The Congress is still trying to learn the rules of engagement with the Samajwadi Party. At the time of writing this piece, the Congress-SP alliance had hit uncertainty, with the SP playing hardball. Several conspiracy theories have been floated, including one about alleged CBI pressure on Ram Gopal Yadav, Akhilesh’s favourite uncle, who also finds mention in the disproportionate assets case. It might be interesting to point out that it was Ram Gopal who called off the Bihar Grand Alliance.

But there was shell shocked silence at the Congress HQ on Friday evening as news of the alliance being in trouble trickled in. More so as there was silence from the Congress leadership as the SP went ahead and announced one list of candidates after the other. Since the entire negotiations were being done by Priyanka Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Ghulam Nabi Azad, no one knew what was happening. The first indication that the Congress had of trouble was when SP leader Kiranmoy Nanda held a press conference announcing the SP’s first list, including seats in the sacred Congress bastions of Rae Bareli and Amethi. The problem is that a key Mulayam aide, Gayatri Prajapati is from Amethi and both the SP and the Congress want the seat. So much for the Mahagathbandan. Congress sources say that once Akhilesh won the war against his dad and got the party symbol, he changed his stand and upped his bargaining power with the Congress.


There was some buzz in Goa that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar could return as Chief Minister if the BJP wins the elections. But sources within the BJP rule this out saying that the buzz was started when Nitin Gadkari, while campaigning in Goa, claimed that a Central minister could become the CM. This was apparently a strategy to send a signal to the Catholic voter, with whom Parrikar enjoys a rapport of trust. But sending Parrikar back to his home state (where his heart lies) would mean a major Cabinet reshuffle and that may not be something the Prime Minister is keen to undertake right now.


Former Haryana CM Bhupender Hooda and his son Deepender’s Lohri lunch in the capital was a well attended affair, with many Congress leaders taking a break to eat some delicious makki ki roti and saag. The high table had Ahmad Patel, Rajeev Shukla, Salman Khurshid, Anand Sharma, R.P.N. Singh, Jitin Prasada and Pramod Tewari. The centre of attraction was Kapil Sibal, who took time off from arguing Akhilesh’s case for the SP symbol and dropped in between arguments. It is of course ironic that despite a Congressman saving the day for Akhilesh in the Election Commission, he went ahead and gave the Congress sleepless nights over the alliance.


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