The Congress’s social media in-charge Divya Spandana should have known better than to embarrass her party with her indiscreet tweets. First she responded to a picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi standing next to the mammoth statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel with the remark, “Is that bird dropping?’’ She refused to apologise or explain when a storm of protest broke out. In response to an independent journalist who felt that as a public person with a party position she should explain her words, she wrote, “Not my circus, not my monkeys’’, adding fuel to the fire.
Of late, several Congress leaders have defied the party’s stated position in their utterances. Manish Tewari wrote, “The Brahmins are the new Jews of India, we should learn to live with it.” C P Joshi announced that “Only a Congress PM can build a Ram temple”. Shashi Tharoor wrote that if today India has a tea-seller as PM, it’s because Jawaharlal Nehru made it possible. Raj Babbar in Chhattisgarh described Maoists as “revolutionaries fighting for their rights”.
MP Congress president Kamal Nath had warned party persons to weigh their words in election season and not create controversies for the BJP to exploit. But he himself got into hot water for a video where he sought “90 per cent voting in Muslim areas”. The BJP protested to the Election Commission.
With the Congress’s improved strength in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh apparent, its potential allies in Uttar Pradesh have turned hostile. Mayawati appears to have influenced the amenable Akhilesh Yadav to follow her example and hit out at the Congress. While campaigning in Chhattisgarh and MP, Akhilesh made the Congress the target of his attack along with the BJP. Referring to the party symbols of the SP and Congress, he said, “We will remove the hand from the cycle if it tries to stop the cycle or control it.’’ The political buzz in UP is that the SP and BSP have agreed on seatsharing in Uttar Pradesh, leaving a few for Ajit Singh and the splinter Apna Dal. No seats have been reserved for the Congress as a potential ally.
Timing all wrong
Stunned BJP spokespersons refrained from reacting to Sushma Swaraj’s statement that she would not contest from the Vidisha seat in 2019. The news did not come as a total surprise since Swaraj has barely visited her constituency in the last two years and closed her office there some months ago. But her public announcement of her decision in the midst of a crucial Assembly poll was hugely embarrassing for the BJP. Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Shashi Tharoor congratulated Swaraj on Twitter, with Chidambaram claiming that the veteran parliamentarian had seen the writing on the wall. Swaraj, 66, asserted that she was not resigning from politics. She said she was giving up Vidisha because her doctors had advised her, after her kidney operation in December 2016, to avoid exposure to dust, which she would have been subjected to if she were to travel to the rural constituency.
Her defenders say Swaraj was provoked to speak because of the relentless questions from the media, which charged her with neglecting Vidisha, a prestigious constituency formerly represented by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Shivraj Singh Chouhan. After the bad timing of her statement, which some even read as retaliation for the BJP high command marginalising her, Swaraj may get little assistance from her party for her future political plans.
Upendra Kushwaha’s original quarrel with the BJP-JD(U) alliance in Bihar was that his Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) would need more than the three seats it contested in 2014, in the 2019 parliamentary elections. Since then, Kushwaha, still a minister at the Centre, has been consorting with the enemy camp, Lalu Prasad’s Grand Alliance. In the process, Nitish Kumar and Amit Shah arrived at a seat-sharing agreement which left Kushwaha out in the cold. The only two RLSP MLAs, meanwhile, are in talks with the JD(U). But Kushwaha has now discovered that there is little space for the RLSP in the Grand Alliance, which has to accommodate the RJD, Congress, CPI, NCP and Jitan Manjhi’s Hindustan Awam Morcha etc. Kushwaha has learnt late the wisdom of the proverb that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.
In contrast to Kushwaha, Ram Vilas Paswan has played his cards well. Nitish Kumar’s alliance in Bihar has reserved four seats for Paswan’s caste-based party, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). In addition, Paswan has been assured by the BJP that he will be nominated to the Rajya Sabha from Assam.