There’s an uncanny similarity between the drama that unfolded last week after former finance minister P. Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail application was rejected in the INX Media case and nine-year-old developments which preceded Union home minister Amit Shah’s arrest in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. Just like Mr Chidambaram who was incommunicado for 24 hours after the Central Bureau of Investigation asked him to report for further interrogation, Mr Shah went underground when he was similarly summoned by the premier investigative agency. And like the Congress leader who turned up for a media briefing at the party’s Akbar Road headquarters a day later, Shah put in a dramatic appearance in the middle of a press conference at the BJP office in Ahmedabad. Mr Shah held the home portfolio in the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat when this case was registered against him while the Congress was in power at the Centre. He too proclaimed his innocence and blamed the Congress for framing him in a false and fabricated case. But unlike Mr Chidambaram who went home from the Congress office, Mr Shah declared that he would be going to the CBI office soon after the press conference. A classic case of deja vu.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath expanded his Cabinet last week at a time when his party colleagues have been up in arms against him for his style of functioning. In fact, the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership in Delhi has been swamped with complaints about the Yogi. In particular, they have been angry with the chief minister for the brazen manner with which he has been promoting members of the Thakur community to which he belongs. BJP leaders from the state, including ministers, have given details of these appointments, ranging from educational institutions to the police service, to buttress their case. It was, therefore, not surprising that the first Cabinet expansion undertaken by Yogi Adityanath included six Brahmins and three Kshatriyas as members of these castes were particularly upset that they had been overlooked in favour of Thakurs. The rejig was facilitated by Sunil Bansal, the BJP’s organisation secretary in Uttar Pradesh, who is known to be party chief Amit Shah’s point person in the state. When Yogi Adityanath formed the government in 2017, Mr Bansal found himself in the eye of a storm as state leaders had then complained he was acting as the de facto chief minister. But the tables have now turned. Today, it is Yogi who is their biggest bugbear while Mr Bansal, they maintain, is helping to keep the chief minister in check.
Three Rajya Sabha seats from Madhya Pradesh will fall vacant next April but speculation is already rife about who will be lucky to make it to the Upper House. The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party are in a position to get one seat each but the battle for the third seat promises to go down to the wire given that there is a marginal difference in the strength of two parties in the state assembly. It is an accepted fact that senior party leader Digvijaya Singh will be the Congress’ choice for the one seat it is certain to win in view of his proximity to chief minister Kamal Nath and the fact that a substantial number of MLAs are known to be his camp followers. Jyotiradtiya Scindia, who lost his Guna seat in the last Lok Sabha election, is said to be eyeing a seat in the Rajya Sabha. His loyalists are pressing the party leadership that Mr Scindia should not have to fight it out and instead be picked for the seat the Congress is certain to win. Only time will tell if Scindia emerges victorious.
Now that Sonia Gandhi is back as Congress president, the party is waiting to see whether she will put together her own team or will Rahul Gandhi have a say in the matter. If the membership of the screening committee announced last week for the Maharashtra Assembly polls is anything to go by, Sonia Gandhi will be guided by her son. The panel is headed by Jyoiraditya Scindia and includes Harish Chaudhary and Manickam Tagore, all Rahul Gandhi's team members. There is also no word about Divya Spandana, the Congress social media head, who took a break from Twitter after the party’s poor show in the Lok Sabha polls. It is not known if she is still working for the party or has made a quiet exit, especially now that Rahul Gandhi has stepped down as party president. This uncertainty has led to quiet lobbying for this high-profile job. Among those who are said to be eyeing this slot are party spokesperson and Sheila Dikshit confidant Pawan Khera and Rahul Gandhi protégés Sachin Rao and Nikhil Alva. Like them, other members of the Rahul Gandhi team are also seeking rehabilitation, as they are not sure about their role and position in the changed party set-up.
Anita Katyal is a Delhi-based journalist...