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Why a split now may end up saving the Congress

DELHI DIARIES: As finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has transformed into a silent worker

Delhi Diaries Published 03.10.21, 12:33 AM


Split to survive

Amidst the serious churn within the Congress, friendly parties appear to be more worried about its fate than its own leadership. While some Opposition leaders are praying for an amicable resolution to the crisis, there are others who are eagerly waiting to poach the defectors. Many regional parties doubt the chances of a revival and some of them have even set their sights on a leadership role in the 2024 general elections. But one regional party leader, an exceptional sympathizer of the Congress, had an interesting theory. He said the Congress should split now: the sooner the better. He argued that the Congress history reveals it can rejuvenate after splits and the party hasn’t suffered any serious jolts for long. He insisted that Rahul Gandhi was faced with similar dilemmas as his grandmother, Indira Gandhi, who emerged stronger after the split in the party in 1969. Jawaharlal Nehru survived after the socialists and some trusted colleagues deserted him to form the Praja Socialist Party and the Swatantra Party. The party led by PV Narasimha Rao survived when the veterans, Arjun Singh and ND Tiwari, walked out with a significant number of followers. Even Sonia Gandhi survived when Sharad Pawar, PA Sangma and Tariq Anwar broke away to form the NCP. Rahul is probably fated to suffer the same experience before the party rises again.


Keep calm and carry on

The focus of the media may be on the newly appointed ministers in the Narendra Modi government, but it is the finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, who is creating a buzz in the corridors of power. The first full-time woman finance minister of the country is being praised not so much for her handling of the economy, but for her transformation. She had attracted attention as a spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party, particularly for her feisty responses to political rivals, which were sometimes considered arrogant. Her temper continued to rise even after she was made the defence minister in the first tenure of the Modi government. Her ire against the Congress over the Rafale deal controversy had become a talking point. It was widely felt that she was yet to overcome the ‘spokesperson syndrome’. But as finance minister in the second Modi government, Sitharaman seems to have transformed into a silent worker.

Nirmala Sitharaman

Nirmala Sitharaman File picture

Friendly ties

Most senior Jawaharlal Nehru University students saw Kanhaiya Kumar’s defection to the Congress coming given the tumultuous relationship he had with the Communist Party of India. The rivalry between him and Aparajitha, an AISF leader in JNU and daughter of the party chief, D Raja, is no secret.

However, the subject of memes and jibes among students over the past week has been Anshul Trivedi — a lesser-known former JNU activist of the SFI-breakaway, Democratic Students’ Federation, and aide to the Congress stalwart, Digvijaya Singh. Bhopal-based Trivedi — of CPI roots in Indore — also formally joined the Congress soon after Kanhaiya.

Trivedi has been working for Singh since 2018 but maintained close personal ties with Left groups on campus and Kanhaiya. The DSF campaigned for Kanhaiya in Begusarai in 2019. The organization condemned Kanhaiya’s defection and many blame Trivedi for facilitating the bonhomie between the Congress and the larger Left fold with Kanhaiya in the last two years.

Change of guard

The election for the post of Bhubaneswar Club’s president was billed to be the battle of titans and it lived up to the hype. It generated unprecedented excitement with two former chief secretaries locking horns. The city’s elite club is a de facto bureaucratic power centre. Hence the battle between Asit Kumar Tripathy (1986 batch IAS) and Bijay Kumar Patnaik (1976 batch IAS) — both have served as chief secretaries of the state under the chief minister, Naveen Patnaik — expectedly created quite a stir. There was even talk of the chief minister’s office being involved in the election.

Tripathy emerged victorious by a convincing margin of 278 votes. This proved that the officer, who was appointed principal adviser to the chief minister and chairperson of Western Odisha Development Council following his retirement as chief secretary last year, is not only more popular than Bijay Kumar Patnaik, who is much senior to him, but also enjoys the blessings of the powers that be. Another message from the contest was that the time is up for the old guard.

Silent treatment

Congress seniors are clearly still upset about having been sidelined by the new leadership in Kerala. This became evident at a time when allegations are rife against the Congress state president, K Sudhakaran, whose friendship with a con artist and quack has put the party in a fix. Sudhakaran could not but admit that he had consulted Monson Mavunkal, a recently arrested scamster and self-styled antique dealer and ‘cosmetologist’, to treat some skin issue. But neither Oommen Chandy nor Ramesh Chennithala has uttered a word in defence of their party chief. Peeved at being ignored while hand-picking new office bearers, the two leaders who once called the shots seem to speak louder with their silence.

BS Yediyurappa

BS Yediyurappa Facebook


BS Yediyurappa certainly has his ways. The BJP veteran who was forced to resign as CM in July has been trying to claw his way back. After the party decided against giving his son, BY Vijayendra, a cabinet position, Yediyurappa’s die-hard loyalist and then political secretary, MP Renukacharya, was removed from a powerful position too. But now Renukacharya has been reinstated in the same position in a clear sign of influence over the CM. There is more drama in the offing.

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