Anxious not to be left behind
In politics there are no permanent friends or foes, or so it is believed. With elections drawing near, the Congress is opening its doors to estranged allies. While the CPI(M) politburo member Sitaram Yechury remains a key interlocutor between the Congress and the Left, the ruling party is now knocking on the party’s general secretary Prakash Karat’s doors too.
Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh will meet Karat on April 17 to seek support for the land acquisition Bill. Ramesh has had a meeting with Yechury, but keeping the channel open with Karat is crucial. Meanwhile, senior Congress leader AK Antony did not rule out an alliance with the Left post-2014. A Left turn in Congress politics, it would seem.
Leaving no one in any doubt
The BJP interlocutors who have been in touch with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar did expect some fireworks in his speech on Sunday. But even they were shocked by the ferocity of his anti-Modi tirade.
When Kumar met BJP president Rajnath Singh on Saturday evening, the BJP leaders were under the impression that the JD(U) leader’s assault on the Gujarat chief minister would be more in the nature of playing to the galleries and that there would be some room for manoeuvre.
But Nitish almost exclusively dedicated his 40-minute speech to Modi, something that has made the BJP-JD(U) alliance virtually unsustainable. He will not modify his remarks for now.
Full Marx for his political acumen
Former West Bengal chief minister and politburo member Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee continues to put the CPI(M) central leadership in a spot. Bhattacharjee chided the central leadership over the protest by Delhi-based CPI(M) activists against chief minister Mamata Banerjee and finance minister Amit Mitra in Delhi last week.
He has told Delhi-based leaders that such hasty political moves could put the party’s cadres at greater risk at a time when the TMC activists and CPI(M) workers are engaged in street fights. Yet another reason for Bhattacharjee to ignore the central leadership of the party, which he considers is not up to the task in any case. A risk-averse comrade.
From lukewarm to slightly warm
The friction between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress is playing out in Rae Bareli, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s constituency. Gandhi’s plan to launch a special scheme for slum-dwellers has been hanging fire due to the lukewarm response from the SP-led state government.
It took several visits by senior officials in the Union housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry to Lucknow to persuade the state government, which has finally given the go-ahead for the initiative involving construction of 2,000 houses for slum-dwellers and the upgrade of basic amenities like sewerage and sanitation. Sonia Gandhi will finally inaugurate it sometime in May. A grudging go-ahead.
The urban transformer
Urban development minister Ajay Maken belongs to the Congress that is ruling in Maharashtra in coalition with the NCP. But party affiliations did not stop the man in charge of transforming the nation’s urban landscape from criticising his colleagues in Mumbai.
After the recent building collapse that killed dozens in Thane, Maken offered support to Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar who was fasting on behalf of the slum-dwellers.
Maken publicly saluted Patkar for “taking up the just cause of slum-dwellers against the building mafia in Mumbai.” For the Prithviraj Chavan government in Maharashtra, that must really have hurt. Not building too many bridges with his partymen.