According to the BJP grapevine, the party is expected shift focus to the Kamal Nath government after the Republic Day celebrations.
Though the passage of the resolution reading down Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the bill bifurcating the state in the last week of the Budget Session of Parliament was preceded by meticulous planning, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party did not leave anything to chance. Consequently, Rajya Sabha members from the BJP, who participated in the debate, were asked to exercise restraint and avoid any controversial references to Jawaharlal Nehru’s role in Kashmir while advisories were issued to party MPs that they should not give any soundbites or interviews to television news channels or newspapers on this subject till the debate was over and Union home minister Amit Shah had spoken. An MP from Uttar Pradesh, known for his volubility, gave an interview to a news agency showering praise on prime minister Narendra Modi and Mr Shah for taking such a bold decision on Kashmir, only to learn about the “gag order” later. The nervous MP spent the next hour pleading with the reporter to withhold the interview. Word was sent out that nothing should be said both inside and outside the House which could give an opportunity to the Opposition to derail proceedings and delay the passage of the Bill. But once the Rajya Sabha hurdle had been crossed, it was open season in the Lok Sabha where the Modi government enjoys a massive majority. Consequently, the speeches by BJP speakers in the lower house were replete with attacks on Nehru, often leading to confrontation with Congress members. But, by then, the Modi government had nothing to worry about.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati made a few leadership changes in the party organisation last week. Former MP Munquad Ali was given charge of the party's Uttar Pradesh unit in place of R.S. Kushwaha who was made general secretary at the national level. In a surprise move, Mayawati removed Danish Ali as the leader of the party in the Lok Sabha, replacing him with Jaunpur MP Shyam Singh Yadav. The timing of these changes was interesting as the announcement came a day after the BSP voted in favour of the Modi government’s Kashmir package in Parliament. Mayawati’s move is being seen as a belated balancing act. Probably worried that her decision may have went out a wrong signal to the minorities in Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati chose to hand over charge of the UP unit to Mr Ali. The choice of Mr Yadav as the party's Lok Sabha leader comes when the BSP has snapped ties with the Samajwadi Party and is trying to shore up its support base by reaching out to the backward classes, including the Yadavs who have traditionally been SP supporters. Only time will tell if these cosmetic changes will help revive the BSP's fortunes.
Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party installed its own government in Karnataka, speculation is rife that the Madhya Pradesh government is its next target as the Congress has a wafer-thin majority in the state assembly. According to the BJP grapevine, the party is expected shift focus to the Kamal Nath government after the Republic Day celebrations. Union home minister Amit Shah, who is the party’s mastermind behind these operations, was unable to attend to “Project Kamal” as he was busy with Kashmir affairs. But if there is a delay in bringing down the Kamal Nath government, it is primarily because the BJP is unable to decide on its chief ministerial candidate. It is not keen to bring back former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan though he is desperate to return to his old job. Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP national general secretary, is said to be a Shah favourite but he is in the doghouse after his son was caught assaulting officials with a bat. Madhya Pradesh’s former water resources minister Narottam Mishra is equally close to Mr Shah and is also in line for the chief minister’s post. However, Mr Mishra is in a spot of trouble after his two former aides were arrested in connection with a `80,000 crore e-tendering scam, making it difficult for Mr Shah to reward him.
After Rahul Gandhi made it clear that he was firm on stepping down as Congress president, there were murmurs from within that Sonia Gandhi should take over as only she has the wherewithal to deal with the current crisis facing the party. However, there has been a sea change in the attitude of Congress members since Sonia Gandhi handed over the baton to Rahul Gandhi. This was evident at last week’s meeting of the Congress Working Committee, called to discuss the party’s position on the latest Kashmir developments. In the past, several senior leaders would escort Sonia Gandhi out after the meeting but this time, one section followed Rahul Gandhi out while another accompanied Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, now a party general secretary. It was only later that a few seniors returned hurriedly to escort Sonia Gandhi after they realised she had been left on her own.