By Nora Chopra
Rahul Gandhi is all set to take charge of the party as Working President in the next AICC reshuffle, after the name of the President of India is announced some time next month. He has finally agreed on his mother’s insistence to take charge and shoulder responsibilities of the party, if not the government. After his defeat in UP, he was determined to carry on with his ‘mission UP’. However, Sonia Gandhi in view of her deteriorating health, has persuaded him to take charge. It is in view of this that he has started his allIndiatours, beginning withMaharashtraand Karnataka. The AICC reshuffle is expected to be a major one. Mukul Wasnik, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Choudhury Virender Singh, Mohan Prakash, Vilas Muttumvyar, Gulchain Singh, Charak and DR Shandil are likely to be shown the door. Digvijay Singh and Hari Prasad are likely to be sent back to their respective states of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka as PCC chiefs. Mohan Prakash can also be sent to Rajasthan as PCC chief, Azad and Wasnik will, however, continue as ministers. Satyvrata Chaturvedi is likely to be made the new general secretary incharge of Uttar Pradesh. Vyalar Ravi has already made a quiet entry in AICC. He is now in charge of Andhra Pradesh in place of Ghulam Nabi. Many young ministers from the cabinet may also be given entry in24 Akbar Road.
MINISTERS RUSH TO FILL IN PRANAB-DA’S PLACE
Even before Pranab Mukherjee moves to Rashtrapati Bhavan, the question has started making rounds happens to be: after Mukherjee, who? Aspirant ministers have already started lobbying for the lucrative portfolio that would be left vacant by Pranab-Da. Anand Sharma has been heard speaking and giving interviews on financial issues. Then, there are Chidambaram supporters going around taking his name as Dada’s successor, but his name is being ruled out because of the controversies trailing him. But the man to watch out for is Kamalnath. He is the senior most MP besides Vir Bhadra Singh. He is close both to Sonia lobby plus Ahmad Patel and the Prime Minister. Kamalnath is tipped to become the leader of the house with the finance portfolio. The names of C Rangarajan and Montek Singh Ahluwalia may be the PM’s choice.
WILL CONGRESS FLUNK LITMUS TEST IN HIMACHAL?
After being defeated in three out of five just concluded assembly polls, the Congress is in for another litmus test. Congress has never lost the Mayoral Election of Shimla in Himachal Pradesh since 1986. But this time, when the HP will elect its only Mayor on May 26, the Congress leaders of the state are keeping their fingers crossed. Infighting is expected to take its toll. The Coordination committee meeting chaired by AICC General Secretary Choudhury Virender Singh held last week failed to bring the warring state leaders on board. Anand Sharma walked out of the dinner hosted by the PCC sneering, “Koi khana hai?” He had his food at Taj Hotel and flew back toDelhiin a chartered plane sponsored by his friend Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the chief minister of Haryana. Sharma, who is now a Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan, is said to be calling the shots. Madhu Sood, the Congress candidate in the mayoral election, is wife of a builder, who even has the support of the BJP chief minister Dhumal. She was given ticket against the wishes of Shimla’s only mass leader, Vir Bhadra Singh on behest of Anand Sharma and Kaul Singh Thakur. The Raja is unlikely to work for her victory, as his candidate Harish Janarthan was not given ticket. And for the first time the Congress is set to lose the election in a triangular fight against BJP and a strong communist candidate Sanjay.
RACE IS ON FOR THE FIFTH RAJYA SABHA POST
As it becomes clear that Shobhana Bhartiya is unlikely to get a second term, the race for the fifth nominated seat in Rajya Sabha has intensified. While the first three seats have been reserved for Sachin Tendulkar, actress Rekha and Anu Agha, the fourth seat is likely to go to a scientist. The name of Anil Kakodkar, the former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, has practically been finalised. However, the Congress high command is in a dilemma over which journalist should be given. Among the names in the reckoning are of Kumar Ketkar, Vinod Sharma, Alok Mehta but the front runners are Razdan of the PTI, Shekhar Gupta and T Venkatram Reddy of the Asian Age. The Congress rarely gives it to a working journalist. They only oblige the ‘maaliks’. As for Tendulkar, he was a Mukesh Ambani nominee; Anu Agha was Sonia Gandhi’s personal choice and Rekha was brought in to counter the Amitabh effect in the wake of the return of the Bofors controversy. Rekha was the choice of the Gandhi girl Priyanka.
NO ONE WANTS TO NAIL SINGHVI
The question being asked is why is the BJP so soft on the just ousted Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who resigned from the party post and chairmanship of the Standing Committee on Lok Pal Bill in the wake of his CD controversy. The buzz is that despite Arun Jaitley’s official announcement of raising the issue, it was eventually prevented by an emotional appeal in the name of Singhvi’s father, who was a well known BJP member. As a result the BJP has also resisted from moving a breach of privilege against Singhvi for misleading the house. Singhvi has taken leave from the Rajya Sabha on health grounds but he is seen actively bustling in and out of courts arguing the cases of his clients amounting to misleading of the house. When this question was asked to Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari, he excused himself from replying.
