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By Rahil Nora Chopra


With Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar putting forward Pranab Mukherjee’s name.for a second term, speculation has begun in right earnest about the possibility of the incumbent President emerging as a consensus candidate. Nitish Kumar’s  strategy of suggesting Pranab’s name is seen as a bid to put pressure on Modi, who has on several occasions in the past three years expressed appreciation for Pranab’s ‘remarkable contributions’. The BJP think-tank is also said to be in favour of a second term as it thinks it would help the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha and later assembly elections in Bengal and Orissa. With RSS leader Mohan Bhagwat frequently meeting Pranab Mukherjee in Rashtrapati Bhawan, the buzz has become even stronger that. Pranab would be most acceptable to Congress while Mamata Bannerjee will have no choice but to accept him as it would give her an opportunity to tell the people of West Bengal how she is always there for the Bengalis, apart from the mileage it might give her party in the panchayat and Lok Sabha elections.


On the occasion of the release of the book, India’s Indira recently, President Mukherjee had said Indira Gandhi remained the “most acceptable Prime Minister to the people of India till today” and recalled her decisiveness in reorganizing the Congress party after its electoral debacle in 1977. This and his other remarks at the event have been seen by observers as a veiled message to the grand old party to set its house in order. Mukherjee spoke about Indira’s view on ‘Operation Blue Star’ in Golden Temple and said that as the minister taking the decision to storm the temple, he was afraid of “doing anything to the Golden Temple” and remembered the bad times Ahmed Shah Abdali had to go through after he “did something wrong to the Golden Temple” following the third battle of Panipat. He added, “It is not that she did not know it, she knew it very well. And she told me, ‘sometimes history demands some action which may not prove correct later on but, perhaps, is the most relevant at that moment.’ Mukherjee said he was narrating the incident as an example of her fearlessness in action and hailed Indira as “one of the most remarkable personalities of the 20th century”.


Congress circles are abuzz with names being tossed up for the appointment of PCC chiefs in different states. The prospects of Jyotiraditya Scindia being appointed as the leader of the Congress Party in the Lok Sabha in place of Mallikarjun Kharge have become brighter as Kharge, also the new chairman of the 21 member Public accounts Committee of Parliament, is eager to shift his base to Karnataka ahead of the assembly election in 2018. According to sources, Kharge will be appointed as the PCC chief in Karnataka while Kamal Nath is being considered to head the Madhya Pradesh unit of the party. According to grapevine, AICC general secretary Shakeel Ahmad is likely to succeed Bihar PCC chief Ashok Choudhary, who has become a minister in the state cabinet.  Ahmad had served as cabinet minister in the government led by Rabri Devi and also as minister of state in the ministry of communication & IT and the ministry of home in Dr Manmohan Singh’s government in 2004. In March 2011, he was given charge of the party units of Jharkhand and West Bengal. The names of former union minister of state Akhilesh Singh and former PCC chief Anil Sharma are also being mentioned for the PCC chief’s position.


Congress circles say change is due in the leadership of Congress Sewa Dal, with party vice president Rahul Gandhi unhappy with incumbent chief organizer Mahendra Joshi’s performance or the lack of it. A 22-member committee set up under the chairmanship of AICC general secretary Mukul Wasnik is scrutinising some 180 applications received for the position of NSUI national president. It is for the first time that the party is employing this type of a selection process, in which any activist with one-year’s work in the students wing can aspire to become the national leader without any age limit. According to party sources, Anil Kumar Meena, who is the vice president of NSUI unit in JNU, is considered to be the favourite although the names of Vipin Vankhede, president of the Madhya Pradesh unit, and Rohit Chaudhary, former national president, are also in the ring.


Also doing the rounds are names for the leader of BJP’s Uttar Pradesh unit. With state BJP president Keshav Prasad Mourya becoming deputy chief minister in the Yogi government, the party has to find a replacement and the probable names include  Vinod Kumar Sonkar MP from Kaushambi, Vidyasagar Sonkar and Ram Shankar Katheria, MP from Agra, who is considered to be the front runner.


Allahabad coffee houses are witnessing animated discussions about the proposed private airline to be owned by UP Civil Aviation Minister Nand Kumar Nandi. The airline is supposed to be named Nandi Airlines after the name of its owner. People are wondering whether the airline will meet with the same fate as some other planned Nandi rollouts. For the past six months, the  Niranjan cinema in Allahabad was showing banners and posters of Nandi Desi Ghee, Nandi Rice, Nandi Atta etc, but these have now been removed. Whenever Nandi comes to Allahabad, he organises a janata darbar in the circuit house to interact with common people and answer their queries. Next time he holds the event, people will have a curious query: When will Nandi Airlines start flying? (IPA)

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