Opinion Columnists 11 Sep 2016 Political Gup-Shup: ...
The writer is a Delhi-based journalist.

Political Gup-Shup: Sidhu’s sixer, Shah’s gameplan

Published Sep 11, 2016, 12:38 am IST
Updated Sep 11, 2016, 7:21 am IST
Mr Shah has been working overtime to make sure that he did not join the AAP.
Founder of new front 'Awaz-e-Punjab' Navjot Singh Sidhu addresses a press conference in Chandigarh. (Photo: PTI)
 Founder of new front 'Awaz-e-Punjab' Navjot Singh Sidhu addresses a press conference in Chandigarh. (Photo: PTI)

Two senior Congress leaders Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia are eyeing an opportunity in their home state MP where Vyapam-tainted CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan is struggling to survive. But the methods they have adopted leave much to be desired. Mr Nath is currently AICC general secretary in charge of Haryana, but the veteran leader has little interest in the state. He recently burnt his fingers in trying to deal with the tussle between various Haryana factions. Although he has made it clear that he would like to be given charge of MP. Mr Nath continues to operate from Delhi while his visits to the state are confined to his pocket burough Chhindwara. In fact, Mr Nath is reportedly offering party posts to hopefuls even though there is no sign of state Congress chief Arun Yadav’s exit.

Mr Scindia, on the other hand, was in the state recently, but instead of interacting with mediapersons at the Congress office, he chose to meet them at a heritage hotel away from Bhopal, at 9.30 am. In fact, the press meet was a hush-hush affair as not all journalists were invited for it and those who did receive an invite were told not to pass it on. While MP Congress leaders are still baffled over Mr Scindia’s choice of venue, they are equally intrigued why he chose to call on Suresh Pachouri, who is out of reckoning in state politics, instead of meeting chief Arun Yadav and Ajay Singh, and son of late Arjun Singh.

Much has been written about the chaos which marked Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s Khat Sabha in Rudrapur, Uttar Pradesh, when villagers scrambled to get their hands on the free cots. But what has not come out is how the local organisers struggled to get genuine farmers to participate in Mr Gandhi’s meeting as he set out on a 2,500-km long kisan yatra last week for next year’s UP Assembly elections. Apparently, before Mr Gandhi arrived at the venue, frantic announcements were made to ensure the presence of farmers on the manch as most of the cots were lying vacant. Senior Congress leader and UP in charge Ghulam Nabi Azad was seen issuing instructions to party workers asking them to fill up the stage.

Just then a local Congress leader arrived with a large group of young boys, a far cry from typical farmers, and insisted that the security staff should allow them on stage. He didn’t get very far as Mr Azad intervened to give him a severe public dressing down for passing off his friends and relatives as farmers. But once the programme started, the same group managed to clamber on to the stage. And that’s how Mr Gandhi’s first Khat Sabha got underway. With less than a year to go for the election of the next President, the BJP has begun discussions on where it stands as far as numbers are concerned. According to the party’s calculations, the NDA is 75,000 votes short. It will not be able to bridge this gap even if the BJP was to do well in next year’s UP Assembly elections.

The NDA will still need the support of the Trinamul Congress or Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK. Of the two, the BJP prefers Ms Jayalalithaa as she has a personal rapport with Prime Minister Modi. It’s early days to discuss names but the two parties have been in touch on this issue. The presidential election will also provide an occasion to test Opposition unity. The regional parties, Congress and the Left can give the NDA a hard time provided they can forge a consensus. BJP president Amit Shah was a happy man when cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu announced the launch of a new political front, Awaaz-e-Punjab, with a scathing attack against Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal.

Ever since Mr Sidhu shocked the BJP by resigning his RS seat, Mr Shah has been working overtime to make sure that he did not join the AAP. As admitted to by Mr Sidhu, AAP leaders were in touch with him but their talks failed to materialise as Mr Kejriwal did not want him to contest Punjab polls. While that is Mr Sidhu’s word on the subject, BJP insiders said Mr Shah had used all means at his disposal to see he stayed away from AAP. Not just that Mr Shah also made sure that Mr Kejriwal emerges as Mr Sidhu’s target of attack. The BJP and the Akali Dal are happy as they believe a division in the anti-government vote will help them.

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