Sonia Gandhi tried her level best to find a solution when she realised that the Modi government would go to any extent to topple the Harish Rawat government in Uttarakhand.
After the BJP whisked away nine Congress MLAs in a chartered plane from Dehradun to Delhi under the supervision of culture minister Mahesh Sharma, Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat got panicky. He telephoned his old friend Akbar Ahmad (Dumpy), who is now in the BSP, for help since he owns a jungle retreat which is very inaccessible. Before the BJP could poach any more of his flock, Rawat dispatched the 34 MLAs supporting him by helicopters to Dumpy’s palatial farmhouse in Supad village abutting Corbett National Park. The farmhouse is in a restricted zone and private vehicles, except park managers’ cars, are forbidden. Violating the rules of the wildlife sanctuary, the MLAs were ferried close to the park by helicopters throughout the night. Luxury cars drove them to their doorstep. Corbett residents say never have the rules been flouted so flagrantly. Frustrated, the Uttarakhand BJP plans to file a complaint before the National Board for Wildlife and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau.
Hill party threat
Sonia Gandhi tried her level best to find a solution when she realised that the Modi government would go to any extent to topple the Harish Rawat government in Uttarakhand. One proposal discussed by the Congress high command was to replace Rawat as chief minister with finance minister Indira Hridayesh, to pacify the rebels. Another name suggested as replacement was minister Pritam Singh, who had lost the CM race to Rawat in 2014. When Rawat heard of the plans, he was furious and refused to step down. He sent a message to Delhi that he would walk out of the party with a majority of the MLAs to form a new hill party if forced out.
In Indira’s footsteps
A friend of BJP president Amit Shah was surprised to find that he is an admirer of Indira Gandhi. The friend protested that Gandhi was known as an autocrat and had derailed democracy during the Emergency. Shah’s response was that in reality a good leader cannot be democratic. This perhaps explains Shah’s style in running the BJP.
Seat for Ajit
Last week, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Jayant Chaudhary and his brother-in-law visited Patna and met Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar for almost three hours. The meeting was about the proposed RLD tie-up with the JD(U). Nitish has national ambitions and wants his party to make its presence felt outside Bihar, and is in the process of tying up with Ajit Singh to benefit from the latter’s vote bank in the Jat belt of western Uttar Pradesh. But Ajit Singh wants his pound of flesh in return and is demanding a Rajya Sabha seat. This has put Nitish in a dilemma, since the JD(U) can elect only two Rajya Sabha MPs from Bihar in July, when the seats fall vacant. Both JD(U) president Sharad Yadav and party spokesperson KC Tyagi, who has become extremely close to Nitish of late, are strong contenders. One of them would have to be dropped to make place for Ajit Singh. Nitish wants to persuade ally Lalu Prasad to support Sharad Yadav since the RJD has enough votes for two seats. But Lalu’s daughter, Misa Bharti, is insistent that she get the seat even as her mother is slotted to get the other.
An MP’s bungalow at 15, Gurdwara Rakabganj Road, has functioned as the Congress war room for election strategy for over a decade. A huge map of India and separate maps of each state are mounted on the walls to make it easy to discuss various parliamentary and Assembly constituencies. Earlier Jairam Ramesh presided over the deliberations as chief of the war room. But lately pollster Prashant Kishor is in charge and attends the war room daily to interact with Congress leaders. The party recently discovered to its shock that the bungalow, which was earlier allotted to Rapolu Ananda Bhaskar, a Congress MP from Andhra Pradesh, had been re-allotted to nominated MP and actress Rekha Ganeshan, since Rapolu retires this month. Fortunately for the Congress, it was saved from losing its key office. Rekha was approached and she graciously agreed to allow the Congress to continue using the bungalow. After all, the actress seldom comes to Delhi and is rarely seen in Parliament.