One reason why the government ensured that Atal Bihari Vajpayee was accorded a grand farewell nationally is that BJP chief Amit Shah is keen to assuage disillusioned Brahmin voters. The propaganda that the BJP is no longer concerned about Brahmin interests has been reinforced by the lack of representation of the community in key slots in the party and government. The big two in the party, Narendra Modi and Shah, are non-Brahmins. Besides, there is an extraordinary preponderance of Thakurs as chief ministers. There are Thakur BJP Chief Ministers in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Manipur. Apart from the six — Vasundhara Raje, Raman Singh, Yogi Adityanath, Trivendra Singh Rawat, Jai Ram Thakur and N Biren Singh — many assume that Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan is a Rajput. In fact, he is an OBC.
MoUs between India and representatives of another country are signed customarily in Delhi’s plush Hyderabad House. But such is the Central government’s aversion to the Aam Aadmi Party that a message was conveyed to the Delhi government that the MoU on the twin-city agreement between Delhi and Moscow should be signed at another venue. Visiting Russian minister Sergey Cheremin discovered at the last minute that he had to travel all the way to the Town Hall, in the heart of crowded old Delhi, to countersign the agreement with Delhi’s Deputy CM Manish Sisodia. Unsurprisingly, he was late. Meanwhile, several MoUs with the Russians could not be formalised during President Vladimir Putin’s visit because they had to be first translated into Hindi.
Recently, there was a farewell tea party for Sonia Gandhi’s close aide S V Pillai at 10 Janpath, organised by Pillai’s Keralite colleague P P Madhavan. Pillai was reportedly reluctant to leave the Capital, hoping that he could manage to stay on like V George, who still visits Sonia’s office periodically. Pillai, a former government employee, had joined Sonia’s office in 1998, when she was leader of the Congress parliamentary party, and he remained with her when she was leader of the opposition and later head of the National Advisory Council. PAs of the Gandhi family, whether R K Dhawan or V George, have always commandeered great respect from Congresspersons, who know their importance as gatekeepers to the boss. In his hey days, Pillai used to be addressed as “sir” and “saheb” by Congress ministers.
Wheel of fortune
In the Congress, the fortunes of members can go up and down. For instance, when actress Divya Spandana was first put in charge of the party’s social media cell, she was riding high and congratulated for injecting a new spark and aggression into the party’s social media profile, putting the BJP on the backfoot. But now Spandana’s role has been downsized following some tweets, such as calling the Prime Minister a ‘chor’ and getting a photo-shopped visual to make the point, which embarrassed the party. Whether or not she momentarily resigned in a huff, Spandana’s role has been cut down. Nikhil Alva, son of veteran Karnataka Congress leader Margaret Alva, has been put in charge of Rahul Gandhi’s Twitter handle.
Some attribute Spandana’s fall from grace to media in-charge Randeep Surjewala, who is keen to promote his protégé Priyanka Chaturvedi and wants the social media cell to be part of the overall media division and not a separate unit. Others feel Spandana is a victim of Karnataka politics. Jairam Ramesh, also from Karnataka, who is in charge of coordinating the Congress campaign for 2019, was instrumental in elevating Alva. Interestingly, just a year ago, Ramesh himself was down in the dumps after his injudicious remark about the Congress facing an existential crisis. He has bounced back in favour. And will Alva remain a blue-eyed boy considering that he was responsible for Rahul’s recent tweet suggesting, on the basis of a video, that Nitin Gadkari claimed that the BJP made tall promises it couldn’t keep before the 2014 election? The tweet turned out to be a dud, with Gadkari pointing out that the video was on abolishing toll taxes in Maharashtra, a promise duly kept.
Plus and minus
Not all in the Congress view BSP chief Mayawati ruling out an alliance with the party in Madhya Pradesh as a setback. Though the BSP commands 6 per cent of the vote share in the state, some believe that the proposed alliance would have put off potential upper-caste voters, who are disenchanted with the ruling BJP but fearful that a Congress tie-up with Mayawati would translate into reservations even in promotions. If the Congress wins the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections on its own steam, it strengthens the party’s position greatly for the 2019 polls.