Why isn't Rajnath at forefront of farmer talks?
The biggest hurdle in the path of breaking the deadlock between the agitating farmers and the government is the lack of a credible leader. The agriculture minister, Narendra Singh Tomar, has been given the lead but he lacks the stature needed to handle a situation like the present one. Leaders from his own party feel that Tomar’s influence, even in his home state, Madhya Pradesh, is limited to the Gwalior-Chambal region. The other minister tasked to talk to leaders from the farmers’ unions is the consumer affairs and food minister, Piyush Goyal. But he hardly has any mass recognition beyond the cities. One leader, who has both stature and a rural background and can genuinely claim to be from a farmer’s family is the defence minister, Rajnath Singh. The government’s top leadership, however, has not involved Singh in direct talks so far to break the deadlock. Insiders, however, claim that Singh has been asked to hold talks through backchannels. It was apparently his efforts that saw many farm unions from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh coming out to back the farm laws. People in the corridors of power, though, are wondering why Singh is not being directly fielded to break the deadlock. Many feel that he can resolve the crisis. The majority view is that Singh is being kept away only owing to the obstinacy of the current regime to not give much importance to the protesters. This approach could cost the regime dearly, many fear.
Little did the actor, Kangana Ranaut, know of the trouble she was courting when she recently shared a photograph of the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party leader and former Union minister, Upendra Kushwaha, on a social media platform. The post claimed that he belonged to the ‘tukde-tukde’ gang and captioned an election rally picture of Kushwaha’s as “Azad Kashmir”. She had shared similar photos of other Opposition leaders as well, but had not faced any adverse consequences.
Kushwaha’s supporters, though, took her transgression seriously and started filing cases against her in different courts in Bihar. So far, RLSP supporters have filed cases in Patna, Gaya and Biharsharif, alleging that Ranaut has insulted their leader. More complaints and more harassment seem to be in the pipeline for this firebrand actress. “We are going to call the lady to Bihar courts and ask her to become civilized. If she doesn’t mend her ways, she will have to run so much from one court here to another that she will be run out,” an RLSP leader said. Meanwhile, Ranaut has been left worrying why people do not like her. She may not like the answer.
Congress is the principal Opposition party in poll-bound Assam but its base is getting eroded at an alarming pace since it lost power to the Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance in 2016. The state of Congress could be gauged from the reaction of Badruddin Ajmal, the chief of the All India United Democratic Front, during an interview on a popular TV channel. The AIUDF is trying to tie up with the Congress for the 2021 assembly polls. When asked whether the proposed alliance with Congress could pose a serious challenge to the well-oiled BJP poll juggernaut going by the acute factionalism in the national party, Ajmal straightway appealed to the Congress leaders to put their differences aside and join hands to defeat the BJP first and then decide who will be chief minister after the elections.
Such a frank assessment on a public platform was hard for the die-hard Congressmen to stomach, more so after back-to-back defeats in two autonomous council polls in December. They are hoping the high command takes note of the issues afflicting the state unit, at least after Ajmal’s sermon.
Tej Pratap Yadav, the eldest son of the veteran politician and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief, Lalu Prasad, has taken on a new ‘avatar’. He is now sporting a yellow dhoti, carrying a rosary and chanting the mantras of Lord Krishna. Previously he used to dress as Krishna or Shiva. This time he visited his constituency, Hasanpur, from where he was recently elected to the legislative assembly and started making jalebis at a sweet shop. In no time, hundreds of people assembled to see him. “Our country has become full of bhakts of a particular person, but I am a true bhakt of the lord. Moreover, if a chaiwala can become a PM, I have become a jalebiwala. But we all know the truth [sic],” Tej Pratap said with an impish smile.
Smaller parties in alliance with the BJP continue to face the heat, in states or at the Centre. This week, six of the seven Janata Dal (United) MLAs in Arunachal Pradesh joined the BJP and so did the lone People’s Party of Arunachal legislator, shoring up the ranks of the BJP to 48 in the 60-member House. Exodus to the BJP is routine in the frontier state but, ironically, JD(U) is part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. After being reduced to a junior party in Bihar, the fortunes of the Nitish Kumar-led party continues to dip and that of its ally BJP continues to soar. Bihar and Arunachal Pradesh are lessons for smaller parties: tie up with the BJP at your own risk.
Politicians in Karnataka seldom hide their superstitions. The former PM, HD Deve Gowda, carries lemons to ward off the evil eye during crucial political moments. The state Congress president, DK Shivakumar, whose religiosity is well known, went the extra mile to offer a small silver helicopter to a temple in Ballari as atonement for flying over the shrine two years ago. He believes that flight started all the tax troubles, landing him in Tihar in 2019; he now expects an uptick in fortunes.