Culture shock

Inside Track by Coomi Kapoor: the culture shock of PK

After failed negotiations with Congress, Prashant Kishor decided that his next experience would be “direct contact” with people rather than working for political parties. He chose his home state of Bihar, which looks like fertile territory, with Nitish Kumar and the BJP at war and Tejashwi Yadav who still hasn’t found his feet. Kishor’s hopes of indirectly controlling Congress, the only pan-India alternative to the BJP, have been dashed after his recent interaction with Congress leaders. Despite warnings that Congress is a quagmire, Kishor was ready to take a leap of faith because Priyanka Gandhi Vadra backed her plan to overhaul the party to the bitter end. But he discovered that the popular perception that the Gandhi family operates as a single entity was incorrect. Priyanka does not have the power to make the decisions on her own and Rahul’s advisers have assured that Kishor’s position within the party will be ambiguous. Reality hit home in the negotiations over the lack of constitutional authority of the proposed Empowered Action Group with Kishor as a member. Kishor found out halfway through the talks that Rahul had already left India for a scuba diving trip followed by a visit to Nepal for a wedding. Priyanka had flown to Los Angeles. Kishor was told that any official position for him in the party could not be decided until around September, when a “new” party chairman could be chosen.

Nitish is moving

Nitish Kumar leaving the CM’s residence at 1 Anne Marg for his former home at 7 Circular Road has added to the buzz that he may soon step down as chief minister. The excuse that the house is being renovated does not explain why 17 cows were also moved, since the barn was not to be touched. Nitish has made his displeasure with the BJP evident since its members started demanding that a BJP leader be installed as CM. Their argument is that the BJP won 74 assembly seats in 2020 compared to the JD(U)’s 43, even though the two parties were vying for roughly the same number of seats. Hints have been thrown that Nitish could move to Delhi as central minister or be considered as a running mate. But Nitish, a seasoned veteran on the floor, knows better than to take the BJP’s blandishments at face value. He rejected Yogi Adityanath’s ban on loudspeakers in mosques, mended fences with former rival Tejashwi Yadav and criticized any move for a uniform civil code. He is aware that his asset is that without his more than 40 deputies, no government can be formed in Bihar.

The BJP 4R Team

The BJP has a feisty four-person squad, all with names starting with R, to take on the Shiv Sena. Rane (Narayan), Rana (Navneet), Ranaut (Kangana) and Raj (Thackeray). The BJP’s aim is to win the Mumbai Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections later this year, which would cripple the MVA government. The strength of BJP is the support of North Indians and Gujaratis. The Shiv Sena is based on the Marathi manoos. Raj Thackeray’s rally in Aurangabad had the full backing of the BJP, which hopes Raj’s strident campaign on Hindutva and call for a ban on mosque loudspeakers will eat away at the traditional Sena vote. Mild-mannered Uddhav became a darling of a section of liberals while alienating his party’s hardcore supporters. To restore the Sena’s Hindutva credentials, Aditya Thackeray plans a pilgrimage to Ayodhya and Uddhav wants to honor Bal Thackeray’s wish to rename Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar, but Congress resists. The Congress also wants to contest the municipal elections independently.

Consensus building

The BJP is not demanding that non-NDA parties win the upcoming presidential and vice-presidential elections, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi would like to give the appearance of consensus by seeking the support of neutral parties. Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has been delegated to speak to Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, Rajya Sabha MP GVL Narasimha Rao is to approach Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao and NTR D Purandeswari’s daughter is to speak to Andhra CM Jagan Reddy.

What Ho, Jeeves

PG Wodehouse made headlines when prison authorities refused to allow activist Gautam Navlakha to read a book by the comedian on the grounds that it posed “a security risk”. Ironically, the former Rajya Sabha Shumsher Sheriff General Secretary thinks he got top marks in his 1977 UPSC interview because he listed Wodehouse as one of his favourites. His interviewer, famed director Badruddin Tyabji, burst out laughing and was even more tickled by the answer to the question of what he liked most about Wodehouse’s books. The Sheriff explained that after reading them, it was impossible to build the story on your own.