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  1. Inside track: From Naresh Chandra Agrawal’s joining BJP to nomination of second Congress candidate for Rajya Sabha

Inside track: From Naresh Chandra Agrawal’s joining BJP to nomination of second Congress candidate for Rajya Sabha

Weathercock legislator Naresh Chandra Agrawal’s timing has usually been impeccable.

By: | New Delhi | Published: March 18, 2018 3:19 AM
Naresh Agrawal, parliament, bjp, congress, rajya sabha elections Naresh Agrawal

Weathercock legislator Naresh Chandra Agrawal’s timing has usually been impeccable. In fact, he is considered a barometer to judge which party’s fortunes are on the upswing. In 1989, he was in the Congress. Then, in 1997, he formed the Loktantrik Congress to support the BJP government in Lucknow. In 2007, he joined the BSP, the same year Mayawati swept to power. He switched to the Samajwadi Party in 2012, the year Akhilesh Yadav became chief minister. But when he crossed over to the BJP on Monday, his timing was off the mark. Two days later, the BJP lost two prestigious by-elections in UP. Incidentally, Akhilesh’s denial of a Rajya Sabha seat to Agrawal is also a setback for Ram Gopal Yadav, considered Akhilesh’s chanakya in his battle with his father Mulayam Singh Yadav. Meanwhile, Jaya Bachchan’s one-time mentor, and now bitter critic, Amar Singh concedes that Jaya has shown she is a smarter politician than all of them by retaining her Rajya Sabha seat. She has Dimple Yadav as a well-wisher.

Mamata bests CPM

The West Bengal Congress and CPM units thought they could quietly reach a pact to support an Independent candidate for a Rajya Sabha seat in the state since neither had enough votes to elect a party candidate on their own. The names proposed included that of former culture secretary Jawhar Sircar and former West Bengal chief secretary Ardhendu Sen, who had openly campaigned against the TMC. Rahul Gandhi did not care for either. He had hoped that the CPM would field its general secretary Sitaram Yechury, whom his own party colleague Prakash Karat wants to keep out of Parliament. Mamata Banerjee took advantage of the situation to speak to Sonia Gandhi directly and suggested that she would be willing to support a suitable Congress candidate. She announced the name of Abhishek Manu Singhvi to her party workers even before Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad was aware of the choice. Singhvi, a lawyer with Kolkata connections, was also helped by the fact that Congress leader from Assam Bhubaneswar Kalita is Mamata’s good friend and his son is a junior in Singhvi’s chamber.

Heir apparent

The selection of at least three of the four Trinamool Congress candidates for the Rajya Sabha elections was reportedly made by Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee. The 29-year-old has clearly emerged as the TMC’s heir apparent. Abhishek’s choices were low-key, long-time party workers. Abhishek is on such a strong footing that he even called for the resignation of the powerful Kolkata Mayor, Shoven Chatterjee, after the latter was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate in the Narada sting operation case. The fact that Chatterjee’s security cover was recently downgraded suggests that he is out of favour. Abhishek’s trump card is his little daughter, who is the apple of Mamata’s eye and with whom the CM tries to spends some time every Sunday.

Last-minute drama

There was eleventh-hour drama over the nomination of the second Congress candidate for a Rajya Sabha seat from Gujarat. Naranbhai Rathwa was informed late on Sunday that he would be the candidate. A jubilant Rathwa presented his papers for scrutiny around midday on Monday, only to discover that his ‘No Dues’ certificate from Parliament was missing. Since it was almost midday and it is a four-hour drive from Gandhinagar to Chhota Udepur, his home town, it seemed unlikely that the papers would arrive in time. Party president Rahul Gandhi immediately asked Rajiv Shukla, the resourceful Rajya Sabha MP whose term expires soon, to immediately rush to Gandhinagar and file his nomination in Rathwa’s place. Shukla, who was in Parliament when he received the news, spoke to the BJP’s Amit Shah and Piyush Goyal, who were sitting in Central Hall, and asked for their assistance in helping arrange his travel plans so that he could make the 3 pm deadline. Since Shukla’s goodwill cuts across party lines, railway minister Goyal was on the phone making enquiries on his behalf and Shah wished him luck. Shukla rushed to the airport only to discover that the Delhi airport departure runway was booked till 7 pm as there were several international flights waiting for take-off as a global conference on solar energy had just ended. With both Rathwa and Shukla seemingly out of the race, the hopes of other local Gujarat Congress leaders were raised. However, Rathwa produced his ‘No Dues’ certificate, claiming a nephew had dashed down from his hometown with the papers. While the BJP charged that the papers were fake certificates faxed from Delhi, the returning officer held that the clearance of dues was in any case not needed.

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