"What happened to Nirmala?"
Recently, a lengthy story was narrated by Arun Jaitley to Amit Shah, and many overheard this interesting tale.
A certain Noida hospital, named Kailash Hospital, belongs to Union Minister Mahesh Sharma. Recently, the daughter of Mahesh Sharma informed Arun Jaitley that 'Nirmala' had been admitted there, and she was in a serious condition.
Jaitley, along with Union ministers Piyush Goyal and Dharmendra Pradhan, immediately rushed off to the hospital. As the convoy of these three ministers neared Kailash Hospital, Sangeetha Jaitley phoned up Arun Jaitley and asked him why he was delayed, as a few guests were at home.
Jaitley said that he came to visit Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who was in a serious condition in Kailash Hospital.
Sangeetha Jaitley quickly intervened, clarifying that she was the one who had telephoned the daughter of Mahesh Sharma for an admission. But Sangeetha had admitted the Jaitley family's maid - also named Nirmala - as she was suffering from breathlessness!
On hearing Sangeetha's version, the three ministers heaved a sigh of relief, but Jaitley said they felt the "Three Idiots", from the famous Aamir Khan film. Needless to say, all three of them were peeved with the daughter of Mahesh Sharma, since she was the one who triggered the minor scare and subsequent road trip.
Interestingly, Union Minster Nirmala Sitharaman was in Paris at the time. The next day, when Jaitley himself went to Paris for a meeting, he met Sitharaman and narrated the story. Nirmala Sitharaman could barely restrain her laughter on hearing the tale.
A new headquarters packed with luxury for the BJP
The talk in New Delhi is all about the new BJP national headquarters. The UPA regime had allotted the land back in 2008, and construction has been ongoing for the past nine years. The swanky and luxurious new BJP HQ is coming up in Deendayal Upadhyaya Marg - in the heart of New Delhi.
This is seven storeyed building, with the latest digital facilities and modern, sophisticated offices, will be opened by the BJP on December 25, 2017 - the birthday of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Currently, some 60 % of the construction is over. There will be 45 chambers, in addition to 25 rooms for Karyakartas from the States for their New Delhi visits. The first two floors will hold the conference hall, press meet room, a library and exhibitions about the history of the BJP.
The BJP President has the room on the seventh floor. Each General Secretary will have chambers with an attached bathroom.
The foundation for the building was laid on August 10, 2016, by PM Modi, who had at the time - "Sacrifice of generations of Karyakartas (workers) inspire us to work," The design and architecture are from a renowned Mumbai company. Amit Shah visits the construction site at least once in a month, to get updates.
The BJP has also instructed all 625 district party leaders to have their own buildings in the next two years - to avoid massive rentals.
Name list first, talk later: Congress to BJP
The capital political grapevine is that the BJP is busy trying to build a consensus for the presidential candidate. The Congress party meanwhile has brushed the BJP's moves aside, claiming that the BJP was merely trying to buy time by enacting a drama.
After, without a names list from the ruling party, how can a consensus be arrived at?
The key player here is Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu. On Friday, Naidu was making visits to almost all the national and regional political party leaders. The buzz is that Naidu had met Sonia Gandhi, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Thambidurai (AIADMK) and Sharad Yadav (JDU).
An interesting aspect of these meetings was that Naidu always began the conversations by saying that Amit Shah had constituted the Presidential Committee and the mandate was to keep the Opposition in the loop.
But not much looping could be done since neither of the three in the Committee was privy to all the names under consideration. Sonia Gandhi bluntly asked Naidu to come out with a name first - apparently demanding to know if the BJP wanted to field a non-RSS candidate.
Of course, since both Rajanth Singh and M Venkaiah Naidu have been Presidents of the BJP, they ably argued with her. During the UPA regime, they argued, the Congress also did not suggest any name to the BJP.
"We learnt from the media that Pranab Mukherjee was the candidate," Naidu reportedly said. Until then, Naidu said, the BJP was expecting Dr Manmohan Singh to be the candidate.
Naidu is believed to have briefed the PM about the meetings during his plane ride with the PM to Kochi on Saturday. Similarly, Rajnath Singh also phoned up Amit Shah and conveyed the gist. Arun Jaitley arrived from Seoul on Saturday morning.
On Sunday, the three members will meet and allocate more leaders to each other. Jaitley is likely to talk to Mamata Banerjee and O Pannerselvam of the AIADMK.
(R Rajagopalan is a senior journalist based in New Delhi. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect those of Asianet Newsable. )