Rifts and twosomes: Behind the scenes in Delhi
A small spark is enough to start a fire. From the looks of it, there is no dearth of sparks within the mahagathbandhan that the former Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, has been trying to marshal. One such spark has caused tempers to flare in Madhya Pradesh ever since Behenji announced her decision to fly solo in the assembly elections in the state in November. Speculations are rife about what caused the Bahujan Samaj Party leader to ditch the Grand Old Party and go it alone, not just in Madhya Pradesh but also Rajasthan. As usual there are several theories doing the rounds. While some are pointing fingers at a veteran Congressman who has raked up quite a reputation for queering the pitch, others suggest that matters have been snowballing for a while now. The real reason for the BSP supremo’s ire apparently lies elsewhere. Mayavati, sources say, is worked up about repeated attempts by the Congress in Madhya Pradesh to poach key assets of the BSP. This while the two sides were still trying to hammer out a deal. Take the case of a young and articulate lawyer who was also a BSP spokesperson. One day he was mouthing praises for the BSP in the English news channels, the next day he had joined the Congress. All this without so much as a goodbye to Behenji. To add fuel to fire, she learnt that two of the four outgoing members of the legislative assembly have been in touch with the Congress about a possible switch over. Well, as the popular saying goes, there are no friends in politics. But what does that say about the future of the mahagathbandhan?
Start at the top
Bonhomie between its leaders is not the only secret behind the BJP’s success. Another reason that the party runs like a well-oiled machine is that the dynamic duo heading it at the moment — one in letter and another in spirit — run a tight ship. Each and every action of the party is overseen to the last detail by Amit Shah and Narendra Modi and the workings of the BJP governments at the Centre and the states coordinated to reap maximum benefits. This became evident recently when the Modi government announced a cut in the Central excise duty to reduce fuel prices. The BJP-ruled states immediately followed suit with a reduction in value added tax to maximize the effect of the cut on common people. This neatly executed top-down manoeuvre demonstrated the centralized leadership structure of the BJP. Once the command button is pressed at the top-most level, everyone else falls in line.
The Modi-Shah duopoly has in place a systematic structure which helps them keep a tight rein on state governments. A CM in a northern state was taken by surprise sometime back when Shah called him and started making enquiries about a small state-level issue and instructed the former to deal with the matter urgently instead of letting it grow. The CM later heard that a small team had been dispatched from Delhi to get feedback on his government’s performance. Democracies usually involve decentralization of power, but New India, of course, runs on new rules.
Out in the open
The ongoing turf-war between the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Alok Verma, and his deputy, Rakesh Asthana, has taken on alarming proportions. Not only are the two not on talking terms, they also avoid each other at work. The rift has led to the formation of two power camps in the country’s leading investigative agency as the Gujarat-cadre IPS officer, Asthana, is believed to be close to the dynamic duo. Things escalated when the CBI released a statement recently saying that it was probing Asthana in “at least half a dozen cases”. The strongly-worded statement, which seems to have been issued under instructions from Verma, did not go down well with the PMO — to which the CBI reports — if sources are to be believed. The PMO has also apparently sought an explanation from Verma for going public with internal matters of the agency. Seems like the hull of the tightly-run ship is showing some cracks.
The Kavanaugh-Ford debacle has Americans transfixed. India, in the meantime, has its own worries in the form of the revelations that the actress, Tanushree Dutta, made about her veteran co-actor. Bollywood is not the only arena to be touched by the ‘Me Too’ movement either. Several women journalists have made allegations of misdemeanour against co-workers who have harassed them in the past. Given the media’s constant coverage of the ‘Me Too’ movement, these disclosures have left the newsrooms shaken. The credit for this must go to Dutta.
While the Opposition is a divided house, the Bharatiya Janata Party is a picture of bonhomie. Poll preparations are in full-swing in Chhattisgarh that goes to the polls next month. And there can be none better than the Union home minister, Rajnath Singh, to take charge of the heartland state. Singh might hail from Uttar Pradesh but he has special interest in Chhattisgarh given that the insurgency there has kept him on his toes. The home minister has thus been keeping a close eye on developments in the state for a long time now and as such is best equipped to helm the BJP in the poll-bound state.
There is another advantage. Rajnath Singh and Raman Singh — both Kshatriyas — reportedly share an excellent rapport. They even share the same pet peeve, Maoist insurgency, and apparently also see eye to eye on ways to deal with this problem. These are promising signs for the BJP. But if this bonhomie leads to Raman Singh winning again — he is completing three full terms in office — he will upstage even the prime mover behind the BJP juggernaut. Narendra Modi, currently leading the country, had won three terms in power in his home state, Gujarat. That would be quite a coup for Raman Singh.