Chinese will have to grin and bear it
AT LAST, we have proof, if indeed it were needed, that Sonia Gandhi has learnt what most of our countrymen barring Left and other card holders have known for long — the Chinese are not to be trusted. In 1964, two years after the Chinese attacked India, Nehru died, more out of heartbreak than heart attack.
Rajiv Gandhi and Deng Xiaoping recorded the longest handshake between two heads of government in 1988, but Rajiv preferred to play safe. Reports about the royal snub from 10 Janpath to the visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi who spent half a day waiting for a nod for a courtesy call on Sonia before embarking on a sightseeing trip of Delhi have been duly denied.
Sonia is said have had no objections to meeting Yang. Understandable, since the Chinese had serenaded her twice in the past four years, the last just a month ago when Beijing invited Sonia, and son Rahul, to attend the Olympics opening ceremony without as much as checking with Manmohan Singh about his dates.
This is something that has riled the Indian establishment which believes relations should be on a government to government basis as against the Chinese policy of party to party.
So the establishment hit back. Despite Sonia’s eagerness to meet Yang, our mandarins, by now seething at the Chinese deceit at the NSG, persuaded her against it. The Chinese don’t take such rebukes lightly. At the moment though, they have no option but to grin and bear it. With India- China trade set to touch US$ 100 billion by 2011, they need our market as much as we need nuclear fuel.
AMONG an army of Non Performing Assets in the Union Cabinet, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Commerce Minister Kamal Nath stand out. For the nth year running, revenues have crossed targets while exports continue to be on the up and up. So why are the two at each other’s throat? Recently, an exasperated Kamal Nath shot off a letter to Manmohan Singh about the export target of US$ 200 billion set for this year which is a 28 per cent jump over the last. Ambitious, you’d say, considering the global slowdown? Yet, he is confident it can be achieved with the “ support of every arm of the government. Unfortunately, a number of issues are still pending clearance with the Ministry of Finance”. While the Prime Minister goes through the details in the annexures that the Commerce Minister has attached with his letter, Chidambaram has promptly denied putting any hurdles.
Hate Modi but love his babus
IT CAME as no surprise to me when the government recently appointed Ashok Chawla as the new economic affairs secretary. The elevation of Chawla ( no relation) has only confirmed my belief that while the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi may be taboo for the UPA Government, it considers his officers prize catches.
Modi is a ruthless and obsessive administrator, but if his government is known for its cando- will- do reputation, it has got a lot to with the highly talented group of bureaucrats that advises him. Chawla, a 1972 batch officer of the Gujarat cadre is one such. Less than one and a half years ago, he was appointed the Civil Aviation Secretary and two months back also given additional charge of the I& B Ministry upon the retirement of the incumbent.
The cardinal principle of Manmohan Singh’s style of governance has been: Change no ministers, change no secretaries. While periodic Cabinet reshuffles were the order in almost all previous governments, Manmohan has rarely tinkered with the set up. In the case of bureaucrats, when incumbents retire, the appointment of the seniormost as the successor is a formality that the government has diligently observed. Manmohan seems to have made an exception in Chawla’s case, since there are officers senior to him. I have it on reliable authority that the government has zeroed in on at least a handful of officers from the Gujarat cadre for appointment at the Centre.
This is in addition to the couple of serving or retired officers that the government has poached or tried to poach in the last few months. It wanted to appoint Srikumar, a DGP in the Gujarat Police who earned a name for his frequent skirmishes with Modi, as a member of the Central Information Commission. LK Advani put his foot down, saying human rights activists in khaki have no place in the CIC.
HAS ANYONE seen of late someone who goes by the name of Nitish Kumar? He is the Chief Minister of Bihar, large parts of which still remain under floodwaters and where millions of people have been displaced as a result of the swirling Kosi river.
Humour in Bihar, black at best, has it that as a member of the Legislative Council, as against the Assembly, Kumar does not have a constituency and therefore prefers to sit in Patna and oversee the relief operations.
This is one of the advantages of the Upper House. A terrible calamity can strike your place of birth or the village you hail from but you know you don’t have to go there to seek reelection. All you need to do is muster the necessary numbers among MLAs. Why blame Manmohan Singh alone for not seeking election to the Lok Sabha and preferring the Rajya Sabha when increasingly politicians are showing a preference for the Upper House? Even the unassailable Mayawati who ensured victory for 206 of her BSP candidates opted out of the popular elections and chose to be in the Vidhan Parishad.
Only six states in India have a bicameral legislature. Andhra Pradesh which abolished the Upper House during NTR’s regime in 1985 reintroduced it last year and the Badal government in Punjab now says it will restore the Parishad. I suspect more states may go the same way. It will give the loyalists a designation. And ensure chief ministers don’t get travel weary.