After the breakdown of negotiations with the Congress, Prashant Kishor decided that his next experiment will be “direct contact’” with people rather than his working for political parties. He selected his home state of Bihar, which looks like fertile territory, what with Nitish Kumar and the BJP warring and Tejashwi Yadav still to find his feet. Kishor’s hopes of indirectly controlling the Congress, the only all-India alternative to the BJP, were shattered after his recent interaction with Congress leaders. Despite warnings that the Congress is a quagmire, Kishor was willing to take a leap of faith because Priyanka Gandhi Vadra backed to the hilt his plan for revamping the party. But he discovered that the popular perception that the Gandhi family works as a single unit was incorrect. Priyanka does not have the power to call the shots on her own and Rahul’s advisers ensured that Kishor’s position in the party would be ambiguous. Reality hit home during the negotiations over the lack of constitutional authority of the proposed Empowered Action Group with Kishor as a member. Kishor discovered midway through the talks that Rahul had already left India for a scuba diving trip followed by a visit to Nepal for a wedding. Priyanka had flown off to Los Angeles. Kishor was informed that any formal position for him in the party could be decided only around September when a ‘new’ party president could be chosen.
Nitish Moves Out
Nitish Kumar moving out of the CM’s residence at 1, Anne Marg, to his old house at 7, Circular Road, has reinforced the buzz that he may soon step down as Chief Minister. The excuse that the house is being renovated does not explain why 17 cows were also shifted, since the cow shed was not to be touched. Nitish has made his unhappiness with the BJP evident ever since its members started demanding that a BJP leader be installed as CM. Their argument is that the BJP won 74 Assembly seats in 2020 compared to the JD(U)’s 43, even though both parties contested about the same number of seats. Hints have been thrown that Nitish could move to Delhi as a Central minister or be considered as a candidate for vice-president. But Nitish, a seasoned veteran at floor crossing, knows better than to take the BJP’s blandishments at face value. He has rubbished Yogi Adityanath’s ban on loudspeakers on mosques, mended fences with old rival Tejashwi Yadav and criticised any move for a Uniform Civil Code. He is aware that his trump card is that without his 40-plus MLAs no government can be formed in Bihar.
BJP’s 4 R Team
The BJP has a team of four feisty people, all with names beginning with R, to take on the Shiv Sena. Rane (Narayan), Rana (Navneet), Ranaut (Kangana) and Raj (Thackeray). The BJP’s aim is to win Mumbai’s Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections later this year, which would cripple the MVA government. The BJP’s strength is the support of north Indians and Gujaratis. The Shiv Sena relies on the Marathi manoos. Raj Thackeray’s rally in Aurangabad had the full backing of the BJP, which hopes that Raj’s shrill Hindutva campaign and call for a ban on mosque loudspeakers will eat into the traditional Sena vote. The mild-mannered Uddhav has become the darling of a section of liberals while alienating his party’s hardcore supporters. To restore the Sena’s Hindutva credentials, Aditya Thackeray is planning a pilgrimage to Ayodhya and Uddhav wants to honour Bal Thackeray’s wish to rename Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar, but the Congress is resisting. The Congress also wants to contest municipal elections independently.
The BJP does not require non-NDA parties to win the forthcoming presidential and vice-presidential elections, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi would like to give an appearance of consensus by seeking the support of neutral parties. Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has been deputed to speak to Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, Rajya Sabha MP G V L Narasimha Rao is to approach Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao and NTR’s daughter D Purandeswari is to talk to Andhra CM Jagan Reddy.
What Ho, Jeeves
P G Wodehouse was in the news when prison authorities refused to allow activist Gautam Navlakha a book by the humorist on the grounds that it was “a security risk’’. Ironically, former Secretary General of the Rajya Sabha Shumsher Sheriff believes that he secured the highest marks in his UPSC interview in 1977 because he cited Wodehouse as one of his favourites. His interviewer, renowned administrator Badruddin Tyabji, roared with laughter and was even more tickled by the answer to the question as to what he liked best about Wodehouse books. Sheriff explained that after reading them, it was impossible to construct the story by yourself.