SANJAY DALMIA BACK AS MULAYAM’S STRONGMAN
Sanjay Dalmia is back in the reckoning on the political scene. Dalmia, an industrialist, who was pushed out of the close company of Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Samajwadi Party by Amar Singh, is now back to hold the flag for Mulayam. Heralding his return, Dalmia organised a show of strength at his 30 January Marg residence. Dalmia hosted a dinner in the honour of the SP’s Uttar Pradesh victory two weeks ago that was attended by both Mulayam and his son Akhilesh Yadav. From the Congrerss front, it was attended by Chidambaram, Shiela Dikshit, Salman Khurshid and Karan Singh. BJP’S Murli Manohar Joshi, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Maneka Gandhi were also seen at this party. Dalmia’s father Vishnu Hari Dalmia was a former president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad. From the NCP, it was Devi Prasad Tripathi and PA Sangma and Sharad Yadav of JD(U) who made an appearance. If the buzz is to be believed, then the show of strength was a move to lobby for Mulayam as the President. Dalmia is also lobbying for a Rajya Sabha seat that’s left vacated by the death of Brij Bhushan Tiwari.
GANDHI SCION HAS LOST HIS SHEEN
Rahul Gandhi is losing his hold over the youth in the Congress. His magic has stopped working, although, after some reluctance in the wake of UP debacle, Rahul Gandhi is back in action. He recently held a review meeting with theMaharashtraoffice bearers of the Youth Congress to analyse the party’s poor performance in the Municipal Corporation and zila parishads and also discussed the role of the Youth Congress. The meeting was held in an air conditioned Bhai Das Hall in the Ville Parle area with a capacity of 1,200. Those who were supposed to attend were block presidents, district presidents, assembly and parliamentary constituency presidents, besides, of course, the state president Vishwajit Kadam, the national president Rajiv Satav (also an MLA in Maharashtra ) and Paresh Dhanani national general secretary incharge of the state Youth Congress and the AICC secretary in charge of YC Meenakshi Natrajan. Vishwajit Kadam was assigned the job of organising. He was supposed to have spent lavishly. Huge hoarding of the Gandhi scion adorned Mumbai and arrangement of over a thousand delegates was done in five star hotels. But only 400 office bearers turned up and the rest of the hall had to be filled up with students of the various colleges run by his father Patang Rao Kadam. Now Rahul, who failed to attract YC boys ofMaharashtra, is furious. Kadam is in trouble. He is likely to be sacked.
BAHUGUNA WALKING A TIGHTROPE TO RETAIN SLIM MAJORITY
Tehri MP and now the chief minister of Uttarakhand, Vijay Bahuguna, has his Congress government survive on a thread line majority of just one MLA in house of 70. The Congress has 32, the BJP 31, while, four independents and three from BSP. Bahuguna, who has to win an election to become a member of the Uttarakhand Assembly, is desperately looking for a safe seat for himself. Every MLA is precious to keep the Congress government. If a Congress MLA vacates his seat to take up the post of the CM, that would mean bringing down the tally equal to BJP, and, in case the CM loses, the BJP takes over. Bahuguna is taking a cue from his cousin and predecessor BC Khanduri, who got a Congress MLA vacate a seat for him Bahuguna too has also decided to buy the bait offered to him by a BJP MLA Sahdev Singh Pundeer. Pundeer, the MLA of Sahaspur in the Dehradun district a part of Bahuguna’s parliamentary constituency, has offered to vacate his seat for him. Some kind of deal has been arrived at between Bahuguna and the MLA. Pundeer may contest the Lok Sabha election. The BJP MLA is also said to be facing major financial problems. Besides Pundeer, two Congress MLAs, Nav Prabhat of Vikas Nagar and Viay Pal Singh Sajwan, the MLA from Gongotri Assembly segment, have also offered to vacate the seat for the chief minister. Both the constituencies are part of his parliament constituencies.
CONGRESS NABBING TOP POLITICOS WITH PENDING CASES
The Congress high command is using pending criminal cases to keep top politicians under its thumb. Jaffer Sharief, the only Muslim leader of the Congress with a pan Indiaimage, is a harried man. The Congress has kept a case of misuse of his office as railway minister dangling over his head to deprive him of any post. Every time he wants something he is summoned to Delhiand told that he cannot get it because of the case pending against him. As it happened recently, he was summoned to Delhiat the time of the Rajya Sabha nomination only to be told that he should not aspire for it as they plan to make him the Governor. But when it was time to make him the governor, he was told he cannot hold any constitutional position till he is acquitted in the case pending against him. Similarly, Mulayam and Mayawati have no option but to support the Congress till there are cases pending against him. A senior Congress leader was heard saying that Mulayam cannot hold a constitutional post till there is the DA case against him. Both Mulayam and Mayawati are said to have supported the Nuclear Deal on the assurance that their cases will soon be cleared. (IPA)