Millennium Post

Shinde, the soft man, home minister plus

Shinde Congress’s choice for first Dalit PM?

Sushil Kumar Shinde, who has been made the home minister of India this week, is likely to be projected as the first Dalit prime minister in 2014 by the Congress. The party is weighing the option of playing a Dalit card and projecting Shinde in place of Manmohan Singh, provided he does well as home minister. The rejig of portfolios has been done with an eye on the Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, where the Muslim card is unlikely to work. The party has made Shinde the home minister replacing P Chidambaram at a time when the latter was becoming the target of the right wing forces against whom PC had launched a complete onslaught. Pressure has mounted from within the right wing forces in the party that appeasement of the Muslims alone is unlikely to pay dividends. The thinking is gaining grounds, particularly after the party faced a defeat in UP. The leadership now even wants to pander to the upper caste right wing middle classes. Reports suggest that Pranab Mukherjee’s elevation to Rashtrapati Bhawan provided the opportunity to the Congress to move him out of Home Ministry and bring a Dalit as the home minister. Shinde is seen as a soft man, unlikely to continue with the process of countering terror, as vigorously pursued by Chidambaram. Meanwhile, Meira Kumar too has not given up the race. She continues to be a strong contender for 2014.

Diggy thinks Rahul’s place is in the party

The Congress leadership is divided on whether Rahul Gandhi should join the Party or the government. While Digvijay Singh wants him to join the party, the present power set up in the party want to push him in the government. People like Digvijay Singh continue to think that this is not the right time for Rahul to join the government. According to Singh, with just not even a year left for the UPA to go to elections, it will be just the wrong time for him to join the government as he will not be able to prove himself in such a short time. Before a year of any election, the government bureaucrats stop listening to the minister, and in a coalition the allies begin to bargain hard. This is not the right time for Rahul to join the government. Whereas as per this section headed by Singh, the party is the right place for him to join and prepare it for 2014. These people, who support Rahul’s entry into the party, feel that it is only the vested interest of those party members, who do not want him to take charge and reinject life into Congress, are giving excuses saying there is no vacancy in the party.   

Most Congress leaders in frail health

Many Congress leaders are not in the pink of health. Some of the top-brass Congress leaders in the country may not be in a position to lead their party or campaign for it in 2014. Though Sonia Gandhi’s health is better, she is in a hurry to hand over charge to her son Rahul Gandhi. Suresh Pachauri, who very recently handed over charge of Madhya Pradesh PCC to Kantilal Bhuria, is reportedly suffering from chronic mouth cancer. Vilas Rao Deshmukh, the erstwhile chief minister of Maharashtra, who is under pressure to go back to Mumbai in place of Prithviraj Chavan, is reluctant as he is not keeping good health. He is reported to be suffering from bone cancer. Ghulam Nabi Azad, one of the pillars of the Congress in the UPA government, is again said to be extremely ill. He has been missing meetings of the GOMs of which he is a prominent member. He has been complaining of a huge back problem and is not in a position to travel by road. Digvijay Singh is going through a most traumatic period of his life as for the last one year as his wife and daughter both are suffering from cancer, making it impossible for him to concentrate on his political career on a day to day basis.

Delhi PCC tipped to have a Muslim chief

A change in the Delhi PCC is on the cards. The job of the Delhi PCC chief is under threat.  After getting a go ahead from Sonia Gandhi, Sheila Dikshit wants her own man to be appointed the PCC chief with whom she can have a cordial working relationship, making it easy for her to go to polls in 2013. In her bid to refurbish her party’s image, she is likely to make certain changes in her government. A K Walia, now minister of health in the Dikshit government, may be tipped to replace Yoganad Shastri as Speaker and Shastri may be inducted in the cabinet in turn. As for the PCC chief, the party now wants a Muslim on the post. Shiela Dikshit is said to have conducted a survey, the results of which have recommended the need of having a Muslim PCC chief. The results of the corporation polls have even compounded the worry as in most Muslim dominated areas it is the BJP that has made the gains. And the Congress has failed to put  a stop to the division of Muslim votes. The SP and BSP have succeeded in cutting into the minority votes to some extent in almost all Muslim dominated constituencies, thus helping the BJP to win from these seats. The thinking in the party is that by appointing a Muslim PCC chief, the party can once again win back the Muslim votes. The name of Haroon Yusuf, now a minister for food and civil supplies in the Delhi government, is in circulation for the post. If Sheila Dikshit succeeds in getting her plan implemented, then Yasuf will be a Muslim PCC chief after 27 years. Tajdar Babar was the first Muslim PCC chief from 1984 to 1988.

Prithviraj racing through files to save his chair

Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who has been at the receiving end of both the NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his colleagues in the Congress, is actually a worried man. He is, these days busy, saving his chair meeting the Congress high command which means Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and Sonia’s political secretary and his own mentor Ahmad Patel. One of the charges against him levied by both the NCP leadership as well as Congress MLAs is that he is not clearing pending files fearing corruption charges. His detractors in the government and the Congress say that in his bid to project himself a Mr Clean, he has been painting everyone else as Mr Corrupt. In his recent visit to the capital, he had been heard parroting data about how many files he cleared and how many his predecessors had done since 1999. If Chavan is to be believed, then Vilas Rao Deshmukh cleared 14, 818 files from October 18. 1999 to January 16  2003; Sushil Kumar Shinde cleared 7, 927 from January 18, 2003 to October 30, 2004 or just about 12 a day; Deshmukh again 41, 645 from November 1, 2004 to December 4, 2008 or 28 a day. Ashok Chavan from December 8, 2008 to November 9, 2010 or 29 a day. Whereas Chavan as CM has cleared 15, 101 files in 505 days at a rate of 30 a day: quicker than any other CM. Meanwhile, Sharad Pawar has told some of his close confidantes that Chavan will have to go. This is only a temporary lull and only the first jolt before the eventual quake.

BJD to ditch BJP during VP polls

With elections in sight next year in Orissa, the BJD is likely to distance itself from the BJP. After taking the BJP support in the presidential polls for P A Sangma, Naveen Patnaik appears to be in a mood to dump them. The BJD, this time will support Hamid Ansari and not Jaswant Singh. With elections due next year, Naveen does not want to give any political space to the BJP in Orissa by aligning with it in Delhi. The thinking in Naveen’s party is that BJD has succeeded in marginalising  BJP in Orissa, but by supporting their Vice-Presidential candidate at the national level, he would give them political benefit. If the party sources are to be believed then Naveen had decided that BJD would be one of the proposers of Ansari.

Pawar lobbies against Kurien

P J Kurien, who is tipped to be the Congress candidate for Deputy Chairmanship of Rajya Sabha, may finally not make it. This is the deal between the Congress and the NCP. The coordination committee is only a cosmetic issue: the main issue was the elevation of PJ Kurien as deputy chairman Rajya Sabha. Sharad Pawar is opposed to it. He has made it a prestige issue. Pawar’s rivalry with Kurien dates back to when he was leader of opposition in 1998 and Kurien was the chief whip of the Congress. Pawar has been heard alleging that it was Kurien who created a wedge between him and Sonia Gandhi.
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