Monday, October 27, 2008

Snippets / Mail Today, October 27, 2008

IT’S BECOMING difficult of late to find anyone who has a good word for the incumbent Reserve Bank of India ( RBI) Governor. All previous governors, including the current Prime Minister, have pursued pragmatic monetary policies, always keeping in mind the political colour of the government at the Centre. But Dr M Subba Rao seems to have converted the RBI into an extension counter of the Finance Ministry.

He is seen as a follower of P Chidambaram. Rao was earlier finance secretary, so there is a perception that he was personally chosen by Chidambaram and doesn't act until he gets to know what’s on the minister’s mind. Even during the current financial turmoil, many find his delayed initiatives inexplicable. Those alas turned out to be too little and too late. Finance Minister Chidambaram has always refrained from interfering, but Dr Do- Little Rao is causing sleepless nights to those who had initially reposed confidence in him.

War within the EC
SADLY, while the Election Commission of India, which has even provided its expertise to conduct elections in other countries, is an institution we can be proud of, its top officials are involved in unseemly fratricide that we should be ashamed of. If the personal relationship among the three Commissioners including the Chief Election Commissioner is any indication, I can only deduce that the Commission is running at the mercy of God Almighty. CEC N Gopalswamy and Election Commissioners Naveen Chawla and MY Quereshi, all three from the IAS biradari, hardly communicate with each other directly.

They let their deputy commissioners or the official files do the talking. And it is this lack of any form of communication that led to the dates for the Jammu and Kashmir elections being delayed. This may have something to do with the fact that the commissioners have bid goodbye to the past practice of dividing work and states amongst themselves. This has led to piquant situations of all three commissioners often traveling to a particular place simultaneously, putting additional financial burden not only on the host government but also the Centre. Did someone say cost cutting?

IT WASN’T a serene Delhi that Manmohan Singh returned to on Saturday night. Equations within the UPA have become so precarious that there is not a single alliance partner who may not be thinking of reevaluating its continuance in the fold. The problems lie not just within the Congress but with the allies which are increasingly seen to be distancing themselves from the party on a variety of issues.

Thanks to a belligerent bunch of powerful ministers and party supremos, the UPA’s image is in tatters. DMK MPs have submitted their resignation to Karunanidhi protesting against the government’s inaction in Sri Lanka. Sharad Pawar turns a blind eye to Raj Thackeray’s antics in Mumbai because it suits him electorally prompting Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan to target their ire on the Congress- NCP coalition government in Maharashtra. New found friends from the Samajwadi Party never lose an opportunity to attack the Congress; even the lone Muslim Leaguer has gathered courage to criticise the government because he needs to win the coming polls from his Muslim majority constituency in Kerala. All of this raises the question: In the rare event of these parties sticking together, how would they go around seeking another mandate in the name of the leader and the government which they are attacking from dawn till dusk? My reading is they will and they have found a way. Lalu, Pawar, Karunanidhi will praise Manmohan and seek votes in the name of his leadership and blame all ills on a handful of Congress Cabinet ministers and the party’s chief ministers. At the end of the counting day, if they can all cobble up a working majority, the mudslinging of the past will be quickly forgotten and everything will be hunky dory in the Cabinet once again. Ideology be damned.

Watt a high voltage team on the PM’s plane
THE SUCCESS or otherwise of a prime minister depends to a large extent on his A- team. And Manmohan could not have hoped for a better one. There was proof of this during the tour which was choreographed and directed by two men. They are fondly known as Kutti and Kuki. To the uninitiated, Kutti is T K Nair, the PM’s principal secretary and Kuki is Shiv Shankar Menon, the foreign secretary. In the absence of the all powerful National Security Advisor M K Narayanan who along with the two makes up the high voltage Mallu troika in South Block, Kutti and Kuki had their roles cut out. As we lifted off from Delhi for Tokyo, Kutti and Kuki dropped by in the plane’s media section for a background briefing about the five days that lay ahead. This came as something of a surprise. The nature of Kuki’s job in the Foreign Office implies that he interacts with the media on occasions big and small but Kutti is known to be a recluse whose interactions with the public are mostly limited to temple festivals and art exhibition inaugurations. But throughout the trip, it was the low profile Kutti who took all questions relating to business, commerce and financial issues while Kuki dealt with the diplomacy part with the usual aplomb. Again, it was Kutti who was by the side of the Prime Minister as he met with corporate honchos from both Japan and India. I suppose it takes a special type of DNA to deal with business leaders who are more bothered about bottom lines. While the top corporate leaders were assessing the possible returns on every hour spent in the Japanese capital, the inseparable twins of the UPA establishment from Kerala were ensuring that their boss got the maximum returns on his investment. If the headlines back home are any indication, the prime minister should toast them with something stronger than mineral water.

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