Narendra Modi has not spoken on foreign policy, but those who know the Gujarat Chief Minister well believe there is bound to be a shift in India’s position on international relations were he to come to power. Speculation is that Modi would be less pro-US than the present regime and more well-disposed towards China. The policy would reflect the two countries’ attitude towards Modi personally in the past few years.
The US State Department, under pressure from individual Congressmen, has for long treated Modi as an untouchable. It was announced twice that he was being denied a visa, the second time when he had not even applied for one. The US Ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, met Modi for the first time only in February this year. In contrast, China has gone out of the way to be friendly. Modi has made trips to China, accompanied by delegations of Gujarati businessmen, and received a red carpet welcome. The Chinese have built a power station in the state. China is also in contention for setting up an SEZ in Gujarat.
Priyanka Gandhi plays a key role in Rahul Gandhi’s office at Tughlak Lane. While Rahul is on election tours, it is Priyanka who is in charge of party affairs, including co-ordination, sanction of funds to candidates, inputs for candidate selection and scheduling helicopter rides, etc. Priyanka stays late into the night and personally surveyed the dais from which her mother was to address the media recently.
Ever since an internal survey suggested that the Congress tally could fall below the three-digit mark, the entire Gandhi family is pitching in to ensure that even if the Congress loses the general elections, it puts up a respectable showing. However, since Rahul, Priyanka and Sonia Gandhi are all taking an active interest, there is some confusion about candidate selection as the three often come up with different names.
Two for one
The Congress was all set to induct actress Jaya Prada, formerly of the Samajwadi Party, into its fold, but there was a last-minute hitch. Jaya said she could not join without her mentor Amar Singh since, without his support, she did not feel comfortable fighting an election. Since Amar Singh could not be admitted because of his past attacks on the Congress leadership, a via media was worked out. It was decided that Congress ally Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal would admit both Jaya and Amar Singh as members and give them tickets from its quota.
L K Advani has been fighting the Lok Sabha election from Gandhinagar since 1991, except for a brief period between 1996 and 1998. Each time, his election agent was Amit Shah. Advani being an outsider to the state, Shah took charge of the nitty-gritty of campaign management. This is the first time that Shah will be missing from his campaign, as he has moved on to Uttar Pradesh.
Sharing the leaks
On March 5, Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath announced the election schedule with great fanfare. There were so many eager journalists that the venue had to be shifted from Nirvachan Sadan to Vigyan Bhavan. Sampath announced that elections would be held between April 7 and May 12 and counting on May 16.
But his thunder was stolen because an economic daily announced the election schedule on the same morning as Sampath’s press conference. Annoyed, Sampath asked security agencies to investigate how the news had leaked. The report by the security agencies suggested that the leak had come from within the poll panel.
The official website of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee claims to be updated till March 2014. Some of the matter on the website is indeed current. Photographs of Arvinder Singh Lovely, the new president of the Delhi Congress committee, are prominently displayed, along with pictures of the party’s main crowd-pullers Sonia and Rahul Gandhi under the caption Mission 2014.
But the website is rather selective. It gives the results of the Delhi Assembly elections in 1998, 2003 and 2008, when Sheila Dikshit emerged victorious. But the results of the 2013 Delhi Assembly elections where the Congress received a drubbing are missing. The website had other goof-ups till last week. In the list of members of the Congress Central Election Committee, it included Arjun Singh, who passed away in 2011. Pranab Mukehrjee’s photo also figured among members, though he is now the President of India and out of party politics.