Inside Track: Shah takes matters into his own hands

Amit Shah realized early on that the real stumbling block for the BJP in the Uttar Pradesh polls was not so much the farmers’ vote in the western UP, but party leader Samajwadi, Akhilesh Yadav, would mobilize his campaign on a backward versus forward spotlight. He knew that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s Thakur caste was a disadvantage in some sections. It was Narendra Modi, not Shah, who decided Adityanath to be declared the BJP’s CM candidate. In early January, after the departure of Swami Prasad Maurya and a few other OBC MPs dealt a severe blow, Shah stepped in to take full charge of the UP campaign. Apart from Adityanath’s home territory of Gorakhpur, it was Shah who managed to select the candidates. Shah ensured that OBCs were widely represented and OBC leaders like Keshav Prasad Maurya and Anupriya Patel were cast in the campaign. Shah also began a whirlwind tour of the state.

The Waterloo of Kishor?

Will Goa prove to be the Waterloo of campaign wonderkid Prashant Kishor? Kishor’s team, I-PAC, is fully responsible for the TMC campaign. The responsibilities of Mohua Moitra, head of TMC Goa, are largely limited to interacting with the media. The list of Goan politicians who joined the TMC but quit after receiving negative feedback from their constituents is growing. Former congressman Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenço is now fighting as an independent. Former MGP MLA Lavoo Mamledar stands on a Congressional ticket. A founding member of Goa TMC, Yatish Naik, quit after not getting a ticket. Other prominent TMC supporters who appear disillusioned include literary personality Damodar Ghanekar, footballer Denzil Franco and tennis player Leander Paes. Former CM Luizinho Faleiro, who was TMC’s first recruit, withdrew from Fatorda competition, after a Rajya Sabha seat from the party. Lesser-known names complain that they were courted initially just so I-PAC could get access to their phone numbers.

The TMC has invested heavily in Goa. Its giant palisades far outnumber those of any other party. But the billboards simply carry a photo of Mamata Banerjee, not even the photos of the candidates.

Divided house

More than ineffective Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, BJP Organizing Secretary Satish Dhond is blamed for the party’s flawed election strategy in Goa. Dhond, an RSS pracharak, was transferred to Maharashtra when Manohar Parrikar was around. He returned to Goa when Parrikar was ill and given free rein due to a lack of alternatives. When selecting candidates, factors such as party loyalty, parivar ties and a clean record were overlooked. The cadre-based party allocated 25% of its tickets to congressional defectors. Dhond’s critics say he failed to gauge the public’s disenchantment with the defectors. For the elders, the cynical decision to award the Panjim ticket to the controversial Atanasio Monserrate rather than Utpal Parrikar, Parrikar’s son, was the final straw. Former Goa RSS boss Subhash Velingkar backed Utpal’s candidacy, like many others from the Sangh Parivar.

The art of networking

There are many fascinating facets to the life story of Captain Krishnan Nair besides the founding of the Leela Group of Hotels. He was a pioneer in the handmade textile industry, creating Leela Laces and promoting bleeding Madras shirts in the West. Bachi Karkaria’s soon-to-be-released biography, Capture the Dream, is a reminder of Nair’s ability to open the right doors. From Morarji Desai and Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia to Vasantdada Patil, Nair has cultivated many. His main mentor was VP Menon, to whom he successfully introduced through the Malayali network. Nair’s mother asked Menon’s wife to carry a bottle of her pickle to her son in Delhi. Menon eventually introduced the boy from Kannur, Kerala to his many contacts. For example, when Nair needed to be introduced to an arrogant Nottingham lace-machine maker, he could ask Lord Mountbatten to vouch for him.

Deceptive appearances

The body language of Punjab campaign candidates can be deceiving. Sukhbir Singh Badal exudes supreme confidence and humor even though the Akali Dal is at rock bottom. Captain Amarinder Singh maintains his regal and unflappable demeanor, despite being aware that he could be fighting a losing battle. Conversely, the two top seeds seem rather broken down. AAP’s Bhagwat Singh Maan is keen to present a sober image as he fears any display of exuberance will be misunderstood. The Congress Charanjit Singh Channi looks tearful at times, perhaps nervous about the unpredictable Navjot Singh Sidhu.

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