Once a favourite of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP and the media, Ram Madhav is clearly in the wilderness today. When he was dropped as BJP general secretary some months ago, it was expected that the high-profile leader would be rewarded with a Rajya Sabha seat as a precursor to his induction as a minister in the Narendra Modi government. His cheerleaders, especially those in the media, were convinced that it was only a matter of time before Mr Madhav was rehabilitated. But, so far, there is nothing on the horizon. A Rajya Sabha seat that did fall vacant recently was awarded to Sushil Modi, former deputy chief minister of Bihar. Apparently, the BJP leadership is not happy with the larger-than-life image Mr Madhav has cultivated for himself. It feels he is far too individualistic to be contained by a system. It is now up to the RSS to take a call on Mr Madhav’s future as he was loaned to the party by the Sangh. It is speculated that he will go back to the RSS but there are many in the Sangh who are not happy about his return.
Finding itself on the back foot when the farmers began their agitation against the farm bills, the Modi government was busy defending itself and hard selling the agriculture reforms. The media, too, kept the focus on the protesters and pushed the government to respond to their demands. However, this narrative underwent a dramatic change when Opposition parties extended their support to the December 8 Bharat bandh called by the farmers. The government cleverly shifted the spotlight to what it described as the Opposition’s “hypocritical” stand on the farm bills. The government first fielded Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to attack the Congress which, he said, had proposed the introduction of similar reforms in its election manifesto. On the day of the bandh, the BJP unleashed a galaxy of senior ministers and chief ministers to repeat the same accusations. Television news channels promptly fell into the trap. As a result, most news bulletins were replete with interviews of BJP ministers with an occasional concession being made to an Opposition leader. The bandh and the farmers were last on the priority list.
For three years, the West Bengal police was on the hunt for Bimal Gurung, the founder of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, who had been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for his role in the 104-day shutdown in Darjeeling. Mr Gurung suddenly emerged from hiding in October and declared he was snapping ties with the BJP and pledged support to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. As a result, fortune is now smiling on Mr Gurung. From being a hunted man and constantly on the run, he has now been provided security by the same police that was on the lookout for him. Not just that but the grapevine says Mr Gurung has also been given sufficient funds to enable him to campaign for the Trinamul Congress as Ms Banerjee faces a tough Assembly election next year. In this process, the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland has been put on the backburner as the Trinamul chief has said a firm no to a division of the state.
The Capital is rife with speculation that it was not Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh who had sought a meeting with home minister Amit Shah. Instead, it is said, Mr Singh was summoned to Delhi by Mr Shah for a discussion on the farmers’ stir. The home minister is not happy with Mr Singh’s open support to the protesters and his laxity in dealing with them. Mr Shah wants the chief minister to initiate moves to end the blockade of the highways. Apparently, Mr Singh’s attention was also drawn to the pending cases of financial impropriety against his son Raninder Singh. The Punjab chief minister, however, stuck to his guns and has instead put the onus of ending the agitation on the Centre.
The 23 Congress leaders, popularly known as the G-23, who had written to party president Sonia Gandhi in August seeking organisational reforms and a more visible leadership, have not given up. Though they were snubbed at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee called some months ago to discuss their letter, the G-23 has once again approached Sonia Gandhi for a meeting. They are keen that this should not be a virtual meeting as they would like to meet her personally to discuss the issues they raised in their letter. A reply is still awaited. Sonia Gandhi was earlier away to Goa for a winter break but now that she is back, the G-23 is hoping it will get an early response. But it may well prove to be a long wait. Now that Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel is not there to placate the critics, it is anybody’s guess when this meeting would be scheduled.