Birthday in Absentia
Birthdays are rarely celebrated in absentia but in Uttar Pradesh, the trend is catching on. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, this year, chose to celebrate his “official birthday” on July 1 in London with his family. However, party leaders and workers went full steam with birthday celebrations. Hoardings and posters were put up all around Lucknow wishing Mr Yadav on his 43rd birthday. Outlandish cakes, shaped as cycles (Samajwadi symbol), were cut at umpteen venues and fruits and milk were distributed to patients in hospitals.
All these events were carefully recorded on video and posted on social networking sites. The chief minister was thoughtfully tagged in all the posts so that he could give marks to his loyalists. Even as party workers went into an overdrive on the occasion, family members chose to completely ignore the birthday. One of them asked, “His real birthday is on October 23, so why celebrate now?” It may be recalled that in January this year, Mr Yadav had chosen to vacation abroad with family on wife Dimple Yadav’s birthday, but party workers in Lucknow had celebrated “Bhabhiji’s” birthday in style — style similar to the one in which they celebrated the Chief Minister’s birthday.
Gaur’s Unmatched electoral success
Octogenarian BJP leader Babulal Gaur holds an enviable record of winning 10 Assembly elections in a row in Madhya Pradesh. And it is not for no reason that the never-say-die saffron leader has achieved this unmatched electoral success in MP politics. His rivals in the BJP, who seemingly include chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, have perhaps learnt with shock and disbelief when the 86-year-old former Jan Sangh leader set a trend of sorts by “managing” to parade the “who’s who” of the Congress in MP in his official residence in Bhopal to express their sympathy with him after he was sacked from the state ministry for being past 75 years of age.
Mr Gaur’s sprawling bungalow had been thronged by Congressmen, including state party president Arun Yadav and Ajay Singh, for almost a week after he was stripped of his position till the chief minister was called by the RSS brass in Nagpur on July 6 to take stock of the situation following the development. Needless to say, there were photos of these meetings in the media the next day. While this appears to have shaken the saffron leadership, a senior Congress leader has unwittingly spilled the beans. “The CM has landed us in trouble (by dropping Mr Gaur from the ministry). Mr Gaur every day invites us to share tea with him in his house. It is okay for once or twice. But it is not possible to visit him every day. We have more important work to do,” a Congress leader was heard telling one of his party colleagues.
“We are not surprised by the purported exposure since everybody knows Mr Gaur has more friends in the Congress than in his own party, that is the reason why he appears invincible in elections,” a senior BJP leader quipped. He was referring to rumours making the rounds in MP for the past three decades that the Congress always fielded a weak candidate against Mr Gaur in the Assembly elections.
Reshuffle & veterans
The BJP had to depute two of its senior leaders to pacify one of its veterans after the much-awaited expansion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s council of ministers took place. This veteran was lobbying hard for his son to be accommodated in Mr Modi’s team from the Uttar Pradesh quota. Not just the party top brass, lobbying was being done even with the RSS. Perhaps to preempt any chance of this veteran venting his ire, that could have left the party embarrassed, two senior leaders, including the party’s UP in-charge, were dispatched the day after the Cabinet reshuffle to meet this veteran, who is also a former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
Neta vs Journalist
Bihar health minister Tej Pratap Yadav created a buzz in political circles when he yelled at a TV journalist and threatened to slap a defamation case against him for taking his visuals. The incident occurred during the foundation day celebration of the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Patna on July 5. While the event was in progress, Mr Yadav borrowed a camera from one of the press photographers who was covering the programme and started to click a few pictures of the event, when he saw a TV journalist taking his visuals. Annoyed, Mr Yadav yelled at the journalist and told him to delete the video but he refused.
“I will file a defamation case against you if you don’t delete that recording. We are silent because you are from the press,” Mr Yadav told the journalist. However, later, RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was also present during the event, intervened and pacified the journalists who had decided to boycott the event in protest against his son’s misbehaviour. Later, Mr Lalu Yadav summoned the journalist on stage and asked him to delete the video, but he refused. Besides Lalu Yadav and Tej Yadav, Bihar deputy chief minister Tejaswi Yadav was also present at the event. Towards the end of the programme, Lalu Yadav once again called the journalist on stage and asked him and his elder son Tej to shake hands and end the issue.
