Opinion Columnists 08 Apr 2018 Political Gup-Shup: ...
The writer is a Delhi-based journalist.

Political Gup-Shup: Of pugnacious Patra and mahant-fearing Chouhan

Published Apr 8, 2018, 7:21 am IST
Updated Apr 8, 2018, 7:21 am IST
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, who appears regularly on news channels to defend his party, is known to be combative and pugnacious.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra. (Photo: PTI)
 BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra. (Photo: PTI)

All party notifications and announcements regarding appointments in the Congress are signed and issued by the general secretary in charge of organisation and training. This position was until recently held by senior Congress leader Janardan Dwivedi, who has been replaced by former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, in the latest organisational changes undertaken by party president Rahul Gandhi. Although it has been known that Mr Gandhi will be inducting his own team members after taking over as party chief, the manner in which Mr Dwivedi was removed has not gone down well with Congress members. The announcement of Mr Dwivedi’s removal and Mr Gehlot’s appointment was signed and issued by Mr Dwivedi himself as the outgoing general secretary in charge of the organisation. Several Congress leaders have privately admitted that this was in very poor taste and should have been avoided. After all, they said, Mr Dwivedi is a senior party leader, has been a close confidant of Sonia Gandhi, who held this post for nearly two decades. He is among the few seniors in the Congress who is well-versed with the party constitution and other organisational issues.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, who appears regularly on news channels to defend his party, is known to be combative and pugnacious. Having learned the tricks of the trade, he is quick to counter political rivals with his rapid-fire responses and is not above shouting down the other speakers, especially Congress spokespersons. In fact, he is at his belligerent best when confronted by Congress panelists. Given this image cultivated by the BJP spokesperson, it was almost difficult to recognise him when he met Congress president Sonia Gandhi at a function recently. Mr Patra was a picture of humility as he bent forward to greet her with a reverential Namaste and mumbled something half-apologetically. Mrs Gandhi, it is said, greeted him back and told him smilingly: “I know you are only doing your job.” Mr Patra is not the only BJP leader who presents a different persona in private and public. For instance, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan made it a point to touch former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s feet whenever he called on him in his office. It’s a different matter that he would come out and complain about the step-motherly treatment meted out by the Centre to Opposition-ruled states.

 

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has hit the headlines once again for all the wrong reasons. His decision to accord minister of state (MoS) status to five Hindu religious leaders has predictably kicked up a political storm. It is well-known that Mr Chouhan took this step to mollify the mahants as two of them — Computer Baba and Yogendra Mahant — had announced plans to take out a “Narmada Ghotala Rath Yatra” across the state to demand a ban on illegal mining and expose the chief minister’s claims on planting of saplings along the Narmada river. However, what is not known is that Mr Chouhan was nervous as there was a buzz that former chief minister and senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh would be lending his support to the expose planned by the mahants. Mr Singh has been on an apolitical Narmada parikrama for the past six months, which is now drawing to a close. It is speculated that Mr Singh’s future plans include a possible return to the political arena ahead of this year-end Assembly polls. Fearing that Mr Singh planned to use the mahants’ campaign to launch a political campaign against him, Mr Chouhan lost no time in placating the mahants, who have now cancelled their programme.

 

K. Yerran Naidu, leader of Telugu Desam Party in the Lok Sabha, who was killed in a road accident in 2012, was a popular figure in Delhi’s political circles. He endeared himself to his political rivals and mediapersons with his ready smile and simple charm. The TDP office in the Parliament House was a hub of activity when Yerran Naidu was in charge as he plied visitors with toast and coffee while journalists never came back without getting some news out of him. His son K. Rammohan Naidu, who succeeded him and is a first-time Lok Sabha MP, has over the past four years discovered the goodwill his father enjoyed. Naidu junior recently remarked that he never really knew his father when he was growing up since he was busy with his political career but learned far more about him on coming to Delhi. He is greeted warmly by everyone after they learn that he is Yerran Naidu’s son who regales him with stories about his father. Even the Parliament staff members go out of their way to help him once they realise that they are dealing with Yerran Naidu’s son.

 

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