Saturday, August 30, 2008

Kashmir Crisis/ India Today

Villains of the Valley

It is a war within and the culprits are a Government whose abiding philosophy is minority appeasement, a political class with no sense of the nation and secessionists who continue to be tolerated by a soft state. ...Read ....

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Interview with Shivraj Patil/India Today

'Delhi government is sitting on Afzal’s mercy petition'

With Kashmir on the boil and internal security in a shambles, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil is the man in the hot seat. Weak laws and weaker intelligence networks are compounded by a lack of will to combat terror. And as terrorists strike at will in places far and wide, everyone is blaming Patil for the mess that his ministry itself is in. He spoke to me for a special interview on Headlines Today.
Seedhi Baat with Mehbooba Mufti/Aajtak

'PDP not taken in confidence on Amarnath'

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti on Seedhi Baat says Mufti Mohammed did everything to protect the social fabric and maintain normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir.
Watch video Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Power & Politics/Mail Today

WHY NOT? Certainly.” You can now put to rest all speculation about who will lead the Congress Party in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. At 24 Akbar Road last week, asked whether Manmohan Singh would be declared the party’s prime ministerial candidate before the polls, Sonia uttered those three words. Read ....

Monday, August 25, 2008

Kashmir Crisis/ India Today, September 1, 2008


Villains of the Valley
It is a war within and the culprits are a Government whose abiding philosophy is minority appeasement, a political class with no sense of the nation and secessionists who continue to be tolerated by a soft state.

Let there be no dispute over this simple fact: India is being banished from the Valley of Kashmir. Separatism is the mildest of words one can use to describe the soaring hate, which continues to be further accentuated by the flags of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan fluttering over erupting streets.

How certain countries colonise without firing a single shot! Or more aptly perhaps, how certain countries allow emotional secession with such stoic detachment! Shocking? Not to anyone in South Block. Not yet.

You may say this is the moment for all honourable men to come together for the sake of the Nation Endangered. To the shame of us all, in India of the moment, honour and nation are incompatible. It is not politically viable to be honourable.

And the nation is negotiable when immediate political dividends are higher. Nothing illustrates this truism better than Jammu and Kashmir, where India has vanished from the minds of those politicians who swear by Kashmiriyat and other such sonorous abstractions.

A divided Kashmir shows how far we have come in disowning the nation. If in the Valley it has exposed the communal instincts of the so-called mainstream politicians and provided an easy cause to professional separatists, in Delhi it has brought to the fore the UPA Government’s art of selective secularism—an art that has to be perfected on the eve of elections.

It is as if the entire political class needs the prism of religion to see a Kashmir they can comprehend. They have set the stage for those for whom India is only a second thought to play out their secessionist agenda.

And don’t blame it on God. Blame it on men who misread, mislead and misrepresent. A brief history of the Amarnath land dispute will tell us that much. The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) comes into existence in 2001, when Farooq Abdullah is the chief minister.

In 2005, the then governor S.K. Sinha, as chairman of the board, writes to chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed asking for land to accommodate the rising number of pilgrims. The forest minister passes an order allotting 40 hectares of land to SASB for temporary use.

While the government awaits clearance from various agencies, someone moves the high court for speedy allotment of land to the board. The court asks the state Government to permit the SASB to develop the forest land for the Amarnath pilgrims. Following an appeal by the state, a division bench of the court amends the earlier order stating that the use of the land “would remain limited for the duration of the yatra”.

Srinagar erupts in anti-India furyNothing much happens for the next three years. In June this year, the Ghulam Nabi Azad cabinet approves unanimously “the diversion of forest land measuring 39.88 hectares for raising prefabricated structures only for camping purposes of pilgrims without going in for construction of permanent structures”.

The order also makes it clear that “the proprietary status of the land shall remain unchanged” and it will be “returned to the Forest Department when it is no longer required by the SASB”. A deceptive calm follows, and it lasts just two days.

Then begins the campaign, quite incendiary in nature, and it goes like this: the Hindus are coming, it’s cultural invasion, it’s demographic sabotage, the land will be used for permanent settlement…The state Government, on its part, fails to convince the Valley that there is no transfer of ownership— a fatal communication gap.

The separatists—or secessionists?—have been waiting for a provocation. They get one and nobody bothers to read the fine print. Such anti-India veterans and wholesale merchants of hate as Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq hit the streets and declare war on the country which still indulges them.
National Conference President Omar Abdullah and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, driven by the fear of losing their political space in the Valley to the Hurriyat, join the anti-national movement and demand the revocation of the order.

Mehbooba threatens withdrawal of support to the Government if the order is not revoked by June 30. Azad succumbs. Sinha has been replaced by N.N. Vohra, a former home secretary and a favourite of the prime minister. The Congress high command—read 10 Janpath—decides to repeat what it is traditionally good at: minority appeasement.

Mobs rule the streets in the stateAnd it has a trust vote to win in Parliament and every vote counts, including Mehbooba’s and Omar’s. Governor Vohra becomes a servile instrument of his political employer and the order is revoked.

Nothing more has been required for the emotional as well as cultural Balkanisation of the state. The economic blockade initiated by the protagonists of the Amarnath cause has only helped the mobilisation of anti-India—which means pro-Pakistan— sentiment in the Valley.

No nationalist— not to speak of the Government—has come forward to the rescue of India. The most visible flag in Srinagar has the Islamic crescent on it. Suddenly, Mirwaiz, Geelani, Yasin Malik and Omar are united in their cause.

When they mention “New Delhi”, it sounds like an imperial foreign capital. It’s the cry of azadi all over again. The secessionists, whom “New Delhi” lets flourish in the Valley, now demand the release of all political prisoners and demilitarisation of the state.

Kashmir is falling apart, and it seems the Centre cannot hold. Or short-term political expediency has triumphed over longterm national interest. The tragedy of the Valley cannot be reduced to the size of that anodyne comedy called Shivraj Patil.

Then he also happens to be the home minister of India, and going by what he says—which is as revealing as Bushisms—and does, we still don’t know what his idea of internal security is. He should be doing something more tolerable. And for the National Security Adviser, Kashmir is not a favourite destination.

Even the nationalism of the nationalists has a political subtext. BJP leader L.K. Advani may be right when he says that “the problem in Jammu and Kashmir today is not Hindu versus Muslim; nor is it even Jammu region versus the Valley. It is essentially nationalists versus the separatists.”

The Saffronites, by championing the cause of the shrine board, have turned the crisis into a real estate dispute between the aggrieved Hindu and the appeased Muslim. The reality is much more frightening: the real estate at stake is bigger than those 40 hectares. The territorial ambition of the secessionists— what else does azadi mean?— has made Kashmir a disputed land, at least for a section of its inhabitants.

