Problem of Plenty
As elections become more presidential, political parties are realising the importance of fielding a Chief Minister face during the recent Assembly elections. Take the Congress, which has an advantage in Assam because of the anti incumbency and the CAA-NRC. But after Tarun Gogoi’s demise it has been unable to find a face and that could cost the party the election. Exporting the Chhattisgarh CM to Assam as election in-charge has helped, but clearly Bhupesh Baghel cannot be the face of the campaign. The party president in waiting, Rahul Gandhi is missing from both the Assam and West Bengal campaigns and has limited his campaigning to Kerala, from where he is the MP; and just as Narendra Modi is focusing on West Bengal, Rahul is focusing on Kerala. Defeat or win in both states would have an impact on the leadership narrative of the two individuals. Interestingly, in Assam, the BJP has a problem of plenty. For there is the sitting CM Sarbananda Sonowal fully expecting to be made CM again if the BJP wins. And there is also Himanta Biswa Sarma who must be feeling undervalued for all that he has done. If the BJP overlooks his claims for chief ministership once again, what will Sarma do? That remains a key question, but for another day perhaps.
Punjab Chief Minister and Congress leader Captain Amarinder Singh recently announced that he will be contesting the next Assembly elections due in 2022. Recall he had stated that the last one was his last but now due to the farmers’ agitation and other political turbulence, he has stated that he would like to continue till the state’s issues are resolved. This has not gone down well with other CM hopefuls from the Congress, especially Partap Singh Bajwa and Navjot Singh Sidhu. And post the farmers’ agitation, the BJP is clearly on a back foot in this state. The battle will be between the Congress, SAD and an optimistic AAP. There are rumours that both Bajwa and Sidhu could be looking to the AAP as it lacks a CM face, unlike the SAD. And Kejriwal seems to be open to the idea of fielding a Jat Sikh as the AAP’s CM face.
Why did the Centre suddenly move the GNCTD bill in Parliament that gives overriding powers to the LG over the CM? What was the provocation, for during Covid and even before that, such as the abrogation of Article 370, Arvind Kejriwal had been steering clear of a confrontation with PM Modi. But after the AAP’s credible performance in the Surat elections recently, and Kejriwal’s announcement that he would be contesting the UP state polls, the BJP has perhaps decided that it’s time to clip his wings before he flies too high. Or so goes the political buzz that strategy here is clearly to keep Kejriwal busy in Delhi before he looks to expand his nuisance value in other states. An interesting side story here is that when Kejriwal reached out to other opposition allies for support, the National Conference chief Omar Abdullah was quick to remind him (via Twitter) how the AAP chief had supported the abrogation of 370, only to meet a similar fate himself. Ironically, there seems to be a message of opposition unity here somewhere, coming from the PMO.