It is over two months since Rahul Gandhi declared he was firm on stepping down as Congress president but there is no end to the guessing game about his successor. Since the Nehru-Gandhi scion failed to put in place a mechanism for the appointment of the next Congress chief, senior party leaders approached members of the Congress Working Committee, chief ministers and other state leaders for their suggestions. A sealed envelope with the names of the contenders is now lying in the safe custody of veteran party leader Motilal Vohra and will be opened at the next CWC meeting (whenever it is held). The new president will be picked from among the names on the list. However, the process of finding Rahul Gandhi's successor has not gone down well with many party members who maintain those conducting this exercise lack legitimacy. Instead, there is a growing clamour from among the younger leaders that elections be conducted for the party’s top post as well as the working committee. If this demand gains ground in the coming days, finding a new president could become even more difficult.
Last week Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted two photographs on his Instagram feed with senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Satyanarayan Jatiya's grandchild captioned “A very special friend came to see me in Parliament”. Though the photographs met with a fair share of skepticism, the overwhelming response was “Oh so cute”. However, questions are being asked whether the special guests had just dropped by or the photoshoot was planned in advance to coincide with the passage of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill on that day. The exercise was essentially meant to convey the Prime Minister’s fondness and concern for children. Another photo-op was arranged the same evening when Modi “coincidentally” interacted with children with special needs who participated in a cultural event titled “Divya Kala Shakti: Witnessing Ability in Disability”. Undoubtedly, the optics were perfect but Parliamentary proceedings tend to have a life of their own. The two Houses were rocked by US President Donald Trump’s statement that Modi had asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue. As a result, the passage of the POCSO Bill had to be deferred till the next day.
The strained relations between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (United) have set off speculation in the Capital that this tension can culminate in a divorce between the two partners sooner than later. Confident about an electoral victory in Bihar after its recent resounding win in the Lok Sabha election, the BJP does not mind going in for an early assembly poll. According to the political grapevine, senior BJP leaders have sent feelers to Tejaswi Yadav, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad Yadav’s son, that the Centre would be willing to go slow on their cases if the RJD does not forge an alliance with Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar and instead contests the next Assembly election on its own. The young Yadav’s mother Rabri Devi has extended an olive branch to Nitish Kumar and sought a reconciliation between their parties. The BJP would prefer that the two parties go their separate ways, making the next election a multi-cornered contest which would work to the saffron party's advantage. Though the BJP-JD(U) alliance is currently intact, the constant bickering between the two allies has apparently set the BJP thinking about alternate plans. Having already ensured the RJD’s decimation, the BJP would like to isolate Nitish Kumar who has been flexing his muscles and also claiming credit for his party’s role in the recent Lok Sabha victory in Bihar.
The Bharatiya Janata Party regularly organises a programme — Kamal Sakhi —where wives of its MPs and women MPs meet informally, enjoy a meal together and also participate in cultural activities. The first event of the current Lok Sabha was held last week at the party headquarters though it is often hosted by a BJP minister or an MP at his or her house. This turned out to be a low-key affair compared to earlier programmes where the host would lay out a sumptuous meal and even organised “back presents” for the guests. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah and most MPs could not make it this time as they were busy at another programme which was attended by President Ram Nath Kovind. When one such Kamal Sakhi programme was held at his place during his tenure as steel minister in the last Modi government, BJP’s Rajya Sabha member Birendra Singh had presented each guest with a steel idli maker. This gift proved to be such a hit that many of them asked if it was possible to get a second one. This time, however, there were no gifts. The current batch of wives and women MPs will have to await their turn for a present....