Deal with the Dragon
For the Indian government to take the unprecedented step of putting pressure on the Dalai Lama to cancel multiple events connected to his 60th year in exile in India is a huge climbdown. India has always used his presence as a catspaw to needle the Chinese government which considers His Holiness to be an enemy of the state, a “splitist”.
The new conciliatory stand is part of a deal worked out between New Delhi and Beijing during the visit of foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale to China late last month. Gokhale is an old China hand—ex-ambassador to China—and speaks fluent Mandarin. He worked out a deal with the Chinese that India would give in to their demands on the Dalai Lama in return for China watering down their blind veto support for Pakistan in international fora—the result was Pakistan being put on the “Grey List” by the Financial Action Taken Force and Beijing allowing it to go through.
The new India-China détente will be reinforced when Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman visits Beijing later this month followed by the PM in June.
There’s an unwitting fallout that the disastrous performance of the Congress in the North-east will have when Rajasthan goes to polls later this year. Veteran leader and general secretary in-charge of the northeastern states, CP Joshi, bungled in Meghalaya despite his party having the most seats. This will ensure that he loses out to his intra-party rivals Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot when party chief Rahul Gandhi begins drawing up poll strategies for Rajasthan. Joshi had claimed to have close relations with the Sangmas—Agatha had served under him when he was a minister in UPA. Their ditching him in favour of the BJP has left Joshi high and dry. In contrast, Gehlot engineered the Congress’s revival in Gujarat while Pilot ensured that the party registered impressive wins in assembly and Lok Sabha bypolls as well as civic elections in Rajasthan. Congress sources say that the dismal performance of Joshi, a perennial chief ministerial aspirant in Rajasthan, has effectively killed any prospects of him lobbying for a major role in state politics.
Written in their Future
Few people outside Shillong know that NPP leader Conrad Sangma, the newly crowned chief minister of Meghalaya, was named after a famous literary figure, Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim). And the literary theme runs in the family—literally! His sisters are Agatha and Christie and his other brother is called James. Agatha and Christie are self-explanatory, the name of the world’s best known author of crime fiction, while James is named after Irish author James Joyce of Ulysses fame.
The reason is their late father, PA Sangma, former Lok Sabha Speaker and NCP leader, was an avid reader of classics. In fact, the late Sangma’s literary interests were evident in the party he founded in Meghalaya, the NPP, which has a book as its symbol.
The BJP’s electoral sweep in the North-east has galvanised the Opposition into forming a coalition to take on the ruling party. The problem is that there are too many rivalries that may thwart such attempts.
The first move has been made by Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao (left) and West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee but theirs is a bid to form a Third Front, outside the Congress, along with Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik and the SP and BSP who have joined forces for local bypolls. Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu is ready to ditch the NDA but he cannot see eye to eye with Rao. Banerjee, Patnaik and the rest also do not want the Congress muscling in on their fiefdoms when it comes to national elections. Banerjee is opposed to the idea of an anti-BJP coalition headed by Rahul Gandhi while Akhilesh and Mayawati will be facing each other in 2019.
Now, Sonia Gandhi has stepped into the ring by hosting Opposition leaders later this week for dinner where she will try and convince them to find common ground to take on the BJP.