As March 10 draws near, a time of reckoning for the Congress
- The country is waiting with bated breath for March 10, the day the results of the ongoing assembly elections in five states will be announced. All eyes are thus peeled for the key state of Uttar Pradesh. But a section of Congressmen have other fish to fry — they are anxiously awaiting for the high command to focus on restructuring the party after these elections are over. While a decision will have to be taken on the new party president over the next few months, the two states in which the Congress is in power independently — Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh — are also in turmoil.
While Sachin Pilot loyalists hope there will be a leadership change in Rajasthan, in Chhattisgarh, a group led by TS Singh Deo, the current health minister, is hoping for something similar. Although the incumbent Chhattisgarh chief minister, Bhupesh Baghel, is extremely close to Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, and has played key roles in recent assembly elections in Assam and Uttar Pradesh, the chances of a leadership change cannot be firmly ruled out. Unlike Baghel, however, the Rajasthan CM, Ashok Gehlot, is on a sticky wicket and sources reveal that Pilot was assured of a decision in the first half of the year. Pilot wants at least one year before the next assembly election in December 2023 to revive the party in the state. Tough decision ahead for Sonia Gandhi and Rahul as changing CMs has never been an easy task. If the Congress loses Punjab, the decision will be tougher than expected.
- Several prominent priests from Varanasi are unhappy with the prime minister, Narendra Modi, a two-time member of Parliament from there. These priests claim that they are gearing up to defeat Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
When they were reminded that they are not being consistent in their opinion as they were extremely happy with Modi in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha and the 2017 assembly elections, Ashok Dwivedi, the former president of Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust, said, “It was a mistake of Kashi (Varanasi) that we didn’t realize that Modi is a selfish leader with bad intentions.”
When probed further about how they had compared the PM with god and chanted ‘Har Har Modi’ in the past, Dwivedi said: “That is no big deal. We address the bull (the companion of Lord Shiva) and Lord Shiva both as Har Har. When Ibrahim Khan, the subedar of Bengal, came to Varanasi during the rule of the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, local people had addressed him as ‘Har Har Ibrahim’ because he had done some construction here for the comfort of the Hindu devotees. When Warren Hastings came here as the governor-general of Bengal, the people addressed him as Har Har Warren”, said Dwivedi with a mischievous smile.
- The Union minister for rural development and panchayati raj and senior BJP leader, Giriraj Singh, seems to have become disenchanted — although he did not disclose whether it is with the world or with his cabinet post. Singh was heard telling his colleagues and followers about his desire to devote time to the party. He has also fixed 2023 as the year for this cataclysmic move, but refused to divulge further details. Pressed further, he revealed that the 2019 Lok Sabha election was one of the reasons behind his disenchantment. He contested it from Begusarai in Bihar. “I won the election on caste votes and this still rankles me. I would always prefer to win on nationalist votes,” said Singh, a Bhumihar. However, some BJP leaders confided that Singh wants to project himself as a chief ministerial candidate of the party here. “His is a rags to riches story, and obviously he will now aim higher,” one of them said.
- Several students from Bihar who have recently returned from Ukraine or are still stuck there and their parents are questioning the knee-jerk reaction of the ministry of external affairs to the statement by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, that Indian students are being held hostage and used as human shields by the Ukrainian forces. “So many students from Bihar and other parts of the country have been complaining about being held hostage in different cities and villages in Ukraine since the war began, but the MEA kept quiet on it. Putin’s statement came after many days and we know that it was bang on target. But the MEA quickly rebutted it. Why? What was the need to lie?”
They also asserted that the ministry could have kept quiet or explained the situation instead of rejecting it outright. A former foreign secretary did try to explain the reasons. “Our country is already walking a tightrope in the Ukraine-Russia war. I do not know the ground reality there or what is the actual situation in the war-affected areas, but accepting hostage-like situation in Ukraine would have brought several dimensions into play, including the use of overt or covert force to save the students, or at least appealing for ceasefire to save them or ensure their safe evacuation,” he said.
- The governor of Odisha, Ganeshi Lal, has won hearts by lending his voice to the state anthem, “Bande Utkal Janani”. Rendered in chaste Odia, the popular song will be released on Utkal Divas on April 1. Noted Ollywood singers, Deepti Rekha Padhi and Humane Sagar, have also lent their voice to the song directed by the music director, Prem Anand. Last year the governor had earned a lot of goodwill by singing the popular song, “Ae Mati Odisha and Aee Jati Odia”.