Monday, October 6, 2008

Snippets / Mail Today, October 6, 2008

BJP dumps its GenNext for GenEx

IN THE BJP, they are busy ringing in the old and ringing out the young. The announcement of Vijay Kumar Malhotra as its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi is proof that the party is falling back on its ageing leadership to pull a few rabbits out of the electoral hat. What then happens to the BJP’s famed Gen Next? Will they be content being merely shrewd backroom operators and ace election strategists, which some of them undoubtedly are. This is a distant cry from five years ago when the BJP unveiled a young and talented line- up which was toasted as the team of the future. But some of them don’t seem to have the stomach for a fight, while of the rest, Shivraj Chauhan and Vasundhara Raje remain.

In Karnataka, Ananth Kumar, once the rising star, has yielded space to the older BS Yedyurappa, in Uttarakhand, BC Khanduri who did not fight the election initially was roped in as chief minister. PK Dhumal remains its best bet in Himachal. In picking the 77- year- old Malhotra over several younger aspirants, the BJP is merely playing it safe. He is a veteran of 16 electoral contests, 15 of which he won. He was Delhi’s Chief Executive Councillor, equivalent to today’s Chief Minister, way back in 1967, when Lal Krishna Advani, four years older than him, was merely a corporator. Advani was born in Karachi, Malhotra in Lahore. So, the BJP has two Pakistanborn running for prime minister and chief minister. The party has surely come a long way.

No SEZ please, we are Congress. It’s official and brings to end months of speculation about the party’s stand on the issue of land acquisition for SEZ and IT parks. Farmers in Noida and adjoining areas have been involved in periodic skirmishes with the police for weeks now, demanding better compensation for land acquired by the Mayawati government. Typically, Mayawati responded with brutal police force. For quite some time now, Sonia Gandhi was said to have been keen to meet the farmers, but was dissuaded by her advisors. Congress- ruled states are among those where maximum land has been acquired for SEZs and her solidarity with farmers would send wrong signals, she was advised. That she threw caution to the wind and went ahead last week to address rallies essentially means two things: she intends to take Mayawati head on; and Vilasrao Deshmukh, YS Rajashekhara Reddy and Bhupinder Hooda will have to move a bit slow on SEZs.

TRUST Jayalalithaa to hit where it hurts. Though she has been ruthless in her attacks on the DMK and its leadership, she finds nothing wrong about filching a few points from Karunanidhi’s agenda in the forthcoming elections. Voters in Tamil Nadu will not only be electing 39 MPs but will also be queuing up at polling booths to elect a new government at Fort St George, and if the Iron Lady’s recent speeches and actions are anything to go by, she may well jettison some of her pet themes and embrace those that the DMK has espoused for long. The Tamil Eelam, for one. Jayalalithaa is among the few politicians on the Z+ category, having been on the LTTE’s hit list for more than two decades now, but her recent utterances about the Tamil Eelam should make many DMK bigwigs green with envy. Her sudden switch around has put both the Congress and the DMK, allies at the Centre but with varying approaches to the Tamil cause, on the defensive. And Karunanidhi must have more reasons to worry since she has successfully managed to wean regional heavyweights away from the DMK- led front in the state. First to join her was Vaiko who has thrown the considerable weight of the MDMK behind her.
With the powerful Vanniyars of the PMK led by S Ramadoss ditching the DMK, Jayalalithaa seems to be going from strength to strength. And though she gives signs of distancing herself from the BJP, it is clear that her stiff opposition to the Sethusamudram project has less to do with environmental reasons and more with winning over the Hindu votes. Add to these the twin issues of rising prices and terrorism, and the situation seems tailor- made for her to erase memories of the humiliation in 2004 when the AIADMK did not win even one of the 39 seats to the Lok Sabha.
Swami and friends
MORE ON inquiry commissions.

Does anyone now remember the Jain Commission which was supposed to look into the conspiracy that led to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Hardly likely. Then you are even less likely to remember the Multi Dimensional Monitoring Agency ( MDMA), set up to probe, well, the conspiracy behind the assassination and the alleged role of Godman Chandraswami and the LTTE in the former prime minister’s killing. Like Justice Liberhan, the MDMA, now in its tenth year, is nowhere nearer to solving the mystery than when it started out and has been getting one extension after another.
The MDMA functions directly under the CBI, which is handled by the Prime Minister’s Office and comprises, besides CBI, officers from the Revenue Department, Home Ministry, External Affairs Ministry, Military Intelligence plus the ubiquitous Research and Analysis Wing( RAW). The MDMA was set up in 1998 by then Home Minister LK Advani under sustained pressure from Congressmen who seethed with rage after the 6,000- page Jain Commission report held Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and the DMK responsible for actively aiding and abetting Rajiv Gandhi’s murderers.

The report had led to the Congress withdrawing support from the then IK Gujral- led United Front government in which the DMK was a partner. Strange that the same Congressmen don’t raise a finger these days despite the MDMA running around like a headless chicken. Not so strange actually, since the Congress needs the DMK more than the other way round. As for Chandraswami, whatever the dispensation at the Centre, he has enough friends to ensure that he goes scot free.

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