Monday, April 20, 2009

Snippets/ Mail Today, April 20, 2009

There is certainly a touch of pathos in watching George Fernandes going around the Muzaffarpur constituency in Bihar in a rickshaw seeking votes in his bid to enter the Lok Sabha. With one time good friend Sharad Yadav and his protégé Nitish Kumar banishing him, George, the demon slayer, is fighting as an independent and reports have it that he is gaining a lot of sympathy votes. The JD( U) leadership is worried since most observers say its candidate Jainarayan Nishad should consider himself lucky if he comes fourth. A desperate Nitish has requested his friends in the BJP’s B team to ask Advani to persuade George, the finest symbol of anti- Congressism, to withdraw for the cause of defeating the Grand Old Party and its fair- weather friends. It is doubtful if Advani will intervene but should he attempt it, my instincts tell me George, as much as he hates to do it, will rebuff his old friend.

CPI( M)’ s dirty tricks fail to deter Jaswant
AS A holiday destination, outsiders have always been attracted to Darjeeling and the scenic hill resort has welcomed visitors warmly. Now the place looks all set to elect an outsider and the unlikely candidate is the former NDA minister Jaswant Singh.

Actually, it should come as no surprise because Singh is an ex- army man and I presume the predominantly martial people of this constituency will welcome anyone who has ever worn a uniform. But the real reason why Singh is likely to win is because the Gurkha Janmukti Morcha is backing his candidature, in return for the BJP’s promise to take a “ sympathetic view” of their demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

With the GJM’s popular leader Bimal Gurung backing Jaswant, victory is almost certainly his. The arrival of the Washington friendly Singh — he claims to have been on first name terms with the likes of Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and others — has the CPI( M) seething with rage. But if the party’s famed dirty tricks department had lived up to its reputation, Singh may not even have been in the race. His nomination papers were almost rejected because he had failed to attach the mandatory letter from the state president of his party and had only submitted the official letter from the central office which was signed by BJP chief Rajnath Singh.

The state BJP unit was immediately alerted and the relevant papers signed by the state unit chief Satyabrat Mukherjee were soon readied. Two party workers travelled by road for over 16 hours to make the 650 km plus road journey from Kolkata to Darjeeling. The CPI( M) party faithful who are said to have moles in every other political outfit failed to detect or capture the couriers. All is not lost however. They can still capture the booths.

TWO weeks ago, LK Advani released the please- all BJP manifesto. He had then stated that the National Democratic Alliance would release its manifesto by April 16 after BJP leaders discussed its finer points with alliance partners. The day has come and gone and there is still no sign of it. It is not as if the coalition partners — or whoever is left in it — are unable to find a common meeting ground.

It is just that Nitish Kumar is playing hooky once again. When, on his behalf, Advani’s aides broached the subject with the Bihar chief minister, Kumar brusquely told them that since the BJP had already announced its manifesto without consulting its partners, he did not feel the need for releasing a common manifesto at this juncture. And he added for good measure that an Agenda for Governance can be thrashed out among the partners after the results are out.
Considering that as recently as three weeks ago, Nitish had stated that his JD( U) was in the NDA, but only “ as of now”, this sounded like an ominous early warning of several possibilities.
One could be that he seriously believes that the numbers will favour the alliance in which case he expects more parties to come into the NDA fold. The chances of that happening appear very slim and the more likely scenario is Nitish is waiting to jump ship once the final tally becomes clear on May 16. Now that even Manmohan Singh has begun to praise Nitish, the chances of this happening cannot be minimised.

Exactly five years ago, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had released the NDA manifesto and the BJP’s resident sloganeerpar- excellence Venkiah Naidu was quick to come out with the memorable one liner “ BJP ka Jhanda, NDA Ka Agenda ”. From the current frosty relations, it appears to be “ BJP Ka Jhanda, NDA Thanda ” this time.

Jaya can swing either way
ALL HER political life, she has been watched and analysed like few others and with the elections now kicking off, every move Jayalalithaa makes and every word she utters will be watched and analysed like never before. Since that day in 1998 when she pulled the AIADMK out of the NDA triggering the collapse of the Vajpayee government, the tag “ unpredictable” has stuck to her.
Speculation is now swirling around the political market place about the path she is likely to choose if, as is widely expected, the AIADMK gets the better of the DMK in these elections.
She has played a gracious host at parties aimed at reviving the Third Front and the party manifesto she released on Friday had elements that clearly show her party’s views converging with the Left’s: she is all for scrapping the Indo- US nuclear deal, she would not allow disinvestment in PSUs.

Yet parts of the same manifesto have enough to warm the cockles of the BJP’s heart: on the Ram temple, her views are similar to that of the BJP; like the BJP, she wants tough and specific anti- terror laws; she has also echoed Advani’s demand to bring back the money Indians have stashed away in Swiss banks. Her support for the last is based on her belief that DMK ministers account for a fair bit of that cash. Even the Congress is not ruled out. She would even agree to sup with the party if the Congress concedes her demand and dismisses the DMK government.
If she gets considerably more seats than the DMK, the Grand Old Party won’t think twice about sacking Karunanidhi and getting her on board as it did in 1991.
History may be waiting to be repeated.

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