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Speculation rife over Urijit's successor

Wednesday, November 07, 2018
By Arati Jerath

After Reserve Bank of India’s deputy governor Viral Acharya let the cat out of the bag about the tension between the central bank and the Modi government, speculation has been mounting that RBI governor Urjit Patel could quit his post.

Although Patel is still in the chair, it hasn’t stopped chatter about his successor should he resign. Supporters of recently appointed part-time non-official director on the RBI board, S Gurumurthy, seem to be the most active, giving grist to talk that the powerful swadeshi chartered accountant affiliated with the RSS is keen on more like-minded governors and deputy governors than the current crop led by Patel.

According to BJP circles, these supporters are floating the name of Finance Secretary Hansmukh Adhia as a possible successor to Patel if the current governor decides to put in his papers.

Adhia is due to retire at the end of November and the bureaucracy has been wondering what his post-retirement plans are. At one point, he was tipped to be cabinet secretary when incumbent P K Sinha’s tenure ended in June this year.     That didn’t happen and Sinha was given a year’s extension.

Adhia is a Gujarat cadre officer and said to be one of Modi’s handpicked and trusted officials. Many in the bureaucracy believe that the government would like to retain his services in an important capacity after he retires. The question is: in what post?

Using undue influence
The controversy over the landing of Amit Shah’s chartered plane at Kannur airport in Kerala on October 29 is puzzling. Left leaders have gone to town about it, charging Shah with using undue influence to land his plane at an airport which has not been opened officially.

The newly-built airport in Kannur is fully functional but it will open to plane traffic only after it is inaugurated on December 9. Yet, Shah’s aircraft landed at the airport when he visited Kerala last month and set off a storm by backing protestors who are stopping women from entering the Sabrimala temple.

Amid the war of words that erupted between the Left and BJP after Shah’s visit, one of the big issues was the BJP president’s use of an airport that has not been opened yet.

However, it seems that not only did Shah’s plane have the permission of the DGCA authorities in Kerala to land at Kannur, even chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan gave a green signal.

Maybe his comrades are not aware that the CM had said yes. Or perhaps Left leaders are piqued that despite extending this courtesy to the BJP, Shah responded with a sharp attack on the Vijayan government on the Sabarimala issue and warned that his workers would bring down his dispensation if it continued arresting protesting devotees.

Netaji ashes
Bengal politics cast its shadow over Narendra Modi’s recent trip to Japan. The prime minister declined to visit the Renkoji Temple where an urn containing what is said to be Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s ashes is kept.

The decision was taken keeping in mind sentiments in Bengal where the BJP is making a determined push to oust Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress. There is a widespread belief in Bengal and in Netaji’s family that the ashes in the urn do not belong to Netaji. They believe that the urn contains the ashes of a Japanese soldier who was killed in a plane crash shortly after the war.

The issue is so sensitive and controversial in Bengal that no Congress PM has dared visit Renkoji Temple over the years despite being urged to come by the temple’s priests. Like his Congress predecessors, Modi is obviously aware of the negative message that would go to Bengal if he visited the temple, that too just six months before the Lok Sabha polls when the BJP hopes to make a big splash in Mamata’s fiefdom.

The question came up because the Japanese government has been unofficially putting pressure on New Delhi to bring the urn back to India. Although the maintenance costs of the temple are funded by the Indian government, the Japanese are reluctant to prolong the myth of the urn. It’s been over 60 years now.

In fact, this time, before Modi’s recent visit, the head priest of Renkoji temple renewed the plea to the Indian government to take back the urn. Japanese government officials are also believed to have seconded the request.

No formal answer was conveyed to Japan. But the message was clear when a visit to the temple was not included in Modi’s itinerary.

Ironically, Modi’s BJP predecessor Vajpayee paid homage at the temple. So did Jaswant Singh as foreign minister in the first NDA government. But that time, the BJP had few stakes in Bengal. Now, the party’s ambitions are soaring in Bengal.

Ticket distribution
Rahul Gandhi faced his first test as Congress president when a fight broke out between Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia during a meeting for distribution of tickets for the upcoming assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh.

According to Congress sources, Rahul was taken aback by the abusive language used by the two leaders who were fighting for tickets for their loyalists. In fact, at one point, he buried his face in his hands, the sources said.

Ultimately, Sonia Gandhi had to step in with a committee of elders to look into the issue. But Rahul’s inability to crack the whip on the warring leaders could hit the Congress campaign in MP.

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