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

Mistry flops once again

In the recent byelections, the Congress was wiped out in all the 11 Uttar Pradesh seats that went to the polls. It lost its deposit in ten seats, except for one in Charkhari. Madhusudan Mistry, the general secretary in charge of UP, is once again being accused by party workers of being ignorant about the state's political dynamics. He apparently picked candidates who did not have any connect with the people on the ground and ensured the party's loss. A Rahul Gandhi favourite, Mistry was responsible for candidate selection in UP in the Lok Sabha elections as well. As for Rajsathan and Gujarat, the Congress won three out of four and three out of nine seats vacated by BJP MLAs in the two states, respectively. The joke doing the rounds is that the Congress managed to recover some ground in these states because Rahul Gandhi did not campaign there.

Illustrations by Sandeep Adhwaryu
Turmoil in Doordarshan over appointments

Doordarshan is facing a turmoil of sorts over the appointments made in the time of the UPA government. Some anchors who were hired by the previous regime are complaining that Ashok Shrivastav, the son of L.K. Advani's private secretary — who was hired as a correspondent by Doordarshan in 2002 when the Atal Behari Vajpayee government was in power — is making life difficult for them. They allege that he has warned them that they would have to go, because theirs were political appointments. Shrivastav has even tweeted that "Over the years political appointments and recruitment scams ruined Doordarshan News". These young anchors say that they got their jobs after taking the relevant examinations. However, Shrivastav denies these charges. He claims that it was he who was being terrorised by these anchors. He also says that the anchors may have given written tests, but all their appointments were courtesy political influence. Shrivastav is best known for his interview of Narendra Modi ahead of the general elections. The interview created some controversy as certain portions of it were edited out by DD. Interestingly, DD insiders claim that Shrivastav wrote to the PMO seeking special permission to accompany Prime Minister Modi on his foreign tours, but the PMO turned down his request.

Congress left with few spokespersons

Ajay Maken, the head of the Congress' communication department, put a gag order on Manish Tiwari and Rashid Alvi on Monday. The department then issued a list of five senior spokespersons and 13 spokespersons. It was not mentioned which of these could represent the party on TV. Of the five senior spokespersons, Mukul Wasnik, P. Chidambaram and Ghulam Nabi Azad rarely address the media. The other two, Anand Sharma and Salman Khurshid, address the press regularly, but both have their shortcomings. Sharma often loses his cool when asked tough questions, while most journalists go missing when Khurshid holds a briefing. Most of the 13 spokespersons do not live in Delhi and are not available for sound bites or reactions. Randeep Surjewala is busy with the Haryana elections and Jyotiraditya Scindia rarely talks to the press. That leaves only AICC general secretary Shakeel Ahmad and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who times the briefings around his commitments as a practicing lawyer.

Najma is a worried lady

Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptullah must be a worried lady. She is turning 75 next April and if the Prime Minister follows his policy of limiting the age of ministers to the mid-70s, then Heptullah may have to join the party's Marg Darshak Mandal soon after that.

K.K. Paul is going strong

Some people know how to hold on to their posts no matter which party is in power. Even as Governors appointed by the UPA are being removed from their posts by the NDA, K.K. Paul, the former Delhi police chief, who was appointed the Governor of Meghalaya by the UPA in 2013, has not only held on to his post, but even managed to get additional charge of Manipur and Mizoram.

K.K. Paul
New newspaper in the offing
Siddarth Vardharjan

The former editor of the Hindu, Siddharth Varadarajan is said to be coming out with a newspaper under a major group. Varadarajan refused to confirm this, saying only: "For the time being I can only say that I am working on a media project." The buzz is that he has been approached by the Congress to restart the National Herald, but he denied this vehemently as a rumour that may have been spread by the BJP.

BJP adrift in Bengal

The West Bengal unit of the BJP is desperately looking for a face that it can promote as a counter to Mamata Banerjee ahead of the next Assembly elections. The state BJP president, Rahul Sinha is not considered up to the mark.

Singh is a stoic

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's stoic silence was the subject of much criticism and ridicule when the UPA was in power, earning him the nickname Mouni Baba. At the Finance Standing Committee meeting in Parliament last week, the Trinamool Congress' Saugata Roy requested Singh to guide the Opposition, prompting BJP's Surinder Singh Ahluwalia to quip, "He never opens his mouth to voice his opinion." To which, BJD's Bhartruhari Mahtab said, "But Saugata can surely provoke him to speak." An amused Dr Singh laughed and said, "I do not get easily provoked."

SP benefited from Muslim polarisation, better candidates
Samajwadi Party workers celebrate with colours to mark the party’s victory in the Uttar Pradesh byelections, in Allahabad on Tuesday. PTI

The eight BJP MPs, who vacated their MLA seats in Uttar Pradesh to fight the Lok Sabha elections, are saying that the byelection results could have been different if they had greater say in candidate selection. They feel poor candidate selection did not help the BJP, which won only three of the 11 seats that went to the polls. The rest eight went to the state's ruling Samajwadi Party. While the SP managed to polarise the Muslim vote in its favour, the BJP could not unite the Hindu voters. It also could not win over the Dalits even though Mayawati was not contesting the elections.

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