Leadership is fine, but where the power lies?
Despite the buzz about Rahul Gandhi’s imminent takeover of the Congress as the new president, Sonia Gandhi remains very much in command of the party. Her hand is visible in the choice of Congress nominees for the Rajya Sabha. Kapil Sibal, P Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh and Oscar Fernandes are all Sonia’s picks for the Upper House. Interestingly, Congress circles say that Rahul Gandhi was not keen on some of the names. For instance, he initially opposed Chidambaram’s nomination but gave in when his mother insisted that the party needs the former finance minister to take on current finance minister Arun Jaitley in the Parliament.
Surprisingly, the other name on which Rahul is believed to have differed with his mother is that of Jairam Ramesh. Congress circles are puzzled about this because Jairam was considered an important voice in Rahul’s inner circle. In fact, in the run-up to the 2014 general election, Jairam was made convenor of the election team headed by Rahul to plan and implement the party’s election campaign. This was sometime in December 2013.
For the next couple of months, Jairam was often seen with Rahul on various tours around the country. He used to hand-hold the heir apparent in those days. Something must have happened in that period because as the election drew nearer, the campaign team became dysfunctional and almost never met. Jairam stopped accompanying Rahul on his tours. And for the past couple of years, he has kept a low profile.
Obviously, Sonia has a soft corner for him. Whatever his relations with Rahul may be, Jairam is back in the Rajya Sabha.
BJP in a fix over CM face in UP
The BJP is in a real fix over its strategy for next year’s crucial UP polls. The 2015 Bihar election proved the danger of not having a chief ministerial face and relying on the Modi charisma in a state poll. The 2016 Assam election was an eye-opener on the advantages of putting local lads in front. The BJP’s CM candidate Sarbanand Sonowal and Congress import Himanta Biswa Sarma powered the saffron party to its first-ever victory in the northeast.
Now the question arises: should the BJP adopt the Bihar model or the Assam model for UP? The Modi-Shah duo is in a quandary after surveys conducted by a slew of UP-based newspapers have shown Varun Gandhi as the most popular choice to lead the BJP in the state. Varun is no favourite of the duo.
The leadership’s dilemma is all the more acute because the same polls put Smriti Irani at the bottom of the heap, with just 1-2 percent favouring her as CM candidate for the BJP. Interestingly, between Varun and Smriti is a host of other leaders including the powerful Gorakhpur man, Yogi Adityanath, who is lobbying hard to lead the BJP’s campaign in UP.
It’s a tough call for Modi and Shah to take. They are believed to have deferred a decision on this vital question for now. Some in the BJP say a decision will only be taken in September-October, closer to the polls. Till then, the policy is to wait and watch what the others do.
Strategy to revive party baffles workers
Congress circles continue to be baffled by Rahul Gandhi. They are not quite sure what his strategy is to revive the party and pull it out of the dumps. For instance, on the day the Modi government held the big bash at India Gate to celebrate its second anniversary in office, Rahul was out on the streets somewhere in the Capital, leading a torch rally to protest the water and electricity problems in Kejriwal’s Delhi.
With TV channels totally focused on a direct telecast of the India Gate birthday party, Rahul’s street demonstration got no more than a passing reference and a few seconds of visuals on the box. In fact, did anyone even realise that Rahul was agitated on behalf of the people of Delhi?
Timing is key in politics. It made no sense for Rahul to try and compete with Modi on the latter’s big day. Hopefully, he has realised his mistake.
Exciting verbal duels with Swamy likely
Is maverick lawyer Ram Jethmalani the Opposition’s answer to Subramanium Swamy? With Jethmalani now a member of the Upper House courtesy Lalu Yadav’s RJD, political circles are rubbing their hands in anticipation of exciting verbal duels between him and Swamy.
Both are sharp, articulate and consummate debators. They also do not pull their punches. Ironically, although they are now on opposite sides of the fence, they have one target in common: Arun Jaitley who happens to be the Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha. Both hold a major grouse against him. Temperatures are set to soar in the monsoon session.