By Rahil Nora Chopra
Foreign audiences seem to be taking a liking to hear Indian politicians postulate their hopes, aspirations and frustrations about their domestic politics. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has had an unusual run of success with his US audiences in his recent tour, when he took on the policies of the Modi government with remarkable aplomb. For a change, Rahul is supposed to have made a mark with his interactions with university students, Indian communities and other groupings abroad. Now, it seems to be the turn of finance minister Arun Jaitley. At the centre of an unsavory controversy over his performance as finance minister, Jaitley will have his opportunity to try and defend himself when he engages with a congregation at Loeb House, Harvard Yard, on October 11 to deliver the Mahindra Lecture in honour of the late Harish C Mahindra, an alumnus of Harvard College. Jaitley is expected to respond to the criticism on the state of economy by Rahul Gandhi, who had addressed students at the University of California, Barkeley and Princeton University, as well as an increasing clamour within BJP and the saffron brigade for corrective action to put the Indian economy back on track.
WILL BENGAL REPEAT IN GUJARAT?
Is West Bengal going to repeat itself in Gujarat in the forthcoming assembly elections? In all probability it is. After three decades of uninterrupted rule, Bengal’s Left Front was swept off the ground when Trinamool Congress firebrand Mamata Banerjee, playing on CPM’s ‘anti-people’ policies, won a landslide victory in 2011 and has been holding the fort since then. The BJP rule in Gujarat has not had the longevity of CPM’s, yet it has managed to dominate the state’s politics for over two decades, thanks to a strategy of uniting the urban trading and business community with certain sections of the backward classes. The BJP formula seems to be cracking this time as some of the communities are realigning their loyalties. The trading community is particularly upset with the results of demonetisation and the introduction of GST. And to add to the worries of the party, the Patels have been feeling agitated over various issues, including reservations, and their young leader Hardik Patel, who has gained much clout in his community, is moving closer to the Congress. In his three-day tour of Gujarat recently, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has had a very productive interaction with the youthful leader. Hardik Patel’s Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti or PAAS has been actively campaigning against the state ruling BJP and occasionally supporting the Congress. The Samiti has been exhorting voters to bring down the BJP in the next assembly election this December. With less than two months to go for the elections, Samiti leaders seem to be becoming more open about their pro-Congress stance. According to sources, however, Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani, the face of dalits in Gujarat and OBC youth leader Alpesh Thakur have kept their cards close to their chest and clarity on their position is expected in the days to come. The Patidars, who comprise an estimated 12-20 percent of the population, and Dalits, constituting 7 percent, are expected to swing the election results.
ADVANI CAMP GETTING RESTIVE: SINHA ONSLAUGHT IS NOT RANDOM
Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha’s article on the Indian economy has created an unprecedented storm for the party and the government. The shock over the growing discontent against price rise and other economic ills, including a slowdown in economic growth, has forced the Modi government to hurriedly announce a reduction in the excise duty on petrol and diesel as part of the damage control exercise. By hindsight, it would seem that Sinha’s article may not have been a random occurrence. In fact, after a gap of four years, sidelined BJP and RSS patriarch LK Advani went to the RSS headquarters in Nagpur on Friday, 29 September and spent a night there. On Saturday he met RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and discussed the state of the economy as well as the affairs of the party. The Advani camp, which includes leaders such as Arun Shourie, Shatrughan Sinha and Varun Gandhi, apart from Yashwant Sinha, has suddenly become active and with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections approaching, this should be an irritant for the Modi-Amit Shah combine.
HOODA TO PAY A PRICE FOR BROKEN PROMISE
According to sources, Congress president Sonia Gandhi is unhappy with former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda over his failure to secure the support of party MLAs in the Rajya Sabha elections. Hooda had reportedly given an assurance to the party high command that the Congress MLAs will vote in favour of party-backed independent candidate RK Anand but he failed to fulfill his promise. Altogether 14 Congress votes were rejected in the election. Twelve votes were rejected because the MLAs used a wrong type of ink and one vote was not counted as the ballot was unmarked, with the result that BJP-backed independent and media baron Subhash Chandra got elected to the Rajya Sabha from Haryana. The buzz is that the party high command is thinking of appointing Kumari Selja as the state party president, ignoring Hooda’s claims. Selja belongs to a backward community that accounts for 10 percent of dalit population in Haryana. (IPA)