Surprise BJP face for Himachal

The BJP, which seems poised to wrest Himachal Pradesh from the Congress, has also zeroed in on its CM face. According to well-placed sources, it will be neither J.P. Nadda (currently, a Cabinet minister) nor will it be Prem Kumar Dhumal (former Chief Minister). Instead, as it did in Maharashtra and Haryana, the party is planning to promote an RSS pracharak, Ajay Jamwal, who is currently the Zonal Organisational Secretary for the NE State BJP. However, Jamwal played a key role during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, handling the states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. He comes from the Joginder Nagar area, a constituency that is represented by Gulab Singh Thakur, a BJP heavyweight and also Anurag Thakur’s father-in-law. Initially, the party leadership had toyed with replacing Thakur with Jamwal, but the ticket has eventually been given to Thakur—perhaps fearing dissidence from the popular leader if denied a ticket. But the party will go into the election without a CM face, which has been the BJP’s strategy till date (except for Delhi which it lost).

Ties that Never Break

The Doon School Founders’ Day celebrations last week saw Priyanka Gandhi Vadra interacting with the students, for she was attending the event as a parent herself. But what is interesting is the brand recall she still evokes, with many lining up for a selfie with her. She was also asked to judge a debate between the current school boys and the Class of ’92, which was celebrating its silver jubilee. The topic was: “Does this house believe in seniority?” and one of the speakers was Kalikesh Singh Deo, the BJD MP, while another was Raghav Lakhanpal, a BJP MP. Another familiar face from the batch of ’92 was Jitin Prasada, who was also present on the school grounds. However, one of the participants who caught Priyanka Vadra’s interest was named Yash Rajiv Gandhi. When asked, he told her that he was named after his father who was also called “Rajiv Gandhi”, at which she smiled and said, “so was mine.”

Final Relaunch of Brand Rahul?

It looks as if the Not-So-Reluctant-Rahul will be anointed party chief early next month, albeit through a democratic process of holding “elections”. While that’s a no brainer, what will be interesting is the team that he chooses for himself. While some members of Team Rahul have already been deployed to handle various states (such as Madhu Yaskhi for Karnataka, R.P.N. Singh for Jharkhand), he still has undertaken a comprehensive reshuffle of the general secretaries/secretaries, as well as his media team. Will he bring in the likes of Milind Deora, Jitin Prasada, Jairam Ramesh, Jitender Singh, and Shashi Tharoor to the party HQ? What about the old guard, the troika of Ahmed Patel, Janardhan Dwivedi and Motilal Vohra? And will he finally appoint Jyotiraditya Scindia as the Pradesh Congress chief for Madhya Pradesh? And whom will he appoint as the deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha to replace Captain Amarinder Singh? Will he attend the party office or will he continue to operate from his Tughlaq Lane residence, surrounded by laptop-toting professionals? A lot will depend on the message that Rahul Gandhi sends out while appointing his team.

The Importance of Gujarat

All eyes are on the battle for Gujarat, for that will be Rahul Gandhi’s first big test post elevation as party chief. The Congress is hoping that 15 years of anti-incumbency against the BJP at the state level coupled with the Diwali blues brought on by GST and demonetisation might work in its favour. Moreover, Rahul Gandhi has been focusing on the state, leading the campaign from the front. For the BJP, too, the battle is one of prestige, with both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah coming from the state. Although Himachal Pradesh is also going to the polls, it is Gujarat that is being seen as the crucible state to determine the mood of the nation. Of course, a side effect will be, if the Congress wins the state, then that would mean more power to Ashok Gehlot, the newly appointed in-charge for Gujarat elections. For, if the Congress wins, then he can take his share of credit and demand to be made the CM face for Rajasthan next year. Wheels within wheels, as they say.