Thursday, August 5, 2021

Fly On the Wall | A battle royal between two Chankyas

Fly On the Wall
by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

A battle royal between two Chankyas
If all goes as per plans, the country may soon be on the cusp of a battle royal between BJP's Chankya Amit Shah and Opposition’s poll strategist Prashant Kishore, “PK”. Both were key strategists for Narendra Modi’s Prime Ministerial campaign in 2014 and fell out later. The Congress is on the verge of picking PK as its key poll strategist until the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. A decision is likely anytime next week. PK will not charge any fee for his services as he will be formally joining the Congress. He has told the three Gandhis that if inducted, he will oversee the party's poll strategies in all the elections leading up to 2024. He said the situation can be retrieved in Punjab and Uttarakhand is winnable if the right kind of strategy is adopted. But he would like to make a big beginning with Gujarat and Karnataka where Assembly polls will be held in November 2022. The BJP and Congress are in direct contest in these states. The BJP can be defeated in its home turf in Gujarat after 27 years of being in power. Before inducting PK, Sonia Gandhi wants the stamp of approval of all CWC members. The party men are happy that finally Rahul Gandhi is listening to somebody and may act on his advice.

Why PK fell out with Shah
Though 'PK' was part of Modi’s core team in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Modi was so impressed by PK’s skills that he was allotted a place on the top floor of the CM's residence itself. PK had also given Modi a blueprint to overhaul the bureaucracy on the US pattern where thousands of officers come and go with the new Presidents. When Modi asked PK what role he would like to play, the latter wanted to be named as BJP's Poll Strategist. If there could be a general secretary (organization), why not general secretary (poll strategy)? Modi was willing to consider but Amit Shah nixed it soon after taking over as BJP Chief. Modi dithered and PK moved out. Amit Shah and PK were face to face for the first time in Bihar and Delhi Assembly polls in 2015 and BJP was decisively defeated. But PK didn't get the desired credit. The victories in Punjab and Andhra Pradesh were discounted as BJP was a junior partner in these states. PK also tasted failure in 2017 in UP. His golden moment came seven years later when he trounced Amit Shah in West Bengal in 2021 in a big way. It was a huge setback for Shah and a beaming PK claimed “he is BJP’s overrated Poll Manager.”

Disquiet in RSS
There is disquiet in the RSS these days. A top RSS leader put it very aptly: “Aajkal prasannta ka vatavaran nahin Hai.” (Nowadays, the atmosphere is not pleasant). He did not elaborate but the disconnect between the BJP and the RSS is clearly visible. The RSS was not happy with the way the government handled CAA and three Farm Acts and the talks should have been held. The recent Cabinet reshuffle widened the gulf as wings of Nitin Gadkari were further clipped when the MSME ministry was taken away.

As if this was not enough, most of the recommendations of the RSS for new inductions were ignored. The RSS Chief, Mohan Bhagwat’s statement that the government and Society, both, have to understand and learn lessons from the Covid pandemic, was seen as an oblique criticism of the government.

But the Pegasus telephone tapping scandal that rocked governments world over, created a major disconnect. It has surfaced now that telephone numbers of many RSS functionaries including a senior one were under watch. It is learnt that a top-most officer of the Modi dispensation visited Chitrakoot where Pratinidhi Sabha was being held in the second week of July. The meet was significant as it came much before the Pegasus snooping scandal officially surfaced on July 18. He had a long chat with RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat. What transpired between them is not known. But many say that the tweet of Subramanian Swamy on July 18 morning that tapping the phones of PM Modi’s cabinet ministers, RSS leaders and others will be disclosed soon. Obviously, this person was sent to Chitrakoot on a fire-fighting mission as the government knew beforehand that such a scandal may surface. An insider said, “the gulf has widened since then.”