While the dissension in the ruling Congress in Assam is not new, chief minister Tarun Gogoi has the knack of keeping dissent at bay with his innovative ideas. And this was proved again recently.
After the revolt of nearly 20 legislators — led by former health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma — Mr Gogoi succeeded in isolating the dissidents by offering them ministerial berths while proposing a complete overhaul of his council of ministers.
Knowing that there were only 18 vacancies, the dissident camp was confident that the MLAs, who deserted them in the hope of becoming ministers, would soon rejoin after the reshuffle. Though the reshuffle took place in January, Mr Gogoi played a masterstroke by holding back four vacancies in his council of ministers and hinted to fill it up some time between March and April.
Now, if insiders are to be believed, the legislators who deserted the dissident camp have been assured of ministerial berths. And since no legislator is willing to let go of this opportunity before the 2016 Assembly elections, their focus remains on grabbing the ministerial chair.
Till then, Mr Gogoi is keeping the lollypop of ministerial berths hanging.
‘Jai Shri Jitan Ram’
After the Bharatiya Janata Party tried and almost succeeded in imposing President’s Rule in Bihar, it was now chief minister Nitish Kumar’s turn to hit the BJP where it hurts most.
Mr Kumar, burning inside out over the attempt of the BJP to destabilise his government through dalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi, sarcastically asked his erstwhile saffron comrades to refashion their religio-political slogan “Jai Shri Ram” as “Jai Shri Jitan Ram (Manjhi)”.
Amid laughter and thumping of desk, Mr Kumar, the no-nonsense JD(U) leader counselled the BJP legislators and leaders for political salvation that “instead of chanting Jai Shri Ram should start reciting Jitan Ram if you want to glorify Mr Manjhi”. Mr Kumar was replying to the three-hour-long debate on the confidence motion. As if this was not enough to infuriate the BJP leaders, JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar also took a dig at the BJP. “Manjhi is down with Nitish flu and even the Modi injection cannot help him,” he said.
Didi, the lone ruler
Mukul Roy, who was till recently the second-in-command in the Trinamul Congress, is now persona non grata in the party. Till two months ago, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee took every decision in consultation with her close confidant. In fact, after she took over the reins of the state government in May 2011, their responsibilities were neatly divided.
While Ms Banerjee focused on providing good governance, Mr Roy single-handedly managed the party affairs. However, the whole equation changed after Mr Roy came out smiling from the CBI office after a five-hour long interrogation on January 30, singing praises of the central agency.
Ms Banerjee, who had declared war against the CBI and accused the Modi government of using it to settle political scores, saw red. She suspected that Mr Roy evaded arrest by spilling the beans on the Saradha chit fund scam and, in the process, implicated her and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee. Mr Roy soon fell from the grace; he was stripped of all his party positions, including national general secretary. Today, he is a mere Rajya Sabha MP banished to the last row in the Upper House and Ms Banerjee is contemplating strong action against him.
Mr Roy’s dream of splitting the Trinamul Congress has remained just a dream. He should have remembered the fate of heavyweight leaders like the late Ajit Panja, Subrata Mukherjee and Sudip Bandopadhyay, who had tried to cross Ms Banerjee’s path. They all had to eat humble pie and meekly surrender to her.
“There is only one post in the Trinamul Congress — which is held by party supremo, the rest are mere lampposts. It is surprising that Mukulda, who was the author of this witty wisecrack, himself forgot it,” said a party MP.
Race for limelight
Aparna Yadav, the younger daughter-in-law of Samajwadi president Mulayam Singh Yadav, has been creating waves lately with her over-activism.
Two days after Holi, when Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav was hospitalised in Gurgaon, Lucknow woke up to find posters of Aparna around the traffic intersections near the Samajwadi headquarters and the chief minister’s residence, wishing women on International Women’s Day. Aparna is the brand ambassador of an NGO that works for women.
While the Samajwadis were upset over the timing as well as the positioning of the posters, Aparna threw another bomb when she led a demonstration of women from the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) to protest against the BBC documentary on the Nirbhaya rape case. She told reporters that BBC had actually “raped” India.
Party circles are now agog with talks of Aparna trying to outdo her sister-in-law Dimple Yadav and making her presence felt in politics. The elders feel that her activism at a time when the patriarch was in the hospital could have been avoided.
A veteran party leader said, “She is simply giving fodder to the media with her actions. This could have been avoided since the timing was wrong. We hope she realises this sooner than later.”
But Aparna is certainly not the kind to take any such advice seriously.