By Rahil Nora Chopra
Even before the assumption that Opposition might come together in the hope of capturing power in 2024 could duly take hold in the public’s mind, the race has commenced on who would be the prime ministerial candidate. In this context, a huge banner of Delhi’s Red Fort was put up at an iftar party hosted by the JD(U) member of the legislative council, Khalid Anwar, where Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was the chief guest. On the poster was a slogan which claimed that the country was waiting for Nitish, that prompted a few Mahagathbandhan partners to jump in and start discussing how capable the Bihar CM was to head the country. Meanwhile, Nitish and Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) met Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and senior leader Rahul Gandhi at his 10, Rajaji Marg residence. JDU president Rajiv Ranjan Singh, RJD’s Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Kumar Jha and Congress leader Salman Khursheed were also present at the meeting. Discussions on forging a united front to take on the BJP were conducted, which all the leaders, including Kharge, Rahul, and Kumar, described as historic. Kharge is expected talk to parties which are friendly with the Congress, while Nitish has been tasked to reach out to the parties carrying an anti-Congress grudge or bias. The idea is to not exclude any non-BJP force and every single Opposition party would be approached, it was decided. The Congress seems to have stepped back to allow Nitish to take the lead to ensure that the traditional anti-Congressism doesn’t become a barrier.
CONGRESS, KAMAL NATH BANKING ON 12-DAY PADYATRA IN MADHYA PRADESH
Both BJP and Congress at their respective ends have started preparations to regain power in Madhya Pradesh. Congress workers of Narsinghpur-Narmadapuram district had initiated a yatra, namely, ‘Kamal Nath Lao, Pradesh Bachao’, 12-day foot-march which began on April 10. During this yatra, the Congress workers will cover a distance of 200 kilometres in 12 days, while raising issues critical of the BJP government in the state.PCC Chief Kamal Nath himself will participate in the closing ceremony of the padyatra and will address the gathering. In this padyatra, about 100 padyatris will walk 20 kilometres daily. It will end in Seoni Malwa on April 22. Moreover, Congress is also focussing on Bundelkhand, Malwa and Vindhya region. The party is eyeing women voters and former CM Kamal Nath has announced that if his party forms the government again in Madhya Pradesh by securing a victory in the state assembly election scheduled later this year, a financial help of Rs. 18,000 per year would be given to women in the state and that it would be largest ‘women empowerment scheme of the world’.
NCP TO EXPAND BEYOND MAHARASHTRA, WILL CONTEST IN KARNATAKA POLLS
Aiming to expand its footprint in other states beyond Maharashtra, the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is geared to contest 40-45 seats in the upcoming Karnataka Assembly elections, where the BJP, Congress and the JD(S) are encircled in a triangular contest. Pawar has called for a meeting of party leaders in Mumbai on 15 April to finalise its plans for the assembly elections in Karnataka scheduled for May 10. The attempt is also seen as an initiative by the NCP to regain the national party status it had to forego due to its bleak political fortunes in states such as Goa, Meghalaya and Manipur. Pawar’s announcement of plans for Karnataka came a day after his meeting with Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi on the need to forge opposition unity to take on the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections coming year.
COURTED BY BOTH NITISH AND AMIT SHAH, CHIRAG KEEPS HIS OPTIONS OPEN
Ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Union Home Minister Amit Shah is preoccupied with formulating a strategy to bring smaller parties in Bihar, representing the OBC or EBC sections constituting around 2 to 3 per cent of the population, like Mukesh Sahani’s Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP), Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Janata Dal (RLJD), among others, under the NDA fold. On the other hand, CM Nitish Kumar has already bridged the barrier by bringing closer Chirag Paswan, the chief of Lok Janshakti Party. In a prominent development on April 9, Chirag attended the iftar party hosted by Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, and sought to seek the blessings of Nitish by touching his feet. Chirag Paswan reportedly hugged Tejashwi as well. The Jamui MP’s Circular Road visit is being seen as a pressure tactic to bargain with the BJP for more seats in the Lok Sabha election in the event of a pre-poll alliance. According to sources, Chirag wants to be sure about his involvement in the BJP-led NDA in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, and he conveyed a strong message to BJP on April 9, underlining the fact that he would keep his options open if denied the desired number of seats.
WILL BAGHEL VS DEO RIVALRY TARNISH CHHATTISGARH’S GOOD GOVERNANCE?
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi recently paid a visit to the Maoist-affected Bastar and launched an election campaign for the ruling Congress at ‘Bharose Ka Sammelan’ in Chhattisgarh, where she urged people to compare the previous 15 years of the BJP with the present Congress government. Priyanka emphasized that Congress rule has won the trust of the masses and restored pride of the state. CM Bhupesh Baghel has launched ‘Mukhyamantri Adivasi Parab Samman Nidhi Yojana’ to offer financial aid of Rs 10,000 annually to all 1,840 gram panchayats of Bastar division to facilitate the tribal communities to celebrate their festivals with gusto. Meanwhile, the ongoing power rift between CM Baghel and Chhattisgarh Health Minister TS Singh Deo is still a matter of concern. With assembly elections less than a year away, there is growing talk in the ruling Congress in Chhattisgarh both for and against rejig in the state party organization. CM Baghel has signalled for a change and triggered speculation about the possible appointment of a new PCC chief. Meanwhile, after former Rajasthan Deputy CM Sachin Pilot announced a hunger strike against his own government, TS Singh Deo asserted that he and his ministers in the state are not even allowed to speak freely. Both Baghel and Deo camps are making their own ticket list and demanding prominent share in the ticket distribution process. (IPA Service)