According to conventional thinking, the BJP will not have sufficient votes to pass contentious legislation, such as the triple talaq Bill, till next year, when it could gain a majority in the Rajya Sabha with the help of allies and sympathisers. But Amit Shah has mounted an ambitious gameplan to trigger enough defections in the Upper House by the year-end. The operation began with four of the six TDP MPs switching to the BJP, followed by the lone INLD MP. Now, Neeraj Shekhar, son of the late prime minister Chandra Shekhar, has resigned from the Samajwadi Party. The BJP is focused on Uttar Pradesh since any MP who resigns will automatically be re-elected to the Upper House on a BJP ticket with the help of its large numbers in the state Assembly. Two BSP MPs and two SP MPs have been earmarked as potential targets. The two PDP MPs, Nazir Ahmed Laway and Mir Mohammad Fayaz, are also being wooed. Significantly, neither MP criticised the extension of President’s rule in Kashmir. In fact, Ahmed felt that Shah’s visit would bring new light to the Valley. Both probably realise that in the present scenario, any association with the PDP is unproductive.
Glasnost at home
The Capital’s journalists find it tough to get exclusive news breaks, since the usual sources are increasingly fearful of being seen talking to journalists. When the Finance Ministry restricted access to PIB-accredited newspersons at its North Block offices, many feared that this was the prelude to a blanket ban on journalists in all government offices and possibly even in Parliament’s Central Hall. But reassurance that no such prohibitory order is in the offing came from Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s neighbour in North Block. Shah assured reporters that he would not prohibit their entry. “I am a large-hearted man, I don’t impose such restrictions.”
As you sow
What goes around comes around. Goa MLA Vijay Sardesai, whose Goa Forward Party won three seats in the 2017 Assembly elections, had assured Digvijaya Singh, then Congress general secretary in-charge of Goa, that his party would support the Congress, which won 17 out of 40 Assembly seats. But next morning, when Singh telephoned Sardesai to ask him to reach the Governor’s house, he discovered that Sardesai, a former Congressman whose main target was the BJP during the election, had switched off his phone. Shortly afterwards, the Congress discovered that the BJP, with just 13 MLAs, had managed to cobble together a government with the help of the Goa Forward Party and some others. Sardesai was appointed planning and agriculture minister and his two colleagues were also rewarded with ministries. In a coup this month, the BJP succeeded in luring 10 of the 17 Congress MLAs to its side. Secure in its solid majority, the BJP promptly and most unceremoniously dumped Sardesai and his two MLAs, who were taken totally by surprise. Incidentally, not everyone in the Goa BJP is pleased with the recent developments. The old-time BJP workers are furious with the entry of eight Catholic MLAs, most of whom they had fought against bitterly during election campaigns, calling them all kinds of names.
As minister for urban development, Kamal Nath was notorious for demanding out-of-turn memberships for his high-flying friends at the exclusive Delhi Golf Club. But even in Modi raj, some hardcore Sangh Parivar members are not averse to backdoor entry to the posh club, though they may not know the difference between a birdie and a bogey.
A different mould
The BJP’s new general secretary, organisation, B L Santhosh, is not in the mould of his predecessor, Ramlal, who continued for over 13 years by being amenable and non-interfering. He is also unlike Govindacharya, who was a law unto himself and undermined both Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Murli Manohar Joshi. Nor can he be compared to Sanjay Joshi, who had a longstanding tiff with Narendra Modi. Santosh is on the same page as both Shah and Modi, his major differences are largely with B S Yeddyurappa, since both are from Karnataka. The 52-year-old Santhosh was virtually in charge of Karnataka when Yeddyurappa left the party eight years ago. After Yeddyurappa’s return, friction between the two was inevitable. Santhosh and his youthful coterie of Hindutva hardliners did not cooperate in Yeddyurappa’s earlier attempts to bring down the H D Kumaraswamy government. Some believe that Santhosh, like Modi, another former pracharak loaned to the party, may eventually join politics full time. He could be a possible successor to Yeddyurappa despite the handicap of being a Brahmin in a state whose politics is dominated by Lingayats and Vokkaligas.
This article first appeared in the print edition on July 21, 2019, under the title ‘Inside Track: Snatch and grab’.