Two recent developments have fuelled speculation in the Capital that a Cabinet reshuffle could take place after the process for the elections of the President and Vice-President are concluded. First is the resignation of Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and R.C.P. Singh and the second is the possibility of Lok Sabha MPs from the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena shifting allegiance to the Eknath Shinde camp. Mr Singh and Mr Naqvi put in their papers last week as they are no longer Rajya Sabha members and, therefore, not eligible to hold a ministerial post. Though their ministries have been allocated to Union ministers Smriti Irani and Jyotiraditya Scindia, a Cabinet rejig is not being ruled out. After successfully splitting the Shiv Sena in the Maharashtra Assembly, the Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena, ably assisted by the Bharatiya Janata Party, is actively wooing the Lok Sabha MPs of the Uddhav-led Shiv Sena In fact, the Shinde faction has publicly claimed that at least 12 of the 19 MPs are in touch with it and are willing to switch sides. Besides wanting to be on the winning side, the Shiv Sena MPs are also tempted with the promise of accommodation in the Union Cabinet, an offer which could prove difficult to refuse.
Is it the end of the road for the feisty Trinamul Congress MP Mahua Moitra or will she survive the controversy she is currently embroiled in following her comments on Goddess Kali. Ms Moitra was first put in place by the party leadership when she antagonised her party colleagues during the Goa election campaign. And now the Trinamul Congress has dissociated itself from her recent description of Kali as a meat-eating and alcohol accepting goddess which has provided a ready opportunity to the Bharatiya Janata Party to mount an offensive against the Trinamul Congress. While uncomfortable with Ms Moitra’s statement, the Trinamul Congress is also irked by her defiant stand as she is refusing to back down from a confrontation with the BJP. Trinamul Congress insiders maintained Ms Moitra’s big mistake is that she sees herself as another Mamata Banerjee who has acquired the reputation of a streetfighter. However, Ms Moitra’s strategy could boomerang as there can be only one Mamata Banerjee in the party.
Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, a clear message was sent out to ministers and senior bureaucrats that they should keep a safe distance from the media. Over the years, access to the press has been restricted by several ministries. The same template has also been adopted by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. In the earlier days, mediapersons on the beat could move around the party office headquarters and talk to any available office-bearer. Similarly, the daily official press briefing was invariably followed by an informal chit-chat session when the spokesperson spoke off-the-record to media persons, providing insights about the party’s thinking on various issues. Party spokespersons today have been instructed not to linger and chat with the press after a briefing while movement in the party office is restricted. In keeping with this, presspersons covering the BJP’s national executive meeting in Hyderabad were kept at a safe distance from the venue and chitchatting with leaders was a no-no.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has a serious problem in Chhattisgarh, which goes to polls next year-end. Though the party was in power for three consecutive terms, it is virtually leaderless in the state today as it is unable to find an acceptable and charismatic mass leader who can be projected as its chief ministerial candidate. Former three-time chief minister Raman Singh is the only tall leader that the BJP has on offer in Chhattisgarh but it is also accepted that he has outlived his utility. The BJP is desperate because it has a good opportunity to unseat the Congress government as chief minister Bhupesh Baghel is becoming unpopular not just within the party but also among the people. Though Mr Baghel has acquired a larger-than-life image, there is growing anger against him as he is perceived to be promoting Kurmis, the caste to which he belongs, at the cost of others.
If the Bharatiya Janata Party is struggling to find a leader in Chhattisgarh, the Congress faces a similar difficulty in Uttar Pradesh. It is now close to four months since the UP Congress president Ajay Kumar Lallu stepped down following the party’s dismal performance in the last Assembly polls but there is no sign of his replacement. According to Congress insiders, several leaders, including P.L. Punia and Pramod Tiwari, were approached but no one seems to be keen on taking on this responsibility. It is, after all, a thankless job given that the Congress is virtually non-existent in this electorally-important state and there appears to be little hope of reviving the party. Even Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Congress general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, has shown no urgency in streamlining the state organisation. Apparently, Priyanka is now going to be preoccupied with the year-end Assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh.