Seat of power
The chief minister of Bihar and the Janata Dal (United) leader, Nitish Kumar, has often claimed that he has no wish of either becoming the prime minister or the convenor of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance. It was Nitish who initiated the efforts to unite the Opposition at the national level soon after switching loyalties from the National Democratic Alliance to the Grand Alliance in Bihar. The efforts bore fruit and an alliance of Opposition parties is up and running. Surprisingly, everyone, except his own party leaders, has suddenly stopped talking about his candidature for the prime ministerial post or for the role of the convenor. Even close allies like the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief, Lalu Prasad, and his son, Tejashwi Yadav, have been shying away from being vocal about Nitish’s capabilities and candidature. A convenor was supposed to be selected at INDIA’s meeting in Mumbai but this did not happen. This has left JD(U) leaders wondering about the future. Asked why the issue is important for the party, a senior leader said: “You see, V.P. Singh was the convenor of the united Opposition front against the then prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in 1989. He went on to become the prime minister,” he said.
While petitioning the Supreme Court recently to cancel the bail of the RJD chief, Lalu Prasad, the Central Bureau of Investigation has caused much mirth in Bihar. The agency pointed out that the politician was playing badminton in spite of having obtained bail on medical grounds after spending around 42 months in jail in fodder scam cases. “This is preposterous, even the doctors ask patients to indulge in physical activity and exercises. I am sure such arguments must be providing good entertainment in the courts,” an RJD leader said. Cutting across party lines, a doctor-cum-Bharatiya Janata Party politician also giggled over the issue. “It seems the CBI neither consulted a doctor nor a good advocate while putting forth such an argument,” he said. Although the agency pressed for a quick hearing, the Supreme Court decided to hear the plea on October 17, allowing the volley to continue.
The infighting between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ BJP in Assam prompted the top brass to intervene by sending the national vice-president, Baijayant Panda, to Guwahati to talk to disgruntled party veterans, including two former state unit presidents: the four-time member of Parliament, Rajen Gohain, and the sitting member of the legislative assembly and former minister, Siddhartha Bhattacharya. The latter played a part in getting the CM, Himanta Biswa Sarma, into the BJP fold from the Congress in 2015. Both feel they are not getting their due. While resigning from the chairmanship of a government agency, Gohain complained about how his views on the recent delimitation of constituencies were not accommodated. Bhattacharya was unhappy over his name being dragged into a case connected with the suicide of a party member. He felt it as a move to malign his image and a ‘conspiracy’ against the ‘old’ brigade. There are a host of veterans who feel sidelined by new BJP leaders who came from other parties since 2015. Those familiar with the situation say that the ‘old warriors’ are not a force to reckon with unless their band grows
With the 2024 Lok Sabha elections around the corner, the BJP leadership is not taking any chances, especially with INDIA gathering steam. Sending Panda to bridge the gap between the old and the new set is not only meant to calm things down but also to send the message that the party is one.
A hardcore loyalist of BS Yediyurappa, MP Renukacharya has been concerned about his future in the BJP ever since he lost the assembly polls. With his mentor not commanding the same influence in a BJP directly governed by Central leaders and with no rehabilitation in sight, Renukacharya is rumoured to be eyeing a switch to the Congress. He also said that while his party was trying to make India a Congress-mukt country, it was more likely that Karnataka could soon be BJP-mukt with the way things are going in the party. It is anybody’s guess whether Renukacharya is speaking on behalf of Yediyurappa or venting his own feelings at being sidelined.
The president issued the gazette notification changing the name of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library to the Prime Ministers’ Museum and Library Society on August 30. But on August 15, the vice-chairman of the executive council of the institution, A. Surya Prakash, tweeted that it was the Prime Ministers’ Museum and Library Society from August 14. Curiously enough, even before this announcement, invitations sent out by Aleph Book Company for the launch of Neerja Chowdhury’s How Prime Ministers Decide on August 8 called the venue “The Prime Ministers’ Museum and Library Society’’. Why the hurry to use the new name?