Sushil Modi getting a Rajya Sabha seat has once again sparked off speculation of a Cabinet reshuffle and his possible induction into the Council of Ministers. While some see him as replacing Nirmala Sitharaman as the next Finance Minister, I doubt this. For one, Sushil Modi doesn’t quite enjoy the Prime Minister’s trust, the way Nirmala does. Second, from all accounts it is doubtful that the PM would be shifting the FM, for those who know him state that all the media reports against the FM will make Modi only dig in his heels and stick to his choice. Others who could be inducted include Devendra Fadnavis and Jyotiraditya Scindia. The latter has managed to deliver 9 of the 16 seats that went for bypolls from the Gwalior-Chambal region. Four others who had defected to the Congress along with him also retained their seats. In other words, 13 of the 19 Congress defectors have made a comeback. Hence will the PM temper his criticism about dynasts and induct Scindia? That is the big question. Then there is the curious case of Himanta Biswa Sarma, who has announced that he will not be contesting the Assembly polls slated for next year, though he will work to ensure the party’s win. The latter commitment is important because Sarma’s on ground presence is essential for a BJP win. Will the BJP bring him to the Centre? For it has been made clear that the party plans to continue with Sarbananda Sonowal as Chief Minister. Where does that leave Himanta, who has arguably delivered much more for the BJP than the newest Scindia on the block? Watch this space for more on this.
Who will be Rahul’s Ahmed?
Ahmed Patel’s demise has certainly left a deep void in the party at a crucial moment of churn. Despite the reported differences between Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi’s political advisor, it is also clear that the one person who could have overseen a smooth handover from Sonia to Rahul was Ahmad Patel. That apart, Rahul too needs a trouble shooter cum political advisor, someone he can trust as implicitly as Sonia trusted Patel. From his current team, K.C. Venugopal, Rajeev Satav and Randeep Surjewala are emerging as key players. According to some, Venugopal had earlier been sounded out as Rahul’s choice as a proxy for party chief, but he is not keen on the job. Will Rahul now prop up Surjewala, for the latter has proved his loyalty to the Family on more than one occasion? Certainly he relies on this trio for his trouble-shooting. Plus there is another advisor behind the scenes working from Tughlaq Road—Nikhil Alva, who clearly is a key advisor. The low profile Alva avoids the political dais but he is visible on social media where he is often seen taking on media reports that are critical of the Congress. Whether Rahul takes over as party chief himself or appoints a proxy, expect these four to play a crucial role in the Congress under him.
RIP to an era
Image guru Dilip Cherian summed up the political discourse of the future very eloquently in his tweet when he condoled Ahmed Patel’s sad demise and stated: “Now we have a new silent polity. No hints from Arun Jaitly, no taunts from Amar Singh & no whispers from Ahmed Patel.” As someone familiar with how narratives are shaped in political corridors, he makes a good point. More often than not, the origins of a particularly masala story or an interesting twist in the tale could be traced to Jaitley’s durbar; while Amar Singh’s media interactions were more in the nature of a headline grabbing, sometimes off-colour taunt. And Ahmed Patel’s power was that he never had to raise his voice beyond a whisper to make himself heard. The final word on any story within the Congress or even the UPA came from the reporter who would end his briefing with “I spoke to Ahmed Bhai”. Chinese whispers never had a more powerful power play than this. RIP to an era that had its moments—all three of them.