Opinion Columnists 20 Mar 2022 Anita Katyal | Gurda ...
The writer is a Delhi-based journalist.

Anita Katyal | Gurdas Mann, Bhajji on AAP's RS list? Hooda, Khattar in deal?

Published Mar 20, 2022, 12:19 am IST
Updated Mar 20, 2022, 8:08 am IST
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Finding her children — Rahul and Priyanka — in the firing line following the party’s rout in the recent Assembly elections, Congress president Sonia Gandhi promptly came to their rescue by stepping out of her self-imposed isolation and asserting her authority. She lost no time in convening a meeting of the Congress Working Committee for a post-mortem of the party’s poll performance three days after the declaration of the election results. She followed it up by asking the party’s state unit presidents of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur to put in their papers and appointing leaders to look into the reasons for the party’s debacle in the five states. Sonia Gandhi further reached out to the rebel party leaders who have been pressing for internal elections. Having been absent from Parliament for several sessions, Sonia Gandhi also registered her presence in the Lok Sabha last week when she made a special mention during zero hour calling for an end to the “systematic interference of Facebook and other social media giants “ in India’s electoral politics. Though Sonia Gandhi had abdicated all her responsibilities to Rahul and Priyanka, this was her way of insulating her children from further attack and telling her detractors “Main Hoon Na”.  

Haryana’s political circles consistently maintain that former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has an informal understanding with his successor Manohar Lal Khattar. Mr Hooda, it is said, is not serious about discharging his duties as leader of Opposition and generally gives the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government an easy pass. For instance, Mr Hooda was not present when the controversial anti-conversion bill was taken up in the Haryana Assembly earlier this month. He was instead spotted at the Delhi Gymkhana Club where he had come to watch the Davis Cup matches. A few days later, Hooda was seen sharing sweets with Khattar and his colleagues to celebrate the BJP’s victory in the recently-concluded Assembly polls. Mr Hooda’s proximity to Khattar has obviously irked state Congress leaders who lament that it is hampering their efforts to put up a credible fight against the BJP government.

Several important leaders in the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have reason to worry as there is talk of changes in both the two parties. The BJP leadership is expected to use its enhanced status following its recent electoral victories to crack the whip on a few leaders. Former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, not exactly a hot favourite with the Delhi bosses, is expected to be further marginalised while Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan may also be eased out. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, already under pressure from the BJP, can expect to deal with a more belligerent alliance partner in the coming days. On a high after the poll results, saffron-clad BJP legislators in Bihar recently shouted victorious slogans in the assembly while Nitish Kumar looked on helplessly. In the Congress, knives are out for communications department chief Randeep Surjewala, Rohan Gupta (social media head) and general secretary K.C. Venugopal. They may be on their way out as there have been innumerable complaints about the party’s poor communication strategy while Mr Venugopal, too, has been under attack for several months now. He even came in for criticism at the Congress Working Committee meeting.

With the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party set to get five Rajya Sabha seats following its spectacular win in Punjab, the names of probable candidates are already doing the rounds. While former Test cricketer Harbhajan Singh is on the list of those picked for a coveted berth in the Upper House, there is also some discussion about well-known singer Gurdas Mann getting a Rajya Sabha nomination. It appears that Mr Kejriwal may be following the Trinamul Congress model of bringing together persons from diverse backgrounds.

Ashwani Kumar, who left the Congress on election-eve, is also trying for a seat as is former Punjab Congress chief H.S. Hanspal. In addition to these five Rajya Sabha seats, the AAP will get another two in June when the present members from Punjab retire.

While an orchestrated campaign has been launched by Congress loyalists to demand dissident leader Kapil Sibal’s expulsion for publicly suggesting that the Gandhis step down from leadership roles, the party is in a fix about handling Preneet Kaur and Manish Tewari. Mr Tewari is among the 23 Congress leaders who had written to Sonia Gandhi two years ago pressing for organisational elections. Preneet Kaur joined the group when she attended last week’s meeting of “rebel” leaders at Ghulam Nabi Azad’s residence. She defied the party and worked for her husband, former chief minister Amarinder Singh’s campaign, in the recent election despite being issued a disciplinary notice. But the Congress is hamstrung in taking action against the two leaders as Preneet Kaur and Mr Tewari are Lok Sabha MPs. The party can hardly afford to lose two members given its low bench strength in the Lower House.

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