This Week Uttar Pradesh: Change of guard and priorities
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Change of guard and priorities
The appointment of Nirmal Khatri as president of the UP Congress has left non-cadre Congressmen uneasy. Having joined the party in the last few years, they were given high importance in the selection of Assembly candidates and planning of the election campaign. It was part of a grand "Mandalite experiment" to regain lost ground but it flopped. Khatri's appointment, which came close on the heels of the reinduction of veteran Congressman Shiv Shanker Shukla who had been expelled merely for opposing certain actions of Union minister Beni Prasad Verma, has sent out a clear signal of a policy change. Khatri too has done his bit. Some of the recent entrants wanted to show their strength with a road show when Khatri arrives in Lucknow to take charge on September 11, but the leader has shot down the idea.
Congress and BJP are back at war
The BJP and the Congress have come out of the hibernation they had gone into after the drubbing in the Assembly elections. First, the BJP organised demonstrations to demand Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's resignation over alleged corruption in the allocation of coal blocks; BJP workers even burnt his effigy. Next, Sonia Gandhi's call to partymen to counter the BJP galvanised UP Congressmen into action. Led by Rita Bahuguna Joshi, they held a noisy demonstration outside the BJP office and also burnt an effigy of BJP president Nitin Gadkari. The BJP then decided to demonstrate outside Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal's residence in Kanpur. Congress workers came out in strength to stop them and the police had to intervene.
After loss, BSP warms up to media
When the BSP was in power, its ministers avoided the media. Mayawati's own press conferences used to be monologues where she would read out a prepared statement and leave, rarely entertaining questions. The loss of power has, however, brought about a change. Party general secretaries Swami Prasad Maurya and Naseemuddin Siddiqui now hold a joint press conference almost every week. Initially, these were held on Fridays. But as they clashed with Friday prayers and some Muslim reporters could not attend, the press conferences were shifted to Thursday. After the press conference is over, both leaders make it a point to stay back for an informal chat with reporters. Also, Maurya is now readily available to electronic media to speak on every issue, national or state.
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