Delhi votes mid-Feb
Even as their former comrade-in-arms tweets about how the Sun emits the sound of Om, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and his team are preparing for a different kind of heat: the Election Commission is moving into the next gear on assembly polls to the ‘city-state’. It’s likely to take place by Feb 15, maybe on 13th or 14th. An EC team led by Sandeep Saxena has already had detailed meetings with Delhi CEO Ranbir Singh and top cops. Though the CAA-NRC protests in parts of the city, particularly in Shaheen Bagh in Okhla, is keeping Delhi Police busy, it can hardly interfere in the scheduling of the polls. An EC announcement can be expected anytime next week. The EC is planning to introduce a QR Code to voting slips, for better identification of voters. All the political speculation, meanwhile, is on whether Kejriwal will retain power -- despite the Delhi BJP trying its best to scale up from its previous score 3/70 to best kid in class.
IAS lobby none too happy!
Election results can have a strange impact not just on the popular psyche, but in power corridors as well. WhatsApp groups of IAS officers have been buzzing ever since Maharashtra slipped out of Devendra Fadnavis’s hands and Jharkhand showed Raghubar Das the door. Not that gloves are off as yet, but those in the top echelons of the civil service seem to be finding their voice, and it’s often quite critical. Under the Modi-Shah dispensation, as with any other, loyalty is a big criterion. But the feeling that any of them can be hauled over the coals even after retirement seems to be fuelling a kind of dissident sentiment. The threat that criminal proceedings would be initiated if civil servants don’t file their IPR (immovable property returns) by Jan 31 has obviously not gone down well with the powerful IAS lobby. Last heard, well over a 1000 are yet to file their IPR!
Allz not well
Believe it or not, cracks have appeared at another level too. A Union Minister who was handpicked by the PM — and is part of the elite Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS) — and an advisor of the government who enjoys cabinet rank have not been seeing eye to eye. The latter too attends CCS meetings, and has been doing his bit to try swing international opinion in the Modi Government’s favour. His clout is not to the liking of the minister, who moves around in high-profile circles globally, rather than downmarket wheeler-dealer types. But to his chagrin, the advisor has the ears of the second-most powerful person in the Cabinet (and the country).
All Hands on the Deck
The dissent on the streets has been so massive that just about everyone who’s anyone in government has been pressed into duty for the BJP’s CAA outreach programme -- right from Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh. It seems it’s only the ex-diplomats and doctors in the Cabinet -- S. Jaishankar, Hardeep Puri and Harsh Vardhan et al -- who have not been enlisted to convince citizens about the government’s intentions. Puri did wade into it tangentially, though, drawing links via the Nankana Sahib episode. Meanwhile, some party footsoldiers are lamenting that a survey done prior to the launch of CAA did not give the ruling dispensation the ‘correct’ feedback.
If the BJP has a strategy, so does Didi. The West Bengal CM, who’s holding anti-CAA rallies practically each and every day, is making sure her gatherings are peopled by those who were either Partition or ‘71 war Hindu refugees from the other side of the border. Indeed, some of them are those that Mamata helped settle in India in her early years of political activism, with the support of then Union minister Buta Singh. This is her way of defanging BJP’s campaign targeted at Bengali Hindus who fled atrocities in East Pakistan/Bangladesh.
The author is Resident Editor, Bangalore, TNIE. Email: