Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray. (PTI)
Embattled Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray must be ruing the day he agreed to gift the home ministry to the Nationalist Congress party two years ago during their negotiations on distribution of portfolios. As a result, Mr Thackeray was not privy to inputs from the intelligence agencies which reporting directly to the home minister, NCP’s Dilip Walse-Patil. According to a section of leaders in the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government Mr Thackeray evinced little interest in getting regular briefings from Mr Walse-Patil as he had cut himself off from his ministerial and party colleagues by cocooning himself in his chief ministerial bungalow. On the other hand, some maintain that intelligence agencies had been negligent as they were in the dark when a large number of Shiv Sena rebels were spirited away from Mumbai to Surat. There is also a view that the home minister did not take the inputs from the agencies seriously and consequently did not inform Mr Thackeray about these developments. Then there are still others who believe that Mr Walse-Patil deliberately withheld this information from Mr Thackeray, a sign of growing tension between the Shiv Sena and the NCP. Whatever the case may be, this entire episode is a sad reflection on the NCP minister’s handling of his portfolio and Mr Thackeray’s standoffish style of functioning.
Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party named Draupadi Murmu as its presidential candidate, there have been murmurs in the Opposition camp that it might be a good idea if Yashwant Sinha, its nominee for the top post, offers to step aside in her favour. These doubters feel that it would send out a wrong signal if they oppose the election of the country’s first woman tribal President. The numbers were always stacked against the Opposition but it nevertheless decided to field a candidate to make a political statement. But this purpose has been roundly defeated with Ms Murmu’s candidature. As far as political messaging goes, the BJP’s woman tribal candidate has far more to offer in comparison to Mr Sinha whose caste credentials just do not match up. Mr Sinha’s wife also admitted in a media interview that the BJP candidate is a good choice while maintaining that the opposition lacked the numbers to get Mr Sinha elected. In fact, Mr Sinha cannot even depend on his son Jayant Sinha for his vote as he is a BJP MP.
The communication and publicity department of the Congress is set to witness wide-ranging changes after former minister Jairam Ramesh replaced Randeep Surjewala as its new boss. The overhaul has already begun with party spokespersons Pawan Khera and Supriya Shrinate being given charge of the publicity and social media departments, respectively. There is also a buzz that Praveen Chakravarty, currently handling data analytics for the Congress, is on his way out and that party spokesperson Gourav Vallabh is being considered for this job. Then there is talk that the number of spokespersons and television panelists, which currently number around 50, on the Congress list is to be pared to make it more manageable. Mediapersons on the Congress beat have already noticed some changes in the functioning of the communication department. Soon after taking over, Mr Ramesh put out a statement providing details of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s medical condition. He also released the party chief’s letter seeking more time from the Enforcement Directorate which wants to question her in connection with the National Herald case. Such transparency is unheard of in the Congress.
When Charanjit Singh Channi was appointed Punjab chief minister, Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi had announced with grand flourish that he was the state’s first dalit chief minister. However, the Congress’s favourite chief minister has disappeared after the party’s shock defeat in the Assembly elections. Worse still, Mr Channi himself lost both his seats. The party has forgotten him while Mr Channi has gone underground. He has tweeted sporadically — the last was to condole the killing of Sidhu Moosewala — but has maintained a studied silence on the Gandhi family. While every party leader and worker was vying to demonstrate his or her loyalty when Rahul Gandhi was being questioned by the Enforcement Directorate, there was no word from Mr Channi who, according to Rahul, shed tears when he was elevated as chief minister. Last heard, he had gone abroad for the treatment of a "neurological" ailment.
Dramatic scenes were witnessed at the Congress headquarters on Akbar Road last week when the party’s senior leaders and workers were out in full strength to show solidarity with Rahul Gandhi who was questioned for five days by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the National Herald case. There was no dearth of Congress members who battled the cops during that period, making sure that their presence was captured by television cameras. While this tamasha was in full play during the day, the "demonstrators" would disappear as the afternoon wore on. In fact, not a single Congress member could be spotted on days when Rahul Gandhi left the Enforcement Directorate late at night.