Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Snippets/ Mail Today, May 11, 2009

THE once dogmatic Left is suddenly discovering the advantages of being different things to different people all the time. Senior leaders are talking in varied voices and in doing so, the comrades hope to have all doors open for themselves and a hold on the levers of power in any post- election scenario. So Comrade Karat abuses the Congress and says the Left will not commit the same mistake again, but Congress leaders confidently say the Left will come to their aid once again. Is such confidence based on quiet assurances given by other politburo members, notably Sitaram Yechury who holds the secular card close to his chest and never tires of repeating that nobody is untouchable, except the “ fascist communalists”? With the general secretary and the senior politburo member speaking with forked tongues, is it any wonder that the party has to now grapple with the unsavoury spectacle of the powerful state secretariat asking the chief minister, who I assume was handpicked by the politburo, to step down? Stranger things may still happen in the CPI( M).

Pity the hapless Congress party spokesmen
THERE is never a more thankless job than being a party spokesman. You get pilloried by the media and are pulled up by your seniors, yet in the Congress there are many who are more than happy to do it. One count I did a few months back had 21 of them. Among them: Veerappa Moily, Kapil Sibal, Jayanti Natarajan, Manish Tewari, Anand Sharma and if nobody else was available, Tom Vadakkan was more than ready to fill in. But after the unceremonious ouster of Moily, who proudly served three generations of the Gandhi- Nehru family, it has become a hot seat.

If it can happen to Moily, it can happen to any of us, is the refrain. Moily’s fault was that the day after Rahul Gandhi praised Nitish Kumar for good governance, he rubbished the Bihar chief minister, calling him a “ pollutant” for keeping the company of the BJP. Rahul’s praise for Nitish may have more to do with shoring up the UPA’s rapidly depleting membership, but problems arise because nobody outside that charmed inner circle has even a clue about the official stand to be taken with respect to the likes of Jayalalithaa, the Left parties, Nitish etc. Rahul attacks them one day and praises them the next. In Sivaganga, he said the Congress DMK alliance was “ inseparable”, yet he was anything but harsh on Jaya.

The Congress is fighting the JD( U) in several constituencies in Bihar, yet Rahul praised Nitish in a manner that would have made many Congress chief ministers green with envy. Being the veteran that he is, the Bihar chief minister accepted the compliment but rejected his overtures. Moily has been replaced by Janardan Dwiwedi, a family loyalist who owes his rapid climb up the party hierarchy to the fact that he writes Sonia’s Hindi speeches. If there is anything Congressmen fear these days, it’s the return of Durbar politics.

NOTHING fuels politics as much as low- brow gossip and since much of what happens in Indian politics are mysteries wrapped in riddles, gossip often acquires the label of gospel truth. So it was last week when Sonia Gandhi made a last minute cancellation of her scheduled campaign in Chennai where she was to address a joint rally with M Karunanidhi. The cancellation happened because Karunanidhi was suddenly taken ill, but the rumour factories in Delhi and Chennai went into overdrive and churned out a series of fairy tales, some of which bordered on the bizarre. One had it that Sonia was informed about a proposed black flag demonstration by 10,000 AIADMK activists and was so incensed she stayed back. A corollary to this was that the DMK government had issued an order banning carrying of black flags.

This triggered another outlandish story about instructions going out from the AIADMK headquarters to the party faithful, all 10,000 of them, to beat the ban on black flags by assembling at the rally clad in black shirts. Nearly three months ago I had written in these columns that the DMK patriarch was not likely to actively participate in the campaign because of his failing health. But this being a do- or- die battle for the DMK, I am told the Karunanidhi family requested Sonia to visit the ailing leader in hospital. Live images beamed on the DMK owned Sun TV would do the trick. Or so they believed. Originally, she was to fly to Chennai’s Kamaraj Airport and then take a chopper to the venue of the rally. But since a visit to the hospital involved a drive through the city, the idea was promptly shot down by her security advisors who said they would not allow her to drive through Chennai even if a bulletproof motorcade was made available. Quite where all this leaves the voter is anyone’s guess.

Weather cocks move
CIVIL servants, apart from grinning all the time, can also turn out to be very accurate weather cocks. Over two dozen senior civil servants posted at the Centre and in various states have launched a massive public relations exercise with leaders of leading political parties with the aim of grabbing important posts at the Centre in the new set- up that will be in place after the elections. Some will go to any extent to ingratiate themselves with the new masters — whoever they may turn out to be. In fact, they have even formulated an Agenda for Governance.

But since leaders of most national parties have their own favourite civil servants, these wannabes are chasing regional leaders without whose support no government can come to power at the Centre. Sources tell me that no government in the past has re- employed as many retired bureaucrats as the UPA regime. The ones who are most worried are the 100 odd bureaucrats who managed to get plum post retirement jobs from the UPA government.

Most of them have not proved equal to the task assigned to them and are likely to lose their jobs. According to insiders, even if Manmohan returns for a second term, the PMO, Cabinet Secretariat, Home Ministry and key economic ministries are set to take a fresh look at many of these cases. Time for post retirement planning.

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