The Congress’s campaign strategist Prashant Kishor is no longer the flavour of the season. Kishor was not present at a strategy session for the party’s UP campaign last week, which was attended by Priyanka Gandhi. And significantly, the strategist and his team have been shifted from the Congress war rooms on Rakabganj Road and Mahadev Road to a commercial building in Noida. Kishor is reported to have told a friend that when he worked with the BJP for the 2014 general elections and for Nitish Kumar in the Bihar polls, both parties had a clear idea of their objectives. In contrast, the Congress members in UP are all pulling in different directions; their only common point being a desire to get rid of him.
President Pranab Mukherjee made his first trip to the small industrial town of Ankleshwar in Gujarat last week to inaugurate the Sardar Patel Hospital and Heart Institute — the baby of Rajya Sabha MP Ahmed Patel, who hails from Bharuch district. The chemistry between the President and Patel was evident at the function. As former party colleagues, Patel often acted as an intermediary when Mukherjee faced problems with some of his ministerial colleagues in the UPA government. In his speech, the President remarked that but for his position, he would have liked to give the vote of thanks to Patel for setting up a modern, fully-equipped, speciality hospital in a region devoid of such facilities. The entire top brass of the Gujarat Congress was present, including former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela, state president Bharat Solanki, former leaders of opposition in the Gujarat Assembly Arjun Modhwadia and Shaktisinh Gohil, and Gujarat in-charge Gurudas Kamat. The notable absentee, even though he had been invited, was Congress general secretary Madhusudan Mistry, who claims proximity to Rahul Gandhi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to Gujarat to inaugurate Vadodara’s spacious new eco-friendly airport last week. But the new airport still does not have a name. Petitions to name the airport after Sir Sayajirao Gaekwad III, the visionary ruler of Baroda, who was a great social reformer, philanthropist and patron of the arts, were sent to both the PM and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. But the BJP government is still to make up its mind, though the signatories of the petitions include Shubhangini Devi Raje Gaekwad, the Baroda University Vice-Chancellor, Central minister Ramdas Athawale and MP Parimal Nathwani. Incidentally, the unnamed airport is yet to be opened to travellers.
Quoting the Chinese
Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit is not bothered by diplomatic niceties. He does not miss an opportunity to take a dig or two at his host country. Last week he delivered a speech on Indo-Pakistan ties but felt it necessary to quote from two ancient Chinese philosophers, Confucius and Sun Tzu, to stress the strong ties between Pakistan and China. Tongue-in-cheek Basit recalled Confucius’ quote: “If the words you use are not in accordance with reality, you will not be accorded success.” Perhaps implying that India should weigh its words wisely when talking about its neighbour.
Expelled Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav met a deputy election commissioner last Wednesday to find out the modalities of starting a new political party. The ever-resourceful Amar Singh got wind of the meeting. This has further fuelled the fear in the Shivpal Yadav camp that Akhilesh Yadav might form his own party.
Cut to size
When Pinarayi Vijayan was sworn in as Kerala Chief Minister five months ago, he was riding high. Breaking party norms, he went about promoting himself rather than the CPM or his government. While announcing his swearing-in, he even took out full-page advertisements, displaying his photograph prominently, in Delhi newspapers. Vijayan believed no one could touch him since he had decimated the competition, and at the central level, the Politburo was split between Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat. When the CM was first warned that his Industries Minister E P Jayarajan was tarnishing the party’s image by appointing his relatives as chairpersons of public sector bodies, Vijayan brushed off the advice. He presumed he could protect his protégé by simply changing his portfolio. He did not bargain that the Politburo would stand united in demanding Jayarajan’s removal from the Cabinet. Vijayan had to eat humble pie.