OPINION: First-timer as BSP floor leader

NEW DELHI (The Statesman/ANN) - Political circles were surprised when former JD(S) spokesperson turned BSP MP Danish Ali was appointed by Mayawati as the party’s floor leader in the Lok Sabha.

After all, not only is he a first time MP, he also migrated to the BSP on the eve of elections, just after helping his former bosses in the JD(S) to seal a seat-sharing deal with the Congress for the Lok Sabha contest.

Realising the concerns in her party and among her MPs about this boost to a BSP newbie, Mayawati made the unusual gesture of heaping praise on Ali at a recent meeting of her party’s extended national executive in Lucknow.

Normally, Mayawati doesn’t speak about personalities but this time she did. Don’t think Danish Ali is new to the BSP, Mayawati told her party workers. And then proceeded to give details of his association with the party.

She told them that she has known him since the days of Kanshi Ram. Ali used to meet the founder of the BSP quite often apparently. She also reminded her workers that it was Ali who negotiated an alliance between JD(S) and BSP in the last assembly elections in Karnataka because of which her party won a seat for the first time in the south Indian state.

Again, it was Ali apparently who persuaded Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy to include the lone BSP MP in the ministry. In other words, Danish Ali has earned his place in the BSP despite his long association with the Socialists.

Symbol of BJP-BJD ties

Newly elected Rajya Sabha BJP MP from Odisha, Ashwini Baishnab, is a symbol of the new and visible bonhomie between chief minister Navin Patnaik of the BJD and the Modi government. Baishnab was elected to the Rajya Sabha with the help of the BJD.

It was a seat that Patnaik’s party could have won easily, given its strength in the Odisha assembly. But Patnaik cut his party out and passed on the seat to the BJP. However, it seems the gesture has more to do with Baishnab than the BJP.

Baishnab has a long and interesting history with Patnaik. He also enjoys a good equation with Narendra Modi. Baishnab was an IAS officer belonging to the Odisha cadre. He caught Vajpayee’s eye during the super cyclone that hit the state in 1999.

The district of which Baishnab was collector was one of the worst affected and the relief and rehabilitation work he organized impressed Vajpayee and his PMO. Apparently, Vajpayee was keen to bring the officer to Delhi. There are reports of a conversation between the late PM and Patnaik in which the latter is believed to have said that Baishnab was one of his best officers.

In that case, I will definitely have him transferred to my PMO, Vajpayee is believed to replied in his inimitable style. It was during his tenure in the PMO that Baishnab developed a rapport with Modi who was chief minister of Gujarat at that time.

After Vajpayee lost the 2004 election and retired from politics, Baishnab helped to set up the late PM’s secretariat and then left for Wharton in the US. He returned to India, joined the private sector and launched a start-up. But clearly, his heart was in politics. With two mentors, Patnaik and Modi, in key positions, it was simply a matter of time and opportunity for Baishnab.

He joined the BJP just days before the Rajya Sabha election and is now an MP. Interestingly, Modi is believed to have personally requested Patnaik for the Rajya Sabha seat for Baishnab. The fact that the Odisha CM obliged is a signal that much is happening behind the scenes that folk in the BJP and BJD know nothing about.

Bengal corner laid bare

Trinamool Congress MPs are visibly down in the dumps. After the hammering the party received from the BJP in the recent Lok Sabha elections, Mamata’s men and women are hardly seen or heard in the corridors of Parliament.

Till the defeat, the Bengal corner in Parliament’s central hall was the most vibrant with Trinamool MPs sitting around for hours and chattering away. The corner is practically empty these days with only a stray MP or two coming in for a cup of coffee.

The Bengal corner used to be full of Left MPs when the Left was a dominant force. Trinamool MPs took over the corner when the Left faded away. Now it’s the Trinamool’s turn to vanish but curiously, BJP MPs from Bengal have not stepped forward to occupy those seats.

In fact, like fellow BJP MPs from other states, those from Bengal don’t spend too much time socializing in Parliament. Old timers are wondering whether the Bengal corner will be taken over by another state as the Trinamool Congress vacates space.

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