The Congress has made a big issue about the fact that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was missing from the PM’s meeting with industrialists and even from his meeting with economists at Niti Aayog that was attended by Amit Shah, Piyush Goyal and Nitin Gadkari. Interestingly, to quell the comments on social media (the Congress came up with the hashtag #FindingNirmala), Niti Aayog sources did clarify that while Nirmala had got an invite she already had a prior commitment—meeting members from the kisaan morcha and SC/ST unions. One hopes in the midst of all this spin and counter spin, the economy gets its much needed uplift.
TRADING BANTER, CONGRESS STYLE
The Bhopal Literature Festival saw an interesting exchange between Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and Congress leader and author, Jairam Ramesh. The two go way back to the UPA government, where they had an “interesting” equation at Udyog Bhavan, where they shared office space, with Nath as Cabinet Minister and Jairam as his Minister of State. Recalling those days, Ramesh commented that Nath and his team were “super hyper and super intelligent”, so much so that they gave him barely any work to do. Jairam also added that for 38 years Nath was the CM of Chhindwara, and now he is the CM of MP. When Nath took the stage, he carried on with the banter and commented that Ramesh was such a “super intellectual”, which was why they decided to do all the ministry work on their own. The good humour of the banter added to the mood of the evening, which also saw authors like Devdutt Patnaik, Pramod Kapoor, Rasheed Kidwai, Bharti Chaturvedi and Navin Chalwa on the dais. But it was clearly Nath who had the last word amongst all the “intellectuals”.
Will Nitish do another U Turn?
Will he, won’t he? There seems to be more suspense about the Bihar elections (due end of the year) than the Delhi one, for there is a view that the one reason the BJP went ahead with the CAA and the NPR was not so much to win the Delhi vote, as to woo the Bihar and West Bengal voter—two states that have seen a lot of influx from Bangladesh. Two of Nitish Kumar’s key advisors, Pawan Verma and Prashant Kishor have already voiced their apprehensions on both CAA and the NPR, fearing the latter would lead to the NRC; however, two other JDU leaders close to the CM, Lallan Singh and R.P. Singh have voiced their support to both CAA and NPR. The option before the CM is not just about the controversial legislation but a larger decision as to whether he should go with the BJP or not. For if it’s any pointer, staying with the BJP in the Jharkhand polls did not work well for the JDU. Within the other camp, the Congress would welcome Nitish back as would Lalu Yadav, though his son Tejashwi has reservations about doing business with his “paltu chacha” again.