On the basis of its internal surveys, the BJP believes that it will be the single largest party in Uttar Pradesh after the Assembly elections, with the BSP in second place. However, even if this rosy picture was to prove correct, the NDA would still need an additional 10% of the total votes to win the elections for President of India in July. To make up the shortfall, it will have to depend on support from parties such as the JD(U), AIADMK and the BJD. Since the BJP will not be in a position to ensure a win for a candidate of its choice, it will have to settle for a consensus candidate. Some in President Pranab Mukherjee’s office are hopeful that this could mean a second term for him.
No advice, no dissent
Those upset with demonetisation and Narendra Modi’s unilateral decisions hint that ‘Margdarshak’ LK Advani has become a rallying point for dissidents in the BJP. They cite the fact that Advani was reluctant to sit on the stage and left the dais after lighting the lamp at the BJP national executive in Delhi earlier this month. But BJP office-bearers maintain that the media is trying to spin a story out of a non-event. They say that Advani left the stage for 10 minutes after lighting the lamp because he felt unwell and Arun Jaitley accompanied him to the restroom. He returned subsequently and remained seated on the dais throughout. The leader who is, in fact, sulking is Yogi Adityanath. He did not show up for the meeting reportedly because he was not included in the Uttar Pradesh ticket selection committee. A journalist who asked BJP president Amit Shah whether the party was apprehensive that it would lose its core constituency because of demonetisation was told to ignore the core vote and concentrate on the larger picture. The Modi-Amit Shah duo have clearly shifted their focus from Hindutva and vikas to garibi hatao through demonetisation.
Leaps and bounds
TMC leader Mamata Banerjee’s commitment to simple living and austerity has been dented by the ostentatious lifestyle of her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, who is viewed as her heir apparent. While Banerjee continues to live at her old family house in Kalighat, the nephew has built himself a three-storey house a short distance away. The recent birthday party of his daughter was a lavish affair. Apart from being a politician, Abhishek is also a businessman who owns a company, Leaps and Bounds, which, as its name suggests, has grown phenomenally in recent years. TMC members were taken aback when, after the arrest of TMC MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay by the CBI in the Rose Valley chit fund scam, Banerjee announced that her source in the CBI had informed her that her nephew might be the next target. She seemed far more concerned about Abhishek than her other MPs. Incidentally, the TMC’s latest dharna against demonetisation was a flop show, at least in the capital. Two dozen TMC MPs sat in the sun outside their government bungalows in South Avenue and occasionally made speeches, but there was no one to listen apart from a few stray journalists from the Bengal media.
RJD chief Lalu Yadav is still smarting from the insult of having to sit on the ground at the function to celebrate the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh at the Gandhi Maidan in Patna, while chief minister Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi sat on the dais. Lalu, who as chief minister often occupied the only chair at meetings with his party men, is not willing to swallow the humiliation. The deteriorating relationship between Nitish and Lalu is because the Bihar chief minister is no longer willing to accede to the RJD chief’s many demands, particularly on transfers and postings. Lalu’s choices for the DM of Patna and the director general of Police were thwarted. Nitish can afford to cross Lalu since he knows that the BJP will only be happy to extend outside support. When Nitish declared that his party would organise a human chain on January 21 in support of his prohibition policy, the BJP quickly announced that its workers would join.
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The snub to the BJP’s senior-most chief minister was apparent at the BJP national executive in Delhi this month. When Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan spoke on agriculture, a sector in which his state has made rapid strides, party president Amit Shah thrice chided him for not sticking to the point and straying into other areas.