Monday, March 30, 2009

Snippets / Mail Today, March 30, 2009

NOTHING illustrates the spurious nature of the CPM brand of secularism than its sudden love for Abdul Nasser Madani, the rabble- rousing preacher who spent time in jail for his role in the 1998 serial bomb blasts in Coimbatore. He is rabid enough to make Varun Gandhi look like an angel. Madani was acquitted but police in Karnataka and Kerala, investigating the trail of young men being drafted from the south for terrorist training in Kashmir, are said to have zeroed in on his household. Someone who shares the same roof and more with Madani is indulging in antinational activities. Yet the CPM sups with him for Muslim votes. Clearly, their national interests don’t lie within our borders.

One cheer for election code of conduct
EYEBROWS moved upwards last week when the government announced a three month extension to Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta. Pliable journos swallowed the government’s explanation that the extension followed a request from the Election Commission that he be allowed to stay until the end of the election process.

This is hogwash, because I crosschecked with CEC N. Gopalaswami who told me that the EC had made no such request. Readers may recall that Gupta is the same gentleman who slept while Mumbai burned last November. He remains the only bureaucrat who hasn’t been made to pay a price for his inefficiency. This is primarily due to two things: the powerful benefactors he has in Lutyen’s Delhi and the tug of war in the bureaucracy. Caught between the ambitions of the Commerce Secretary GK Pillai and the Revenue Secretary PV Bhide, both of whom had an eye on the coveted post, the government took the easy, if appalling way out.

An Election Code of Conduct is currently in effect but nobody, not least the government, cares. Since the elections were announced, it has cleared 29 FDI proposals amounting to over Rs 600 crores. Also, it hurried through with the appointment of Meera Shankar as India’s new envoy to Washington.

There is now speculation that the government will announce the appointment of a new election commissioner to fill the vacancy that will arise on April 20 when Gopalaswami retires. There is no constitutional compulsion to have a three member EC. I feel such an appointment will amount to direct interference in the fair conduct of the polls, four of the five phases of which will take place after Gopalaswami's retirement.

THERE were no surprises last week when the RSS nominated Mohan Rao Bhagwat to succeed the ailing K. S. Sudarshan as the new Sarsangchalak. What was surprising, however, were reports that the 58- year- old Bhagwat, who incidentally looks a lot like RSS founder KS Hedgewar, is a Advani backer and has been brought in to strengthen the hands of the BJP’s prime minister- in- waiting. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Before his appointment as Sarsangchalak, Bhagwat was for more than a decade the RSS general secretary.

At several meetings of the organisation’s think tank during that period, he had openly stated that getting embroiled in the politics of the BJP reflected badly on the organisation. He was, in effect, an advocate of a hands- off policy — total non interference in political matters. Sources close to him tell me that his emphasis will be on bringing about a generational change in the RSS, reverting back to the basics of character building and producing committed pracharaks who will wield moral influence over the various organs of the Sangh Parivar.

Over the years, pracharaks who were sent on “ loan” to the BJP have got influenced, even corrupted by the culture of groupism that is ingrained in the BJP. One of the first diktats to come out of Nagpur since Bhagwat’s accession is one aimed at preventing RSS functionaries from directly getting involved in the BJP’s election campaign.

Until now, a designated pracharak headed the election campaign of every BJP candidate, but henceforth, they will not. There will also be minimal interference from the organisation in the party’s candidate selection process. It is obvious his thinking is influenced by the fact that the RSS finds itself at the crossroads. Bhagwat wants to take it back to its past glory. It’s a long haul, but he has age on his side.

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