The anger at LK Advani being ‘denied’ the Gandhinagar ticket notwithstanding, few know the 91-year-old had already decided to not contest. Especially after his wife died, he retreated into a shell. A few months ago Narendra Modi called Advani’s son Jayant for an appointment with his father. Modi met Advani again on the latter’s birthday. When the Gandhinagar seat was being discussed, Amit Shah sent BJP General Secretary Ram Lal to find out whether Advani wanted his son or daughter to contest. Advani did not say anything. Lal met him again the next day when Advani made his views clear: Having opposed dynastic rule his whole life how could he recommend his children? Had Advani agreed, the BJP was ready to nominate Jayant from a good seat in Gujarat. Modi, Arun Jaitley and Shah were keener on Jayant than daughter Pratibha. The talk in the BJP is that Advani, on the other hand, wanted Pratibha but she was not interested in politics. So why, in spite of Lal’s visit, did Advani’s private secretary Deepak Chopra tell PTI nobody from the party had approached him? Shocked and upset, BJP top leaders think Advani is being manipulated. Meanwhile, the Congress rumour mill says they were ready to let Pratibha contest from Gandhinagar but she wasn’t willing.
In West Bengal, elections are in seven phases and for the Trinamool Congress, its leader Mamata Banerjee will have to bear most of the campaigning burden. And she has run into a peculiar problem. The state government does not have helicopters and private owners say big parties such as the BJP and Congress have already booked their choppers for two months. So for the first phase, the TMC could not get any. A solution was found when on her trip to Vizag she asked Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu for help. After elections there get over in the first phase, he has promised his party’s choppers will be available for the TMC. So now Mamata finally has two choppers for her north Bengal tour.
The Couple Deal
The buzz is that the new Congressman Shatrughan Sinha’s wife Poonam may get a ticket to fight against BJP’s Rajnath Singh in Lucknow. She is a Sindhi by birth and the wife of a Kayasth, both sizeable communities in the city. So not pitting one Rajput against another might be a good strategy for the Congress. And if Poonam contests, beside her husband, daughter Sonakshi will also campaign. The Congress Lucknow unit cannot take the decision without the go-ahead of Rahul Gandhi. Will he be okay with a husband- and-wife package deal? A section of the party is also said to be not keen on Poonam.
The name of the rose
When Narendra Modi went to Agartala, the chief minister of Tripura wanted to receive him with a huge garland made from the famous roses of the region. An advisory from the Prime Minister’s Office, however, explicitly prohibited such offerings. By May, Modi will have held over 300 rallies and if everyone came with flowers, the aggregated waste would be immense. Then there were the apprehensions of his security team plus the danger of allergies. Modi’s stand was that he couldn’t bring these flowers back to Delhi and in the summer they would rot quickly. He, however, had a solution. He told the Tripura chief minister to come with only one rose.