Star That Can’t Shine
The campaign to nominate Rahul Gandhi, Vice-President of the Congress Party, as the party’s prime ministerial candidate started over a month ago, gathered momentum after the catastrophic outcome for the party at the recent assembly elections. More seniors and ministers joined the chorus. Sonia Gandhi in her first address after the defeat in Delhi said the party would announce its PM nominee at an appropriate time.
This gave impetus to make Rahul as the PM nominee. But it all resulted in a whimper when at the two-hour-long CWC meeting Sonia Gandhi said Rahul would lead the election campaign and did not name him as the PM nominee.
Is this a ploy to save Rahul come face-to-face to Narendra Modi, who is far ahead in the race? All opinion polls have given Modi top billing, with Rahul much below at the second position. The Congress spokesperson said it was not the practice of the party to nominate anyone as its PM candidate, starting from the Nehru era. He only acknowledged that the exception was in 2009 when it was announced that the election would ‘repose’ its faith in Manmohan Singh.
Why was the exception made now in the case of Rahul? He is from the PM-DNA of the Nehru-Gandhi ménage. He is the lone star of the youth, an icon, supposedly. And he is younger to Arvind Kejriwal by less than two years and has had political internship for nine years, that is since 2004. No one knew of Kejriwal then, today he is Chief Minister of Delhi.
The BJP is naturally making snide remarks. It says Rahul has run away from facing the Modi-blitz. But forgetting a rival’s exploitation of a situation, the fact is until Nehru was alive, was there ever the need to declare him a PM nominee? It was accepted he would be the leader of the country. After that Lal Bahadur Shastri was nominated by the syndicate and thereafter Indira Gandhi. Morarji Desai was ignored on both the occasions.
In 1977 and then in 1980, despite the ignominy of the Emergency, both elections were fought with Mrs Gandhi as the PM nominee. After the accession of Rajiv Gandhi in tragic circumstances, the 1985 and 1989-90 elections were contested with the understanding that Rajiv would be Prime Minister. In 1985, he won and in the latter one he lost. After the fall of Chandrashekhar government, the election was held without any clear nominee. But when in 2004, election was held, it was assumed that Sonia would be Prime Minister. But she sprang a surprise and nominated Dr Singh. Rest we all know.
What in any case is the substantive difference between leading the campaign and then becoming Prime Minister if the party gets majority or is it in a position to lead a coalition? If we assume that Rahul secures majority for his party, he automatically becomes the leading candidate for leadership of the parliamentary party. Why then shy away from nominating him as the PM nominee?
It is clear that the party is realistic enough to realise that what to say of securing a majority, it is in fact in for a drubbing. Also even if it is in a position to form a coalition, Sonia would surely know that there was no chance that any leader of the coalition partners would consent to prime ministership of Rahul. Not leaders like Sharad Pawar, Jayalalithaa or Mamata.
Sonia has cleverly placed him at the top if the Congress in case wins majority or secures a position to lead a coalition. In case either does not happen, Rahul might be able to live and hope for better days ahead. Presently, the party’s star is not for shining.
Roaring Salute To Akhilesh
It seems confined in a zoo, where lions have no comprehension of the current anti-Akhilesh Yadav’s popularity wave, post-Muzaffarnagar riots and continuously deteriorating law and order situation.
On the New Year day, the Chief Minister Yadav had a date with lions. As he stepped near the cage of one, it roared. Rajendra Choudhary, who combines his role of Prisons Minister, state spokesperson for the Samajwadi Party and Akhilesh’s loyal aide at most events with effortless ease, was overwhelmed. He rushed off a press release exclaiming, “When Akhilesh went close to the den of lions, sheron ne unhen gaur se dekha aur zor se dahad laga kar mukhyamantriji ka abhinandan kiya (the lions watched him keenly and welcomed the CM with a loud roar).”
Akhilesh, needing to be welcomed these days—anywhere by anyone—must have thanked the lion that roared. But it is strange that Mr Choudhary, who surely does not know lions’ language, could translate well enough to hold a press conference!
BJP spokesperson Vijay Pathak, obviously a man of wits, quipped that as the lions belong, they naturally roared not in welcome but with other rather unwelcome intentions. But what is a fact is that the two big cats are loved by Akhilesh as they are part of another dream project coming up in backyard Etawah—a lion safari. The Chief Minister was at the zoo on January 1 to check on their upkeep and diet, as they are readied for the shift to Etawah.
A lot more is riding on these lions than just the country’s second lion safari. During his recent Bahraich rally, BJP’s prime ministerial contender Narendra Modi had used them to attack Akhilesh, saying: “I gave him lions. But I feel it would have been better had he asked for Gir cows, which could have given livelihood to farmers.”
“Or, he could have asked for electricity from Gujarat. He could also have asked about the Amul network.” Akhilesh retaliated saying his government had given several animals in exchange for the lions. Hopefully the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has not heard of this exchange between Modi and Akhilesh Yadav, in which animals were being politically exploited. How cruel of them!
However, lions, in the meanwhile, have stopped being nice to VIPs all the time. They are now choosy. Sources said that one minister with his family members and durbaris in tow went to the zoo. Lions refused to come out for minister’s darshan despite a lot of coaxing. Fortunately, the minister did not belong to Aap Aadmi Party. The AAP ministers get livid if “subordinates” refuse to comply with their order, which are illegal or violates law. What could be the fate of lions in Delhi zoo if they did not fulfil AAP ministers’ order or worse did exactly opposite of the ministers’ directive?
Former Home Secretary’s UN-Home-LY Attack
The Congress Party is accusing BJP of encouraging the former Home Secretary RK Singh for “scandalous slandering” of his former boss—the Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde. The BJP hit back saying the truth always stings. Nevertheless, the storm that blew uprooting the dignity and credibility of Shinde was the startling “revelation” by RK Singh that Shinde had interfered in the probe into betting scam in IPL and prevented Delhi Police from questioning a businessman with “shady” reputation.
Then RK Singh caused literally an explosion when he “revealed” that chits from Shinde’s place used to reach Delhi Police chief, then Neeraj Kumar, quite often asking about posting some people as Station House Officers. “These were not a few postings but in a large number of police stations.” He added questions about security were involved.
Whatever be the truth about the revelations, it has kicked off a fierce controversy and heated discussions have been televised by TV channels. There has been a nagging doubt about RK Singh’s motive for the attack on Shinde. The businessman referred to, according to RK Singh, is close to Dawood Ibrahim. If this is true the matter is of great concern about security. It is then a question about the loyalty of certain people to the country. But at the same time questions have been raised as to why RK Singh kept quiet for so long. Why did he not tell other seniors? The former Cabinet Secretary TRS Subramanam said during a TV discussion that RK Singh had spoken to the PM, Cabinet Secretary and a few others. But RK Singh has yet to confirm this. Also, why did RK Singh not resign if no one was listening to him or seek premature retirement and then go to town telling to the country what he revealed now? These questions create scepticism. But can RK Singh dare say such sensitive things without any base? He took Neeraj Kumar’s name, knowing that he would be asked about the chits. Impeccable source said Kumar was pained at his name being dragged into such a blazing controversy. This is understandable. But why could he not issue a statement denying that chits having been sent to him?
Does this means that chits did come to him? And if this is true, the other more serious matter might be true as well. The best thing to settle all questions and doubts would be to institute an impartial inquiry committee. Would the government do it? Hardly likely!
It means the matter would be an election issue!