May 17, 2009 1:29:56 am
Manmohan Singh is one Indian prime minister who did not consult an astrologer to find out whether he would remain PM. Singh,whose family fled Pakistan during partition, confesses that he is not even sure of his real birth date. Nevertheless without the benefit of an astrologers prediction, Singh was so confident of returning as prime minister that he had even discussed appointments of key cabinet posts before the results. Incidentally,when Singh addressed an election rally in Naveen Jindals Kurkushetra constituency this month he got a bonus. He was shown a family tree with the names of seven to eight generations. At Behwa,where the rally was held,meticulous records are maintained of people from Punjab and Haryana who died in the region over the centuries.
Two weddings and a countdown
In the gap between the last day of polling and counting on Saturday,there were two important political weddings in the Capital. Former Finance Secretary and Bihar CM Nitish Kumars key adviser,N K Singh, hosted a glittering reception for his daughter Meenakshi. The guests ranged from industrialists and top bureaucrats to Rajasthan royalty,the gentry of Bihar and politicians including Nitish Kumar.
BJP president Rajnath Singh played the host at the wedding reception of his speechwriter,astrologer cum foreign affairs adviser,Sitanshu Trivedi. Despite exit polls suggesting the Congress was slightly ahead,the mood was very upbeat since the BJP believed implicitly in the forecast of its own internal survey and Trivedis predictions. The party presented a united front at the wedding with even known detractors of Singh, Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley,showing up. Two days later the BJP leadership,which tends towards overconfidence,was brought firmly back to the ground.
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The poll results could trigger some blood-letting in the BJP,hastening the war of succession. BJP party president Rajnath Singhs camp was quick to point out that Narendra Modis much vaunted magic did not work in Maharashtra and Goa,the states of which he was in charge, along with Gujarat. It was also leaked to the media that Modi,by overshadowing L.K. Advani, indirectly sabotaged the campaign. Singh,meanwhile,has to answer for the fact that the Congress,which was written off in UP, has fared better than the BJP in his home state. Nor did the BJP perform well in Assam,where Singh had made it a prestige point that his nominee Sitanshu Mittal should be in charge. It was the BJP chief ministers rather than the central leadership which saved the day for the party.
Third Front disappears
The Third Front is expected to disappear without a formal obituary notice. Its principal backers,the Left,will be too busy setting its house in order to be concerned about national politics. In the CPI(M),party cadres are already on the warpath over the partys radical shift from its ideological moorings,hobnobbing with leaders with whom there is no shared vision and deviation in the lifestyle of some of its central leaders from the expected norms. Major divergences on economic thinking between West Bengal and Kerala is another potential mine-field. Incidentally,Prakash Karat was seen reading Che Gueveras book on guerilla warfare,on the eve of counting.
Mum till May 16
Being a member of the Congress media cell is a high-risk business. The latest victim is the affable Veerappa Moily who was mysteriously replaced as media-cell-in-charge by Janardhan Dwivedi,whom he had succeeded a year back. Days before he was eased out,Moily had relieved Ashwini Kumar of his duties as Congress spokesperson. Now Kumar is back and Moily out. Some see Jairam Rameshs hand in Moilys ouster. Ramesh has a bone to pick with Moily,who as convener of the Committee on Future Challenges, had clipped Rameshs wings.
One line of speculation is that Moily and Kumar got into hot water for their differing statements on Nitish Kumar in the media. Kumar called Nitish secular,while Moily said he could burn in the cauldron of communalism. But then Rahul Gandhi praised Nitish,while Manmohan Singh said he doubted Nitishs secularism. Congress spokespersons wisely decided not to give their views on potential allies,not knowing who will sup with them after the results.
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