Monday, March 23, 2009

Snippets/ Mail Today, March 23, 2009

SHASHI Tharoor and VK Krishna Menon have more in common than the fact that they are both Malayalis. Tharoor worked at the UN for 28 years. Menon, High Commissioner to London and Defence Minister during the Nehru years, had a UN connection: he led the Indian delegation there for 10 years and his 1957 speech during a debate on Kashmir is still recorded as the longest ever — 7 hours and 48 minutes.

Both are also parliamentary paratroopers with minor differences. Menon was a charismatic “ outsider” when he contested the 1971 Lok Sabha elections from Trivandrum as an independent after the Congress denied him a ticket. The voters of the cosmopolitan Kerala capital gave him an overwhelming thumbs up. Tharoor has now got the Congress ticket over the claims of several local aspirants who view him as an “ outsider”. His boyish good looks and clipped Malayalam accent will win him many “ ooohs and aaahs”. Menon had neither but got the votes.

AFTER Naveen Patnaik bolted from the NDA, BJP leaders are increasingly coming around to the view that there is another resident Trojan Horse in the alliance in the guise of the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The JD( U) leader has very cordial relations with individuals in the BJP but politically, Nitish is acting like a butcher who is slicing up the BJP piece by piece. All this suggests that Nitish, perceived to be an avowed NDA ally, would rather wait for the election results to be out so that he can plot his future moves.

Strangely for an alliance leader, he tried to influence the selection of his coalition partner’s candidates in a few constituencies. Now that these attempts have come a cropper, he is on a maniacal mission to demolish the BJP- friendly leaders in his own party. George Fernandes fought and won the 1977 Lok Sabha elections, held in the backdrop of the Emergency, from jail, but is now a victim of Nitish’s machinations. He has been denied a ticket on the grounds of ill health, with a promise that he will be sent to the Rajya Sabha, though no vacancy arises there at least for another year.
Another NDA votary who has fallen casualty is Digvijay Singh, the former Union minister of state for external affairs, though in his case, it wasn’t advancing age but caste animosity — Digvijay’s Thakur lineage as against Nitish’s MBC. Unlike Nitish who prefers to keep all doors open, Digvijay has been a staunch NDA supporter and from the outset been against everything that has to do with the Left parties. Is it any wonder then that alliance leaders suspect that while Nitish is physically with the NDA, he is waiting till elections to find out where his heart lies.

EVER since Jawaharlal Nehru ushered Indira into politics, the Gandhi family has been accused of trying to foist democratic monarchy on the country. Indira, in turn brought, first Sanjay and later Rajiv into politics. The baton has since passed on and today, it’s the fourth generation that’s in control. If the charges of dynastic ambitions sound less shrill now, it is because the Gandhis no longer have a monopoly over it. These elections will see two more political sons take the electoral plunge.

In Andhra, Chief Minister YS Rajashekhara Reddy’s son Jaganmohan, a businessman with a somewhat controversial background, is contesting on a Congress ticket. In Karnataka, BS Yedyurappa has quietly nudged his son Vijendra in, bypassing the claims of more senior local BJP leaders. The rate at which scions are being ushered in, the day is not far off when India becomes a union of “ princely” states. Much of North India is already that. Jammu & Kashmir has Omar Abdullah, a third generation CM. In Himachal, PK Dhumal’s likely successor will be son Anurag Thakur.

In Punjab, succession is now a mere formality with Prakash Singh Badal and son Sukhbir sharing the CM- Deputy CM posts while in Haryana, chief minister BS Hooda is keeping the seat warm for Deepender. In Delhi, Sandeep Dikshit may not be mom’s immediate successor, but I have no doubt one day he will be so, as will Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, who will take over from Mulayam.

Though not by design, a second generation CM is now in office in Mumbai. To the South, barring the Left parties, in Kerala dynastic succession plans are in place in every party, while in Tamil Nadu, for every Karunanidhi, there is a Stalin, for every Ramadoss, an Anbumani. This is why we must celebrate the likes of Jayalalithaa and Mayawati. Autocrats that they are, they leave behind no offspring to carry on the tyranny.

The dimming star light
IN POLITICS, as in advertising, nothing works like a star endorsement. In the past, politicians’ eagerness to welcome stars into their fold was matched by the zeal of the latter to take the leap into the world of politics, wicked as it is. That enthusiasm seems to be on the wane. Stars, from the tinsel and sporting world, seem reluctant to take the plunge. Sanjay Dutt and Mohammed Azharuddin are exceptions.

In the case of Sanjay, the Samajwadi Party candidate from Lucknow, it was a matter of scoring brownie points over the Congress with which his late father was and sisters are associated. Having embraced Azharuddin, the Congress can’t seem to find a suitable seat for him, which is not surprising considering that he is accused of selling out the country’s cricket matches. Dharmendra was so bored in his first term, he rarely turned up and has said “ no” to a second term. So have many others. The BJP gave a choice of South Delhi and Lucknow seats to Hema Malini who rejected both. Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Kapil Dev and Anil Kapoor were all approached by one party or the other and each time, the reply was: thanks, but no thanks. Somewhere in the North East, a certain Suresh Oberoi is contesting and voters may know him as the father of Vivek Oberoi, who they will recognise as a one time lover of Aishwariya Rai. But one star who was game for a fight hasn’t been given a ticket. Poor Smriti Irani.

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