A Government that governs by communal appeasement and a political class that betrays the nation for the expansion of the votebank have only added to the force of hate. It’s a war within, and those who have the mandate to keep the unity of India intact are supplying the ammunition. The villains of the Valley are the enemies of the Republic as well.

Interview: Shivraj Patil/India Today, September 01, 2008


'Delhi government is sitting on Afzal’s mercy petition'

With Kashmir on the boil and internal security in a shambles, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil is the man in the hot seat. Weak laws and weaker intelligence networks are compounded by a lack of will to combat terror. And as terrorists strike at will in places far and wide, everyone is blaming Patil for the mess that his ministry itself is in. He spoke to me for a special interview on Headlines Today. Excerpts:

Q. When do you expect a solution to the Amarnath problem?
A. Well. You are asking for a timeframe and when the matters are related to the emotions of the people, we should try to solve them as quickly as possible. But it becomes very difficult to give a timeframe. I think we will be able to solve this matter in a very short time.
Q. They are hoisting the Pakistani flag in Kashmir. Both sides are getting emotional, attacking each other. You have been trying to bring them together. Where's the hitch?
A. The hitch is in the emotions. It is in the philosophy that some people adopt. The hitch is in thinking that by dividing and by defaming others, we can become more powerful and more effective. The hitch is there.
Q. You mean the divisive tendency of political parties?
A. Not only political parties, but whosoever thinks like that. There can be others too who do not attach importance to the fact that we should not say or show such things that will divide the country.
Q. Didn't the governments at the local and central levels fail to anticipate events?
A. I am not sitting in judgment. It is for the people to judge.
Q. The UPA lost power because of this one problem. So many people have died, so there has to be someone who is the villain of the show.
A. The UPA lost the government in order to see that emotions were not affected and unity was not disturbed. You should appreciate that.
Q. Ghulam Nabi Azad allotted the forest land and then withdrew it. You lost power because your own supporters withdrew support.
A. I am not going to blame my supporters or my opponents or those who are neither supporters nor opponents.
Q. But as home minister, you must be concerned. You must be trying to find a midway.
A. Yes, that is true. Understanding the other side's point of view and getting ready to give something and take something is really very important. That is exactly what we are trying to do. And we have been saying that we would like to accept a formula that is acceptable to both the sides, the people living in Kashmir and the people in Jammu.
Q. Parties should be condemning the Pakistani flag being hoisted in Srinagar.
A. By condemning, you get the pleasure of having abused somebody but you don't solve the problem. I am not in the process of condemning others; I am in the process of understanding others. And trying to solve the problem in whatever fashion it is possible or whatever means is possible.
Q. L.K. Advani has sent you a letter suggesting some way out.
A. Advani is the Leader of the Opposition and has been in the government too. We don't take his letter lightly and will examine it and reply. And also discuss this matter with him and try to see how this problem can be solved.
Q. You led an all-party delegation to the state and spent two days there. Do you think there is a possibility of bringing the two sides together?
A. I think nothing is impossible. You may examine the agitations that were started in the neighboring states, maybe Rajasthan, Mumbai, UP, Bihar. Agitations do take place and we shall have to solve the problems, but we cannot say this is the timeframe, do it quickly. That is not the way. We shall have to take everybody on board, everybody to agree to the formula, everybody to agree to the agreement.
Q. The attempted march across the LoC is a dangerous phenomenon.

