If it is a bit confusing that the former ‘Congress Singh’ now heads the BJP in UP, it is also true that descendants of most of the old Congress families in the state are now in the BJP.
‘Congress’ heads BJP
An embarrassing secret from his past for the BJP’s new Uttar Pradesh chief, Swatantra Dev Singh, is that his parents had actually named him Congress Singh. The first name ‘Congress’ was hastily changed once Singh joined the BJP. If it is a bit confusing that the former ‘Congress Singh’ now heads the BJP in UP, it is also true that descendants of most of the old Congress families in the state are now in the BJP. Late prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s grandson, Sidharth Nath Singh, is a minister in the Yogi Adityanath Cabinet. Former UP chief minister Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna’s daughter, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, is a BJP MP. The grandson of two Congress stalwarts, Rajendra Kumari Bajpai and Shyama Charan Shukla, Harsh Vardhan Bajpai, is the BJP MLA from Prayagraj; and former UP CM Vir Bahadur Singh’s son, Fateh Bahadur Singh, is a BJP MLA and a favourite of Adityanath.
A Haryana tradition
The Congress high command has put everything on hold including Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s pressing demand that Ashok Tanwar be removed as Haryana PCC chief. The party keeps Hooda dangling at its peril. Hooda and his son Deepender still command considerable loyalty in their constituencies of Sonipat and Rohtak. Deepender, in fact, won in the count from the EVM machines by 1,900 votes in Rohtak and lost the seat narrowly only because of the postal ballots, which were largely from those in the services. As CM, Hooda’s word was law in Haryana affairs because of his proximity to Robert Vadra. But the Gandhis have turned cool, believing he got their son-in-law into trouble with land deals. But if Hooda is not mollified, he could walk out and form his own regional party. This is an old Haryana tradition followed by former chief ministers Bansi Lal, Bhajan Lal, Rao Birendra Singh and Devi Lal, among others.
Rajiv memorial row
Shortly after Rajiv Gandhi’s tragic death, the Gandhi family had a huge row with then prime minister Chandra Shekhar over the location of his memorial. Chandra Shekhar suggested that the proposed memorial be within Shakti Sthal, Indira Gandhi’s samadhi. However, Sonia wanted Rajiv’s commemoration site to be separate from his mother’s since Rajiv was a leader in his own right and should not be remembered merely as Indira’s son. But Chandra Shekhar was adamant that he would not permit a plot to be cut out from Lal Bahadur Shastri’s samadhi and pointed out that he had earlier turned down Ajit Singh’s request for space for Charan Singh’s memorial at the rather neglected Shastri samadhi site. The incident is mentioned in the just released biography of Chandra Shekhar, co-authored by his reverential disciple, Harivansh, now Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
Speaking his mind
During the discussions before the trust vote in the Karnataka Assembly, someone mentioned that former CM H D Kumaraswamy was seen eating biryani at a particular spot. Kumaraswamy countered that this was impossible since he had turned vegetarian a few years ago, to which Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar responded that in his case it worked the opposite way — that he started out as a vegetarian and ended up eating non- vegetarian food. The Speaker, who took his own time about holding the confidence vote and is still to decide on action against all the rebel MLAs, is not a man to be cowed down and has a history of being independent-minded. He started his political career as a Congress corporator and MP. But he left Indira Gandhi and joined Devaraj Urs in 1979. Later, he aligned with S Bangarappa, before shifting loyalties to Ramakrishna Hegde of the Janata Party. In 1985, he was chosen as the Assembly Speaker by the Janata Party. In 1998, Ramesh returned to the Congress, mentored by S M Krishna. When the Congress and JD(S) came together to form a government in 2018, Ramesh was the obvious choice as Speaker, particularly as none from the JD(S) qualified for the post.
After his defeat in Patna by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Shatrughan Sinha did not show his face in Delhi till earlier this month, when fellow BJP rebel Yashwant Sinha’s book was released. In fact, after the parliamentary poll results, Sinha did not wish his rival in person but simply tweeted his congratulations, describing Modi as a friend, Prasad as a family friend and Amit Shah as a master strategist. Incidentally, though rivals, neither Sinha nor Prasad mentioned each other’s names during the Patna campaign. For Prasad, it was his first Lok Sabha contest and he and his wife Maya were on the move from 6 am. A two-time Lok Sabha MP, Sinha only left Maurya Hotel, where he was camping, for the campaign trail past noon, after his lunch.