Recently, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath was in the capital at an informal interaction at the women’s press club. He talked at length about the economy, drawing on his own experience as a Commerce Minister in the Manmohan Singh government. “Foreign investors come and tell me that if Indians are not willing to invest in their own country, how can you ask us?” Nath said. According to him, the two most important factors needed to kickstart the economy were banking sector reforms and reviving investor sentiment. “Investment cannot be demanded, it has to be wooed,” he said. Interestingly, when asked why he was still the CM for there were rumours that the BJP was planning to destabilise the MP government much before it did the Congress-JDS coalition in Karnataka, Nath quipped that MP was not Karnataka! But what struck the right note was that he remembered most present right from the days when he was with the Youth Congress to his days as party general secretary. Clearly, no one knows how to charm the media better than a vintage Congress leader, though Nath may not be too happy to be clubbed along with the veterans!

Rivers of Faith

Why did the Modi government push for the Citizenship Amendment Bill, especially given the unrest in the Northeast? In fact, the one reason why the government did not push the bill through during its last tenure was that it did not want to adversely impact the Lok Sabha results in the Northeast. But now that the ballot is in BJP’s favour, the Modi-Shah duo has turned their eye on another target—West Bengal. Some say this entire exercise was done eyeing the Hindu migrant vote in this state. For after UP, the duo has set their sights on West Bengal. No matter what the cost. As a BJP leader commented—for the sake of Hooghly, Brahmaputra and Barak (all three are rivers) are being sacrificed. But what the exponents of the CAB need to realise is that in the end, all three, the Hooghly (which flows in West Bengal), the Brahmaputra (Assam) and the Barak (Manipur) merge in the Bay of Bengal. In the end, there is one common identity that binds. And nothing should amend that.

Winter Diplomacy

NCP leader Praful Patel hosted his annual lunch last week. Given Sharad Pawar’s recent tryst in Maharashtra, the lunch was well attended by the Opposition camp— and some from the NDA as well, for Patel has a network of well-wishers cutting across party lines. However, the dominant conversation was not Maharashtra as much as the CAB. The dominant view was that the courts would strike it down for, as an NCP leader pointed out, the new Chief Justice may be from Nagpur, but that doesn’t mean he is close to the RSS. The JDU leaders were hard-pressed to explain why they had supported the CAB. One of them muttered something about the AGP letting them down. And, of course, Maharashtra did come up, but queries as to whether Ajit Pawar was “encouraged” to make overtures to the BJP by a wily Sharad were met with a dead-pan look. This line of thought is interesting, especially after Devendra Fadnavis’ interview to the media recently where he has stated that Ajit Pawar categorically told him he had Senior Pawar’s approval on the merger. Oh well!

Newton’s Law of Politics

Given the rather obvious angst against CAB in the Northeast, the ongoing house arrest of Kashmiri politicians and the worrisome state of the economy, the Opposition certainly has enough to take on the Modi government with. Certainly, regional leaders like Pawar, Mamata and Kejriwal are doing their bit. But the Congress seems as directionless as ever, still bogged down by its leadership question of “Will he, Won’t he?” In fact, its main strategy as told to me by a senior Congress leader is simple—wait for Newton’s Law of Gravity to apply to the Modi government, that is, what goes up will come down. And when it does, then the Congress, as the main Opposition party, will be all ready to take its place, with or without Rahul as its party chief. Go, figure, for these are the choices before our electorate.

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