It is Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who pitched for Sidhu’s appointment as Punjab Congress chief
When Priyanka Gandhi Vadra joined politics in early 2019, she confined herself to the handling of Uttar Pradesh affairs to ensure she did not overshadow her brother Rahul Gandhi. But three years on, the third Gandhi has emerged as another power centre and the party’s chief troubleshooter. This was evident recently when the Congress Central leadership was engaged in resolving the face-off between Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh and his bete noire Navjot Singh Sidhu. It is Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who pitched for Sidhu’s appointment as Punjab Congress chief, ignoring the objections raised by the chief minister. Again, it was Priyanka who called up Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal on Sunday night and asked him to issue the press release announcing Sidhu’s appointment immediately though it was earlier scheduled to be put out the next day. The announcement was rushed following reports of a show of strength being planned by Amarinder Singh. However, Priyanka’s open partisanship towards Sidhu did not go down well with many Congress leaders who privately admit they are unhappy at the treatment meted out to a senior leader like Amarinder Singh. They feel she should have displayed greater political maturity in handling the situation.
Information Technology minister Ashwini Vaishnaw made his first statement on the Pegasus spyware controversy on the opening day of the Monsoon Session of Parliament. But this official statement, delineating the government position, was clearly not enough for the government. Later that day, newspaper editors and channel heads were repeatedly told by the government’s media managers that Home minister Amit Shah would be putting out an important statement and that they should ensure adequate coverage for an important announcement. It was expected that the home minister would have something new to say about the Pegasus spyware since the intelligence agencies are under his charge. However, the much-expected statement turned out to be a damp squib. It was nothing more than the usual diatribe against the Opposition.
After delivering a blockbuster electoral victory for Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress in West Bengal, poll strategist Prashant Kishor is now looking at playing the role of a political kingmaker. According to the Delhi grapevine, Mr Kishor is said to have impressed upon Sonia and Rahul Gandhi at their recent meeting that the Congress should go in for an alliance with the Samajwadi Party in next year’s Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls. He even offered to mediate with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav provided the Congress agreed to contest on only 40 Assembly seats. He is said to have argued that the Congress is on an extremely weak wicket in Uttar Pradesh and that another disastrous poll result would reflect poorly on Priyanka Gandhi, party general secretary in charge of the state. Moreover, many Congress state leaders, it was pointed out, have started exploring other options in the run-up to the polls. It is not clear if Mr Kishor’s proposal has been accepted by the Gandhis but it is no coincidence that on her last visit to Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka said the Congress was open to alliances with like-minded parties.
Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh’s younger brother Laxman Singh, has been constantly overshadowed by his older sibling despite his best efforts to emerge as a person in his own right. More recently, Laxman Singh, an MLA in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, authored a book titled Environmental Challenges and Human Response, which was released in Bhopal by former chief minister Kamal Nath. But, here again, there was no escape for Laxman Singh from his brother’s omnipotent presence. Speaking at the release function, Kamal Nath could not help but take a dig at the author when he remarked that if Laxman Singh had written a book on his brother Digvijaya Singh, he would have had a bestseller on his hands. As it happened, this remark became the talking point instead of the book.
Though he has served as a minister in Bihar, Pashupati Kumar Paras, late Ram Vilas Paswan’s younger brother, found himself out of depth when he was briefed by officials of the food processing ministry allocated to him in the recent Cabinet reshuffle. Paras was, however, honest enough to admit that he was a newcomer and that it would take him some time to come to grips with the working of the ministry. He then turned to his junior, Prahlad Singh Patel, minister of state in the same ministry, and asked him to guide him and deal with the officers in the initial period. This candid admission by Paras, however, left everyone wondering if he was up to the task of managing his party affairs since he too, like Laxman Singh, was overshadowed by his brother Ram Vilas Paswan. Paras recently took over the Lok Janshakti Party after ousting his nephew Chirag Paswan as party president. The joke is that Paras will perhaps be guided by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who is said to have played a key role in splitting the LJP.
Anita Katyal is a Delhi-based journalist