The Bharatiya Janata Party’s antipathy towards the minorities is well-known. Once the Modi government came to power at the Centre, it promptly did away with the old tradition of hosting official iftar parties though its Muslim leaders like Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Shahnawaz Hussain do hold elaborate Eid celebrations at their homes. Taking a cue from the Prime Minister, the Rashtrapati Bhavan also followed suit. It was, therefore, a surprise to spot National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and senior BJP leader Bhupendra Yadav at an iftar party hosted last week by Moulana Mehmood Madani, general secretary of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind. Not just that but Mr Doval was also seen in deep conversation with Congress treasurer Ahmed Patel. The two shared a meal as they were both seated at the same table. However, Mr Doval and Mr Patel said a firm no to photographs to all mobile-wielding guests who were keen to click them together. It is being assumed that Mr Doval and Mr Yadav’s presence at the iftar party, hosted by a leading Muslim organisation, followed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent outreach to minorities with his amended slogan, “sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas”.
BJP rebel Shatrughan Sinha, who joined the Congress shortly before the Lok Sabha elections, is said to be miffed with his new party. Apparently, Mr Sinha had sent word to Congress president Rahul Gandhi and other senior party leaders that he would like to contest against PM Narendra Modi from the high-profile Varanasi seat. However, his request was turned down on the plea that the party was planning to field Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra from this seat. As it happened, the party chickened out at the last minute and fielded political lightweight Ajay Rai. Congress insiders had then insisted that speculation about Ms Vadra’s candidature from Varanasi was a media creation. Mr Sinha, who has been campaigning actively against the BJP leadership for the past several years now, was instead asked to battle it out from his old seat Patna. He lost to the BJP’s senior minister Ravi Shankar Prasad by a huge margin. Mr Sinha’s supporters maintain that his defeat was not a surprise as Patna is a known BJP stronghold. But had he been pitted against the Prime Minister, Mr Sinha would have added spice to an otherwise one-sided contest. The move would have also enhanced the filmstar-turned-politician’s stature and profile.
Ever since senior BJP leader and former minister Sushma Swaraj was excluded from the second Modi government, there has been a lot of speculation that she may be offered a gubernatorial position. The terms of several governors are coming to an end and it is expected that some of them may not get an extension while others could be moved to a different state. For instance, it is quite certain that E.S.L Narasimhan, governor of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, who was appointed by the previous UPA government, will be replaced. Ms Swaraj was mentioned as his successor and health minister Harsh Vardhan even congratulated her on her new assignment but the former external affairs minister quickly denied these reports. It is learned that Ms Swaraj may not be averse to a posting in Chandigarh as the next Punjab governor. This is the closest she can be to her hometown Ambala in neighboring Haryana where she did her schooling. Chandigarh too holds special memories for Ms Swaraj as she attended university here. The subsequent weeks will reveal if Ms Swaraj will be accommodated in a Raj Bhavan or ignored like senior leaders L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
Congress leaders are baffled with Congress president Rahul Gandhi and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s decision to release their photographs with Navjot Singh Sidhu who had recently visited Delhi to complain about how his wings had been clipped by his bête noire, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, in the latest Cabinet reshuffle. Congress insiders said this photograph was unnecessary as it sent out a message that the leadership is favourably inclined towards Mr Sidhu vis-a-vis Mr Singh. At a time when the Congress has only a couple of strong state leaders, it can ill-afford to thumb its nose at the Punjab CM especially since Mr Singh has delivered a reasonably good result for the party from his home state in the recent Lok Sabha polls. Not just that but Mr Singh has personally emerged far stronger after the poll result and there is talk that a large section in the party’s Punjab unit has shifted loyalties from Rahul Gandhi to the chief minister since he can win them an election unlike the central leadership. This does not augur well for the Congress chief whose leadership has suffered a serious blow after the party’s latest humiliating electoral defeat.