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Anita Katyal | Vaishnaw's CM hopes take a hit; Kanhaiya unites Sandeep, Maken


Published on: June 10, 2023 | Updated on: June 10, 2023

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw (ANI)

While all-out efforts are being made to project rail minister Ashwini Vaishnaw as an efficient and conscientious minister for his handling of the rescue operations post the Odisha rail disaster, the horrific accident could cast a shadow over the Bharatiya Janata Party’s plans to project him as a serious politician in the year-end Rajasthan Assembly polls. Since Mr Vaishnaw hails from Rajasthan, the party has drawn up plans to promote the former bureaucrat-turned-politician in its election campaign in the desert state. In fact, a beginning was made two months ago when Mr Vaishnaw delivered the keynote address at a Brahmin Mahapanchayat in Jaipur where he spoke of ensuring the representation of a larger number of brahmins in the assembly, freeing temples from government control and saving Hindu religion. Mr Vaishnaw’s presence at this meet was seen as a message that he is a favourite of the BJP’s top brass. This had led to unease among established political players who also nurse chief ministerial ambitions. With the Odisha rail tragedy placing Mr Vaishnaw in the spotlight, his detractors are running a whisper campaign that he should not be given any prominence in the election campaign as it would not go down well with the electorate.

Even as the Indian diaspora in the United States is waiting to roll out the red carpet for Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he reaches there for a state visit later this month, a group of organisations working in the field of human rights are organising a parallel programme in New York. To be held a day before Mr Modi’s meeting with President Joe Biden, the programme titled "Howdy Democracy" is billed as an evening of  "live performances and video appearances" from known comedians and musicians. It will also feature speakers who have "suffered first-hand the impact of the erosion of human rights in India". The turn-out at the programme will indicate the support enjoyed by these groups and whether it makes any impact considering the Indian diaspora, like society here, is deeply polarised. Members of the Indian community are, by and large, ardent Modi admirers. It has to be seen which side puts up a better show.

The never-ending Ashok Gehlot vs Sachin Pilot saga is in the news again. Rajasthan’s perennial rebel leader Pilot is once more on the warpath despite efforts made by the Congress leadership to broker peace between the two warring leaders. While Rahul Gandhi was present during the recent "compromise" talks called by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has stayed away from the ongoing battle. It must be remembered that Priyanka had played a key role in placating Mr Pilot when he almost brought down the Gehlot government three years ago. She apparently promised Mr Pilot that he would be suitably accommodated both in the party and the government and advised him to bide his time. But Priyanka Gandhi has taken a back seat this time as she learnt a bitter lesson from her intervention in Punjab affairs when she pushed for Navjot Singh Sidhu’s appointment as Punjab Congress chief. Priyanka Gandhi came in for a lot of flak then for her political choices as this move proved to be disastrous.

As the countdown to the 2024 Lok Sabha has begun, BJP president J.P. Nadda and Union home minister Amit Shah have set themselves the task of reaching out to their old allies and finding new partners. At one stage, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance had over two dozen partners but, over the years, it has shrunk as an all-powerful and numerically-strong BJP did not feel the need to accommodate its partners. Now that the Opposition parties are getting together, the BJP realises it will need the support of allies. From all accounts, it appears Telugu Desam Party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu is eager to revive his old ties with the BJP. There is also talk about tying up with the Shiromani Akali Dal, which had walked out of the NDA over its opposition to the three farm bills. Meanwhile, the Janata Dal (S) has hinted it has no problem in aligning with the BJP. Other smaller regional players will also be approached by the BJP in the coming days.

The bitter rivalry between Congress leaders Ajay Maken and Sandeep Dikshit is no secret. The tension between the two was rooted in Mr Maken’s serious differences with Sandeep Dikshit’s mother, the late Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit. However, lately, Congress insiders observed that the two leaders have called a truce. Mr Maken and Mr Dikshit are said to have joined hands following internal discussions about the appointment of a new Delhi Congress president. Kanhaiya Kumar, who was earlier in the running for the presidency of the Youth Congress, is among those in contention. Leaders pushing for Mr Kumar argue that the former student leader’s oratorical skills can be used effectively to reach out to the large Purbaiya population as well as the youth in Delhi. However, this move has met with strong resistance from a section of Delhi Congress leaders, including Mr Maken and Mr Dikshit. That explains why the two have decided to put aside their differences and put up a joint fight for a leader of their choice.