Nitish Kumar, who met every major Opposition leader during his visit to Delhi last week, denies he has prime ministerial ambitions. His claim should be taken with a pinch of salt. The veteran has already conceived a strategy to play his Kurmi caste card to the hilt to project an all-India image. He will first focus on UP and hopes to address three rallies with the help of Akhilesh and Lalu Prasad. While the Kurmi farming caste accounts for only around 3.5% of Bihar’s population, in UP, Kurmis make up 9%, if you include similar castes such as Patels, Gangwars, Katiyars etc. In Madhya Pradesh, they are 5% of the population and in Jharkhand, 6%, where they are known as Mahatos. In Maharashtra, Kurmis are called Kunbis and in Gujarat, Kurmis consider Patels as the akin caste. Nitish’s strategists want to associate an iconic figure like Sardar Patel with the Kurmi biradiri and a slogan coined to suggest that Nitish will achieve for his community what even the Sardar could not do. Later this year, Nitish is to be felicitated by several Akhil Bharatiya Kurmi Maha Sabhas across the country. Nitish has also contacted Mayawati and suggested she offer him a cup of coffee when he is next in Lucknow. Behenji, though disheartened after poor poll showings and blaming Akhilesh for the same, agreed to meet Nitish at some point.
A Financial Action Task Force (FATF) review team visited Pakistan last week and was lavishly feted by the Pakistani authorities in the expectation that Pakistan will be removed from FATF’s dreaded Grey List. FATF, created by G-7, has a list of guidelines aimed to counter money laundering and terror financing. It effectively uses the global financial system to informally squeeze financial transactions of errant countries. Pakistan was placed on the FATF’s Grey List in 2018 because of evidence provided by India. At that point, Western and Indian interests converged and India was under siege after a series of terrorist attacks on Army camps in Kashmir. It is believed that the Grey Listing dissuaded Pakistan from Uri-type terrorist attacks for almost four years. (In the lone exception, Pulwama, the CRPF, not the Army, was targeted.) However, India’s honeymoon with the US has soured after its position on Russia. The FATF review team is expected to paint a rosy picture of Pakistan at its October plenary. Meanwhile, India’s troubles in Kashmir have again re-surfaced, with the first attack on an Army camp in four years, in Rajouri on August 11.
Congress members are puzzled over the reasons behind the palace coup in the Gandhis’ inner circle. On June 16, Jairam Ramesh was made general secretary in-charge of communication, publicity media wing, social and digital media, while general secretary Randeep Surjewala was stripped of his similar, but less fancy designation. The sudden fall from grace of Surjewala, a long-time Rahul Gandhi favourite, was perhaps due to the generally poor publicity for the Congress or because of his own goof-up when he mixed up goddess Sita with Draupadi, a blooper which the Hindutva brigade gleefully pounced upon. Incidentally, when the Gandhis returned from Italy, they were annoyed to discover that senior party leaders like Kamal Nath, P Chidambaram, Ambika Soni, Bhupinder Hooda and others had not released statements against Ghulam Nabi Azad for quitting the party. The old guard was reportedly aggrieved because it was told to issue critical messages and even provided texts by the new dispensation. One senior Congressman reportedly grumbled that the office-bearer who made the suggestion to him used to be his underling, serving biscuits and tea.
Wrong time, route
Rahul Gandhi’s 148-day “Bharat Jodo” yatra seems ill-advised. His presence is more urgently required to campaign for his party in the coming polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. The route chalked out for the yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir seems politically unwise as it largely avoids UP, Bihar, and West Bengal and the poll-bound states. The yatra is Digvijaya Singh’s brainwave. Since most Opposition parties remain unenthusiastic, the Congress is roping in civil society activists instead. Yogendra Yadav, who has lurched from Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal to the Swaraj Party and the farmers’ movement, has now hitched his bandwagon to the yatra in the hope of finding some political relevance.
Royal tour off
Before his mother’s death, Prince Charles was scheduled to visit India in November. The trip was cancelled because the Indian government insisted on including Gujarat in the itinerary, though Boris Johnson as prime minister had already been there. Besides, the proposed tour included Pakistan, also celebrating its 75th independence anniversary.