Days after the Bharatiya Janata Party rode to a stunning victory in the recent Lok Sabha election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah called on veteran leaders L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi to seek their blessings and also to mollify them as they were known to be unhappy at being marginalised in the new dispensation. After the last 2014 general election, the seniors were made members of a non-functioning margdarshak mandal. This time they were denied tickets. But BJP insiders bemoaned that despite the BJP’s massive victories in two successive elections, anyone who is considered an Advani loyalist continues to be suspect. They said as many as 25 party leaders at different levels of seniority have been especially identified. This group, which is waiting to be rehabilitated by the BJP leadership is not sure if its members will make the cut. They cite Sushma Swaraj’s example who topped this list and was accommodated in the last government as external affairs minister because of her stature and experience but was denied functional autonomy. Ms Swaraj opted out of the Lok Sabha election for health reasons.
Just when the Congress was congratulating itself on keeping its motormouths in check during the recent poll campaign, the irrepressible Mani Shankar Aiyar landed the party in the thick of a roaring controversy before the last phase of the election. The party found itself fending off the Bharatiya Janata Party’s sharp attack following the publication of an article by Mr Aiyar in which he attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and repeated his “neech” remark. Writing that Mr Modi would be ousted in this election, Mr Aiyar said, ”That would be a fitting end to the most foul-mouthed prime minister this country has seen or is likely to see. Remember how I described him on 7 December 2017? Was I not prophetic?” Mr Aiyar had made a similar statement in the midst of the Gujarat assembly for which Congress had suspended him. Given his reputation to shoot his mouth off, Mr Aiyar was asked to keep a low profile during the general election and stay away from television news channels. Finding himself out of the election hurly-burly, Mr Aiyar decided to give vent to his views in an article. But it transpires that he had sent advance copies to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi’s offices for their approval, which was duly given. Little wonder Mr Aiyar was upset when he was publicly upbraided by Rahul Gandhi for what was seen as his latest transgression.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s most visible and aggressive spokesperson, Sambit Patra, lost in the recent Lok Sabha election though it was not for want of trying. Mr Patra, who was fielded from Puri in his home state Odisha, went the extra mile to connect with the electorate, especially since he is based in Delhi. While banking on the high profile he has acquired, courtesy his frequent participation in prime time debates on television channels, Mr Patra shifted base to his constituency for the entire period of the poll campaign. He moved around in a cavalcade of vehicles and set up camp in different villages on his route and never returned to the city for the night. Mr Patra also made it a point to take a dip in the local pond every morning while wearing a saffron dhoti, making sure the villagers did not miss this ritual. In addition, he visited every temple during his travels and got himself photographed extensively while offering prayers, complete with vermillion paste on his forehead. But Mr Patra’s efforts proved futile as he was defeated by Biju Janata Dal’s Pinaki Mishra. He can, however, draw solace from the fact that he lost by a narrow margin.
Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who was in charge of West Bengal affairs, is understandably the toast of the town after the saffron party made huge inroads in this eastern state, winning as many as 18 Lok Sabha seats. Mr Vijayvargiya had declined to contest in the recent general election so that he could focus on expanding his party’s footprint in West Bengal. However, he has always nursed ambitions of occupying the chief minister’s gaddi in his home state Madhya Pradesh. Now that he has proved his mettle, he is hoping to be rewarded for his efforts by BJP president Amit Shah who is learned to have taken a shine to Mr Vijayvargiya. But his return to Madhya Pradesh will depend on how the BJP moves ahead in destabilizing the Kamal Nath government which cannot be ruled out as the Congress has a wafer-thin majority in the assembly. Moreover, the Congress state unit is in turmoil after the party’s humiliating defeat and there is every possibility that its disgruntled legislators could be ready to switch sides. But the ever-popular former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who also wants his old post back, could prove to be a stumbling block.