While the presidential candidates of the National Democratic Alliance and the Opposition are busy travelling to various states to canvass support from members of the electoral college, President Pranab Mukherjee is preparing to move to his new residence. Mr Mukherjee has firmed up travel plans to a few state capitals in the coming days, which will be followed by a series of farewell dinners at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Last week, Mr Mukherjee visited Kolkata for the last time as President where a special farewell banquet was hosted in his honour at the Raj Bhavan. The event demonstrated that Mr Mukherjee’s reputation as a trouble-shooter still holds.
Like in the old days when Mr Mukherjee would bring together warring parties to hammer out a consensus on any contentious issue, he succeeded in doing the same in West Bengal. Arch political rivals, who never tire of abusing each other in public, put aside their differences and chatted amiably with each other over the farewell dinner. It made for a pleasant change for the other guests to see the fiery West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee exchange pleasantries with the state Congress leader Abdul Manan, West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh and Surjya Kanta Mishra of the CPI.
It is no secret that the Opposition’s presidential candidate Meira Kumar is all set to lose the July 17 election, but that has neither dimmed the excitement in her camp nor deterred the supporting parties from planning her campaign. Apparently, soon after Ms Kumar’s name was announced the former Lok Sabha Speaker’s family took on the task of contacting the media. However, the Congress did not take kindly to this display of enthusiasm. It was conveyed to Ms Kumar’s family that media management is a complex matter and that it is best if this task is left to her election managers in the Congress.
The Madhya Pradesh state executive committee of the BJP was recast recently. Among those whose names figured in the list included the sons of Union rural development minister Narendra Singh Tomar, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and party MP Prabhat Jha. This development raised eyebrows, specially since the BJP never tires of underlining that, unlike the Congress, it does not give tickets or party posts to sons and daughters of its leaders. In this case, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan has his reasons for accommodating the sons of his detractors in the state executive. Finding himself on shaky ground after his government’s handling of the recent farmers’ protests, Mr Chouhan obviously wants to buy peace with his critics. More importantly, the chief minister also wants his son to join politics.
When the Darjeeling hills were hit by angry protests by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha following the death of its members in police firing, the West Bengal state leaders made a spate of contradictory statements on the GJM’s demand for Gorkhaland. This infuriated BJP president Amit Shah as the party finds itself in a dilemma on the statehood issue. If it endorses Gorkhaland, the BJP stands to lose in West Bengal. And, if it rejects the statehood demand, it will alienate its ally, the GJM. Mr Shah, therefore, summoned the state leaders to Delhi last week. He issued strict instructions that the party’s state unit should focus on hitting out at Ms Banerjee. Mr Shah is reported to have underlined that when the presidential election is round the corner, the BJP could ill-afford to upset an ally. But Mr Shah had no reason to worry as the GJM has also concentrated on attacking the West Bengal chief minister while letting the BJP off the hook even though it is the Centre which has to take the initiate in the creation of a separate state.