Kailash Vijayvargiya, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, is active in the West Bengal election campaign as the state in-charge. He is going to every district and addressing public meetings. But what many have come to know only now is that Vijayvargiya sings very well, especially nostalgic Bollywood songs. In West Bengal, whenever he attends marriage ceremonies of party workers, there is a popular demand for him to sing. Recently, at a media con•clave, in the middle of an interview, he was asked to sing. It is not clear what his role will be after the polls. When Home Minister Amit Shah was asked whether Vijayvargiya could be a chief ministerial candidate, it was ruled out since he is not from the state.
The main reason former Trinamool leader Dinesh Trivedi decided to leave the party, it is being said, was a seating issue. He had complained to Mamata Banerjee against the party’s Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien because he had been made to sit in the gallery of the House while junior MPs were allotted seats in the council chamber. After Covid, only some members from each party could be accommodated in the chamber and the parties had to decide who they wanted there. Trivedi had written to Banerjee about this humiliation, but she reportedly did not respond. Her percep•tion was said to be that Trivedi was anyway planning to leave, and was using the seating arrangement as an excuse.
Film Star Wanted
In Kolkata, the Bhabanipur Assembly seat is being keenly watched because Trinamool leader and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is contesting from there. BJP needs someone strong to field here and rumours say the party is looking for a movie star because all political candidates would be easily defeated. The state has a tradition of actors enter•ing politics. When Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat had gone to Mithun Chakraborty’s home recently, there was specula•tion that the actor might contest against Banerjee. But it was Banerjee who had made Chakraborty a Member of Parliament, and Trinamool leaders overwhelmingly rule him out running against her. BJP has a strong relationship with another film star, Prosenjit Chatterjee. But he too shares an equally good rapport with Banerjee.
Consequences of Jest
Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb has caused a headache for the external affairs ministry after stating at a public function that BJP would expand to Nepal and Sri Lanka and form governments there. Deb said it was, in fact, Home Minister Amit Shah who had pointed this out in an internal meeting when he had visited Tripura. Turns out, Shah had said so in jest. The BJP central leadership is upset with Deb’s gaffe. Already, Nepal has launched a formal objection with New Delhi over the matter.
Odisha Governor Ganeshi Lal is fond of travelling to his native village in Haryana with pomp. But the Odisha government has become very strict with expenditure. Even the chief minister doesn’t have a large convoy while travelling. When Lal travelled to Delhi recently, he wanted a convoy of four cars. The state government objected and said it was not possible because Covid-related constraints had led to a scarcity of cars and drivers. But the governor was insistent. The Odisha government then organised taxis for the governor to make up the convoy. Lal was not ready to use the official emblem, as protocol dictates, when he is travelling in a commercial vehicle. He also wanted a helicopter and the state government objected to that too because of the financial implications.
Prashant Kishor, the election strategist for Trinamool Congress, is from Bihar. But what is not common knowledge is that his ancestral home is in Buxar district in the state. It was partly demolished recently by the government. Many think it was in retaliation for Kishor going against Janata Dal (United) and its leader Nitish Kumar. The local administration, however, says that the demolition was necessary because of the development of a highway in that area.
After decades, Jammu & Kashmir has no representation in the Upper House of Parliament. This is because its four Rajya Sabha members—Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress), Shamsher Singh Manhas (BJP), Fayaz Ahmad Mir (PDP) and Nazir Ahmad Laway (expelled PDP leader)—have all retired. Mir and Manhas completed their six-year terms on February 10th, while Azad and Laway did so on February 15th. The loss of representation is because these berths cannot be filled in the absence of the J&K Legislative Assembly, the electoral college for Rajya Sabha polls. The Assembly had been
dissolved in November 2018.
Price of Amity
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emotional farewell for outgoing Congress Rajya Sabha member Ghulam Nabi Azad may have put the latter in a spot with his party and constituents. Many are wondering whether Azad would now join BJP and become its Kashmir face. Some are even accusing him of being a BJP mole. Even in Kashmir, there is suspicion against him. In WhatsApp groups and social media, many say his farewell speech didn’t raise the issue of Kashmir and the abrogation of Article 370.