By Nora Chopra
Change the game or perish was the underline theme of the Congress CWC held on June 4. Immense pressure has mounted on Sonia Gandhi to replace Manmohan Singh with Rahul Gandhi. The mood at the gathering was, in fact, for the Party and against the Government, and also for Rahul and the young brigade to take over the reins. Without naming the Prime Minister, the party leadership, speaker after speaker, warned Sonia Gandhi that she needed to dispassionately dissect the UPA-II government and rectify by making drastic changes. Each of the 42 speakers came down heavily against the government, besides highlighting the problems of their state. Bhupinder Singh Hooda ‘s proposal of a ‘Kamraj plan’ was nothing but an attack on the PM. Without naming him, he said that ministers should be inducted in the part and party men should go to the government. He said he ready to quit just now, giving jitters to Prithviraj Chavan and Ashok Gehlot: the two CMs against whom there is a growing resentment. Both the chief ministers were said to visibly lose colour upon hearing Hooda, who explicitly declared that reins of power should be handed over to younger people with Rahul in charge. Ajit Jogi was even clearer when he said it was time Rahul Gandhi should take over greater responsibility. Manish Tiwari too attacked the economic policies of the government. The conclusion of the CWC is being perceived as rather dramatic: no change would spell disaster for UPA-II. There will be no Congress and thus no UPA-II government.
CONGRESS WOOS UP YADAVS BY SEEKING OBC VICE PREZ
Despite the resounding defeat, Uttar Pradesh continues to be on the priority list of the Rahul Gandhi. And despite their overtures to Mulayam Singh Yadav and the fact that OBCs have not voted for the Congress in the Assembly polls, though they were given the highest number of tickets, Rahul is determined to get them to the Congress. While Pranab Mukherjee continues to be the presidential frontrunner, the Congress leadership is seriously weighing the option of having either the President or the Vice President from Uttar Pradesh. The name of Ram Naresh Yadav, the present governor of Madhya Pradesh, is under serious consideration for one of the posts. Ram Naresh, a former UP chief minister, had Mulayam Singh Yadav as one of his ministers in the post-Emergency period, when Janata Party formed the government in 1977. By making Ram Naresh the President or the Vice President, the Congress hopes not only to woo the OBC into the Congress, but also to create a split in the Yadav vote bank that Mulayam Singh has a firm hold on in the present. If Ram Naresh gets one of these posts, he would be the first OBC to hold this position and the Congress hopes to avail the benefit. Ram Naresh, who was in Delhi this week, has met the PM and has sought an appointment with Sonia and Rahul for his second visit in the capital.
HONESTY BEGETS MANY TRANSFERS
You don’t need to be an honest officer in Punjab or else the Badal government will not allow you to rest in peace. A date Kartik may be an MBBS doctor and Punjab cadre IAS officer, topper of the 2007 batch with an impeccable career record known to be completely honest. But this has not deterred the Punjab government to transfer him 14 times in twelve months. He has now sought a change of cadre from the central government. Narayan Swamy has the file.
DRAVIDIANS & CONGRESS FALLING APART IN TAMIL NADU
The Congress leaders of Tamil Nadu are a worried lot. After the AIADMK joined hands with the regional satraps against the Congress, the DMK too is now seriously thinking of moving out of the UPA. Karunanidhi is just looking for an opportunity to sever the ties. His recent utterances, where he said he would “continue with UPA but with bitterness”, followed by his support to Advani on the appointment of the CEC, have only rattled the Congress leadership. The reality has dawned upon the two Dravidian parties after the local body elections, where the Congress vote share slumped from 15% to 5%. It was then that they understood that now there is no use of the Congress for them. Earlier with the AIADMK vote of 28%, and DMK vote of 25%, this additional 15% of the Congress was in great demand. Both the Dravidian parties would scamper to align with the Congress, as that would enhance their chances of capturing power in their state. But with the Congress vote coming down to 5%, the Party has lost its utility for both these parties. Jayalalitha is working out an alliance with regional satraps like Narendra Modi, Biju Patnaik, and is in touch with several other regional leaders such as Chandra Babu Naidu, and even UPA allies like Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati and others of their ilk. Karunanidhi is not keen to align with the Congress as it does not serve any purpose to his party in coming to power. On the contrary, DMK would have to shell out about 0 to 15 seats. Karunanidhi is likely to go with the Left, who would be satisfied with one or two seats, but have a small but solid vote bank in the state. The DMK is likely to sever ties after the monsoon session of Parliament. Without the alliance with any of these two leaders, the Congress leaders in the state are extremely worried. Many of them are planning to either quit the party or are not to contest in 2014. This includes P Chidambaram, who is unlikely to contest the 2014 election.
