After cold shouldering BSP chief Mayawati during talks for a pre-poll alliance in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the Congress is now desperately wooing her.
Once it became clear that the Congress was not getting a majority in Madhya Pradesh and would need the help of others, particularly the BSP’s two MLAs, to form a government, Sonia Gandhi’s political aide and man-for-all-seasons Ahmed Patel was entrusted with the task of persuading Mayawati to lend support.
The night of the results, as the seesaw numbers battle between the BJP and Congress continued, Patel telephoned Mayawati twice. The first phone call was an attempt to break the ice and sniff out her post-poll game plan. The second phone call was an outright request for support. This followed a communication with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav who immediately announced that his lone MLA in MP would back the Congress.
The message from Mayawati was positive enough for the Congress to begin the process of staking claim. But the final announcement of BSP support came only the next morning in an official statement from Mayawati. She said she had decided to back the Congress with a heavy heart and that she was doing so because it was the only way to keep the BJP out of power.
Her mealy-mouthed declaration of support was good enough for a desperate Congress. As soon as Mayawati made her announcement, Sonia Gandhi telephoned to thank her.
It seems the Congress is keen to offer at least one of her MLAs a berth in chief minister Kamal Nath’s cabinet. But Mayawati has not bitten the bait yet.
Congress circles admitted that the BSP is crucial to their strategy for the 2019 Lok Sabha election. They want to keep Mayawati on their side and prevent her from joining Mamata Banerjee, K Chandrasekhar Rao, Naveen Patnaik and Jagan Reddy in a non-Congress, non-BJP federal front.
The BJP is equally desperate to keep Mayawati away from the Congress and the SP. Amit Shah has deputed interlocutors to keep her engaged.
Watch the Congress-BJP tussle to win Mayawati’s support before the big 2019 election. She has emerged as the most important kingmaker despite a poor performance in the recent assembly polls.
Return of Natwar?
It looks like expelled Congress leader, former foreign minister and Gandhi family loyalist is set for a ghar wapsi to his erstwhile party.
At a recent function, Natwar Singh was seen in deep conversation with Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi. At one point, there was a pull aside with Sonia and much to everyone’s surprise, they chatted animatedly for at least five minutes.
Natwar Singh was forced out as external affairs minister from Manmohan Singh’s UPA 1 cabinet over the Volcker report on the food-for-oil scam during the Iraq war. He was named in the report as a beneficiary and was subsequently expelled from the Congress.
He then flirted with the BJP and his son Jagat joined the party in 2008. The Singh family’s ties with the BJP did not amount to much and it is believed that Singh senior has been quite keen to make up with the Gandhi family with which he has had a long and deep association.
With the Congress in a magnanimous mood following its 3-0 victory over the BJP in the recent state elections, the Gandhi family appears ready to forgive and forget. The bonhomie between the Gandhis and Natwar Singh was very evident at the function last week.
The swearing in ceremonies of three Congress chief ministers on one day was quite a jamboree. The Congress arranged for three private planes to fly its allies and leaders to Jaipur first, then Bhopal and finally Raipur for the functions.
In each city, it hired a huge luxury coach to ferry the leaders to the venue of the swearing in. Rahul Gandhi travelled in the coach with all of them and played the good host, making sure that everyone was comfortable and well taken care of.
It was a big occasion and the chief minister who was sworn in first, Ashok Gehlot, and his deputy Sachin Pilot were so excited that they bypassed protocol and convention. Firstly, they turned up at the airport to receive the guests.
Then, after they were sworn in, they did not go to office for the mandatory take over. New CMs drive straight to the office and sign in. It is a procedure followed by all.
But instead of going by protocol, Gehlot and Pilot hopped onto the plane to Bhopal for Kamal Nath’s swearing-in ceremony. Clearly, they didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to be close to Rahul.
Interestingly, old warhorse Kamal Nath stayed with the rules. He did not go to the airport to receive the leaders who had come for the function. And after he was sworn in, he went to the CM’s office to take charge. He did not fly to Raipur for Baghel’s swearing in ceremony.
The day after the results declared a 3-0 score in favour of the Congress, there was an impromptu celebration at the capital’s power hub, Lodi Garden. Drummers, dancers and sloganeers showed up early in the morning while the country’s movers and shakers were out for their daily walk.
Waving the Congress flag and shouting slogans cheering Rahul Gandhi, they danced around the walkers to drive home the message that the Congress is alive and kicking. Among those who joined in the celebrations were senior leader Anand Sharma and former Delhi MLA Neeraj Basoya. Both are regulars at Lodi Garden.