A. This is a disturbing phenomenon and I do think that if some people are doing this probably they do not understand the implication. But at the same time, a majority of the people living in J&K do not appreciate it.
Q. But there is a feeling that somebody is encouraging them from across the border.
A. Again it is a blame game. A person who is in the government should not start talking loosely. We are trying to avoid this. We have people who are examining things and expressing their views because if I say something or the other, tomorrow you will ask how I could make that statement. I am not going to do that kind of a thing.
Q. The use of the land row as an emotional issue should not be allowed.
A. If emotions are aroused, we should see that they are calmed. And then we will ask them to consider this issue in a manner that is helpful to both sides, to everybody.
Q. When the land was allotted, there was an agitation in the Valley. You came under pressure and cancelled the allotment. The people in Jammu got an impression that by agitating a concession could be extracted.
A. Do not say that we are doing it under pressure or we are doing it because we are favouring somebody or opposing somebody. We are doing it to see that peace and tranquility is maintained. You should not forget that in Mizoram, during Rajiv Gandhi's time, the Congress was in power.
The chief minister of the Congress party was asked to resign and the reigns of the government were given to those who were agitating. And today you will find that Mizoram is one of the most peaceful states in the country, and that's because of that kind of an understanding. You would not say that we succumbed to pressure there and what we did was wrong. It was not wrong.
Q. There was no firing then. Like Nagaland happened. Rajiv Gandhi did so many things.
A. That kind of approach did help. That means the approach that tries to take everybody's views into considerations helps. That's exactly what we are trying to do.
Q.. In the Amarnath case, do you agree that there is a need for accommodation and sacrifice to find a resolution?
A. I agree there is a need for accommodation. It is necessary to understand each others point of view and evolve a formula that satisfies the demands of both the sides to a great extent. That kind of give and take and understanding is required. And this is exactly what we are trying to do in order to create an understanding between the people holding different views.
Q. But what's happening is that nobody is listening, both in Jammu and in Kashmir.
A. Maybe. You might have seen what happens in other states when you deal with such things patiently. You have seen agitations taking place in different parts of the country. For how many days or months do these agitations continue? In recent times, you must have seen agitations in the neighborhood of Delhi. So you don't have to rush and do things in a manner that creates more problems than solve them.
Q. Pakistan has been trying to divide Jammu & Kashmir. One of your alliance partners, Mehbooba Mufti, is threatening to walk across the border.
A. Wise people always try to understand each other.
Q. Do you think that Pakistan is responsible for the trouble?
A. You are all the time asking me to blame this man or that man.
Q. I am not asking you, the whole country believes so.
A. You believe whatever you think is proper. Don't ask me, a member of the government, to say certain things.
Q. What plans do you have to control terrorism?
A. We are a county of 112 crore. The police-population ratio is adverse and we have to correct it. Our police are trained to control mob, traffic, to investigate, but not to fight a battle against terrorists. We have to train them for that. Then you need to give them the equipment they require. In other countries, it is the defence forces that are fighting against terrorism.
Q. Are existing laws enough to handle terrorism?
A. The existing provisions are enough to help the police discharge their duty. If there is something that has to be done to change it slightly, there shall be no difficulty.
Q. But the state governments of Andhra (ruled by the Congress), Uttar Pradesh (ruled by the BSP) and some BJP states have asked for certain laws. Don't you think they should be given permission?
A. The existing laws are enough to control terrorist activities and protect human rights. In a country like ours, there are two things to see: one that terrorist or criminal activities are controlled, and the other that innocent people are not put in difficulty and their human rights are protected. There was a time when everybody was talking about human rights. Now everybody has forgotten about human rights and is talking about this thing (terrorism). We should be striking a balance between the two.
Q. In the name of human rights, POTA was withdrawn. But TADA was also misused by previous governments.
A. The same people who opposed TADA and demanded its withdrawal brought in POTA. So why then did they oppose TADA in the first place?
Q. They opposed TADA because they felt it was being misused.
A. Exactly. The same thing happened to the other.
Q. So basically, you are saying that the existing laws are enough. Therefore, the laws asked for by the states shall not be passed.
A. I am not saying that. But until any intelligent person convinces me that this has to be done, I will not.
Q. So far you are not convinced.
A. I am not.
Q. Let me come to Afzal Guru now. The Supreme Court has upheld his death penalty, but his mercy petition is pending with you.
A. It's not pending with me, it's pending with the state government.
Q. The Delhi government?
A. Yes. I am not the boss of the elected Government of Delhi. We are waiting for their reply.
Q. What is the procedure?
A. When the final judgment is given by SC, pronouncing that the person will be hanged, if anybody files a petition to the President, the petition is sent to the home ministry. The ministry sends the petition to the state government. The state government takes a view and sends it back to the home ministry, which sends its views to the President. Then the President takes a view on it.
Q. So in this case, the state government is taking its own time.
A. Yes
Q. What about Naxalism? In the first Seedhi Baat you told me that the threat to India is from economic extremism.
A. The most affected state in the country today is Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh is not governed by the party to which I belong, but I do not blame the state government or the chief minister. We have given nearly 15,000 men to Chhattisgarh, we have given 35,000 men and officers to the Naxal-affected states. We have given helicopters and armed vehicles.
Q. These are not used effectively?
A. We have given them, and they shall have to use it. You have to understand that these economic issues are not solved by using the gun. You have to find economic solutions. If there are social issues, then we need social solutions. So social, economic, police and policy-related solutions have to go together. And we cannot ask the state to do it.
Q. You are talking about Chhattisgarh?
A. I am not talking only about Chhattisgarh. I am talking about all the states. The Andhra Pradesh government brought down Naxalite activities by 71 per cent. I am not taking the credit for that. The credit goes to the state. We have been helping them. And those who are just blaming us are not taking into consideration all these factors, the Constitutional position, the kind of help given to them, the kind of money given to them, the kind of policies we have made.
Q. Would you say that Naxalites and terrorists are getting together to create problems?
A. Yes of course, terrorism is a kind of philosophy propounded by some persons who feel that democracy does not help, the economic system does not help, the social system does not help and things have to be changed not by the ballot box but by the bullet. That is a philosophy with which we and the majority of the people do not agree. Out of 112 crore people, 99 per cent are peace-loving.
Q. There is an impression that there is no proper co-ordination between the Centre and state intelligence agencies.
A. You have to understand that we have RAW for external intelligence, IB for domestic and the CID and the special branches in the states. If state intelligence is weak, there is little we can do except to ask them to improve it. Of course, we are giving them funds to modernise.
Q. The states need to upgrade their intelligence.
A. Not only that, they shall have to provide more funds in their budget.
Q: Is there a need for one centralised agency for intelligence purposes?
A. Yes, we have proposed that but the states are not agreeing. Even if I have to send two policemen to a state, I can't do it without their permission. It will definitely help the states act in better coordination.
Q. If there was one agency, you would have been able to tackle things more effectively.
A. I am not of that view. But it will definitely help the governments solve their problem because a man was living in one state, acting in another and hiding in a third state.
Q. The arrests in Ahmedabad blasts have been a major breakthrough.
A. I am not taking credit for this; they have done it. Police from several states acted jointly to arrest the suspects.
Q: Don't you think the Ahmedabad model is the way ahead?
A. I have not criticized the model. But you are trying to get some kudos for them. If you'll be happy I'll give you. I told you that in Malegaon they have done it, in Mumbai they have done it, in Banaras they have done it. If you want I can give you a list of cases where they have done it. And chargesheets have been filed and the people who have been arrested are not arrested in their states. Somebody has been arrested on the border of Bangladesh and Nepal. They have done well. We are happy that they have succeeded.
Q. What is the way forward to tackling terrorism?
A. The way forward is doing economic justice, and then being all the time vigilant that terrorism does not take advantage and then preparing our forces to cope up with them using modern weapons and modern technology.

ASK PRABHU / AUGUST 25, 2008

Is BSP chief Mayawati India's 'Barack Obama'?
Whose status are you trying to raise? Obama's or Mayawati's? By the way, Mayawati has won the confidence of around 200 million people of Uttar Pradesh as against a little over 300 million of the US who are yet to make up their minds about Obama.

-Asked by Akhil akhilmehra987@gmail.com

Why is the condition of roads in India so horrible?
Poor quality of material used for construction of pavements and roads coupled with corruption are converting roads into potholes.
Your views on national issues seem to be driven by some ideology; these are not from an independent analyst.
Yes. I am committed to India and Indian ideology.
Manmohan Singh has been made to face the odd music of 61years of the Centre's misrule in Jammu and Kashmir. I am afraid he will be made a scapegoat for the liquidation of India that we inherited from the British rule. Please comment.
The British left India 61 years ago.
V.N. Gadgil had said long back that the Congress party will be destroyed under Sonia Gandhi's leadership. Don't you think it is precisely happening now?
Poor Vithal Gadgil, a great friend of mine, had a great sense of humour.
Do you know much about Hindu mythology and the saints of India? Do you accept the law of Karmic destiny? Have you read the Bhagavad Gita, Yog Vashishtha, Panchdashi or Vichar Sagar? May god give wisdom to you and bless you.
Thank you very much for your kind wishes.
You have called a spade a spade in the article Villains of the Valley and showed that you care for truth. Psuedo-secularism is killing India's interests. Why don't you keep on writing such good articles again and again?
Thank you very much. As a journalist, I will continue doing what is good for journalism.
Can you do something to improve the standard of boxing and wrestling in the country?
We can cover them and encourage them.
China has been pushing the Han people into Tibet, Pakistan is pushing their people in the PoK. Should India do the same to change the demographic balance in J&K?
Your suggestion is dangerous.
One third of world's poor lives in India. Around 40 million earn less than $1.25 per day and 83 million less than $2 per day. When will India wipe out such inequality and stop adopting policies that favour a handful of capitalist businessmen?
India does need an economic policy which will reduce inequalities much faster than what is being witnessed now.
I would like to appreciate you for the article Villains of the Valley; it was not only bold but also thought-provoking. What is the punishment for these villains?
Some of them are politicians and they can be punished by the people only.
What will be Chiranjeevi's prospects in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections?
If I go by the massive response he got at his rally, I see a second NTR in the making.
Why doesn't the government ban political parties from calling bandhs? Why can't the Supreme Court ban bandhs or strikes?
You cannot ban any peaceful expression of dissent against policies of the government or any other act which people consider discriminatory or bad for them.
Do you have an accredited journalist like P Sainath to cover farmers' suicides in the country?
We have many credible and knowledgeable correspondents who are capable of covering such tragic events whenever they come to our notice.
The CRPF opens fire on peaceful rallies in the Valley, but becomes a mute spectator in Jammu. Why?
If you go by the number of people killed, I don't find much difference.
You said, "First-hand knowledge is always better than second or third-hand knowledge" when asked about ISRO's manned mission to moon. What will the scientists do with the knowledge? Isn't it just a space race of no use?
If I accept your argument, then why do students appearing for exams read different books?


