If the timeless charm of Dev Anand kept film audiences captivated, it is the ageless political skills of Sheila Dikshit that the Congress trusts The Telegraph file picture
The film, The Accidental Prime Minister, based on the book by Sanjaya Baru, the media adviser of the former prime minister, Manmohan Singh, may not have made much of a splash at the Box Office, but it has set the Indian political surface abuzz once again. Singh, though, is too decent a man to engage in a slanging match. He has refused to comment on the film based on his tenure, which is being promoted by no less than the party in power at the Centre, the Bharatiya Janata Party. But Singh, if those close to him are to be believed, is also deeply hurt and anguished by the conduct of his erstwhile media adviser. He is said to have told somebody who met him recently: “Baru abused my trust.” Baru was appointed by the then PM, overruling objections from senior bureaucrats and Congress leaders.
The Congress leaders are said to be angry with Baru not because he played into the hands of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP, but because of his false claim that he was privy to the internal functioning of the party and the government. It is a truth universally known that media advisers are almost outsiders when it comes to political parties. They are only supposed to convey to the media what is told to them and occasionally discuss media-related matters and speeches with the PM. But Baru wants people to think that he was an integral part of decision-making processes and behind-the-scene politics. Wishful thinking?
Sheila Dikshit is not the only politician giving Bollywood some tough competition. Alia Bhatt and Sonakshi Sinha ran into a sizeable crowd with garlands and bouquets at the Raja Bhoj airport when they landed there for the shooting of an upcoming flick, Kalank. Surprisingly, the members of the crowd all appeared to be in white and raising slogans. The film stars were then told to turn left and use the airport’s entrance gate to exit. Alia’s curiosity as to who is a bigger crowd puller than her, was answered when she saw Jyotiraditya Scindia walking in, waving and slightly bowing before the crowd.
Bollywood, it seems, is not the only arena that produces evergreen superstars. If the timeless charm of Dev Anand kept film audiences captivated, it is the ageless political skills of Sheila Dikshit that the Congress trusts. At a time when preparations for the general elections this year and the Delhi assembly polls next year are at full throttle, Dikshit has been given the charge of the Congress unit in the national capital. It cannot be easy for Dikshit, under whom the Grand Old Party failed to win even a single seat in Delhi in 2015. But if history is any indication, this might not be such a bad thing.
When 21 years ago, Dikshit was first given charge of Delhi, it had been after she lost four consecutive parliamentary elections from Uttar Pradesh. The experiment had clicked in a big way, paving the way for 15 years of Congress rule in the national capital. Even in 2016, Rahul Gandhi had projected her as the chief ministerial face for the 2017 assembly election in Uttar Pradesh. But that move never materialized because the Congress teamed up with the Samajwadi Party. The coming together of the “UP ke ladke” did not work out in their favour — quite the opposite, in fact.
Besides her experience as the head of a province, Dikshit has also had a quiet stint as the governor of Kerala. But following that brief period, Dikshit has been keeping away from public life. Being in charge of ‘Mission Delhi’ will bring the octogenarian leader back into the hurly-burly of politics.
A structure is only as good as its base. The adage is most apt for political parties, especially during election season, when the foot soldiers of the organization become the key to learning about the pulse of the nation and also the primary mouthpieces of the party. For the BJP, the cadre on the ground appear to be getting extraordinary emphasis in 2019. The defeat in the three heartland states seems to have scared the party. While the PM, Narendra Modi, is regularly holding interactions with party workers via video conferences, the party chief, Amit Shah, called party functionaries from districts and blocks to Delhi to attend the party’s national convention.
Lest this was not enough to prepare the BJP cadre for the battle ahead, more attention was showered on them. A sightseeing trip in Delhi was organized for all the delegates, besides ensuring proper boarding and lodging for the lot of them.
No mean task, organizing a sightseeing tour for some 10,000 people.
The extra effort being put in by the top-most leaders could be an indication that Shah is not entirely sure that ‘Brand Modi’ alone is enough to win what Shah has termed the next “battle of Panipat”. Who says mixing business with pleasure is bad?
Meet and greet
What might help the BJP’s cause as far as invigorating its foot soldiers is concerned is Narendra Modi’s connect with the rank and file of the party. In spite of being the prime minister, he has not cut down on his visits to the party headquarters, unlike, say, AB Vajpayee. In fact, he ushered in 2019 at the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg head office of the party, addressing staff by their first name and enquiring about their well-being. He was also heard giving the karyakartas a pep talk for the work ahead. Nothing like some old-fashioned meet and greet to get battle-ready.