Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi had to bear the brunt of party general secretary Madhusudan Mistry’s poor organisational skills for last month’s party jamboree at Mathura. It was a flop show, with the turnout at the Mathura rally so low that Rahul told his key aides to look for other organisers for his rallies in Uttar Pradesh. A few days ago, when Rahul went for a padayatra in Saharanpur, Mistry was nowhere to be seen. A group of young leaders organised the show.
Cong happy with results
The Congress Party claims to have put up a good show in the Nagar Panchayat elections in the Vidarbha region, bagging 13 out of the 17 seats. Two each went to the Shiv Sena and BJP. The Congress had also registered a victory in the byelection for the Ratlam (ST) Lok Sabha constituency spread over Jhabua, Alirajpur and Ratlam districts in Madhya Pradesh. In Gujarat, the results of the local elections have been mixed. While the BJP succeeded in the urban areas by retaining power in six zila panchayats, in the rural areas, the results have been less favourable.
Eye on polls, Mamata woos all and sundry
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seems to be willing to shake hands with anyone if that ensures her victory in next year’s Assembly elections. Last week, Mamata joined a rally of one Siddiqullah Chowdhury, general secretary of the Bengal unit of the radical Muslim outfit Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind. The meet was supposedly to assuage the feelings of Muslims and “counter” the rise of the BJP.
Speculation in the party is that with the rise of the BJP and the opposition split between the Congress and the Left, Mamata is trying hard to secure her position and even working on an economic agenda.
Soon after that the Trinamool Congress extended support to the BJP on the GST Bill. And recently, TMC MP Derek O’Brien and party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay were spotted in the Central Hall of Parliament having soup pe charcha with Mukul Roy, who was banished from the party by Mamata. The next day, Mukul Roy was seen shaking hands with Derek, a gesture being seen as a possibility of Roy returning to the TMC fold. Once Mamata’s trusted lieutenant, Roy had managed the 2012 Assembly elections for her. Speculation in the party is that with the rise of the BJP and the opposition split between the Congress and the Left, Mamata is trying hard to secure her position and even working on an economic agenda. She is keen on organising a high-decibel “Biswa Banga Sammelan” in Kolkata in January, in which Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Mukesh Ambani, among others, would participate. Mamata is also trying her best to rope in Tata Group CMD Cyrus Mistry or Ratan Tata, former chairman of the group, to come to Kolkata on the occasion, though her Singur past is coming in the way. She has even approached a Bengali ex-diplomat who is a Tata Sons Board member to put in a word to Mistry. The buzz in Bengal political circles is that she needs the “Tata touch” for an image makeover before the Assembly polls.
Who will replace Amarinder?
Who will be Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha now that Captain Amarinder Singh has been made the Pradesh Congress chief of Punjab? The buzz is that Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia are in the fray to replace Singh. Nath is the senior-most member of the Congress in the Lok Sabha and was a serious contender for the post of Leader of the Opposition. Nath is one of the few Congress leaders who has been winning elections for the past several decades and that, too, from the Chhindwara parliamentary constituency of Madhya Pradesh where the Congress does not exist for the past over 30 years. However, he lost the job to Mallikarjun Kharge, a Dalit, and was reported to have been upset. Scindia is currently the chief whip of the party and supposed to be close to Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. Congress leaders can be heard speculating that Scindia, a personal friend of Rahul, may win the race. Meanwhile, Veerappa Moily, who was a contender, lost out because he, like Kharge, belongs to Karnataka.
Ashok Chavan calls meet of dissidents
Despite the Congress victory in the Nagar Panchayat elections in the Vidarbha region, chants of dissent can be heard in the party against Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ashok Chavan, who did not canvass in the elections. He held a meeting a few weeks ago in Nagpur, but most of the top party leaders in Vidarbha, including Mukul Wasnik, Vilas Rao Muttemwar and Naresh Puglia, boycotted it. Aware of the demand for his ouster with complaints piling up against him, Chavan has convened a luncheon meeting of all those leaders who had boycotted him earlier as the central leadership has asked him to patch up with these leaders.
Rajiv forgot Indira’s advice on Bachchan, Scindia
Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had warned her son Rajiv Gandhi against giving a ticket to Amitabh Bachchan and inducting the late Madhavrao Scindia into his Cabinet, if Rajiv ever became the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi’s confidant Makhan Lal Fotedar has said in his book, The Chinar Leaves. However, after Indira’s death, Rajiv forgot his mother’s advice and asked Amitabh to contest from Allahabad and inducted Scindia in his Cabinet. In 1999, when it became known that Dr Manmohan Singh was Sonia Gandhi’s first preference for prime ministership, many leaders in the party were irked. According to Fotedar, Scindia, who had prime ministerial ambitions, used his friend Amar Singh to make Mulayam Singh Yadav change his mind about supporting the Congress-led coalition government.