The Mahua Moitra episode has every ingredient that makes for a compelling political story. An MP, also among the most vocal critics of the BJP government, stands accused of accepting cash in exchange for allowing a businessman who is a close family friend to use her Parliament login credentials to ask questions, a failed relationship between the parliamentarian and a lawyer who has levelled serious allegations against her, and the custody battle between the two over a pet.
On Thursday, there was another twist in the tale as Moitra stormed out of a meeting of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee alleging that its chairman Vinod Kumar Sonkar subjected her to a “vastraharan, a disrobing, a witch-hunt of the worst kind”. Opposition members of the panel also walked out of the meeting along with Moitra, criticising Sonkar’s line of questioning. The walkout invited strong criticism from BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, whose complaint to the Speaker led to the Ethics Committee proceedings, and the fallout of this is likely to continue on Friday as the BJP and the Opposition and the BJP are expected to trade charges.
Shah and Kharge in Chhattisgarh
The BJP will release its manifesto for the Chhattisgarh elections on Friday. Union Home Minister Amit Shah will address a public rally in the Pandariya constituency in Kabirdham district before heading to Raipur to release the BJP’s roadmap for the state.
For the BJP, hamstrung by the lack of a strong regional face like Bhupesh Baghel, voter disinterest in the election and the absence of a “pressing desire for change” are two immediate challenges it has to overcome if it has to emerge on top on December 3. The BJP has made corruption a major poll issue, but it does not seem to be resonating on the ground. As Vikas Pathak explains in his article, “The likeliest reason is that the anti-corruption pitch is now almost a decade old — it helped uproot the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance in the first place — and given that parties make it an issue in every state, it no longer registers in the mind of voters as a distinctive issue. For them, governance is made sense of in terms of the work done instead of corruption allegations.”
The Congress’s promise of a farm loan waiver seems to be resonating in the primarily agrarian state and even some in the BJP want the party to make that their primary agenda. The manifesto will make it clear if the BJP will take the Congress head-on in a battle of competitive welfarism and offer more than what the ruling party has guaranteed.
Meanwhile, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge will address public rallies in Abhanpur in Raipur district and Sakti district’s Chandrapur. In Telangana, the nomination filing process for the November 30 Assembly polls will begin on Friday.
BJP’s OBC strategy
The BJP central leadership, it seems, is having a rethink about its stand on caste census as the Opposition INDIA bloc ups the ante over its demand for a nationwide exercise to count caste numbers.
The party, as reported by Liz Mathew and Maulshree Seth, on Thursday discussed the “advantages and disadvantages” of the party’s current position of not going for a caste count. At the meeting in New Delhi, the BJP decided to form a committee to frame OBC outreach programmes. The party is reluctant to hold a census as it feels it can jeopardise its strategy to consolidate OBC communities under the Hindu fold. How the BJP goes about shaping its OBC strategy will be something to watch out for today and in days to come.
That the party is seriously thinking about its OBC strategy was spelled out in clear terms by the party’s former Telangana unit president Bandi Sanjay Kumar in an interview to Liz Mathew, a highly recommended read. Asked why he had been fielded from a tough seat (Karimnagar) in the election, Kumar said, “That is because the BJP has decided to focus on the OBC. That is because the BJP wants to make an OBC chief minister. All the OBC leaders in the state BJP have been asked to contest the election. Our party decided to field all the OBC leaders in the state. We would have almost 50% of the total candidates from the OBC community. The Congress has fielded only 19, the BRS list has 23. We will have at least 35-40 OBC candidates. It is for the first time the BJP has announced before the elections that it would have an OBC CM.”