Kamal Nath the next Ahmed Patel?
With Kamal Nath working the wires to bring about a meeting between the letter writers from G23 and the Congress leadership, there is a perception that he could fill the vacuum left behind by the late Ahmed Patel. He has been in the Congress since the Indira-Sanjay Gandhi days and has a good equation with almost all factions within the party. Certainly during the current crisis it was Nath who reached out to the Congress leaders; some say within the Gandhi family he reached out to Priyanka and suggested a meeting. At first a virtual meeting was suggested but this was turned down by the letter writers as they wanted a face to face interaction. And so the invitees were asked to come to Delhi, with a Covid test in hand. They all had a series of meetings with Kamal Nath, after which a date was fixed with the Gandhis. Rahul, who has shifted to 10 Janpath to be with his mother during the pandemic, was wary of exposing his mother to visitors, but he too finally agreed.
Both politics and finance
Rahul Gandhi is not just concerned about being given a free hand in running the party (something which always had him at odds with the late Ahmed Patel), but is also said to be sceptical about the way the party’s revenues are handled. According to sources, he is keen that the finances raised in the name of the party should find their way to the party’s coffers and not be used by individuals for their own political, or other, ends. He does have a point, for Congress chieftains are realising that with a weak or disinterested central leadership they will have to make their own “arrangements” as is what happened in the Maharashtra elections recently when the MLA candidates were told to figure out their own finances with little support from the centre.
Media and the Gandhis
Sanjay Jha’s latest book, The Great Unravelling, India After 2014, makes an interesting distinction between the Gandhi siblings and their attitude to the media. While he claims that Rahul Gandhi had a disdain for mainstream media, especially the 9-o-clock debates, his sister realised the importance of prime time TV and watches these keenly, often calling with a feedback. In an era of “Godi-Media” where most debates do end up being slanted towards the ruling party, perhaps Rahul is right in being sceptical. But his problem is that he tars the entire media with the same brush and ends up antagonising even those who are not jumping into the BJP’s lap.
BJP and the Sikh Vote
After the way the Narendra Modi government has handled the farmers’ protest, it’s going to have a tough time at the hustings in Punjab in 2022. Apart from which, it has also parted ways with its ally the SAD. Speaking to NewsX recently, Harsimrat Badal pointed out that the BJP never had the Sikh vote, even during 2014 and 2019 at a time when Narendra Modi’s popularity was at an all time high. She also warned that the government would try and discredit the movement by calling them Khalistanis and Urban Naxals (two accusations the BJP happily dishes out to anyone who opposes it. In fact this had Vir Sanghvi quipping that perhaps the BJP will refer to the Sikhs soon as Turban Naxals!). Realising that the Modi government is not doing very well in assuaging the Sikhs about its intentions, the BJP is now fielding its one Sikh face with some credibility to the media and so we are seeing Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri reaching out to the farmers through media interviews.