New Rajya Sabha members: Modi govt makes last-minute changes to list
Catch had first reported on 2 April that Narendra Modi government may nominate Anupam Kher, Salim Khan, Rajat Sharma, Subhash Chandra, Swapan Dasgupta and Rakesh Sinha to the Rajya Sabha soon.
With Parliament scheduled to be in session from Monday, the government is reported to have made last-minute changes to the list. However, the criterion remains the same - support or affinity to the BJP.
There are seven vacancies in the Rajya Sabha's quota of 12 nominated members that fell vacant between November and March.
The BJP is currently in a minority in the 245-member Upper House, holding 48 seats. Many of the seven public figures whose names are likely to be announced today reportedly also lobbied with the top brass in RSS and BJP for the seat.
One of them is said to have meticulously planned getting a book authored by him launched by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, to seal his nomination. Another had reportedly requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be appointed as India's High Commissioner to United Kingdom, as a reward for over 175 articles that he claimed to have written in Modi's support in the last decade.
At least one name from the original list published by Catch is believed to have been retained, while three others from that list have been forced to become competitors. Here is a look at the new list:
1. Suresh Gopi
The Malayalam actor has confirmed that he has indeed been nominated to the Upper House. Gopi, 56, had earlier been approached to contest the Kerala assembly polls from Thiruvananthapuram. However, he turned the offer down, being unsure of his prospects. BJP eventually gave the ticket from the state capital to controversial cricketer Sreesanth.
Nevertheless, the matinee idol is a star campaigner for the party in Kerala.
2. Subramanian Swamy
The former Janata Party chief, who merged his party with the BJP in 2013, too, has confirmed his nomination.
I thank PTs for the consistent support through the last two years. As MP I will get the most important forum speaking on nation;s issues— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) April 22, 2016
PTs is an acronym coined by Swamy and is said to stand for "Patriotic Tweeple".
The economist-politician, who is known for his vicious attacks on Congress president Sonia Gandhi, continues to enjoy the image of a Hindu hardliner in times when many original hardliners have softened. Swamy keeps raising the Ram Mandir issue more vocally than even BJP chief Amit Shah and Prime Minister Modi.
3. Navjot Singh Sidhu
The former cricketer was the BJP MP from Amritsar till 2014, and was reported to be inching towards the Aam Aadmi Party. AAP was said to be planning to poach him and field him as the party's face in Punjab for next year's Assembly polls.
The BJP appears to have nipped AAP's plans in the bud by sending Sidhu to the Upper House.
नदियों में बाढ़, वृक्षों के फल और चन्द्रमा की कलाएं, नष्ट होके फिर आ जाती है. मै भी आप से गुफ़्तगू करने वापिस आ रहा हु गुरु, हो जाओ शुरू !!— Navjot Singh Sidhu (@sherryontopp) April 18, 2016
In his earlier tenure as a directly-elected Parliamentarian, he had earned the dubious distinction of a 'missing MP' in Amritsar. He was eventually not made to contest again, and Arun Jaitley was fielded instead from the holy city. Jaitley lost that fight to former CM Amarinder Singh of the Congress.
4. Swapan Dasgupta
The former journalist and political commentator known for his right-wing leanings enjoys the reputation of being a rare English-speaking intellectual in RSS circles. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan last year, and is also said to be in the running for the directorship of the Nehru Memorial in New Delhi.
5. Dr Narendra Jadhav
The noted economist has been a member of the Planning Commission, now dismantled by the Modi government. A rare Dalit who worked closely with organisations like International Monetary Fund and national governments, Jadhav enjoyed the favour of the previous dispensation as well, having been appointed to the Sonia Gandhi-led powerful think-tank, the National Advisory Council.
6. MC Mary Kom
The star boxer had earlier been selected by the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region to be appointed as brand ambassador for the North-Eastern states. In the run up to the Delhi Assembly elections last year, BJP's Delhi unit was distributing free movie tickets to a film based on her life, because its leaders claimed it had a nationalist theme.
7. Tri-cornered contest
The government is still believed to be thinking about sending only one of the media-Bollywood trinity - India TV owner-editor Rajat Sharma, actor Anupam Kher and veteran scriptwriter Salim Khan.
While Sharma was a general secretary of the ABVP during his college days, Kher is known as a vocal supporter of the BJP and Modi.
Khan, meanwhile, hit the headlines recently after he joined Twitter with a 'salaam' to RSS chief Bhagwat.