Who will be next President?
A lot of names are doing the rounds for President Pranab Mukherjee’s replacement. After the UP win, the NDA has enough numbers in its kitty to swing the election towards a candidate of its choice. The choice is between promoting a politician or a “person with a message”. The problem with a political appointee, point out BJP insiders, is that if the Prime Minister appoints someone from the BJP’s second rung, then L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi will feel slighted. It may make more sense to go for a symbolic face and then appoint a politician as Vice President. The names doing the rounds include Draupadi Murmu, the Governor of Jharkhand, who is also a tribal. Her appointment as Governor had also come as a surprise. She has been a Minister of State with Independent charge in Naveen Patnaik’s government and her elevation could send a message to the tribal vote bank. The other name of course is that of Thawar Chand Gehlot, Minister of Social Justice & Empowerment. He belongs to the Schedule Caste and could be seen as a move to appease that vote bank. But post the UP win, another factor has emerged: the PM is clearly changing the rules of engagement and is no longer playing by the old rules of appeasement. So, knowing Narendra Modi, one thing is clear—none of the names that are doing the rounds may make it to the Rashtrapati Bhawan, and these include names like Amitabh Bachchan and N.R. Narayana Murthy.
Status quo in Congress
Although the Election Commission has given the Congress a breather and increased its deadline to hold elections by the end of the year—it was originally scheduled for end June —the party is still to take a call on the timing. One section feels it’s better to wait, especially since Rahul Gandhi’s leadership credentials are at an all time low; while another section feels that nothing will be gained by delay. Leaders such as Digvijaya Singh, Kamal Nath and Manishankar Aiyar have already stated this on record in various interviews. They feel that once Rahul is in the President’s chair, there will be one command centre and he will be free to bring in whatever changes he wants. All this is very well, but what does the Vice President have to say about all this? What are these dramatic “changes” that he will bring in that he cannot now? No answers to these questions. Oh well!
Unquiet flows the Teesta
During Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit, the back channels have been working overtime to implement the Teesta Water Sharing Agreement between the two countries. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee continues to be adamant—ahead of the Bangladesh PM’s visit, Mamata made a statement on 6 April, that “the Teesta river was running dry and there would be a water crisis during peak summer”. Clearly, not the signal the PMO was looking for. Sources say that even Rashtrapati Bhawan had been asked to try and work out a solution, since the President is from the same state as Mamata Banerjee. One does not quite know if there was any outreach by Mukherjee to his old colleague Mamata. But on the eve of Hasina’s visit, the signals from Kolkata were tempestuous.