Anita Katyal | Did Hemant get the last laugh? The new politics of Odia pride...

Did outgoing Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren foil the BJP’s plans for the imposition of President’s rule in the state. By resigning before his arrest and naming his successor, Mr Soren queered the pitch for the BJP though the delay in swearing in a new chief minister suggested the ruling dispensation at the Centre had other plans. According to insiders in the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, the Enforcement Directorate camped at Mr Soren’s Delhi residence with the intention of arresting him, which would have led to an immediate crisis in Jharkhand, thus paving the way for Central rule. However, Mr Soren managed to avoid the ED officials in the capital and instead went back to Ranchi with one version saying Mr Soren went to Kolkata where West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee helped him cross into Jharkhand incognito. In Ranchi, a meeting was convened where it was decided Champai Soren would replace Hemant who planned to resign as CM.
The Election Commission’s recent announcement that polls for 56 Rajya Sabha seats will be held on February 27 immediately led to speculation about those who will or will not make the cut. For instance, there is a question mark over actor Jaya Bachchan’s return to the Upper House. The Samajwadi Party, like other political parties, wants to nominate members with care this time to send out a message to its voter base ahead of the coming Lok Sabha election. SP Leader Akhilesh Yadav wishes to continue with his party’s focus on PDA — picchde (backward class), dalit and alpsankhyak (minorities) and pick candidates accordingly. Jaya Bachchan may lose out as she doesn’t fit into these categories. But she is known to push back as she did last time when she made full use of her proximity to Akhilesh Yadav’s wife Dimple, to get another term. In the Congress, there is talk that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has declined a renomination to the Rajya Sabha because of his poor health. Abhishek Singhvi, who was elected last time with the support of the Trinamul Congress, cannot depend on West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee this time given her strained relations with the Congress. The Congress leadership has been told by the party’s state units that it should pick candidates from the states and should avoid accommodating “outsiders” in view of the coming general election.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the longest serving chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, is gradually becoming a distant memory in his home state. Shortly after last year’s Assembly polls, Mr Chouhan was highly visible and made several statements to convey to his party leadership, “Main Hoon Na” though it was clear he would not be chief minister. Even after the BJP named Mohan Yadav as his successor, Mr Chouhan managed to remain in the news with his frequent statements which continued to get traction with the media. It’s a different story today as Mr Chouhan does not grab headlines anymore and even his party posters do not carry his photograph or mention his contribution during his long stint in office. Desperate to remain relevant, Mr Chouhan has lined the boundary wall of his current residence with cutouts of Lord Ram and named his bungalow Mama ka ghar. This has become the latest selfie point in Bhopal as passersby invariably stop to click photos.
When Congress leader Rahul Gandhi undertook his first Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, it generated excitement both among the workers and the people he interacted with during his long foot march. People responded positively and the media was equally generous with its coverage. But the Nehru-Gandhi scion’s ongoing Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra has been mired in controversy ever since it commenced in trouble-torn Manipur. Congress has been hit badly by its allies who are upset that Rahul chose to go solo on this yatra instead of making it a joint effort. Even as it was on, Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and her Punjab counterpart Bhagwant Singh Mann said no to seat-sharing with the Congress in their respective states, Janata Dal (United) Nitish Kumar ditched the INDIA bloc and now Jharkhand is in turmoil. Despairing Congress leaders are questioning the timing and purpose of this yatra. The funds and manpower used for the yatra, they say, could have been utilised to prepare for the Lok Sabha poll.
Both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party believe there is a possibility of a breakthrough in Odisha after chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s close aide V.K. Pandian resigned from the government and joined the Biju Janata Dal, sparking speculation that he could be named Mr Patnaik’s successor. Since Mr Pandian hails from Tamil Nadu, the opposition parties in Odisha have been invoking “Odia pride” on the lines of Gujarati Asmita, to highlight that outsiders would be given charge of running the state. They are also hoping to take advantage of the unease in the ruling BJD whose leaders and workers are forced to be reverential to Mr Pandian, a new entrant to the party, who holds no post. Congress Odisha in-charge Ajoy Kumar has consequently been ending his press conferences with the one liner poll theme “Odisha for Odias”.
( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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