The Congress hired half-a-dozen advertising agencies to make presentations to the party for the 2019 campaign theme.
Those driving from the Varanasi airport to the temple town have noticed that boards on construction sites of ongoing highways and bridges projects usually have a Gujarat address these days. Apart from Narendra Modi, there are several connections between Gujarat and the Prime Minister’s constituency. For instance, the architect of the recently inaugurated Kashi Vishwanath Corridor is Bimal Patel, the man behind the Sabarmati riverfront project.
C R Patil, the MP from Navsari, Gujarat, is in-charge of the two model villages adopted by Modi in the constituency. Modi has also appointed Sunil Oza, the former MLA from Bhavnagar, Gujarat, to oversee the development projects for Varanasi. Patil and Oza in turn have called in many BJP supporters from Gujarat to help out.
Nyay vs Anyay
The Congress hired half-a-dozen advertising agencies to make presentations to the party for the 2019 campaign theme. Although a large sum was spent for the professional advice, it appears that the Congress, like the BJP, is eventually fashioning its own campaign and has turned down the suggestions. Rahul Gandhi played a major role in conceiving the concept which is to be announced at the beginning of April. The Congress will promote the slogan that the party will ensure ‘Nyay (Justice)’ to undo Modi’s ‘Anyay (Injustice)’.
In the minority
Shahnawaz Hussain is the best known Muslim face of the BJP. Once a minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Cabinet, he continues to be a senior spokesperson for the party and is on the BJP’s powerful central election committee. So when the Bhagalpur seat came up for discussion before the committee, it was humiliating for Hussain to discover that the BJP had already conceded it to its partner, the JD(U). Hussain’s claim on the seat was indisputable. He has won from the seat twice and in 2014 lost by a mere 1% margin. Last year Hussain had travelled back and forth from Bhagalpur spending some 15 to 20 days a month in the constituency. So who is responsible for cutting out his name? JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar may nurse a grudge since as BJP spokesperson, Hussain had hit out in 2010 after the chief minister had cancelled a dinner for Modi in Patna, but the real reason seems to be that Hussain is not in Amit Shah’s good books.
Actor Shatrughan Sinha fell out with the BJP for not according him due respect. Now, the Congress too may have fallen short of his expectations. Sinha expected his entry into the Congress to be announced with due fanfare. He was furious when he learnt that party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala was to make the announcement. In light of Sinha’s reaction, the Congress shelved his formal entry into the party till after the Bihar seat-sharing concluded. In the meantime, Sinha was given a chance to meet Rahul Gandhi for a photo op.
Plan gone awry
The Congress planned to field Hardik Patel against Amit Shah from Gandhinagar. Patel is a great orator and with over 2.5 lakh Patel voters in the Lok Sabha seat, he was expected to keep Shah on his toes. But the plan fizzled out after the Gujarat High Court rejected Patel’s plea seeking suspension of his conviction in a rioting case in Mehsana in 2015.
The Congress is having a hard time dealing with its slippery partners. Take the case of JD(S) general secretary Danish Ali, who worked out an agreement for seat-sharing with the Congress for the Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka. One day Ali handed roses to Congress leaders after successfully concluding the seat formula. Five days later he presented chrysanthemums to Mayawati’s right-hand man Satish Misra, joined the BSP and got the party ticket for Amroha Lok Sabha seat in UP. Karnataka CM H D Kumaraswamy tweeted that the deal had his blessings, ignoring the fact that the only BSP minister left his Cabinet several months back and the BSP is contesting all the parliamentary seats in Karnataka. Ali has been H D Deve Gowda’s pointsman in the Capital for two decades and was unhappy he never got a Rajya Sabha seat for services rendered. One conjecture is that the Gowdas found the BSP offer an easy way to placate Ali. But can a politician be loyal to two competing parties? Or is Kumaraswamy planning to dump the Congress in case the BJP does well in the polls?