BJP wagers Brahmin vote, friendship costs Kishor

Brahmins have been loyal BJP supporters since the Ram Mandir movement of the early Nineties.

Are members of the Brahmin community upset with Prime Minister Narendra Modi? That’s the question doing the rounds in the Bharatiya Janata Party following Mr Modi’s constant references to his humble origins and that he is an OBC. This pitch has paid him rich political dividends as the non-Yadav backward classes have gravitated towards the BJP. But there is an apprehension that, in this process, the party could alienate its upper caste core vote. This fear has become more pronounced after the BJP denied tickets to senior Brahmin leaders Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalraj Mishra, Shanta Kumar and B.C. Khanduri while Sumitra Mahajan has announced in anger that she will not be contesting this election. BJP insiders said the party cannot afford to upset the Brahmins as it recently lost three important leaders from the community: Ananth Kumar, Manohar Parrikar and Anil Dave. Other senior Brahmin leaders like Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj are out of the race on health grounds. Brahmins have been loyal BJP supporters since the Ram Mandir movement of the early Nineties. BJP leaders never tire of pointing out that though they are numerically small, Brahmins yield immense influence over other communities during elections.

When poll strategist Prashant Kishor joined the Janata Dal(United) last year and was immediately named vice-president, it was presumed that he was the number two in the party, given his proximity to JD(U) president and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. But, of late, there is a noticeable chill in their relationship. Mr Kishor recently declared that he was not handling the party's poll campaign while Mr Kumar debunked reports that the new JD(U) vice-president was second in line in the party. This falling out between the two has been attributed to Mr Kishor's closeness to the newly-appointed Congress general secretary, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Mr Kishor had established a good rapport with Ms Vadra when he was handling the Congress poll campaign in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly election. Mr Kishor had even described her appointment as Congress office-bearer as the “most-awaited entry in India politics”. Kishor and Priyanka are said to be in regular touch and it is learned her recent Gangayatra from Prayagraj to Varanasi was also his idea. With Kishor keeping one foot in the enemy camp, it is not surprising that Nitish Kumar is miffed with him.

Bengali actor Nusrat Jahan, who has been fielded as the Trinamul Congress candidate from the Basirhat Lok Sabha constituency in West Bengal, is being widely acclaimed as a “new age woman”. She has been trolled viciously after her candidature was declared by Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, but she has managed to hold her own. Jahan has also been in the firing line for her role in the well-known Park Street rape case. Her boyfriend Kader Khan was the main accused in the case and she was alleged to have covered up for him and even helped him evade arrest. Instead of shying from the subject, Ms Jahan spoke at great length about the case in a recent interview. She did not attempt to justify her role then, putting it down to the fact she was very young then and did not have the mental and emotional space to handle the case.

It was initially believed that veteran Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani was upset because the party did not re-nominate him from the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency. It now transpires that he is unhappy for other reasons. Apparently, the party was planning to give a ticket to Mr Advani's son, Jayant Advani. But Mr Advani was not on the same page as he sees his daughter Pratibha as his political heir and is known to have a soft corner for her. According to the Delhi political grapevine, Mr Advani let it be known that if the BJP did not agree to field Pratibha, then no one from his family should be considered for a party ticket. The current BJP leadership did just that and ignored the Advani clan.

Infighting and the Congress are known to be synonymous. Each state unit is riven by internal bickering as leaders openly undermine each other. This rivalry also extends to senior leaders in Delhi. Many of them do not shy away from giving out juicy tidbits about each other to journalists in private conversations. If seniors like Ambika Soni and Sheila Dikshit are old adversaries, it is also an acknowledged fact that Digvijaya Singh and Janardhan Dwivedi have never seen eye to eye. The same can be said about Anand Sharma and Jairam Ramesh. The list also includes P. Chidambaram who is not known to have too many friends in the party. This tension among Congress leaders was inescapable when a former minister was chatting with journalists after the party's election manifesto was released. The former minister steadfastly refused to comment on the manifesto, stating snidely that he could not possibly say anything on it as this was Mr Chidambaram's domain who, according to him, does not like anyone treading on his toes. Mr Chidambaram was head of the party's manifesto committee and the document was penned under his direct supervision.

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