The Narendra Modi government’s decision to repeal the three controversial farm laws has added an interesting twist to the coming Punjab and Uttar Pradesh polls. Will it help the BJP in Western Uttar Pradesh, for the protesting farmers had seemed to be veering towards the Akhilesh Yadav-Jayant Chaudhary combine? In fact, way back in September when I had met Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow he
had predicted this very move. He had told me that he was certain that the PM would repeal the farm laws on the eve of the state polls (and this was before Lakhimpur Kheri happened). Clearly the SP leader got his opponent’s political strategy right. But he could be right at a great political cost to his own alliance with the RLD. And while this may help the Yogi Adityanath campaign in Uttar Pradesh, will it have an impact in Punjab as well where the BJP is leaderless and lacks a formidable presence?
Unless of course the PM plans to share credit with Captain Amarinder Singh and give his new party some fillip. For everyone knows that the Captain has the BJP’s tacit support.

Dangers of doing business with a comic

The name Pappu has stuck to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, taking away a great deal of his political credibility. While it is the BJP’s IT Cell that appears to have done most of the damage, with the trolls (and even party leaders) referring to the former Congress president as Pappu instead of any other title, it would be interesting to note than this name was not coined by anyone from the BJP or its sympathizers. Instead, anecdotal evidence suggests that the person who first referred to Rahul as a “Pappu” was none other than a current Congress leader, the party’s PCC chief in Punjab and a great favourite of the Gandhi siblings, Navjot Singh Sidhu. In his earlier avatar as a BJP leader it was Sidhu who often referred to Rahul as a “Pappu”. However, former AAP leader Kumar Vishwas too has often been heard referring to Rahul as Pappu and some say it was he who came up with this name for RaGa.
(Incidentally, both Kumar Vishwas and Sidhu have a reputation for stand-up comedy). But it would be interesting to note that while the BJP’s supporters are the ones who have taken maximum advantage of this, coming up with memes showing Rahul as a Pappu-like character, the credit for its coinage may go to a Congress leader. And therein we add another layer to the colossal mystery as to
why Sidhu is such a favourite with both Priyanka and Rahul.

Missing an opportunity

The day the PM announced a rollback of his controversial farm laws, it was seen by the opposition as a moment of triumph. Various opposition leaders rushed to the media with their reactions, with the Congress even tweeting an old sound bite of Rahul Gandhi where he had stated that the Modi government would have to roll back these laws. However, the Congress could have done much more
to grab the optics. The party office wore a deserted look when in fact it could easily have been bustling with Congress workers claiming this as a political win. More to the point, the party’s leader in waiting was not in the country. Rahul Gandhi is expected back in the capital on the 23rd. Perhaps then the Congress rank and file will get more vocal.

Wielding the rod

The Congress recently dropped Ghulam Nabi Azad from its disciplinary action committee and reconstituted the panel with A.K. Antony as its head. While Azad is perhaps being pulled up for being part of the G23 as well as the fact that his supporters have recently organized a revolt in the party’s J&K unit, the choice of Antony seems interesting. While Antony is Sonia Gandhi’s first choice to head all committees, is he the right man for this one? Antony is known for his consensual approach. Congress insiders recall that when Sharad Pawar, P.A. Sangma and Tariq Anwar rebelled against Sonia’s leadership and were being expelled, it was Antony who had suggested that first they should be given a show cause notice. Similarly, when he was defence minister and there was a controversy over
the then Army Chief Gen V.K. Singh’s age, it was Antony who stopped Singh from being sacked. This consensual approach worked well in Sonia’s Congress, but the Gandhi Gen Next is known to be more impatient with indiscipline and in a mood to show dissenters the door instead of wasting time with show cause notices. Therefor the choice of Antony to head the disciplinary committee has not
gone down well with Rahul’s people. And on a lighter note, will Antony’s first case be Ghulam Nabi Azad himself?

Upgrade for Ajay Maken

Perhaps for the first time, Ajay Maken, general secretary in charge of Rajasthan, is feeling that he is at par if not senior to the state Chief Minister. Amidst rumblings of a Cabinet reshuffle in the state this weekend, Maken reached Jaipur. For perhaps the first time, the CM came to the airport to receive him. During his stay, Maken was also given a hotel upgrade as he was shifted from Hotel Clarke to Marriot! Though of course he is still to make Avinash Pandey’s grade, who always stays at Rambagh Palace, but things are looking up for Maken. Maybe now he knows what it feels like to be General Secretary Ajay Maken and not Ajay Babu.