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Is Mulayam planning a coup?

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Is Mulayam Singh Yadav planning a coup against his son Akhilesh? Power corridors in Lucknow and in Delhi are buzzing with speculation that Papa Yadav is threatening to take over as chief minister, even though it means ousting his son, unless Akhilesh falls in line.

The reason he is thinking of this, say political circles, is because Akhilesh may be plotting a split in the Samajwadi Party. The only way to stop this, Mulayam feels, is to take over the reins of power himself. No SP MLA would dare to rebel against the big boss.

What has sparked off fears that Akhilesh may be planning a split is secret talks by his camp with constitutional lawyers and other political parties. One of the parties he has been in touch with apparently is the Congress from which he hopes to get support just in case he is unable to rustle up the numbers to retain his government.

Remember, there have been signs of warmth between Rahul and Akhilesh recently with both complimenting each other. The Congress is at yet undecided about tying up with Akhilesh. It is waiting and watching to see how ugly the family feud gets and what the youthful chief minister, who is in a rebellious mood, will ultimately do.

Tensions within the family are running high, as evident from the screaming match that took place between father, son and uncle in full view of the party top brass in Lucknow. Although it seems that Akhilesh may back off right now, those close to him say that it may be just a strategic retreat. The war in the SP is unlikely to end soon and it could dramatically alter the election scenario in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh.

The Chidambaram effect

The Congress party’s decision to replace P Bhattacharya with P Chidambaram as chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on home affairs is threatening to blow up into a major controversy. There is talk that BJP MPs who are members of this committee may boycott its meetings in protest against Chidambaram.

The first warning of trouble came when maverick BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramaniam Swamy shot off a letter to the Rajya Sabha Secretariat raising questions about Chidambaram’s appointment. He protested that the Chidambaram’s nomination created a conflict of interest because of his role in the Ishrat Jehan inquiry case which has been reopened by the home ministry.

Recalling that Chidambaram was home minister when the Ishrat Jehan inquiry began, he said the appointment should be scrapped. Who has put him there, he demanded.

Initially, it was thought that Swamy had flagged the issue because of his long standing private war with Chidambaram. But his argument seems to be gaining traction not just with the BJP but with some other smaller parties as well, the most prominent one being AIADMK which too has an old grouse against the former Congress minister.

The controversy could land not just Chidambaram in a soup but Sonia Gandhi as well. After all, as president of the Congress party, she authorised Chidmabaram’s nomination. The chairmanship of the standing committee on home affairs falls in the Congress quota. So it is the prerogative of the Congress to nominate the chairman.

With Parliament opening in mid-November for the winter session, Swamy is sharpening his knives to raise the matter. Political circles are bracing for a stormy start to the Rajya Sabha.

Fireworks ahead?

While Swamy has trained his guns on Chidambaram, BJP circles are buzzing about the recent appointment of Congress deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma as chairman of the parliamentary committee on law, justice and personnel. The Congress nominated him after the previous chairman S Natchiappan finished his term in the Upper House.

Like the committee on home affairs, the committee on law, justice and personnel has also been put in the quota of the Congress party. BJP circles feel that both committees give their chief rival party a political advantage as they look into the functioning of two sensitive ministries.

The committee headed by Sharma is particularly sensitive as it looks into the functioning of the CBI which comes under the personnel ministry. The previous chairman Natchiappan was a low profile MP. He was a Congressman but he rarely stoked controversies. Sharma, on the other hand, is a high profile Congress leader and very close to the Gandhi family as well.

With Swamy goading the CBI to investigate his allegations against the Gandhis, BJP circles are bracing for fireworks in the Sharma-led standing committee.

On guard

Ailing Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa’s closest associate Sasikala has ensured that no visitor is allowed on the first floor which houses the ICU in which the CM lies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s envoys, Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley, were given the same treatment when they visited Chennai last week. Like all other visitors, they were politely refused permission to go to the first floor. They were forced to stay put on the ground floor.

Sasikala did not even bother to come down to the ground floor to greet them. She has made it a rule to never meet any visitors, even VIP ones. So Shah and Jaitley had to make do with a briefing on Jaya’s health from the top boss of Apollo Hospital, Dr Pratap Reddy and a team of senior doctors.

AIADMK circles say that Sasikala guards Jaya fiercely. No one is permitted to come near her, not even the CM’s stand in O Panneerselvam. Even TN governor Vidya Sagar Rao was denied permission to visit the ICU, they pointed out. Sasikala and her nieces and nephews are on 24×7 watch outside Jaya’s ICU.

But the story that has set the Tamil press on fire is a report that Sasikala’s husband, M Natarajan, was recently spied entering Jaya’s Poes Garden mansion. He was banned entry by Jaya some years ago after they fell out.

By Arati R Jerath