Piyush Goyal
Railway minister Piyush Goyal | Getty Images

Pre-Truth – snappy, witty and significant snippets from the world of politics and government.

Additional charge of Finance eluded Sitharaman

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman was in contention for the additional charge of finance during the absence of Arun Jaitley, but lost out to railway and coal minister Piyush Goyal.

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Once it became clear that he would have to undergo a kidney transplant, Jaitley himself recommended Goyal as his temporary substitute to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A few days later, though, the Prime Minister got a request to give the charge to Sitharaman, who had earlier served as minister of state for finance and corporate affairs. Modi, however, decided to go for Goyal, who was formally given the charge on 14 May.

However, the railway minister may not have to put in those extra hours for the additional portfolio for long. The same day he was discharged from hospital, Monday, Jaitley also held a meeting with senior officers of the ministry through video-conferencing.

He is expected to return to work in June-end or early July, but, until then, Goyal has his task cut out, given that the former is already keeping a tab on the ministry.


The ‘coincidence’ behind Ken Juster’s ‘courtesy call’ on Goyal

The American embassy called the finance ministry earlier this week to fix a meeting between ambassador Kenneth Juster and stand-in finance minister Piyush Goyal.

The agenda of the meeting was said to be a discussion over some important issues, including the duty row over Harley Davidson motorbikes. On the day of the meeting, however, the US embassy informed the ministry that there was nothing on the agenda and the ambassador just wanted to pay a courtesy call. Incidentally, on the same day, there were media reports about Arun Jaitley returning to work in the finance ministry soon. Juster eventually met Goyal at his Rail Bhavan office.


American far-Right news website to set up base in New Delhi

Indian publications and TV channels trotting out Right-wing views may soon have a new partner in town.

Breitbart, an American far-Right media organisation, is reportedly considering setting up a bureau in India. The news and opinion website was founded in 2007 by conservative media commentator Andrew Breitbart, who had famously predicted the arrival of Donald Trump in 2011, saying that “celebrity is everything” in the US.

He died in 2012 but the website has continued to carry out his conservative agenda, with detractors even dubbing it “Trump’s personal Pravda”.

On its Twitter profile, the bio for @BreitbartNews reads: “News, commentary, and destruction of the political/media establishment.”


How Supreme Court judges spend their summer vacation

The Supreme Court has a six-week summer vacation, a colonial practice that has often drawn criticism. Some judges use this break for academic tours, while others, like former Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, write pending judgments.

The CJIs also have administrative work that requires them to come to court every day, even during vacation.

This season, one of the judges, A.K. Sikri, is in London on the invitation of Oxford University’s Somerville College to release a book edited by senior advocate and Congressman Salman Khurshid, an alumnus of the premier institution.

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, meanwhile, is in Hawaii as a guest of the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law. Another senior judge underwent a pancreatic surgery last week, which could also explain the delay in the collegium meeting.


Yogi to Modi: ‘My housing performance better than yours’

Under fire for a string of losses for the BJP in bypolls in his state, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath Thursday put out a two-page advertisement in some dailies on ‘Transforming Uttar Pradesh’ and how he had led this “transformation”.

One of the claims in the ad was that UP had scored the top position in building houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (PMAY).

“The Uttar Pradesh government has secured the No. 1 position by achieving 92 per cent of the PMAY target whereas the national average has been 39 per cent only,” the ad said. “The state that has scored second is Chhattisgarh, which has met only 47 per cent of the target, and Madhya Pradesh has achieved 45 per cent of the target to come third.”

In trying to project his achievements, the UP CM may have just undermined the NDA government at the Centre by mentioning the national average as “only” 39 per cent. The figures for the two BJP-ruled states cited weren’t flattering either.


Why ‘like-minded’ journalists are miffed with BJP chief’s outreach

BJP president Amit Shah has been on an overdrive to reach out to the media as the NDA government enters the fifth and final year of its tenure. He had several rounds of interactions with television, print and digital media over sumptuous lunches and dinners on the fourth anniversary of the government last month.

After power-point presentations about the NDA’s achievements, Shah and some senior ministers would break bread with journalists, fielding their questions, but not to be reported.

Earlier this week, Shah had a luncheon meeting with a group of journalists the party perceives as friendly and like-minded. Many of them returned miffed, though, complaining that the BJP president was “too patronising” in his interaction with them. Now that’s not something new for those who have been at such sessions with the most successful BJP president. But the like-minded journalists are obviously used to a different treatment. Or, probably, they are losing their patience, with barely a year left for the ruling party to acknowledge and reward the loyalists.

(Contributors: D.K. Singh, Kumar Anshuman, Apurva Vishwanath and Ruhi Tewari)

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