Nora Chopra is a senior journalist with a finger on the pulse of the Indian political scene

Protégés trouble Digvijaya

It was Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh who himself backed out from contesting against Narendra Modi in Varanasi, in spite of all his bravado in front of the media. He then recommended the name of Ajai Rai, his "protégé", to fight against Modi. Rai, originally an MLA with BJP, moved to the Samajwadi Party and then to the Congress in 2012. He is currently MLA from Varanasi. Digvijay had brought him into the Congress from the SP. However, all may not be well on the Congress' Varanasi front. There is speculation that Rai may return to the BJP just before the election, leaving the Congress in a lurch. If that happens, Rai will be the third Digvijaya "protégé" to do so. The others were Bhagirath Prasad, who was Congress candidate in Madhya Pradesh's Bhind and Ramesh Tomar, Congress candidate in Noida. Both have returned to the BJP. Many Congress leaders are demanding action against "those" who recommended the names of Tomar and Bhagirath for Congress tickets.

Illustrations by Sandeep Adhwaryu
Congress divided on Priyanka’s political future
Priyanka Gandhi

The Congress leadership is divided on Priyanka Gandhi's entry into politics. Janardan Dwivedi's assertion that Priyanka was interested in politics right from her childhood was seen as a move to put pressure on Sonia Gandhi to promote her daughter in politics. The next day, party spokesman Randeep Surjewala contradicted Dwivedi by saying, Priyanka had no interest in politics except for looking after the constituencies of her brother and mother. Later, pro Priyanka leaders were heard saying that it was too late to launch her in politics. Some "neutral" leaders, however, are saying that Sonia Gandhi prefers her son to be in politics and not her daughter and does not want any family feud on the matter.

Revolt in Congress in Orissa

Revolt is brewing in the Congress in Orissa over the appointment of Jaidev Jena as the president of the Orissa Pradesh Congress Committee in place of Niranjan Patnaik. B.K. Hari Prasad, the party general secretary in charge of Orissa, summoned Patnaik to Delhi and asked him to cooperate with Jena. But Patnaik told the AICC general secretary that he would not do so and not even campaign for the party. Patnaik's younger brother, Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, who was a Congress minister in the Narsimha Rao government has already quit the party and floated his own Ama Orissa party. His cousin Tara Patnaik has left the Congress and joined the Biju Janata Dal. Unhappy with Jena's appointment, the leader of the Congress Legislature Party, Bhupinder Singh too joined the BJD.

Jaidev Jena
Sharmistha did not want to contest
President, Pranab Mukherjee his daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee (L) with Bhutan King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck during a meeting at Rashtrapati Bhavan on 7 January. PTI

The West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee gave Pranab Mukherjee's daughter Sharmistha the offer to contest the Lok Sabha elections, but she refused. The reason is said to be her unwillingness to jeopardise her brother Abhijit's political career. It seems Union minister Adhir Chowdhury, who was recently appointed as WBPCC chief, was opposed to giving a ticket to Abhijit from the Jangipur constituency. Sharmistha wants to wait and watch before she makes her debut in politics, possibly in the West Bengal Assembly elections of 2016.

Pet peeves

What's in a pet name? Ask Shiva, who starts blushing whenever he is called by this name by his friends in front of his party workers, who know him as Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. Congress leader Digvijaya Singh's nickname is even worse, Munnu. His younger brother, Laxman Singh is called Chunnu, while his son Jaivardhan Singh is Tunnu.

Digvijay Singh
‘Learn manners from Patnaik’

Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's opponents are trying to portray him as too anglicised and out of touch with the people even though he has ruled the state for almost 14 years. One of the stories being circulated about him is how when he became CM, he needed to learn his mother tongue Oriya. Patnaik's most trusted lieutenant at the time was Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, who got him an Oriya scholar called Rajkishore Mishra. One day an angry Mishra approached Mohapatra. "I cannot teach Naveen anymore," Mishra said. Why? That is because instead of learning Oriya, Naveen is busy teaching me manners, he said.

Gulkirat and salim

Aam Aadmi Party's Chandigarh candidate, Gul Panag was busy promoting herself as Gulkirat Kaur, to show to her voters that she was a Sikh. AAP's Gurgaon candidate Yogendra Yadav too was going around telling Muslim voters that his father's nickname for him was Salim and his sister was known as Najma.

Just three months

The Andhra Pradesh cadre IAS officer, H.S. Brahma, who succeeds Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath on 15 January 2015, will have the shortest term in office. He will be there for only three months and will not get to conduct any elections.

Pranab reading books on Bangla

As President Pranab Mukherjee awaits the results of the 2014 general elections, he is spending his time reading and writing. He is writing his own autobiography, while his daughter is writing his diary. The President is also busy reading books on Bangladesh. He has completed reading the unfinished autobiography of, and two more books on, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. He has also read The Blood Telegram, by Gary J. Bass on "India's secret war in East Pakistan".

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