The new Parliament House is to have a Lok Sabha chamber which can seat 772. It is intriguing how this precise figure was arrived at considering that the present Lok Sabha can barely accommodate all 543 MPs. The government’s calculation, on the basis of which the figure has been provided, is on the assumption that the numbers of parliamentary constituencies will increase dramatically once the freeze on inter-state delimitation of seats is lifted in 2026.
The concept of equal number of voters for each parliamentary constituency has long been contentious. States such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu argue that they get penalised due to their successful family planning programmes while high-population states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan increase their political clout (as their population translates to a higher number of seats). Since 1971, parliamentary constituencies have been frozen regardless of huge disparities in population. If delimitation takes place in 2026 on the basis of the 2021 Census, it will open a Pandora’s box. Especially since BJP-ruled states in the north will be the ones getting a greater say in who rules the country.
After his humiliating ouster as Punjab chief minister, Amarinder Singh visited Delhi to meet Home Minister Amit Shah. The speculation was that Singh might join the BJP or working out an alliance. Actually Singh met Shah not to discuss politics but to convey allegations against Congress state chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, which he felt the Central government should pay heed to. Shah referred Singh to National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. The latter, however, was hesitant to act on the basis of the information provided. A maverick Sidhu would incite more controversy and trouble, he felt.
Nath in Running?
Rahul Gandhi is reluctant to hold an election for party president though he resigned after the Congress’s 2019 general election defeat. Gandhi does not want to take charge at this low point in the party’s fortunes. Also, the present Congress president’s term ends in December 2022. Gandhi contemplated installing one of his lightweight favourites to take temporary charge. But with the G-23 group determined to field a rival candidate, this option has become untenable. The high command is now reportedly considering appointing Kamal Nath as a stopgap president. Nath, who had gone to the US for medical consultation, met the Gandhis on his return. He fits the bill in many ways. He is an experienced old hand and a loyalist, who, at 74, is unlikely to pose a challenge to the Gandhis’ suzerainty. If not Nath, then the party may opt to simply brazen it out with an interim president.
When Jyotiraditya Scindia was sworn in as a Cabinet minister in the Modi government reshuffle in July, he hoped to reclaim 27, Safdarjung Road, the bungalow in Lutyens Delhi where he spent most of his life. The Type 8 ministerial bungalow was first allotted to his father, Madhavrao Scindia, during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure in the 1980s and remained with the family till 2019, when Jyotiraditya was defeated from the Guna seat. Since Ramesh Pokhriyal, who occupied the house subsequently, lost his ministership in the recent reshuffle, Scindia assumed it would be easy for him to move back. But three months later, Scindia is still waiting because some ex-ministers refuse to shift to ‘lower-status’ bungalows.
The CPWD plan was that Pokhriyal would move to a Type 7 bungalow currently occupied by former minister of state Jayant Sinha, who was expected to move to a Type 6. However, Sinha’s wife refused to budge, citing the example of Rajyavardhan Rathore, also a former MoS, who still occupies a Type 7 bungalow. The Urban Development Ministry’s explanation that Rathore had a superior claim since he had been an MoS with Independent charge, unlike Sinha, fell on deaf years.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi, from the US, finally gave the go-ahead to Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath to expand his Cabinet, Adityanath immediately did so, though it was the period of pitru paksha, when Hindus pay homage to the dead and traditionally no new work is started. But Adityanath is not constrained by the taboos that many of his predecessors followed unquestioningly. Whether it was the so-called jinx on UP CMs visiting Noida, staying overnight at the circuit house in Agra, or being served food during a lunar eclipse in Varanasi, Adityanath has ignored the doomsday predictions. UP residents attribute his rationalist streak to the fact that he is the head of the Gorakhnath math, whose rituals are different from traditional Hindu customs.