By Rahil Nora Chopra
Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee is trending. Her political moves with an eye on the 2024 general elections, trying to form a Third Front with the support of regional parties and with the sole aim of alienating Congress as the main opposition party, are reaping dividends. In this context, Banerjee’s interaction with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar at his residence on the second day of her three-day visit to Mumbai assumes importance. Reportedly, the duo discussed the recipe for a successful political khichdi that would eventually help in dislodging Modi-Shah juggernaut from the centre. Banerjee said: “What is UPA? There is no UPA left in the country.”She, instead, made a pitch for a united front of the opposition parties to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the centre. Banerjee also launched a veiled attack on the Congress and its senior leader Rahul Gandhi. “If you don’t do anything, if you stay abroad half the time, how will politics happen? You have to be in the field, if you are not in the field, the BJP will bowl you out,” she said. Sharad Pawar, however, said the intention was not to keep the Congress away, but to take it along, on lines of harmony for everyone who wanted to be part of an “anti-BJP front”. “It is not about Congress. Those who are against BJP and they want to come together, they are welcome,” Pawar said. Subsequently, Banerjee met leaders of the Shiv Sena, the biggest constituent of Maharashtra’s ruling alliance that also comprises the NCP and Congress, even though the Shiv Sena had in a statement said that due to health issues, party president Uddhav Thackeray would not be able to meet Banerjee. The Congress has reacted sharply to the TMC chief’s remarks, saying a regional party cannot become an alternative to the BJP.
KHARGE, JOURNALISTS PROTEST CURBS ON PRESS ACCESS TO PARLIAMENT
Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, expressed jolt over the Union government forbidding the media’s access to the Central Hall and Library Building in Parliament. In a letter to Rajya Sabha Chairman, Venkaiah Naidu, Kharge pointed out that Parliament has become the nerve centre of political activities during sessions and the media bring these issues to the public; hence prohibiting them from covering the proceedings must be deemed unacceptable. Demanding that issues related to restrictions on media should soon be resolved, Kharge has written a strongly-worded letter to the RS official head. Meanwhile, dozens of journalists and representatives from the press and media bodies, namely, the Press Club of India, the Editor’s Guild of India, the Press Association, the Delhi Union of Journalists, Kerala Union of Working Journalists, among others gathered at the Press Club of India (PCI) premises in New Delhi on Thursday, and shouted slogans in protest of these fresh curbs, such “Long live press freedom”, demanding access to Parliament facilities. Citing the coronavirus pandemic, the government last year restricted the entry of media personnel to the Parliament. Ahead of the Parliament’s winter session that started on Monday, a lottery system was introduced to allow 60 journalists inside Lok Sabha (lower house) and 32 in Rajya Sabha (upper house), with 11 and 10 slots respectively reserved for government-run agencies.
RAWAT WOOS RAWAT IN RUN UP TO UTTARAKHAND ASSEMBLY POLLS
Meeting between BJP leader Trivendra Singh Rawat and Congress leader Harish Rawat fuelled speculation that Trivendra Singh Rawat may support Harish Rawat in the upcoming assembly elections early next year as Harish Rawat had supported Trivendra Singh Rawat in 2017. The two posted photographs of their interaction on Facebook and shared that they met each other to ask about each other’s well-being. “It was nice to see Trivendra Singh Rawat in an enthusiastic mood,” wrote the Congress leader. Trivendra Singh Rawat wrote that the two met after a long interval. “There has been an improvement in his health after recovering from Covid-19. When asked about his health, he replied, “I am healthy”. According to political observers, the BJP leader has been unhappy with his party since he was asked to step down as the chief minister. The Congress is trying to woo this dissident.
RAHUL GANDHI URGES PUNJAB CONGRESS TRIO TO WORK UNITEDLY
Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, Punjab Congress Chief Navjot Singh Sidhu and senior leader Sunil Jakhar met Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday to discuss the respective strategy for the Punjab assembly elections early next year. According to sources, discussion was also held on the appointments in the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee and formation of election-related committees, where Sunil Jakhar could also be accommodated as the chairman of one of the poll related committees of the party. Recently, Jakhar had expressed his displeasure with Sidhu’s decisions as the cricketer-turned-politician started replacing the district party presidents appointed by the former PCC chief. Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi has asked the state leadership, i.e., Channi, Sidhu and Jakhar, to unitedly work for the party and stay focused on the upcoming polls.
TELANGANA CHIEF MINISTER KCR WAKES UP TO BJP THREAT IN HIS STATE
With BJP winning four Lok Sabha seats from Telangana in the 2019 general elections, including the seat in Nizamabad, where BJP candidate defeated KCR’s daughter, Kalvakuntla Kavitha, and given the recent victory of the BJP in the Huzurabad by-election, the K Chandrashekhar Rao-led TRS has received a big jolt. TRS has now come to believe that it is the BJP and not the Congress that’s their main rival in the state. For seven years now, the TRS, headed by Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao, has largely voted along with the ruling party in Parliament. The change was evident in the conspicuous presence of the TRS parliamentary party leader, K Kesava Rao, at the meeting of 16 opposition parties at the office of Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge, condemning the suspension of 12 Rajya Sabha members. Kesava Rao said: “The TRS is part of the opposition team to protest the highhanded attitude of the NDA government. We have been protesting for the last two days and we shall continue to do so.” Earlier, KCR had condemned the Modi government on several other issues, such as the now-repealed farm laws, the Lakhimpur Kherianti-farmer violence by BJP affiliates, power sector reforms, rising fuel prices in the country, Chinese aggression along Arunachal Pradesh borders and India’s deplorable performance in the hunger index. The buzz is that KCR’s strategy indicates that he might be preparing ground for an alliance with Congress in the near future. (IPA Service)