Monday, February 9, 2009

Snippets / Mail Today, February 09, 2009

THOUGH never put to test outside the precincts of the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus, Comrade Prakash Karat’s credentials as a fighter are said to be formidable. This Valentine’s Day, he will get a chance to prove it on a nationwide scale when the CPI( M) Politburo meets, not to profess love, but to seek reconciliation in the fratricidal war between a popular chief minister and the powerful state secretary which has already cost the party heavily. It’s a battle in which whichever side wins, the party loses. The issue has festered for long and barring selective leaks from the “ available politburo”— that’s what it’s called when a group of PB members who have nothing else to do decide to meet up — threatening tough action, nothing has happened. It’s my hunch that on Saturday, the wise men and the lone woman who constitute the PB will meet and disperse promising to meet again. A case of when the going got tough, the tough lost their nerves.

Grand dreams of a nobody
IF TOM Vadakkan’s speed typing skills were half as good as that of V George, he would have had a more substantial and satisfying job than what his current calling card says: “ Convenor, AICC Media Cell”. George, for the uninitiated, was the typist from Kerala who came to Delhi in search of a job and went on to become among the most powerful persons in the capital during the Indira and Rajiv regimes.

Vadakkan is less gifted, less industrious, with ambitions not commensurate with his talents. Serving chai and pakoda to a generation of journalists has convinced him he is good enough to serve the people. The Congress High Command is yet to begin the process of candidate selection, but Vadakkan already thinks he is one. He has floated a website, www. tomvadakkan. org and is even seeking contributions for the impending contest from Trichur in Kerala which has a large Christian population. He has been taking turns paying obeisance at 10 Janpath and the local Archbishop’s House in Trichur in his quest for a ticket. A minor hitch though. Large numbers of local party leaders and workers have never heard of him and most of those who have see him as a suppliant who has no right to take away what rightfully belongs to more suitable candidates with a higher winnability quotient. But in the Congress, winnability was never as important as having the right connections.

Advani readies for the crown
CONVENTIONAL wisdom says the elections will throw up another hung parliament and the next government will be formed by the party or alliance which is able to attract the most number of MPs by splurging the most in the form of cash and other goodies. But the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Lal Kishan Advani is not one to let the small matter of the people’s mandate stand in the way of making preparations for the move to Race Course Road/ South Block. The voracious reader that he is, he has pored over everything there is about Barack Obama and has come to the conclusion that among the reasons for the new US president’s amazing winning streak is his team selection.

Taking the cue from the Obama manual, he has already put in place a transition team consisting of veterans, none of whom are from his party, but served as officers/ administrators during the NDA regime. They include the former Delhi Lt Governor Vijay Kapoor, the former IB Director Ajit Kumar Doval, ex Home Secretary Anil Baijal and the former Air Chief Marshal AY Tipnis. They will be joined by the old party ideologue S Gurumurthy. The four were among the many former civil servants and retired senior defence officials who met at Advani’s house recently for a tete- a- tete on security related issues. Their mandate is to fine- tune the agenda for governance.

If Advani realises his long standing dream, it is almost certain that they will all be given key posts in the government. My guess is: Doval will be the National Security Advisor and I daresay he will do a better job than MK Narayanan; Kapoor will be the Principal Secretary a la Brajesh Mishra/ TKA Nair and the Chairmanship of the Joint Intelligence Committee and Delhi Lt Governorship will be shared between Baijal and Tipnis. Gurumurthy has accepted to get on board on condition that his will be an advisory role which will not involve any position either in the party or in the government. All this of course, IF Advani wins. A bit of advance planning anyway does no one any harm.

THE belligerence of both the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP on the Navin Chawla issue makes one thing clear: the matter is not headed for an early grave. Whether President Pratibha Patil takes action on the advice of the Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami’s recommendation for the removal of his fellow EC or not, the government has already started the search for another “ dependable” commissioner, preferably a fellow traveler of the ruling dispensation.

But the names that are doing the rounds don’t really inspire confidence. At the top of the list is Johny Joseph. He is no Johny come lately, having worn his incompetence on his sleeve during two of the worst calamities to have struck Mumbai in the last few years. He was the Johny who fiddled when Mumbai was ravaged by the worst floods in living memory, which left over a 1,000 dead and millions in misery for days together four years back. He was so inept that even Sharad Pawar lent his voice to the huge chorus that demanded his sacking. As Maharashtra Chief Secretary, he displayed similar ineptitude in November last year when the city was targeted by Pakistani terrorists.

Also in the running are Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrashekhar, whose current tenure will end in two months; home secretary Madhukar Gupta who escaped punishment for his inability to deal with terrorism only because his long term boss Shivraj Patil had already been compulsorily retired; and JK Vishwanath, the current Union Law Secretary who is a personal favourite of HR Bhardwaj, the minister for law under whose jurisdiction the Election Commission falls. Joseph and Chandrashekhar would have been seen as frontrunners, considering they both come from a tribe that seems to have a stranglehold over this government. Or at least until recently. But with MK Narayanan, the protector of the dhoti mafia, falling on hard days, it’s a virtual toss up now.

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