Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath is apparently having a tough time adjusting to his new role. As a Union minister in Delhi, the nine-term MP from Chhindwara had a streamlined system in place, both at home and in his office. The flow of visitors was kept in check and those who came with personal requests or official work were disposed of swiftly either by his staff or Mr Nath himself. Known for his limited attention span and impatient style of functioning, he was always impossible to pin down.
A high flier, Mr Nath was always jetting around the globe, meeting with world leaders. After he took over as chief minister, the veteran Congress leader has not only been grounded in Bhopal but the corporate-style management of his office has also taken a knocking. His staff is finding it difficult to cope with the rush of visitors which runs invariably into hundreds everyday. Moreover, his age and asthma do not allow Mr Nath to keep up the hectic pace required of him as chief minister. A far cry from his affable and energetic predecessor Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s media department’s insistence on sending its press releases in Hindi has led to a virtual revolt among mediapersons covering the party. Matters got worse when a junior functionary of the department sniped since Hindi is a national language, all Indians should necessarily know the language.
This evoked strong protests, especially from journalists from the southern states, who wanted to know if those who hail from Tamil Nadu or Kerala and are not conversant with the Hindi language, would fail to qualify as Indians. Still others pointed out that as a pan-India party, which is seeking to expand its footprint in south, the BJP should have a more inclusive approach on this matter.
Pushed on the backfoot, the department functionary was forced to apologise when his attention was drawn to the fact that the Indian Constitution’s eighth schedule recognizes 22 languages and that English serves as a link language between the heartland and the rest of the country.
Demeaning an ancient and rich language like Tamil, he was told, would end up hurting the BJP. Even as this controversy was in full flow on the BJP’s media WhatsApp group, the media department bosses chose to maintain a studied silence on the issue.
Odisha is among the states which have been identified by the Bharatiya Janata Party where it has potential to grow. Consequently, the saffron party has been making strenuous efforts to expand and strengthen its organisation in the state, which has been dominated by the Biju Janata Dal for almost two decades now and whose leader, Naveen Patnaik, has not lost his sheen despite his long stint in office.
In its zeal to take on Mr Patnaik, the BJP has been promoting Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan as its chief ministerial face. But party leaders point out that Mr Pradhan’s projection is unlikely to help the BJP and that, instead, it should have a prominent tribal face given the fact that Odisha has a substantial tribal population.
But in its wisdom, the BJP has chosen to marginalise its tribal leader Jual Oram who has the potential of consolidating the scheduled tribe vote in favour of the party in his home state. As a result, Mr Patnaik could prove unbeatable in the coming elections. The Assembly elections in Odisha will be conducted along with the Lok Sabha polls in April.
There are many Bharatiya Janata Party leaders who are secretly quite happy with the party’s defeat in the recent Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh Assembly polls. This is because it has resulted in a sea-change in the attitude of BJP president Amit Shah.
Unlike in the past, Mr Shah has become more amiable and approachable. For instance, BJP insiders point out that Mr Shah has started reaching out to other senior leaders like Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari and Arun Jaitley and involving them in party affairs, which was not the case earlier.
In another change, Mr Shah has also begun paying social calls on his senior colleagues at their homes. In the past, they had to line up at Mr Shah’s residence if he needed to meet with them. Reputed to be a tough disciplinarian and a hard taskmaster, there are any number of stories in the BJP about how Mr Shah pulls up party members in public and even dismisses them brusquely. Mr Shah has grown in stature over the past four years, primarily due to his proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and also because he has delivered a string of electoral victories for his party. That has changed now.