Sunday, April 14, 2024
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DELHI DURBAR

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DELHI DURBAR

Advantage, BJP a la Sibal

The erudite, silver-tongued senior advocate, orator and the most visible spokesman of the Congress Party, Kapil Sibal appears to have dropped a notch or two from what was hitherto considered his unassailable position as the party strategist and PR poster boy. The reason? His own party’s unease over the way he has dealt with the attempted impeachment of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. While the merits and technicalities of the issue are debatable, the political fallout for the Congress has been a disaster.

Delhi Durbar: An inside track of happenings in Lutyens’ Delhi

The cracks in the party—with former PM Manmohan Singh and legal eagles Salman Khurshid and P Chidambaram refusing to sign the impeachment petition—have begun to show. The Supreme Court has been caught in a political tug-of-war ever since it thwarted the ruling party’s attempt to break the Court’s mo­no­poly over the appointment of judges by creating the NJAC. It seemed that with politically sensitive decisions, such as Ayodhya, Aadhaar, and the just-decided Judge Loya death controversy, it would be in the interests of the Congress to rally behind the chief justice to strengthen his hands. Senior Congress­men are miffed that Sibal, by orchestrating the impeachment move, has allowed the BJP to use the issue as a political propaganda tool. With elections around the corner, the BJP now has snatched the slogan of protecting the “independent judiciary” from the Congress. In planning his next move to appeal Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu’s rejection of the impeachment motion, Sibal is now distancing himself from his party. Many senior Congress­persons are wondering whose game he is playing.

Rahul’s Digvijaya Dilemma

With assembly elections due in Madhya Pradesh later this year, Congress President Rahul Gandhi has finally replaced MP Congress chief Arun Yadav with former Union minister Kamal Nath.

Till a few months back, speculation had been rife that Yadav would be replaced with Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia. Nath had even endorsed Scindia for the role. However, Rahul  didn’t factor in how Scindia’s bête noir and two-time chief minister Digvijaya Singh would take this development.

Digvijaya’s contempt for Scindia is well-known. The wily Raja of Raghogarh seems to have employed his crafty manipulation to have the Maharaja of Gwalior sidelined. Last week, Digvijaya indicated to Rahul that he wanted to undertake a “political yatra” across 166 assembly constituencies of MP. The seemingly harmless request, sources say, sent Rahul into a tizzy. Digvijaya enjoys support among Congress workers but continues to be immensely unpopular with the state’s electorate owing to his disastrous second term as CM which ended in 2003 with the party’s appalling defeat, from which it hasn’t recovered in 15 years. Digvijaya’s request was seen as a veiled attempt to make the going tough for the Congress, should Rahul replace Arun Yadav with Scindia.

Before embarking on his Narmada Parikrama six months ago, Digvijaya had reportedly met Rahul with Nath. At the meeting, he had lobbied with Rahul to make Nath the MP Congress chief and the de facto chief ministerial candidate.  Sources say fear of Digvijaya queering the pitch for Scindia, and in doing so also for the Congress in MP, made Rahul rejig plans and grant the ominous role to Nath. In a balancing act, Scindia has been made the state’s campaign committee chief.

Bear Hug

South Block mandarins are more than a little worried about the Russian bear hug with which Moscow is embracing Rawalpindi. Even as India’s peripatetic prime minister is trying out new tango steps with Xi in China in order to give positive new dimensions to the troubled Sino-Indian geo-political relationship, Vladimir Putin is doing the fox trot with Pakistan.

According to intelligence summaries, Russo-Pak ties have actually been growing warmer and more concrete over the last decade because of Pakistan’s deliberate effort to woo Russia away from its traditional die-hard pro-Indian position. During the Cold War, India and Pakistan were associated with the Soviet and Nato camps, respectively.

But in international affairs there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests. Pakistan’s relationship with the Russians has now become multi dimensional to include political, economic, defence and security “and may extend to nuclear and space”, says an intelligence summary. The report concludes: “The two countries have found common interest in varying fields, from Russia’s inclination to participate in China Pakistan Economic Corridor as an investment partner to countering growing challenges of the Islamic State in Khorasan (ISK) in Af-Pak as well as forming a common front against the United States. A series of high-level visits this week marks the significance given by the two countries to nurturing closer relations. On 23 April (2018), a high-level meeting was held between Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Lt Gen (R) Nasser Khan Janjua and his counterpart Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation.”