The new boss
Deputy chief minister of Punjab Sukhbir Singh Badal, whose 54th birthday was on July 9, was greeted by all his Cabinet colleagues and Akali leaders. However, unlike his previous birthdays, this year the mode of greetings for Mr Badal was a little different. Akali leaders decided to wish him though advertisements in newspapers calling him the harbinger of development in Punjab.
Given that Punjab will face Assembly elections in the next six months, the rush to wish Mr Badal through advertisements also seems an act of sycophancy and shift of power centre in the Akali Dal. With all Cabinet colleagues, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, father of Sukhbir, and wife Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal wishing him through advertisements, many believe it’s a subtle message to Akali workers and leaders on who calls the shots in the party now. With elections nearing, no one wants to take any chances and all have been really creative in praising the new boss on his birthday.
CPM's double defeat
The Congress has been on a steady decline in West Bengal for nearly 40 years. The party last came to power in 1972. A Congress government led by Siddhartha Shankar Ray ruled the state till 1977, when the Jyoti Basu-led Left Front defeated the Congress. From then on the party remained the main Opposition till the end of the last century. In 2001, a fledgling Trinamul replaced the Congress as the main Opposition in the state Assembly. In 2006, although Mamata Banerjee’s party was virtually decimated — winning just 30 of the 294 seats — it remained the main Opposition.
In 2011, when the feisty and fearsome Ms Banerjee led an anti-Left coalition to a massive victory, the state Congress was part of the government. However, its joy was shortlived because a year later the Trinamul, which was the second-largest partner in Manmohan Singh-led UPA government, walked out of the ruling coalition. In a tit-for-tat, the Congress high command ordered the state party unit to pull out of the Mamata government in the state.
The state Congress again found itself in a limbo. It was neither in power nor was the main Opposition. The Congress tried for the main Opposition status on the basis of its numerical superiority over the CPM. The Speaker, however, accepted Surjya Kanta Mishra’s argument that the number of legislators of CPM-led Left Front was much higher than that of the Congress. Thus, the Congress was left high and dry, and Mr Mishra remained Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly.
The Congress contested the recent Assembly polls as the B-team of the CPM. However, the poll results stunned not just the Communists, but also the Congress. Despite contesting less than 100 of 294 seats, the Congress won more seats than the Left Front. The Congress got the coveted main Opposition status, replacing the Left Front. The CPM satraps are crestfallen over the double defeat.
Fighting enemy by words, not swords
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar perhaps needs no briefing what to say at a particular place or on an exact occasion. Among contemporary politicians, he appears to have a fair knowledge of the finer and yet distinct dividing line that separates an astute politician who plays with words to put the enemy on the mat from a responsible minister who carefully chooses his words to avoid unnecessary controversy and confrontations. In his recent visit to Orissa to attend the BJP’s Vikas Utsav on the Modi government completing two years at the Centre, Mr Parrikar was quite reticent while addressing some official meetings.
However, when it came to addressing the press conference and party workers, he made no mistake about what his party expected from him, strong condemnation of the attack on two Union ministers — Santosh Gangwar and Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti — allegedly by Biju Janata Dal workers at Bargarh. “General elections are scheduled in 2019. Abhi se unke paon ke neeche ki zameen khisak rahi hai (From now itself, the BJD leaders find the earth beneath their feet have started slipping). That is why they are attacking Union ministers who come here to brief on the success of the Modi government,” Mr Parrikar said both at the press meet and the party workers’ meeting.
Dubbing the attack as a “planned action”, Mr Parrikar challenged the attackers to face him. “It was a planned action. I condemn it. Kisi ko takat hai to mere samne ane do (If anyone has guts, let him come in front of me),” he said in a much louder voice. The crowd cheered in applause. Realising that the mission was accomplished, Mr Parrikar flaunted a victorious general’s walk from the party workers’ meeting venue to his car. The party workers now appeared fully satisfied....