Anita Katyal | A hockey player’s “teen patti” solution; in Gujarat, Cong on the back foot

Former Olympic hockey player turned politician Aslam Sher Khan usually uses sporting terms to convey his views on a political situation. But in light of Diwali season when teen-patti sessions were in full swing, the well-known sports star and former Congress minister referenced the card game to present a broad picture of the current Indian political scene. Somewhat skeptical of the Congress Party’s future electoral prospects, Khan explained that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a clear advantage over his political opponents as he holds all the trumps. The first asset, according to him, is the support of powerful industrialists who have been assiduously courted by Mr Modi since he was chief minister of Gujarat. The second trump card is the wholehearted support of the middle classes who are mesmerized by Mr. Modi’s powerful speech and his rhetoric on nationalism. The third, Mr. Khan said, is the BJP’s well-planned and executed strategy of creating a division between Hindus and Muslims as well as the constant persecution of minorities which has succeeded in consolidating Hindus in favor of Mr. Modi. And the final ace is the trust placed in him by the poor sections who are indebted to Mr. Modi for the free rations, housing and other gifts distributed to them. Mr Khan says if Congress wants to compete with the BJP, it needs to get its hands on at least two of those aces. Otherwise, he faces a daunting task.

The launch of veteran Congress leader Mohsina Kidwai’s book, my life in politics, turned out to be a lively affair. That the kind leader enjoys immense goodwill was evident from the fact that the entire Kidwai clan was there, with family members hailing from as far away as the UK and Australia. His former party colleagues, Shivraj Patil and Sushil Kumar Shinde as well as National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah were among those who spoke on the occasion. Despite the high attendance, the absence of a member of the Gandhi family did not go unnoticed. Mrs. Kidwai’s closeness to Indira and Rajiv Gandhi is well known. His book is full of intimate details of his interactions with Indira Gandhi. Apparently Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had said she would attend but wept over the plea that she was ill despite having gone to congratulate Mallikarjun Kharge on her election as President of Congress a day before the book launch.

The presence of close associates of Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi, Nikhil Alva and Krishna Allavaru, at the official installation last week of Mallikarjun Kharge as the new Congress speaker, has created a buzz in party circles. This sparked speculation that members of Rahul Gandhi’s team would be at the center of the Kharge-led dispensation. The son of Congress leader Margaret Alva, Nikhil used to handle Rahul Gandhi’s social media and had a brief falling out with the Congress leader, but he’s obviously back in favour. Nikhil has always kept a low profile, but the fact that he showed up for the handover ceremony at Congress headquarters is seen as a sign that he may be given a bigger role in organizing for the next few days. Karnataka elections. Nikhil Alva is also expected to play a key role in planning the next phase of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra as it heads to critical states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

Reports from Gujarat indicate that the Aam Aadmi Party, led by Arvind Kejriwal, is spending in the state where polls are on, where it has issued a serious challenge to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress. The way the AAP distributes money on billboards, banners, advertisements and the management of its high-profile campaign has everyone baffled. While the ruling Bharatiya Janata party has no concerns in this regard, Congress finds itself on the back foot as it faces a severe cash crunch. In fact, Congress has accepted that it will be difficult to overthrow the BJP in Gujarat, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah doing all they can to retain their home state. Congress will be only too happy if it can keep its number two position and prevent the AAP from taking that spot.

Since the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power, it has waged a highly publicized campaign to defame and undermine the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru. It is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has repeatedly mocked Nehru. While Nehru-bashing is out in the open, a more covert whisper campaign is being waged by the party’s various affiliates to discredit Mahatma Gandhi while his assassin Nathuram Godse is revered. This contrasts sharply with the public display of deference shown by BJP leaders to the father of the nation. Social media and other available propaganda tools were effectively used by the right-wing fraternity to convince people that Gandhi was indulging in appeasement of minorities. That this message has permeated deeply is evident even in conversations with nine- and ten-year-old children who openly proclaim that their “mother would read the namaz today if Godse had not assassinated Gandhi”.

Catherine J. Martinez