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  Opinion   Columnists  25 May 2024  Anita Katyal | Maliwal urged to give up RS seat; will Shivakumar lose out again?

Anita Katyal | Maliwal urged to give up RS seat; will Shivakumar lose out again?

The writer is a Delhi-based journalist.
Published : May 26, 2024, 12:05 am IST
Updated : May 26, 2024, 12:05 am IST

Key players in AAP, BJP, and Congress face internal conflicts and betrayals as they navigate the electoral battlefield.

Kejriwal's aide Bibhav Kumar being brought to Tis Hazari Court in the case of alleged assault on AAP MP Swati Maliwal, in New Delhi, Saturday, May 18, 2024. (PTI Photo)
 Kejriwal's aide Bibhav Kumar being brought to Tis Hazari Court in the case of alleged assault on AAP MP Swati Maliwal, in New Delhi, Saturday, May 18, 2024. (PTI Photo)

The headline-grabbing ugly episode involving Aam Aadmi Party’s Rajya Sabha member Swati Maliwal and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s aide-cum-Man Friday Bibhav Kumar (resulting in his arrest) has predictably become a hot topic of discussion in the capital, especially since it took place in the midst of a crucial Lok Sabha election. It is well-known that Ms Maliwal has been associated with Mr Kejriwal from the very inception of the party but what is not so well-known to the outside world is that she has strained relations with the chief minister’s wife Sunita and Delhi minister Atishi, also an old AAP hand. Ms Maliwal, it is said, had been pressing for an upgrade for some time and a consensus was emerging about fielding her in the Lok Sabha election from Chandni Chowk. She was accommodated in the Rajya Sabha instead while Chandni Chowk was subsequently offered to the Congress as part of the seat-sharing arrangement between the two parties. Ms Maliwal blotted her copybook when she left for the US in February and came back only after Mr Kejriwal was released. AAP leaders are convinced Ms Maliwal did not return earlier because of the prominence given to Sunita and Atishi during Mr Kejriwal’s incarceration. It was against this backdrop that she was asked to give up her Rajya Sabha seat. Ms Maliwal did not take kindly to this proposal, especially since it is Sunita Kejriwal who is learnt to have mooted it. The rest, as they say, is history.    

From all accounts, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Maneka Gandhi was left to fend for herself in her bid to retain the Sultanpur Lok Sabha constituency in these elections. The denial of a ticket to her son Varun Gandhi, who won the Pilibhit seat in the 2019 election, sent out the message to BJP cadres that the mother-son duo had fallen out with the BJP leadership. The local BJP workers apparently did not put in their best during the campaign. The fact that no senior party leader addressed any election rally in Maneka’s constituency was taken as further confirmation that she was no longer in the good books of party leaders. In fact, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah campaigned in neighbouring constituencies but skipped Sultanpur. If Maneka wins her seat again, it will be entirely due to her tireless efforts and her personal popularity as she has earned the goodwill of the locals by being responsive to their grievances.

Although the two parties are battling it out in the electoral arena, the Congress and the Trinamul Congress have been in talks with each other over the past several days. These discussions are not on the subject of the future of the INDIA alliance but the recent controversial statements made by senior Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury about West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. A known Mamata-baiter, Mr Chowdhury had compared her to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and that she could not be trusted. An angry Congress has already pulled up Mr Chowdhury for these remarks as well as the defacement of Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge’s posters in Kolkata. Apparently, the Trinamul Congress has been giving inputs about Mr Chowdhury to Congress leaders in Delhi. A senior Congress leader called up a Trinamul leader recently to enquire about Mr Chowdhury’s prospects. When told that he’s on a sticky wicket, the Congress leader, who has access to the Gandhis, replied, “Thank God.”

If the political grapevine in Karnataka is to be believed, the Congress is expected to witness fireworks after the Lok Sabha election results are out as the rivalry between chief minister Siddaramaiah and state unit president D.K. Shivakumar is likely to resurface. Mr Shivakumar, who has his eye on the chief minister’s post, apparently wants to step down as state party chief but the Congress leadership wants him to continue till the local body elections are over. When the party picked Mr Siddaramaiah as chief minister a year ago, it was said Mr Shivakumar would get the post after the Lok Sabha elections. Congress insiders said the redoubtable Siddaramaiah is already working behind the scenes to claim credit for delivering on the party’s key guarantees if the party notches up a respectable tally in the Lok Sabha polls. To add to the confusion, those who do not favour either of them are pressing for a dalit chief minister.

Industrialist and former Congress MP Naveen Jindal, who joined the BJP on the eve of elections came in for gentle ribbing in the Kurukshetra Lok Sabha constituency during his poll campaign. Haryanvi straight-talk was on display as locals recalled how the BJP had come down heavily on Mr Jindal when his company was named in the coal scam which surfaced when the UPA government was in power. They wondered if the taint had disappeared after he joined the BJP or if Mr Jindal was now free to admit that his company was involved in the scam. The last word went to a senior Jat resident who said, “The last time, the BJP threatened Jindal that it would come after him if he contested the election but this time it said we will nail you if you don’t contest.” 

Tags: 2024 lok sabha elections, swati maliwal, aam aadmi party (aap)