No NaMo, no RaGa, but a dark horse
If there is a talking point today in the country which brings people of all hues together, it is who would be the next Prime Minister. The topic is...
Conventional wisdom is that he would fail the test. Firstly, the BJP remains organisationally weak. Secondly, the BJP has not expanded its reach geographically and demographically. As a result, it will be impossible for the party to better its tally, Modi or no Modi. This scenario is making the likes of Nitish Kumar and Mulayam Singh Yadav consult their very own Peter Vidals on what the stars have in store for them.
Neither of the two Lohiaites wants to be a Chandrasekhar of Bhalia. So, they have set in motion the second best option for them, and it is strengthening their bargaining position vis-� -vis the Congress and the BJP. These national pivots are falling head over heels to keep them in good humour till the ballot day and beyond.
Because neither Nitish nor Mulayam is prepared to disturb the status quo till the day of reckoning � because Nitish needs the BJP crutch in Bihar, and Mulayam doesn't want the Congress to become a martyr and close ranks with Mayawati of the BSP and thus corner him on his own home turf.
The Congress leadership is aware of Mulayam's limitations. So it is keeping him on a tight leash using Beni Prasad Verma. And Verma is enjoying his new- found importance. It is not that he is a rootless wonder like many of his byte-savvy Congress colleagues hanging around the AICC.
Verma and Mulayam are contemporaries in UP politics. If Mulayam is Netaji to the Yadavs, Verma is Babuji to the Kurmis. They worked together till they parted ways in 2007. The Congress embraced Verma as it did many one-time acolytes of Mayawati in its bid to find its feet once again in Uttar Pradesh.
This background check on Beni Prasad Verma is necessary to point out that his attacks on Samajwadi Party are part of a design planned and patented at the in-house think-tanks of the Congress. Yes, 'Babuji' may have allowed himself to be a katputli as he sees no bright political future despite his massive Kurmi base. The failed Samajwadi Kranti Dal is a lesson he cannot dare to forget. If he is not guarded in his attacks on 'Netaji', it is not his fault.
The fault lies with the 'netas' who gave him the brief in the first place. It is this failure that has literally undermined Varma's value to the Congress. The Samajwadi Party has not only hit back hard but also exposed chinks in Varma's armour by accusing him of links with narcotics smugglers. Barabanki, his karma bhoomi, is known for smuggling of opium and heroin.
Some Congress leaders have joined the chorus for a CBI probe into the opium smuggling charges against Verma. Frankly, is this sideshow necessary when the Congress is fighting with its back to the wall in this election year? The eggheads in the Congress are unwilling to take the question.
These days Congress leadership is in a mood to commit self-goals. Otherwise, the party would not have made the Prime Minister duck the JPC questioning on spectrum scandal. It would not have blocked the way for A Raja, former Telecom Minister, who is keen to 'unburden' himself before the JPC.
Congress also went to the absurd extent of arguing that their man (Singh) could appear before JPC if the BJP allowed its man (Vajpayee) to be questioned. A clever argument it might be to blunt an 'outlandish' demand but it made no sense given the bad health of the former Prime Minister. Moreover, it is the Congress that is ending up as the loser with the DMK Raja putting on the martyr's cap.
Now the Congress-speak on dual leadership is no less a self-goal. When Diggy Raja went public that the division of power between the Congress chief and the Prime Minister had not worked, he appeared to pave the way for launching RaGa as the answer to NaMo.
Janardhan Dwivedi, general secretary in-charge of the media, took one week to come up with his gem that Sonia-Singh equation is an ideal model even for the future. What he said may be the unvarnished truth known only to the insiders thus far.
But was it necessary to go to town when RaGa himself had authorised Digvijay to deny reports that he had ruled himself out of the prime ministerial arena? Dwivedi, unlike Digvijay, doesn't speak out of turn. In that sense, his should be seen as authorised-speak, since the Congress has accepted the inevitability of coalition rule even after the next ballot.
Put simply, like mother, the son also will not like to take the baton unless the Congress gets a majority of its own. This self-imposed compulsion will not guarantee a third term for Manmohan Singh; nor will Chidambaram, who is not trusted as much as he would like, be the dark horse. That honour will go to Sheila Dixit, who had passed the loyalty test during the PV days itself. How to square this scenario with the Congress party's fuss over NaMo stamp on the Rajnath' team, particularly the appointment of Amit Shah as a General Secretary?
It brings to mind the fuss political parties make on the polling day and the way they rush to the Nirvachan Sadan with a bagful of complaints even before the ballot boxes are sealed. Needless to say, such complaints are the loudest from the party that is not sure of its votes.
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