Thursday, Mar 22, 2018 | Last Update : 11:31 AM IST
When Rahul Gandhi took over as Congress president, his mother and predecessor made it amply clear that he was the final authority in the party.
Before the schedule for the March 23 biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha was announced, news reports from Kolkata said that the Trinamul Congress would give a ticket to actor-turned-politician Jaya Bachchan as there were doubts whether the Samajwadi Party would renominate her since it could only get one member elected following its diminished strength in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly. But Ms Bachchan managed to outsmart other aspirants as SP president Akhilesh Yadav ignored the claims of political heavyweights in his party and fielded her again. In fact, Mr Yadav is learnt to have called up West Bengal chief minister and Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee last week and told her that she could go ahead and give the ticket to someone else as the SP had decided to give Ms Bachchan another term. According to the capital’s political grapevine, the actor-politician owes her nomination to Mr Yadav’s wife, Dimple Yadav, who is said to have put in a sympathetic word for her. Ms Bachchan and Ms Yadav, a Lok Sabha MP, are often spotted together, chatting cosily over tea and toast in the Central Hall of Parliament. The friendship has clearly paid off.
When information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani was embroiled in the Rohit Vemula suicide controversy, followed swiftly by the unseemly developments in Jawaharlal Nehru University, her handling of the two incidents as human resources development minister won her many plaudits from her senior ministerial colleagues. They were full of admiration for the feisty manner in which she took on her political opponents in Parliament and silenced them with her combative speeches. But her ongoing battle with Prasar Bharati chairman A. Surya Prakash has not gone down well with her ministerial colleagues. There has been no support forthcoming for her in this case. A senior minister, who often praised her in the past, privately admitted that instead of squabbling in public, Ms Irani should have dealt with the situation quietly and with greater maturity. The ministers are also upset with Ms Irani over the abrupt manner in which she transferred their information officers. For instance, she changed the officer attached to the finance ministry barely a week before the presentation of the Budget. Despite being rendered friendless and advised not to wash her dirty linen in public, Ms Irani has not stopped providing lengthy details about her ministry’s differences with the Prasar Bharati chairman in private conversations. Among other factors, she blames it on the fact that men do not like taking orders from a woman.
Vice-president M. Venkaiah Naidu, who also doubles as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, has been extremely unhappy over the continuing protests by Opposition members. He made it clear in his meetings with party leaders that it was impossible for him to run the House if there was no let-up in slogan-shouting. Several senior leaders, including those belonging to the BJP, reasoned that since the Rajya Sabha is essentially a political House, the Chairman should allow members to give vent to their grievances. They said such scenes are witnessed at the beginning of every session, but normal proceedings resume after a few days of disruptions. But Mr Naidu was not convinced and told party leaders bluntly that in which case “you can find yourself another House”. At one point during the conversation, Mr Naidu said that if members persisted with disruptions, it would be a good idea to adjourn the Rajya Sabha for three days. Union minister Arun Jaitley and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad sought to placate him, but all in vain. However, this did not stop the Opposition from continuing their protests while Mr Naidu lost no time in announcing an adjournment.
When Rahul Gandhi took over as Congress president, his mother and predecessor made it amply clear that he was the final authority in the party. She underlined this point in her speech at a meeting of party MPs in the first half of the Budget Session when Sonia Gandhi remarked that Mr Gandhi was also her boss. Last week when mediapersons asked for her reaction to the tie-up between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party for Uttar Pradesh bypolls, Mrs Gandhi told them firmly that she was no longer the party chief and that this question should be put to the Congress president instead. The problem is that it is proving difficult to pin down Mr Gandhi given his travel plans.