Wednesday, August 3, 2022

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Fly On the Wall

Mamata, Kejri run for a cover

Two of the three main challengers to Prime Minister Narendra Modi are facing their worst in their political career. They trounced the BJP in elections after elections and retained their citadel against all odds. They withstood Modi's charisma and refused to buckle under any pressure. If West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee remained unscathed despite the Narada & Sarada scams denting her image badly, nothing could stick on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Even a CBI raid on his office premises and other charges failed to stick on him. On the contrary, Kejriwal went on to expand his footprints by selling the “Delhi Model” and pocketed Punjab. Enthused by his successes, Kejriwal opened a new front recently i.e. directly attacking the PM. Until now, Kejriwal had been refraining from personally attacking Modi. But he opened a new frontier alleging that Modi is obliging his rich industrial friends and waiving off their loans, seeking contracts for his industrial friend from foreign governments, etc. As a shrewd politician, Kejriwal must have calculated consequences of his utterances too. Within days, the new Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, V K Saxena, ordered a CBI probe into what is now called “Liquor-gate.” Kejriwal's one minister Satyendra Jain is already in ED's custody and now it is a matter of time that his number two Manish Sisodia may be in the CBI dragnet. A frightened Kejriwal withdrew his so-called money-spinning excise policy. Insiders say that it's only a beginning as more cases will be slapped on AAP leaders in the weeks to come. If “Cash-gate” shocked Mamata Banerjee and caged her, Kejriwal is quiet suddenly. The two prime challengers to Modi for the 2024 battle are certainly at the receiving end.

The Third challenger

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is the third political leader who is perceived to be a potential PM candidate. But his style of operation is completely different from Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal. The JD (U) leader is a different kettle of fish. He has switched sides like Uddhav Thackeray who dumped BJP after winning election with the saffron party. Nitish Kumar did the same - winning Assembly polls in Bihar with RJD and started swimming with BJP.

Nowadays, he is sulking again as he is having a taste of the New BJP under Modi. The BJP knows his art and is giving him back the same coin for the past sometime. It used Chirag Paswan to weaken him during the Assembly polls and succeeded in creating fissures between him and his loyalist RCP Singh who had to quit the Cabinet after being denied the Rajya Sabha seat. Nitish is now throwing tantrums and sulking. For example, he supported Droupadi Murmu for the post of President but did not attend her swearing-in-ceremony. He did not attend the farewell function of out-going President Ramnath Kovind either. When the PM visited Patna on July 12, Nitish government gave no big advertisements in newspapers either. There are reports that a deal is in works between Janata Dal (U) and RJD-Congress -Left. The RJD has developed cold feet after the CBI conducted raids on Lalu's daughter Misa Bharti and aide Bhola Yadav recently. It is a message to Tejashwi Yadav that an old pending case of corruption may be revived. If Nitish Kumar thought that he can enter into political deals at will, he may be in Fool's paradise. It's a different BJP. Gone are the days when Vajpayee had lost his government by a single vote in Lok Sabha.