Anita Katyal | Why Sibal is not at Udaipur; Cong in Nagaland bonds over music

The Asian Age.  | Anita Katyal

Opinion, Columnists

It is possibly for the same reason that Mr Sibal decided not to attend the Congress chintan shivir at Udaipur

Kapil Sibal (File Photo: G.N. Jha)

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal has been unusually silent after he set the proverbial cat among the pigeons two months ago by publicly suggesting that the Gandhis should step aside and give somebody else a chance to lead the party. A leading and vocal member of the pro-changers or G-23 Congress leaders who have been demanding an organisational overhaul and a more visible leadership, Mr Sibal has apparently been silenced not by the Gandhi sycophants (which, of course, would be expected) but by other members of the G-23, which includes senior leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Anand Sharma and Prithviraj Chavan. Though these leaders privately agree that it is time for a non-Gandhi to head the Congress, they were not happy that Mr Sibal had spoken to the media about it. They conveyed as much to Mr Sibal and asked him to keep a low profile for some time. It is possibly for the same reason that Mr Sibal decided not to attend the Congress chintan shivir at Udaipur. In fact, most other G-23 leaders are in Udaipur and are awaiting the outcome of the discussions before they make their next move. Since none of them can afford to leave the Congress, their best bet is to act as a pressure group in the party.

After veteran leader Oscar Fernandes, Nagaland Congress leaders have finally found a kindred spirit in Ajoy Kumar, who is the party’s state in-charge. While Mr Fernandes established a rapport with the music-loving leaders from the Northeastern state by playing the mouth organ in the midst of serious discussions, Ajoy Kumar joins in their sing-song by playing the guitar. This has thrilled Nagaland Congress leaders who maintain Ajoy Kumar is a welcome change from his predecessor C.P. Joshi. They said not only does Mr Kumar play the guitar but also sings English songs and, most importantly, is not a vegetarian.

According to them, it was difficult to converse with Mr Joshi who was not just a taciturn person by nature but was also not too fluent in English. Communication between them, therefore, was a problem. Moreover, the few times Mr Joshi did visit Nagaland, he made a beeline for the local Bharatiya Janata Party chief’s place to savour Marwari vegetarian food served there. It is to be seen now if Ajoy Kumar and the Nagaland Congress can convert this “musical fest” into an electoral victory.

It is often said that there are no permanent friends or foes in politics, only permanent interests. Now take the case of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, also Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray’s estranged cousin. In 2019 when the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena contested the Lok Sabha elections together, Raj Thackeray led a bitter campaign against the two parties. The Congress and Nationalist Congress Party were thrilled that Raj was doing their work of demolishing their political opponents. However, Raj failed in his mission and the BJP-Shiv Sena cruised to a thumping victory in the state. He was not seen or heard for the last three years till the BJP’s Maharashtra unit decided to utilise his services in its ongoing effort to dethrone the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. Consequently, Raj Thackeray has hit the streets and grabbed headlines once again but the tables have turned this time. Besides Shiv Sena, the MNS chief is also taking on the NCP-Congress, the same parties which had once depended on him to vanquish their political enemy.

That Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath is the political boss of the Hindi heartland state can hardly be disputed. But his influence also extends to his home state of Uttarakhand. For instance, it is common knowledge in the hill state that Yogi played a role in the electoral victory of Ritu Khanduri, daughter of former chief minister B.C. Khanduri, in the recent Assembly poll from Kotdwar though even her BJP colleagues didn’t think she would make it. It is said that Ritu Khanduri was named Speaker of the Uttarakhand Assembly after Yogi put in a word for her. Little wonder then that the new Speaker made it a point to call on Yogi Adityanath when he came to visit his mother in Uttarakhand. In fact, she also travelled to Lucknow to thank Yogi for his help.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally leading his party’s campaign to woo the Sikh community, it is being speculated that former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh may be rewarded for ditching the Congress and joining hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party in the recent Assembly polls. According to the Delhi political grapevine, Mr Singh may be nominated to the Rajya Sabha as several members in the distinguished persons’ category are set to retire soon. In fact, there is talk that the former Congress leader could even be accommodated as a Cabinet minister to showcase a prominent Sikh face in the Modi government. But this is all in the future. For the present, Amarinder Singh has rented a place in South Delhi as he plans to spend a lot more time in Delhi.