It’s interesting to see Priyanka Gandhi Vadra taking the lead in showing solidarity with the students protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Her decision to sit for a two-hour silent protest at India Gate was a spontaneous one and took most of the party leadership by surprise as they all tried to hotfoot it there. The feisty Sushmita Dev was at her side with her Mahila Congress contingent as was Rahul Gandhi’s favourite general secretary, K.C. Venugopal. But interestingly, very few other faces from the younger lot were seen. Instead, it was mostly the “old guard” that was flanking her—Ambika Soni, A.K. Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel to name a few. Priyanka’s comments that she came there “because I am a mother too” struck a chord with most of the students and the parents present there. For this is the same sentiment that was echoed by many who came to show solidarity at the midnight protest outside the Police Headquarters after the Jamia crackdown—many from the crowd told the media that they had come not because their kids were amongst those arrested from Jamia, but because they were parents, and one day it could be their kids in a similar situation.
Have Modi-Shah miscalculated CAB?
With the government failing to notify the Act eight days after it was passed this is a question that many are asking, even within the BJP. It is clear that despite exceptions being made for the Northeast in keeping the Sixth Schedule Areas and the Inner Line Permit zones out of the CAB, the NE hasn’t accepted the said Act in the spirit the government was hoping it would. The common perception is that NE was sacrificed because of West Bengal. But with Mamata Banerjee upping the ante, one is not quite sure if this will go the way the BJP leadership hopes it might. For don’t forget the November bypolls where the BJP took the lead in Karnataka, but it was the TMC that swept the three Assembly bypolls in the state, and Mamata had ensured that the CAB and NRC were very much part of the poll rhetoric.
Nirmala to stay
Those who are speculating about a change of Finance Minister before the budget session will be disappointed because sources claim that the PMO is determined to continue with Nirmala Sitharaman. One reason also could be that regardless of who sits in the chair, it is the PMO that is the architect of the economic policies. Another reason pointing to Nirmala Sitharaman enjoying Modi-Shah’s support is the fact that it was she who was fielded to counter Sonia Gandhi’s message on CAB. Interestingly, Smirti Irani is usually fielded to take on Rahul Gandhi; but when it came to Sonia, it was Nirmala and not Smriti who was fielded. So, is there a hierarchy of sorts at play here as well?