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One giant leap; Popular demand; Star player; New menace; Trouble shooting

Aiming high

 

One giant leap

The 'bypoll match' is over. The scoreline reads 11:3 in favour of the united Opposition. The mood, understandably, is sombre at 6 Deendayal Upadhyay Marg, the swanky, new HQ of the Bharatiya Janata Party. But Rajnath Singh, the Union home minister, has an explanation for the BJP's poor showing in the by-elections. While explaining the catastrophe with only a year remaining before the general elections, Singh said, " Lambi chhalang lagane ke liye thoda peechhe jana padta hai (One has to take a step back for a big leap)". In BJP circles, Singh's comment was seen as one that is loaded. This, some thought, was Singh's way of voicing his own ambitions for the top job of prime ministership. The Thakur leader may be the home minister and the official Number 2 in the current regime, but everyone knows that he has little say on key issues. Therefore, he is said to be eyeing an opportunity in 2019. According to Singh's scheme of things, if the BJP were to form the government with a reduced mandate, then the leaders of the smaller parties - many of them have had the experience of working in the National Democratic Alliance in the Vajpayee era - could elect him and not Narendra Modi as the leader of the coalition. If the bypoll results are any indication, the BJP seems to be losing its invincibility at the hustings. That may be the reason why Singh is talking about a 'big leap': his own and not that of his party.

Popular demand

The cat has been set among the pigeons. Or so it seems after Pranab Mukherjee, the former president as well as a long-time member of the Congress, accepted an invitation from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to speak to its members in Nagpur. There are several conspiracy theories doing the rounds, speculating about the reasons behind the RSS's choice of speaker for the event as well as Mukherjee's compulsions for accepting the proposal. A section of the Congress is, understandably, outraged. Several leaders have said that this could be the RSS's way of appropriating another Congressman.

If the Congress is apprehensive, so are segments within the BJP. For it is well known that not all of RSS is entirely happy with how the BJP has been functioning under Messrs Modi-Shah. The encouragement given to pomp, showmanship and the personality cult is said to be frowned upon by some leaders in Nagpur.

One theory about the RSS's willingness to reach out to Mukherjee is that if there is a hung assembly after the conclusion of the general elections next year, Mukherjee could well emerge as a consensus candidate. Ouch! That must hurt Rajnath Singh.

Star player

There are wheels within wheels in politics. This came to light, once again, after the bypoll results in the Gondia-Bhandara seat. Some Congress leaders are of the firm opinion that Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party did not work too hard and the alliance candidate won simply because of the passionate campaigning by the BJP renegade leader, Nana Patole. These Congressmen are not too happy with Rahul Gandhi who yielded to the NCP's pressure to stake claim to the seat citing Praful Patel's influence in the region. The NCP fielded Madhukar Kukde. As a result, the Congress could not do justice to Patole, who had been promised the seat by the Congress after he joined the party. Patole took it upon himself to ensure the BJP's defeat single-handedly.

The Maharashtra Congress netas plan to take Patole's case to their boss. They also wish - albeit secretly - that Rahul would be firmer while dealing with the NCP. What was that bit about wishes being horses at times?

New menace

The Congress, which nurtures a deep suspicion of the electronic voting machines and believes that the Election Commission has not done enough to address its concern, has now discovered another means of 'rigging' elections. The state units of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are working hard to unearth the names of fake voters. Some leaders of the party claim that they have found thousands of fake voter ID cards. The menace is apparently quite serious in MP and Chhattisgarh. Congressmen from Chhattisgarh have already discussed the matter with Rahul Gandhi and lodged a complaint with the EC. Their counterparts from MP are expected to arrive in Delhi with incriminating evidence. The BJP has demanded that bogus voter IDs should be detected and eliminated. The Congress thinks that if fake cards are eliminated, it would put the ruling party in these states in a spot of bother.

Trouble shooting

The website of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was hacked recently. Visitors to the site were greeted with the sight of a black screen with the logo of an Italy-based hacker group. Some data, including back issues of Peoples Democracy, have reportedly been leaked. But the comrades are not too worried. That is because all the confidential documents are, sources suggest, tucked away inside steel cupboards of AKG Bhavan. Have the Marxists - of all people - resolved the global problem of data theft?

Footnote

• Kailash Vijayvargiya, the BJP's minder for Bengal, his supporters insist, has been blessed with a golden voice. Vijayvargiya obviously takes such compliments seriously. What else can explain his participation in a kavi sammelan earlier, crooning numbers dressed up as none other than Elvis Presley? Vijayvargiya's admirers fear that his bosses may sing a different tune on this performance.

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