A new darling of the BJP
The Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, seems to have suddenly turned into a darling of the current Bharatiya Janata Party regime. From a known LK Advani loyalist, Chouhan now is seen as one of the most preferred CMs of the party leadership. In the ongoing assembly polls in five states, he is competing with the Uttar Pradesh CM, Yogi Adityanath, in terms of canvassing for the party. He is being utilized extensively for campaigning. This Hindi heartland leader is addressing rallies and holding road shows even in the southern state of Kerala. Madhya Pradesh is among the states witnessing a sharp spike in Covid-19 cases, but Chouhan still has to find time for campaigning.
In contrast, the former Rajasthan CM, Vasundhara Raje, who hardly has any official responsibility now, is not being utilized for campaigning. Raje is equally, if not more, popular. While the Central leadership’s dislike for her is well-known, whispers in party corridors indicate that there is more to the new-found love for Chouhan. Word is that Chouhan is being pitched to undercut the emergence of Adityanath. The saffron-clad UP CM is in demand for campaigning in poll-bound states. There are fears over his increasing national popularity, particularly among the BJP’s core Hindutva voters. Those whispering are scared to name the leader who is feeling threatened by the rise of the monk.
The Janata Dal (United), the party of the Bihar CM, Nitish Kumar, is contesting the West Bengal polls, but Kumar is not coming to Bengal to campaign. The Rashtriya Janata Dal, which is in the Opposition, has extended unconditional support to Mamata Banerjee in her endeavour to defeat the BJP, but the RJD leader, Tejashwi Yadav, is avoiding a visit to the state. This is in spite of the significant presence of people from Bihar in Bengal.
While no official reasons have been cited so far, a top JD(U) leader threw some light on this. “Who will go to a state where [the] chief minister’s leg is getting fractured and top leaders of the ruling party and the Opposition are regularly getting bashed up? Bihar has seen peaceful elections over the last 15 years and the politicians of our state have forgotten how to do all the maar-dhad (fight). No need to risk limbs and life,” he said. On the other hand, a senior RJD leader gave a twist to it. “We have already made it clear that the lathi (stick) of Laluji is completely in support of Mamata didi in Bengal. It is doing the work to protect her and chase away the BJP. There is no need for Tejashwi to go there,” the RJD leader said. “Besides, common sense says we should not wade into swirling lathis. Nitish Kumar is also an intelligent leader,” he added with a wink.
GN Saibaba, who is serving a life sentence in Nagpur for his links to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), was formally dismissed from service as a Delhi University professor on March 31. Before his arrest in 2014, he taught English at Ram Lal Anand College. Since then, the paraplegic professor has been under suspension, with his family receiving half his pay. Two years after his conviction in 2017, his wife, AS Vasantha Kumari, received a notice for termination proceedings. She sought time to respond, and says she was not able to consult her husband. She pointed out that the late professor, SAR Geelani, had remained under suspension from DU’s Zakir Hussain Delhi College and was not fired even after his conviction in 2002 for the attack on Parliament the previous year. Geelani was acquitted later.
Although Saibaba’s family says he is bedridden, his bail pleas have been rejected several times. His appeal is pending with the Bombay High Court. The Delhi University Teachers’ Association has opposed the termination of Saibaba’s services.
The Union home minister, Amit Shah, just could not wriggle out of the responsibility of speaking out against the recent attack on nuns and postulants in Uttar Pradesh by the sangh parivar’s activists. Since he was in Kerala and campaigning in the Christian belt of Kottayam the day the news broke, Shah had to condemn the incident and promise action. Although the arrests came several days later, the people of Kerala generally feel that Shah would not have bothered to react, let alone speak of punitive action, had it not been poll time in the state where the BJP is eyeing the Christian vote bank.
The man in a light blue uniform is a regular fixture at the entrance of the swanky Bihar police headquarters, and immediately grabs the eyeballs of visitors. Some express dismay, some laugh, and some shrug their shoulders to express pity for the khaki force over the need to hire a guard from a private security agency, that too for its own headquarters. Senior police officials were tight-lipped on the issue and refused to talk about why a constable could not have been deployed in place of the security guard. One source said that the security agency, considered to be one of the biggest in the country, belongs to a senior BJP leader, and the decision must have been taken at the upper levels of the government. He also pointed out that it shows how the party is keen on leaving its stamp everywhere.
The Congress convinced the parliamentarian, K Muraleedharan, to contest from Nemom in Thiruvananthapuram to wrest the seat from the BJP which got its maiden win in 2016. Muraleedharan has been looking for that extra bit of support in a tight, three-cornered race against the BJP and the Communist Party of India (Marxist). He even convinced the party to get Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for a road show to boost his chances. But right before campaigning is to conclude, Priyanka has self-quarantined after her husband tested positive for Covid-19. Muraleedharan must be hoping he is luckier when it comes to winning the seat.