BJP president J.P. Nadda has reason to worry because a defeat would reflect poorly on him as he hails from the hill state
Though the Bharatiya Janata Party is confident about sailing through in the Gujarat Assembly polls, there are lurking doubts about Himachal Pradesh where anti-incumbency and the rebel factor have queered the pitch for the ruling party. BJP president J.P. Nadda has reason to worry because a defeat would reflect poorly on him as he hails from the hill state. Union information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur also finds himself in the same boat. As a sitting MP from the state and the son of former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, Mr Thakur has a lot at stake in this election since he has invested considerable time and energy in this poll campaign. On the other hand, the Congress is convinced it is winning but its leaders privately admit they don’t want to appear over-confident given their past experience in Uttarakhand where they were sure of a victory but suffered a shock defeat. Nevertheless, this has not stopped chief ministerial contenders from lining up in Delhi to lobby their case.
No one can dispute that external affairs minister S. Jaishankar keeps a hectic schedule. When he is not jet setting across the globe for meetings with world leaders, he is playing host to visiting dignitaries in Delhi. But despite this frenetic pace, Mr Jaishankar makes time for other domestic duties. For instance, he has been spotted at the Statue of Unity in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project, where he is mentoring the local authorities on creating a tourist hub in that area. One project under consideration is the introduction of a night safari. Mr Jaishankar, who has served as India’s high commissioner to Singapore, has advised those in charge of the project to replicate the same in Gujarat. In fact, he is said to have suggested the concerned officers travel to Singapore to learn more about the highly successful night safari organised in the island state. Besides his involvement in this project, whenever he is in Delhi, Mr Jaishankar makes it a point to follow Mr Modi’s instructions to party MPs that they spend their weekends outside Delhi for political activities.
Having had a smooth run so far, the Congress got a taste of what it could encounter now that Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra has entered Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Madhya Pradesh. To begin with, Congress MLA Umang Singhar, who is known to be close to Rahul Gandhi and was among the coordinators for the yatra in his home state, was slapped with rape charges much to the party's embarrassment. Subsequently, the party had to tweak the yatra’s itinerary as its plans for a night stay at Indore’s Khalsa Stadium ran into trouble. Several local organisations raised strong objections to Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath’s presence at the stadium as he was named in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The Congress quickly made alternate plans. Kamal Nath and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh’s prestige is at stake as the two senior leaders are in charge of this leg of the yatra. The two senior leaders will have to ensure that Rahul Gandhi faces no serious hurdles on their home turf.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra found herself in a spot at a function for the release of former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat’s book in the Capital last week. Mr Rawat was accompanied by a group of state leaders, including former Pradesh Congress Committee president Ganesh Godiyal. Priyanka had a special word for Mr Godiyal when she spotted him in the group. She praised the former Uttarakhand Congress chief, adding that she had specifically put in a good word for Mr Godiyal before his appointment. Mr Rawat was quick to point out that despite that Mr Godiyal had been removed after the Congress lost in the last Assembly election. “He paid the price for being close to me”, Mr Rawat quipped to which an embarrassed Priyanka had no answer. Knives were out for Mr Rawat after the latter failed to deliver a victory for the Congress in the state polls while his supporters were in the firing line.
The Rajasthan Assembly polls are still a year away but there is already a buzz in the Bharatiya Janata Party about its future plans for Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. It is no secret that Mr Shekhawat is a personal favourite of Union home minister Amit Shah who would like to see him installed as the chief minister of the desert state. According to BJP insiders, it is being speculated that Mr Shekhawat may be fielded in the next Assembly election with precisely this objective in mind. But the moot question is whether former chief minister Vasundhara Raje will take kindly to this move. Unlike Mr Shekhawat, Ms Raje is not a favourite of the party leadership which is looking to promote a new leader in Rajasthan. This will not be the first time that an effort will be mounted to marginalise Ms Raje. The only hitch is that Ms Raje is not only popular with the public but also commands the loyalty of a sizeable number of state legislators. It will be interesting to watch the political developments in the BJP’s Rajasthan unit in the coming days.