Monday, August 4, 2008

Power & Politics / Mail Today, August 04, 2008

IT’S becoming all too familiar now and the Congress Party has reason to be concerned about the total collapse of internal security, which has left the citizens of this country feeling insecure as they have never felt before. More than 1,100 people have died in terrorist attacks since the UPA came to power and that’s not counting Kashmir. Yet not a single arrest has been made. And they are laying the blame squarely at the doors of Home Minister Shivraj Patil and National Security Advisor MK Narayanan.

I will come to Patil later. We have seen in the past officers wield power not quite commensurate with their duties and responsibilities but never in this country’s history has a police officer risen so fast, fallen equally rapidly and then risen again to wield the power he has. I am talking of Mayankote Kelath Narayanan, the 74- year- old NSA. Last week, after bomb blasts ripped Bangalore and Ahmedabad, Manmohan Singh and LK Advani set aside the bad blood of the no- trust vote to take stock. Narayanan was present too.

This came as something of a surprise since in the last three years, when Mumbai, Jaipur, Hyderabad and many other cities and towns burned, the NSA was mostly not around, busy as he was trying to salvage the nuclear deal. Police officers as we know are more comfortable wielding the baton, but Mike, as he is popularily known, is one of those rare officers who is vested with the delicate and persuasive task of diplomacy. The post of NSA was created by the Vajpayee governmment, during which Brijesh Mishra held it alongside his job as the PM’s Principal Secretary. Manmohan bifurcated the posts, made TKA Nair his PS and JN Dixit his NSA. On Dixit’s passing away in 2005, Mike took over as NSA. As NSA, his job is to review internal and external security with chiefs of the IB, RAW, state police, and brief the government. But apart from the worsening internal situation, the region itself is in doldrums. Nepal is going the Maoist way, problems have escalated in Sri Lanka, and Burma and Indo- Pak relations are on the boil. Mike is handling a job he is not quite up to.

Like any good cop, he excels at gathering information, specially for his political bosses about their opponents. He has excellent support from the IB and CBI chiefs, who have been busy these past few months tallying up the numbers for the government. Worse case scenarios exist.

After Pokhran II, the Vajpayee government set up the Nuclear Command Chain with two wings, one headed by the PM and other by the executive. The latter is now vested with Narayanan. Imagine a cop trained to defuse bombs actually in possession of a N- BOMB. It would have been laughable if it were not so serious. He takes his external security job seriously and visits foreign capitals, but ignores the other half which involves internal security and travelling to state capitals which he is loathe to do. Raisina Hill abounds with stories about the frequent flyer miles Mike has accumulated in his nuclear pursuit. I tried to take the RTI route to find out the truth, but was stonewalled all the way. I am told that roughly for every day he has been at home, he has spent three abroad. No wonder they say of the NSA: Normally Stationed Abroad.

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