At personal financial risk and with the support of international funding, Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla began manufacturing the Covishield vaccine months before the government clearance in January. By December last year, the SII had stockpiled some 200 million doses of Covishield. With the government solely in charge of vaccine distribution as of now, till this month-end, the supply far outstripped actual vaccinations. A large proportion of those on the computerised list of prioritised beneficiaries did not show up to take the jabs. Should the vaccination drive continue at the present pace, some 25 per cent of the original SII vaccine stock will expire by the end of April without being used. If the procedure for inducting private players for the vaccine drive is not worked out smoothly and speedily, a large number of vaccine dosages could end up being wasted.
The recent death of Captain Satish Sharma elicited far more concern from the Gandhi siblings than for old family loyalists such as Ahmed Patel or Motilal Vora. Priyanka Vadra postponed a kisan panchayat and Rahul Gandhi insisted on being a pallbearer for Sharma. The media uses the term ‘friend’ to describe many close political associates of the Gandhis, from Arun Nehru and Arun Singh in Rajiv Gandhi’s time to Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora et al of the Rahul Gandhi brigade with Manmohan Singh as prime minister. The truth, however, is that the Gandhi family has a clear dividing line between actual friends who frequent the house and others who interact at the office, even if located at 10, Janpath or 12, Tughlak Lane. Very few fall in the former category. The Gandhis have a deep suspicion, with justification, that many party members try to cosy up to them only for their own advancement. After Sharma’s death, among the few who are still counted as close family friends are Sam Pitroda and Suman Dubey.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami has a counter to pollster Prashant Kishor, who is working for the rival DMK. He is the AIADMK’s IT in-charge Sunil Kanugolu. A former McKinsey consultant, Kanugolu worked with Kishor on Modi’s 2014 election campaign. He was campaign adviser to the DMK for the 2016 Assembly elections. Later, he joined the BJP’s Association of Billion Minds, a strategy war-room for the Assembly elections. He helped the DMK alliance win 38 of the 39 parliamentary seats in 2019. But when he teamed up with the AIADMK, the DMK invited Kishor to be its poll consultant. Kanugolu, who had conceived the popular ‘Namakku Naame (By Us, For Us)’ campaign for the DMK, now wants to build up EPS’s image. Through social media messages he hopes to convert EPS’s image from the faceless politician he was during Jayalalithaa’s reign to a mass leader. The DMK’s disadvantage is that Kishor is often missing from Tamil Nadu, being more involved in the West Bengal campaign.
Rahul Gandhi was annoyed when at a recent farmers’ rally organised by Congress dissident Sachin Pilot in Rupangarh, Rajasthan, Pilot’s supporters shouted slogans only in favour of their leader, rather than Rahul Gandhi or Ashok Gehlot, who were also on the dais. Ajay Maken requested Pilot to leave the stage so that the sloganeering could stop. This has further hardened positions and the shaky patch-up between Gehlot and Pilot seems about to fall apart. Despite a high command directive, the Rajasthan Chief Minister has neither shed any of his numerous portfolios nor has he accommodated the rebels. Even while filling up membership of such coveted committees as the Rajasthan Public Services Commission and the state Information Commission, he has ignored Congresspersons. The wife of poet Kumar Vishwas, who contested against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi in 2014, is one of the CM’s controversial choices.
Mamata and Media
Senior Bengali journalist Jayanta Ghosal has quit as West Bengal government’s information and development officer after just two months to join the India Today media group as an editorial consultant. Ghosal’s former job was to liaise with the West Bengal government and New Delhi. A task for which he was well-suited given his old associations with both the BJP and Mamata Banerjee. But Abhishek Banerjee’s aide Kunal Ghosh slammed Ghosal for praising the PM’s foreign policy in a Bangladeshi publication. As part of his new duties, Ghosal, along with Prashant Kishor, persuaded Banerjee to join the India Today Conclave at Kolkata, which she had avoided attending for the last two years. But her presence turned out to be more of an embarrassment than an asset. She caustically pointed to popular TV anchor Rajdeep Sardesai’s long absence from the group’s channel.