Inspite of his abysmal track record in winning elections for his party in 2015, it looks like BJP president Amit Shah is all set to get a second term. Although speculation will continue till an official announcement is made later this week, even his critics in the party have resigned themselves to the possibility that Shah will remain where he is, at least till Narendra Modi decides otherwise.
Those who were lobbying for a change should have understood the power play that serves as Shah&’s Teflon coating. The BJP president is one of the three main pillars of the edifice on which the Modi government rests. The other two are Arun Jaitley and Ajit Doval. Shah&’s brief is politics. Jaitley takes care of governance details, public dealing and legal matters. Doval runs the security and foreign policy establishments.
The buzz in party circles is that a section of the RSS was keen on moving Shah out. This section is believed to have tried to use Modi&’s bête noir Sanjay Joshi as a bargaining chip to get rid of him. Stories were spread that the RSS wanted to rehabilitate Joshi in the party and put him in charge of next year&’s UP assembly elections. The rumours gained credence after Joshi appeared as chief guest at an RSS function honouring Swami Vivekananda on his birth anniversary.
But if the buzz in the BJP is to be believed, Modi understood the game that was being played and turned the tables on this section by suggesting a trade-off. No Shah and no Joshi. It seems to have worked because the Joshi move has been dropped and all indications suggest that Shah will stay. Pending an official announcement, the anti-Shah lobby continues to hope.
The Sidhu tangent
There&’s more to Arvind Kejriwal&’s sudden interest in DDCA affairs than meets the eye. It seems one of the reasons why Kejriwal has taken up cudgels on behalf of BJP MP and former cricketer Kirti Azad in his long standing battle with Arun Jaitley over the DDCA is AAP&’s electoral ambitions in Punjab.
It is well known that Kejriwal has been wooing former cricketer and ex BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu to lead his party&’s campaign in the 2017 assembly polls. The Delhi chief minister has had several meetings with Sidhu&’s wife in this regard.
So far, Sidhu has not said yes or no. The political grapevine says that Kejriwal is hoping that Azad will deliver Sidhu to him. Apart from being former cricketers, Azad and Sidhu share another bond. Both are upset with the BJP and have turned dissident. Azad is under suspension for his attack on Arun Jaitley and the DDCA. Sidhu still nurses a grudge at being denied the Amritsar ticket which went instead to Jaitley in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Congress leader Salman Khurshid found himself in an embarrassing spot at the recent Congress Foundation Day celebrations when he came face to face with Manmohan Singh. He was embarrassed because the encounter happened in the midst of a controversy generated by an agency report on his new book, The Other Side of the Mountain. The agency report put out a garbled quote from the book. It claimed Khurshid wrote that the Congress would not have suffered a debacle in the 2014 polls had Pranab Mukherjee been PM instead of Singh.
Actually, Khurshid never wrote anything of the sort and he was at pains to tell Singh this when they met at the Congress office. He mumbled an apology and an explanation but the former PM maintained a poker face and a stony silence.
Khurshid was genuinely worried that Singh believed the agency report and was upset with him. Then, when they sat down for tea and conversation turned to Persian and Urdu, Singh suddenly smiled and looked at Khurshid. Persian is a beautiful language, Salman, Singh said. Khurshid breathed a sigh of relief. Clearly, he was forgiven.
Playing hard to get
Star election strategist Prashant Kishore is keeping the Congress on tenterhooks about his intentions. After scripting wildly successful election campaigns for Narendra Modi in 2014 and Nitish Kumar in 2015, the Congress wants him for at least two important forthcoming state assembly elections – Assam in 2016 and Punjab in 2017.
But Kishore is keeping his cards close to his chest despite several meetings with Rahul Gandhi. He has virtually turned down Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi&’s request to help with the Assam campaign on the plea that time is too short. The state assembly poll is due in April and most parties have already geared up for the battle.
In Punjab, state Congress chief Amrinder Singh has thrown up his hands at Kishore&’s ambitious demands. Kishore wants to push in around 800 people who will map the campaign from A to Z. Congress sources say Amrinder balked at the high logistical cost.
Party circles are wondering whether Kishore is playing hard to get now that he is so much in demand or whether he would prefer to stay with Nitish in Bihar and get into the Rajya Sabha.