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Rajnath factor in UP campaign

Statesman News Service |

There are just four months to go for the crucial Assembly polls in UP but the BJP is still at sixes and sevens about its strategy, campaign and ticket distribution. Worried RSS bosses are believed to have again mooted the idea of putting union home minister Rajnath Singh in charge of the polls but the suggestion has only created more confusion.

Rajnath is said to be willing to take charge but he wants full command. In other words, there should be no interference from Amit Shah. His terms are unacceptable to both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah who are acutely aware that the outcome of the UP polls will set the stage for the 2019 Lok Sabha election. They certainly don’t want Rajnath emerging as a power centre should the BJP do well in UP under his command.

A silent tussle is on, resulting in indecision and uncertainty. While Rahul Gandhi is in full swing touring UP on behalf of the Congress and Mayawati has kicked off her campaign with three stunning rallies, the BJP has yet to get started. SP, of course, is crumbling under internal power battles between chacha Shivpal Yadav and bhatija Akhilesh Yadav.

With the RSS putting pressure on the Modi-Shah duo to give Rajnath space in UP, the home minister has started speaking up. Recently, he put Shah in his place when he turned down the party president&’s demand to poke fun at Rahul Gandhi for his ongoing kisan yatra through UP.

Rajnath is believed to have told Shah that he doesn’t believe in making personal attacks on political opponents. He said that he would certainly criticize Rahul but on issues and so far the Congress vice president had not done anything to invite criticism. 

Rajnath also reminded Shah that he has strong credentials as a kisan leader and these credentials would certainly not get enhanced by making personal attacks on Rahul.

Shah made up for Rajnath&’s refusal by going at Rahul for wearing  “Italian spectacles” and not understanding the real problems of the farmers. Shah&’s jibe has not gone down well with a section of the RSS which feels that UP cannot be won in this manner.

Interestingly, another minister who has started speaking his mind is Nitin Gadkari. He created a flutter last week by poking fun at the achche din slogan of Modi&’s  2014 campaign. It has become “gale ki haddi” for the BJP, he said at an an infrastructure conclave in response to a question from former Congress MP Vijay Darda.

Gadkari is known to be close to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. BJP circles are wondering whether his swipe at Modi is an indication of Sangh frustration with the government.

 

Master stroke

Mulayam Singh&’s second wife and Akhilesh&’s stepmother, Sadhana Yadav, is said to have played a key role in the appointment of the man who sparked off the chacha-bhatija war rocking the Yadav clan in UP, recently sacked chief secretary Deepak Shinghal.

Sources familiar with the dynamics in the Yadav family say that it was Sadhana who worked on Mulayam to appoint Shinghal as chief secretary in the face of stiff opposition from chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.

Shinghal was of course well known to Mulayam&’s brother Shivpal, having worked as principal secretary irrigation, a department which formed part of Shivpal&’s ministerial portfolio. He was also well known to Amar Singh. 

In fact, the incident which angered Akhilesh and led to Shinghal&’s removal was his presence at Amar Singh&’s recent bash in Delhi for newly elected Rajya Sabha MP and media baron Subhash Chandra. Akhilesh skipped the party for a man known to be close to the BJP although his father Mulayam attended.

It was a master stroke, say SP sources, on the part of Amar Singh and Shivpal to let Sadhana do the lobbying for Shinghal&’s appointment. Mulayam could not refuse his wife&’s pressure.

Shivpal and Sadhana have formed a coterie in the Yadav clan in a bid to cut Akhilesh down. Sadhana is keen to promote her son, Prateek, in politics even though he has shown little interest. He is more keen on things like body building. However, Prateek&’s wife, Aparna is said to be politically ambitious. Under pressure from Sadhana, Mulayam has agreed to field her from Lucknow Cantt in next year&’s assembly elections.

 

President demurs

President Pranab Mukherjee is believed to have given some heartstopping moments to the Modi government on the issue of removing the Arunachal Pradesh governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa. The governor&’s removal was imperative to pave the way for the recent wholesale defection of Congress MLAs to the NDA.

According to sources familiar with the developments, when Rajnath Singh went to meet Mukherjee with a request to sign the order for Rajkhowa&’s removal, the President demurred. He wanted a written report explaining the reason for the action. After all, not so long ago, he had signed a proclamation for President&’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh based on the governor&’s report. So what had changed, he wanted to know.

The government was in a fix. It had decided to remove Rajkhowa after adverse comments from the Supreme Court when it overturned the decision to impose President&’s rule in the state. But it did not want this to form part of government record.

On Modi&’s suggestion, the matter was put up to Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi to find a way out for the government. Rohtagi asked for the promoclamation appointing Rajkhowa governor. He discovered that the order did not make any mention of a tenure for the governor although the convention is to give a governor a five-year term.

Since the proclamation did not contain a time frame for Rajkhowa&’s term, the AG&’s advice was that the President can withdraw his pleasure at any moment without reason.

It was only after this was conveyed to Mukherjee that the President signed the order for Rajkhowa&’s removal.