Congress seems to be clueless on how to resolve the Punjab crisis between Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu. Both Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi have been unable to patch things up even though Amarinder came to Delhi to meet the Gandhis. Now, he has just made it all the more complicated by putting forward a new formula. According to it, the state Congress president’s post needs a non-Sikh leader and the cabinet and campaign committee, a Dalit leader. Both put Sidhu out of the equation, and he is understandably upset. It might just push him towards joining the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has managed to survive even though there was a strong movement in the party against him. Baghel was in-charge of the Assam election and Congress failed there. After that, dissident leaders started a campaign against him saying that when he became chief minister, there had been a consensus that after two-and-a-half years TS Singh Deo would replace him. The buzz is Priyanka Gandhi is supporting him and so he is getting to keep his chair. It is one of the few states where Congress is in power now and they probably don’t want to rock the boat.
Even when Kanshi Ram was alive, there was a smooth succession in the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) with Mayawati taking over. But now the question is being asked as to who can lead the party after her. Meanwhile, in Chandrashekhar Azad, there is another Dalit leader building a huge following as a direct challenger to Mayawati. He is campaigning not just against BJP but also against her. His argument is that she has failed Dalits who should now change their loyalty. He could be a factor in the UP elections.
Uttar Pradesh (UP) is witnessing anti-incumbency, something that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is also beginning to acknowledge now. It feels merely relying on hyper-religiosity won’t be enough. There also needs to be a roadmap for growth if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has to return to power in the state when elections are held next year. In Chitrakoot, there was an RSS internal brainstorming session in which they’ve opined that BJP should create an atmosphere of development and employment. In the West Bengal polls, the Hindutva plank by itself did not work, rather the Muslim vote got polarised. UP has had a number of polarising issues and RSS thinks that the perception of the government being anti-Muslim needs to be changed.
Silent on Speaker
In Maharashtra, Congress has curiously not been able to select the speaker of the Assembly even though the post has been lying vacant for more than a year after Nana Patole became the party’s state president. Now, Shiv Sena has a new formula by which it is ready to offer the forest and environment ministry to Congress and, in return, Sena’s Bhaskar Jadhav, who is the deputy speaker, will become speaker. As it is, he has been running the show since the speaker’s resignation. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, the third of the alliance ruling Maharashtra, however did not accept the Sena proposal. He knows how crucial the speaker post is in this coalition. Instead, Pawar wants Congress to select a speaker immediately. Some think Rahul Gandhi is reluctant to name a speaker because he is planning to get out of the alliance.
After the Cabinet expansion, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah could now go for a major reshuffle in the party. In BJP’s parliamentary board, there are five posts vacant. There are rumours that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman could be made a member. Prakash Javadekar and Ravi Shankar Prasad, who were removed as ministers, could return to the party as vice presidents after a small hibernation. Both were successful party spokespersons once and could have major roles in publicity and media for the 2024 General Election.
Before the Uttar Pradesh election, a minor ally, the Nishad Party, has become a headache for BJP. Its leader Sanjay Nishad expected a berth for his son in the recent Union Cabinet expansion, but was ignored. Instead, another BJP ally, Anupriya Patel, got inducted. Now, Nishad is out to create trouble. He has announced that he will put up candidates in several seats against BJP in the Assembly election. BJP leaders are trying to sort out the issue quickly. They are also relying on Amit Shah’s acumen in handling such small parties before the election.
Politics To Business
Rashtriya Janata Dal’s leader Lalu Prasad’s elder son Tej Pratap used to be health minister of Bihar once upon a time, but then left direct politics as his brother Tejashwi took over the reins of the party. Tej Pratap has since become an entrepreneur manufacturing and selling incense sticks. His brand is LR Radha Krishna Agarbatti. The party gossip is that LR actually stands for Lalu and Rabri. One of the products is named Krishna Leela, and some say he is playing the Hindu card!