Is Jitin Prasada, a former Union minister who is considered close to Congress president Rahul Gandhi, on his way to the BJP? Prasada’s name was in the first list of Lok Sabha candidates announced by the Congress. There is a strong buzz that he could switch sides, surprising many in the party. On Friday, Prasada did not try to quell the speculation either while speaking with the media — he did not clear the air and say outright that he is not joining the BJP. He merely asked where the question was coming from, and that he would not answer hypothetical questions. Some in the Congress believe the Gandhis have reached out to him after the news spread and managed to prevent him from joining the BJP.
While many allies of the Congress are upset with the party for moving at a snail’s pace on seat-sharing talks in their respective states, and some are unhappy that the Congress is dragging its feet on alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party, DMK chief M K Stalin, it seems, is miffed for a different reason. The DMK had taken the lead and Tamil Nadu was the first off the block to announce the seat share arrangements. The party has even released its election manifesto, and most constituents of the DMK-led alliance in the state have announced their candidates. The Congress, though, is yet to finalise candidates for the nine seats allotted to the party. DMK leaders are said to be wondering why the Congress is unable to finalise candidates on just nine seats.
With the CPI not given a seat in the RJD-led alliance in Bihar, many in the party believe RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav’s insecurity has come in the way of its young leader Kanhaiya Kumar’s participation in the polls. The CPI wanted the Begusarai seat for Kumar, and senior party leader D Raja had met RJD chief Lalu Prasad in Ranchi jail, seeking a seat for the party. Raja was in constant touch also with Congress’s Bihar in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil. The Congress was said to be in favour of giving a seat to CPI, and Gohil spoke to Raja on Friday as well. But top CPI leaders claim Tejashwi did not want Kanhaiya, a powerful orator like him, to emerge as a leader in Bihar. They pointed out that Tejashwi has always avoided sharing the stage with the former JNU students’ union leader. The CPI’s Bihar unit will take a final call on fielding Kanhaiya on Sunday.
One Seat, Many Eyes
Releasing its first list on Thursday, the BJP announced candidates for all seats the party is contesting in Kerala, except Pathanamthitta. The constituency in central Kerala, which houses the Sabarimala shrine, has become a prestige seat for both BJP and the ruling CPI(M) in the state. While Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is himself monitoring his party’s electioneering there, the state BJP has seen multiple contenders for the seat, all the leaders apparently intending to cash in on public support the party had drawn during the protests against entry of women of all ages into the shrine. Both state BJP chief Sreedharan Pillai and K Surendran, who emerged as a key leader during the agitation, were eyeing the seat. Apparently, the RSS in Kerala also backed Surendran. Another aspirant, Union minister K J Alphons, has finally agreed to contest from Ernakulam. The latest rumour in Delhi is that the BJP national leadership is trying to woo a senior Congress leader, a multiple-term MP who is reportedly miffed with his party leadership, to join and contest from Pathanamthitta.