It is interesting that the BJP’s Yuva Morcha has shot into prominence in the second tenure of the Modi government and replaced ABVP as the recruiting ground. The new working president of the party J P Nadda is a former BJPYM hand. He was among the youngest presidents of the Morcha. He assumed the post at the age of 31.

The new Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has also risen through the ranks of the BJPYM. He used to be its state president in Rajasthan in his younger days. Amit Shah himself is a product of the BJPYM.

He was once its general secretary. The previous tenure of the Modi government saw a preponderance of leaders who cut their political teeth in the student wing – ABVP. These include stalwarts like Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, Venkaiah Naidu and the late Ananth Kumar.

Some of them went on to join the BJPYM but many of them plunged into active politics straight from ABVP. Of course, Shah and Nadda began their political careers as ABVP activists but soon became prominent leaders in the BJPYM. And the Morcha seems to be the magnet that attracts now instead of the ABVP.

Anti-Raje camp profits

The election of Om Birla as the new Lok Sabha Speaker has put the spotlight on the BJP’s internal power play in Rajasthan. BJP circles believe that the prominence given to this 56-year-old MP from Kota-Bundi in Rajasthan is a firm signal to former chief minister Vasundhara Raje that she is no longer the powerhouse she used to be.

Ironically, Birla was once a Raje loyalist. She noticed him back in 2002 when she was trying to oust the old guard of the BJP to establish herself in Rajasthan. She gave Birla a ticket to contest from a seat that used to be the constituency of stalwart Lalit Kishore Chaturvedi. Birla won and Chaturvedi retired hurt.

But Birla and Raje soon fell out. So, while he continued to be elected to the state assembly, she never made him a minister. In 2013, he did not contest the state polls because he had his eye on the Lok Sabha election of 2014.

He managed to get a ticket despite Raje’s opposition and won. BJP circles believe that now that Raje is out of power in Rajasthan, the Modi- Shah duo is using the opportunity to create a new leadership in the state by promoting younger people firmly in the anti-Raje camp. All the three ministers appointed in the Modi 2.0 government – Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Kailash Choudhry and Arjun Meghwal – are part of this group.

So is Birla. Although Raje is trying to fight back, it is unlikely that she’ll be able to stand up to the power of the Modi-Shah combine.

Birthday visit

There was much excitement when a news agency flashed a photograph of Rahul Gandhi entering the AICC office on June 19.

Many, including media persons, assumed that he had agreed to continue as Congress president and was in the office for a meeting. It turned out that they were completely wrong.

Rahul has no intention of taking back his resignation, as he made clear subsequently. He had gone to the AICC office on June 19 to distribute sweets on his birthday.

The recipients of the sweets included media persons waiting for the party briefing and Congress workers who happened to be present.

Missing Jaitley

Journalists who cover Parliament are missing ailing former finance minister Arun Jaitley.

He would always take time out to chat with the media on a daily basis. Much of the chat was banter but in between, he would throw in valuable nuggets of information about government thinking on important issues of the day.

No wonder media persons would rush to him the minute he appeared in Parliament House. Sadly, he is out of action these days. He is no longer a minister and although he remains a Rajya Sabha MP, he is not coming to Parliament. Media persons are wondering is who will take his place to do these informal chats.

One day, Ravi Shankar Prasad spent time with journalists. Another day it was Prakash Javadekar. Journos are waiting to see who will be Jaitley’s replacement as the person who throws tidbits at the media to get the government’s viewpoint across.

Cordiality isn’t dead

There was much excitement in the press gallery of the Lok Sabha when newly elected MPs from UP took the oath.

Everyone wanted to see how the two mother-son duos of the Gandhi family would respond to each other. As it turned out, they were all very civilized. As Maneka Gandhi walked past the benches on which her estranged sister- in-law Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul were seated, both sides nodded a greeting.

There was more enthusiasm when Varun Gandhi walked past. Both Sonia and Rahul said “hello” and he responded in kind. The interaction between Varun and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav was more interesting.

Akhilesh held out his hand and Varun shook it. Old-timers were pleased to see the old camaraderie that used to exist between rival politicians hasn’t completely vanished.