Monday, July 28, 2008

Snippets / Mail Today, July 28, 2008

At last, we have 275
WHO WOULD have expected an alumnus of Doon School, St Stephen’s College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge and a parliamentarian of 24 years standing to be among the 50- odd technologically challenged MPs who used a paper slip to cast their vote in the confidence motion? Yet that’s how Mani Shankar Aiyer voted on July 22. And he’s in good company. Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, former chief ministers Babulal Marandi, Kalyan Singh and FC Sardinha, Mehbooba Mufti, SS Dhindsa were among the many who took the same route. I have reason to believe the machines didn’t just conk out. The voting record obtained from the Lok Sabha Speaker’s office shows that a majority of the 44 MPs who used the paper vote belonged to the Opposition but when the votes were counted, they were split almost equally, for and against. As for how this happened, my guess is as good as yours. Miracles don’t often happen in politics but this one gave the UPA 275 votes when it commanded the support of less than 260 MPs. If Somnathda were to take his new found independence to its logical end and take action against the erring MPs under the anti- defection law and expel them, the UPA will find itself in a minority.
IT’S nearly a week since the trust vote and in the BJP, it’s time for recriminations. The blame game and the finger pointing isn’t unexpected considering the colossal mismanagement and the pathetic handling by the party managers that led to this embarrassment. After all, the BJP’s USP was the discipline of its cadres. Yet, in the vote where the winner and loser were expected to be separated by a vote or two, the UPA ended up winning by 19 votes, 14 of which came from the BJP and its alliance partners in the NDA. What went wrong is clear to all but the party’s own leaders who are busy shifting the blame. The powerful trinity of Ananth Kumar, Venkiah Naidu and Arun Jaitley which took upon itself the task of ousting the government seemed clueless about what was going on right under their noses and are now shell- shocked. The mine mafia from Bellary provided ample proof that, for them, politics was an extension of business. They were seen openly hobnobbing with YS Rajashekhara Reddy at Andhra Bhavan, a stone’s throw from 11 Ashoka Road where the three hold court every evening. It is perhaps just a coincidence that these first term MLAs in the Karnataka Assembly have a lot of business interests in Andhra Pradesh. It will be foolish to expect the troika that appropriated all the credit for BJP’s win in Karnataka two months ago to shoulder the blame for this disaster which saw three of its MPs from the state switch sides. A few chief ministers, current and former, are also left red- faced. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar handpicked Ram Swaroop Prasad for Nalanda which was his seat. Naveen Patnaik who represented family seat Aska, gave the seat to Harihar Swain when he became chief minister. The TDP’s Audikesavalu won from Chittor, Chandrababu Naidu’s home town. All of them switched their votes. The NDA partners have been quick to expel all defectors. But that’s like bolting the door after the horses have fled.
ONE of the defining attributes of both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh is their ability to grab the chance. Every chance. A week ago, both said they do not want to join the government, but now all signals point to the Samajwadi Party joining the government for the remainder of its term. Mulayam may not join the Cabinet and will most likely nominate a few of his deputies, but I gather that he and Amar Singh will take up posts that are vested with the authority of the central government and also carry the status of a Union Cabinet Minister. It makes their job of gunning for Maya much easier. Not to speak of it getting more enjoyable since as central ministers, they will have to be extended full protocol by the Uttar Pradesh Government on their visits to the state.

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