First rib, then hug Denied a renomination to the Upper House by the Samajwadi Party, Naresh Agarwal, said to be a close aide of senior SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav, had joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday. But days before he joined the ruling party, Agarwal had put a rather inconvenient question to the government. He had wanted the finance minister to state if the government “has accepted that its decision of demonetisation was the worst decision, and if so the reasons thereof”. In a written response tabled in the House a day after Agarwal joined the BJP, minister of state for finance and shipping P Radhakrishnan said, “no” to the first part of the question and “doesn’t arise” to the second. Together we can Looks like the Samajwadi Party (SP) Members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha had a premonition of their party’s wins in the Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha by-elections. All of them on Wednesday turned up wearing their party’s customary red caps to Parliament. The bonhomie between the SP and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leaders, arch-rivals for long, was also difficult to miss.
At the dinner hosted by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi at her official residence on Tuesday night, the SP’s Ram Gopal Yadav and the BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra were seen sitting together, and the Congress’s communications department was alive to the opportunity of circulating those photographs to the media. A question of numbers As the results of the by-elections to Phulpur and Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh trickled in, there was much debate in political circles on whether the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s seat tally in the Lok Sabha (LS) had come down below the halfway mark of 272. Post the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the party has lost a string of by-elections. On Wednesday evening, the LS website showed the BJP tally at 274, excluding Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. However, the Opposition pointed out that BJP MPs Shatrughan Sinha and Kirti Azad should be counted as rebels and that the party's Maharashtra member Nana Patole had quit the party. The effective strength of the party, they insisted, was below the halfway mark, and stood at 271. In turn, the Lok Sabha secretariat pointed out that officially, Azad and Sinha continue to be BJP members.