A big draw
Rahul Gandhi’s video press conference on the coronavirus was a big draw. The former Congress president was charming and candid. He tried to sound familiar and chatty with scribes on his laptop window. The Wayanad MP, however, used the word, “strategic” too often. Rahul was neither belligerent nor harsh towards the Narendra Modi government but ably focussed on the lack of testing and the limitations of a countrywide lockdown. On the flip side, his praise for the Kerala government caught the rival Left parties’ attention, causing embarrassment to the Congress cadre in Left-ruled Kerala. It remains to be seen whether Rahul Gandhi can engage on social issues to deepen his party’s engagement with civil society.
The Muslim holy month of fasting, Ramzan, starts this week. While the coronavirus pandemic has no effect on fasting obligations, community leaders and the Muslim clergy are worried over traditional communal services such as iftar, sahri and taravi. Iftar is the feast that marks the end of the fast, and sahri symbolises pre-fast, early-morning eating. Taravi is an age-old practice of reciting the Quran. While the Muslim clergy has banned the taravi congregation, community members wonder if the faithful will be able to enforce social distancing during roza-iftar. Since mosques are closed, there is an additional problem of feeding the poor and underprivileged that used to break their fast at mosques and community-held iftars. Often charitable organisations or individuals erect large tents where Muslims can gather and break the fast: these are open to all, allowing the less fortunate to also share a meal. It is not known what will happen to these. The real cause of concern is in the congested by-lanes of Delhi, Lucknow, Meerut, Bhopal, Patna, etc. where there is a tendency to invite neighours for iftar and joint prayers. This is where the government and law-enforcing agencies have severe limitations. For Muslims, Ramzan is the most revered month of the Islamic calendar in which God revealed the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims believe that through fasting, they are able to strengthen their relationship with God, practise will-power and empathise with the less fortunate.
Divided we fight
In Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh, corona politics is in full-swing. Chief minister Bhupesh Baghel is wary of health minister T.S. Singhdeo who was a strong contender for the chief minister’s post in 2018 when Baghel bagged it. Now, a tussle is on to take credit of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Singhdeo started talking to all district collectors and health authorities till a missive came that only the CM had the mandate to convene meetings of central service employees, namely the IAS. Singhdeo then began giving interviews to national media, TV and print, to showcase Chhattisgarh’s achievements in taming the coronavirus. The CM’s public relations team went into overdrive, arranging video-conferences and online interviews that focussed on Baghel as a man in charge of fight against the coronavirus. Singhdeo, who is a former maharaja of Sarguja, is reportedly disappointed. It is unlikely that he would go the way of ex-maharaja of Gwalior [Joyiraditya Scindia] and quit the party, but the Congress in Chhattisgarh is far from united.
Uma not welcome
Firebrand sadhvi Uma Bharti has turned restless ever since Shivraj Singh Chouhan resumed his innings as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. Uma ceased to be a central minister in the Narendra Modi government in May 2019 but now reportedly wants to contest as a BJP MLA. There are 23 byelections around the corner but Chouhan does not relish the prospect of having a rival in the MP Assembly. A cat and mouse game is on.
Her sister’s voice?
Twitter has suspended Rangoli Chandel’s account on grounds of spreading hate but the drastic development is not the final word on social media. Many liberals want to drag Rangoli’s accomplished sister Kangana into the controversy alleging she may be using Rangoli’s twitter handle to air her thoughts. It sounds bizarre and unlikely. Rangoli recently shared a few pictures from her wedding where she seemed a lookalike of Kangana. But physical similarity does not mean a union of thoughts and expression. Rangoli was a picture of solidarity when Kangana had a protracted battle with actor Hrithik Roshan, Karan Johar and other Bollywood bigwigs. Her comments had reflected Kangana's thinking then.