Thursday, February 5, 2009

Snippets / Mail Today, February 02, 2009

TWO MONTHS have gone by and the Maharashtra government is yet to fix responsibility for 26/ 11. DGP A. N. Roy and Police Commissioner Hasan Gafoor carry on as if the faults lie somewhere else. The Maharashtra ATS, which took less time to file a chargesheet against saffron terror, has been kept out of the investigations, triggering doubts whether all the ramifications and connections will ever surface. The two member committee headed by a former civil servant and Congress Rajya Sabha MP, I understand, is unlikely to indict the Mumbai police because Commissioner Hasan Gafoor has his way with the political and police machinery. So at best, the blame will be put on ‘ systemic failure’ and no names will be named, no responsibility fixed. No heads will roll. The scoundrels who wreaked the havoc know this. That's why, they always manage to get away.

Son will also rise in Chennai
ALL ACROSS our political landscape, the torch is being passed on from one generation to the next. The last two months have seen both Farooq Abdullah and Prakash Singh Badal shedding responsibilities in favour of their sons, the former appointing Omar as the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and the latter keeping the seat warm for son Sukhbir, whom he inducted as his deputy in the Punjab cabinet. We may soon be witness to another coronation, in Chennai. M. Karunanidhi has fought many a battle, won some, lost some. But whenever he lost, he fought his way back, which makes him, at 85, Indian politics’ original comeback kid. But you can’t expect even a doughty fighter like Karunanidhi to defy age, illness and injury forever and carry on the way he has these past 60 years. He hasn’t been to his office at Fort St George for a few days now and it is almost certain that barring pictures and posters, he will not play even a minor role in the UPA campaign a couple of months hence. Enter MK Stalin.

The son is already a minister in his father’s cabinet and I understand that the Chennai Raj Bhavan will soon be readied for his swearing- in as the deputy chief minister. With dad’s blessings, he will be the de facto chief minister and will lead the campaign against the AIADMK’s Jayalalithaa in the impending elections. How appropriate this son- rise is, considering that the DMK’s party symbol is the rising sun!

WELCOME to the weird world of the Election Commission. At a time when institutions all around — the judiciary, legislatures, the media — are all being undermined, if not entirely crumbling, the EC was a crusty robust pillar. Tyrant he was, but praise be to T. N. Seshan for putting the fear of the law in our politicians. His successors kept up the tradition, but the same cannot be said of the current incumbents. Strange things have been happening there for the last few years, the latest on last Wednesday when Election Commissioner S. Y. Quraishi announced from faraway London, of all places, that the Lok Sabha polls will be held between April 8 and May 15.

Quraishi saab must have either been frozen out of his senses by the English winter or was so carried away by the atmospherics at a seminar in London on the recent Jammu and Kashmir elections that he wouldn’t let a few technicalities stand in the way of the guaranteed Page One space in newspapers across the country. But the juniormost of the three ECs could make such a statement and get away with it is because the two others are involved in a bitter intra- commission war.

Something more bizarre happened last week when it emerged that chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami has recommended to the President that fellow commissioner Navin Chawla be sacked. The fight at the top has been grist for the rumour mill at Nirvachan Sadan for some time now. And no one is happier than Quraishi. Gopalaswami is due to retire on April 20 and is expected to be succeeded by Chawla, who has powerful backers in the establishment. The CEC could not have done what he did on his own and was guided by the Supreme Court’s disposal of several petitions that political parties had filed against Chawla.

Later, these petitions were submitted to Gopalaswami’s office for his opinion by official agencies as well as the same political parties. Insiders say the CEC subsequently wrote three letters to Chawla seeking his views on the matter, but did not receive an appropriate reply. The CEC then disposed it of in the manner that he was expected to, by forwarding these to the president. This perpetual and shameful game of one- upmanship by the three wise men, all of whom are IAS officers, now threatens to sully the fair name of the EC. Free and Fair? Or Free for all?

Cong needs street-fighters
AT 38, Rahul Gandhi is the youngest general secretary of the Congress. If he has his way, there will be men and women at least a decade younger than him in crucial positions in the party and, in the government. He is talking about giving more tickets to the young and the Congress’s PR machinery is on an overdrive to convince voters that the 118- year- old party is the natural habitat of all Indians. So far, despite his pre- eminence in the party and the UPA, Rahul has failed to get any post of consequence to the babalog in the party or in the government where the old order rules. The average age of the cabinet is 66; in the CWC, it’s even more. Barring a couple, all the PCC chiefs are in their 50s.

So Rahul is charting his own course and creating a new party within the old. He has drafted half a dozen young and former Youth Congress leaders as talent spotters, who in turn have been visiting state capitals and the districts meeting “ potential” leaders. Before each such drive, ads are placed in local and mofussil papers seeking the politically inclined youth to register by sending their CVs. The response, I am told has been beyond all expectations with doctors, engineers and others registering in droves. Even more encouraging is that one out of every three that turned up was a woman. But wait. Every third person has also sought details like the approximate waiting period for a party post or an assembly/ Lok Sabha ticket.

While it is heartening to know that the young, contrary to public opinion polls, are showing interest in taking up politics as a career, it is clear they would rather wield power than fight for it. The latter calls for the street fighting instincts of the Kamal Naths, Tytlers, Sonis and the Priya Ranjans. That’s the kind of young blood the Congress needs.

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