Efforts have been on over the past few months to boost Mr Shringla’s profile.
Retired bureaucrats, especially former diplomats, are clearly a hot favorite with the Narendra Modi government. After the induction of S. Jaishankar, Hardeep Puri , R.K. Singh and Ashwani Vaishnav, there is a strong buzz in the capital that the Bharatiya Janata Party plans to field former foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla in next year’s Lok Sabha election from the Darjeeling constituency. The BJP has probably zeroed in on Mr Shringla, currently chief coordinator for India’s G-20 presidency, because he hails from the Darjeeling and Sikkim region and speaks Nepali among other languages. His father is a Sikkimese Buddhist. In fact, efforts have been on over the past few months to boost Mr Shringla’s profile. Earlier this year, Mr Shringla’s biography titled, Not an Accidental Rise, written by Dipmala Roka of Sikkim University, was launched. Interestingly, a special programme was held in his hometown Darjeeling, where a digital translation of the book in Nepali language was released along with the English version. A Bengali translation is also on the cards. Except for sitting MP Raju Bista, the BJP has fielded “outsiders” like Jaswant Singh and S.S. Ahluwalia from Darjeeling in the past who won with the support of the Gorkha National Liberation Front. Mr Shringla is both a local and an outsider. Though he comes from this region, he has done his schooling at Mayo College, Ajmer, and graduation from Delhi’s St Stephen’s College.
Though Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s foreign visits have now become a routine affair, his forthcoming trip to Europe is interesting both because of the cities — Brussels, Paris and Oslo — he is slated to visit. Rahul Gandhi’s schedule in Brussels includes an interaction with European Union members, which comes weeks after the European Parliament took note of the ongoing ethnic clashes in Manipur and adopted a strongly-worded resolution condemning the violence while coming down heavily on the harassment faced by activists, journalists and minorities in India. The Congress leader will be in Paris shortly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s successful visit to France. However, Mr Modi’s trip was marred by several articles in the local press which critiqued his government for human rights violations and suppression of dissenting voices. Then there is speculation that during his stay in Oslo, Rahul Gandhi could meet members of the Norwegian Nobel Institute and Nobel Committee in addition to other meetings. This comes at a time when there are murmurs in some quarters that Modi makes for an ideal candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Though it is only a by-election, the September 5 Ghosi Assembly election has far greater implications for the BJP and the Opposition. In Lucknow, it is being dubbed as an indirect battle between Union home minister Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. The BJP candidate, Dara Singh Chauhan, who was with the Samajwadi Party till recently, was persuaded to cross over at Shah’s behest as the home minister was impressed with his work during his earlier stint with the BJP. But this apparently did not go down well with the chief minister since Mr Chauhan had attacked Yogi Adityanath for not understanding the problems of backward classes when he left the BJP to join the Samajwadi Party. The results will now show who emerges the winner — Mr Shah or Yogi. On the other side, Opposition unity is on test in this election as the Samajwadi Party candidate has got the support of the INDIA bloc.
As the Madhya Pradesh Assembly election draws close, the Congress witnessed the emergence of yet another dynast in the poll-bound state. The Congress recently organised a major event of lawyers from across the state but the 5,000-odd participants went back unhappy as they believed the event was essentially meant to launch Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha’s son, Varun Tankha, also an advocate. He was seated on stage along with senior leaders Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh while several important state leaders and members of the Congress legal cell were ignored. They complained that though they were resigned to playing second fiddle to Vivek Tankha, a lateral entrant to the party who owes his position to his proximity to Mr Nath and also because he is the son-in-law of late Capt. Ajay Narain Mushran, Digvijaya Singh’s finance minister, they could not accept Varun Tankha who, they said, spends all his time in Delhi and has made no contribution to the Congress in the state.
While infighting in Rajasthan Congress has been in the news, the BJP’s state unit also has its share of troubles. For instance, Kailash Meghwal, a senior BJP legislator and former Speaker of the Rajasthan Assembly, embarrassed the party when he publicly attacked Union minister Arjun Ram Meghwal. He accused the Union minister of indulging in corrupt practices and sought his removal from the Cabinet. Party insiders said this outburst could be traced to a recent meeting between Mr Meghwal and BJP national general secretary Arun Singh, who apparently suggested that the senior Rajasthan leader was too old to contest elections and that he suggested the name of a younger candidate. Mr Meghwal is learned to have ticked him off, saying if the party did not give him a ticket, he could always cross over to the Congress.