Who after Manmohan? Chidu, Diggy or Rahul?

It’s a free for all in the Congress. Everybody’s happily taking on everybody. But the key war of words is the one between P. Chidambaram and party general secretary Digvijay Singh.

The latter’s called the Union home minster “intellectually arrogant” and slammed his muscular, unidimensional approach to the Naxal issue, as if it’s purely a law and order problem. And just when the issue had died down, he has reiterated his words, even terming it the “party view”.

At the same time, Chidambaram has squabbled with a range of ministers—with Jairam Ramesh, Sushil Kumar Shinde and A. Raja on Chinese security fears; with A.K. Antony on Army deployment in Naxal areas ; with Pranab Mukherjee on the caste census; with S.M. Krishna on visas and so on.

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On the face of it, such dissonance in the ruling party might seem like classic Congressism—a giant umbrella acommodating leaders of different hues; offering different strokes for different folks.

However, at least one political commentator—Neerja Chowdhury in the New Indian Express—thinks both Chidambaram and Digvijay Singh are positioning themselves for the post-Manmohan Singh era, should the prime minister exit in 2012 due to health reasons, be pushed upstairs to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, or should Rahul Gandhi also listen to his “inner voice” like his mother did in 2004 after the next elections.

“The recent cacophony also heralds the emergence of two new wannabes — P Chidambaram and Digvijay Singh — on the political horizon, and both are known to be politically savvy.

“Chidambaram is clearly emerging as a hawk, pursuing a tough line against the Maoists and Pakistan, a stance favoured by a large section of the middle class. An underscoring of differences with other ministries reinforces the impression of a home minister who has his hands tied in very difficult circumstances. Chidambaram is increasingly coming to occupy the right of centre space, catering to the sentiment of the urban Indians, many of whom had viewed with favour — or backed — the BJP, particularly in north India.

“Digvijay Singh, seems to be  positioning himself in the left of centre mould, contra-distinct from the niche that Chidambaram is carving out for himself. By espousing the cause of Muslims (visit to the families of the Batla House accused in Azamgarh), tribals and poor (the Naxal problem cannot be handled with just a law and order approach), he is trying to come across as a representative of the old and traditional Congress line (representing upper castes, minorities and SC/STs).”

Read the full article: Congress’ rumble within

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