Isn't Mamata Banerjee trying to gain political mileage over Singur rather than sincerely taking up the issue of farmers?
No politician takes up a cause unless there are votes for him or her in it. But, Mamata has, for the first time, chosen to fight for a cause which looks like a winning formula for her.
-Asked by Prakash prakashan_vayalapra@yahoo.co.in

Wasn't it the murder of democracy in J&K when the Centre dismissed Sheikh Abdullah's govt in 1953? When no elections were held from 1953 to 1975, how did the legislators enact laws during that period?
Why are you talking about history?
Your show Seedhi Baat has become monotonous and stale. When will you stop showing it?
Since you are still watching it, I hope to continue it for some more time and make it more interesting for you.
India Today is full of glamour and glitz and has no proper content. Is this how you run a magazine?
If Mayawati, Amar Singh, Prakash Karat, L.K. Advani and Manmohan Singh are part of the glamour world, I wonder from where you learnt your vocabulary.
Why don't you cover burning issues in south India?
There are no burning problems in South India which we have ignored.
Why isn't the Congress-led government working to control Inflation?
The government is trying to contain inflation because it wants to win an election.
Why doesn't the PM give us a current status report on the country?
I don't know what you mean by status report.
Manmohan Singh said that Advani was sleeping when terrorists attacked the Parliament. Now what is his home minister doing when Kashmir is burning?
The Home Minister is busy chairing various committees and panels constituted by the Prime Minister to resolve the issue.
Why can't we have a more responsive public litigation system so that we are not befooled by companies minting money at our expense?
Public Interest Litigation has often been misused by various individuals and even corporates for settling personal scores against their rivals.
In your cover story (September 1, 2008), why did you exclude Jawaharlal Nehru, Hari Singh and Sheikh Abdullah as the real villains, whose indecisiveness and inaction 62 years ago gave rise to the present imbroglio in Kashmir?
We are talking of the present and not the past. History need not be reported all the time.
Why did India Today not announce any incentives for our Olympic heroes?
As a media organization, we don't indulge in such schemes. It is our job to recognize them by writing about their achievements and that is a bigger incentive than any amount of money can get them.
Is it fair that students from other parts of India cannot seek admissions and appointments in J&K, whereas the Kashmiri separatists and their supporters can seek admissions and even buy property anywhere in the country?
The state of J&K has a special constitution under Article 370 which was given as a gift by the Indian Parliament and the Indian Constituent Assembly to the people of Kashmir in view of its voluntary merger with the Indian Union.
How would the patrolling soldiers of the Indian Army have felt when protesters shouted slogans like "Bharat teri maut aayi, Lashkar aye, Lashkar aye" in front of them at Srinagar on August 23?
They must have felt depressed but they could not fire as the protestors were peaceful and just expressing their feelings against India.
Are RSS members barred from becoming IAS/IFS officers?
Officially, there is no ban on RSS affiliation of any candidate who appears in competitive examinations for All India Services.
The Centre pleads in the Supreme Court for extending the ban on SIMI as a terrorist organization whereas the UPA allies Laloo Prasad Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and Mulayam Singh Yadav extend political and moral support to SIMI. How do you reconcile?
That's the magic formula for keeping the UPA alive.
Was Abhinav Bindra's achievement as the first Indian to win Olympic gold in an individual capacity not enough for you to do a cover story on him in India Today?
Unfortunately, we had an Independence Day special issue which was planned a few months in advance.

Was Abhinav Bindra's achievement as the first Indian to win Olympic gold in an individual capacity not enough for you to do a cover story on him in India Today?
Unfortunately, we had an Independence Day special issue which was planned a few months in advance.
Are there no brave men like Sardar Patel to rule India and solve the Kashmir issue and terrorism, once and for all?
There is no political will to resolve the Kashmir issue. We have powerful leaders, but none with the courage to do what Patel did. It is lack of courage, not leadership.
I am a 15-year-old girl participating in a debate: 'India can push for growth ignoring inflation that affects most Indians'. Please help me with some points to substantiate my claim that growth should run parallel to rising inflation.
Economists are divided as usual on the models of economic development ever since the US became a super power; the economists believe that supply-side economics is better for faster economic growth as it creates massive supply of goods and services and generates employment.
When will we see Gauri Khan (Shah Rukh Khan's wife) in Seedhi Baat?
Whenever her dear husband gives her permission to speak. She may get more publicity than King Khan.
What is the future of industrial development in West Bengal?
It is directly related to the future of the CPM. Marx, Marxists and markets cannot co-exist.
Can vote-bank politics be done away with if the government ruling at the Centre gets an eight-year tenure?
In the current political scenario, it is difficult to predict the survival of a government in a five-year term.
How can I approach the high command in the Congress to complain against a non-performing Congress MLA?
Address you letter to Mrs Sonia Gandhi, AICC president, 10 Janpath, New Delhi-110001.
Can't a legislation be enacted to recall elected representatives if they work against the interests of the voters?
According to the Constitution, only Parliament can enact such a legislation.
People living in smaller cities have started dreaming big. Please comment.
Great news. Good for India, because India lives in small cities and villages.
What if military training is made mandatory for the youth in India?
In a huge country like India, nothing can be made mandatory.
Should we educate children involved in child labour and provide employment to their parents?
There are various child welfare schemes run by the Centre and the state governments.
Why doesn't the government take any action against Arundhati Roy for her anti-national comments on Kashmir?
Our government believes in excessive democracy and freedom of speech and thought.
Why did Arundhati Roy advocate freedom for Kashmir while addressing a meeting in the Valley?
As you know, she is a writer of fiction, and she makes money from writing books.
Shouldn't the central government cut salaries of bureaucrats as its gigantic size causes huge economic burden on the country?
No. Government should not cut salaries, but the numbers.
Will Sonia Gandhi project Manmohan Singh as prime ministerial candidate before the next LS polls?
When Sonia Gandhi was asked this question recently, she shot back "why not?"

