Changing of guard
K Rosaiah’s term as governor of Tamil Nadu ended on August 30. He received a ceremonial send-off and was greeted with fanfare when he arrived in Hyderabad, where he will be staying. When he woke up the next morning, Rosaiah discovered to his fury that the elaborate security detail deployed for his protection for the last six years had been withdrawn and he was left with one solitary policeman. Rosaiah immediately complained to President Pranab Mukherjee and Andhra Pradesh governor ESL Narasimhan. At 83, Rosaiah—who also had a short-lived stint as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh—considers himself among the senior-most Congress leaders in the country. Thanks to Rosaiah’s protests, a government order extended his security cover for another three months, though it is highly unlikely that there is any real threat to him. For Rosaiah, bodyguards clearly are a status symbol.
Whenever Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes a major speech, he gets instant feedback since his staff and aides carry out a survey to find out how it has been received. Modi was happy to learn that the response to his Kozhikode speech of September 24 was positive. But that may have been because the respondents were mainly scholars, diplomats and the media. The sample survey did not include party workers and the BJP’s supporters, who were, in fact, very disappointed. At the BJP meeting in Kozhikode, the audience clapped and tweeted when Modi attacked Pakistan and extolled sacrifices. However, when he referred to a war against poverty, there was a palpable lack of enthusiasm. A hardcore RSS journalist even deplored the “Gujarati temperament”, whose key concern, according to him, is to “get on with business (dhanda)”, overriding everything else. However, the subsequent attack on terrorist camps in PoK ensured that Modi retained his core constituency.
When the late Andhra chief minister YSR Reddy’s son Jagan Reddy split from the Congress and formed his own YSR Congress in 2011, the Congress received a major blow from which it is yet to recover. Jagan Reddy drew huge crowds, but in the 2014 election, the YSR Congress was a runner-up to Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP, which won the Andhra Assembly elections decisively. The Congress was completely decimated. However, Naidu’s popularity is now declining. He was unable to keep his promise of convincing the Modi government to grant special status for Andhra. Now the Congress and the YSR Congress are seriously thinking of burying the hatchet and joining forces to take on Naidu. Reddy recently met Congress observers for Andhra. It is presumed that if the YSR Congress merges with the mother party, Reddy will emerge as leader of the state unit.
Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal has tried in vain to convince his ally, the BJP, not to keep slapping cases against AAP MLAs in Delhi. He feels that the strategy is counter-productive since the AAP gets much mileage in Punjab by presenting itself as victimised by the central government. The BJP, which is nowhere in the reckoning in Punjab, realises that its ally, the Akali Dal, faces strong anti-incumbency and has little chance of winning the election. In the circumstances, the BJP would prefer the Congress led by Amarinder Singh to win the Punjab Assembly poll, rather than the AAP. The BJP fears that an AAP victory in Punjab could pave the way for the AAP to make inroads into BJP territory in Goa and Gujarat. The BJP believes that the AAP is more dangerous in the long run than the Congress.
The choice of West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra as GST Council vice-chairperson has upset several BJP leaders. The council, with finance minister Arun Jaitley as chairperson, includes state finance ministers and top finance ministry officials. It is to finalise the roadmap for GST rollout with a uniform tax regime. While most BJP-ruled states have passed the GST Bill, the West Bengal Assembly has not. The Bill was on the agenda of the West Bengal Assembly but, at the last moment, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had second thoughts, reportedly because of differences with the central government on certain financial issues. Jaitley is resisting pressure to replace Mitra because of the unreliability of Bengal’s position. The FM does not want to offend Banerjee at this stage. In December, the government will need the TMC support to pass the finalised GST Bills. Besides, having a deputy chairperson from a non-BJP party lends credibility to the council’s deliberations.