There have been stories in the media about whether Sharad Pawar should take over the leadership of the UPA, especially with Sonia Gandhi taking a step back from active politics and Rahul still to establish the same level of connect with the allies. There have also been examples in the past where the leader of a smaller party takes over the leadership of a coalition, as NTR did with the National Front, for instance. Certainly no one is better at cobbling numbers than Pawar for as political commentator Rasheed Kidwai recalled recently on Roundtable (NewsX) about a quote that is loosely attributed to Pawar: apparently, when asked what does two plus two equal to, Pawar is said to have retorted, depends on if you are buying or selling. However, while Pawar enjoys status and experience the one thing he lacks is trust. For as veteran journalist and editor PTI Bhasha, Nirmal Pathak pointed out in the same show, “Don’t forget what S.B. Chavan said when asked how come Pawar’s name didn’t figure in the Jain-Hawala diary? Chavan is said to have commented, because hawala transactions involve trust.” In fact, one is still not quite sure as to Sharad Pawar’s role in the midnight swearing in of his nephew Ajit Pawar as the Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister. Was Ajit led into this move by his uncle, because there was that meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pawar that preceded it? And yet, it was none other than Sharad Pawar who pulled the rug under that hastily cobbled coalition between Ajit and the BJP, and installed a much more stable government in place, bringing together the Sena and the Congress. Hence, in the world of Sharad Pawar, two plus two does not always come up with the expected answer.
PRIYANKA AS BRAND CUSTODIAN?
Last week saw both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra working in tandem on the farm laws as the brother went to meet the President of India with over 2 crore signatures, while the sister led a protest march against the laws. This dual act has sent the right optics within the party, which is fast seeing Priyanka emerge as the agitational and organisational face of the Gandhi family, for she has a rapport with not just the GenNext but also the Old Guard, the latter being something that Team Rahul lacks. During the Sachin Pilot-Ashok Gehlot face-off, it was Priyanka who finally stepped in and got Sachin to stay back. Moreover, she has been very active throughout the lockdown, taking on the Yogi Adityanath government first over the issue of arranging buses for the migrants and second on the Hathras rape and murder. The third and most important factor of course is that she enjoys Rahul’s trust and is okay with his leadership. Clearly, in a Rahul-led Congress (and this is where the party is heading, whether he controls is via remote or directly), we can see Priyanka emerging as a sort of sankat mochan (trouble shooter) or a Brand Custodian of the Gandhi family within the Congress.
BJP’S BENGAL FACE
The BJP, buoyed by the response Amit Shah is getting for his road shows, is now dreaming of forming government in West Bengal. After all it has the example of Tripura as a case study in winning over a difficult state. And of course as with all things political, a list of CM hopefuls has begun to do the rounds, with state chief Dilip Ghosh’s name topping the list. Yes, he’s the same one who likened TMC to a virus and BJP as the vaccine! Others on the list include Swapan Dasgupta, Anirban Ganguly and Babul Supriyo. And though Amit Shah commented recently that the BJP CM candidate would be a bhoomiputra (son of the soil) there are some women aspirants as well, including Locket Chatterjee and Deboshree Chowdhury. Of course, knowing the way Amit Shan and Narendra Modi function, when the time comes and if the BJP is in a position to form government it could be an altogether different name that makes the cut.
Recently, former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi was critical of his successor’s move to grant permission for comedian Kunal Kamra to be prosecuted for contempt for his tweets as well as the move to allow cartoonist Rachita Taneja to be tried for contempt. In an interview to Karan Thapar, Rohatgi said, “The Attorney General (K.K. Venugopal) should not have granted permission. Their tweets and cartoons are satire and they’re entitled to speak their mind.” In fact, he pointed out: “I have seen the tweets and I have been Attorney General as well. The tweets of Mr Kamra may be in bad taste but they are not contempt. It’s too small an issue to take note of. People are entitled to speak their mind.” It is interesting to note this observation for as we all know, Kamra was recently in the limelight for his spat with Arnab Goswami, who is currently a favourite with the Central government.