Anita Katyal | What’s eating Ghulam Azad; daughter tends to Sushma ties
Azad fears that unhappy leaders could be tempted to return to the Cong if they are convinced that the state unit is getting its act together
Former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad is apparently getting increasingly fretful as Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra prepares to enter Kashmir by January-end. Mr Azad is said to be perturbed on two counts. One, the otherwise somnolent state unit of the Congress is showing signs of waking up. State party leaders are depending on the Yatra to energise the cadre, especially since the Centre is planning to hold Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir in the near future. Mr Azad, on the other hand, had hoped his new political outfit — the Democratic Azad Party — would reap electoral benefit from the decline of the Congress in the state. As it happens, Mr Azad’s three-month-old party is facing serious teething problems. It is beset with incessant internal squabbles even as the number of disgruntled leaders is increasing by the day. Only last week, Mr Azad expelled three senior leaders for anti-party activities. Mr Azad fears that unhappy leaders could be tempted to return to the Congress if they are convinced that the state unit is getting its act together. It is, therefore, not surprising that Mr Azad is keeping a sharp eye on the Yatra and its possible impact on the state Congress unit.
For several years, Govind Malu, Bharatiya Janata Party leader in Madhya Pradesh, would regularly present a sari to the late Sushma Swaraj on her visits to his home state. Ms Swaraj was a Lok Sabha member from Vidisha constituency. Consequently, she was a regular visitor to Madhya Pradesh. Indore-based Malu was always at hand to welcome Ms Swaraj and looked up to her as his mentor. Mr Malu was pleasantly surprised when Ms Swaraj’s daughter, Bansuri, made it a point to call on him on a recent visit to Indore. Not just that but this time, the tables were turned and it was Bansuri who came with a special gift — a sari — for Malu’s wife. Needless to say, Malu and his wife were deeply touched by this gesture.
When he was in the Congress, R.P.N. Singh, a member of Rahul Gandhi team, was a regular fixture at the party headquarters on Akbar Road. He was among the few party office bearers who could be depended upon to be sitting in his allotted room the entire year. Mr Singh is clearly aware that unlike the Congress, the BJP will not take kindly to his old-style addabazi. For the record, he is keeping busy in his constituency Padrauna in Uttar Pradesh. The truth is Mr Singh has no choice but to keep a low profile as he is still waiting to be rewarded for deserting the Congress unlike his buddies, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada, who have got ministerial berths.
This is a question often asked in the Bharatiya Janata Party: Is there any person who matches or comes close to Brand Modi’s popularity. And the answer has always been: superstar Shah Rukh Khan and cricketer Virat Kohli. This realisation has apparently driven the rightwing lobby, enjoying the ruling party’s patronage, to run an incessant campaign to destroy the two heroes. The lobby had a modicum of success in the case of Kohli, who was panned mercilessly when he was out of form. He was eventually removed as captain of the Indian cricket team. A similar campaign has been on to pull down Shah Rukh Khan. Whether it was the star’s son’s arrest in a drugs case or now the release of his much-awaited film, Pathaan, this lobby, including BJP leaders, use every opportunity to destroy Khan. Unlike Kohli, the superstar is doubly disadvantaged because he is a Muslim. But this mission has failed for Brand SRK continues to soar while the Khan magic endures and his obsessive fan following keeps growing.
At a time when right-wing groups, affiliated to the Bharatiya Janata Party, have been cracking down on members of the Christian community, disrupting their prayer meetings and accusing its leaders of indulging in conversions, the Capital witnessed the first big Christian outreach last week by the ruling party and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Special pre-Christmas celebrations were organised at the Meghalaya House by another BJP affiliate, the Bharatiya Christian Manch. Interestingly, Indresh Kumar, senior RSS leader, was the chief guest while the other “special guests” included Union ministers Arjun Munda, Vijay Kumar Singh and Rajiv Chandrashekhar. The BJP and the RSS probably felt the need to hold such a programme as the attacks on the Christian community elicit strong protests from across the globe. Conscious that these incidents could sully the Modi government’s image, this celebration was a belated attempt at damage control.