Politics of Absence

Why did both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul boycott the Maharashtra swearing-in ceremony? Clearly, both have reservations about tying up with the hardline Hindutva outfit, Shiv Sena. In Sonia’s case this line of thought is consistent because it was during her watch that the party went in for an obvious pro minority tilt. However, during Rahul’s term as party chief there was a course correction which saw him undertake a fair amount of temple tourism and reiterate his Hindu identity. However, Rahul too chose to skip sharing the stage with Uddhav Thackeray, ostensibly for fear it would cut into his “secular” image. Which makes one wonder if there will be yet another re-launch of Brand Rahul with some new packaging. Of all the Congress Chief Ministers who were invited only Kamal Nath made it to the venue. One reason for this could be that he enjoys a close rapport with NCP chief Sharad Pawar. The NCP also reciprocated by giving him a seat right next to Pawar on the dais. But one wonders why other Congress CMs chose not to attend.

Networking, the old fashioned way

It is not without its irony. The term Khan Market Gang was first coined by the late Arun Jaitley (in a more indulgent note than its current usage) for the group of young MPs who were often seen lunching at Delhi’s Khan Market instead of hanging around Central Hall. (Later this phrase was upgraded by the Prime Minister to the Lutyens Delhi lot to denote a power elite that no longer calls the shots.) But interestingly, Jaitley used to refer to NCP leader Supriya Sule and her friends who were part of the lunch brigade, for Supriya has an enviable cross party network of MPs (and ex MPs) cutting across party lines, from Neeraj Shekhar, Sushmita Dev, Madhu Yaskhi Goud, Manvendra Singh, Nishikant Dubey, Kanimozhi, Harsimrat Badal, Dimple Yadav, Nishikant Dubey and Anurag Thakur. Well, it’s clear where Supriya gets her networking skills from, for if anyone who could bring the Congress and Shiv Sena together, it is her dad Sharad Pawar.

Public Servant, Private Congressman

There has been much speculation when a change in Jyotiraditya Scindia’s Twitter profile came to light, for he dropped the Congress from his CV, choosing to describe himself as just a public servant. Although Scindia has since tweeted his “surprise”, remarking, “Ridiculous commotion over a profile change done over a month ago”, that hasn’t stemmed speculation over his future plans. Especially as Scindia has been vocal in taking on the state government on various issues. His supporters claim that he has the support of 22 MLAs, leading the Kamal Nath camp to retort, is he even able to recognise two of these 22 MLAs by face and name! Well, one wonders if Scindia is serious about his said discontent, or if he is posturing for a Rajya Sabha seat. There is also talk of him floating his own regional party. With Scindia playing it enigmatic, one wonders if this is all talk, or if he will make his move and if he does, if he will end up as an Ajit Pawar or an Akhilesh Yadav!

Prashant Kishor’s Salvo

What is ace political strategist Prashant Kishor up to? His recent tweet taking pot shots at the Congress leadership has raised eyebrows on social media. Kishor tweeted (in Hindi) that no one can beat the current Congress leadership in taking credit for “its political importance and share in government without making any effort to achieve either” (rough translation of original tweet). This is interesting because currently Kishor and his team at IPAC are busy advising the Trinamool Congress shore up its electoral strategy after the Lok Sabha. It is he who came up with the tagline “Didi Ke Bolo” and his first success was the TMC win in the three bypolls last week. Having said this, if you recall, Kishor had earlier advised the Congress during the UP campaign in 2017 Assembly, but his advice to prop Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as the UP face was ignored by the party leadership and the two soon parted ways. And now, Kishor is taking public pot shots at the Congress. All very interesting.

A Political Hot Spot

BJD leader and senior advocate Pinaki Misra’s son Dhanraj’s wedding took place during the weekend of the Maharashtra drama. Since the wedding was in Jaipur, most of the key players involved in the Maharashtra saga were also present there and had to leave midway. Kapil Sibbal and Mukul Rohtagi in fact flew back Sunday morning for their court dates, while Praful Patel flew into Jaipur on Sunday evening right in the middle of the drama, where he was most in demand. Since the guest list was mostly politicians and lawyers, each one had a word of advice for the NCP leader. So Patel left the venue stating that everyone there knew more than even the NCP leaders did as to what to do next!

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