Thumbing the nose
The ‘AA’ vs ‘RV’ sparring on the Rafale aircraft deal followed by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s emotional outburst had the treasury benches and the BJP ecosystem pleased. But Deputy Speaker M.Thambidurai’s rather pointed intervention on the Agustawestland deal and on the offset partner left them rather upset. The Deputy Speaker, whose role is to play a neutral umpire, seeking an intervention, was unprecedented, claimed a senior minister. What riled the treasury benches more was the applause and wink that came from Rahul Gandhi sitting behind Thambidurai. Opinion is, however, divided on whether Thambidurai’s proactiveness was a reflection of changing equations, or an attempt to underline AIADMK’s presence. On the first day of the debate, Rahul took a swipe at the Raksha Mantri for hiding behind the AIADMK MPs protesting in the well of house, drowning his voice. The MPs were subsequently suspended by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
Ever since the Congress formed governments in the three heartland states, the atmosphere in the opposition camp has undergone a sea change. So has the atmospherics in the Congress-NCP camp in Maharashtra, quite visible at a well-attended lunch thrown by the NCP’s Praful Patel. Where Sharad Pawar, waved off all talk of differences over eight seats, as idle rumour. He indicated, only thing left to adjust were the smaller parties. Pawar, it seems, has already had a meeting with Congress’ Ashok Chavan to finalise the seats. A rather upbeat Supriya Sule was heard requesting Patel for a similar get-together for outgoing MPs as some former allies were trying to mend fences with the UPA partners.
That an AAP-Congress alliance for the seven Delhi Lok Sabha seats is in the offing has been dinner party talk for some time now. Even how the seats would be split, not more than two for Congress, has also been in the realm of discussion. That something concrete may emerge soon, became apparent after Ajay Maken, DPCC chief, quit his post and H.S. Phoolka, better known as the 1984 Sikh riot victim counsel, resigned from AAP in Punjab. Neither wants to be part of a Congress-AAP alliance, though other excuses have been given. Maken announced his resignation after a meeting with Rahul Gandhi and AICC Delhi incharge P.C. Chacko, citing his health, and Arvind Kejriwal failed to persuade Phoolka to stay on.
Seating in RS
Ever since Amit Shah got elected to the upper house, he has been sitting in front row by the dint of the BJP president’s post he holds. Usually, whenever Shah walks into the house, those in the front benches of treasury rise up to make space for him. So the opposition members could not stop commenting when that did not happen. None of the three top ministers shifted to accommodate him. Shah took a seat in the third row, without a fuss. However, the opposition MPs were convinced otherwise.
While Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has been going out of his way to accommodate ‘Bua’ Mayawati in the alliance talks, to the extent of coming down to her Delhi residence with a tub of her favourite ice-cream, Bengal tigress Mamata Banerjee is keeping her cards close to her chest. Whether the Congress will have to do an ‘Ekla chalo re’ in both the states would partly depend on these two women leaders. In Bengal, the local Congress unit would prefer an alliance with the CPI-M though, in UP they would rather go it alone. With the SP-BSP not willing to part with an adequate number of seats, the Congress hopefuls don’t want to be ‘sacrificial lambs’.