Congress strategists believe that highlighting Mr Kharge’s story would benefit the party in the poll-bound states
Days after the G-20 summit concluded on a successful note for India, the focus of discussions has shifted from the outcome of the deliberations to the food served at the dinner hosted by President Droupadi Murmu. According to the grapevine, the initial plan was to include non-vegetarian dishes in the menu but there was a last-minute plan to make it a vegetarian meal, seen to be in line with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s effort to discourage consumption of non-vegetarian food. This was in sharp contrast to the menu at Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s banquet for French president Emmanuel Macron who sampled smoked hilsa, mutton Kachchi Biryani, roasted lobster and chicken korma. Sheikh Hasina’s remark that Kachchi Biryani is their country’s unique dish and that Bangladesh and French are extremely proud of their cuisines, culture and linguistic heritage has come in for considerable analysis. Back in Delhi, there was little appreciation for the satwik food (no onion and garlic) served at the Media Centre. Most Western media persons chose to stay away from the food table after their initial sampling.
There is some concern in Congress circles over Himachal Pradesh chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu’s growing proximity to the rival Bharatiya Janata Party. Mr Sukhu was the only Congress chief minister to attend the special dinner hosted by President Droupadi Murmu for the G20 leaders while the others — Ashok Gehlot, Bhupesh Baghel and Siddaramaiah — stayed away on the plea that their party president Mallikarjun Kharge had not been invited. Even before this, Mr Sukhu had courted controversy when he heaped praise on BJP president J.P. Nadda and other Central ministers for their help to the state during the recent floods but criticised his party colleague and bete noire Pratibha Singh for not doing enough for Mandi, the worst affected district by the floods. Though Mr Sukhu was quick to clarify that he spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi only about flood relief measures, his detractors insist he is more eager to please the BJP instead of focusing on his own party cadres. Pratibha Singh’s supporters are convinced that Mr Sukhu will queer the pitch for her in Mandi, perhaps the only Lok Sabha constituency where the Congress has a fighting chance. With the BJP all set to publicise its constructive role during the floods, Congress had to rope in Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for damage control.
Upset over Rahul Gandhi’s repeated charge that China has usurped Indian territory in Ladakh, the Bharatiya Janata Party is keen to prove him wrong. While the Ladakh lieutenant governor B.D. Mishra has contradicted him repeatedly, the Parliamentary committee on IT is expected to travel to Ladakh to examine telecom services there. BJP members on the panel, including Nishikant Dubey, are apparently keen to visit Pangong so that they can counter Rahul. However, the logistics is posing a problem as the MPs are staying in Ladakh for four or five days of which the first day is set aside for acclimatisation to be followed by a series of meetings in Leh. That would leave barely a day or two for the BJP leaders to visit Pangong but the drive to the lake from Leh takes over 10 hours and some MPs may not be up to it. Since the BJP MPs are insisting on going, enquiries are being made if a chopper can be made available for the trip.
Here’s more on the Ghosi bye-election which was won by the Samajwadi Party candidate who defeated Dara Singh Chauhan of the BJP by a huge margin. The result is being seen in Uttar Pradesh’s political circles as a victory for chief minister Yogi Adityanath as he was not in favour of Mr Chauhan’s recent return to the BJP but was overruled by Union home minister Amit Shah. Though Yogi did campaign for Mr Chauhan in Ghosi, it was acknowledged that his heart was not in it. Well aware of the chief minister’s indifference, Shah gave charge of the election to Arvind Sharma, known as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s man. But nothing helped. Besides Mr Chauhan, Yogi has also been smarting over Shah’s decision to seal an alliance with Om Prakash Rajbhar of the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party. Even as the BJP’s state unit is still recovering from its defeat in Ghosi, Rajbhar put the proverbial cat among the pigeons by publicly declaring that he and Mr Chauhan will soon be inducted in the Yogi Cabinet. The chief minister is obviously resisting. It is to be seen if Shah will manage to prevail over Yogi.
Confident about its electoral prospects in Telangana, the Congress is pulling out all stops to return to power in the state. For instance, party cadres have been asked to highlight the sacrifice made by Sonia Gandhi in the creation of Telangana as she accepted the creation of the new state Congress even though she was aware that KCR will walk away with the credit and the Congress will lose ground in Andhra Pradesh. But the other instance of sacrifice that the state leaders want to highlight concerns Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge. The party veteran was born in Bidar, which was part of the erstwhile Hyderabad state, where his mother and sister were killed by the Hyderabad Nizam’s Razakars when he was just a child. Since the meeting of the Congress Working Committee is being held in Hyderabad on September 17, coinciding with the Hyderabad Liberation Day, the party plans to highlight Mr Kharge’s personal loss. Congress strategists believe that highlighting Mr Kharge’s story would benefit the party in the poll-bound state as it relates to the liberation of Hyderabad, national integration as well as his caste identity.