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  Opinion   Columnists  08 Jul 2023  Anita Katyal | Shinde feeling shaky on top; the making of Ravi Bishnoi

Anita Katyal | Shinde feeling shaky on top; the making of Ravi Bishnoi

The writer is a Delhi-based journalist.
Published : Jul 9, 2023, 12:44 am IST
Updated : Jul 9, 2023, 12:44 am IST

Ajit Pawar is again back as deputy chief minister along with a downgraded Mr Fadnavis.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. (PTI File Photo)
 Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. (PTI File Photo)

Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde has every reason to worry following the induction of rebel Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar as deputy chief minister in his government. Besides the fact that Pawar Jr has declared he would like a stab at the top post in the state, the NCP leader’s past record shows how he has proved unlucky for the four chief ministers under whom he served as a deputy. Ajit Pawar held this post when Congress chief minister Ashok Chavan was shown the door when he was embroiled in the Adarsh building scam. Next came Prithiviraj Chavan but his stint as chief minister, too, was cut short following differences between the Congress and the NCP. In 2019, Ajit Pawar was again sworn in as deputy chief minister after he defied his party leadership and joined hands with Bharatiya Janata Party’s Devendra Fadnavis who took oath as chief minister for the second time. However, this government lasted only three days after NCP supremo Sharad Pawar hit back and secured the support of all the party legislators. Subsequently, Ajit Pawar regained his old post under Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray when the Maha Aghadi Vikas government was formed. But this experiment did not last long as Thackeray lost power following a split in the Shiv Sena. Ajit Pawar is again back as deputy chief minister along with a downgraded Mr Fadnavis. Little wonder Mr Shinde is feeling shaky these days.

That there is an inextricable link between cricket and politics is a well-known fact. Take the case of leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi who was included in the Indian T20 team for the forthcoming West Indies tour. Ravi hails from Rajasthan and played for his state till last year. It is learned that he was approached by Vaibhav Gehlot, president of the Rajasthan Cricket Association and chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s son, to join Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra last year. Fearing a backlash from home minister Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah, the all-powerful secretary of the Board of Control of Cricket in India, Ravi declined to do so. The Jodhpur-based cricketer was subsequently denied any opportunity to play for the state in the Ranji Trophy matches. However, Ravi lost no time in shifting from his home state to Gujarat for the current domestic season. Even before he could play in any major tournament for his new team, he was picked for the West Indies tour.

Hectic lobbying is currently on in the Bharatiya Janata Party for the first Rajya Sabha seat it can win from West Bengal since 1952. The Rajya Sabha polls for six seats are to be held later this month. In addition, a bypoll is also slated after Luizinho Faleiro vacated his seat recently. The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamul Congress has the numbers to win five of the regular election seats as well as the bypoll while the BJP will be able to win the remaining seat. Swapan Dasgupta, Mithun Chakraborty, author and columnist Anirban Ganguly and state BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya are among those who are eyeing this lone BJP seat. However, speculation is rife that the BJP is desperately trying to persuade either Sourav Ganguly or Anant Rai Maharaj of the erstwhile Cooch Behar royal family to accept its offer of a Rajya Sabha berth. If the party gets Ganguly, it'll be a big draw though the BJP has tried wooing the former cricket captain in the past but with no success. Anant Rai Maharaj’s choice is interesting because he is a Rajbongshi, a community with significant electoral clout across the 54 seats of North Bengal.

As preparations for the 2024 general elections get underway in the Bharatiya Janata Party, its leadership is said to have made it known that two-term Rajya Sabha members will be asked to contest Lok Sabha polls. However, the party is learned to have made a few exceptions. Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman, S. Jaishankar, Hardeep Puri and Piyush Goyal are expected to retain their membership of the Upper House. All the four ministers are not being disturbed as they are handling key portfolios and Prime Minister Narendra Modi would, therefore, not like to involve them in the hurly burly of an election. However, sceptics in the party maintain they are not being fielded because the four cannot win a Lok Sabha election. Take the case of Ms Sitharaman who was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka, has represented Andhra Pradesh before but hails from Tamil Nadu. Which state would she be fielded from if she was to contest the Lok Sabha poll? Will the BJP be able to ensure her victory from any of these three states where it is on shaky ground?

Congress rebel Sachin Pilot may not have got any major assurances at the meeting of Rajasthan leaders convened by party president Mallikarjun Kharge last week, but he could draw satisfaction from the brusque treatment meted out to his arch rival Ashok Gehlot. Joining via video conferencing because of a foot injury, the Rajasthan chief minister got a taste of Mr Kharge’s assertive demeanour. When Mr Gehlot greeted all the Delhi leaders at the beginning of the meeting, Mr Kharge made it a point to remind him that he should not overlook him as he is the party chief. He then went on to pull up Mr Gehlot with regard to the increasing incidents of atrocities against dalits being reported from Rajasthan and asked him to take immediate corrective measures. Mr Kharge reminded Mr Gehlot that, since there are only a few months to go for the Rajasthan Assembly poll, he should get his act together and hit the campaign trail. At this point, someone commented that Mr Gehlot could draw inspiration from Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee who campaigned in the last West Bengal Assembly elections despite an injured leg.

Tags: eknath shinde, ajit pawar, ncp chief sharad pawar