will the troika form a youth front to take on Modi and Mayawati?
Suspense continues over CBI chief
Suspense continues over the appointment of the next CBI chief as the Modi government’s plans of confirming Gujarat cadre officer Rakesh Asthana in the post seems to be running into rough weather.

Several hurdles have come up. One is that Asthana has not yet been empanelled as a special director. He remains an additional director and is therefore too junior to be appointed director of CBI.

Another problem is a Supreme Court judgement that the choice of a CBI director should be from among serving officers of the four seniormost IPS batches. Asthana belongs to the 1984 batch. There are serving officers from the 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1982 batches who ought to be considered as per the SC order. This virtually rules Asthana out.

A third issue that has cropped up is the mishandling of the arrest of former Air chief S P Tyagi in the Augusta Westland bribery case. Tyagi had to be released on bail after the Supreme Court rapped the CBI for not doing its homework and presenting substantive evidence of a money trail. This is being seen as a black mark against Asthana in his first big case as acting CBI director.

The Modi government is now in a fix which is why it continues to postpone holding the meeting of the three-member appointment committee. The members of this committee are the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and Chief Justice of India. Congress leader in the Lok Sabha who is nominated to fill the position of LoP, Mallikarjuna Kharge, has written a protest letter to the PM asking why the meeting is not being held. This is the first time in 10 years that the CBI is led by an acting director.

Minor ripple when Prez calls off visist
There was a minor ripple when President Pranab Mukherjee suddenly called off a visit to the Maulana Azad Urdu University in Hyderabad recently. He was to give a convocation address to graduating students of the university.

He had accepted the invitation but cancelled at the last minute. Embarrassed university authorities put out a story that the President had taken ill and could not be present. Interestingly, the President’s team released photographs of Mukherjee on his morning walk that day. It was done almost as if to contradict the version of the university. The move suggested that the President was unhappy about certain reports he had received about the university and that’s why he dropped out at the last moment.

The university’s chancellor is Zafar Sareshwala from Gujarat. Sareshwala is an unabashed Modi bhakt and had got into trouble with his community for praising the Prime Minister.

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