Sunil Gatade | How snakes and ladders, in India, takes a political twist

The Asian Age.  | Sunil Gatade

Opinion, Columnists

With Brand Modi badly hit, home minister Amit Shah and the party’s top brass are burning the midnight oil to evolve foolproof strategies.

In the Opposition space, the immediate man to watch is Bihar CM Nitish Kumar as the battlefield for the next Lok Sabha polls is being drawn up. (PTI)

Ahead of the run-up to a series of Assembly polls and later the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, an interesting game of snakes and ladders is being seen in the political arena, where some of yesterday’s laggards have suddenly got a push due to the changing circumstances.

Some favourites have hit a bad patch. Some have tumbled while others are in a quandary on their next moves.

Interestingly, the beleaguered lot of chief ministers and former chief ministers, as well as MPs, belong to the BJP. N. Biren Singh is under increasing attack as a troubled Manipur continues to be in turmoil for over the past month. Basavaraj Bommai of Karnataka has been made the fall guy along with state party chief Nalin Kateel for the lapses in strategy by the high command that saw BJP facing a humiliating defeat.

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has turned out to be the most controversial MP of the ruling party, and partymen wonder why he was not proceeded against. The protests by women wrestlers have become too embarrassing for the ruling side. He looks one out of the rogues’ gallery.

In the Opposition space, the immediate man to watch is Bihar CM Nitish Kumar as the battlefield for the next Lok Sabha polls is being drawn up. Mr Kumar has convened the much talked-about Opposition conclave in Patna on June 23 to decide a joint strategy against the Narendra Modi-led BJP in the Lok Sabha polls. It is no mean feat.

Armed with the backing of Rahul Gandhi, Nitish Kumar has organised the conclave which will be attended by the who’s who among the top Opposition brass. The powers that be will soon be on overdrive insisting that a “Modi hatao” campaign has started. But that is to be expected.

With Brand Modi badly hit, home minister Amit Shah and the party’s top brass are burning the midnight oil along with anxious state leaders to evolve foolproof strategies, but the road ahead isn’t going to be easy.

The Opposition is demanding the scalp of railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, the blue-eyed boy of Mr Modi, after the train disaster in Odisha in which nearly 300 people perished and hundreds of others were severely injured.

Till last month, Mr Vaishnaw, who also has the high-profile information technology, communications and electronics portfolios, was seen as a possible CM candidate of the BJP in the desert state of Rajasthan. He was seen as a fresh face to take on Congress incumbent Ashok Gehlot, who is a wily opponent. The BJP is a harassed lot with the Opposition parties relentlessly telling Mr Vaishnaw to follow Lal Bahadur Shastri’s example and resign.

The Karnataka shock has seen the dame luck suddenly smiling on former Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje, who is now basking in the limelight after attempts to marginalise her over the past four years. It is a pot of good luck for her.

But her cousin, civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, is facing sserious problems in neighbouring poll-bound Madhya Pradesh where the entrenched groups, including that of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, are pitching against a fair deal to “newcomers”, an euphemism for Mr Scindia and his supporters who joined the BJP three years ago.

Despite being CM for four terms, Mr Chouhan this time does not look comfortable. On the other hand, his advanced age notwithstanding, there is a spring in the step of Kamal Nath, his main challenger.

The rise of Ms Raje in Rajasthan is not good news for her key detractor, Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, and several others who were promoted by the high command to marginalise her.

Sachin Pilot, a known detractor of Mr Gehlot, is in a quandary on his next moves amidst talk that he could form a new party. The more he stays cool, it will be better for him.

Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel looks like he’s sitting pretty. The BJP is still to decide its way ahead in the poll-bound state. One of its top leaders, Nandkumar Sai, has recently joined the Congress.

Heading the world’s largest party, BJP president J.P. Nadda had to bear a second successive defeat in Karnataka, after his native Himachal Pradesh. Mallikarjun Kharge has proved lucky for the Congress which inflicted shock defeats on the BJP in these two states.

President Droupadi Murmu and vice-president Jagdeep Dhankar took in their stride not being invited to the inauguration of the new Parliament building late last month as it was a Modi show through and through with even Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla playing second fiddle. The presence of Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson Hariuvansh sent shock waves in his native Bihar as the JD(U), to which he belongs, boycotted the function.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is a worried man with the Centre promulgating a controversial ordinance on issues over administration of the National Capital Territory. The Congress kept him on tenterhooks for about a fortnight on the issue of helping him out in the Rajya Sabha by voting against the relevant bill. Mr Kejriwal has met everybody who is anybody in the Opposition space to rally support, but is waiting for a meeting with Mr Kharge and Rahul Gandhi. He is warning all the other Opposition parties if they failed to unite over this, similar ordinances would be promulgated for their states.

K. Chandrasekhar Rao, Telangana CM and Bharat Rashtra Samiti chief, has quietly come out of the Opposition unity moves to take on Mr Modi. The Congress' victory in neighbouring Karnataka has prompted him to virtually remain equidistant from the BJP and Congress, his two foes on home turf.

TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu is back in the limelight after meeting the Union home minister, that signals the possibility of the BJP getting a key ally in the South. Assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh are due along with the Lok Sabha polls. This is bound to bother incumbent CM Jagan Mohan Reddy of the YSRCP who suddenly has a problem on his hand.

In Maharashtra, Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar has finally anointed his daughter Supriya Sule by nominating her a working president of the party (along with Praful Patel), much to the discomfiture of his nephew Ajit Pawar, whose growing proximity to the BJP was a cause for concern.

The political snakes and ladders game is bound to shake up things in the months to come. Those who will keep up with the times can ride the tide.