Change of heart
The times they are a-changin. The face and character of India are not the only things undergoing a sea change. The party that is responsible for shaking things up, too, has transformed drastically under the leadership of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. The Bharatiya Janata Party has historically been widely viewed as a reasonably democratic organization. Many felt that it was much more democratic than, say, the Congress. But not anymore. Party leaders now privately acknowledge that since 2014, when the Modi-Shah combine took over the reins of the party, it has changed almost completely. The language of many top leaders in the saffron party has changed. One name being discussed in party circles these days is that of the defence minister, Rajnath Singh. In the first term of the Modi government, Singh had been heard airing remarks seen to be against the line established by the dynamic duo. But in Modi 2.0, Singh seems to have been transformed into a jingoistic leader. Apart from going all-out against Pakistan, he has also been repeating Amit Shah’s call to drive out ‘ghuspaithiyas (infiltrators)’ by implementing the National Register of Citizens across the country. In the Lok Sabha recently, he even joined junior members of the party in attacking Rahul Gandhi for his “rape in India” comment. He said that Rahul had no moral right to be a member of parliament. The statement that really grabbed eyeballs, though, was something else. Singh claimed it was wrong to say that Narendra Modi had a “56-inch chest”. “Narendra Modi has a 65-inch chest,” he claimed. Size matters.
Amidst the debacle of the by-elections in Karnataka, the stars seem to be realigning in favour of one of the most sought after Congressmen in Karnataka. Even though the Congress lost big in the state, DK Shivakumar has reasons to smile. The former state party president, Dinesh Gundu Rao, and veteran Congress leader, PC Siddaramaiah, recently quit their posts in the organization, taking moral responsibility for the loss in the assembly elections. Siddaramaiah had been the primary reason why Shivakumar had been kept away from heading the party in the state earlier. The popular Vokkaliga leader is thus back in the fray to occupy the top post in the state. None can argue that Shivakumar, a mover and shaker who has bailed the Grand Old Party out on many an occasion, is not equipped to be the leader of the Congress legislative party.
Although Shivakumar has denied gunning for the top-most chair, rumours emanating from within suggest that he has sounded out the party high command about considering him for post of the party chief in the state. Other Congressmen, too, have a reason to smile as many in the party are certain that Shivakumar has the capability of reviving the party.
The decision of the BJP to introduce the Constitution (126th amendment) bill on the heels of the citizenship (amendment) bill in Parliament has forced people to sit up and take notice of a point that had been dismissed as an error when the ruling party had unveiled its sankalp patra (manifesto) ahead of the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year. The printed version of the document that had been circulated to the media excluded Christians and Parsis — “Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs escaping persecution from India’s neighbouring countries will be given citizenship in India,” it said. The BJP later corrected the manifesto online. But, the Constitution (126th amendment) bill that ends the nomination of Anglo-Indians to the Lok Sabha and state legislatures, has raised doubts about whether the mistake in April was a printing error or a Freudian slip.
The chief minister of Karnataka, BS Yediyurappa, is mighty pleased at having reverted to the original spelling of his name soon after taking over the reins in the state. He had changed it to ‘Yeddyurappa’ when electoral fortunes eluded him for years, but later found it to be a misstep since he lost power and was jailed for corruption. Now back in power, riding on the collapse of the previous coalition regime that some say he had carefully engineered, he abruptly went back to the old spelling. Having won the 12 precious assembly seats in the by-election, Yediyurappa just cannot stop smiling on having finally pleased lady luck.
After being pounded by Boris Johnson and the Tories, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, is being compared to Prakash Karat. Perhaps this has something to do with the absence of political foresight in these two leaders. But an important difference is being ignored here. Labour’s kitty, even in a dismal election, is over 200 seats. Karat and his comrades are unlikely to dream of such a rich electoral harvest for India’s Left.