Chatter about finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman being shifted out refuses to die down.
Younger leaders in the Congress are especially happy with the party’s credible performance in the Jharkhand election. This is because the campaign here was run by R.P.N. Singh, a member of Team Rahul. More importantly, most senior leaders were deliberately kept away from addressing any rallies as there was a fear that they would digress to national issues. Gen Next leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot were roped in for electioneering while the party's state leaders from Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh were stationed in various constituencies to supervise the election. Little known till he led the Congress to an emphatic victory in his home state last year, Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel was the party’s star campaigner. He addressed nine rallies even as the Chhattisgarh model of development was the party’s major poll plank. Congress speakers, especially Baghel, referred to the various measures undertaken for the poor by the Chhattisgarh government and assured the electorate that similar benefits would be extended to the people of Jharkhand if the Congress alliance was voted to power.
There was a time when Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath was in great demand in election-going states by the BJP’s poll strategists because his provocative speeches were well received by the crowds. But the party is now having second thoughts about the effectiveness of the firebrand leader’s communally charged speeches This first came to notice in the 2018 Assembly elections in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh and now again in Jharkhand. In fact, it has led to a serious rethink in BJP circles about fielding Yogi so extensively in the party’s poll campaigns in the future. A large section in the BJP is also unhappy with his handling of the anti-CAA protests in Uttar Pradesh, especially his constant talk of revenge. A chief minister, they say, is not expected to talk like a streetfighter but should instead apply a healing touch to the people.
The Congress grapevine is abuzz with reports about a tussle between Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the party's high-profile general secretary. Apparently Priyanka wants the chief minister to re-induct Navjot Singh Sidhu into the state Cabinet while Singh is keen that his key confidant Rana Gurjit Singh is given a ministerial berth. Rana Gurjit Singh had to step down from the state Cabinet last year after he was accused of illegally bagging sand mining contracts. In addition, Amarinder Singh also wants Charanjit Singh Channi, currently minister for technical education and industrial training, to be made the assembly Speaker in place of
Rana K.P. Singh as he would like the latter to be made a minister. Needless to say, the Punjab chief minister is not keen on bringing Sidhu back as the two are at daggers drawn. It was after a long protracted battle that Amarinder Singh had managed to sideline Sidhu which eventually forced him to put in his papers.
Chatter about finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman being shifted out refuses to die down. Several names have been doing the rounds as her possible replacements which include Deepak Parekh, S. Gurumurthy and railway minister Piyush Goyal. But it is highly unlikely that Ms Sitharaman will be moved out because that would imply that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah erred in giving her this prized portfolio. Moreover, it is too close to the budget to make any change at this stage. That would send out a highly negative message. And, in any case, it is well-known that the bulk of the budgetary exercise is undertaken by the Prime Minister's Office.