Keeping politics out
An observer noticed that when Amit Shah and Rahul Gandhi crossed each other in the lobby between the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha recently, they did not look at each other, let alone exchange a civil greeting. It is a tradition in Parliament that no matter what the acrimony inside the House, MPs are cordial to each other outside. For instance, earlier this month, Congress MP Anand Sharma prevented the Leader of the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, from pushing through the triple talaq Bill. But a day later, Jaitley had Sharma in his office to celebrate his birthday, where he cut a cake specially ordered for him from Mumbai by railway minister Piyush Goyal. Opposition leader Ghulam Nabi Azad was also present. There was a time when Sonia Gandhi was so hostile towards LK Advani that she would turn her face away when he tried to greet her. But now, Sonia chats amicably with Advani at official functions. Rahul and Shah are clearly still to imbibe the spirit of bonhomie in Parliament, where ideological differences do not translate into personal enmities.
Siding with sister
With the DMK on a sticky wicket after its dismal performance in the RK Nagar Assembly bypoll, party working president MK Stalin is keen to consolidate his position. As elder brother MK Alagiri remains opposed to him, Stalin is encouraging stepsister Kanimozhi to take greater interest in politics, now that she has been cleared in the 2G scam case. Stalin has asked the Rajya Sabha MP to nurse the Thoothukudi parliamentary constituency for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The constituency is dominated by Nadars, the community to which Kanimozhi’s mother belongs.
Life goes on
During the Gujarat campaign, Hardik Patel communicated through several influential WhatsApp groups, with names such as the King of Patidar, Jai Sardar and Royal Patidar, which connected with Patels all over the state who were disgruntled with the government. Now that the results have been declared, Hardik’s pragmatic followers have moved on from politics to other topics. As one member put it: “You still have to pay for the petrol in your scooter.” The messages in the groups are now largely confined to employment opportunities and thrifty purchases. Someone posted that there were 3,162 placements, for those with class X certificates, in the Northern Railways. Another tip offered was on where to buy kites and manja at wholesale rates.
Amit Shah has begun preparations for the Karnataka Assembly campaign in right earnest. While Act One, to persuade the BJP government in Goa to increase water flow from the Mandovi river to north Karnataka, backfired, the master strategist has other aces up his sleeve, apart from the Hindutva card. Shah expects HRD minister Prakash Javadekar to change rules so that Lingayat-run education institutions in Karnataka are entitled to special status and greater autonomy. This is to counter the Congress’ proposal that Lingayats, who make up 18% of the state’s population, be given religious minority status so that the community’s colleges have the same independence as minority institutions. The RSS is firmly opposed to this proposal seeing it as a division of Hindu society. The BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, BS Yeddyurappa, is a Lingayat. What also can’t be ruled out is a secret understanding between Shah and JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda, who draws his following mainly from his Vokkaligas, who are around 12% of the population. If that is the case, the BJP could field weak candidates in south Karnataka where the JD(S) is strong and has a better chance of defeating the Congress. While in north Karnataka, where the BJP is strong, the JD(S) could nominate more Muslim and OBCs to cut into the Congress vote share.
A long way
Professor Walter Andersen was the first to provide the West a peep into the working of the RSS. His understanding and objective account ran contrary to the then prevailing perception projected by Jawaharlal Nehru and the Congress. As a student, Andersen had interviewed the not easily approachable RSS chief MS Golwalkar four times. In 1987, Andersen, who later joined the US State Department, co-authored with Shridhar D Damle The Brotherhood in Saffron, the book that became the standard reference material on the RSS and its affiliates. Now, 30 years later, Andersen and Damle, who have interviewed all the top ranks of the Sangh Parivar, including Narendra Modi, are set to bring out a new book. It is an updated version of the same topic but in a changed scenario, with the BJP now in power. They will, however, no longer use a similar title since the term ‘brotherhood’ is now identified with Islamic fundamentalism.