Ashoka University professor, Vinay Sitapati’s book on the Vajpayee-Advani era hits the stands from next week. It’s an interesting take on the Vajpayee-Advani equation, the ups and downs of which are best captured by the book cover. The front of the book shows the two seated together in conversation, while the back cover shows the two looking away from each other in opposite directions. Of course, as the author observes, the BJP is known for its dual power centres—from Shyama Prasada Mookerjee and Deendayal Upadhyay to Vajpayee-Advani to the current Modi-Shah team. But the book has some interesting anecdotes such as when Vajpayee was marginalised by the party in 1991 he was asked by journalist Neena Vyas whether he had been marginalised. His reply: Sometimes corrections happen in the margins. No one knew how to turn a phrase better than Vajpayee.
Postscript to Congress letter politics
Post Bihar, the leadership question is back in focus in the Congress, especially after Tejashwi Yadav’s performance in the state. The dominant feeling being that if the young Yadav could launch an effective campaign on the issue of jobs, even getting the BJP to talk his narrative instead of focusing on the usual Hindu-Muslim talk, then why cannot Rahul do the same? The main reason of course is that Rahul Gandhi needs to focus on his own agenda and come up with a positive narrative as to what the Congress stands for (especially on the economy and governance) instead of simply criticising the PM’s shortcomings. However, this is a message that doesn’t seem to have percolated to Team Rahul. What is interesting in the current churn is that P. Chidambaram has also voiced his concerns about the party’s lack of organisational presence. If you recall, when the G-23 wrote the letter there was some speculation that Chidambaram had a role in drafting it, but his signature was missing when the letter was delivered. Hence I spoke to one of the letter writers and quipped that “it seems that Chidambaram is now out of the closet”. Pat came the reply: “There is so much queerness going around that no one needs to come out anymore!”
Ahmed Patel’s absence from the Congress arena is being felt, as Sonia Gandhi’s political advisor has been hospitalised battling Covid for over a month now. Congress leaders now don’t know whom to speak to for access to the party leadership. While Team Rahul has propped up K.C. Venugopal and others such as Randeep Surjewala and Rajiv Satav, who are known to have Rahul’s ear, the older lot doesn’t find them very accessible and are wondering how to reach Sonia Gandhi with whom they feel a greater connect.