By Nora Chopra
Sheila Dikshit is the new Brahmin face of the Congress. Though a Punjabi Khatri, she is married into an illustrious Brahmin family of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. Uma Shankar Dikshit, her father-in-law, was a well-known Congress Kanyakubj Brahmin leader from Kannauj in central Uttar Pradesh. Congress, in search of a captive base vote of the Brahmins, is supposed to have zeroed on Sheila Dikshit, who wears the feather in her political cap of succeeding to get Congress elected three times consecutively. Her inclusion in the high powered Antony committee set up to look into the party’s performance and defeat in four states of Goa UP, Punjab and Uttarakhand, is the result of this ongoing debate and dilemma in the party. In the absence of a North Indian Brahmin leader of the stature of Kamlapati Tripathi, Uma Shankar Dikshit, Narain Dutt Tiwari or even the BJP’s Atal Behari Vajpayee, Dikshit is the only name the Congress can latch on to. By including her in the Antony committee, the party has made the first move of bringing her into the tumultuous playground of national politics. If the buzz in the Congress is to be believed, Sheila Dikshit will be made cabinet minister in the coming months in the Manmohan Singh government, with some responsibility of the party. In fact, she is tipped to replace P Chidambaram as union home minister ofIndia.
RSS BACKS GADKARI DESPITE OPPOSITION
Nitin Gadkari is all set to get another term despite the rising opposition to him in the BJP. With an eye on the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the war in the BJP quarters has intensified. In a bid to recapture the top position of the BJP president, Team Advani has crossed swords with the RSS. While the RSS continues to back Nitin Gadkari, whose term expires this December, for another term, Advani and his team of the top four, including Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, are fighting the RSS tooth and nail against the RSS wish. While Gadkari’s adversaries in the party are charging him of incompetence in the wake of the BJP’s dismal performance in UP, followed by the Anshuman Mishra episode, the charges made by the CAG — accusing his close friend and business partner Ajay Sancheti of causing losses to the tune of Rs 1,000 crores to the Chhattisgarh exchequer in the allotment of coal mines in the state — are equally proving to be stumbling blocks in his way. But these arguments are unlikely to cut ice with the RSS, as it was made clear to the BJP in 2009 that Gadkari would lead the party to elections in 2014 and thus would remain in the seat till then. The RSS had categorically made it clear to the BJP top brass that Gadkari’s mandate was to remain president till 2014 and the BJP leadership had agreed to this. Besides this, his mandate included bringing in a generational change in the party, which the RSS thinks he has tried to do. The RSS is said to be of the view that denying Gadkari a second term would only be tantamount to sacking. But as far as the question of projecting someone as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate is concerned, the RSS is yet to take a decision. The issue will be debated at the meeting of the National Council sometime in September. The RSS leadership is opposed to the idea of starting the PM debate in 2012. They want the party to wait till 2013.
RAHUL TO STRENGTHEN BASE IN UTTAR PRADESH
Rahul Gandhi will continue to work in Uttar Pradesh for the next five years till the party’s vote percentage reaches at least 25%. Rahul will put all his energies to raise the party coffers in the state. This is what he told the party’s UP MPs at the review meeting that he addressed on April 5 last week on a Good Friday. Rahul also informed that accountability would be fixed on those responsible for the defeat. Among those under the scanner to get the rap are Digvijay Singh – general secretary in-charge, Mohan Prakash – chairman, screening committee, Rita Bahuguna – PCC chief, Raj Babbar – chairman, media committee and Prakash Jaiswal – chairman, campaign committee. The issue giving outsiders the ticket was brushed aside as most outsiders polled more votes than Congress insiders. Rahul was particularly pleased with RPN Singh as Congress won two seats in his constituency. The meeting was, however, wrapped up on a note of consensus that the party should now work to rebuild its upper caste base in UP, mainly the Brahmins, but also the Rajputs, who are actually homeless in the state as these castes are not aligned with any party.
ENRAGED AGGARWAL DITCHES CONGRESS CAMPAIGN
The war in the Delhi Pradesh Congress has reached its peak. After walking out of the state committee meeting that had met two weeks ago to decide the MCD tickets, PCC chief JP Aggarwal is sitting at home. He has refused to campaign for the party candidates. JP has been allegedly heard telling Congress workers, “Let the Mother and Son lead the party to defeat.” But at the same time, allegations of tickets being sold are also being levelled against him by the Sheila Dikshit camp and vice versa. Both camps are accusing each other of tickets being sold for crores. His detractors are charging him for unleashing confusion at the time of giving out party symbols. About ten incidents are being cited where he gave the symbols to two candidates, but was finally made to withdraw the unauthorised candidate. There are indications that Aggarwal would be replaced before the party goes for Lok Sabha polls.
