Well before Shahrukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan was arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau, its former director general and current Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana had made a case for targeting Bollywood celebrities, especially the superstar himself. The focus on Bollywood filmstars began last year when the NCB initiated investigations into drug trafficking following actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. The Gujarat cadre cop, who is a favourite officer of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah, was tasked with the job of nabbing some Bollywood bigwigs and the Central agency had even summoned Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan and Shraddha Kapoor for questioning in this connection. Though Shahrukh Khan eluded its dragnet, he remained on its radar long after the controversy over Rajput’s death died down. However, the superstar’s son Aryan proved to be a handy target for the NCB as the Narendra Modi government wanted to distract attention from the recent haul of 3,000 kg of heroin, worth Rs.21,000 crore, from Mundra port in Kutch. This comes at a time when the BJP’s campaign to demonise the minorities has picked up speed ahead of next year’s Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls. It is also to pile pressure on Bollywood biggies to push the BJP’s ideology in their films.
Except for his brief reaction supporting the Centre government’s decision to expand the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force in Punjab, former chief minister Amarinder Singh has lately been keeping a low profile. Soon after he was forced to step down, Mr Singh or “Captain”, as he is popularly called, had grabbed headlines when he hit out at the Congress leadership for humiliating him and declared that he would be leaving the party. It was assumed he would be joining the Bharatiya Janata Party, especially after his meeting with home minister Amit Shah but the Captain’s core group maintained that he plans to float his own party and have an informal understanding with the BJP. However, nothing has been heard about these plans since then. It is speculated that the Captain is in the process of drafting his new party’s constitution and will subsequently approach the Election Commission for a party symbol. He is likely to take the final plunge closer to next year’s Assembly polls so he can enrol disgruntled Congress leaders who are denied tickets by the party.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision to replace all sitting ministers in Gujarat has unnerved its senior leaders in poll-bound Uttarakhand. Former Congress leaders who defected to the BJP and the party’s older leaders are worried that with 45-year-old Pushkar Singh Dhami as chief minister, the party leadership will give preference to younger leaders in the distribution of tickets. They are, therefore, exploring other options. State minister Yashpal Arya and his MLA son Sanjeev returned to the Congress fold last week. Devendra Yadav, Congress in-charge of Uttarakhand, who was responsible for Mr Arya’s “ghar wapsi” is persuading others like Harak Singh Rawat, Satpal Maharaj and his wife Amrita, to cross over on the plea that they don’t have a future in the BJP. This move is predictably being resisted by former chief minister Harish Rawat as those who left the Congress were bitterly opposed to him. Mr Rawat fears their entry will undermine his position as the party’s chief ministerial face.
With former Jawaharlal Nehru University president Kanhaiya Kumar joining the Congress, party leader Rahul Gandhi wants to focus on reviving the party in Bihar. As in the case of Uttar Pradesh, the Congress is reduced to a bit player in Bihar. Besides taking advantage of Kanhaiya Kumar’s oratorical skills, Rahul Gandhi is also known to have sent out feelers to Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan, who is currently out on a limb after his uncle walked out, leading to a split in the party. Rahul Gandhi made it a point to attend the prayer meeting held recently to mark the death anniversary of former Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan. The Congress is said to be impressing upon Paswan junior that it would give him a free hand in Bihar but he will have to play second fiddle to Tejaswi Yadav if he ties up with the Rashtriya Janata Dal.
Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait, who has emerged as the face of the ongoing farmers’ agitation, has become a suspect figure among the protesters. The farmers, especially from Punjab and Haryana, are unhappy with Mr Tikait for helping the Yogi Adityanath government broker a deal with the angry protesters in Lakhimpur Tehri. Mr Tikait’s subsequent remark that the killing of BJP workers was a reaction to the initial action (alleged mowing down of agitating farmers by a Central minister’s son) has also not been well received by the farmers as it shows them in poor light. As it is, Mr Tikait is not reputed to be trustworthy. There is now a lurking fear that he may betray the cause at a critical juncture to bail out the BJP in next year’s UP polls.