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Sanjay Raut, Praful Patel, TR Baalu — men wielding power in Delhi for their regional bosses

From Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut to DMK’s T.R. Baalu, these politicians serve as their leaders’ eyes and ears in Delhi, and coordinate with the central govt.

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New Delhi: Among the most prominent voices against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (now Act) in the Rajya Sabha was that of Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’Brien. The quizmaster-turned-politician went to the extent of saying a bill that discriminates on the basis of religion is worthy of being mentioned in golden letters on the tomb of the Father of the Nation — of Pakistan, not India.

O’Brien is known to be the voice of West Bengal CM and Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee in the power corridors of Delhi — whether on the streets or in Parliament. But if Banerjee needs a Bengal-related file to be cleared by the central government, it’s not O’Brien who’s the go-to person. It’s Dinesh Trivedi.

A former Union minister under Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s NDA government and Manmohan Singh’s UPA, Trivedi was out of Banerjee’s good books for a while. But now that he has the CM’s ear again, she has begun giving him responsibilities like visiting Uttar Pradesh to meet the families of those killed in the anti-CAA violence. Current BJP leader Mukul Roy once filled the same role in the national capital for the Trinamool.

This phenomenon is hardly restricted to the Trinamool — every regional satrap needs a trusted lieutenant in Delhi to coordinate with the central government, MPs as well as top industrialists to serve the party’s interests.

These ‘resident commissioners’ are the ones who fix up appointments for their leaders with the PM or the home minister, get speedy clearances, coordinate with the government on important legislations to protect mutual political interests, among other things.

During the Modi government’s first tenure, it was Arun Jaitley’s responsibility to keep these political managers in good humour, especially owing to the NDA’s paucity of numbers in the Rajya Sabha. But since his death, this coordination is being handled by Home Minister and BJP chief Amit Shah.

ThePrint identifies some of the prominent ‘resident commissioners’.

Sanjay Raut — Shiv Sena

Once Uddhav Thackeray took over the Shiv Sena after his father Balasaheb Thackeray’s death, the party’s old guard in Delhi such as Manohar Joshi and Anant Geete were replaced by Raut, the editor of party mouthpiece Saamana.

Raut was Uddhav Thackeray’s voice in Delhi, even ahead of Arvind Sawant, who was part of the Modi cabinet.

Earlier this month, it was Raut who directed Sena MPs to vote in favour of the CAB in the Lok Sabha, after coordinating with the government’s floor managers.

Also read: With CAA, Kashmir, NRC, Amit Shah has come out of PM Modi’s shadow

Vijayasai Reddy — YSR Congress

A chartered accountant by profession, 62-year-old Vijayasai Reddy had been close to former Andhra Pradesh CM Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, looking after his financial affairs and political coordination. From the death of YSR in 2009 to now, when his son Jagan Mohan Reddy has become chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, Vijaysai Reddy has been his representative in Delhi.

His scope of work includes handling the YSR Congress Party’s stance on key political issues, coordinating with the government and dealing with cases pending with the CBI and Enforcement Directorate. The CBI had arrested him in 2012, in a case related to the sale of shares in Jagan’s company Sandur Power, and in every ED case where Jagan is accused No.1, Vijaysai Reddy is listed as accused No.2.

He also coordinated with the government’s floor managers in Parliament on Article 370 and the CAB, and facilitated a direct interaction between Shah and Jagan on both issues.

Vijaysai Reddy was appointed chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce, overlooking the claims of several opposition parties, especially the Congress.

Also read: ‘Inauspicious period’ and Delhi elections delay Nadda’s elevation as BJP president

R.C.P. Singh — Janata Dal (United)

Ramchandra Prasad Singh, commonly known as ‘RCP’, is a former IAS officer, who virtually holds the No.2 position in the JD(U) and is Nitish Kumar’s eyes and ears in Delhi.

At one time, this position was held by Rajiv Ranjan Singh, also known as Lallan Singh, but between his acrimonious split with Nitish and later reconciliation, RCP stepped into the breach.

Lallan Singh’s biggest strength was his perceived closeness to Jaitley, but with the latter’s death, the equations have changed dramatically, in favour of RCP. In fact, RCP is also considered a factor behind Prashant Kishor being sidelined in the JD(U).

RCP, who was once personal secretary to Nitish, was also in the race to become the Union railways minister through the JD(U)’s quota in the NDA. His name had been forwarded, but the offer of a single berth incensed the party and it declined to join the government.

RCP’s past as a civil servant is probably the reason why he keeps the media at an arm’s length.

Pinaki Misra — Biju Janata Dal

Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal, the ruling party in Odisha for nearly 20 years, was earlier represented in Delhi by Pyarimohan Mohapatra (who died in 2017) and Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda, who left to join the BJP. Their replacement is Puri MP and advocate Pinaki Misra.

Misra switched to the BJD from the Congress, and has become Patnaik’s Man Friday in a really short time, thanks to his networking in Delhi — which is a direct result of his family ties.

Misra is related to two former Chief Justices of India — Ranganath Misra and Dipak Misra — while his father Lokanath Misra was a former Rajya Sabha MP who also served as governor of Assam and Nagaland.

