Just Desserts in the Desert State?

Sachin Pilot’s recent meeting with C.P. Joshi has sparked off a series of speculation in Rajasthan. Although Pilot went to call on his neighbour in Jaipur in an attempt to pacify him after Joshi had a very public row with the state’s parliamentary affairs minister, Shanti Dhariwal. The row took place on the floor of the state Assembly after Dhariwal refused to heed the Speaker C.P. Joshi’s instructions and carried on defying him. An angry Joshi then adjourned the Assembly proceedings indefinitely and asked the ruling party (of which he is a part) to choose another Speaker. While Pilot probably called on him to soothe some ruffled feathers (or not!), the visit did set off an interesting line of thought. According to a party source, in keeping with the current game of musical chairs, the Congress high command is considering replacing a defiant Ashok Gehlot with Joshi and making Pilot the PCC chief again, as well as the face of the next Assembly polls campaign. According to this formula, Gehlot would be shifted to Delhi as a party general secretary. One should also keep in mind the hour long meeting that Sachin Pilot had with Rahul Gandhi a week ago in Delhi, followed by another round where Priyanka was also present. Clearly something is abuzz in the desert state.

Prashant Kishor Is in the Building

Although he is yet to formally join the Congress and be allotted a formal role, it is clear that the recent Punjab Chief Ministerial changeover had Prashant Kishor’s stamp. According to party sources it was a survey conducted by Kishor sometime in August that claimed that the Congress could not hope for an outright majority under the leadership of Captain Amarinder Singh. That is when the wheels of change were set in motion, the first step being to secure the signatures of over 60 MLAs asking for a change of guard. That way even if he wanted, the Captain could not recommend dissolution of the Assembly, for the Congress high command would have produced those letters and pushed for a trust vote. Second, the call for a CLP meeting was given late at night, catching the Captain off-guard. Again, in choosing the new CM, a Dalit Sikh, the Congress has stumped the BJP’s campaign for a Dalit Chief Minister and also countered the SAD’s tie up with the BSP. With Navjot Singh Sidhu as the CM face in waiting, they are also appealing to the Jat Sikh voter. On paper, the Congress may have checked all the boxes, what remains is the performance on the ground.

The Power of Three

Will Kanhaiya Kumar join the Congress? For now the youth leader is denying it but he did have that meeting with Rahul Gandhi recently, followed by another one with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. In fact, along with Kanhaiya, another youth leader, Jignesh Mevani is also tipped to join the Congress. The duo, along with Hardik Patel could take the Congress politics towards a sharp left turn—this, incidentally,would be in keeping with Rahul Gandhi’s own left of centre, NGO brand of politics. So if this—along with Prashant Kishor—is the New Congress, what about the old guard? Post Punjab, the G-23 is lying low, for the one message that has come from the events there is that the HIGH COMMAND is back in charge. However, one troika is firming up—that of Kamal Nath, Ambika Soni and Veerappa Moily. The three could emerge as the link between the old Congress and the new one.

Sidhu’s Self Goal

Has Sidhu scored a self goal by backing the candidature of a Dalit Chief Minister in Punjab over other more ambitious aspirants? Although Harish Rawat has stated that the Congress would go in for the elections under both Sidhu and Channi leadership; the question is, should the Congress manage to retain the state, will the leadership remove a Dalit leader to accommodate Sidhu’s aspirations? Will Captain have the last laugh on this one, for it was his protege Manpreet Badal who is said to have suggested Charanjit Singh Channi’s name for Chief Ministership after Sidhu reportedly rejected the name of Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa. The speculation is that though Bajwa is a Sidhu confidant, the latter was worried he may have independent aspirations. Well, in politics, who doesn’t?

Unfinished Agendas

In the capital, Anurag Thakur is clearly a rising star on the Modi-Shah horizon. The recent ministerial reshuffle earned him an enviable upgrade, and he has also retained links with his earlier turf, the BCCI, since Anurag’s brother Arun Dhumal is the treasurer. However, his heart is still in Himachal Pradesh. Talk to him and he will speak of Hamirpur, his constituency in Himachal, and is also ready to support any project that will help his state. If you recall, in the last state election, Anurag’s father Prem Kumar Dhumal was all set to become Chief Minister (again) in the 2017 elections, when the BJP swept the state. However, he lost his own seat and with it, the CM’s chair. Is his father’s old chairpart of young Anurag’s unfinished agenda?

Of Power and Patronage

During his first term as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi built his own team consigning the Vajpayee-Advani era leaders to the Margdarshak Mandal; now it seems as if Amit Shah has begun grooming his GenNext. Leaders such as Bhupender Yadav, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Anurag Thakur, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Dharmendra Pradhan and Piyush Goyal are some of the leaders who are part of his key team.  This also includes Madhya Pradesh MP Rakesh Singh, who had resigned as state chief after the last Assembly polls. But Shah’s recent visit to Jabalpur where he singled out Singh for praise set off speculation that there may be a change of guard in the state as well. Such is the power of Shah’s patronage. Of course in the larger scheme of things both Modi and Shah are one, but unlike the Congress, there is a grooming process in place, a tradition that was ironically put in place by party patriarch, L.K. Advani.

Uncertain Times 

Will Shivraj Singh Chouhan be the next BJP CM to face the axe? Certainly that seems to be the buzz, so much so that his recent visit to the national capital sparked off speculation that he would soon be given his marching orders. The CM too seems to be affected by all this and sources claim that he is consulting astrologers who have been dispensing all kinds of solutions. One advice is that he should plant trees every Wednesday, while another has advised him to seek the blessings of eunuchs. Well, atleast planting trees has its environmental benefits though the jury is still out on its astrological spin-offs. Clearly, these are uncertain times, in both the BJP and the Congress.