CHARCHE PE CHARCHA
Last week, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley did two briefings on two consecutive days, both of which were, coincidentally, at 4 pm. Soon journalists were calling it “chaar pe charcha” (briefings at 4 pm). Incidentally, that week, even Dr Murli Manohar Joshi threw a chaat party for journalists. When asked if he was doing a “chaat pe charcha”, he laughed and said, “that’s a dangerous one”. But the veteran BJP leader was in his elements. When another journalist asked if he was serving any meetha (sweet) to celebrate the announcement of the Gujarat election dates, the shrewd politician gave an enigmatic answer, saying, “Well, I am serving chaat, which is both khatta and meetha (sweet and sour).”
There’s a buzz in the Congress that the party scion is suddenly getting the best press he has ever got since the Narendra Modi government has come to power. However, party leaders are quick to realise that it’s not so much positive press for Rahul per se, but a shift in public mood against the BJP government post GST and demonetisation. But realising how fickle the public can be, the strategy for now is to “manage expectations”. For instance, no Congress leader is claiming an outright victory in Gujarat. Instead, they are setting the bar a bit lower and simply talking about decreasing the BJP’s victory margin and ensuring Amit Shah’s Mission 150 is defeated. That way, even if the BJP retains the state, but the Congress is able to bring down its number of MLAs from the current 116, the party will be claiming a “win”.
IN OR OUT?
Is the NCP part of the Opposition or not? Ever since Ahmed Patel’s Rajya Sabha election, when the NCP claimed it voted for the Congress leader—although the Congress claims that the NCP voted for the BJP candidate—relations between the two parties have been strained. Recently, when the Opposition leaders met to decide strategy to take on the government on the first anniversary of demonetisation, the NCP was missing from the meet. According to a senior NCP leader, they had not been “invited”. What is also interesting is that recently senior NCP leader Praful Patel dismissed Rahul Gandhi’s soft Hindtuva pitch in Gujarat as “temple tourism”. If the Congress is looking to forge an anti-BJP front in Gujarat, it should perhaps count the NCP out.