Can I see Abhinav, Sushil and Vijender in Seedhi Baat?
Let the remaining two come back from Beijing with medals and I will try to talk to them.
What do UPA and its allies mean when they talk about division of secular vote?
No. Basically, they talk of the division of anti-BJP votes which come from various communities and not only from the Muslims.
You said that the RAW is shame of India because it always anticipates but never strikes. Can you just justify this statement?
The organization has been embroiled in various controversies.
Can Narendra Modi ensure a landslide victory for BJP under his leadership?
I don't think Modi has acquired such a national status that he can ensure a landslide victory for his party.
Why does the RBI borrow money from World Bank?
RBI never borrows money from the World Bank.
Why does the media project only IITs and IIMs, when there are so many other good institutions of higher education?
Because the IIT and IIMs fall within one category whereas there are over 10,000 colleges across the country.
Why is the Delhi government so adamant on completing the BRT project?
The BRT project has been suspended temporarily.
Why do you say Rajiv Gandhi was a Brahmin even though her mother, Indira Gandhi, was married to Feroze Gandhi?
Because of the perception that Rajiv Gandhi came from a Brahmin lineage.
Isn't Congress the only party which can give stable and efficient govt at Centre?
What was wrong with the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government?
Why isn't the PM trying to resolve the Amarnath land row?
If it was within the powers of the Prime Minister, do you think he would have not used his authority to resolve it?
Shouldn't Abhinav Bindra be nominated to Rajya Sabha?
He is too young to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha.
How can we avoid communal clashes and make India peaceful?
Let us all follow the rule of law and everybody should be treated at par.
Shouldn't the government develop Special Farming Zones to boost growth of agriculture in Bharat?
Bharat is still known as a krishi pradhan desh—agricultural economy.
Was Somnath Chatterjee's defiance of the party whip justified?
No. If you are a member of a party, you must accept its discipline and follow the whip.
Why do Kashmiri people need freedom from India?
Hurriyat leaders, and not Kashmiris, need freedom from India.

Is it necessary to offer huge sums to Abhinav Bindra, who already has a sound financial background?
It's not a question of money being offered to him.
What would be the biggest challenge before country's first Dalit PM?
To get over centuries old caste bias against Dalits.
Why couldn't the J&K issue be resolved in past 60 years?
Because of vote-bank politics.
Does the United Nations have any jurisdiction over Jammu and Kashmir?
No. They don't.
Can you please publish Ask Prabhu Q&As in the India Today magazine as well?
I would love to publish it in India Today but space in the magazine is limited and newsprint very expensive.
Why do states honour only their own sportspersons?
States are like a family, and it is within their rights to honour players which were born in these states.
Isn't the BJP taking advantage of the Amarnath land row?
The BJP is after all a political party, and it will use all the opportunities to win an election.
Can the continuation of caste-based reservation be justified?
Reservation policy for backward communities is a recent phenomenon except in the south.
My daughter is in a good job and I want her to settle down soon. When will I have some financial freedom?
I don't understand your question.
Do Hindu Brahmins have any future because they get abused by leaders and receive no state benefits?
You must be joking. As far as I know, Brahmins are still getting alms from the birth, death and even after the death of a human being.
What do you feel about Arundhati Roy’s comment that "Kashmir needs freedom from India"?
Since she hardly stays in India, I can imagine her psyche.
What did Shivraj Patil mean when said on Seedhi Baat that "all misdeeds are being done in Jammu by aapke dost"?
You heard me telling he was also my dost!
I'm a RSS swayamsevek. Will you please let me know about Article 370 and the solution to PoK?
You have to forget about PoK. You have to think about how to retain what you have.
Does the Centre have any right on Kashmir's territory because it does nothing when separatists openly declare it as a free land or a part of Pakistan?
Kashmir is an integral part of India, and with such a strong democracy that we allow even extremist and separatist voices to express themselves as long as they are peaceful.
Can't we have a Sanskrit name for 'Air Force One' in India?
They have been appropriately named because they are operated by the Air Force for flying the President and the Prime Minister.

Seedhi Baat with Mehbooba Mufti/Aaajtak, August 24, 2008


'PDP not taken in confidence on Amarnath'

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti on Seedhi Baat says Mufti Mohammed did everything to protect the social fabric and maintain normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir.

Watch video Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Power & Politics/Mail Today, August 25, 2008

WHY NOT? Certainly.” You can now put to rest all speculation about who will lead the Congress Party in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. At 24 Akbar Road last week, asked whether Manmohan Singh would be declared the party’s prime ministerial candidate before the polls, Sonia uttered those three words.

That was enough for Congress leaders and family sycophants who had hitherto contemptuously dismissed any thought of anyone except the Nehru- Gandhi dynasty leading the party to the polls veering around to the idea that it will be Manmohan and not Sonia or Rahul Gandhi who will take on the BJP’s challenge in a little less than a year from now. Curiously, just a couple of days earlier, when some senior Congress leaders met for preliminary discussions on the party’s election strategy and the manifesto, some leaders had softly, very very softly, spoken of these very prospects of an “ outsider” taking on the mantle next year. Sonia’s three word answer, made in the presence of the Prime Minister, was all that was needed for the drumbeaters in the Congress to bring on the paeans for Manmohan. And amongst the chattering classes, where talk till now centred around prime minister- in– waiting LK Advani, the odds are now seen to be in favour of Manmohan.

I was initially as bewildered as Congressmen because in the 14 Lok Sabha elections so far, the party never projected anyone outside the Nehru- Gandhi family as its leader. In the first three general elections before the dynasty took shape, Jawaharlal Nehru was the undisputed leader despite there being no shortage of heavyweights in his Cabinet. Unlike present day Congressmen, they not only disagreed with Nehru, but even often dueled with him in public.

There was no election during the brief Lal Bahadur Shastri interrugnum, but following his death in Tashkent, the party once again took refuge in the family and opted for Indira Gandhi because the many fueding 70- plus senior party bosses could not reach a consensus on anyone amongst themselves.


