Anita Katyal | A hockey player's teen patti' fix; in Gujarat, Cong on the back foot

The manner in which the AAP is doling out cash on hoardings, banners, ads and running its high-profile campaign in Guj has stumped everyone

Former Olympic hockey player-turned-politician Aslam Sher Khan usually uses sporting terms to give his take on a political situation. But in light of the Diwali season when teen-patti sessions were in full swing, the well-known sports star and former Congress minister referenced the card game to present a broad-brush picture of the current Indian political scene. A trifle skeptical about the Congress Party’s future electoral prospects, Khan explained that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a clear advantage over his political opponents because he holds all the aces. The first ace, according to him, is the backing of powerful industrialists who have been assiduously wooed by Mr Modi since he was Gujarat chief minister. The second ace is the unstinted support of the middle classes who are mesmerised by Mr Modi’s powerful oratory and his strong pitch on nationalism. The third, said Mr Khan, is the BJP’s well-planned and executed strategy of creating a Hindu-Muslim divide along with the constant persecution of the minorities which has successfully consolidated the Hindus in Mr Modi’s favour. And the final ace is the trust placed in him by the poor sections who are beholden to Mr Modi for the free rations, housing and other freebies doled out to them. Mr Khan says, if the Congress is to compete with the BJP, it must lay its hands on at least two of these aces. Otherwise, it faces an uphill task.

The launch of veteran Congress leader Mohsina Kidwai’s book, My Life in Politics, turned out to be a lively affair. That the gracious senior leader enjoys immense goodwill was obvious from the fact that the entire Kidwai clan was there, with family members jetting in from as far as the United Kingdom and Australia. Her old party colleagues, Shivraj Patil and Sushil Kumar Shinde as well as National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah were among those who spoke on the occasion. Despite the large turn-out, the absence of a member of the Gandhi family did not go unnoticed. Ms Kidwai’s proximity to Indira and Rajiv Gandhi is well-known. Her book is replete with intimate details about her interactions with Indira Gandhi. Apparently, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had said she would attend but cried off on the plea she was unwell though she had gone to congratulate Mallikarjun Kharge on his election as Congress president a day before the book launch.

The presence of Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi’s close aides, Nikhil Alva and Krishna Allavaru, at last week’s formal installation of Mallikarjun Kharge as the new Congress president, created a buzz in party circles. It sparked off speculation that Rahul Gandhi’s team members would be centre stage in the Kharge-led dispensation. Son of senior Congress leader Margaret Alva, Nikhil was handling Rahul Gandhi’s social media and had a brief falling out with the Congress leader but is obviously back in favour. Nikhil has always kept a low profile but the fact that he turned up for the handing over ceremony at the Congress headquarters is seen as a sign that he could be given a larger role in the organisation with an eye on the upcoming Karnataka elections. Nikhil Alva is also expected to play a key role in planning the next phase of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra as it heads to critical states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

Reports from Gujarat state that the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party is on a spending spree in the poll-bound state where it has mounted a serious challenge to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress. The manner in which the AAP is doling out cash on hoardings, banners, advertisements and running its high-profile campaign has stumped everyone. While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has no concerns on this front, the Congress finds itself on the back foot as it is staring at a serious cash crunch. In fact, the Congress has accepted that it will be difficult to unseat the BJP in Gujarat with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah going all-out to retain their home state. The Congress will be only too happy if it can keep its number two position and prevent the AAP from grabbing that spot.

Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power, it has run a high-profile campaign to vilify and undermine Jawaharlal Nehru’s legacy. It is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has mocked Nehru on several occasions. While Nehru-bashing is all out in the open, a more covert whisper campaign is being run by the party’s various affiliates to discredit Mahatma Gandhi while his killer Nathuram Godse is venerated. This is in sharp contrast to the public display of deference shown by the BJP leadership to the father of the nation. Social media and other available propaganda tools have been effectively used by the right-wing fraternity to convince people that Gandhi indulged in the appeasement of minorities. That this message has percolated deep down is evident even from conversations with nine- and ten-year-olds who openly proclaim that their “mother would be reading the namaz today if Godse had not assassinated Gandhi”.

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