Monday, August 11, 2008

Snippets / Mail Today, August 11, 2008

Amar Singh’s MYTH making factory

SEVERAL myths surround Amar Singh butthis one is for real. Now that it is certain thatnothing but the right caste combinations willdecide who will rule India next year, the SamajwadiParty general secretary has come up withone more MYTH: Muslim, Yadav, Thakur, Harijan.
This electoral acronym is the latest in theendless repertoire of tricks that Singh seemsto pull off every now and then. Even a monthago, if anyone had suggested that Lalu PrasadYadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Ram VilasPaswan would break bread, he would havebeen laughed off. The two Yadavs have beendaggers drawn since they parted ways in 1990after the breakup of Janata Dal which sawMulayam going with Rajiv Gandhi and Lalugoing on to mesmerise Bihar on his own. Relationsbetween Lalu and Paswan have beeneven worse, with each refusing to acknowledgethe other at the meetings of the Union Cabinetof which both are members. But last week, theywere seen eating from the same plate at a hurriedlycalled joint Press conference that addedyet another twist to the unending string of CDstings. That they are all together now isbecause of the M-factor – Mayawati. Taking aleaf out of her social engineering formula, thetrio is now working out a new grand coalition ofcaste forces. The MYTH factor accounts forabout 35 per cent of the votes in Bihar andUttar Pradesh, the two largest states in thecountry. If they can make it work, there is nothingto stop them from becoming a powerfulgroup which will not only dictate the formationof the next government at the Centre but alsodemand the best portfolios. That’s no myth.
FOR THE Gen Next in theBJP and the Congress, theproblems are so similar theycould even be interchangeable. Several young Congress MPsare in a dilemma. They haven’tdecided whether to fight theelections or not from whatwere once considered pocketboroughs. The reasons for theirreluctance though are different.
After Rajesh Pilot’s deathin a motor accident, SachinPilot didn’t have to campaignhard to take his dad’s seat inthe Lok Sabha, but the delimitationexercise which has foreverchanged its demographicsmeans that the young Sachincan no more take Dausa forgranted. The Gujjar-Meenadivide which saw severalflare-ups over the last fewmonths has made it evenworse for him.
Ditto for Jitin Prasada inShahjahanpur which was earlierrepresented by his father,the affable Jitendra Prasada,and Milind Deora, son of PetroleumMinister Murli Deora,who started his parliamentarycareer as the youngest memberof the 14th Lok Sabha.
Naveen Jindal’s task is a bittougher. The MP from Kurukshetrain Haryana who alsoinherited his father’s seat willhave the toughest battleagainst anti-incumbency. Ifthey do decide to contest, theywill have to seek the help ofexternal forces. Nothing to beashamed about that sinceRahul Gandhi himself mayneed help from theSamajwadi Party to retainhis Amethi seat.

Reluctant GenNext runners
IT WAS just a couple of monthsago that in its efforts to presentitself as a frontrunner, the BJPreleased its first list of candidatesfor the Lok Sabha election,though nobody, not even theChief Election Commissioner, issure when it will happen. Therest of the candidates, we weretold, would soon follow. But afterall the hoopla, the process seemsto have been put in limbo. Officially,the party says that a“Search Committee” headed bySushma Swaraj is in the processof identifying the right candidatesbut I gather that after thefiasco of the trust vote whichsaw as many as eight MPs of this“highly disciplined party with adifference” scooting to the otherside, the party leadership isfighting a case of nerves.
A top party functionaryadmitted to me that after thehappenings of July 22, nobodybut a handful at the very top isabove suspicion. Of its 135MPs, many are known to beseeking greener pastures andentering into deals with otherparties while several others aredestined to face the wrath ofanti-incumbency.
I am told that LK Advani andparty chief Rajnath Singh havefirmly told the party’s Gen Next,which is known to prefer thecomfort of the Rajya Sabha, toget ready for the real battle outsidethe cosy confines of thebackrooms.
In 2004, most of them shiedaway opting for the “biggerresponsibility” of managing thecampaign; others claimed theywere “denied” tickets thoughthe reality was they rejectedthem fearing defeat. Now thatthe Gen Next has proved itsincompetence in managing evena parliamentary vote, the wordhas gone out from the top tothe star backroom boys: Ticketsare yours for the taking, butif you don’t want them, thencome out of the closet and sayso. For those who opt out, noloss will be greater than that oftheir faces.

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