She continued to be the face of the party for 18 years from 1966, and on the day she was assassinated, the party passed on the mantle to her son Rajiv despite the fact that he had been in politics for barely three years then. Narasimha Rao followed, but remember that he had retired from politics and even sent his belongings back to Andhra Pradesh when Sonia, and not the electorate, beckoned him.


In the three Lok Sabha elections between 1996 and 1999, it was Sonia’s face that adorned the posters though the party never got anywhere near power. After the last elections, she was seen as the natural choice but surprised everyone by brushing aside the entreaties of tearful Congressmen and appointing The in court Sonia: Decided Manmohan. For four years, Manmohan was seen as a wimp, blessed with neither a spine nor basic political skills. July 22 has changed all that. Those who called him nikkammah , non political and a weak prime minister are now in dread of the future. A newly confident Manmohan can now taunt his opponents by quoting Mark Twain who said more than a century ago: “ Reports of my ( political) death are greatly exaggerated”. Will “ Why not?” give way to “ Certainly”. The ball is in Sonia Gandhi's court.

Snippets/ Mail Today, August 25, 2008


It’s easy to find the idiots on this box

WITH A gold and two bronze medals, Beijing 2008 may have been India’s best Olympics, but for the Games’ buffs in India, it couldn’t have been worse.
There were world class athletes performing before a worldwide audience, but for us in India at the mercy of Doordarshan, the idiot box was, well, the idiots' box. DD never stopped reminding us it was getting feeds from 16 different channels, so those who ran the show should be held accountable for the poor choice of sports, events and schedules. The two anchors spent so much time discussing inanities, we got to see only two of Michael Phelps's first five gold medals live. Even more appalling, minutes after Abhinav Bindra won gold, DD went back to the two unwise men in the studios.

As the nation waited to see more of the boy wonder, there was nothing on India’s only individual gold medalist in Olympic history for the next eight hours. About the programme scheduling, the less said the better. Most events or matches were shown for two to three minutes each and then it was back to the studios for more drivel. There was one fellow who kept talking about Christopher Columbus when the sailing event was on! At any Games, the showpiece events are swimming, gymnastics, track and field contests but thanks to DD, we saw little of these. I have a suggestion for my good friend Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, the I& B Minister. As a government owned channel with no accountability, financial or editorial, DD should telecast the Olympics on two channels: One devoted solely to studio discussions among morons who pass off as anchors and another for uninterrupted live coverage.
*****
IT IS perhaps just a coincidence that on a day that I received an invitation from the Industries Minister of Kerala to attend a seminar on developing the industrially backward state, I also received a chainmail which best exemplified why the tiny state blessed with nature’s bounties remains where it is. To say that the Commies never let anything except Marxism grow is to state the obvious. But here is an interesting fact from the mail: Between January and now, there have been 89 hartals in the state. Mamata has one Singur to bring West Bengal to a halt, but the Malayalee has hundreds of Singurs: local ( bad roads), national ( inflation), or even international ( over the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The state comes to a standstill, buses and taxis stay off roads, trains are stuck on the tracks and shutters stay down, except of course at the liquor bars where the sales are brisk and booze is mostly hooch. Bacchus’ Own Country??
**********
A politician- author is somewhat of an oxymoron, like a gentleman- thief. But when the country is gearing up for polls and politicians should be girding up their loins for the fight ahead, many of them have taken to writing books.
Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal has just released I Witness: Partial Observations , a collection of 88 poems, which, incredibly enough, was written entirely in SMS text on his cellphone. Publishers may not be queueing outside ministerial bungalows to sign up, but the glitterati, if not the literati, are lapping it up. The release of Kamal Nath’s book, India’s Century, a few months back was a celebrity studded affair with individuals with a combined net worth of more than $ 200 billion gathering to toast the Commerce Minister. Who else but Kamal Nath can gather around himself Sunil Bharti Mittal, Lakshmi Nivas Mittal, Mukesh Ambani, Vijay Mallya, not to speak of the European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson who specially flew in for the event. Some like P Chidambaram and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar seem too preoccupied with their official duties to find the time to write. So the Finance Minister compiled his weekly musings in a national newspaper and brought out a book, while Pawar’s public speeches were compiled by a groupie and the book was released by Manmohan Singh who for some reason chose to praise his Cabinet colleague as “ a great thinker”, unmindful of the fact the book is a tribute to Pawar’s decibel achievements. There is nothing cerebral about it. Which set me thinking: If all of them are writing books, who will write the poll manifestos?
**********
Battle for Jharkhand rages
MADHU Koda has finally made way for Shibu Soren, who wants to be the chief minister of Jharkhand. On the face of it, it appears to be a battle for Jharkhand, but in reality it is one of survival of Lalu Prasad, whose fodder scam cases, dating back to the days of undivided Bihar, are being handled in Ranchi where Koda has been a reliable ally for the railway minister. Soren may turn out to be far less accommodative, which explains why when Soren began to make noises about the chief ministership, Lalu played difficult and initially even refused to meet him. It suits the Congress to send Soren packing to Ranchi. Not only will he stop being a nuisance at the centre, he will use the fodder scam to keep Lalu on a leash. For the Congress, this is important since in a few months’ time, it will enter into seat sharing talks with its allies, of whom Lalu’s RJD is the among the biggest and they will need Soren’s help to make Lalu fall in line.
So far, Lalu had been the undisputed leader of the non- BJP forces in undivided Bihar, but in a political set up where each vote counts, it suits the Congress to set the two regional chieftains up against each other. As long they stand divided, united stands the United Progressive Alliance.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Seedhi Baat / Shivraj Patil/Aajtak, August 17, 2008


Divisive forces to blame for J&K mess'

Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil talks about the Amarnath land row, regional imbalance and the UPA govt's performance among other things in Seedhi Baat for Aajtak.
Watch video Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 , 6

