The Congress withdrew its “candidate” Ramanjit Singh Sikki for the Assembly byelection in Khadoor Sahib in Punjab, for fear of losing the contest, just months ahead of the Assembly elections in the state. The 13 February byelection was necessitated by Sikki’s resignation in November last year in protest against the Akali Dal government over the alleged incidents of sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib. However, when Shakeel Ahmad, Congress general secretary in-charge of Punjab, announced Sikki’s candidature again on Tuesday, he was in for a shock. Overruling the decision taken by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Captain Amarinder Singh announced in Punjab the next day that the party would not contest the bypolls in Khadoor Sahib. Few people know that when the Captain took charge as PCC chief, he had “extracted” a promise from Sonia Gandhi that he should be given a free hand in the state.

Bharat Ratna for Lajpat Rai?
The buzz is that ahead of the Assembly elections in Punjab, the Narendra Modi government plans to announce Bharat Ratna for freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai, also known as “Punjab’s Kesari”, and declare a public holiday on Rai’s 150th birth anniversary. The Badal government has already announced a public holiday on his birth anniversary.

Rahul upset with Pradeep Jain
Pradeep Jain, Congress’ former MP from Jhansi, may not get a ticket in the 2019 Parliamentary elections as Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is upset with him. When Rahul visited the Mahoba district of Bundelkhand region in Uttar Pradesh to canvass for Jain in 2009, he promised a school for girls in the district and even to rebuild the house of a poor farmer in Bedora village. Jain was elected with a thumping majority and even became a minister in the Manmohan Singh government, but did nothing on that front. When after seven years, Rahul visited the district recently, he faced opposition from the people for not fulfilling his promise and was asked not to return.

Ministers seek divine intervention
Strong rumours of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle have made some ministers seek divine intervention, fearing that they may lose their jobs.

The buzz is that Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh has gone for a Vaastu renovation of his house and office. Steel and Mines Minister Narendra Singh Tomar recently organised a “Ram Sandhya” at his residence, and did a puja of Ram idols made of brass. It remains to be seen whether their prayers would be answered.

Smriti wants to be CM
Minister for Human Resource Development Smriti Irani is reported to be nursing the ambition of becoming the Chief Minister of some BJP-ruled state. When she contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election against Rahul Gandhi from Amethi, she had set her heart on Uttar Pradesh. Though she lost to Rahul, she refused to give up. Now that Assembly polls are due in UP next year, she has started frequenting the state more often. She has also got a house in the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency. However, questions are being asked whether the party would project the MP from Gujarat and whether Irani would be able to face the “might” of Congress’s Priyanka. Meanwhile, the buzz is that the BJP is all set to pick an OBC as the state president of the party.

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