Common foe: Arun Jaitley had once warned Amarinder Singh that Sidhu would undermine him, writes Coomi Kapoor

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September 26, 2021 6:15 AM

It came as a shock to other BJP-ruled states that Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, along with his entire Cabinet, was replaced a fortnight ago with a first-time MLA, Bhupendra Patel.

Common foe: Arun Jaitley had once warned Amarinder Singh that Sidhu would undermine him, writes Coomi KapoorLate Arun Jaitley believed that Sidhu and his politician-wife, Navjot Kaur, sabotaged his Amritsar campaign.

Narendra Modi recently showered praises on Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath at a function in Aligarh. However, the CM has been unable to meet the PM for a one-on-one meeting in the last month though he has reportedly put in three requests. Adityanath is keen to induct new ministers in his Cabinet such as Jitin Prasada and Sanjay Nishad, before the Assembly elections next year. By the year-end, any Cabinet changes will be problematic since it will be too close to the February polls. Interestingly, though Amit Shah normally goes into overdrive when an important Assembly election is due, as in West Bengal, Shah is gearing up for the UP campaign at a leisurely pace.

Off with their heads
It came as a shock to other BJP-ruled states that Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, along with his entire Cabinet, was replaced a fortnight ago with a first-time MLA, Bhupendra Patel. But it came as no surprise to the people of Gujarat who have seen such off-with-all-heads purges in the past under Narendra Modi. Such complete overhauls are seen as a way of softening an anti-incumbency mood just before an election. It has happened earlier in several local self-government bodies in Surat and Saurashtra. The BJP leadership was conscious of the unpopularity of the Rupani government. The reason why the complete change of guard in Gujarat went off with barely a whimper, despite discontent among some communities like the Koli Patels, is because of C R Paatil, the BJP state chief. The former police constable and close aide of Narendra Modi, who worked with Amit Shah in the 2019 poll, has a tight grip over the state, even though he is not a Gujarati but a Maharashtrian.

Common foe
Amarinder Singh and the late Arun Jaitley may have fought a bitter parliamentary election against each other in Amritsar in 2014, but they remained friends. They were united in their dislike of a common enemy, Navjot Singh Sidhu. Jaitley believed that Sidhu and his politician-wife, Navjot Kaur, sabotaged his Amritsar campaign. He ensured that the Sidhus were thrown out of the BJP. When Sidhu joined the Congress, Singh turned to Jaitley for advice. The latter warned that Sidhu would undermine him. The Captain was so enraged by Sidhu’s entry into the Congress that he even contemplated floating his own political party if he could tie up with the BJP. The plan never fructified since the BJP stuck with the Akalis.

Offer or banter
It is a debatable whether Rajya Sabha MP Ambika Soni was seriously offered the Punjab chief ministership or if the suggestion was made as light-hearted banter by Rahul Gandhi at a meeting of Punjab legislators. Gandhi was responding to Soni’s stout rejection of a proposal to make Sunil Jakhar the chief minister, on the grounds that he is not a Sikh. At 78, Soni may be five months younger than Captain Amarinder Singh, but was in no position to take over as chief minister. In fact, in August 2019, she had written to Sonia Gandhi, saying she would like to step down from active politics, but received no reply. Although she is no longer general secretary, Soni is utilised by the party high command to counter her contemporaries and old colleagues such as Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal and Manish Tewari, who are part of the G-23 dissidents.

Interpreting words
Nitin Gadkari is known for his refreshing candour and humour. This month, he delivered a speech to Rajasthan legislators on ‘Parliamentary System and People’s Expectations’, which created a buzz. Politics, Gadkari noted, should not be about individuals and power but adhering to a particular party and its philosophy. When he was BJP president, Gadkari remarked, he found most politicians were unhappy. MLAs wanted to be ministers, while ministers aspired to be chief minister and chief ministers lived in constant fear that they would be axed. Reciting a poem by Sharad Joshi, Gadkari observed that people not performing well in the state were transferred to Delhi, when they failed in Delhi, they were made governors, and when found inadequate as governors, they were appointed ambassadors. There was much laughter from the audience. The next day, the media interpreted the speech in various ways. Some saw it as a reference to Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, whose position post Amarinder Singh’s departure, is shaky, others suggested he was pointing a finger at his own party. Gadkari, however, clarifies that he was speaking in general terms about power politics and feels the media was unethical to give their own individual spins to his words.

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