IT’S taken the new Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan less than two weeks to discover that being in power is not quite the same as being in control. After the disaster in late November, people expected nothing less than a purge and Chavan started by changing the principal secretary and other secretaries but the buck stopped there. Worse, even the appointment of investigators was done in Delhi with Chavan being given the mere privilege of announcing it in the state assembly. R. D. Pradhan, home secretary during the Rajiv regime and later a Congress Rajya Sabha MP, will head the committee that will look into security lapses that led to the carnage. The police establishment which fiddled while Mumbai burnt remains untouched. And police commissioner Hasan Ghafoor and his deputy Rakesh Maria, already scurrying for cover for their inept response, will provide Pradhan much of the inputs for his investigations. It remains to be seen what kind of tome Pradhan will have to show for all his efforts.
Behenji’s annus horribilis
TWELVE months is a long time in politics and Mayawati who just a year ago single handedly took the BSP to power is going through a torrid time. For the Queen of Social Engineering, 2008 was the year when everything that could go wrong went wrong. She set the bar high, set her eyes on the prime minister’s chair and put up BSP candidates wherever elections happened last year. But considering the money she invested and the time devoted, the returns have been negligible.
She considered governance in Uttar Pradesh secondary to her larger ambitions, leaving it to her set of trusted advisors, who as it turns out now, don’t deserve her trust. To be fair, she initially lived up to her promise to rid the state of Goonda Raj and thought nothing about sending her own MLAs behind bars.
With Mayawati jetting across the country to spread the BSP’s message and take a step closer to South Block, anarchy reigns in Uttar Pradesh. Her MLAs and even ministers have become a law unto themselves. In the last fortnight alone, the killing of a PWD engineer has been followed by equally horrible news about the macabre ways of some of the BSP’s top honchos. Her ambitions of leading a coalition to power in Delhi next April rest solely on her ability to swing the maximum seats in Uttar Pradesh.
The 206 seats that the BSP won in December 2007 and the leads in other segments had triggered visions of the party winning about 60 of the 80 seats Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, without which prime ministership would remain a dream and nothing more. But the resurgence of the Samajwadi Party in the last few months makes it imperative for Mayawati to understand that, like charity, governance should also begin at home.
THERE is an election coming up in the Thirumangalam constituency in Tamil Nadu’s Madurai district and though it’s just a by- poll caused by the death of the incumbent, Tamil Nadu’s major political parties are treating it as a watershed. The seat was last won by the MDMK, which was then in alliance with the DMK but is now with the AIADMK. In true coalition spirit, Vaiko has handed the seat to Jayalalithaa’s party. This is the last poll before the general elections early next year and the result will give an idea of which way the wind is blowing. So nothing is being left to chance by the major parties. Chief minister M. Karunanidhi has taken leave of official duties at Fort St George, even skipping the chief miister’s meeting convened by the prime minister, and is camping there and so is the Iron Lady from Poes Garden. The goings- on in Thirumangalam would make Bihar look like democracy’s citadel. Both parties feel the way to a voter’s mind is through his stomach. So while the DMK lays out mutton biryani for lunch, the AIADMK makes a spread of the day’s catch from the Bay of Bengal. There’s a fair share of violence — Jayalalithaa’s 50- car motorcade was stoned — and bribing, enough to make the state electoral officer say that “ there is huge cash flow, the violence is worse than J & K”. Not free, not fair. But in politics, unlike sport, winning is all that matters.
BJP is learning the hard way
THE BJP has learnt, the hard way of course, that it takes a lot more than just shrill sloganeering about national security to win elections despite the country going through the worst spell of terror attacks in recent memory. With four months left for the do- or- die Lok Sabha elections, the BJP and the RSS leadership have started a review of its poll strategy. After revelling in watching the Congress lose backto- back assembly elections these past four years, the BJP is suddenly squirming at its own losses, particularly Rajasthan and Delhi. Even the results from Jammu and Kashmir, where its tally rose eleven fold is no consolation if one takes into account the fact that in the 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the party had led in 31 and 17 assembly segments. Worse, if the trends of the recent assembly elections persist, the party is likely to end up with about 15 seats less from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. If that happens, nobody has a clue how the losses would be recouped. In Kashmir, the party was hoping to ride on the Amarnath issue, but as the results have shown, emotions don’t deliver elections. Kashmir is also proof that while the Congress may not necessarily win elections, it knows how to grab power because it has foot- soldiers who can penetrate any camp even as its top leadership remains inaccessible.
It’s quite the opposite with the BJP which wins but still doesn’t get power, Goa being one example. For better BJP- RSS coordination, Jhandewalan has dispatched Murlidhar Rao, former convenor of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch as advisor to Rajnath Singh. He will work with Ram Lal, the party’s organisational secretary.
Singh is yet to assert his authority and it is expected that Rao’s no- nonsense approach coupled with Lal’s insight into the 11 Ashoka Road’s workings will force the fratricidal party leaders to get their priorities right. The results, the Sangh Parivar hopes, will be profitable for all.