Monday, April 6, 2009

Snippets / Mail Today, April 06, 2009

WHILE the BSP faithful queue outside Rakabganj to pay obeisance to the diva, expect a rush of veshti - clad devotees from Tamil Nadu to head for South Delhi where a huge bungalow is being constructed for the AIADMK’s presiding deity J. Jayalalithaa. Residents of Vasant Vihar say the old house, which has now been demolished to make way for the new, was recently bought by a person who is an intimate associate of the party supremo. Presumably, it will be from here that Jayalalithaa will indulge in her machinations to ensure that her younger political cousin from the BSP does not make it to the top job. Post elections, you can hope to see a steady stream of red beacon fitted white ambassadors snaking their way through the narrow streets of the area whenever she is in Delhi. No need to know the address. All you do is ask “ Where does the Kingmaker live?”

Mind your own business
IN THESE days of economic meltdown and cost cutting, it is heartening to know that even union ministers are tightening their belts. Different ministers have different ways of doing it. Some merely turn off the lights while leaving office, others say they will be fine with a mere half a dozen orderlies, one minister has opted for a fuel efficient and green CNG car. But there are a couple of others who, while trying to cut costs, may actually be putting their lives at risk. Armed commandoes who are assigned for the ministers’ security are asked to stay back when they leave home in the morning, with just a driver accompanying them. No pilot cars, no AK- 47 wielding cops in follow up cars.
Workaholics that they are, they seldom return home before midnight. All work and no play could turn even ministers into dull dour creatures, so they occasionally take a break from work, hop into their official cars and dash across town to keep some good company.

But their security officers are a worried lot. They began to keep a logbook of their protectee’s departure and arrival timings, updated the diaries for a month, then showed it to the immediate superior, who passed the files on to seniors until these finally found their way into the hands of a top security official who then sought an appointment with one of the ministers.
But the meeting was anything but cordial. Instead of appreciating the police efforts to secure the well- being of ministers, the official got a stern lecture from the minister on the laws of privacy.There is no more thankless job than being a security man in Delhi.

EVERY five years, as elections come, we hear the same tired old slogans being repeated. But once in a while someone comes up with something new that may not turn out to be effective but still manages to catch attention. L. K. Advani’s promise that, if elected to power, the BJP will bring back the money that wealthy Indians have stashed away in Swiss banks and other safe havens in Europe is one such. The money he is talking of humungous: Over a Trillion dollars. That is One Thousand Billion dollars or One Million Million Dollars. I will make it simpler: that’s just a shade under India’s annual GDP. The idea to add this attention grabber was mooted by some of his advisors, none of whom are politicians, and some exbureaucrats whose sympathies lie with the BJP. They believe that in these days of pink slips and salary ‘ decrements’, “ Bring Back The Money” would make a good electoral slogan, specially among the BJP’s traditional vote bank, the urban middle classes. The idea first came up as early as February and after the matter was discussed within the party, it was decided that this would be one of the main slogans during the Advani campaign.

But there were some Cassandras in the party with close links with the corporate world and MNCs. Not only were they less than enthusiastic about the proposal, they painted terrifying scenarios about Corporate India pinning a pariah tag on the BJP and of election funds drying up. The consensus man that he is, Advani once again discussed the matter with all top honchos in the party and those for and against seemed evenly matched. The matter was finally settled and the announcement was made last week only after he discussed the issue with Narendra Modi. He is Corporate India’s best friend, but it was the Gujarat chief minister who insisted that the BJP commit itself to “ Bring Back The Money”. No matter how many wealthy friends the party may lose.

Palatial pampering
WHEN Mayawati played host to the Third Front grandees at a sumptuous dinner a fortnight ago, the general surmise was that the BSP chief was throwing her hat into the prime ministerial ring. Like so many others, Mayawati too has prime ministerial ambitions but I think she is going to bide her time. She is not foolish enough to jump into the fray when the next prime minister could hope to get, at best, a short term lease in South Block. Then what was the dinner all about? Behenji , as we all know, loves to flaunt her acquisitions, be it gold, diamonds or even her bank account( s).

In this case, she invited her peers to dinner not to talk politics but to flaunt her new address at Gurdwara Rakabganj Road, a stone’s throw from Parliament House. Twenty- five years ago, when the prime minister’s residence was shifted from Safdarjang Road to Race Course Road, they merged bungalows numbered 1,3,5,7 and 9 RCR where 1 and 9 were occupied by security and the rest formed the prime minister’s sprawling residence cum office complex.

Mayaywati’s new estate isn’t quite that opulent, but she too merged three independent bungalows — 12, 14 and 16 Rakabganj Road — to construct a huge complex that forms her residence, a Kanshi Ram Memorial and the party office. Which just goes to show that Mayawati does not have to be prime minister to enjoy all the trappings that go with the office.

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