MMS: LS or RS?
Sometimes a conjecture can take on a life of its own. Manmohan Singh padding up to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Amritsar is one such instance. The Punjab Congress unit is going all ‘balle balle’ with the idea, setting off some serious ripples in the pool. The belief in the Congress, particularly among Punjab leaders, from PCC chief Sunil Jakhar to footsoldiers, is that the ex-PM in the Lok Sabha fray would give the GOP an additional momentum. Though Jakhar is careful to add that “the decision will be entirely his” — Manmohan’s, that is.
Well, MMS had refused to contest for the Lok Sabha in his 10-year tenure as prime minister. His not-so-pleasant experience of contesting the 1999 LS polls from South Delhi, which he lost to the BJP’s VK Malhotra, is cited as the reason. But this time, Assam, which he represented in the Rajya Sabha for five terms, may not be able to return him to the Upper House. The Congress simply does not have the numbers in Assam, but can get him elected from Punjab, provided one of its three sitting RS MPs — Ambika Soni, Pratap Bajwa and S.S. Dullo — resigns in his favour. Given her health, Soni is not unwilling to oblige, that is if her son Anoop Soni is given a ticket from the safe Anandpur Sahib LS seat, adjacent to Chandigarh. Bajwa too is to contest for LS and may thus be able to offer his RS seat to MMS. But is the Congress cooking up a grand plan of getting its 87-year-old ex-PM have another shot at power politics with a cobbled-up coalition? The jury is still out!
BJP, Bollywood and Bachchanalia
Ever since he retired hurt from active politics three years after his meteoric debut in 1984, on a Congress ticket from Allahabad, Amitabh Bachchan has only dabbled in indirect ‘voiceover’ politics. With his universally recognised baritone, he’s been more successful in his second innings, and has been happily party-hopping, first lending his voice to the erstwhile Mulayam Singh Yadav dispensation in UP, then to Narendra Modi’s Gujarat and the Centre. It’s been mostly the social sector or tourism, but now that may change. The buzz is, Bachchan may lend the gravitas of his voice to exhort people via YouTube to vote for a ‘stable government keeping national security in mind’. Many of his younger colleagues in Bollywood too may take a bigger plunge, like ‘Rani Jhansi’ Kangana Ranaut and Vivek Oberoi from Himachal, Madhuri Dixit-Nene from Pune, Anupam Kher from Jammu. Even Akshay Kumar may surrender his Canadian passport for an Indian one, so as to be able to contest. The names of former opening pair Gautam Gambhir and Virendra Sehwag are also doing the rounds. In all, Amit Shah may field celebrities in 20 seats, across states, instead of hardcore BJPwallahs.
Wait for surprise
Whoever said Sonia Gandhi was retiring from active politics? Not only did her candidature from Rae Bareli get announced in the Congress first list, she has subsequently swung into alliance-making activity to assist Rahul Gandhi. Where does that leave Priyanka? She has made it clear that all prominent leaders from UP have to pad up, not aim for a lazy shortcut entry through the Rajya Sabha. As for her, says a close associate, wait for a surprise. Her debut may be from Tamil Nadu or Karnataka. But in case she takes a plunge from Phulpur or Allahabad, the SP-BSP may be persuaded to leave the field unencumbered for her.
That brings one to one of the most prominent political families of Bengal — that of Pranab Mukherjee. While the former President awaits the ceremonial conferring of Bharat Ratna — expected to be closer to the elections for reasons optical —the buzz is that the BJP is keen to woo one of his children to its fold. The former President’s son, Abhijit, is a sitting MP from Jangipur, Bengal. There’s no way the Congress will not field him from his father’s former constituency. And given the composition of the constituency, it’s unlikely he can pull through on a BJP ticket. As for his daughter, Sharmistha, she is too ideologically driven to switch sides. That’s the opinion of a close aide.
The author is Political Editor, TNIE.