Monday, September 8, 2008

Snippets /Mail Today, September 08, 2008

FOR YEARS, the late Kamlapati Tripathi, UP chief minister, union minister in the Indira and Rajiv Gandhi regimes and Congress president lived right across 10 Janpath at No 9 but it was more than the wide avenue that kept its occupants at arms length. Relations were really frosty, particularly during Rajiv’s time. But last week, the party’s top brass gathered in homage to commemorate his 103rd birth anniversary. They even got Karan Singh to go up on stage and recite a few Sanskrit slokas which wasn’t a bad things considering that it’s one thing that he is really good at. It’s surprising how people who barely remembered him on his centenary three years ago suddenly discovered virtues in him. Actually it is no surprise. With UP CM Mayawati gobbling up the Congress’ traditional Brahmin vote bank, Congressmen think Tripathi’s brahiminical credentials would do. Panditji must surely have stopped turning in his grave.

Disaster and lack of direction

HOW QUICKLY the times— and our responses— change? On December 26, 2004 one of the worst natural disasters ever struck shores as far apart as Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu and Bali in Indonesia in the form of the tsunami.
Thousands perished in India, lakhs across south and Far East Asia. Yet the response— of the government, NGOs and ordinary citizens— was swift and exemplary.
India showed it can not only take care of itself, but even sent ships with food, medicines and clothes to Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia.
As Indians we felt proud. It’s been more than three weeks since a disaster that was waiting to happen for a long long time, happened. We still can’t put a finger on the numbers that have died, but lakhs have been rendered homeless and each passing day is only a reminder that things are going from bad to worse.
We have a National Disaster Management Authority( NDMA) which functions under the Prime Minister’s Office and is headed by former Chief of Army Staff Nirmal Vij, and a National Disaster Management Centre( NDMC) under the Home Ministry. They sent ships to Bali but couldn’t spare a few hundred boats for the flood struck. You cant stop a natural disaster, but if these agencies had been upto their task, the sufferings could have been contained. Is it a case of too many cooks spoiling? You only have to look up the NDMC website to learn how inept they are.
There’s plenty there about ministerial conferences, national workshops held and even a section under the head “ Foreign Visits” which gives a detailed list of who attended what programme on disaster management in which country and when.
I tried to find out what the NDMC was doing in Bihar and found a report of that read like a babu’s compilation of clippings on the floods from the mornings newspapers duly translated into bureaucratese. Such a shame.

YES, WE all know that elections will soon be upon us and all of you are doing a great job and deserve to be back in power, but do you have to badger us every waking moment to tell us about the great deeds that all of you have been doing? My question is to my many friends in the BJP. The party office and its leaders have become hyperactive and the stream of SMSs that start in the morning turn into a flood of e- mails and fax messages telling journos like us about the day in the life of its leaders. Problem is, there are too many wannabe leaders and they all want you to know what the day meant for them. In the Congress, things are organized. They have one person who does all the talking on any given day. But in the BJP, the media cell handled by a few minions is constantly under pressure from its many leaders to send out SMSs and press releases to the media. I remember once three statements came to me within an hour on the same or similar topics: One was from Advani’s office, one from party president Rajnath Singh’s and third was the party’s official statement. Sometimes, they can really infuriate. As when an Urgent Press Release tells us that “ His Excellency, The Ambassador of Burkino Faso today called on the BJP Leader Mr X” and discussed matters of mutual interest. Which actually leaves you wondering: Is there a Hindu vote bank in Burkina Faso?

Congress at wit’s end over farmers

IT’S BEEN a while since the Congress yielded the main Opposition space to the Trinamool in West Bengal and with time, the Grand Old Party seems to be slipping from obscurity to oblivion. The impasse over the Tata plant in Singur afforded the party a chance to bounce back politically, but save for a march to the Nano factory by a few hundred khadi clad, as against the thousands and lakhs that Mamata mobilizes, the Congress remains a spectator.
Besides the moribund party set up in the state, this exposes the confusion that has gripped the party over the issue of SEZs. In the last four years, the UPA Government has sanctioned nearly 300 SEZs, most of them in Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, all Congress- ruled states. As such it can hardly afford to make noises about farmers’ land being grabbed. Yet politics in the heartland demands that it must now start selectively opposing these. In Uttar Pradesh, it hopes to take on the virtually unassailable Mayawati over land that is being acquired for her pet project, the Noida- Varanasi expressway. Congress leaders even persuaded Sonia Gandhi to lead the protests, but Mayawati in turn taunted them by daring them to hold similar protests at Chakri Dadri where a private power monolith has acquired hundreds of acres of farmland to set up a 3800 megawatt plant. The company has a good rapport with the the UPA’s new found ally who, as we all know, now controls the government, and the consensus in the party seems to be that the risk simply isn’t worth it. So, despite the Rs 60,000 crore bounty to farmers, the party seems to be at its wit’s end, for the moment.

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