Battle of Kalinga
Now that the prime minister and his chief party strategist are focused on Odisha, so much so that he took his fourth year celebrations to Cuttack, the Odisha CM is not taking any chances. Not only did Naveen Patnaik stay away from the anti-BJP congregation in Bengaluru, he held extensive meetings of officials and party workers to firm up his own 2019 plan of action. Dharmendra Pradhan, the BJP’s best known face in Odisha, has announced that it would play up 48 cases of corruption of BJD versus 48 achievements of NDA.
Modi vs the Rest is the latest buzzword. The Bangalore stage certainly made it look that way, though the picture is more fluid in reality. All calculations are being chalked out on a state-to-state basis by one side and by clubbing states by the other. Amit Shah’s firming up a template where the BJP focuses on its Coromandel plan: maximising gains in Odisha-Telangana-Tamil Nadu-Kerala-Andhra Pradesh-West Bengal, altogether 166 seats. In 2014, the BJP picked up very few seats in these states, despite the Modi wave. But now it sees scope to expand its base substantially in Odisha and Telangana, states where the Congress is the main Opposition; and to improve its tally in multi-cornered contests elsewhere. Substantially or whatever it can get. Even one Lok Sabha seat may be worth its weight in gold in 2019.
The frugal Gadkari
Nitin Gadkari was known as one of the most affable and foodie ministers in the NDA Cabinet. What his bariatric surgery could not fully achieve, his strict dietary regime seems to have done. Now that he is himself rather conscious of what is to be allowed on the platter, he’s been advising all and sundry on what to eat and what not to. This was in full display at Amit Shah’s recent lunch for ministers and the media, where he spread the message. And the inspiration seems to be none other than Shah!
Security breach @ Visva Bharati
The Prime Minister’s first-ever visit to Rabindranath Tagore’s Visva Bharati was naturally not without events. From Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina’s presence to Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s whispers to the former, to the sumptuous spread with hilsa and what not (though Modi is known to be a frugal eater and vegetarian), the PM’s glare at the Bengal CM and the Modi-Modi chants from the students. But what really took everyone’s breath away was when a man jumped the security cordon and lunged towards the PM with a painted portrait of Tagore. Taken aback, Modi accepted the gift, but moved on quickly with the SPG surrounding him. Detained by the local police, the man, Chandan Majhi, was released after a thorough interrogation.
Why Stalin skipped
The tense situation in Thoothukudi and the unfortunate sniper firing by the state police that took the lives of innocent protestors was the main reason why MK Stalin skipped HD Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony. He visited the protest zone instead. But there could be another reason as well. Now that the elections are over, Stalin is under watch to see if he uses his links with the ‘friendly government’ in Karnataka to bring relief to Tamil Nadu farmers dependent on Cauvery waters. Many feel the Surpreme Court formula, once implemented, would go a long way towards solving the problem for good.
Two plus two five
The other side too has a blueprint and is drawing up a precise, constituency-wise plan—through the prism of alliances. Their focus would be on UP, Maharashtra, Bihar and Karnataka, accounting for 196 seats, of which the BJP had 165 in its kitty in 2014. UP would see a SP-BSP-Congress-RLD alliance; in Bihar, RJD-Congress will look to pool in other, smaller parties, those that may switch camps; and in Maharashtra, the Congress-NCP alliance may even have a covert understanding with Shiv Sena, which is all set to go it alone. The Karnataka alliance is already in place. How 2019 would pan out would also crucially depend on states where the BJP and the Congress are in a straight fight—Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal, Uttarakhand and Punjab (the Congress vs NDA).