Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will go to London for a 10-day vacation after his visit to the United States gets over. Sources claim that he will be back in India by 5 October. Coming “soon after” his two-month-long mysterious sabbatical, his sudden vanishing act has left the Congress bewildered. Party leaders are wondering about the fate of certain programmes he was supposed to finalise, including a countrywide agitation for drought-hit sugarcane farmers. Rahul was also supposed to go on a padyatra to Karnataka’s cotton-growing belts.

Rahul ‘turns’ Hindu

Rahul Gandhi first invoked “Dharitri Maa” as the “second mother” of farmers at a kisan rally in Delhi and the next day visited the Banke Bihari temple in Mathura. This is being seen as the Congress adopting a policy of “soft Hindutva” to woo Hindus, in line with A.K. Antony’s advice to the party to shed its pro-Muslim image. This seems to be similar to the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi adopting the “soft Hindutva” line in 1989 by starting his campaign from Ayodhya where he talked about establishing a Ram Rajya. But he lost the 1989 elections, as he did not get any support from either upper caste Hindus or the OBCs, who sided with V.P. Singh’s Mandal forces. He lost the Muslims too as they were upset with his soft Hindutva.

Thin crowd angered Rahul

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was forced to cancel his Bihar tour following his thinly attended rally in Champaran last week. It seems, out of an estimated 4,000 in attendance, 3,000 were policemen in civil dress. Sources claim that an angry Rahul gave a dressing down to Bihar PCC chief Ashok Choudhary and AICC general secretary in charge of the state, C.P. Joshi for failing to mobilise more people. The absence of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav at the rally venue added to Rahul’s anger.

‘Congress tickets given under direction from Lalu, Nitish’

Nikhil Kumar, the head of the Congress’ selection committee for Bihar candidates, was not consulted before the final list was declared on Wednesday. Apparently, he was not informed who the Congress candidate would be from his home turf Aurangabad. Even Meira Kumar could not get any tickets for her supporters. In Kishanganj Assembly seat, a rival of Maulana Asrarul Haq, the lone Congress MP from Bihar, got a ticket. The Assembly seat is part of Haq’s Kishanganj Lok Sabha seat. Shakeel Ahmad is the only Delhi politician who got two seats for his supporters, Bhawana Jha from Benipatti and Amit Kumar Tunna from Riga. Tunna, incidentally, belongs to Jharkhand. An angry Kumar has written to Sonia Gandhi accusing Bihar PCC chief Ashok Choudhary and AICC general secretary in charge of Bihar, C.P. Joshi of taking directions from Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar while deciding on tickets. Senior Congress leaders from Bihar are camping in New Delhi protesting the party’s decision.

Pink turbans dominate kisan rally

Pink-turbaned supporters of former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda clearly dominated the Congress’ kisan rally at the Ramlila Ground last week. This was because Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ajay Maken, the organiser of the rally, failed to mobilise party workers wearing Tricolour caps. He had specially got Tricolour caps made for the party’s Delhi workers, but most anti-Maken factions chose to stay away from the rally.



Mamata on a high

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee seems to have consolidated her Muslim vote bank and struck an emotional chord with Bengalis in general with two of her recent moves. While her refusal to ban cow slaughter has reassured the minorities, the declassification of the 64 files on Subhas Chandra Bose, an emotional issue for Bengalis, has put pressure on the Centre to declassify the files in its possession.

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