Banerjee has announced plans to hold a federal rally in Kolkata next January for which she is inviting leaders of all regional parties.
Having been ridiculed by the media for a prolonged period, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has finally started getting some positive press coverage. His fiery speech in the Lok Sabha on the no-confidence motion was generally applauded and the surprise hug he gave Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not ceased to be a conversation piece since then.
As part of this image makeover, the Congress communication department subsequently invited women journalists for a special interaction with the party chief. A relaxed Rahul Gandhi spent over two hours at this meeting, answering everyone’s questions patiently and candidly.
During the course of this question-answer session, he mentioned how the press had treated him unfairly, following unquestioningly the narrative of the Bharatiya Janata Party which referred to him disparagingly as Pappu and called him dumb and incompetent. But now that he had answered their questions at length, Mr Gandhi said, it was up to the journalists to decide if the BJP’s comments were really in order. The jury is now out and it is to be seen if this exercise will help change the widely held perception about Mr Gandhi.
Federalism is the buzzword in the Opposition camp these days. Ever since Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao floated the idea of bringing together other regional parties under the umbrella of a federal front, Trinamul Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister has taken it upon her to follow up on this move. Taking a cue from the Trinamul chief, DMK leader M.K. Stalin has organised a meet on federalism in August for which he has invited Mamata Banerjee. She has accepted the invitation. At the same time, a private initiative called Think Federal has been launched in Kolkata.
Representatives of various political parties, including the Congress, the Biju Janata Dal and the AIADMK, agreed to participate in a discussion organised by this group, which is learnt to have the blessings of the Trinamul government. Meanwhile, Ms Banerjee has announced plans to hold a federal rally in Kolkata next January for which she is inviting leaders of all regional parties. Apparently, it is a strategic move on her part to hold the rally five months later. Party insiders said this was to give all the invitees sufficient time to pencil in this programme in their calendar. It will also indicate the line-up of parties which are joining the Opposition camp. For instance, if a leader accepts an invitation and then does not turn up for the rally, it is a clear message that he or she is not with the Opposition grouping as they cannot offer the excuse that they were not given sufficient notice.
The war between former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar has intensified now that the next Lok Sabha election is less than a year away. Mr Hooda is keen to head the party’s state unit as he would then be in the driving seat with regards to the distribution of tickets and it would also make him the automatic choice for the chief minister’s post in case the party wins the next Assembly poll. The two leaders have been busy organising rallies and yatras across the state to showcase their organisational capabilities and their connect with the people. Mr Hooda is particularly keen to get this post now that he has been kept out of the recently-reconstituted Congress Working Committee. Mr Hooda has since stepped up efforts to demonstrate his strength among the party legislators to Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
In an effort to press Mr Hooda’s case, Congress MLAs from Haryana recently arrived at the party chief’s residence to convey their views to him in person. However, Mr Gandhi did not entertain them. When the MLAs told him that they wanted a word with him about a state-related issue, the Congress president told them off, saying, “I know what you have to tell me,” and then left with a quick Namaste.
Union minister for road transport Nitin Gadkari may be a favourite of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological mentor, but he appears to be a lonely figure in his own government. At least, that’s the impression gathered by Opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha, which have raised objections to the Motor Vehicles Bill being piloted by Mr Gadkari. The government has been forced to defer the bill as a united and adamant Opposition has made it clear that they will only cooperate if their amendments are accepted. Mr Gadkari, who has staked his prestige on the passage of this bill, has been pleading with the Opposition for their help and has even called up West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to get a green signal from her. But Mr Gadkari seems to have been left to fend for himself as he is receiving little help from his colleagues in convincing the Opposition. In fact, the indifferent attitude of parliamentary managers and other senior BJP leaders suggested to the Opposition that the government is perhaps not serious about this bill.