The Congress President Sonia Gandhi will leave for a medical check up in mid-June to US. And before leaving she is expected to hand over charge to Rahul Gandhi. The Gandhi scion has already started the process of a reshuffle. He is meeting MPs for wider consultation. There is speculation that Rahul is under tremendous pressure from within the party to take over reins of the government from Manmohan Singh, but it would be decided by the family. Rahul is not keen to lead a government that has majority of the MPs and ministers in the age group of 66 plus. In fact, he wants a major clean up before he ultimately takes over. So, if party sources are to be believed, this would be possible only after 2014.
KISHORE CHAND DEO: LATEST PRESIDENTIAL DARK HORSE
The Union minister for Panchayati Raj, Kishore Chand Deo, is the latest to join the list of the dark horses in the run up in the race to Rashtrapati Bhawan. Chand Deo, like PA Sangma, is a tribal MP from Andhra Pradesh with an impeccable record, who, to top it all, also enjoys Sonia Gandhi’s trust. He had nearly become the Lok Sabha Speaker, if he had relented to the pressure from the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the ‘cash for votes’ episode. He was the chairman of the committee looking into the cash for votes scam. The Prime Minister wanted him to give a clean chit to Amar Singh’s secretary, but he refused to oblige the PM. So, when his name came up for the post of the Speaker of Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister rejected it outrightly and supported Meira Kumar. Notwithstanding this setback, Deo is the only UPA contender, besides Pranab Mukherjee, on whose name there can be some consensus both within and outside of the UPA, possibly even being Karunanidhi’s candidate for the post. He, who was educated in the then Madras, was Karunanidhi’s neighbour in Gopalapuram colony in today’s Chennai. His house was later bought over by Karunanidhi. He had played cricket with Stalin and Azhagiri. He is equally close to Sharad Pawar and was minister under Biju Patnaik in the Charan Singh government. He is also a classmate of Prakash Karat.
SINGH UNWILLING TO LEAVE PRIME MINISTERSHIP BEFORE 2014
Manmohan Singh has made it clear to the Congress high command that he will not leave the Prime Ministership to become President. The thinking within the Congress is far catching ground that it is time Manmohan Singh should vacate the seat, making it easy for the Congress President Sonia Gandhi to install Rahul Gandhi or someone else (may be Pranab Mukherjee) to give a new direction to the UPA government and lead it into 2014 Lok Sabha election. But Singh, on his return from Myanmar, has made it clear he is not going anywhere as yet.
MORE SETBACK FOR CONGRESS IN HIMACHAL
The Congress is in for another setback in Himachal Pradesh after suffering a heavy defeat in the mayoral and deputy mayoral elections. The Union minister and former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, Vir Bhadra Singh, is under tremendous pressure from his supporters to float another political party and contest the assembly election scheduled later this year under that banner. Vir Bhadra Singh, who is being humiliated by so called baseless leaders like the Union commerce minister Anand Sharma, has indicated to the Congress high command of his intentions, in case he is not given a free hand. The result of the municipal elections is only being seen as a reflection of the things to come. Sonia Gandhi is, however, said to be in a dilemma. On one side is Anand Sharma who is both arrogant and without a solid base in HP but a Gandhi family loyalist, and on the other side, is the stalwart Vir Bhadra Singh.
RAHUL’S MAIN AIDE UNDER SCANNER
Rahul Gandhi’s main aide and adviser Kanishka Singh is in serious problem. After the UP debacle, where he lists high on those accused of sabotaging the Congress prospects because of wrong advice and ticket distribution, he is now being accused by the Congress leaders of Bihar for creating problems in the appointment of the new PCC chief. When a delegation led by Umesh Ram was summoned by Rahul Gandhi for consultations, they had to first go through Kanishka Singh. They were told by Kanishka that they should suggest the name of one Avdhesh Singh, a Rajput like Kanishka, but alleged to have criminal records. When these members met Rahul, they lodged their protest against Kanishka, who, they said, was lobbying with them for a person with a criminal background only because he is a Rajput. When Rahul asked them who, in their opinion, should be made the PCC chief, they named the erstwhile PCC chief Anil Sharma, a Bhumihar, who should take the place of the current PCC chief Mehboob Ali Kaiser, while, suggestions to make Harkesh Bahadur, a Rajput, the AICC in charge of Bihar also came along. The Sharma-Bahadur duo, in their opinion, could bring back the Congress’s original forward caste votes back into the party. With Shakeel Ahmad of Bihar holding a formidable position in AICC poised to give additional support and complete the upper caste Muslim combination in the state, the Congress then would have some chance of revival in Bihar, the delegation members advised Rahul.