BAD DAYS FOR DIGVIJAY
The bad days of the AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh have perhaps begun with the removal of Pramod Tiwari from the post of the CLP leader in UP Assembly, a post he held for almost 20 years. Despite Tiwari’s proximity to Digvijay Singh, he failed to retain his position, with the UPCC chief Rita Bhuguna having an upper hand. Rita, who is being opposed by Diggy Raja, has received a shot in the arm by getting her archrival Pramod Tiwari replaced with her protégé Pradeep Mathur. Mathur’s appointment proves that Rita continues to enjoy the confidence of the Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Despite pressure on Sonia to remove Rita after the UP debacle, she was given a free hand in the distribution of the tickets for the local body elections later this month. Mathur has been appointed by the Congress leadership without doing any prior research on him. With the UPA under attack for corruption, Mathur’s appointment has raised many eyebrows as he is facing serious criminal and corruption charges. A case is pending in Supreme Court, where the CBI has filed an SLP against him, while another is pending before the CVC. Both cases involve allegations of fund embezzlement. However, in a caste-ridden Uttar Pradesh, Mathur, a Kayastha, is of no political significance.
MORE SHOCKS FOR CONGRESS IN PUNJAB
Congress is in for setbacks after setbacks. After suffering a major defeat in Municipal polls and losing the Mayor and deputy mayors post in Simla for the first time in the history of Himachal Pradesh, Congress is all set to lose even the corporation polls scheduled on June 7 in Punjab. Slated to take place in Ludhiana, Julander, Patiala and Amritsar, the party’s recent defeat in the just concluded assembly polls in the state already spells doom for the Congress. As the date came to a close, the PCC chief Captain Amarinder Singh was missing from the entire election scene. He was holidaying for the last one month in Kandyali, ten minutes drive from Khukri in HP. He has refused to come and campaign. The general secretary in charge Gulchain Singh Charak is sitting in Jammu and when called up to inquire, he expressed his ignorance saying one should call up the PCC to inquire about the details. Amarinder Singh’s right hand man, Arvind Khanna — the MLA from Dhuri, is said to have entered into a deal with Sukhbir Singh Badal. Khanna is all set to join the Siromani Akali Dal and resign from his MLA seat, giving it to SAD. By winning one more seat, the Akalis will become 54 and would be in a position to do away with their crutches and dump the BJP in a house of 117. As a reward, Khanna will get to contest the Sangrur Parliamentary seat in 2014. Khanna is not the only one: a mass exodus from the Congress rank and file is happening in Punjab. A shocked old timer and AICC secretary Jagmeet Brar was brave enough to speak his mind on the Punjab situation at the CWC meet on June 4 in Delhi, which is expected to decide on the surgery in the party.
BJP IN FOR BIG CHURNING
As Nitin Gadkari is set to begin his second innings, the Bharatiya Janata Party is in for a serious churning. Realignments are taking place with the new gang up of Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, Narendra Modi and Nitin Gadkari replacing Ananth Kumar, Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley. But contrary to the perception that Sushma has been pushed to the cold, Gadkari played a balancing act. He had a long 45 minute one to one meeting with Sushma after he was given a second term at the BJP’s national executive meeting in Mumbai. Gadkari assured her of total cooperation and told her that he needs her help to run the party. He assured her that he would try to give a collective leadership and he would take no decision without consulting her. Meanwhile, Narendra Modi is emerging as a rallying point for all the disgruntled elements in the BJP. Modi is also in touch with Vasundhara Raje Scindhia.
WHY JAIRAM OPPOSES THE MICRO FINANCE BILL?
The Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh is now working overtime to stall the micro finance institution bill, which the government has placed in parliament on May 22, 2012. He has been working in support of the self-help groups (SHGs), which are a booming business for many retired bureaucrats, who join some NGO or set up NGOs on their own. They receive funds, meant for poverty alleviation from multi lateral development institutes. Such funds are pocketed by many of these self-help groups. In fact, the World Bank, in its report last year, spoke of the rampant corruption among the SHGs. One reason the government brought in the MFI bill is to create an institutional framework for lending to the poor: a focus agenda of the UPA under Sonia Gandhi. Many in the UPA and even outside, have been wondering why Jairam has been working against the bill and on whose behest is he working and whose agenda is he following. Does it mean that even Sonia Gandhi’s writ does not work in the Congress? (IPA)