After failing to corner the RJD using the threat of a possible Congress pre-poll alliance with the JD(U) in Bihar, LJP leader Ramvilas Paswan has been knocking on the doors of the Gandhi family for a fair share of Lok Sabha seats to contest. However, with the Congress and the RJD having almost agreed on a 20:20 seat-sharing arrangement with the understanding that the former would accommodate the LJP and the NCP in its quota, his demand for 8-10 seats is not likely to be granted. The Congress thinks Paswan is trying to pull punches much beyond his weight.
Congressmen think after the JD(U)’s Mahadalit gambit, the LJP is on the political margins in Bihar and does not deserve more than 4-5 seats. While Paswan may be tempted to say ‘look who is talking’, the LJP leader is in no position to flex his muscles, given that he can ill-afford to go with the JD(U) that has eaten into his vote bank. Paswan has been meeting Sonia and Rahul Gandhi frequently in recent times, but the Congress does not seem to be in the mood to oblige him.
With barely 15 weeks left for the formation of the next government at the Centre, a confident BJP has come out with a fresh “insight” into the Congress nominations for the February 7 Rajya Sabha elections. A senior party functionary commented — with a foresight that he is known for — that there is a clear strategy behind the nomination of senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh to the Upper House. “He (Singh) will be the Leader of Opposition,” he said, quickly clarifying that there was no pun intended. “What about Arun Jaitley?” The question drew a rather sharp answer: “Cabinet ministers can’t hold that post.”
Amethi and more
Amid speculation about the Congress exploring the possibility of fielding Rahul Gandhi from two constituencies, including one in Karnataka from where his grandmother and mother had successfully contested in rather difficult times of their political careers, a party MP whose seat was said to be under consideration rushed to meet Sonia Gandhi. While he offered his seat to Rahul, the Congress president sternly said there was no such plan and Rahul would contest only from Amethi. Those who do not know the high command’s mind have, however, been saying that contesting from North and South will show Rahul’s pan-India appeal “as against North-centric Narendra Modi’s”.
The Congress may not have formally projected Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate but it is not willing to let people have any doubt on this account. The party’s recently launched advertisement campaign is centred around Rahul and those in the know said the Congress vice-president will be the “main focus” of the ad blitz till mid-March, after which the party will talk about its manifesto and the “real issues”.
With the Left Front in West Bengal allotting the lone Rajya Sabha seat it could win to the CPM, the Forward Bloc, which was eying the seat, suffered a double loss. Like fellow Left constituent RSP, it will have no representation in the Upper House now. Moreover, it will have to pull some strings to save its headquarters in Delhi. The 28, Gurdwara Rakabganj Road, bungalow allotted to its retiring Rajya Sabha MP Barun Mukherjee houses the headquarters. When RSP MP Abani Roy retired some time back, the party had to shift its headquarters as it failed to get the house allotted to one if its Lok Sabha members. Forward Bloc leaders say they will also try to get the house allotted to one of its two Lok Sabha MPs, but will the plan work?
Short cut to chaos
Vice-President Hamid Ansari had gone to the Lodhi Road crematorium this Saturday to attend the funeral of retired diplomat J C Sharma. After exiting the crematorium, his cavalcade went in the wrong direction — against the flow of traffic on Lodi Road — in an attempt to take a short cut. This created chaos and commuters got a taste of the ‘lal batti’ culture in the Capital.