What do Tamil superstar Rajinikanth and cricketing hero Sourav Ganguly have in common? Both have been wooed assiduously by the Bharatiya Janata Party which is making strenuous efforts to expand its footprint in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the home states of the two legends. And both Rajinikanth and Ganguly were recently hospitalised following a medical emergency. The BJP ran out of luck with Rajinikanth, who had first declared his intention to float a new political party and contest the forthcoming Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu, but decided not to take the plunge after his short stint in hospital. However, there is no clarity about Ganguly’s political ambitions. But the BJP has not given up on him and is working hard on roping in Ganguly. The saffron party wishes to project the former cricket captain as its chief ministerial candidate since the party does not have a state leader who can take on West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. The BJP has apparently put together a copious dossier on Ganguly and his family’s business interests in its effort to persuade him. The BJP’s eagerness here is understandable as word on the street is that the ruling Trinamul Congress will be routed if Ganguly decides to enter the fray.
Both politicians and journalists from Tamil Nadu get extremely agitated when they are spoken to in Hindi, insisting that since they do not understand the language, they should be addressed in English. It was, therefore, a surprise when Tiruchi Siva, DMK’s Rajya Sabha member, belted out several Hindi film songs at a farewell dinner organised by him for Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad who retired from the Upper House earlier this month. His rendition of “ek pyaar ka nagma hai” and “kabhie kabhie mere dil mein” drew an instant applause from the guests who demanded an encore. Azad, who walked in while Siva was singing, remarked laughingly that there could not be a better welcome when one is greeted by a Tamilian singing Hindi songs.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has finally bestirred herself and begun touring Uttar Pradesh in an effort to revive the party in the electorally crucial Hindi heartland state. She recently reiterated Congress support for the agitating farmers at several maha panchayats in Western UP and later travelled to Allahabad where she took a holy dip in the Sangam on the auspicious occasion of Mauni Amavasya. According to Congress insiders, Priyanka will be spending more time in the state with an eye on next year’s Assembly polls. As a result, the Congress office in Lucknow has been renovated and a special vehicle has been purchased for her travels.
Priyanka’s communications team has also been beefed up. Social media experts, filmmakers and researchers have been specially drafted for the UP challenge. This team’s task is to build the Congress profile in the state. Not an easy task given that the party has been out in the cold in UP for over three decades.
Despite Congress, president Sonia Gandhi’s intervention, differences between Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh and his bete noire Navjot Singh Sidhu are yet to be sorted out. Harish Rawat, Congress general secretary in charge of Punjab, has held a series of meetings with Amarinder Singh to arrive at a compromise formula but to little avail. The former cricketer is keen on taking over as president of the Punjab Congress but the chief minister has said an emphatic “No” and has instead grudgingly offered to accommodate Sidhu in the Cabinet. But Sidhu is not keen on joining the Captain’s Cabinet. Sonia Gandhi wants Sidhu to be rehabilitated soon as assembly elections in Punjab are due next year, especially since there is talk that if he does not have his way, Sidhu will start addressing farmers’ meetings in the hope of emerging as a rallying force for the peasantry currently agitating against the Centre’s farm laws. While the Central leadership is worried, it could prove difficult to persuade Amarinder Singh who is feeling emboldened after the Congress swept the civic polls.
It is ironic that at a time when the Congress has come out in strong support of the farmers agitating against the Centre’s farm laws, the party’s department/cell mandated to study and take up issues pertaining to farmers and agriculture has been headless for nearly a year now. The party’s All-India Kisan Congress was headed by Nana Patole who was subsequently named Speaker in the Maharashtra Assembly when the Congress joined the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party to form a coalition government in the western state. Patole recently resigned as Speaker after he was appointed president of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee. Most departments/cells set up by the Congress are virtually defunct, having little to offer in terms of programmes or activities. It appears they exist only to placate members with posts which, in reality, do not mean anything.