Anita Katyal | Why feisty Mahua made to retreat; place in CWC at last for Tharoor?
By DECCAN CHRONICLE | Anita Katyal
The decision of the Trinamul Congress to stay away from the joint Opposition meetings and protests witnessed in Parliament last week has led to speculation about a tacit understanding between West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and the Narendra Modi government. Take the case of the feisty Trinamul Congress MP Mahua Moitra who is leading a lone attack from her party against the ruling dispensation on the Adani-Hindenburg issue. Last week, she took on Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, accusing him of giving permission only to BJP ministers to speak while Opposition members were not allowed to have their say. “Democracy IS under attack. And the Speaker leads from the front. And I am willing to go to jail for this tweet,” Ms Moitra said in a tweet. However, Ms Moitra’s strongly-worded tweet disappeared several hours later. According to the political grapevine she was asked to take it down as Mamata Banerjee did not approve of the tweet, especially since it validated the Congress charge about the derailment of democracy in India.
With Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge set to constitute his own team, party office bearers are a nervous lot these days as no one knows who among them will make the cut. Many members of the current team will have to be benched if the decision, taken at the recent Raipur Congress plenary session, to provide reservation to persons below 50 years and Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, minorities and women is implemented. There is talk that current general secretaries Dinesh Gundu Rao, Bhakta Charan Das, Avinash Pande, Harish Chaudhary may be moved out to accommodate new faces. There is a big question mark over party general secretary K.C. Venugopal’s future. Though known to be Rahul Gandhi’s favourite, there is all-round disaffection against him which may prove difficult to ignore. Also, Mr Kharge is said to have a personal grudge against Mr Venugopal from the time he was in charge of Karnataka. If Mr Venugopal is removed, it would send out a message that Mr Kharge has a firm grip on the party organisation and that he enjoys the confidence of the Gandhi family. Then there is the unputdownable Shashi Tharoor. Everyone is guessing where Mr Kharge would accommodate Tharoor. The buzz is he may finally be included in the Congress Working Committee.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has run a highly successful campaign against the Congress on the issue of dynastic politics but tends to ignore the political heirs being groomed by its own leaders. Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia’s son Mahanaryaman Scindia is the latest political scion to join this tribe going by his increasing public exposure. Jyotiraditya Scindia has been taking his son to all major public events in the family strongholds of Guna and Gwalior while several fan clubs have sprung up in the Scindia bastions. These clubs have been organising cricket matches and other sporting events where Mahanaryaman is invited either as chief guest or special guest. With Madhya Pradesh headed for Assembly polls this year-end, all this activity indicates Mr Scindia is preparing for his son's electoral debut who is now 27 years old and eligible to contest an election. Mahanaryaman had campaigned for some Congress candidates of the Scindia camp in the 2018 Assembly polls and his father in the last Lok Sabha election.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah have total command over the government and the party organisation. But they have met with little success in taming two former chief ministers — B.S. Yediyurappa and Vasundhara Raje. Not only have they failed to sideline them but those picked to replace these two leaders have not been up to the mark. With Assembly polls coming up in their home states Karnataka and Rajasthan, attempts are now being made to keep Mr Yediyurappa and Ms Raje in good humour. Like Ms Raje, Mr Yediyurappa has made sure the BJP can ill-afford to ignore him. He has apparently been assured that he will have a major say in the distribution of tickets while his close aide Shobha Karandlaje has been made the party’s campaign chief for the coming polls. In Rajasthan, Ms Raje’s recent show of strength has resulted in a ceasefire as her detractors in the party have been asked to go slow in attacking her.
The Congress never tires of crowing about the success of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. Now that the euphoria has died down, the reality is hitting home. Apparently, a bankrupt party is finding it difficult to clear the dues of the advertising and publicity agencies hired in Punjab and Kashmir. An agency, which was contracted for the Jammu and Kashmir leg of the yatra, is learned to have sent a legal notice to Congress president Malllikarjun Kharge saying the party had defaulted in paying their dues for the flex and hoardings put up by them. Another agency in Punjab is said to have sent several reminders to the state and Central leadership over a pending payment of Rs. 15 lakhs but has not received any reply. The Central leadership has asked the state units to make the payment on the plea the Congress is strapped for cash. All this when the party is preparing for a string of Assembly polls this year followed by the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.