Power & Politics/ Mail Today, August 18, 2008

IF YOU think the UPA’s four- year- long nightmare ended on July 22, wait a minute. The government may no more be dependent on the 59 MPs from the solid Left Block in the Lok Sabha but with payback season at hand, fresh nightmares are threatening to ruin what it was thought would be a seamless run up to the elections.
And Shibu Soren isn’t the only one who is giving sleepless nights to Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, although it beats me how the UPA could concede his demand considering that the Jharkhand’s chief minister is not decided by the largest party in the Assembly but by the eight Independents, one of whom, Madhu Koda, now occupies the office. The Independents are hardly likely to oblige a government on its last legs when they know they have three more years in the legislature before the people make up their minds again.
But the real problem for the government, very acute at that, lies elsewhere.
It’s the Samajwadi Party, whose new found love for the Congress was what saved the government last month. As gratitude, Manmohan and Sonia are ready to offer ministerships to its members, but the SP will settle for nothing less than eight posts — five at the Cabinet level and three ministers of state.
The logic goes thus: the SP has 36 MPs making it the second largest contingent in the ruling establishment and if Lalu’s RJD with considerably less MPs can have three Cabinet Ministers and two ministers of state, five senior plus three junior ministers is the minimum they will settle for.
Manmohan’s problem are compounded by the fact that there is only one vacancy, in the Coal Ministry.
Lucrative as it is, it cannot make up for the many others they have set their eyes on. Mulayam Singh Yadav has made it amply clear his party will not settle for new ministries that may be carved out — minor Irrigation and that sort of stuff. They only want major portfolios.
Manmohan and Sonia cannot ask the allies to withdraw ministers to accommodate the SP’s demands, so the two have drawn up a Kamaraj Plan 2008 which involves many senior ministers being asked to give up office for party work in the belief that in an election year, that is the more onerous task carrying much more responsibility.
They include Arjun Singh, AK Antony, Shivraj Patil, AR Antulay, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Jaipal Reddy, Sis Ram Ola, Mahavir Prasad, PR Kyundiah, Santosh Mohan Dev, Saifuddin Soz, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Murli Deora, all Cabinet Ministers, Oscar Fernandes and Vilas Muttemwar, both ministers of state with independent charge and MoSs, E Ahmed, Prithvi Raj Chauhan, Anand Sharma, Ashwani Kumar and MH Ambareesh. Some of them won’t be missed, like Ambareesh, who I doubt knows where his office is located.
The list has thrown up fresh problems because each of them represents a caste or regional pressure group which the government can offend at its own peril. Besides, the list comprises Congressmen with loyalties split between Race Course Road and 10 Janpath. Thus if Manmohan wants to get a non- performer out, his proximity to 10 Janpath may ensure he hangs on. And vice versa. It remains to be seen how between them, the UPA Chairperson and the Prime Minister sort this out. But sort it they must. Otherwise Mulayam’s promise of seat adjustments and joint campaign in Uttar Pradesh may remain just that – a promise. It could put the parliamentary careers of some high profile Congress MP's in jeopardy.

Snippets / Mail Today, August 18, 2008

Singh-Sen mutual admiration society

LIKE birds of a feather, Manmohan Singh and Amartya Sen have flocked together for much of the last five decades. They parted economic paths only the last decade and a half, which saw Manmohan become the most forceful votary of market forces while Sen, as the Nobel citation read, “ combined tools from economics and philosophy to restore an ethical dimension to the discussion of vital economic problems.” Yet, they form a little two- man mutual admiration society. But it was only recently that Manmohan felt the need for the “ aam aadmi connection” and use Sen to project the government’s pro- poor credentials, at the annual memorial lecture for veteran Communist Hiren Mukherjee, to coincide with the start of the Monsoon Session. Sen agreed, but there were minor hiccups though. The Lok Sabha had been through one of the bitterest sessions last month during the confidence vote. So, how does one balance Sen’s tight schedule with a one- day session in Central Hall that would ensure a decent presence of MPs. Someone, and I won’t tell you who, hit upon the brilliant idea of convening meetings of all 42 parliamentary standing committees which would ensure that each MP was in Delhi, even if not in the House. And so, Central Hall brimmed, not so much with elected MPs as with special invitees.
Singh toasted Sen saying the UPA’s policies and programmes were largely drawn from the Nobel Laureate’s world view. Sen’s words were music to Congress ears as he criticised the Left for making such a big deal of the N- deal instead of taking up bread and butter issues. Did I talk of a mutual admiration society?


FOR one known to be a reluctant public speaker, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did a remarkable job from the Red Fort on I- day. What was more surprising was that he kept going for over 45 minutes leaving no one in doubt that it was an election speech. Though his speech writers medium was Hindi, it was Urdu, a language that he is comfortable with, that dominated as he listed the achievements of his government— the loan waiver, increased farm credit, Bharat Nirman etc etc.
I was in the Aaj Tak studio doing a special I- day programme when SMSes started flowing about the lack of any reference to Abhinav Bindra’s remarkable feat in Beijing, which I think has been the most inspiring feat during the last four years.
More than nine per cent growth, which is anyway down now, more than the Nano car, which will become outdated someday, more than the loan waiver which is money down the drain, Abhinav’s gold will glitter forever.


WE don’t need the weatherman to tell us we have had one of the wettest monsoons in a long time, yet there is no sign of when the Monsoon Session of Parliament will be called. More questions: If and when it is called, will it turn out to be the last? The government’s reluctance to convene the session is understandable as the treasury is nearly empty and it will have to seek approval for demands for supplementary grants amounting to nearly Rs 60,000 crores. But even without Shibu Soren upping the ante, the government is unsure of a majority and I suspect its fear that defeat of a money bill makes it imperative for the government to quit, is forcing it to tread very very carefully. Normally supplementary demands are made during the winter session, but if the government can get these passed in the monsoon session, the last session itself could be done away with.
So goes the reasoning. Thus the pay hike for babus. The matter was in cold storage for months and it was only last week that Finance Minister P Chidambaram was asked to prepare a Cabinet note. The hike will cost the country an additional Rs 22,000 crores, needless to say, without any improvement in performance.
But in an election year which MP would oppose it? It is the government's hope that in the process the supplementary grants would pass through and curtains could be drawn on the 14th Lok Sabha.

Rigging for revenge

THE END of a relationship spanning four decades can be traumatising but it hasn’t taken Somnath Chatterjee long to recover and find happiness once again. Shorn of Marxist fetters, the Lok Sabha Speaker is clearly enjoying the freedom.
Though he prefers to keep a low profile, there is no shortage of people wanting Chatterjee, winner of the “ Outstanding Parliamentarian award” to deliver a speech, inaugurate a school or chair a seminar.
Under him, the Lok Sabha secretariat has become hyper active, particularly the Public and Press relations wing; there have been days when I have got as many as five SMSes from his secretariat. Expelled by the CPI( M) a day after the trust vote, he is off limits for his erstwhile comrades but his new friends have been quick to embrace him, particularly those in the Congress.
If Manmohan, Sonia Gandhi and other Congress leaders dropped by to greet him on his birthday with bouquets for the photo- ops, last week, the Hiren Mukherjee lecture in Parliament’s Central Hall gave Congressmen one more chance to sing his paeans. Manmohan termed Chatterjee “ the true inheritor of the legacy of Hiren Mukherjee”. The Marxists must be livid, but there is little they can do today. Chatterjee says he will no more fight elections, but if he changes his mind and seeks reelection from Bolpur as a Congress candidate, the Marxists can take sweet revenge by doing something they are very good at : rig votes, to make sure he loses.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

ASK PRABHU / AUGUST 14, 2008

Who is ruling the country—Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi or the U.S.?
The people of India.

