The Opposition parties may have failed to put up a united fight for the election of the deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, but the camaraderie displayed by its leaders two days earlier at the launch of Congress leader S. Jaipal Reddy’s book, Ten Ideologies: The Great Asymmetry between Agrarianism and Industrialism, appeared to suggest otherwise. The line-up of Opposition leaders at the power-packed event was a throwback to the days when the Third Front was a reality. While the book was launched by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, those who put in an appearance included former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, CPM leaders Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat, former Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav and former Congress ministers P. Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh. The bitter rivalry between the Telugu Desam Party and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi was also set aside on this occasion as leaders from both sides also showed up for the programme. But Jayadev Galla, the TDP Lok Sabha MP, who had initiated the debate on the Opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion in the Monsoon Session of Parliament, was clearly the star among them. Having come to notice after his effective speech, he was constantly being sought out by members in the audience who were eager to shake hands with him.
While the Aam Aadmi Party is being written off by most people, the party could end up surprising everyone like it did in 2015 when it bagged 67 seats in the Delhi Assembly elections. Realising that the wide support it enjoyed among the Delhi’s upper middle classes is on the wane, the AAP leaders have been working quietly to reconnect with this constituency in preparation for the next electoral challenge. The party’s representatives have been holding informal interactions with groups of residents of upscale localities where they have made detailed presentations about the work done by the AAP government in the field of education and health. They have particularly targeted those who had embraced the party when it was launched but had subsequently become disillusioned with it because of the infighting in its ranks and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s style of functioning. Though party leaders have been grilled extensively at these sessions, this outreach seems to be paying off for the AAP whose leaders are succeeding in addressing the misgivings of their old supporters. Not just that, they are so impressed with the Delhi government’s work that they have decided to spread the word about the AAP by offering to organise similar meetings in their homes to enable the AAP leaders to give details about their future plans as also their achievements. The BJP and the Congress better watch out as they could well be outwitted by the newbie party once again.
In an unusual move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given permission to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to use an official plane to ferry 300-odd delegates to attend the Vishwa Hindi Sammelan being held in Mauritius later this month. In the past, the delegates invited for this conference were usually provided tickets on commercial flights by the external affairs ministry. The capital’s political grapevine has been quick to point out that the Prime Minister’s offer shows that Ms Swaraj has not fallen out of favour though this was being suggested recently as Mr Modi chose to remain silent when the minister was recently targeted by vicious trolls on the social media for coming to the aid of an interfaith couple. Known for her proximity to veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani, Ms Swaraj was initially kept at an arms length by the Prime Minister after he assumed power in 2014. It was only much later that her efforts were acknowledged. Ms Swaraj came in for high praise from Mr Modi last year for her feisty speech at the UN General Assembly. She also came in for a special mention from the Prime Minister for using the social media effectively to help Indians across the globe and giving her ministry a “human face”.
Congress leaders from Maharashtra, who were invited to Delhi by party president Rahul Gandhi last week for a brainstorming session on the ongoing Maratha stir, found themselves in an embarrassing situation. With the Congress leadership showing little interest in the current developments in Maharashtra, state leaders cited this meeting to assure the party cadre that Mr Gandhi was not ignoring burning issues confronting them. However, the meeting had to be called off as the Congress chief had to rush to Chennai to pay homage to DMK stalwart M. Karunanidhi who passed away on August 7. While the cancellation of the meeting was understandable, the Maharashtra leaders find themselves in a spot, as Mr Gandhi has not fixed a fresh date for the aborted interaction. They fear this could strengthen the popular perception in the party’s state unit that Mr Gandhi is not interested in the ongoing developments in Maharashtra.