Rahul Gandhi in a quandary on party’s leadership in States
C ongress vice president Rahul Gandhi appears to be continuing with his experimentation. First, he experimented with appointments of presidents of the NSUI and the Youth Congress through elections. It is another matter that only the prodigies of veteran leaders won. Soon, the process was abandoned. Now, ahead of finalising appointments in various State organisations he has resorted to surveys. Congress veterans are predictably puzzled as to how the appointment of a State president can be done on the basis of a survey?
Rahul has asked for the surveys keeping in mind the elections of Rajasthan, MP and Chattisgarh, which are scheduled for next year. Similar surveys have been done in Maharashtra, all conducted by professional companies. However, despite receiving results of all these surveys, Rahul is unable to finalise the appointments. The reason seems obvious — the reports are negative against his youth brigade in each and every State. Sources say Rahul also has some disturbing news from the ground. For example, some Congress leaders still believe Ajit Jogi, who has floated his own party, is the most suitable candidate in Chattisgarh. Similarly, Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan, Jyotiraditya Scindia in MP and Ashok Tanwar in Haryana are not popular figures in local party circles. If decisions are taken on the basis of surveys, then veterans like Ashok Gehlot in Haryana, Bhupinder Singh Hooda in Haryana and Kamal Nath in MP will have to be given charge. In Maharashtra too, leaders like Ashok Chavan, Gurudas Kamat and Sushil Shinde will have to be put forward.
WHY IS CONGRESS HAPPY?
Central investigating agencies are tightening their noose on Opposition leaders one by one. Ironically, the Congress seems to be benefitting from this anti-corruption drive. The moment opposition leaders land in the net of the CBI, the IT or the ED, they are seen running to the Congress because they feel it is not possible for them to fight the BJP alone and that the Congress can help them in this fight. In Bihar, when the Congress had put forth Nitish Kumar’s name as the leader of the Mahagathbandhan, a rift had been created in RJD-Congress relations. But following the ED, CBI and IT raids on Lalu Prasad and his family, things appear normal between the Congress and the RJD.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar is also a worried man, following probes against his nephew, and has therefore moved closer to the Congress. Many Bengal MPs and MLAs are facing corruption charges, including Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek. She too is drawing closer to the Congress. The DMK in Tamil Nadu and the SP and the BSP too seem to be in a mood to side with the Congress.
THE VP SCRAMBLE
While Opposition parties have decided on their Vice Presidential candidate, the BJP too will soon decide. No one seems to have any idea about who the party’s probable candidate is. But a race has already started among Governors and former judges of High Court and Supreme Court.
Sources say south of India can be looked at for a Vice President this time. From that perspective, Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao is a likely candidate. Apart from him, there is UP Governor Ram Naik as also West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi. Kerala Governor and former Chief Justice of Supreme Court P Sathashivam is also a probable candidate.
However, the BJP may be looking at leaders like Anandiben Patel, Bihar MP Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav, and Central Minister Venkaiah Naidu.
While Opposition parties did discuss the name of Sharad Yadav as a possible candidate the CPM and the CPI pressed for Gopal Krishna Gandhi and finally a united Opposition forwarded his name.
MAYAWATI’S PRESSURE POLITICS
Former UP Chief Minister and BSP chief Mayawati has started preparations for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. She is understood to be sorting out names for almost all 80 Lok Sabha seats from the State. It is a well-established fact that Mayawati starts her election preparations way ahead of other parties. She in fact started the trend of finalising a candidate’s name almost a year in advance.
However, this time she has started preparations two years in advance, raising many eyebrows. This is also the first time Mayawati has indicated that she can go into an alliance with non-BJP and non-NDA parties. It is being said that she may be even willing to go along with arch enemy Samajwadi Party to form a Mahagathbandhan in UP between the SP, BSP and the Congress like the Bihar model.
However, her preparations are sending worrying signals to the SP and the Congress. Sources say, Mayawati, with her advance preparations, is creating pressure on both parties for two reasons. One, her Rajya Sabha tenure will end next year. Given the present strength of the UP Assembly, she cannot win a seat on her own. She will need the support of the SP and the Congress. It is also being suggested that Lalu Prasad could send Mayawati to the Rajya Sabha but for this to happen, the SP and the Congress will have to convince Lalu. The second reason is, her party was unable to win a single seat in the last Lok Sabha. Wishing to improve her stocks vis-a-vis the Samajwadi Party, she has started finalising her candidates.
PRESIDENT’S RULE IN BENGAL?
Is there a possibility of President’s rule in West Bengal? Leaders of the ruling Trinamool are apprehensive that the State Government is fighting on several fronts amid various controversies, a scenario in which the Centre may take action. Among the reasons being cited is the communal violence in Malda and Basirhat and the violence surrounding the Gorkhaland agitation. However, BJP leaders say nothing so dramatic is likely to take place in a sensitive State like West Bengal. Some feel the State unit is not ready to go into elections immediately. After the 2014 Lok Sabha election and the 2016 Assembly elections the party is aware of its strengths and weaknesses. While the ongoing unrest in the State makes the situation favourable for the BJP, the party is aware that it needs to work on its strength at the organisational level, an area where the Trinamool, the Left and the Congress stand relatively stronger at the moment.
At the present juncture the BJP does not have a charismatic leader who can appeal across the State. Rupa Ganguly has been sent to the Rajya Sabha and she can become the face of the party in the State in the time to come but it is learnt that the BJP requires some more time for preparations. The party’s greatest concern is Mamata’s temperament. If her Government is cornered or expelled, the Chief Minister is capable of taking the fight to the streets of Bengal.
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