regular-article-logo Monday, 11 December 2023

The one man who silenced angry BJP leaders of Bihar

DELHI DIARIES: Rahul's lost opportunity with 'Group of 23' and a cricketer with political ambitions

Published 14.02.21, 01:01 AM
Mohan Bhagwat in Patna

Mohan Bhagwat in Patna PTI

As soon as the hopes of the seasoned leaders of the Bharatiya JanataParty for getting a place in the Bihar cabinet expansion earlier this week were dashed, the member of legislative assembly, Gyanendra Singh Gyanu, raised the banner of revolt. He criticized the leadership for ignoring several aspects, including the sidelining of experienced and well-educated leaders. Several legislators who missed the bus started rallying behind Gyanu. They vented their ire over the party. It seemed that a rebellion was brewing in the saffron party.

But suddenly everything fizzled out and nobody could even hear any murmurs. Senior leaders, who understood that this could have been their last chance to become ministers, also fell quiet. The political observers and mediapersons were also astonished over the way the issue dissipated instead of gathering momentum. After much cajoling, a BJP leader revealed the reason. “RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat arrived in Patna on the same day the cabinet was expanded. He is supposed to spend a week in Bihar. Do you think any BJP leader will have the cheek to denounce the party when he [Bhagwat] is present in the state? Who will want to destroy not only his own political career, but also of his next generation’s? Nobody in the party has the guts to sing a different tune in the presence of the topmost leader of the parent organisation,” the leader said.


Still trying

The former pacer for Team India, S Sreesanth, is playing catch-up for the seven years of cricketing he lost after being barred from playing at any level over an Indian Premier League spot-fixing scandal. Having clawed back into the Kerala team, Sreesanth has apparently not given up on his political leanings either. A losing candidate of the BJP in the 2016 state polls, he slammed Congress “hoodlums” for blackening Sachin Tendulkar’s cutout after the ‘master blaster’ insisted that the farmers’ agitation is an ‘internal’ matter, following expressions of solidarity for the protesting farmers from the pop star, Rihanna, and the climate activist, Greta Thunberg. Sreesanth certainly has his eyes fixed on whatever cricket is left in him. But having failed to feature in the IPL auction shortlist, he is not ready to cast aside his political ambitions either.

Same fate

Crestfallen at not being included by his party in the cabinet of the chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, a former minister and senior BJP leader started weeping. People and family members gathered around to console him. Speaking amid sobs, the leader said he now understood what his party stalwarts, Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, must have felt at being sidelined by the new BJP brass. Another former minister said that he has heard that the top party leadership was working on a blueprint to retire all those who entered politics during the students’ agitation and JP movement in 1974. He had a point, because almost nobody with a distinct record of participation in those agitations is now a member of the state cabinet.

At odds, again

Rahul Gandhi may have missed an opportunity to send a conciliatory message to the party veterans by appointing Mallikarjun Kharge as the leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. While the dissenters known as the ‘Group of 23’ in the party hoped that Ghulam Nabi Azad would be retained as the leader by being brought to Rajya Sabha from Kerala, where vacancies will occur in April, the dominant view in the party reportedly was that the more combative Digvijaya Singh or P Chidambaram should have been picked over Kharge. While Singh is a veteran from the Hindi heartland where the real battle against the BJP is fought, Chidambaram’s insight into economy, law as well as politics could have given the party’s parliamentary offensive an additional edge. Kharge, who led the party in the Lok Sabha earlier, earned praise by regularly speaking in Hindi but for many that is not enough. This has caused serious disappointment in the party and the G-23 is bound to feel further alienated. One of them bitterly said, “The new advisers of Rahul Gandhi will ruin the party. They have told Rahul that he need not worry about Hindi heartland as there can’t be a bigger leader from this region than he himself. And from South, Kharge is more of a loyalist than Chidambaram who will be difficult to control.” What is worrying is that the relatively neutral leaders and Rajya Sabha members of parliament also resent the leadership’s tendency to play safe rather than adopting aggressive strategies. Now Sonia Gandhi and Rahul will have to do something else to assuage the discontent of the G-23. That is, if Rahul is at all inclined to go for appeasement.

Strong opponent

The former Assam chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, and his one-time blue-eyed boy, Himanta Biswa Sarma, never missed an opportunity to have a go at each other till the former passed away last year. However, his son, a sitting MP, Gaurav Gogoi, seems keen to revive the rivalry with Sarma, now a leading light of the BJP in the northeast, with the state polls round the corner. Since last month, he has attacked Sarma twice: first, by challenging Sarma to claim in public that he will never leave the BJP like he left the Congress in 2015; second, while reacting to the prime minister’s recent visit to Dhekiajuli, Gaurav stressed how Sarma and the chief minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, went overboard to please Narendra Modi at a massive public gathering. Both of them seemed to be ‘auditioning’ for the post of the chief minister before Modi, Gaurav said. Sarma has been measured in his reaction, saying Gaurav is still a young boy. However, the ‘young boy’, who is heading the state Congress’s manifesto committee, clearly seems to be a chip off the old block.

Jacob Thomas

Jacob Thomas YouTube


n A peculiar change comes over some people when they join politics, especially the right wing. Jacob Thomas, a former director-general of police in Kerala, who recently joined the BJP startled even the die-hard among saffronites with his theory to reduce fuel consumption: raising motor fuel prices is the best way to reduce consumption and save the environment. He equated higher prices to higher revenues to build bridges and buy computers for schools. Political rivals say the former cop has landed in the right place to churn out his wisdom.

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