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In private conversations, BJP leaders are not writing off Priyanka Gandhi

Her entry into the political fray has caused quite a splash outside BJP circles as well

By The Telegraph

  • Published 10.02.19, 10:44 AM
  • Updated 10.02.19, 10:44 AM
Priyanka Gandhi has ended years of speculation about her entry into politics by taking the plunge
Priyanka Gandhi has ended years of speculation about her entry into politics by taking the plunge PTI Photo/Atul Yadav

Ending years of speculation about the possible entry of the younger Gandhi sibling into the bustle of electoral politics, Priyanka Gandhi finally decided to take the leap recently. It is thus all hands on deck for the Grand Old Party now. Many Bharatiya Janata Party leaders were found analysing the impact that Priyanka Gandhi might have on the outcome of the 2019 parliamentary elections. Intriguingly, none of them was ready to dismiss her entering the fray as ineffective in private conversations as they seem to be doing publicly. One former BJP Lok Sabha member said: “She will definitely create ripples and we already see a churn among forward caste voters.” Asked whether this churn was caused by Priyanka Gandhi’s charisma or Narendra Modi’s diminishing appeal, he kept silent. Grilled further, he chuckled to himself and murmured: “Janam samjha karo.”

Turn with the tide

Priyanka Gandhi’s announcement has caused quite a splash outside BJP circles as well. Come election season, political mavericks, fixers and agents are known to come out of the woodwork. Little wonder then that Amar Singh was spotted in Parliament’s Central Hall this week. In a new bearded look, he was heard whispering that he had rejected the BJP’s invitation to join the party. He even boasted of being on good terms with the Samajwadi Party leader, Akhilesh Yadav, with whom he had a bitter fallout. He was extremely critical of Congress veterans and saw no hope in Rahul Gandhi either. But even he had positive things to say about Priyanka Gandhi. He described her as “mature” and “charismatic” and declared her impact on voters could be dramatic. Is that the reason why he has stopped heaping praises on Narendra Modi? 

Amar Singh
Amar Singh The Telegraph picture

Under watch

Amar Singh may have changed his mind about the BJP, but Soumitra Khan, the Trinamul Congress parliamentarian who recently switched to the saffron party, was flaunted as a prize catch in the Lok Sabha during the discussion on the motion of thanks to the president’s address to Parliament. Sporting a red pullover, Khan sat on the treasury benches, attracting the attention of visibly angry TMC members. To needle the latter further, the BJP made a last minute addition and ensured that Khan spoke on the motion of thanks, attacking Mamata Banerjee.

Khan chose to speak in Bengali, seeking to reach out to the people in Bengal. Although most BJP members could not make out exactly what Khan was saying, they thumped the desk intermittently to egg him on. Khan, however, proved to be a big let-down. As TMC glared at him, he did not once take Banerjee’s name, choosing to sing Narendra Modi’s praises instead.

In all but name

Public memory is not always short. Several Madhya Pradesh Congress bigwigs, including the chief minister, Kamal Nath, and former CM, Digvijaya Singh, were present at the wedding reception of the son of a local media baron in Bhopal. Seeing the rush of SUVs at the venue, Hari Shankar Ahirwar — the attendant of a public toilet nearby — rushed in to petition the CM to “retrieve” his wife who was now living with a magician. He ran past Nath and his security posse, towards Singh. Addressing the former CM by his honorific ‘Raja Saheb’, he handed over the plea to a secretary. When an amused guest told Ahirwar that Nath, and not Singh, was the CM, the hapless man could not believe his ears.

His plight is not very different from some of Nath’s cabinet colleagues, who continue to absent-mindedly refer to his predecessor Shivraj Singh Chouhan as “mananeeya mukhyamantri mahoday” in press conferences while explaining that they are undoing “15 years of BJP misrule” in the state.

Beat the chill

Incidentally, Kanhaiya Kumar, was also at the same wedding. Both the bride and groom are ‘comrades’ from Jawaharlal Nehru University who campaigned for his release, when he was jailed on sedition charges in 2016. Although the bride is a Left activist, the groom an ex-CPI(M) member — his dad is a former CPI man — Bhopal’s minuscule Left fraternity was largely absent from the wedding. Deserted by his ideological brethren, Kanhaiya froze — literally and metaphorically — amidst Bhopal’s selfie-hungry glitterati. The lack of a sweater made matters worse in the biting winter breeze. On spotting Kanhaiya, Digvijaya Singh and his son, Jaivardhan, walked up to him. Thankfully for Kanhaiya, the waiters followed the former CM with warm soup. Perhaps the soup made it possible for Kanhaiya to break the ice with the two Congressmen.

Back to the starting line

Desperate for a toehold in Kerala, the BJP had zeroed in on Mohanlal. But some say that the Malayali superstar is having second thoughts. Is that because Mohanlal thinks that an explicit association with the BJP — so far, small fry in Kerala politics — is likely to hamper his career on screen? If Mohanlal does dump the BJP, the party would have to begin its task of roping in another matinee idol. Now who could that be? 

Footnote

After the defeat in the assembly elections, PC Siddaramaiah had said that he was done with electoral politics. But power is a potent thing, and it has never been easy to predict his moves. His official position as chairman of the coalition coordination committee has only helped him keep a tab on the goings-on in the ruling alliance. He even managed to get the CM, HD Kumaraswamy, to carry on with his pet projects. Like they say in the Karnataka Congress, Siddaramaiah never loses a chance to show who’s boss.

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