Monday, July 21, 2008

Snippets / Mail Today, July 21, 2008

Throw out the rascals
TWO weeks back I had written about the new belligerent mood of our men and women in uniform. Last week’s attack on policemen in Malkangiri which left more than 20 killed, coming as it does after the attack on Andhra Pradesh’s greyhound commando force that took 40 lives, is likely to see them become more combative. To add insult to injury was the home secretary’s statement that the attacks “were a result of the tactical blunder by the forces” which has left
senior police officers fuming. The IPS officers association, which met a fortnight ago, will again meet sometime soon and among their demands will be that postal ballots be made available to the 1.4 million armed forces and the nearly twice that many that serve in the central paramilitary and the state police forces. So far, only about two to three per cent of those in uniform have been able to vote in elections because they are mostly on poll duty. Now police chiefs will demand that the government make postal ballots available to men and women
serving even in the remotest corners. “Vote according to your conscience, without fear or favour, is what we are telling our men,” an officer told me. In other words, “throw out the rascals”.
WE Indians have a fetish for renaming. We don’t think twice before junking hundreds of years of history to rename a road, an airport, a city or even a state to satisfy someone or a group that is
politically crucial. So Madras becomes Chennai, Bombay Mumbai, Calcutta Kolkata, Bangalore
Bengaluru and Trivandrum becomes the tonguetwisting Thiruvananthapuram. At least until now, I assume some thought went into such decisions but today, even that fig leaf is finally off. Last week, the Centre decided to rename Lucknow’s Amausi airport, named after the village in
which it is located, as the Chaudhury Charan Singh Airport. The demands for its renaming had
been piling up for long. In 2002, Charan Singh’s only son, Ajit Singh had written to the NDA government reminding them it would be a befitting gesture considering that it was the birth centenary year of the late prime minister. Three years later, Mulayam Singh Yadav wrote to Praful Patel making the same demand. In 2006, Akhilesh Das, then junior minister for industry in the UPA government, wrote to Patel demanding that Amausi be renamed after Rajiv Gandhi since the former prime minister who started his political journey from Lucknow was also an ex-Indian Airlines pilot. It brought the stock reply from the minister: the matter was under consideration of the government and a decision would soon be taken. But all the files were tucked away in some forgotten cabinet and it wasn’t until last week that the government acted and when it finally did, Rajiv Gandhi had to yield to Chaudhury Charan Singh. If the circumstances
were different, I would have admired Sonia Gandhi for showing amazing grace and not adding to
the list of roads, chowks, avenues, institutions that already sport her husband’s name. But it’s the urgency to woo the three MPs of Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal that made the difference. A novel way of horse trading.
“ Let the lobbies be cleared”. After scores of our honourable MPs have exhausted their vocal chords over two days of the trust vote, starting today, the Speaker will, just before the motion is put to vote, ask the marshals to clear the House of all but those elected to the Lok Sabha, who are eligible to take part in the voting process. As prime minister, Manmohan Singh occupies Seat No 1 in the treasury benches. But having never sought election to the Lok Sabha, he is not the Leader of the house. Pranab Mukherjee is. Singh will speak on the motion at the end, after which it will be put to vote. Will he leave the house before the vote is taken, or will he resume his seat on the front row without enjoying the privilege of casting his vote? A tragedy
either way.

No comments: