The Poonawalla Mystery
What made a hitherto Rahul Gandhi loyalist Shehzad Poonawalla question his elevation as Congress president as a selection instead of an election? Since Shehzad’s brother has married Robert Vadra’s cousin, the Poonawalla brothers have always been considered part of the extended family. Shehzad has often appeared on television channels as a Congress spokesperson. Later, when the Congress media cell made discreet calls asking channels not to invite the brothers as official spokesmen, the duo were often called on debates that revolved around the Vadras. So Shehzad’s speaking out does raise some interesting questions. First—the obvious one—does he have Priyanka Vadra and her husband’s go ahead to take on Rahul Gandhi? Second—and this is a theory that the BJP is espousing—is this a “match-fixing” within the family to pre-empt the BJP’s line of attack? If so, I am not quite sure if it achieves the purpose. And finally, has Shehzad’s attack stymied any plans the Congress had to pitching a “dummy” candidate against Rahul just to give the appearance of a democratic process. Well, there are no clear answers yet, so watch this place.
Now that Rahul Gandhi’s elevation has been decided, speculation is abuzz as to who will be a part of his new team, for that’s going to be one of the most crucial decisions before the new president. Expect to see faces like Milind Deora, Meenakshi Natrajan, Jitendra Singh (Alwar) in the party HQ. The older guard will be represented by Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ashok Gehlot (who seems to have impressed Rahul by his handling of the Gujarat election process) and the ubiquitous Meira Kumar, who fills two slots at one go (a woman and a Dalit). Others who will be a key part of Team Rahul include Sushmita Dev (making the feisty MP the Mahila Congress chief helped revive the staid frontal organisation), Randeep Surjewala, Ajay Maken, Madhusudhan Mistry, Manish Tewari, K. Raju and R.P.N. Singh. The rumour at the party office is that Jairam Ramesh has fallen out of favour, but knowing the enterprising Ramesh, don’t count on it.
Derek: Inside And Outside Parliament
Trinamool Congress leader in the Rajya Sabha, Derek O’Brien’s latest book, Inside Parliament: Views from the Front Row, is already topping the publishing charts a week after its release. In the book, Derek talks about his strategy for countering Modi in 2019 by suggesting that the battle should not be a national contest between a single candidate and Narendra Modi as that will play into the BJP’s hands, but the national election should instead be a sum of the state elections. When speaking to NewsX in an exclusive interview, he denied that Mamata Banerjee had any prime ministerial ambitions, saying that unlike other politicians, she is not interested in the “kursi”. But what if she becomes a consensus candidate for the Opposition—as did another Bengali become the President of India by consensus? Derek simply smiled in answer. Interestingly, he also lashed out at the BJP for delaying the Winter Session of Parliament and suggested that there should be a fixed calendar for Parliament dates and other engagements like state polls can be worked around it. For, as he pointed out, this is the Parliament of India and not a school sports’ day that can be postponed. He has a point there! And being a former advertising man, he knows all too well that a picture helps hammer in the point so he chose the lawns in front of Parliament to give this interview, commenting wryly that by early December, he would usually be sitting Inside Parliament, not outside.