Campaign strategist Prashant Kishor seems to have travelled full circle. He took credit for Narendra Modi’s success in the 2014 general election and Nitish Kumar’s victory in Bihar in 2015. However, he had to eat humble pie when the Congress was routed by its worst margin ever in Uttar Pradesh in 2017. Kishor now wants a big role in the BJP’s 2019 campaign. Modi, who has a soft corner for Kishor, is willing to take him back, provided Amit Shah, who is in charge of the campaign, agrees. But Shah is unwilling to involve Kishor in the main BJP campaign. He suggested that Kishor could handle a separate project to build the BJP’s pro-Dalit image. Kishor has yet to decide. But another task entrusted to him has already fallen flat. Nitish Kumar used Kishor as the go-between to try and get back into the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar. The Congress was willing but Lalu Prasad’s sons were not. While Tejashwi Yadav announced this publicly, brother Tej Pratap Yadav went one better and put up a notice on his door, “Nitish Kumar not allowed”.
Leading the way
The Congress is anxious to demonstrate to potential allies of a Mahagathbandhan, such as Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati, that Rahul Gandhi is also in the reckoning as leader of the alliance in the event of the defeat of Narendra Modi in 2019. Most in the Congress feel that in the upcoming Monsoon Session of Parliament, Rahul should be made leader of the party in the Lok Sabha so that he gets exposure and experience. Rahul could replace Mallikarjun Kharge, who was recently appointed general secretary in charge of Maharashtra. The snag is that removing Kharge, a Dalit, might be misunderstood in some quarters and it is slightly embarrassing for Sonia Gandhi, as chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party, to appoint her own son.
The pre-engagement invitation card of the son of India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, has become a popular talking point since it has been forwarded frequently on WhatsApp and the Internet. Estimates of the steep price of the card, which has a silver temple opening and bells tolling and lights flashing, vary, depending on whether the temple is made of sterling silver. Some wonder how the Ambanis will top this hype for the actual wedding and whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the nuptials, considering that all three Ambani offsprings — Akash, Isha and Anant — are slated to be married within the year. Modi, in fact, met the younger generation of the Ambanis in Delhi shortly before their respective engagements were announced. Ambani Gen Next was accompanied by an MP close to the family. The interaction with the Prime Minister is not, however, so unusual. The Prime Minister has often asked his visitors to bring their children for a chat since he is interested in knowing the views of those under 30.
The story of double agent Rabinder Singh, who worked for both the R&AW and CIA, has been recalled in a news website report, which gives insider details that have never before revealed before. Singh, who was honey-trapped by the CIA on a foreign posting, died in Maryland, US, in 2016. He had by then turned into a remorseful recluse, after the US intelligence agencies, which helped him escape and gave him a false identity, disowned him. Singh had fled the country after getting wind that R&AW counter-intelligence was on his trail. Indian intelligence had had Singh under surveillance for four months. It was later concluded that Singh had handed over some 20,000 files to the CIA, and that at least 57 R&AW officers had shared inputs with him and two dozen colluded with him. However, no action was taken against the colluders, who were simply transferred to insignificant stations. The author believes Brajesh Mishra as NSA dragged his feet on efforts to extradite Singh when he learnt of the US involvement.
Some veteran minority leaders of the Congress are unhappy about the meeting organised by Salman Khurshid last week of Rahul Gandhi with Muslim intellectuals. They feel Khurshid’s selection of intellectuals consisted predominantly of left-of-centre Muslims from Lutyens Delhi who are disconnected from the community’s grassroots. They believe that some representatives from the clergy, academics from minority institutions and conservatives should have been included in the interaction. They fear that an impression is gaining ground that Rahul is being manipulated by the Left.