The lingering political crisis in Arunachal Pradesh has proved to be expensive for the BJP. When it first decided to poach dissident Congress legislators several months ago, the BJP flew the MLAs down to Delhi and put them up in a five-star hotel. BJP strategists did not realise that the process of government formation would take longer than expected. After the Gauhati High Court put on hold the Governor’s decision to advance the Assembly session, the BJP shifted both the Congress’ and its own legislators to a three-star hotel since the party was running up huge bills to keep them safe.
The BJP’s plan went awry again when the Congress approached the Supreme Court. Since there is no certainty when it will announce its verdict, the BJP has moved the legislators once again to a small hotel in Gurgaon. Clearly, the BJP is paying a heavy price both literally and figuratively to form its own government as it attempts to expand its footprint to regions where it has minimal presence.
Three Congress Rajya Sabha members from Punjab — M.S. Gill, Ambika Soni and Ashwani Kumar — are set to retire over the next few months, but hectic lobbying for a coveted berth in the Upper House has begun.
According to the party grapevine, Mr Kumar has been making strenuous efforts for another term. Mr Kumar donned his lawyer’s robes and landed up at the Patiala House courts when Mrs Gandhi, Cong-ress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and other leaders put in a personal appearance in connection with the National Herald case.
He was apparently told very politely but firmly that he was not on the panel representing the party leaders. Mr Kumar maintained that he had come as Dr Singh’s counsel. On another occasion, he landed up in a Delhi court when the corruption case against Himachal Chief Minister Vir-bhadra Singh was to be heard. The other lawyers insisted he had not been deputed by the Chief Minister. It is to be seen if Mr Kumar’s efforts will pay off.
The Punjab Congress’ last-minute decision to not contest the byelection from Khadoor Sahib led to a lot of speculation about the real reason for withdrawing from the contest. What is intriguing is that Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh made this announcement a day after Congress president Sonia Gandhi had app-roved the candidature of R.S. Sikki. Capt.
Singh maintained that since the issue on which Mr Sikki had resigned had not been addressed by the Akali government, no purpose would be served by participating in this contest. Mr Sikki had put in his papers in October 2015 to register his protest against the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib. But this could well be window dressing.
If Congress insiders are to be believed. A defeat in this election would have been a big blow for Capt. Singh who was recently re-appointed president of the Punjab Congress amid great expectations that he would lead the party to victory in the Assembly polls in 2017.
The Capital is abuzz with stories about a Cabinet reshuffle. Each time this issue is discussed, it is invariably mentioned that finance minister Arun Jaitley is being given another portfolio. The latest round of reports mentioned that Mr Jaitley’s protégé, power minister Piyush Goyal, is likely to be the next finance minister. Mr Jaitley, it is said, is expected to be moved to defence.
This appears to be far-fetched as Mr Jaitley has started working on the Budget while Mr Goyal is not sufficiently senior or experienced to handle such a crucial portfolio. It appears these stories are circulated by the Mum-bai-based corporate world. Since Mr Goyal is from Mumbai, he is well networked with the industrialists there.
The speculation about Mr Jaitley’s move has also been fuelled by reports that defence minister Manohar Parrikar would like to return to Goa so that he can be projected as the party’s chief ministerial candidate before the next Assembly polls. There is some merit in the story as Mr Parrikar has not really taken to Delhi and is known to rush to Goa on some pretext or the other.