Naveen Patnaik, Dharmendra Pradhan bond over hockey
Hockey, like any other sport, unites people and erases animosity. In fact, it has brought the chief minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik, and the Union minister of education, Dharmendra Pradhan, closer. Even a few weeks ago, Patnaik and Pradhan were engaged in a fierce battle during the Padampur by-election, the result of which was considered crucial for the 2024 general elections. At Pradhan’s behest, the Union minister for agriculture, Narendra Singh Tomar, and the railway minister, Ashwini Vaishnaw, hit the campaign trail in Padampur. The Bharatiya Janata Party leaders criticised the Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal government for failing to provide insurance money to farmers and ensure infrastructure development. Patnaik hit back by saying that the BJP leaders were shedding crocodile tears for farmers. The BJD won the by-poll with a record margin.
However, Patnaik and Pradhan buried their differences soon after to guarantee the successful organisation of the 2023 FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup in Odisha. Patnaik welcomed Pradhan to an all-party meeting held for the tournament and Pradhan reciprocated. Both the leaders smiled at each other. Pradhan also congratulated the Odisha government for hosting the event for the second time in a row.
The Union home minister, Amit Shah, is widely regarded as the best-ever election strategist of the BJP. However, he is facing competition from a fellow party member from his home turf, Gujarat. During a recent party meeting, the prime minister, Narendra Modi, gave CR Patil, the low-profile parliamentarian from Navsari, full credit for the party’s victory in the Gujarat assembly elections. Praise from the PM is a certificate nobody in the saffron party can question. It is Patil’s ground strategy as the state president that is believed to have fetched the party a record vote share.
Although Shah micro-managed the electioneering closer to the polls, the fact that Modi chose to give credit to Patil has started a buzz that he could be given the reins of the party ahead of the 2024 polls. The term of the current party chief, JP Nadda, expires in January.
The tiff between the Kerala CM, Pinarayi Vijayan, and the governor, Arif Mohammed Khan, has turned bitter. Vijayan, who refused to attend a Christmas party at Raj Bhavan, has now left Khan out of the guest list for his own Christmas party.
The Opposition, led by the Congress, also refused to attend the governor’s event owing to the latter’s undue interference in state matters, but attended Vijayan’s party. It seems that the ruling party and the Opposition have finally come together, at least on this.
Too many cooks
The BJP is on an overdrive in Bihar. Its leaders are trying to corner the Nitish Kumar-led Grand Alliance government with everything they can. They seem to be working in unison most of the time, but a close look shows otherwise. When party workers are asked about who their leader is, different names start coming up — Sushil Kumar Modi, Samrat Choudhary, Vijay Kumar Sinha, Sanjay Jaiswal, Tarkishore Prasad, Nityanand Rai, Radha Mohan Singh, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Renu Devi, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Raj Kumar Singh, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain and many more.
Talking about the mind-boggling possibilities, one BJP leader pointed out that there were so many groups and factions that deep fault lines have developed. “This is what our top leaders are not understanding about Bihar. We have so many leaders here that we have become leaderless,” another senior leader said.
The Bihar CM, Nitish Kumar, has cautioned party members and allies against Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, claiming that it has been propped up by the BJP to cut into the votes of its opponents. He blamed the AIMIM for the Grand Alliance’s defeat in the Gopalganj and Kurhani assembly bypolls: the AIMIM polled over 12,000 votes and 3,000 votes in the two constituencies, respectively.
However, the AIMIM’s Bihar unit chief, Akhtarul Iman, said that the party was looking to contest all seats in the state. “We were previously confining ourselves to the Seemanchal (northeast Bihar) region and seats where minority community voters were present in good numbers... we had five MLAs. But then Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal poached four of them... I then went to meet Lalu ji and congratulated him for unfettering us. He asked what I meant. I told him that now our party would contest seats across Bihar instead of limiting itself to a few seats like other states. I also took his blessings for it,” Iman said.
The BJP veteran, KS Eshwarappa, has been peeved at the Karnataka CM, Basavaraj Bommai, for not reinstating him in the cabinet even after he got a clean chit in the probe into the abetment of suicide of a contractor who had accused him of demanding bribe. With the state polls approaching, he has now changed his tactic. He wants Bommai to reinstate him since his “voters and admirers” want him back. This time, both Bommai and the party might be listening since neither wants any trouble ahead of the polls.