Back after her kidney transplant, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday received a warm welcome in Parliament from her colleagues particularly Speaker Sumitra Mahajan who told her that her strong voice was sorely missed during her absence. Swaraj's return to work after a long hospitalisation has in effect ended the trail of speculation that was fuelled by her absence. And the role of WhatsApp remained so epic in these speculative exchanges that it truly be called a "WhatsApp Akhbar". Akhbar, is of course, the Hindi equivalent of newspaper.
So much so that speculations from "reliable self-made digital sources (read WhatsApp)" also talked about Swaraj being shifted out of the ministry due to her illness and a major cabinet rejig soon involving top ministers and even chief ministers. All this talk on the digital platform only missed one critical point, though. That the Budget session of Parliament is on and no cabinet reshuffle could take place during this period.
"WhatsApp Akhbar" does not distinguish between fact and fiction. Credible or not, most of its users hardly think twice before pressing the forward button to share the "incredible piece" of information that he or she just received.
"Don't you know, Devendra Fadnavis (Maharastra Chief Minister) is being shifted to Delhi, he will be new defence minister, a surprise replacement to Manohar Parrikar, Rajnath Singh will be UP chief minister, Arun Jaitley will be home minister, alternatively Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be home minister, Piyush Goel will be the new finance minister, Vasundhara Raje will be external affairs minister, Raman Singh is also being called at the centre, Ramesh Bais or anyone else will be chief minister. Can you tell me who is this Chandrakant Patil, new chief minister of Maharastra," a friend told me excitedly. His tone was so firm and convincing that it took me by surprise, not for anything else but because the kind of business he was engaged in for a living had nothing to do either with news, government or politics.
"How do you know so much"? I asked. "You don't know," he shot back, it's all over WhatsApp. It's circulating there for the last two days. Yet another friend, as also a colleague and relative called with a similar position.
What was even worse was that even a section of leaders in the BJP and else in political spectrum started talking about it in length. Three days later, a central party office bearer in BJP told Firstpost with a certain confidence, adding "let me tell you since you are a friend that Devendra Fadnavis is resigning from the post of Maharastra chief minister and coming to Delhi to take over as defence minister. Raman Singh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje are also being shifted to Delhi to join Modi cabinet. All big four ministers (existing) are being shifted. Rajnath Singh, in any case, is going to Uttar Pradesh, Sushmaji as it is not well and Jaitley ji could be shifted from finance." Honestly, till then I had not received any Whatsapp messages to that effect. It's a different matter that by next morning my inbox was flooded with such messages, both group, and individual, like the fictional messages which had been floating on "banking transaction tax".
A minister asked have you heard what is going on in "Chandukhana" (an English translation of this colloquial Delhi term, it roughly means garbage pit). he then narrated what others had told. It was not just Chandukhana but it was jham jham chandukhana ( garbage pit galore), I said.
Another message said how Rajnath Singh's staff had reached his Lucknow residence (Kalidas Marg where his residence is next to chief minister's official residence) to prepare for his arrival in Lucknow for swearing in. No attribution again but it was a hot topic on WhatsApp.
BJP general secretary (organisation), an RSS nominee in the party, Ramlal has become another alternate on WhatsApp for the chief ministerial position in Uttar Pradesh. So are Satish Mahana and Suresh Khanna, two unknown but multiple term MLA. No point in talking other obvious or serious probable Manoj Sinha.
BJP president Amit Shah's light-hearted statement that "Keshav ji (Keshav Prasad Maurya) has to decide" who is going to be the chief minister is being interpreted that Shah has ruled Maurya out because latter can't decide that he would be the chief minister himself and has to name someone else is the highest talking point in BJP. Thankfully, it's not on WhatsApp yet, at least not in wide circulation yet.
So far cabinet reshuffle was considered to be a sole prerogative of the prime minister, more so in the case of Modi. But fertile minds on WhatsApp have just usurped that. Behind this flight of fancy is the thought Modi would do unconventional things. So keep enjoying these WhatsApp headlines, one of it may come true.
Updated Date: Mar 16, 2017 21:25 PM