TMC’s Derek O’Brien is the man of the moment—taking umbrage at the Rajya Sabha chair for quizzically calling him the quizmaster. “Don’t call me that, I’m the Trinamool Congress leader,’’ O’Brien retorted. Playing more than just usher to Didi’s coalition partners, present and potential, O’Brien has a well-defined role that he’s taken to like fish to water. Call him Didi’s chief liaison man in Delhi for coalition management. And he’s proving to be quite a bugbear for both the BJP and the Congress. The BJP is wary of his gift of the gab, quick repartee, the no-holds-barred fusillade against the treasury in the Upper House and the quick bytes outside. And the old Congress minders do not like his one-upmanship, his attempt to make Didi the pivot of the Opposition’s grand unity. Much to their chagrin, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge noticed O’Brien had slinked out of an Opposition strategy meet to stand with Samajwadi Party MPs near the Gandhi statute to shout slogans. He’s also been stealing the Congress thunder in the Upper House, virtually imposing the TMC’s high-decibel attack on the BJP on the Assam citizenship issue, drowning out the GOP’s more nuanced position.
CPM can’t see a PM
Will the Left, CPI-M particularly, be part of the Opposition grand alliance? General secretary Sitaram Yechury may have added his presence to the rather unusual pairings sighted at Jantar Mantar on Saturday—Arvind Kejriwal, for instance, shared the stage with Rahul Gandhi for the very first time! At the candlelight protest called by RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav on the horrific mass rape in the Muzaffarpur ‘shelter’ home, Yechury too could be seen standing right next to TMC’s Dinesh Trivedi. The view from AKG Bhawan was a bit different, though. The politburo and the central committee next month will take a call on state-wise alliances, but Yechury made no bones about the fact that his party sees the TMC and the BJP in the same light: “One is drumming up Bengali nationalism” in the state; the other “Hindu nationalism” on the national stage. So forget about a consensus on the PM candidate, the Left may not be part of any formal/informal grand-tie of which their Bengal bête noire is a part.
Temple comes to rescue
No sooner had Tourism Minister Alphons Kannanthanam risen to give replies during Question Hour that almost all MPs from Kerala were up on their feet, wanting to raise tourism-related issues from their respective constituencies. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, quite exasperated, started cutting everyone short with her curtly intoned ‘yes, yes’…trying to push more supplementary questions. That’s when CPI-M MP from Kannur, PK Sreemathi Teacher, found an innovative way out. Every time the Speaker tried to cut her short, she named a temple—a Bhagawati ambalam here, a Mahashiva kshetram there—stumping Mahajan to silence. The Kannur MP thus finished her list of temples, which she wanted to be included in the Kerala spiritual tourism circuit.
Caught in a bind
Sushmita Deb and Gaurav Gogoi, the Congress’s two prominent Assam MPs, are in a bind. Daughter of the late Congress leader Santosh Mohan Deb, the firebrand Silchar MP has Bengali origins. Tackling the TMC MPs’ noisy visit to Silchar on the one hand and managing heightened Ahomiya chauvinism on the other, she has her work cut out. It’s not better for Gaurav: while he struggles to come to terms with the fallout of the NRC list, he has to think about Bengal too. He’s the AICC in-charge of the state! No wonder both the otherwise media-savvy politicians have been missing in action. Well, they are not the only ones caught in a bind. Tripura CM Biplab Deb has vehemently opposed any NRC in his state. The reason: he migrated to Tripura from Bangladesh in 1971. The details are all in the public domain!
The author is Political Editor, TNIE. Email: santwana@