All eyes are on Rahul Gandhi’s whiz kids
AS the dust of this nastiest of elections settles in about three weeks’ time, the Congress party will be anxious not just about the overall outcome but about the R- factor. The fate of a core group of Rahul’s favourites is being eagerly watched by senior Congress leaders who have little doubt that in the next Lok Sabha elections, it will be the young Nehru- Gandhi scion whom the party will project as its prime minister.
Milind Deora, Jiten Prasada, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Dipender Hooda, Sandeep Dikshit, Sachin Pilot, Manish Tewari and Raninder Singh, son of the former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, are among those who are part of Rahul’s inner circle. Like him, most of them are second or third generation politicians who have risen to positions of power without having to work for it.
Though Rahul has personally campaigned in their constituencies, nobody is taking victory for granted. That is because the delimitation exercise has altered the demographic profile of their constituencies. If the UPA continues in office, those who come through will be in the next government. That automatically rules out several of the old guard returning as ministers. I am told some of them are hoping that a few of the young ones bite the election dust.
WITH every election, the cosy relationship between minister and bureaucrat comes under strain as both begin to worry about the future. Ministers worry about re- election and being back in office; bureaucrats, especially in Lutyens’ Delhi, worry because their future is linked with the way the electoral wind blows. With most ministers busy in their constituencies, I thought babus will be sitting back and taking it easy.
But debunking conventional preelection wisdom, I found bureaucrats hard at work during a couple of recent visits to North and South Blocks. It’s normal election eve practice for bureaucrats to do a review of the outgoing government’s performance and prepare a brief for the incoming government. Five years ago, when all opinion polls pointed to the NDA continuing in power, babus’ audits were full of praise for the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. When the UPA became the surprise winner, many of them were made to pay the price, shunted off to obscure postings. So this time, they are taking no chances. A senior bureaucrat told me that most of them are preparing two totally divergent sets of notes — one singing hosannas for the government and the other a stinging critique.
Funnily enough, babus in the economic ministries are falling back on the same set of documents and dismal statistics — the four economic surveys presented by this government, 10 per cent fiscal deficit, 20 per cent export decline, low infrastructure growth, high unemployment — to paint a picture of ministerial ineptitude as well as to show the mantrijis as administrative supermen. Politicians may be at the receiving end of voters’ wrath but for the bureaucrats, it is a winwin situation. The double work they put in is bound to pay off.
The idiot box has a lot of power
Comrade Karat has discovered that the media can be a useful ally in his efforts to reach out to voters beyond the party’s bastions of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. The Left is likely to see fewer of its candidates returned this time from these states as compared to five years ago and they hope to make up the numbers from other states where alliances have been sewn up. That Karat is now beginning to concede the power of the idiot box is evident from the fact that he is ready to brave Delhi’s chaotic traffic to hop from TV studio to TV studio, a job that until now belonged exclusively to Sitaram Yechury. The comrade apparently believes that no government can be formed at the Centre without the CPI( M)’ s support and with too many prime ministerial aspirants from the Third and Fourth fronts, the CPI( M) supremo, I am told, fancies his chances as a possible consensus candidate.
Good luck to him.
As indeed to Jayalalithaa who probably thinks that the only thing that stands between her and the prime ministership is the free and vibrant press. She too is suddenly wooing the media, flying in TV journalists from Delhi at her expense for “ exclusive” interviews and making her Poes Garden residence in Chennai as open a house as a NSG protectee's could be. I am sure other pathological media bashers are also converting. The only one who won’t is Mayawati. She has as much use for the media as she has for Mulayam.