RAJYA SABHA GAMES
With its electoral prospects being reduced to hanging onto the coat-tails of a winning regional party at the state level and being reduced to double digits at the national level, Congress leaders have realised that any fruits of office that might come their way are few and far between. Which is why the oncoming vacancy of Rajya Sabha seats is creating such a buzz within the many hopefuls. As many as 55 seats are falling vacant by mid April. Of these the Congress can lay claim to around ten, which include two from Madhya Pradhesh, two from Chhattisgarh, two from Rajasthan, one from Gujarat, another from Jharkhand, one from Maharashtra and one from Haryana. The aspirants are many—including those that are retiring such as Digvijaya Singh, Kumari Selja and T. Subbirammi Reddy. Others who want to make it to the Upper House include faces from the GenNext rung of leadership, such as Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora, Randeep Surjewala, R.P.N. Singh and Ajay Maken. Others such as Prithviraj Chavan, Udit Raj and P.L. Punia (whose term ends in November this year) would also be keen to be inducted. Into this mix has come the rumour of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s candidature. Quick to cut his young rival’s chances, MP Chief Minister Kamal Nath has offered her a seat from his state. In fact as a young Congress leader quipped, if you want to know who all are throwing their hats in the ring, take a look at all those who have been active lately, for all these Twitter spats are nothing more than auditioning for a Rajya Sabha role! Of course the BJP has more vacancies to fill than the Congress, but in that party it’s clear the more you bid for the seat less are the chances of your getting it.
KISSA CM KI KURSI KA
The recent face-off between Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia has created a buzz in the AICC, especially after Scindia threatened to hit the streets on the issue of regularising guest teachers (as was promised in the Congress manifesto). When asked about this, Nath retorted, “Let him (take to the streets).” Even Digvijaya Singh took Nath’s side pointing out that promises were meant to be fulfilled over a period of five years and not all at once. But to be fair to Scindia, the state has recently seen a lavish bash for IIFA awards hosted in Indore, where Nath was seen on stage with Salman Khan and Jacqueline Fernandez. Surely the funds could have been put to better use, Mr CM—though we are told the money raised would go for the benefit of the tribal youth, yet who gets to pay for the extravagant set-up? In fact, of the three recently appointed Congress CMs—Nath, Ashok Gehlot and Bhupesh Baghel—the one who seems to be quietly delivering on his manifesto promises is the new kid on the block, the Chhattisgarh CM. Is this because Baghel was initially given to understand his stint will be for only two and half years and is now working overtime to make sure his tenure lasts the full term? If so, then perhaps this isn’t a bad model to follow in the other two states as well. I am sure both Scindia and Sachin Pilot will quickly veto this proposal, if no one else will.
BACKSTAGE WITH MONTEK
Montek Singh Ahluwalia recently penned his memoirs, Backstage (published by Rupa), which is essentially an insider’s view of India’s economic stories. The book also has some interesting anecdotes about his interactions with various Prime Ministers, such as when V.P. Singh told him on his way out of the PM’s office, “You may think I have broken my leg but you will admit I have scored a goal.” Or when Narasimha Rao told Manmohan Singh, “If the reforms succeed I will claim my share of credit, if they fail you will be blamed.” As Montek added, Rao’s was clearly a strategy of reforms by stealth. As for Rajiv Gandhi, Montek writes, “while he was convinced our control systems were outdated he did not swing to the other extreme of putting all his faith in free markets”. And then quotes Rajiv to say, “We must give up controls, without giving up control.” Written in an easy accessible style, the book makes a delightful read even for those with a non economic background.
THE HARIT BOY
Jayant Chaudhary, the Rashtriya Lok Dal vice president and Chaudhry Charan Singh’s grandson has come up with an interesting way to interact with the youth in his area. “Youth is angry, not an instrument of hatred. They want a voice in politics and society”, he tweeted and invited rap artists from western Uttar Pradesh to contact him to come up with an anthem for the young called “bhed nahin sher bano” (be lions not sheep). Jayant’s team of artists’ collective is called Harit Boys (after Harit Pradesh, i.e. western UP). One of the first songs by the Harit Boys is about acid victims. Aainaa by two hip hop artists, Kumud and Shanu, will be the theme song for a run for acid victims being organised on Women’s Day and the money raised will be handed over to the acid victims. Clearly, this is one way of combining social power with politics. And keeps the youth off the streets!