NEW SEATING ORDER
Note the new seating order at the Congress Working Committee. Initially, Sonia Gandhi used to sit in the middle of the rectangular table at 10 Janpath, with Dr Manmohan Singh by her side. But during the last meeting of the CWC held in June saw Sonia Gandhi take the head of the table, with Dr Singh on her left and Dr Karan Singh by her right. Congress leaders are wondering what to make of this.
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE...
Why is the Congress delaying announcing Kamal Nath’s name for the job of Madhya Pradesh state unit chief? It’s clear that he is best placed among the state leadership to take on Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Sources say that both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have finally taken a decision to send him to MP. Yet they are dragging their feet at the last step—which is to formally announce his name. Though considering that the Congress is yet to announce Rahul’s elevation at party president, maybe this is not such a big deal. Makes you wonder whether the Congress has learnt any lessons after the drubbings in 2014 Lok Sabha and the recent Uttar Pradesh polls.
The last date for nominations for the President of India is 28 June, but the government is expected to announce its candidature any time this week. According to sources, the candidate will be from the BJP itself and an outsider like Amitabh Bachchan or Lata Mangeshkar. Four names seem to have been shortlisted—Sumitra Mahajan, Sushma Swaraj, Thawarchand Gehlot and Draupadi Murmu. Of these, the RSS is pushing for Swaraj but Modi-Shah are not quite sure if they can trust the former Advani loyalist completely. Sources in the party also talk of a fallout between the PM and the Speaker over the way she has been conducting the Lok Sabha. This leaves the other two non-controversial names, but not political heavyweights. And since the PM is not used to making simply symbolic announcements, no one is ruling out a last minute surprise. Sources say that Shah has also got his war room ready, deputing his strategists like Dharmendra Pradhan and Piyush Goyal to round up the numbers once the name is announced.
WHY SHARAD YADAV?
The Opposition is waiting for the Prime Minister to announce the government’s candidate before it reveals its cards. Sources say that in case the government announces an “acceptable” name, then they would not like to oppose it (the precedent being when the Vajpayee government announced Abdul Kalam’s name and caught the Congress by surprise). But some names have been shortlisted by the Opposition. The Congress wants Meira Kumar, but Mamata Banerjee is not too keen to promote a woman as President in case it eats into her own chances of being the Opposition’s PM face, so she has suggested Gopal Krishna Gandhi. And then there is Sharad Yadav, whose name has been suggested merely to keep the JD(U) in the Opposition camp.
DEMOCRACY BY TWITTER
With the Opposition running out of tall leaders to take on Prime Minister Modi, there is a suggestion on Twitter that perhaps it should rope in Arun Shourie to lead the Opposition. The former editor has been the face of pointed attacks against the Modi government of late. Clearly, this was a suggestion in jest, more aimed at the Opposition for its lack of leadership, but the reaction it’s getting from the trolls, makes you wonder if they consider Shourie a serious challenge.