Cynics joked that the BJP’s resounding defeat in Bihar was the best possible birthday gift for L K Advani who has been virtually put out to pasture by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. Advani turned 88 on November 8, the same day the votes for the Bihar Assembly polls were counted. Advani had decided not to celebrate his birthday this year and had asked loyal followers like Harin Pathak in Gujarat not to fly down to Delhi for a party. The ostensible reason was that Advani’s wife, Kamla, was not well and the family felt it would be better to observe the couple’s birthdays jointly on November 22, which is her birthday. However, Shah and Modi called on the veteran leader on November 8 in the morning to wish him anyway. Although some English TV channels were predicting a BJP victory at that stage, the glum faces of Modi and Shah indicated that they already sensed defeat. Perhaps they also suspected that Advani was planning a campaign against them and had kept his birthday free to devise a strategy.
Prashant Kishor’s grouse against Narendra Modi was that he was never rewarded or recognised for his role in helping the Prime Minister’s 2014 campaign, reportedly on Amit Shah’s advice. Nitish Kumar, who benefited from Kishor’s services during the Bihar poll campaign, does not plan to make the same mistake. He knows that many other chief ministers are now keen to avail of Kishor’s expertise. Kishor will be made a member of an advisory body on governance for Bihar on the lines of Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council. Kishor could also be sent to the Rajya Sabha in July 2016 when the present five MPs from Bihar retire. Nitish knows that the move will irritate Modi, who dumped the man who conceived the chai pe charcha programme. Two other possible Rajya Sabha candidates from Bihar next year could be Rabri Devi and Kapil Sibal. Lalu Prasad, who is barred from standing for elections, wants a ministerial bungalow in Delhi. If Rabri is made an MP, as a former chief minister, she would be entitled to a Type VIII bungalow in Lutyens Delhi. The Congress’s Sibal is a favourite of Lalu as he was his legal counsel in the fodder scam and had sponsored the ill-fated ordinance which would have lifted the ban on Lalu. Sibal is confident that if he needs votes in a Rajya Sabha contest, Lalu will oblige.
How to lose friends
The BJP under Modi and Shah seems to believe it makes more sense to woo those who are not with them than those who are. In the process, the party is losing old friends and not making new ones either. BJP allies, particularly the Shiv Sena and Akali Dal, are fuming at the NDA government over the selection of MPs for the annual UN General Assembly meeting, which means an all-paid trip to New York. All the NDA MPs selected are from the BJP. On the other hand, the government has gone out of its way to appease parties not supporting the government. Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee is in the favoured group, so is Vijila Sathyananth (AIADMK), Ram Gopal Yadav (SP), Supriya Sule (NCP) and Bhartruhari Mahtab (Biju Janata Dal).
The Lok Sabha TV is part of the domain of Speaker Sumitra Mahajan of the BJP. The channel displayed remarkable spunk by telecasting the film Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro on November 7. It was the same day on which Anupam Kher staged a march in favour of the government and against those who had returned national awards in protest over the growing atmosphere of intolerance in the country. Kundan Shah, director of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, is at the forefront of those protesting against intolerance and has returned his national award for the iconic film.
Indian businessmen and Bollywood stars recently hired lawyers to begin legal proceedings for compelling the British government to return the Kohinoor diamond to India. Interestingly, The Exile, written by Navtej Sarna, the Indian High Commissioner-designate to the UK, chronicles in great detail how the legendary stone was stolen and not voluntarily gifted to Queen Victoria. In his book on Duleep Singh, the exiled last maharaja of Punjab, Sarna recalls that when Punjab was annexed in 1849, Lord Dalhousie dispatched all the contents of the royal tosha khana, including the Kohinoor, to England. Years later, Duleep Singh was shown the stone by his guardian, Lady Logan, and was asked to formally present the diamond to Queen Victoria, presumably to salve the queen’s conscience. Sarna wrote that the deposed ruler, who presented the stone, probably thought that the stone belonged to him.