The main fight between Shiv Sena and BJP in Maharashtra is over the home and finance portfolios. BJP is willing to make Sena’s Gen Next leader Aditya Thackeray deputy chief minister but it has refused to add either of the two big portfolios to the post. Sena has a strong argument for its demand. Few remember that in the first Sena-BJP state government in 1995, Sena had accommodated BJP by appointing late leader Gopinath Munde deputy chief minister and giving him the home and energy porfolios.

Sena was the big brother in that government; BJP was the junior partner. Sena’s Manohar Joshi was the chief minister. Sena not only gave up the home portfolio for its BJP ally, it even parted with the coveted finance and public works portfolios. Nitin Gadkari was the PWD minister in that government. He acquired his reputation as the man who delivers in that period because of the network of highways he built in Maharashtra including the Mumbai-Pune trunk road. Sena wants a similar pattern of power sharing.

However, the BJP’s counter is that in 1995, although it was the junior partner, the difference in seat tallies between the allies was not as big as it is now. At that time, Sena won 73 and BJP 65. In 2019, BJP is far ahead as the senior partner. It has won 105 seats compared to Sena’s 56. Let’s see who blinks first in this eyeball to eyeball confrontation between two old partners. Sena is BJP’s oldest ally.

Ghar wapsi in Bengal?

There seems to be a ghar wapsi happening in West Bengal. The exodus from Trinamool to BJP has reversed with several defectors wanting to make their way back to their former party. Ex mayor of Kolkata Sovan Chatterjee sprung a surprise on Bengal political circles by calling on chief minister and Trinamool boss Mamata Banerjee on Bhai Dooj. He had quit TMC some months ago and joined the BJP. He seems to be having second thoughts. Chatterjee went to Mamata’s residence with his wife and exchanged greetings.

The buzz in Kolkata is that he is set to rejoin TMC. There is also a buzz about Mukul Roy who was the first TMC leader to quit and join the BJP. He crossed the floor in 2017 when he formally resigned from Mamata’s party. However, he was in touch with BJP leaders from 2016 after he was named as an accused in the Sarada financial scam. According to the buzz in Kolkata, he could be on his way back to his former party. It seems he is unhappy over his marginalization in the BJP. In fact, in recent weeks, he was summoned for questioning by agencies investigating the Sarada scam.

This is being read in political circles as a sign that BJP feels it does not need him any more. Roy may have served the BJP’s purpose and after the saffron wash in the Lok Sabha in which BJP won 18 of West Bengal’s 42 seats, the Modi-Shah duo feel confident of fighting the 2021 assembly polls without the crutches of TMC defectors. Watch this space for interesting developments in West Bengal as assembly polls near.

Old guard in charge

With the old guard of the Congress getting a fillip from the recent assembly poll results in Haryana and Maharashtra, plans to reinstall Rahul Gandhi as party president seem to have been deferred. According to Congress sources, Sonia Gandhi had hoped that some time early next year, Rahul would be back as president following an AICC election. But the script has been altered after the old guard showed its mettle in the assembly elections, particularly in Haryana.

Congress leaders openly blame Rahul for failing to capitalize on the Jat anger with BJP in Haryana. Had Bhupinder Hooda been put in charge of the state six months ago, he may have been able to turn the tide in favour of the Congress and actually defeat BJP. He was made the face of the Congress campaign just weeks before the elections and still managed to help the party double its seats. Although the old guard had advised Rahul to appoint Hooda, he did not listen because of his personal relationship with the then Congress Haryana chief Ashok Tanwar who is married to the Gandhi scion’s rakhi sister, Avantika Maken.

Similarly, in Maharashtra, it was the old guard that suggested to Sonia Gandhi to let Sharad Pawar lead the campaign in the state. He turned the election around by snatching back the Maratha vote from BJP. Given the opposition to his return from Congress veterans, Rahul will now have to bide his time. He has gone off for another meditational camp.

Madi links

While questions swirl about international business broker Madi Sharma’s relationship with Modi’s PMO, some interesting tidbits about her are doing the rounds in Delhi. Madi Sharma recently arranged the controversial visit of 27 Members of European Parliament to Jammu and Kashmir. Twitter has been buzzing that Sharma’s NGO, Women’s Economic and Social Think Tank (WESTT), lobbied intensively for some of the international awards conferred on Modi by foreign governments.

Among the awards being mentioned are the Seoul Peace Prize given by South Korea in 2018 for his economic policies and the King Abdulaziz Sash award by Saudi Arabia in 2016. Modi has been honoured with at least nine awards by foreign governments since he became prime minister.