A simple photo-op can sometimes reveal the entire political picture. Last month, as Rahul Gandhi hosted an iftaar party, his high table did not include a single opposition party chieftain: most of them chose to send their representatives instead while the Samajawadi party gave the event a miss altogether. The message was clear: most opposition parties do not see the Congress as a first among equals, even less so Mr Gandhi as an unquestioned magnet for opposition unity.
A by-election is a bit like a school monthly test: the marks don’t count for anything during the final exam. Which is why the opposition celebrations after besting the BJP in another round of by-elections maybe premature but neither can India’s principal party afford to take victory in the 2019 general elections for granted any longer.
In 1996, soon after LK Advani resigned as an MP over his name surfacing in the ‘hawala’ diaries, we asked the original BJP ideological mascot why he had taken what many believed was an ‘extreme’ step. ‘It is a conscience call. I come from a party with a difference which is committed to probity in public life,” he claimed.
Karnataka is, arguably, India's most beautiful state. Few states can match its rich diversity: from the wondrous Karwar coastline to the verdant green hills of Coorg, from the wildlife of a Bandipur to the majesty of the Cauvery delta, Karnataka is the original God's own country. Why even Bengalureans can gaze wistfully at Cubbon Park's flora and reminisce of a Garden city that existed before the real estate sharks took it over.
In the mid-1990s, as VP Singh was scrambling to help form a non-BJP, non-Cong ‘Third Front’ government, we asked the former prime minister if such a ‘khichdi’ government was good for the country. “I don’t know about being desirable, but it is inevitable,” was his sharp response. Singh was seen as the original mascot of third front politics: in 1989, he became prime minister by forging a coalition with, quite miraculously, the outside support of the BJP and the left. The single point agenda then was to remove the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government.
The defining image of the 1989 Lok Sabha elections was VP Singh campaigning across the country and claiming that he had in his pocket the Swiss bank account number where the Bofors payoff money had been deposited. Singh won the election and became prime minister but never revealed the account number. Nearly 30 years later, Rahul Gandhi is hoping to do to Narendra Modi what Singh did to his father Rajiv