Rahul Gandhi has reportedly gone abroad and is not planning to return till June 19 when the swearing in of the new MPs is complete. While party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala states emphatically that Rahul will continue as president, the buzz in the party is that Gandhi is serious about his resignation. With Gandhi’s disappearance the Congress is shell shocked and in disarray, even if the core committee, constituted largely of old timers, is trying valiantly to hold the fort. Without a clear cut central authority, open warfare has broken out in some state units. There is near anarchy in Haryana with followers of former Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda and PCC chief Ashok Tanwar practically coming to blows. Witnessing the street brawl, Ghulam Nabi Azad, in charge of the state, has simply backed off.
RSS’s tame show
Once Eid Milan receptions in the Capital used to be major social events with high flying politicians and top media persons marking their presence. But this year the political Eid Milans in Delhi were low key. The RSS’s Indresh Kumar hosted an Eid Milan on behalf of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch at the Parliament House Annexe which failed to attract big names. Although a cabinet meeting was held around the same time in the same building, no minister or VIP dropped by. The anonymous guests had to sit in a conference hall, listening to speeches before tea. The Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind of Deoband, which is celebrating its centenary, held two separate functions, reflecting the division in the Madni family. One reception was hosted by Maulana Arshad Madni, the other by his nephew Maulana Mahmood Madni, who has reportedly been sidelined by his uncle. Mahmood’s dinner had fewer guests, but it was the one at which the BJP marked its presence, with general secretary Bhupendra Yadav attending. An interesting side-light was that Ahmed Patel and Ajit Doval arrived late and had perforce to sit together at the same table The two had little conversation to make and indicated to photographers that they did not want their snapshot taken.
Out in the open
The secret understanding between Shivpal Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav’s estranged uncle, and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was out in the open last week. When Adityanath called on Mulayam Singh Yadav at his residence to inquire about his health, his brother Shivpal turned up at exactly the same time. Photographers got a shot of the CM with Mulayam, Akhilesh and Shivpal which was flashed in the media. Akhilesh, clearly unhappy, re-tweeted the photograph, cutting Shivpal out of the frame. Even after the bitter elections, with Shivpal’s party eating into the SP vote bank, Mulayam still hopes for a family patch-up. He summoned all family members including Shivpal and Ram Gopal, to his home at Saifai after the poll. But a truce remains elusive.
Soldier of fortune
Danish Ali’s longtime boss H D Deve Gowda lost the parliamentary election in Karnataka and the JD(U), of which till recently Danish was a general secretary, is down in the dumps. But the fortunes of Gowda’s one time Man Friday in Delhi, who fought this election on a BSP ticket from Amroha, are on a roll. Ali won from Amroha and Mayawati appointed the newcomer as both leader and chief whip of her 10-member Lok Sabha parliamentary group. Ali was selected partly because Mayawati is keen to showcase a Muslim face as she believes her best prospects are in the Western UP Muslim dominated belt. Her longtime Muslim adviser Naseemuddin Siddiqui was thrown out of the party last year over a money dispute and his replacements, Munquad Ali and Mohammad Jamil Akhtar, have been found wanting. Danish has handled financial affairs for Deve Gowda’s family in Delhi for years and Behenji feels his talents could be useful to her.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra could have been more gracious while addressing workers in Sonia Gandhi’s Rae Bareli constituency, the only seat won by the Congress in UP. Priyanka complained that the victory margin had come down and lashed out at Congress workers for not doing their bit. If party workers in Rae Bareli and Amethi have lost some of their enthusiasm, it is because there has been little support from Delhi. There are frequent changes in people entrusted to look after the Gandhis’ one-time pocket boroughs. For instance, Dhiraj Srivastava, who formerly worked in the Rajasthan government, was asked to oversee the Amethi constituency only four months back. In Indira and Rajiv Gandhi’s time, there was a dedicated team, which knew the people in the constituency personally and ensured that they got special benefits including government jobs in Delhi and VIP treatment when they visited the Capital.
This article first appeared in the June 16, 2019 print edition under the title ‘Inside Track: Left alone’