At a time when Patnaik’s name was embroiled in a mining scam, Pinaki Misra had collected a formidable army of lawyers to help him — an endeavour in which Misra’s friend Jaitley had provided assistance. This is considered the reason why Misra was made the leader of the BJD parliamentary party instead of political stalwart Bhartruhari Mahtab.

Ram Gopal Yadav — Samajwadi Party 

Amar Singh was the ultimate ‘resident commissioner’ in Indian politics before his unceremonious exit from the Samajwadi Party. Since then, the mantle of deciding the party’s parliamentary strategy and coordinating with the government has been taken over by professor Ram Gopal Yadav.

Amid the acrimonious split in party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family, Ram Gopal was expelled. But his proximity to Mulayam’s son Akhilesh Yadav brought him straight back into the fold when the latter took the reins of the SP.

Today, Ram Gopal is Akhilesh’s political mentor and closest confidant in Delhi. He has also played an important role in getting several of the Modi government’s legislations passed, and in return, has managed to secure a clean chit for Akhilesh and Mulayam in numerous cases.

Satish Chandra Mishra — Bahujan Samaj Party

BSP supremo Mayawati’s representative in Delhi is Satish Chandra Mishra, an advocate and the prominent face of her Dalit-Brahmin politics. Mishra is often credited for forging the social coalition between the castes which, in 2007, handed power to the BSP for a full five-year term in Uttar Pradesh.

When Mayawati’s name had cropped up in the Taj Corridor scam case in 2002, Mishra had tapped into his legal network and defended Mayawati. In return, the BSP’s political management in Delhi has become his personal fiefdom.

Keshav Rao — Telangana Rashtra Samithi 

TRS supremo and Telangana CM K. Chandrashekar Rao’s main manager in Delhi is Keshav Rao, who was involved in exploring the possibilities of a Federal Front across the country before the Lok Sabha elections.

The unexpected defeat of KCR’s daughter Kavitha Rao in the Lok Sabha polls meant that Keshav Rao continued virtually unchallenged in his role. KCR is now grooming his nephew and Rajya Sabha MP Santosh Kumar to eventually take up the role. Both Keshav Rao and Santosh Kumar are in constant touch with the CM and his son and heir K.T. Rama Rao on important issues.

Jayadev Galla — Telugu Desam Party

Four Telugu Desam Party Rajya Sabha MPs joined the BJP earlier this year, leaving Lok Sabha MP Jayadev Galla as Chandrababu Naidu’s man in Delhi. Galla is a two-time MP from Guntur, and the managing director of the Amara Raja Group, which manufactures Amaron batteries, among other things.

Galla owns assets worth more than Rs 680 crore, and was once raided by the Income Tax Department.

In Parliament, Galla has increased his proximity to the Modi government, and is often spotted with Piyush Goyal. The government also seems to have gone soft on Naidu, once an ally who later split from the NDA.

Sukhbir Badal — Shiromani Akali Dal

The Akali Dal is represented in the Modi government by Harsimrat Kaur Badal, while its face in the media is Naresh Gujral. But with the party no longer in power in Punjab, its president and former deputy CM Sukhbir Badal has moved to Delhi as a Lok Sabha MP, and handles coordination with the BJP on his own.

Praful Patel — Nationalist Congress Party

The formation of a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra may have soured the NCP’s relations with the BJP and the Modi government, but Praful Patel’s relationship with ministers like Nitin Gadkari and Piyush Goyal doesn’t seem to have got spoilt. Patel was a vital link between his party chief Sharad Pawar and Modi since the latter’s days as Gujarat chief minister, and has constantly been in the good books of the BJP’s managers — right from Pramod Mahajan to Arun Jaitley. 

In the Manmohan Singh-led UPA’s 10 years in power, there were three political managers who played a huge role in the government’s survival. And while SP’s Amar Singh was perhaps the most important, Patel and Premchand Gupta’s roles cannot be denied.

A. Navaneethakrishnan 

The AIADMK has been on a rocky road since the death of its supremo J. Jayalalithaa, but holding it all together in Delhi has been its Rajya Sabha MP A. Navaneethakrishnan. An advocate by profession, he is one of Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi Palaniswami’s most trusted aides.

Navaneethakrishnan served as the advocate-general of Tamil Nadu, and was tasked with defending Jayalalithaa in all the cases against her.

However, Navaneethakrishnan isn’t alone in filling this role for the party — the other faction, led by deputy CM O. Panneerselvam, is represented by his son, O.P. Raveendranath Kumar.

T.R. Baalu

The late M. Karunanidhi’s family is quite well represented in Parliament, but party president M.K. Stalin trusts T.R. Baalu the most. Baalu is an old DMK hand who is well acquainted with the power corridors of Delhi, and has the final word on the party’s national strategy despite the presence of the likes of Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi, nephew Dayanidhi Maran, and former Union minister A. Raja.

Also read: Not just in Jharkhand, Amit Shah’s ‘Chanakya Niti’ has faltered in other states too


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