A Congress Way of Life

The launch of Mohsina Kidwai’s biography, “My Life in Indian Politics” saw many Congress leaders both on stage and off, who had come to felicitate her. On the stage were Shivraj Patil, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Shashi Tharoor from the Congress, along with Farooq Abdullah from the National Conference, moderated by Sunetra Choudhury. The man of the moment was Tharoor since this was his first public appearance post the Congress Presidential election and he thanked Mohsina for being one of his proposers. Patil remarked that while he had not voted for Tharoor, he complimented him on his speech. With so many Congress veterans on board the talk turned to Opposition politics, with Farooq advising the Congress leaders not to let coteries hold sway. To which Mani Shankar Aiyar replied that the coterie’s agenda is not the leadership line, usually they are busy trying to save their own skin. Perhaps Aiyar was speaking from experience, having faced the brunt of coterie politics! Farooq also complimented Tharoor on his campaign and advised him to keep speaking the truth to power, and added a quote—sitaron se aage jahan aur bhi hain, abhi ishq ke imtihaan aur bhi hain (there is a world beyond the stars, and many more trials await you). Co-author and political historian, Rasheed Kidwai was also on the dais and the evening ended with the audience giving the 90-year-old Mohsina Kidwai a standing ovation.

Separation of Church and State

While Mallikarjun Kharge has been made the Congress president, he is clearly not the public face of the party. The Gandhis still remain the Congress Party’s preferred calling card, with Rahul busy doing an image rehaul with his Bharat Jodo Yatra. In terms of relaunches, this has been his best attempt so far and if he remains as consistent and accessible as he has been in the last 45 plus days, then the Congress can dare to dream again. Kharge’s role is that of a CEO, to administer the party, make peace between various factions, identify candidates for elections and so on. In other words, he will be a de facto Ahmed Patel. Given his experience and also his consensual nature, Kharge could be a good fit and exactly what the Congress needs at the time. In the meantime, Rahul is free to continue his interactions with the public and help build a narrative that the Congress can take to the people. As Dr Sanjaya Baru pointed out on the “NewsX & The Sunday Guardian Roundtable”, it is wrong to compare Kharge with Dr Manmohan Singh as some critics are doing and call him a remote control. Kharge is not the PM and his job will be to manage the party, with the Gandhis giving direction and focus. This is not unlike what J.P. Nadda does in the BJP, or the role that Gandhiji played with the Congress, for while he never assumed the office of the Congress president (he was not even a primary member of the party), the party ran according to his writ. However, as Suhel Seth added (on the same Roundtable) that Rahul needs to convert the goodwill from the yatra into votes and the one way he can do this is to take the feedback he is getting from the public, make that a part of the Congress agenda, and raise the issues that are directly affecting the people. Good advice here, for the Congress needs not just a face but also a narrative to counter the BJP.

Why is Jaya Bachchan so angry?

Jaya Bachchan has a hate-hate relationship with the media and often complains that the press does not reflect boundaries. She is not the only Bollywood star to complain about the paparazzi, but at the same time it is the same Bollywood stars who chase the media to cover their every move. So there is a lot of mixed signalling here, the result of which cannot all be blamed at the media’s door. More to the point, nothing can justify Mrs Bachchan’s latest outburst, where she reportedly told a member of the media who stumbled while clicking her picture at the Lakme Fashion Week, “I hope you fall.”
This reminds me of an interview her former friend turned foe, the late Amar Singh gave NewsX in 2013. During the interview he referred to Jaya Bachchan as someone who was “bitter” and added that “Mr Bacchan asked me, can’t you do something for Jaya, for her Rajya Sabha seat is like jewellery she can’t do without…the Bacchan tag and the feeling I am the First Lady of Indian cinema.” Amar Singh also recalled during the interview that, “When Amitabh did Black she (Jaya) said what’s the big deal, I did the same years ago, in Koshish.” While Amar Singh may have had his reasons for lashing out against the Bachchans, but the overall impression of an angry woman is something that should worry Jaya Bachchan, given that she is a public figure.