Politics appeared to have played out paradoxically this week: You could see some of our politicians walking a tight rope along predictable, trodden path in poll-bound states listlessly, while in sharp contrast, there were some others who took the path-breaking, glorious initiatives hitherto rarely seen on the Indian political landscape.
Let’s get a feel of the second point, which is certainly more important — and perhaps even newsier — first. It was heartening to know that Prime Minister Narendra Modi lost no time in getting in touch with an ailing Sonia Gandhi. Acting upon the information that Sonia’s health had deteriorated at Varanasi airport, the otherwise unseen hands of the Prime Minister’s Office put the Army’s Research and Referral Hospital at the ready.
Firstpost’s Ajay Singh, who broke this story first, wrote in his copy that the Prime Minister personally spoke to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, asked him to rush to the hospital and ensure that everything was alright.
Even more importantly, “Prime Minister Modi made it clear to Parrikar that media queries on Sonia’s health were to be avoided at all costs. And the hospital authorities weren’t supposed to issue any health bulletin. The Prime Minister’s message was clear: Nothing should be done that could even remotely infringe on the privacy of the Gandhi family. If at all a health bulletin had to be issued, it could be only at the family’s call – and not the government’s." No speculations and no hush-hush words.
Ajay Singh further wrote in his copy: "Modi’s minute to minute monitoring of the health of a bitter political rival is worth noting for two reasons: One, though not new, this tradition of civility in personal relations of public figures seemed to have almost evaporated in the last few decades of fractious politics. And two, it was some sort of a signal – unknown to public on Tuesday last – for the unfolding of one of the biggest acts of political reconciliation in the Rajya Sabha the following day."
Indeed, the ice was broken and it was there for all to see in the Upper House of the Parliament. The smooth passage of the Constitutional Amendment Bill on GST might have surprised many doubting Thomases. But it is now a reality. You would now agree that even in politics humane gestures with a healing touch can works wonders. Hats off to Modi’s uncharacteristic outreach for a change!
Now, let’s discuss what the run-of-the-mill types have been doing this week elsewhere. Aping the Congress tradition of yesteryear, the BJP high command virtually nominated for chief minister’s chair, 61-year-old Vijay Rupani and not Nitin Patel.
Nothing against Rupani, but all those who know Gujarat politics like the back of their palm were left in little doubt at the end of it all that the new incumbent was a nominated general. Rupani was selected — and not elected — because of his proximity to Amit Shah. The elaborate show at the BJP legislature party meeting was just a spectacle meant to be beamed across for public consumption. That’s all. Nothing else.
It remains to be seen if the BJP, which has been at the receiving end of the Patidar and Dalit agitations, can bounce back and promise victory in 2017. This apart, it’s no secret that the Aam Aadmi Party has been breathing down their neck of late. Remember, the ruling party had fared badly at the civic elections not too long ago. And, like it or not, Arvind Kejriwal, is slated to visit the state later this month. Already, the grapevine has it that some BJP legislators might join the AAP.
In another poll bound state, Uttar Pradesh, things moved on the dotted lines with Mayawati continuing to espouse the cause of dalits from Lucknow to Una routinely and Akhilesh Yadav attacking those who attacked him for law and order failure.
Can you believe it that the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, who has been facing flak in the wake of the Bulandshahar gangrape, accused the opposition parties of tutoring the survivors? "If they want a CBI probe, I am ready to concede it …. But tell me what are the BJP and other opposition party people telling the victims inside the room…. You should also investigate it," the chief minister said and almost seemed to defend what his cabinet colleague, Azam Khan, had said earlier.
The Congress, on its part, was busy doing the road show in Varanasi. The road show was indeed a magnificent spectacle by all accounts. The query that remained unanswered, however, was that whether the lakhs of Banarasi Babus who had lined up along the eight-kilometre long route would turn up as Congress voters in the ensuing elections.
Behind the smokescreen of all the optics there was hardly any change in the ground realities in Uttar Pradesh: the BSP and the SP continue to occupy the first two spots while the BJP and the Congress seem to be struggling to retain their third and fourth positions.