When Rahul Gandhi returns from his extended vacation, he will be presented with feedback...
When Rahul Gandhi returns from his extended vacation, he will be presented with feedback on what the party rank and file, and office bearers feel is the right direction for the Congress. Gandhi had met party members from the block-level to state PCC chiefs and general secretaries between September and November to solicit their views on the best way forward for the party. After this consultation, PCC members and district Congress committee members were given a list of 34 queries. The first question was what should be the focus of the party without diverting from its core ideology. Office bearers in charge of different states have submitted their reports and the entire exercise is being collated by Madhusudan Mistry, a Rahul Gandhi favourite.
In the wake of Natwar Singh’s book, One Life is not Enough, the Congress is rattled by the fact that several prominent party persons, including RK Dhawan, ML Fotedar and Salman Khurshid, are planning to write their memoirs. It fears that there could be more embarrassing revelations for the party’s first family. Recently, when Sonia Gandhi met Dhawan, she pointedly inquired about his prospective book. Congressmen joke that now anyone thinking of writing their memoirs should first submit a copy to the high command.
No quiet surrender
Persecuted AAP veteran Yogendra Yadav is not planning to quit the AAP party quietly. There is a proposal to float a new political party to counter AAP. A tentative name has even been suggested, the Jan Loktantric Paksh.
Cordial coffee break
On Monday, Mamata Banerjee and power minister Piyush Goyal were chatting cordially with each other in Parliament’s Central Hall. Banerjee was in a most affable mood after her meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and insisted on plying Goyal and all the journalists present with cups of coffee. The West Bengal chief minister asked Goyal to speak to her finance minister Amit Mitra. Despite differences between the BJP and TMC, Goyal seems to have developed a warm working relationship with the mercurial Banerjee. On New Year’s eve, shy of midnight, Goyal received a ‘Happy New Year’ SMS from a Mamata from Kolkata. Since the caller ID was unknown, Goyal telephoned to find out if someone was playing a practical joke. Banerjee came on the line herself and explained she had a new cellphone and hence he had not recognised her number.
Maharaja, not aam aadmi
Former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh is not merely demanding the removal of Partap Singh Bajwa as PCC chief, but wants the position himself. A discontented Singh reportedly even explored new avenues. Friends of Singh met AAP party representatives to find out if they were agreeable to the idea of Singh leading AAP in Punjab in the 2017 assembly elections. But AAP, which projects itself as representing the common man, did not feel that it would send the right message being led by an erstwhile maharaja. The Congress, meanwhile, is seriously considering permitting Singh to return to state politics and give up his position as deputy leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. In any case, the Congress is unable to persuade Singh to attend the House regularly. He proffers a string of excuses to explain his frequent absences from Parliament.
There is a feeling in the Modi government that home minister Rajnath Singh overplayed his hand in imposing a ban on the controversial feature film India’s Daughter. The home minister did not take Cabinet colleagues into confidence before the ban and he ended up projecting a poor impression of India in the international community, without actually preventing the screening of the film. Singh was swayed by the overwhelmingly mood in Parliament and turned for advice to the Delhi Police commissioner, BS Bassi, who warned against a public outcry as was witnessed in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya rape. The police commissioner’s thanedaar-like solution was to get a judicial magistrate to issue a stay order, which was clearly not enforceable in these days of the Internet. A section of the ruling party felt that a more effective solution would have been to simply take punitive action against BBC for violating the rape victim’s right to privacy.
Upping gender stats
Mamata Banerjee points out that even though the Women’s Bill was never passed, she has attempted to increase the number of elected women representatives in her party. The percentage of women MPs in the Lok Sabha from the TMC is as high as 35.8%. In the Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections, 49% of the nominations have gone to women candidates. The latest TMC Rajya Sabha member is a woman. Dola Sen is a fiery trade union leader. Sen replaces Srinjoy Bose who had to resign following his arrest in the Saradha scam.