CONGRESS TURNS A BLIND EYE TO AZAM KHAN’S REIGN OF TERROR
Terror reigns inRampurever since Azam Khan won the election. Although still reeling under the impact of its defeat in UP, the Congress high command has set out for a total surrender to its main adversary Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, even if it means to overlook the torture of its own party cadres by the SP leaders. After the Congress candidate Tanveer lost to Azam Khan inRampur, he is now being regularly terrorised. As his party bosses have turned a blind eye to his plight, Azam’s men have unleashed terror in the entire area and have even demolished the poor doctor’s clinic. He has been also getting threat calls and been asked to wind up his practice. Tanveer is not the only doctor who’s under threat. All the doctors in Rampur, who had supported him are being victimised. Their clinics have been sealed, including the hospital run by the rotary club, resulting in the regrettable death of some patients who were admitted there. Dozens of Congress supporter families, who had put up Congress flags at their houses, have been rendered homeless, after Azam Khan’s men demolished them bringing women and children on to the street. But for the Congress leaders, the government in Delhi limping along on the crutches of Mulayam Singh, is undoubtedly more important than the victimisation of their workers.
SIBAL FACING MUSLIM WRATH
The Muslim intellectuals are unhappy with the HRD minister Kapil Sibal for deliberately sabotaging the chances of Syed Ehtesham Hasnain for the post of UGC Chairman. Sibal is being charged of acting out of communal bias. The three member search committee selected him out of 82 members interviewed for the post, as he wears many feathers in his cap besides being a well-known name in the academic world — a renowned scientist, the former VC of Hyderabad University, professor in IIT Delhi, a recipient of Padma Award, member of the UGC and in the PM’s advisory committee on science. Only two names have been sent to PM, the second name being of Pankaj Chandra, former director of IIM Bangalore. Chandra’s only credentials are that he is Mukesh Ambani’s candidate, while Hasnain was the first choice of the search committee. Despite his limited talents compared to Hasnain, Kapil Sibal has recommended the name of Pankaj Chandra. Chandra has also accompanied Sibal in his trip to Israel as the future UGC chairman. However, pressure from the Muslim intellectuals in favour of Hasnain has put the announcement on hold. More than a dozen MPs have petitioned to the PM in Hasnain’s favour, including Rajya Sabha chairman Rehman Khan and MP Rasheed Masood. In his reply to Masood, PM has promised to take up the issue seriously. The OBC Commission member Shakeeluzaman Ansari, too, has written a letter to the PM charging Sibal of anti-Muslim bias. Ansari in his letter has said that the UPA has been cribbing over the fact that Muslims do not come through merit, but when a Muslim has indeed come up on his own merit, why is the government reluctant to appoint him the UGC Chairman?
MAMATA SCORES ONE MORE POINT OVER CONGRESS
The Congress leadership is down on their knees before Mamata Banerjee. Despite resentment within its rank and file in West Bengal, the central leadership is in a mood of total surrender, Mamata is walking away with whatever she wants. Withdrawal of their Rajya Sabha candidate Abdul Mannan in favour of the Trinamool Congress candidate is just one of the umpteen number of incidents of abject surrender. It was soon followed by the gifting of an All India Medical Institute to her stronghold Kalyani in South Bengal, even if it means trashing the dreams of their ailing leader Priya Ranjan Dal Munshi, who had got it sanctioned for his constituency in Raigunj in North Bengal. And now, the final blow to West Bengal Congress comes in the form of offering the Rajya Sabha seat to her candidate Kunal Ghosh, a favoured journalist embroiled in the Chit Fund controversy. The Congress MP from Malda, Abu Hasnat Khan Choudhury, had written a letter to the prime minister last month seeking probe in the role of a chit fund company Sharda, headed by Kunal Ghosh, which is cheating poor people in the name of high interest. It was alleged that the funds were being diverted to bring out newspapers and running the local Bengali Chanel 10. But when Mamata called up Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmad Patel, Patel is said to have intervened and forced Hasnat alias Dallu to withdraw his allegation and the letter. It was only after the Congress buckled under Mamata pressure that Kunal did a smooth landing in the Rajya Sabha.
VK SINGH’S POLITICAL AMBITIONS
The Indian Express exposure of a possible coup also has other dimensions to the story. The son of Lt Gen AK Singh, the commander of the military unit based in Hisar, who supposedly led the troops to Delhi, is engaged to the army chief VK Singh’s younger daughter. Meanwhile, the latest grapevine in the political market is that VK Singh who has political ambitions, is toying with the idea of floating a political outfit with his country cousin Arvind Kejriwal. Together, they plan to field candidates in 2014 and VK Singh will be their prime ministerial candidate. (IPA)