The failure of the ‘Modi magic’ in the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections seems to have pleased some of the regional satraps of the Bharatiya Janata Party: namely, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and the former CMs of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, Vasundhara Raje and Raman Singh, respectively. All three states are due for elections next year. The defeat in Himachal showed that outside Gujarat, the party cannot solely bank on the prime minister’s appeal and has to rely on the state leaders to win elections. There has been a lot of buzz in the BJP about giving next-generation leaders the charge of handling different states. Whispers in party corridors have it that Raje has already been sounded out for chief ministership and refused. After this, many in the BJP feel that Raje can only hope that the central leadership will not dismiss her completely. Supporters of Raman Singh are expecting the party to rely on their leader to win back the state from the Congress.
The winter session of the Bihar assembly is about to begin and the House is being redecorated for that purpose. Significantly, most of the construction and design work is happening on the first floor, which will house a new, opulent chamber for the deputy CM and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader, Tejashwi Yadav. Tejashwi’s new office is flashier and even bigger than that of the CM, Nitish Kumar. The latter’s chamber also happens to be on the ground floor. Meanwhile, visitors have been making a beeline to the assembly building to check out the deputy CM’s office. “It seems that RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s son cannot live without sparkling and posh spaces,” one of them said in amazement. It must be recalled that Tejashwi had courted controversy during his previous stint as the deputy CM by lavishly renovating his official residence and installing a large number of air-conditioners. But Tejashwi is not the only politician in Bihar to redesign his office using public money.
Walk the talk
Some 60 Congress workers in Bihar assembled at the party headquarters at Sadaqat Ashram to embark on a 1,300-kilometre journey to Indore to join the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra. Two comfortable Volvo buses were supposed to take them. But the buses turned out to be ordinary from the inside in spite of their shining appearances. Realising this, the workers immediately decided to abandon their journey. However, some of the veteran party leaders tried to placate them. After much deliberation, a consensus was reached. It was decided that the older travellers would sit in the front seats while the younger ones would take the bumpy rear seats. A few cars and SUVs were also arranged for travelling to Indore comfortably. This made some of the party old-timers quip that the entire episode was akin to a bus scam. “Even if the buses were provided free of cost by some party leader or sympathiser, it was the duty of our senior leaders to see that they were comfortable to travel in,” one of them added.
The Congress’s abysmal performance in the Gujarat assembly elections is having a ripple effect in Kerala. The veteran Congress leader from the southern state, Ramesh Chennithala, was deputed to campaign in Gujarat whereas the senior leader, Rahul Gandhi, and the party president, Mallikarjun Kharge, limited their canvassing to some places. As soon as the results started rolling out, the troll army took jibes at Chennithala, who has been eyeing the CM’s chair in Kerala. Party circles believe that Chennithala was sent as a scapegoat with the party being fully aware of the ensuing debacle, especially with the Aam Aadmi Party cutting into its votes.
The AAP has failed to pull off a BJP-like coup in the election to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Two Congress councillors, Naziya Khatoon and Sabila Begum, and party leader, Ali Mehdi, who joined the AAP on Friday, switched back to the Congress in less than 12 hours. Howver, the AAP did win 134 out of 250 wards, ending the BJP’s 15-year rule. However, some senior BJP leaders suggested that the mayoral election was still open, hinting at the poaching of councillors from other parties. The BJP was forced to clarify that the mayor would be from AAP. The Congress councillors’ crossover to the AAP had sparked protests in their Muslimmajority wards, which witnessed violence during the 2020 riots. After midnight meetings, the candidates declared that they are all still loyal to the Congress.
The BJP national general-secretary, CT Ravi, called the veteran Congress leader, PC Siddaramaiah, ‘Sidaramullah Khan’. The BJP hardliner known for making incendiary comments wanted a sharp reaction from the leader of the Opposition in Karnataka. But Siddaramaiah, who always flaunts his secular credentials, welcomed the remark. From starting the State-sponsored birth anniversary celebrations of the 18th-century Mysore ruler, Tipu Sultan, to continuing the annual event in spite of the protests from the sangh parivar, and never failing to vouch for secularism, Ravi should have known that Siddaramaiah would not mind being called ‘Sidaramullah’. His comment seems to have backfired.