Anita Katyal | Will no-trust bid give PM boost? Tharoor stirs the pot in Kerala...

This timing will allow Mr Modi to set the political narrative and end the session in a blaze of glory.

Update: 2023-08-05 18:45 GMT
The BJP's outreach initiatives will also include public rallies to be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi covering Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and MP. (Photo: PTI)

Though upset at the two-week delay in scheduling the Congress-sponsored no-confidence motion against the ruling coalition, the Opposition is happy that this will at least compel Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak on Manipur in Parliament, which has been its key demand since the beginning of the monsoon session. The timing of the debate (it has been fixed for August 8) appears to be a well-thought-out plan. Unfazed over the outcome of this motion given that the numbers are clearly stacked in the government’s favour, the Bharatiya Janata Party believes it will actually help seize the political initiative from the Opposition. Since a debate on a no-trust motion is not confined to a single subject but covers wide-ranging issues, it provides an opportunity to the Treasury benches to stray from Manipur and focus on other matters. The Prime Minister is expected to reply to the debate on August 10, a day before the monsoon session ends. Given Mr Modi’s oratorical skills and his ability to turn the tables on the Opposition, this timing will allow him to set the political narrative and end the session in a blaze of glory. 

The spices in the chaat proved to be no match to the political spice at the high-profile Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s recent chaat and mango party. It was, at once a social event, but also a show of strength to draw attention to the support Tharoor commands over what is referred to as the “Kerala lobby”. Besides former diplomats and writers, the guest list included a large contingent of members from the Kerala unit of Congress as well as leaders from across the aisle. Senior Congress leader A.K. Antony’s son, Anil Antony who hit the headlines when he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party recently, grabbed special attention at the get together. Most senior Congress leaders and others known to be opposed to Mr Tharoor were conspicuous by their absence. A senior member of the now-defunct G-23 band of Congress leaders was clearly impressed as he was heard commenting,” The real Kerala Congress happens to be here.” Mr Tharoor blotted his copybook with the party leadership when he contested for the Congress president’s post against Mallikarjun Kharge. After his defeat, he held a series of programmes across Kerala which unnerved the old timers in the party’s state unit for it was viewed as a bid by Mr Tharoor to project himself as the future chief ministerial candidate of the Congress.

Parliamentarians cutting across party lines have been seen making a beeline for two leaders during this session. These are Trinamul Congress MP Saket Gokhale, a recent entrant to the Rajya Sabha, and Shashi Tharoor, whose popularity is obviously not confined to members of the Kerala unit of the Congress. Members from different parties have been seeking Mr Tharoor out chiefly because many of them want to pen their memoirs and would like him to release their book as they believe his presence will get them considerable traction. Mr Tharoor is said to have remarked jokingly, “I think I should start charging for book release.”  Mr Gokhale, on the other hand, is in demand for very different reasons. Several opposition leaders, especially from the Aam Aadmi Party, walked up to him for advice on filing RTIs. Mr Gokhale is considered  an expert on the subject and the AAP wants to use his expertise to file RTIs against the Modi government on Delhi matters. However, this is surprising as their leader, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, was an RTI activist in his earlier avatar.

It is officially maintained that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi prefers not to get involved in organisational affairs. And yet he sits in on all major meetings, all visiting senior leaders call on him while his nominees are placed in key positions in the party. Take the case of the screening committees constituted last week for the upcoming Assembly elections. The panel for Rajasthan is headed by Gaurav Gogoi while Jitendra Singh, Ajay Maken and K. Muralidharan are in charge of the committees for Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana, respectively. It is no secret in Congress circles that these four leaders are close to Rahul Gandhi. Their appointment could well prove to be a precursor to the long-awaited constitution of the Congress Working Committee. It’s several months since Mallikarjun Kharge took over as party president but he has yet to put his team in place.

Like former Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, current lieutenant governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha is keen to get back to active politics. According to Delhi’s political grapevine, Mr Sinha has conveyed as much to the BJP leadership as also his preference to contest from his old constituency Ghazipur even though he was defeated last time. Speculation is also rife that Mr Sinha has been offered Ghaziabad instead. However, this will involve moving out General V.K. Singh, who won the Ghaziabad seat with a huge margin in 2019. The guessing game continues.


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