PK’s Congress Tie-Up Paused

Have negotiations between Prashant Kishor and the Congress fallen through? It would seem so according to a source familiar with the developments. Apparently, the break point was the role that Prashant would play—while he wanted a large say in the organisational revamp, the Gandhi siblings (especially Rahul) were not willing to cede ground. In fact, the source reiterated that contrary to speculation, Prashant had nothing to do with what’s happening in the Punjab Congress. There had been some speculation that Captain’s removal was done at Prashant’s insistence. The first sign of the break-up came when IPAC (Prashant’s team) recruited ex Goa Chief Minister and Congress leader Luizinho Faleiro, who joined the TMC recently. At the press conference, Faleiro stated that his joining was engineered by PK (as Prashant Kishor is known) and that he was yet to meet Mamata Banerjee. However, the source also squelched all reports that PK was all set to join the Rajya Sabha on a TMC ticket. For now, it seems that PK will limit his role to rebuilding the opposition, minus the Congress, with a special focus on the TMC, NCP, DMK and the YSRCP.

 

Congress Sticks to the Left

Much is being made of Kanhaiya Kumar’s entry into the Congress, that the JNU student leader would take the Congress towards a sharp left turn. However, the left is where Rahul Gandhi’s politics have always been. Even during the UPA days there was talk of Manmohan’s reforms vs Sonia’s socialist schemes. And any pro poor subsidy was given Rahul Gandhi’s branding, from MNREGA to farmers’ loan waiver. Those who have met Rahul Gandhi claim that he often quotes how Indira Gandhi shot to power with her Garibi Hatao slogan. Perhaps he feels this line of thought would work the same miracle for him as well. But will it have the same impact in a post liberalised India? Team Rahul points to how even the Prime Minister donned a socialist garb after Rahul’s suit-boot jibe. Be that as it may this still doesn’t explain the import from JNU and Left parties that is flooding the Congress. While the headlines have been on Kanhaiya Kumar and Jignesh Mevani, don’t forget the influence Sitaram Yechury has on the Gandhis.

 

What Next for the Captain?

Captain Amarinder Singh may have made it clear that he is not joining the BJP, but there is little denying that his new outfit will have the BJP’s tacit support. Even before the break-up with the Congress, the Captain always saw the Aam Admi Party rather than the BJP as his main opponent in the state. One of the reasons why Rahul Gandhi was miffed with the Captain was that he would not attack the PM directly. While the Captain may not be able to topple the current Congress government in the state, it is during ticket distribution that he will be able to draw disgruntled Congress leaders to his platform. Post polls he could also do a tie up with the Akalis. Plus, there is speculation that the PM may also propose Captain’s name for Rashtrapati Bhavan once President Kovid’s term ends mid-2022. So don’t write off the old warhorse just yet.

 

Who is the Real Super CM?

Poor Navjot Singh Sidhu thought that he would emerge as the Chief Minister once Captain Amarinder Singh had been ousted. When this did not happen, he fancied himself as a “Super CM”, who would be calling the shots from behind the throne. To send the right optics he was seen placing his hand patronisingly on Charanjit Singh Channi’s shoulder during the swearing in photo ops. But it is not he but Manpreet Singh Badal who seems to have a greater say in the current set up. Don’t forget it was Manpreet Badal who first suggested Channi’s name as the CM face after Sidhu had left the meeting in a huff. And if you browse through social media, you will see enough pictures of various ministers calling on Manpreet Badal post the swearing in, including some with the CM himself. Unlike Sidhu, Manpreet did not have to choreograph the optics. Clearly, the unassuming finance minister is adept not just at maths but political algebra as well.

 

Uttar Pradesh Poll Bugle

The mood is certainly upbeat at the Samajwadi Party office in Lucknow as Akhlesh Yadav emerges as the main opposition to the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. While there has been some criticism that Akhilesh is yet to kick off his campaign, he puts this down to the work of the BJP IT cell. To some extent he is right because recently Lucknow was awash with a rumour that the SP chief was too busy playing video games to focus on electioneering. However, if you look closely then the rumour was started on social media by BJP leaders tweeting an almost identically phrased tweet on the same day! Regardless, he is set to begin his yatras soon and claims that this time the SP is much better poised than it was in 2017. Last time the party’s campaign started late because of the tussle for power between father and son. Second, the SP “wasted” over 100 seats by giving these to the Congress and third, the minority vote went mostly to the BSP. “This time the minority knows that the BSP is hand in glove with the BJP,” says an SP leader. Already sensing this there is an exodus of BSP leaders towards the SP, with ex BSP leader Lalji Verma and Ramachal Rajbhar tipped to join the SP. Add to this the farmers’ agitation in western Uttar Pradesh that will work against the BJP. But what about the SP-RLD tie up—will the Muslims and Jats vote together? They may if the common goal is to defeat the BJP, comes the answer. Well the poll bugle has just been sounded.