BAHUGUNA FINDS WINNING FORMULA IN HIS BENGALI BLOODLINE
The Uttarakhand chief minister, Vijay Bahuguna, for whom winning an assembly seat is extremely necessary as there is no upper house in the state, has suddenly remembered his long forgotten Bengali lineage. He told people at a session in Nagpur that his ancestors were Bengali and his great grandfather, a Vaid by profession, had cured the Raja of Tehri, who rewarded him with land and forced him to stay back in Tehri Garhwal. Over the years, they became Uttarakhandi. Bahuguna’s sudden nostalgia for his Bengali lineage was not out of his love for Bengal, but because he has decided to contest from a Bengali dominated constituency Sitarganj in Uddhampur Nagar. Until now, this constituency was represented by one Kiran Mondal, a Bengali MLA BJP, but who has now vacated his seat for the CM to contest from there. This will not only enable the CM to contest from there, but has strengthened the Congress from within, as the party has only one more MLA than the BJP in Uttarakhand. While the Congress has 32 in MLAs, BJP had 31. But with Mondal resigning the seat, the strength of BJP has been reduced to 30, two less than Congress. Even if Bahuguna loses the seat, the Congress strength will continue to have majority by one MLA and its strength will remain 32 and BJP will again be 31. Bahuguna is desperately banking on his ancient Bengali lineage to win this seat.
PRANAB MIGHT RESIGN IF NOT MADE PRESIDENT
If the buzz is to be believed, the invincible Dada may after all resign from ministership, if not sent to Rashtrapati Bhawan. The union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is extremely tired of the government load he carries on his ageing shoulders. Mukherjee, who is a front runner in the race for Rashtrapati Bhawan, may not like to continue as a cabinet minister, if he fails to make it as the President of India, the top post of the country. He is inclined to resign as minister and spend the ret of his term as a mere MP. People close to him have been heard saying this that he is now a tired man and may like to step down. Mukherjee is supposed to have expressed his desire to step down in close quarters. “Aarbhalo lagche naa eih shab mantrir kaaj, ”he is supposed to have told his supporters, who share his unease and ministerial fatigue after having served the nation for so long. They too think that if his political masters are not kind enough to reward him for his services, then why should he carry the burden of the government all alone on his shoulders, do so much work at his age. He needs some time off, now.
GANDHI SCION DOES HIS POLITICAL SURGERY IN UP
Operation UP has begun! Rahul Gandhi, who led the Congress campaign in UP, has now started taking action against all those accused for the Congress debacle. To begin with, Rahul Gandhi chose to make changes in his own Amethi parliamentary constituency, where the Gandhi family caretaker Kishori Lal Sharma, who was accused of high handedness and sabotaging the Congress prospects, has been sacked. KL Sharma, who was looking after the Gandhi family borough for the last 20 years, is likely to be replaced by one Mansingh, and Dheeraj Srivastava, a PCS officer from Rajasthan, who has resigned from his job to join Rahul in Amethi. Another person is one Chandra Kant Jha. However, Mohan Prakash, whose stars were on the zoom during the UP polls as the main election strategist, is in for setback. Prakash, who conceptualised the social engineering formula of giving maximum number of tickets to OBCs, too, has been held accused of strategising a doomed formula, as OBCs had never voted for the Congress since 1967. Prakash, who had once emerged as the blue eyed boy of Rahul, has now fallen from grace. He has been asking for an appointment with Rahul for the last one week, but has failed to get an audience till date.
MULAYAM HARBOURS A SWEET SPOT FOR VORA
Motilal Vora, whose name was being tipped as one of the dark horses who can make it to Rashtrapati Bhawan, may finally land up in UP as governor replacing BL Joshi. Mulayam Singh Yadav is not keen to continue with Joshi and if the Congress wants to keep Mulayam Singh in good humour, they will have to send a governor of his choice. At the PM’s UPA dinner party on Tuesday, Mulayam was seen embracing Motilal Vora and heard praising him. He told Voraji in his ear, “Aap aajayie wahan.” The he turned around and told the watching journalists that the present governor is so rude that he does not allow more than one person to see him, but when Voraji was there it was an open house for the opposition. Fortunately, Mulayam, who tends to forget people these days, remembered and recognised Vora.
MULAYAM, MAYAWATI CHEER FOR DADA AS PREZ
While the Congress is yet to decide on its presidential candidate, the SP and BSP have already extended their crucial support in favour of Pranab Dada. Two weeks ago, Mulayam went to meet the Prime Minister and assured him not only of his party’s support to Pranab Mukherjee, but even told him that he is ready to second the name, if Pranab Mukherjee was the nominee. As for the BSP, the day Naveen Patnaik announced the name of PA Sangma as their candidate, Mayawati’s pointsman Satish Chand Mishra called up a key aide of Mukherjee and told him categorically that BSP is in no way going to support Sangma. He said, “Hum to Dada ko support karne ke lie tayyar baithe hain; koi baat to kare humse.” (IPA)