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

RSS finds fault with BJP leadership

RSS leaders recently met to review the political situation in Delhi in the wake of the Assembly elections. They discussed at length the BJP's policies, causes of the party's massive defeat, and the impact of the loss on the party. The RSS bosses claimed that the biometric attendance system for Central government employees was reminiscent of the Emergency days. They also pointed to the government's failure to counter rumours about lowering the pension age, which had been reinforced by the Haryana government's decision to reduce it from 60 to 58. The RSS also questioned the appointment of US-based free market proponents like Arvind Panagariya to the newly formed Niti Aayog, which they say scared the public, particularly the middle class, and upset affiliates like the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) and Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM). BMS leaders have been heard asking how a swadeshi government could appoint the US-based Panagariya. The RSS also criticised the government's mishandling of the black money issue. The BMS and the SJM are planning protests against the government.

Rahul’s promotion will be questioned

Rahul Gandhi's elevation to the post of Congress president, either in April or in September, will not go unchallenged, which, in turn, could split the party. Many party leaders think that they cannot allow the Congress to destroy itself, and so challenging Sonia and Rahul Gandhi is a must. A senior party leader was heard saying, Congress could not be equated with Rahul or Sonia; in fact they were just like the trustees of the Congress because of their pedigree, and nothing more.

BJP, SP do some wedding diplomacy

February will be known as the month of wedding diplomacy. BJP's arch foe, Samajwadi Party chieftain Mulayam Singh Yadav surprised everyone by attending the wedding reception of Amit Shah's son Jay in Delhi. And then Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief guest at the tilak ceremony of Mulayam's grand nephew Tej Pratap Singh at Saifai on Saturday. Tej Pratap is getting married to Lalu Prasad Yadav's daughter Raj Lakshmi. All this has led to the rumour mills going on an overdrive, saying that Mulayam has reached some sort of an understanding with the BJP. Incidentally, apart from Mulayam, the only other Opposition leader to be present at the Amit Shah function was Congress' Rajiv Shukla. When asked what he was doing there and whether he had told his party leadership where he was going, Shukla answered that he was not the only Congress leader present there. Even Ahmad Patel's son was there.

Pranab consults legal experts

President Pranab Mukherjee has been consulting legal experts on various issues, including the removal of Governors. He recently consulted a legal expert on the Bihar situation after a confrontation between the JDU and the BJP intensified. Sources say that Mukherjee is keeping himself abreast of all issues.

Open discord in TMC

Political infighting is rife in West Bengal, particularly in the ruling Trinamool Congress and also in the BJP. While cracks had surfaced in the TMC over Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's "dictatorial" style of functioning, tensions have intensified because of the CBI probe into the Saradha chit fund scam. Mamata's close aide Mukul Roy fell out with her after the CBI started interrogating him in the scam. Roy allegedly indicated that it was Mamata who was railway minister when IRCTC signed a deal with a Saradha company, and that if he is arrested he will expose her. Mamata had started clipping his wings after she learnt that he is trying to get close to the BJP. In fact, now that Mukul Roy's name has not made it to the CBI charge-sheet, it seems he is safe. He is likely to become an approver. The BJP may use him to split the Trinamool Congress and he is likely to lead the group that will merge with the BJP. In the recently held byelections, the BJP lost but doubled its vote shares. During a recent visit to Delhi, Roy told a select group of Bengali journalists that the BJP lost because it does not have any organisation in place. The party is seeking a solid organiser, he said.

Kerala officers hold sway

Governments come and go, but Kerala cadre bureaucrats seem to always dominate in the Centre. When UPA 1 was in power, there were 43 Kerala cadre officers in Delhi. The trend continued until late into UPA 2's term. Near the end of the term, some changes were made, with some UP cadre officers joining the PMO. Ajit Seth was made Cabinet Secretary and Pulok Chatterjee became the PM's Principal Secretary, replacing K.M. Chandrashekhar and Kutty Nair respectively. Under the Narendra Modi government, the trend has continued. The most powerful secretaries still come from Kerala. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is from Kerala, and the new IB chief, Dineshwar Sharma, is also from the Kerala cadre. The latest from the Kerala cadre to get a powerful post is the new Home Secretary, L.C. Goyal. After the premature exit of Anil Goswami, the PMO saw hectic lobbying from Seth, new principal secretary Nripendra Mishra and Doval over who should succeed Goswami. Seth and Mishra wanted petroleum secretary Saurabh Chandra to get the post, while Doval backed rural development secretary L.C. Goyal, a Kerala cadre officer. In the end, Doval got his way. Still, sources in the PMO claim the most powerful bureaucrat in the office is additional principal secretary P.K. Mishra.

Kejriwal turns to stars

As people rise to power and fame, astrologers jump in to get a share. That is what is happening to Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal. Astrologer Jugal Joshi, whose followers claim he is a sort of Nostradamus and can read the past, present and future using an ancient scripture called the Aruna Samhita that contains the biography of every human on earth, has apparently told him that the stars are so strongly aligned in Kejriwal's favour that five years from now he could become Prime Minister.

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