Anita Katyal | Kharge ups the ante on Sonia cabal; Kanhaiya may head Youth Congress

The Asian Age.  | Anita Katyal

Opinion, Columnists

It is not surprising Kanhaiya is being considered for a larger role in state politics given his proximity to Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi

Mallikarjun Kharge. (PTI)

Though it is well-known that veteran leader Mallikarjun Kharge was handpicked by Sonia Gandhi to take on the Congress presidency, the new party chief recently demonstrated that he is no pushover. Rajya Sabha member Pramod Tiwari and Congress communications department chief Jairam Ramesh, who believe they owe their loyalty solely to former party president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, were effectively put in place by Mr Kharge at last week’s meeting of the party’s steering committee. According to Congress insiders, Mr Tiwari was gently told by Mr Kharge to await his turn when he sought to interrupt a colleague while he was speaking. Similarly, Mr Kharge ticked off Mr Ramesh almost like an errant student when he kept up a constant chatter during the proceedings and while the party chief was making his closing statement. It is said that Sonia Gandhi, who was seated next to Mr Kharge, also shot a disapproving look at Mr Ramesh. In fact, there are murmurs in the party about how Mr Ramesh cut short Rahul Gandhi during a recent press conference and unilaterally announced that he would not take any supplementary questions.


Where is the high-profile poll strategist Prashant Kishor these days? It is over two months since Mr Kishor or PK, as he is popularly called, embarked on a 3,500 km padyatra across Bihar as a prelude to the launch of a political outfit. But little is known about how the foot march is progressing. It is ironic that PK, who earned a formidable reputation as a whiz in ensuring that the political parties and leaders he represented, remained constantly in the limelight, has failed to do the same for himself. Except for a few cases, PK has had a successful run as a poll strategist.  Whether it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2014 poll campaign, Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar’s election the following year or Trinamul Congress president Mamata Banerjee’s massive win in the 2021 Assembly polls, PK was associated with all of them. Riding high on these victories, PK decided it was time for him to test the waters as a politician. He first joined the JD(U) but left soon and has now ventured out on his own. Though his latest move has generated little publicity, it is to be seen if PK can yet spring any surprises in the electoral arena.


Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s detractors Narottam Mishra and Kailash Vijayvargiya were in for a disappointment when it was conveyed to them that there would be no leadership change in the state. Both Mr Mishra and Mr Vijayvargiya, known to be close to Union home minister Amit Shah, have been hoping to replace Mr Chouhan ever since the BJP toppled the Kamal Nath government. BJP insiders maintain that supporters of the CM-hopefuls were recently told by the party leadership that the next year’s Assembly polls will be held with Mr Chouhan at the helm. According to Delhi’s political grapevine, Mr Chouhan has managed to establish a direct connection with Prime Minister Narendra Modi which has helped him to remain in power. In any case, the BJP has adopted a policy of retaining its chief ministers, whether it is in Gujarat or Uttarakhand.


It is now six years since the charismatic Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa passed away (her death anniversary was on December 5) but the party painstakingly built by her has splintered into four groups. The AIADMK factions, commandeered respectively by O. Panneerselvam, Edappadi K. Palaniswami, Jayalalithaa’s close aide Sasikala and T.T.V. Dhinakaran, are busy battling it out to gain control of the party. The matter is pending in the courts and with the Election Commission. The latest flash point was witnessed when AIADMK coordinator Mr Panneersevlam objected to the invitation extended by the Centre to his bete noire Mr Palaniswami for the preparatory meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the G-20 summit. While the battle royale rages on, behind-the-scenes efforts are on by the BJP to bring about a reconciliation between the warring leaders to ensure that the AIADMK is not seen as a house divided before the next round of elections. The Prime Minister is personally invested in this effort as the BJP obviously wants a stable and united ally in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls or else it will be advantage DMK-Congress.


If the buzz in the Congress is anything to go by, former firebrand student leader Kanhaiya Kumar may take over as Youth Congress president from B.V. Srinivas who is likely to be given a ticket in next year’s Karnataka Assembly polls. Mr Srinivas was in the news when he personally helped the families of Covid patients during lockdown and has helped raise the profile of the Youth Congress. It is not surprising he is being considered for a larger role in state politics given his proximity to Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi. Kanhaiya Kumar hit the headlines when he was arrested on sedition charges as president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union. He is known for his daredevil oratory and has been a star attraction during Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. However, his elevation is unlikely to go down well with the party’s Bihar unit which is unhappy with his sudden rise in the Congress.