When the President travelled to Kolkata on May 18, the special IAF-run Boeing had an unusual passenger. The West Bengal CM, it seems, hopped on to the presidential flight hoping to persuade Pranab Mukherjee to throw his hat in the ring for a second term at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. After her Bihar counterpart proposed Mukherjee’s name, Mamata took it upon herself to convince Sonia Gandhi to initiate the process. The Congress president wanted a clear-cut message from the outgoing President.
Well, Mukherjee is willing, only if he’s the consensus candidate. As a sitting President, he’s understandably reluctant to become the candidate of one political party or even bloc. It seems he’s of the opinion that the mandate to choose the next president is with the BJP/NDA. And it’s unlikely that the ruling dispensation would pick or back anyone of Congress origin, given the acute ideological differences. Meanwhile, the Lutyens’ circle is convinced that Nitish floated Mukherjee’s name more to scuttle fellow partyman Sharad Yadav’s chances of becoming the opposition mascot!
Solved by Salve
The favourable ruling at the ICJ in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case has come as a relief for the BJP/NDA Government, which is about to celebrate three years in office. The idea of going to The Hague to avert Jadhav’s execution originally came from ace lawyer Harish Salve. EAM Sushma Swaraj promptly got in touch with him.
And it bore results, as Islamabad ended with egg on its face. But that’s exactly what a section in the diplomatic set-up is wary of-a slighted Pakistan may take desperate measures. The government’s core team, however, is gung-ho and insists they are “prepared for all eventualities”. What is not appreciated at all, though, is the manner in which Salve’s Maharashtrian Christian background was splashed by an overzealous media site.
The summer heat is getting to the Aam Aadmi Party. Every other day, its erstwhile member-cum-minister Kapil Mishra flings dirt on the party and its mascot Arvind Kejriwal. So much so that Kejriwal is now suspicious of his own shadow. It all started, it seems, with Mishra’s driver boasting to deputy CM Manish Sisodia’s driver that his ‘boss’ would soon become the CM, replacing Kejriwal. A showdown between Sisodia and Mishra followed, and the latter was summarily ejected out of the Cabinet. The rest is an ongoing history.
The BJP is so serious about expanding its base in the south that ministers have been asked to put in extra effort to tour the states, particularly Tamil Nadu, and tap people who matter, including footsoldiers of the media. A senior minister with an important portfolio has even offered to cook a Sunday lunch all by herself for a group of South Indian journalists who are stationed in Delhi and missing home food.
Will he, won’t he?
More than the Gujarat polls, a bigger buzz is around Shankersinh Vaghela. Will he or won’t he join the BJP? Though he has denied he’s moving back to his old party after two decades in the Congress, his close aides claim he’s ‘still in talks’, a euphemism for bargain politics. Apparently, he does not want to settle for anything less than a Cabinet berth for himself and son in the Centre and the state, and the BJP chief has only offered governorship at a later date.
Within the Congress too, the bargaining is on to keep him back. Despite unfollowing Rahul Gandhi on Twitter and an altercation at a closed-door meeting preceding that, Veghela is negotiating seats for his followers, not ready to settle for anything less than 93. The Gandhis, however, have flatly refused to project him as the CM candidate once more.
The author is Political Editor, TNIE. Email: santwana@ newindianexpress.com