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Hint at hidden agenda as Nitish Kumar set to visit Britain to examine ‘science cities’

DELHI DIARIES | BJP's hunt for celebrities continues despite failures in Sunny Deol and Gautam Gambhir, NDA government in Bihar takes a leaf out of the Chinese handbook to poach Opposition legislators, and more

The Editorial Board Published 03.03.24, 10:29 AM
Foreign travel

Foreign travel Sourced by the Telegraph

Travel plans

The Lok Sabha elections are just around the corner and the cabinet expansion in Bihar is also long overdue. Yet, sources have revealed that the Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar, is all set to leave for Britain in the coming week. The sudden travel plan would necessitate him to abandon, albeit temporarily, not only the daily affairs concerning governance but also the crucial talks about seat-sharing, ticket distribution and poll campaigns. Nitish’s travel itinerary includes various places in England and Scotland. The Rajya Sabha member-elect, Sanjay Kumar Jha, will be accompanying the CM on his trip. The purpose of Nitish’s visit, his officials have emphasised, is to meet Bihari expatriates living in Britain and examine the ‘science cities’ there with an eye on incorporating the concept at the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Science City, which is currently being built in Patna. However, sources hint at a hidden agenda behind the visit. They claim that Nitish could undergo medical check-ups and treatment in Britain. Even though there has been no official communiqué on the CM’s health, various incidents have sparked rumours about him suffering from dementia. His frequent slips of the tongue, sudden outbursts of anger and forgetfulness in the past few months have fanned such speculation. When asked about the real objective of the tour of Britain, a close aide of Nitish retorted, “Do you really believe that a leader of such stature will go overseas to see science cities at such a crucial juncture?” If the speculation turns out to be true, it is a welcome development. A healthy CM is a sine qua non for the proper functioning of a state.

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Reluctant leaders

All political parties tend to field actors and cricketers in electoral contests to sway the voters. But few among such celebrity candidates end up passing the test of real politicking. The Gadar star, Sunny Deol, projected as the poster boy of the anti-Pakistan rhetoric, was elected from the Gurdaspur constituency in Punjab on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket in the 2019 LS elections.

Sunny Deol

Sunny Deol Sourced by The Telegraph

However, the on-screen ‘macho man’ didn’t speak even once on the floor of the House during his five-year term. He even shied away one time when the Speaker, Om Birla, requested him to make a statement. His overall attendance at the House sessions is only 17%. When asked, Deol stated that politics was not his cup of tea.

Now, the cricketer, Gautam Gambhir, a BJP parliamentarian from East Delhi, has dropped out from the race for a party ticket in the upcoming elections. He has written a letter to the BJP president requesting that he be ‘relieved of his political duties’ to focus on his upcoming “cricket commitments”. The real reason behind Gambhir’s request is the anticipation of being dropped by the party for his poor performance. Despite such bad precedents, the saffron party continues to look for new celebrities to win the difficult seats in the upcoming polls.

Unkind cuts

Those who were under the impression that only China indulged in salami slicing might be mistaken. The ruling National Democratic Alliance in Bihar seems to have taken a leaf out of the Chinese handbook to poach legislators from the Opposition — in the past few weeks, at least seven lawmakers from the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress have switched over to the NDA. Sources have indicated that more such departures are imminent.

The process for these defections was put into operation before the floor test of the Nitish Kumar-led government but has continued since then, with the BJP being more aggressive than its ally, the Janata Dal (United). “The Mahagathbandhan had threatened our government with ‘ khela ’ (game), so we also decided to play. We will play till the entire match is over,” a BJP leader asserted. Another added that salami slicing will not only weaken the morale of the Mahagathbandhan but will also give a strong footing to the NDA government ahead of the elections.

Star power

Speculation is rife that the renow­ned actor and danseuse, Shobana, might be fielded by the BJP from Thi­ruvananthapuram. While the sit­ting member of Parliament from there, Shashi Tharoor, is the favoured choice of the Congress, Shobana was seen as a candidate after she at­tended the prime mini­ster’s ‘Stree Shakti Modikoppam’ rally in Thri­ss­ur in January. But Tharoor recently revealed that Shobana, who is his good friend, has informed him that she won’t be contesting. Significantly, Ke­rala has been less inclined to accept film stars as political leaders than the rest of the southern states.

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