Most Union ministers make it a point to laud the prime minister, Narendra Modi, when they speak in Parliament. “Yashashwi Pradhan Mantri, Narendra Modi ji ke netritwa me…” is the usual line that Bharatiya Janata Party members parrot in the House. But the minister for road transport, Nitin Gadkari, is a rare exception. This week, when he replied to questions from the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Gadkari stuck to facts without making any reference to Modi’s leadership. This prompted Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury from the Congress to take a swipe. On the pretext of posing a supplementary question, Chowdhury rose and said: “This is the first time I have seen a minister without resorting to cultification of our prime minister, has dared to reply to the questions”. Caught off guard, Gadkari tried to salvage the situation by saying that his answers were based on “policy decisions taken under the guidance of PM Modi”. Gadkari has long been seen as an under-the-radar critic of Modi’s style of functioning. The buzz in the BJP corridors is that the axe may finally fall on him and he could be denied a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha polls, which are all about “Modi ki guarantee”.
With Nitish Kumar now heading the National Democratic Alliance government in Bihar, old-timers came out with what they call the real reason behind his somersaults. They asserted that if anyone pricked Kumar’s ego or self-respect or challenged his authority, he would switch sooner or later.
Nitish Kumar and Rahul Gandhi
“Take, for example, how a couple of RJD ministers and a particular legislator close to the party had regularly attacked Nitish or challenged his authority despite being in the same alliance. It sent the message that they were doing so at the behest of their top leaders. How long do you think a man of Nitish’s stature could have tolerated it?” asked a veteran. Another senior leader pointed out that the CM had quit the NDA in 2022 and the Grand Alliance to the NDA in 2017 under similar circumstances, wondering whether the BJP has learnt anything from its previous experiences.
Rahul Gandhi’s unwillingness to flatter appears to have dissuaded most in the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee, except the president, Sarat Kumar Patnaik, to avoid showering praise on him and focus on the task at hand, the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra. Senior Congress leaders have thus preferred to raise serious issues facing the nation, such as rising unemployment, the need for a caste census and growing divisiveness.
Fit as a fiddle
The way Naveen Patnaik keeps himself fit even at the age of 78 has astonished everyone. His fitness came to light during the PM’s visit to Sambalpur. Narendra Modi was inaugurating the newly-built campus of the Indian Institute of Management, Sambalpur and Patnaik was away in Bhubaneswar attending the inaugural meeting of the first Biswa Odia Bhasa Sammilani at 11 am. The meeting lasted for nearly 45 minutes and Patnaik also spoke on the occasion. But he immediately rushed to Sambalpur, about 300 km from here, in a chopper to be at hand to welcome Modi, his good friend. After attending the meeting, Naveen came back to Bhubaneswar and attended a series of meetings.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) was peeved at the Congress for not supporting the Kerala CM’s protest against the indifferent attitude of the Union government to states ruled by the Opposition. The Congress-led United Democratic Front turned down the appeal by Pinarayi Vijayan to join the protest. But Vijayan received a shot in the arm just minutes before he led a march from Kerala House to Jantar Mantar in Delhi when the Lok Sabha member, PV Abdul Wahab, of the Indian Union Muslim League, an ally of the Congress, called on him. Although he didn’t join the protest, Wahab’s visit was seen as tacit support from his party.
Back in the game
It is always said that former CM of the united Andhra Pradesh and the Telugu Desam Party leader, N Chandrababu Naidu, can be down but not out. The man credited for making Andhra Pradesh the second biggest IT hub in the country is inching back towards an alliance with the BJP. Although his own political miscalculations have often troubled him, Naidu is trying to cut a deal with the BJP. He met the Union home minister, Amit Shah, and the BJP chief, JP Nadda, in Delhi recently, further cementing the possibility of following in the footsteps set by his ally, the Pawan Kalyan-led Jana Sena Party.
For the first time, more women have registered to vote than men. The recently concluded Special Summary Revision of electoral rolls registered 2.63 crore new voters, of which 1.41 crore are women and 1.22 crore are men. In total, 96.88 crore voters are now on the rolls, and the gender ratio has improved from 940, last year, to 948 female voters per 1000 male voters now.