Is the RSS planning to eventually transfer its headquarters from Hedgewar Bhavan in Nagpur to Delhi, the seat of temporal power? The large and modern infrastructure of Keshav Kunj, the RSS’s northern India office under construction at Delhi’s Jhandewalan Extension, suggests it will overshadow the relatively modest buildings in Nagpur which have served as the Sangh’s headquarters for nearly a century. The Delhi office, when complete, will have two massive towers of 12 to 16 floors. The BJP Delhi headquarters on Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg, with an area of 1.7 lakh square feet, was billed as the world’s largest political office, but the Delhi RSS office will outstrip this. Estimates of the covered area range from 2 to 2.5 lakh square feet. The dozens of Hindu nationalist organisations affiliated to the RSS, from its labour and youth wing to the VHP and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh etc, all will have offices within the complex.
Earlier this year, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal ordered the suspension of the elected general committee of the elite Delhi Gymkhana Club and directed the government to appoint an administrator till allegations against an earlier general committee were investigated. In May, a new administrator, Om Pathak, an elderly retired IAS officer, took charge. Pathak assumes his job requires more than simply running the club on a day-to-day basis. In a letter to the members, he said that he would like to re-invent the image of the 108-year-old premier watering hole, known for its winter buffet lunches, Thursday night mixers, chicken sandwiches, tennis tournaments and active bridge room. Pathak has formed several sub-committees to focus on what he terms ‘India First’ programmes and has even started vetting speakers for debates. Recently, an expert called to speak was disinvited as the administrator felt his views were unfriendly towards the government. As part of his push for a Hindutva cultural heritage agenda, on Diwali, a performance on the return of Ram to Ayodhya was enacted at the club.
On Whose Side?
It is hard to figure out just whose side the high-profile poll campaigner Prashant Kishor is on at any given time. In Goa, his remark that the BJP is here to stay as a major force in Indian politics for decades and that Rahul Gandhi was wrong in believing that the ruling party could be easily defeated set the cat among the pigeons. Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee on television criticised Kishor, stating that he was assigned for a specific role and was not a leader who could make political judgments. But a senior TMC MP immediately contacted Banerjee, requesting him not to criticise Kishor since he was working for party supremo Mamata Banerjee. Incidentally, the induction of some glamour into the TMC in Goa with the recruitment of Nafisa Ali and Leander Paes is unlikely to impress the Goan voter, who is already spoilt for choice given the multiplicity of national and local parties competing for her affection.
Raise your Hands
Congresspersons are curious to know just who is Tariq Hameed Karra. The politician from Kashmir was earlier with the PDP, but was a special invitee to the recent CWC session. Kurra tried to steamroll the party into declaring Rahul Gandhi as Congress president. He questioned the need for elections and suggested the whole issue could be resolved with a show of hands. He added that anyone who did not put up his hand would be immediately exposed as a traitor to the party. Ambika Soni and Mukul Wasnik asked the over-enthusiastic Rahul loyalist to sit down since he was straying from the agenda, by also bringing in Sardar Patel and claiming he had tried to divide the country. But since Kurra was seen talking with Rahul after the session, many suspected that his over-the-top remarks were probably not just an innocent maverick’s intrusion. He is one of the newest favourites of the Gandhi siblings.
Don’t Go Over
Pakistan’s denial of permission for Go First airline’s newly inaugurated Srinagar-Sharjah flight to use its airspace, forcing the airline to reroute the service and add 40 minutes to its flying time, is one more instance of the country’s pressure tactics on India. Pakistan had granted over-flight clearance to Go First flights to operate from October, but abruptly withdrew the permission for November. The Pakistani authorities were not swayed even by a sentimental association. The owner of Go First airlines, Nusli Wadia, is the only grandson of the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Incidentally, the reason the airlines recently changed its name from Go Air to Go First is reportedly because of a bitter dispute in the family.