Time to go?
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, a former RSS pracharak, invited several RSS functionaries to his house last month for tea and snacks. His RSS friends were full of admiration for his long reign in Haryana. One pracharak noted that after his eight-year tenure, he should aim to break the record of the three legendary Lals of Haryana. The modest Khattar demurred, and said he was not planning to set any record. In fact, he suspected that he would soon be hanging up his boots. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his yesteryear comrade with whom he once shared a house, met him and inquired solicitously whether he was happy. Khattar assured Modi that he would be ever grateful to the PM for granting him such a tremendous opportunity. Khattar knows Modi well enough to sense that this was Modi’s cryptic way of indicating that it may soon be time for a leadership change in the state. Last week’s disappointing zilla parishad results in Haryana suggest that Modi perhaps already had an inkling that all is not well with the BJP in the state.
Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel is a political innocent compared to his savvy predecessors. Recently, when a Delhi journalist enquired which leader after Modi was most in demand at Gujarat rallies, Patel innocently responded that Yogi Adityanath was a favourite. BJP Gujarat in-charge, C R Paatil, quickly interjected to avoid any misunderstanding, declaring that the star attraction was undoubtedly Amit Shah. In fact, the Gujarat campaign is totally Shah’s show and on his home territory, Shah has no competition. Even RSS workers, BJP president J P Nadda, and organising secretary B L Santosh are not very visible in the state. Shah wants to demonstrate that he can single-handedly ensure a bigger victory than 2017, despite 27 years of incumbency. The targets of the opposition parties, in contrast, are modest. The Congress is hoping for 45 to 50 seats, while AAP’s aim is simply to secure a higher vote tally than the Congress, at least in Saurashtra, and get recognised as a national party.
Will not budge
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has adopted every trick in the trade to ensure that the Congress cannot replace him, including adopting a scorched earth policy of blowing up most of the annual state revenue so that there will be little left for any successor. The CM has also been happily inaugurating incomplete schemes such as the Mansarover Park. General secretary Ajay Maken should have known better than to try to nudge Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge into action by resigning as Rajasthan in-charge. The camaraderie and jovial banter between Kharge and Gehlot at several rallies in Gujarat last week indicate that Gehlot certainly does not apprehend disciplinary action against his rebellious aides. K C Venugopal may have triumphantly raised the hands of adversaries Sachin Pilot and Gehlot in a so-called peace pact last Tuesday, but the faces of the two men told a different story.
Two young leaders from the MVA alliance accompanied Rahul Gandhi on his Bharat Jodo Yatra in Maharashtra. Their queries were not to Gandhi’s liking. One inquisitively inquired why, if the yatra was paying political dividends, the Congress had lost its deposit in the recent Telangana bypoll. He suggested that Gandhi pay a visit to next-door poll-bound Gujarat. Another ‘yatri’ felt that if the Congress was to retain its premier position in the Opposition, the yatra should have paid more attention to Uttar Pradesh. Irritated by the questions, Gandhi asked one of the yatra organisers that in future they should brief alliance partners before they meet him. They should understand that the yatra was totally de-linked from current politics. The functionary was too timid to explain that he was in no position to instruct senior opposition leaders what to say.
The president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha is an assured fast-track for going places in the BJP. Past presidents of the BJP’s youth wing include Kalraj Mishra, Pramod Mahajan, Rajnath Singh, JP Nadda. Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Anurag Thakur and Tejasvi Surya. The sole exception who has never held an elected position is Amit Thaker, BJYM president from 2007 to 2010. Thaker’s disadvantage was that he was mentored by the wrong people, most notably Sanjay Joshi, Narendra Modi’s longtime foe, Thaker, however, silently soldiered on in the party despite being labelled. With Joshi now out in the cold thanks to Modi, Thacker has finally been reinstated with an Assembly ticket from Vejalpur in Gujarat.