Columns | Whisperer
The Art of War
The Uttar Pradesh Assembly will have Samajwadi Party MLA Nitin Agarwal as the new deputy speaker
22 Oct, 2021
(Illustrations” Saurabh Singh)
Only for five months, the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Assembly will have a deputy speaker. The UP government had suggested to the state Assembly speaker to fill the vacancy since it feels the main opposition party should get the post as the speaker belongs to the ruling party. So, the new deputy speaker will be Samajwadi Party (SP) rebel MLA Nitin Agarwal. The senior opposition leader is learnt to be against the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP. He is a vocal dissident and is rumoured to be close to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While SP is demanding to expel him from the Assembly (he has left SP to form a new party), he is technically a member of his old party. On October 19th, the speaker called an emergency Assembly session for six hours to nominate Agarwal as deputy speaker. It is indeed a Catch-22 situation for the opposition SP which has been arguing that while BJP has not granted the status of the Leader of Opposition to anybody in Parliament, its ‘democratic’ concern at the state level is hypocritical.
Triumph And Tears
When Rahul Gandhi had told Charanjit Singh Channi that he would be Punjab’s next chief minister, the latter had started crying. This was disclosed by Rahul himself at the recently concluded Congress Working Committee meet. No other Congress leader had shed tears on becoming chief minister. Channi, apparently, couldn’t control his emotions.
Troublemaker in Trouble?
Navjot Singh Sidhu remains a headache for Congress. Now, he has written a letter demanding action against the drug mafia and other corruption issues in Punjab. He sent the letter to Sonia Gandhi with a copy to the chief minister. And the letter was leaked. It is embarrassing for Congress before Punjab goes to the polls as the party is in power in the state. Now, Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi is saying that he will take action against Sidhu, for the latter has asked questions about former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Congress’ role in combating the drug mafia.
Singh on Song
Former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh may launch a new regional party, but it is clear now that he will remain a close friend of BJP. There is gossip that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government can make him chairman of a standing committee to talk to the aggrieved farmers. Singh can be the main emissary to resolve the crisis. Another round of gossip indicates that Singh can be made the Union agriculture minister prior to the 2024 General Election.
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has developed a cordial relationship with his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid who has a journalistic background. Lapid used to be a television producer and anchor, and has even dabbled in thrillers and children’s books. So, Jaishankar can discuss a range of subjects with Lapid, well beyond politics and diplomacy. Also, the 58-year-old Lapid is set to alternate as the country’s prime minister once Naftali Bennett’s 18-month term comes to an end. Prime Minister Modi, too, advised Jaishankar to develop a rapport with Lapid.
On the eve of Diwali, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot gave his nod to a longstanding demand of retired employees of the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation (RSRTC) by granting gratuity to those who retired after 2016. RSRTC comes under corporations with different service rules for employees, and has denied its employees gratuity and other benefits. The decision will cost around `476 crore to the exchequer.
What will be Congress’ strategy in Uttarakhand? With state elections round the corner, former Chief Minister Harish Rawat is learnt to be in charge of Congress in the state, and is also raring for another term at the helm if his party wins at the hustings. We even hear that Congress’ Uttarakhand in-charge Devendra Yadav is proactively bringing back a few old Congress leaders who had left to join BJP. Popular Rajput leaders Satpal Maharaj and Harak Singh Rawat may consider a comeback provided Harish Rawat is not the chief ministerial candidate, for they had left Congress during his tenure as chief minister. Even Harish Rawat is not keen on their return. Therein
lies the rub.
Kamalapati Tripathi’s grandson Lalitesh Tripathi is learnt to be close to Priyanka Gandhi. But he, too, left Congress expressing dissatisfaction with the UP party leadership. Rumour has it that Lalitesh is in touch with poll strategist Prashant Kishor and may even join Trinamool Congress, which has in the recent past brought quite a few Congress heavyweights to its fold—Sushmita Deb and Luizinho Faleiro, to name a few. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are naturally upset and have communicated their displeasure to Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee. At the same time, Congress is aware that the rules of the game are being set by Trinamool leader Abhishek Banerjee, which explains Priyanka’s recent outreach to him over the Lalitesh issue. For the time being though, Abhishek is looking the other way.
Passing The Baton
The buzz at 24 Akbar Road after the Congress Working Committee meeting on October 16th is that Rahul Gandhi may accept the party presidentship in 2022, after the Assembly elections in UP, Punjab and Goa. Sonia Gandhi, apparently, had taken over the leadership of Congress only on that condition. So, Rahul will chair Congress during the 2023 Assembly polls in several states, including Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. And without doubt, Rahul will be helming Congress in the 2024 General Election.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad’s elder son Tej Pratap Yadav seems to be rooting for Congress. At a by-election in Kusheshwar Asthan on October 30th, Tej Pratap will be seen supporting the Congress candidate, and has even released an official statement to that effect. Though he has floated a new organisation, Chatra Janshakti Parishad, he will remain with RJD and continue to lend his support to the old Congress-RJD alliance his father helped stitch statewide. But his brother, Tejashwi, seems to be against any tie-up with Congress. Even as the siblings squabble, Lalu’s health is deteriorating—he is in Delhi and will not be visiting Patna for the by-election.
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