Bravado aside, it was the realisation that the Rahul Gandhi-Akhilesh Yadav press conference on the last day of campaigning would get no eyeballs amid PM Narendra Modi’s Varanasi roadshow that led to its cancellation.
But what happened before the cancellation is interesting. A message was sent out by the Congress’s media department about the press conference. The strategists of the Samajwadi Party were alarmed when they heard of this and asked a few journalists to send screenshots of the invite. As expected, the press conference was cancelled. The Congress, however, insists that Rahul was ready, but the Prime Minister’s Office didn't allow landing permission, and Akhilesh was busy as well.
A BJP leader had this to say about the episode: “They should have realised that no one would show up at the press conference. So why this lame excuse now?”
When a poll battle between two ranis gets too hot for comfort, a raja is forced to descend to earth.
People in Amethi were treated to a spectacle this election. Sanjay Singh, the scion of the erstwhile ruling family of this region, going from door to door begging for votes like an aam neta. That's because it's a tough contest between Singh's present wife Amita and his former wife Garima. And he is taking it personally.
Party insiders tell us how Singh had been setting this up from the very beginning. Despite the presence of ally Samajwadi Party's Gayatri Prajapati in the scene, Singh fought with the party top brass to get a ticket for Amita. Now, with it boiling down to a direct fight between Amita Singh and Garima Singh, he's clearly nervous.
"I have chosen my side, and I will have to reconcile to whatever happens," he says philosophically.
Yes, may the best Singh win.
It's just two more phases to go in Uttar Pradesh and the SP-Congress alliance is fighting a different perception battle.
Their main challenge is to fight the growing perception — real or virtual — that the BJP has been gaining ground. So a team of Samajwadi Party strategists have now been deployed to counter this. They reach out to reporters and editors. Some of the journalists are invited to party HQ to be treated to "facts and figures" on how well the alliance is doing. They are also shown videos of Akhilesh roadshows and PM Modi rallies so that they can come to their own conclusion on who is drawing bigger crowds.
"Pushing perception through journalists is part of our strategy now," quips an SP strategist.
It's not clear yet whether that's working.
Pictures of Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul outside RML Hospital with the angry family of former Union minister E Ahamed caused panic among the government ranks on the eve of Budget.
The Opposition was sure that Ahamed was already dead and that authorities were only delaying the announcement to ensure the Budget was presented on February 1 itself. The government, on its part, was searching for the right precedent to convince the Opposition that the Budget can go on.
Senior ministers woke up the Speaker and members of the Lok Sabha Secretariat and requested them to find a way out. Another call went to Congress leader Manish Tewari. His father died in 1984 while he was a Rajya Sabha MP but the House went ahead with Budget business after an obit reference. It soon occurred that this was not a good idea, for the Opposition had walked out that day.
Finally, the bright members of the research team came up with two incidents: In 1954, MP Jujhar Pal died on Rail Budget day but the House had decided to go ahead. And in 1974, when Indira Gandhi was PM, the Budget went on despite the death of MB Rana.
The day was saved. Arun Jaitley read out his Budget after the House made an obit reference to E Ahamed.
Quipped a member of the Lok Sabha Secretariat team which came up with that piece of research: "Never before had we stepped into the House library, but that night we had to.
Despite all that talk of unity in Punjab Congress team, we hear there is no love lost between the captain and his new star batsman.
Insiders give us an account of how bad things are between Captain Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu with just a few days left for Congress to announce its CM face. All attempts by the Amarinder camp to get in touch with Sidhu and finalise a schedule for rallies haven't got any response. Ahead of Rahul Gandhi's "spate of rallies", Sidhu could not be contacted. The mood in the Sidhu camp is this — "why should we listen to him when we are no lesser”.
The acrimony that festered between the two during the time Sidhu was in no man's land also shows no sign of abating. "He is Sidhu and he never forgets the word used by Amarinder for him," said an aide of the cricketer-turned politician. For the record, the captain had called him a "sneaky fellow".
To make matter worse, there are posters up in Sidhu's Amritsar saying he will be the chief ministerial candidate. At this rate, the Congress dreads to think how Sidhu will react the day Rahul announces Amarinder as the CM face.