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'Tis the season for defection

The unseemly spectacle in Karnataka is merely the beginning

By The Telegraph

  • Published 21.07.19, 3:24 PM
  • Updated 21.07.19, 3:24 PM
Apparently uncomfortable with a domineering BJP, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar would like to partner the RJD, which has lost its political swagger after the debacle in the parliamentary elections
Apparently uncomfortable with a domineering BJP, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar would like to partner the RJD, which has lost its political swagger after the debacle in the parliamentary elections (Telegraph picture)

This is the season of political defections; and it is going to last much longer than expected. The unseemly spectacle of Karnataka is merely the beginning. The political grapevine is abuzz with unexpected developments in many states. While at least two more Samajwadi Party Rajya Sabha members are in discussion with the Bharatiya Janata Party, negotiations are going on with Congress MLAs in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh as well as in Rajasthan. One Congress leader said nobody should be surprised if the Congress splits vertically in Gujarat and over 30 MLAs defect to the BJP. Intriguingly, the BJP is preparing to poach JD(U) parliamentarians and legislators if the Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar, were to attempt yet another political somersault. Sources say that Kumar is of the opinion that a weakened Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress could be easy prey and may take the bait of aligning with the JD (U), once again. Kumar is apparently uncomfortable with a domineering BJP and would like to partner the RJD that has lost its political swagger because of the debacle in the parliamentary elections. But both the JD(U) and the BJP are moving cautiously, keeping their cards close to the chest. Kumar’s aides are walking the extra mile to convince the BJP leadership that a divorce was not on the cards no matter what the level of tension is in the coalition. But a pledge by politicians has few takers, right?

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav is under fire by party leaders after the SP’s defeat in the polls
Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav is under fire by party leaders after the SP’s defeat in the polls (Telegraph file picture)

Common spots

One is faced with the truth more in adversity than in moments of triumph. The SP leader, Akhilesh Yadav, who was generally praised for his humility, accessibility and hard work, was seen as a true rising star in the Opposition. His sincere outreach to Mayawati, the Bahujan Samaj Party supremo, cemented that image. But the façade is now being ripped apart by party leaders after the SP’s defeat in the polls. Many MPs, former MPs and party veterans are singing a different tune, alleging that Akhilesh is arrogant, inaccessible and operates through a coterie. “He didn’t ask senior leaders while deciding candidates for the Lok Sabha election in their areas. There was no consultation. We lost at least 10 seats because of the wrong choice of candidates and the lack of communication in the party. After the defeat, there has no introspection at all,” a senior leader said, describing Akhilesh as antithetical to Mulayam Singh Yadav who was truly a mass leader. Mulayam spent his life among farmers, workers and the oppressed before falling into Amar Singh’s trap. Many SP members now describe Mulayam junior as “a drawing-room politician sustained by the media”. They harbour serious doubts about Akhilesh’s ability to rebuild the party. Ironically, similar reports are coming in from Bihar about another young leader, Tejashwi Yadav. Many RJD leaders are complaining about his arrogance, inaccessibility and the lack of political acumen. Let’s just say that Akhilesh and Tejashwi share some common spots.

The chairman

The newly-elected Lok Sabha Speaker, Om Birla, appears to be in a race for making it to the record books. The first session of the 17th Lok Sabha, it still has a week to go, is already being dubbed the most productive in the past 20 years. Buoyed by this, Birla seems to be striving to scale greater heights. For days in a row, he is getting the Lok Sabha to run till late into the night. On a couple of days, the House transacted business till almost midnight.

But it seems that Birla may not be happy with presiding over the most productive House in 20 years. Many MPs feel that he has set his sights higher and wants to achieve ‘what couldn’t be achieved in the last 60-70 years’. Apart from the late hours, Birla has already become a point of discussion among new MPs because of his eagerness. “Asan pairon pe hai (The Chair is on its legs)”, which Birla says when he stands up to control the uproarious members, is frequently referred to by parliamentarians in their lighter moments.

Birla’s enthusiasm, however, is not going down well with many ruling party MPs. “He would never have dreamt of becoming the Speaker and so his over enthusiasm is understandable but why is he making our life hell?”, one BJP member was heard saying in the corridors of Parliament.

Heavy discounts

It is ‘shopping season’ for the BJP and the party seems to be quite open about its ‘shopping spree’ as Jharna Das, the Rajya Sabha member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), found out when she went to meet the Union home minister, Amit Shah, in his Parliament House office to highlight the political violence in Tripura.

Even before she could raise the issue, Shah reportedly asked her why she was staying on with the CPI(M), a party that appears to be on its last legs. “Why don’t you join us?” Das quoted Shah as saying. She politely declined the offer and Shah dropped the subject. But what surprised the Tripura MP the most was that Shah seemed to be acting as the BJP president even though it was the home minister who had been approached by her for a discussion.

Old habits die hard; some even trigger mirth. During a heated discussion during the no confidence motion in the Karnataka assembly, the former CM, PC Siddaramaiah, quipped. “I am the leader of the Opposition.” Even as the gaffe left the House in splits, he corrected himself. A few weeks ago, Siddaramaiah had headed straight for the CM’s car after a coalition meeting. He did check himself and managed to get into his own car.

Is P. C. Siddaramaiah forgetting himself these days?
Is P. C. Siddaramaiah forgetting himself these days? (Telegraph file picture)

Footnote

Old habits die hard; some even trigger mirth. During a heated discussion during the no confidence motion in the Karnataka assembly, the former CM, PC Siddaramaiah, quipped. “I am the leader of the Opposition.” Even as the gaffe left the House in splits, he corrected himself. A few weeks ago, Siddaramaiah had headed straight for the CM’s car after a coalition meeting. He did check himself and managed to get into his own car.

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