The Bharatiya Janata Party uses every opportunity to poke fun at Congress president Rahul Gandhi. Everytime the Nehru-Gandhi scion makes a speech or interacts with media persons, the BJP’s spokespersons are on the job, demolishing and discrediting him. Their strategy has been to project him as an immature leader who should not be taken seriously. It was against this backdrop that a journalist in Indore asked the Nehru-Gandhi scion at a media interaction last week, “Why does the BJP call you Pappu?” Mr Gandhi was taken aback momentarily by this direct question. He paused for a while, and replied, “Do you know Lord Shiva’s other name? He is also called Bholenath or Bhole (innocent).” Continuing in the same vein, the Congress chief said, “I am a Shiv-bhakt… I am Bhola. I don’t care what the others have to say about me.” Mr Gandhi’s response is in line with his recent efforts to dispel the impression that he is anti-Hindu. The Congress president has made highly publicised visits to temples over the past year and has declared himself a “Shiv-bhakt” on several occasions. He also undertook a pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar to drive home this point.
During his interactions on his campaign trail, Congress president Rahul Gandhi is often asked about his choice for the post of chief ministers in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The party leadership has deliberately left the issue open as both states have very strong contenders. In Madhya Pradesh, senior Congress leader Kamal Nath and Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia are vying for the top slot in the event the party succeeds in dethroning the three-term Bharatiya Janata Party chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Similarly, it’s a toss-up between former chief minister Ashok Gehlot and the younger Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan. But a lack of clarity on this burning topic has led to fears in the party that the CM aspirants may play spoilsport in the election to showdown each other. In order to avoid such a situation, the party leadership is mulling over what is being referred to as the “three-two formula.” This means, Mr Gehlot and Mr Pilot as well as Mr Nath and Mr Scindia would all be assured of a stint as chief minister but on a rotation basis for three and two years each. It is hoped this proposal will ensure that all the leaders put up a united front in the coming polls.
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh is under tremendous pressure both from the Congress and others to take action against Shiromani Akali Dal leader and former chief minister Prakash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Badal since they were named by the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report probing the 2015 police firing on crowds protesting the incidents of sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib. The Commission, set up by CM Singh last year, is learned to have said there was laxity on the part of the previous administration and that Mr Badal was aware of the situation. Subsequently, there have been growing demands in Punjab that punishment be meted out to those found guilty. CM Singh has been making all the right noises in this regard but has not acted on his promise. According to one story doing the rounds, the chief minister has a secret understanding with the Badals. Others refer to the chief minister’s meeting with home minister Rajnath Singh, where he spoke of the pressure on him to arrest his predecessor. According to the grapevine, Mr Singh reportedly told CM Singh that he too was under pressure over his friendship with a Pakistani national.The conversation ended abruptly.
There is growing disquiet among the members of the prestigious Delhi-based India International Centre (IIC) about how it has allowed itself to become a handmaiden of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government. A group of its leading members are said to have written to the IIC management to complain about the naming of a new lounge as “The Lotus Lounge.” On its part, the IIC management maintains the name was picked on the basis of suggestions it had sought from members. Before this controversy could die down, the IIC was in the midst of another row last week over its annual arts festival. The five-day programme is normally handled by the staff, but this year, the IIC chose to outsource it to the government’s North East Council and the department of North East region. Members complained that the unprecedented step of allowing the setting up of sarkari food stalls and craft shops on the gardens had not only converted the otherwise elegant festival into a mela but had also desecrated the manicured lawns and destroyed the low-key and understated ambience of the Centre.