The BJP high command and the PMO have been pressing the chief ministers of BJP- ruled states to furnish statistics of the beneficiaries of different Central and state government schemes at the state, district, block and village level. The data has to include Aadhaar numbers, addresses and mobile numbers, if any. Among the 23 schemes, some of them repackaged and fast tracked, are: Ujjawala, MGNREGA, Jan Dhan and Direct Benefit Transfer. The government wants updated data till October 1. It is speculated that the information is being compiled so that PM Modi can mention names of beneficiaries when he visits a particular region. The states have also been asked to prepare a chart with precise dates on which the beneficiaries received the benefits. This second round of data collection will start in January and is to be completed by February 15. This suggests that the government does not plan to advance the Lok Sabha elections and also that the line between government and party has virtually vanished.
New man in mind
Ever since the Prime Minister met popular Malayalam film actor Mohanlal, it is speculated that the BJP hopes to persuade him to stand as its candidate from the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency next year. Thiruvananthapuram is one Kerala constituency which the BJP had set its sights on for decades. But its candidate, the dogged O Rajagopal lost repeatedly, his vote tally far behind the two main contestants, the Congress and the CPI. But in 2014 the BJP voteshare shot up by 20 per cent and Rajagopal, now 88, lost to the Congress’s Shashi Tharoor by a mere two per cent of the votes and emerged second. Modi tweeted after his interaction with Mohanlal waxing eloquent about the actor’s humility and social services. The actor had called on Modi to invite him for a programme to his Viswa Santhi Foundation, but has disavowed any political ambitions.
Rahul Gandhi has formed three major committees for the 2019 polls. The core committee, the manifesto committee and the publicity committee. While veterans such as Ahmed Patel, Anand Sharma, Ghulam Nabi Azad, P Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh have been included, Kapil Sibal was left out. The leading lawyer does not just represent most Congress leaders in major court cases, but he has considerable clout in other parties, since he is the legal counsel for party bosses such as Lalu Prasad and Mayawati. Sibal was kept out of all three panels because of internal party politics. After belated realisation of the lacuna, Sibal was added to the publicity committee, but he declined the position. Actually Sibal’s just released book Shades of Truth can be an excellent reference source for any Congress publicity material for the forthcoming polls.
Outsiders want role
Jignesh Mevani, Alpesh Thakor and Hardik Patel are positioning themselves for a greater say in the distribution of Congress tickets in next year’s general elections. Hardik has gone on fast for his demand for quota reservation for Patels. Though he has lost much weight and has written out his will, Congress cadres are not overly enthused by his campaign. (Incidentally when Medha Patkar tried to meet Hardik, she was turned away by his supporters who felt she was anti- Gujarat for opposing the Narmada dam). Hardik wants to contest from Mehsana and is expected to win. Mevani, though not in the Congress, wants the ticket from Bhuj, a reserved constituency. If Rahul Gandhi obliges the rest of the party is likely to be up in arms. Unlike the other two, Alpesh, the Congress MLA from Radhanpur, does not have national ambitions but has dreams of emerging as CM of Gujarat. He wants a definite say in ticket distribution.
Ratnakar Pandey was a familiar figure in Congress circles from 1985 to 1991 as the faithful standard bearer for the Gandhi family. Pandey along with Suresh Pachauri, SS Ahluwalia and Baba Mishra were known as the shouting brigade in the Rajya Sabha. They would stand up and scream whenever any opposition MP criticised then PM Rajiv Gandhi, particularly on Bofors. After Rajiv’s death, Pandey, who claimed he helped Sonia learn Hindi, was at the forefront in the campaign to install Sonia as party head. His sycophancy was such that he once declared that if Sonia needed slippers he was happy to contribute his skin to make them. Last week, Pandey passed away almost unnoticed by his party. Sonia did not issue a statement and Rahul did not tweet condolences. Raj Babbar was instructed belatedly to send out a message of commiseration.