Will the Congress return in power with Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister after the general elections?
Too early to predict an election. The UPA has not declared its Prime Ministerial candidate for 2009.
Is there any need to buy three 'Air Force Ones' in India?
Because there are two dignitaries who need it—the President and the Prime Minister. A third is kept on standby.
Will the two words Impotent India have any impact on the Home Minister?
I think it did. It was only after our cover that he started moving around, talking to all political parties for resolving the issue.
What should we do to change the vote-bank politics, mother of all evils?
Vote against those who indulge in it.
Why do roads everywhere in India have so many potholes?
Because the roads are dug out by a powerful nexus of politicians and engineers who siphon money out from the material used in road construction.
Why are criminals/terrorists allowed to cover their face when police arrest them?
The Indian Penal Code prohibits the police from showing the faces of criminals before they are identified in the presence of a judicial authority.
Was Kalyan Singh's removal from the BJP after 1999 elections the reason behind the BJP's poor performance in UP?
That is history. But why did the BJP suffer its worst defeat in the last assembly election when Kalyan Singh himself was the chairman of the campaign committee?
Did Governor N.N.Vohra take members of the Shrine Board into confidence before writing to the Chief Minister in June that the Board no longer needed the allotted land? On what basis he took a decision on such a sensitive issue?
I don't know on what basis Vohra came to that conclusion.
Is Mukesh Ambani supporting Mayawati to be the prime minister?
How do you know? Please let me know and I will investigate for you.
I don't think we have the political will to solve the Kashmir issue.
I agree with you. There is no political will to resolve this issue. It is the fear of losing votes that has led to the killing and suffering of ordinary people.
Manmohan Singh said on July 22 that when Gujarat was burning the then Home Minister Advani was sleeping. Now, when Jammu is burning, isn't his Home Minister also caught napping?
Both the Prime Minister and the Home Minister failed to anticipate the gravity of the situation when Governor N.N. Vohra reversed the allotment of land to the shrine board.
Should Jammuites also pick up guns to be taken seriously by the government?
Guns are louder, but their impact doesn't last longer. Every problem should be resolved through dialogue and peaceful protest.
The PDP leadership openly supported the march to PoK along with the separatists and trucks full of fruits in protest against the agitation in Jammu. What does it show?
It shows their intention to retain base in the Valley.
Will Abhinav Bindra's feat encourage budding sportspersons to take up sports other than cricket?
Yes. Bindra is now India's pride. And in return, India has become magnanimous in giving him huge cash awards, which should be an inspiration for budding sportspeople who have seen big money only in cricket.
Will Abhinav Bindra's gold spur the Government to come up with better infrastructure for sports, other than cricket?
To be fair to the Government, it has been doing a lot for other sports during the past few years.

more

Monday, August 11, 2008

Seedhi Baat / Aajtak, August 10, 2008



Watch Seedhi Baat with Vivek Oberoi

video

Power & Politics / Mail Today, August 11, 2008

THERE are somethings that you can’ttake away from theAbdullahs, both fatherand son. Qualities likeunquestioned nationalism,unwavering loyalty andtheir fetish for political theatrics.
The first is somethingthey have inherited, the secondthey have imbibed in recenttimes.
What’s happening in Jammu & Kashmiris shameful, to put it mildly. Lastweek, Abdullah pere roared, “DoesFarooq Abdullah need a passport to goto Jammu?” Just two weeks earlier,Omar had made a passionate speech inParliament where he defended the revocationof the Amarnath Shrine land,saying, “It is an issue of our land, wefought for it and will continue to fightfor it till we die”. The statements mirrorthe conflicts between the nationalistand the politician. There was a timewhen people would have looked up toFarooq, a proud Indian, for the rightanswers. Because he was known tostand between the ordinary people ofKashmir and terrorists. They didn’tquite call him The Wall. But he was.
Don’t forget that successive governmentsat the Centre, whatever theirpolitical colour, had picked him out torepresent the country and take onIndia baiters at various internationalforums, a job he did with unmatchedpanache. And his National Conferencewas the only party that wonseats in all parts of the state includingthe Jammu region. Today, Farooq’ssole objective isto win elections,and in theprocess thatnationalist witha higher sense ofKashmiriyat hasvanished. Whateverhappenedto the master ofthe middleground?Steeped in theworst kind ofcompetitive politics,he hasended up supportinghis arch rival Mehbooba Muftisinging Governor NN Vohra’s praisedespite the fact that it was his orderrevoking a Cabinet decision that hasbrought the state to such a dreadfulpass, leaving the UPA scratching itshead to find out where things wentwrong.
Farooq’s unstinted support to theGovernor is somewhat ironic becausehe has had a history of skirmisheswith governors in the past. Twicewith Jagmohan: first when the governorsacked him; later, as a protestagainst the VP Singh government’sdecision to reappoint Jagmohan asgovernor, Farooq actually quit. Now joined hands with a governorwhose actions have doneimmense damage to the verycause that they have alwaysstood for. In New Delhi’s chatteraticircles where the Abdullahsare a permanent fixture,they are of late having troublefending off questions abouttheir recent stance.
Their friends feel let down,having expected them totread the middle path andcome up with solutions thatwould be acceptable to bothsides. For unlike Vohra whohas no local stakes and willcomplete his assignment andreturn to Delhi to live underthe protection of Black Cats,the Abdullahs’ future is linkedto that of Kashmir. It’s inexplicablethat they have chosen tojoin the fringe parties. In doingso, they have shrunk themselves.
Once their appeal waspan-Indian. I hope it won’thappen but the day may not befar off when they fail to matteranywhere except the 100-oddsquare kilometres that is Srinagar.

What a fall!
WILL the real Kamal Nath please stand up? The CommerceMinister, who owns resorts and runs a helicopter charterservice, is known to be more at home with the Page-3 population.
He has suddenly turned farmer- friendly and his greatexertions have even got him into The New York Timesand TheEconomistas the man who derailed the Geneva round of theDoha talks. Though never involved in the task of musteringsupport for either the nuclear deal or the trust vote, he flewback to Delhi to vote for the trust motion and got back in timeto stall the pact. His reasoning: “I am all for commerce, butabsolutely against depriving anyone of livelihood security”.It is a line that his spin doctors will find useful since a vacancyfor the Madhya Pradesh chief minister’s job is due to comeup in a few months’ time and he may finally have found theright plank.

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.