Monday, May 4, 2009

Snippets/Mail Today, May 04, 2009

NEWSPAPERS, often accused of being irresponsible, are very careful when it comes to reporting the statements of the First Family. So it was something of a surprise to read one newspaper quoting Rahul Gandhi telling an election audience in Western Uttar Pradesh that David Miliband, the British foreign secretary who spent a night camping with him in a cowshed in Amethi in January, was so impressed with the rural setting that he gushed “ the real India lives in its villages and not in the cities”. My hunch is that the reporter has resorted to misquoting, being himself unaware that it was Rahul’s great- grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru who had originally penned that famous line. I don’t think Rahul would have been unaware of that and have serious doubts whether he would have resorted to quoting a British minister who embarrassed his hosts by talking for Pakistan while on Indian soil.

Ministers in absentia seek people’s mandate again
AS India’s first ever prime minister not to contest a Lok Sabha election, Dr Manmohan Singh is the target of attack from both the Left and the Right which have joined hands to demand suitable amendments on the grounds that for the prime minister to be accountable, he must seek the mandate of the people. Constitutionally, Manmohan is on strong ground; it is the propriety that the BJP and the Communists are questioning.
But there are worse things that are happening which the opposition should take due note of. Shouldn’t there be something in the Constitution to make sure that ministers attend office, at least once in a while. There are ministers who are seeking fresh mandates despite not going to office even once.

M. H. Ambareesh, Union minister of state for information and broadcasting resigned in protest over the Cauvery issue two years ago but for reasons unknown, his resignation wasn't accepted. It wouldn't have made a difference either way since the Kannada film actor had attended office just for two days as a member of the council of ministers.

Ditto for Taslimuddin, Lalu’s handpicked man. Ambareesh is now contesting as a Congress candidate from Karnataka and Taslimuddin, minister of state for consumer affairs, has been fielded by Lalu Prasad Yadav as the RJD candidate from Kishanganj in Bihar. Taslimuddin probably has no clue even today about where his office is located but has been enjoying all its perks from the day he was appointed as a junior minister under Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar. Messrs Advani and Karat, I think, are barking up the wrong tree. They should save their ammunition for the likes of Ambareesh and Taslimuddin.

IN the 15th general elections, both the Congress and the BJP have adopted cyber attack as the weapon of choice. Tech savvy leaders from both parties, aided by teams of dedicated and hardcore professionals/ supporters are now spending more time and money to make their websites more attractive and substantive than the election speeches and the rallies of their leaders.

So while they are unable to gather or rouse the crowds in the torrid summer heat, their cyber campaigns are putting them into homes all across urban India. Cyber wars are of course decided in terms of the number of hits their websites get and for weeks it was the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L. K. Advani who led by miles. But as voting began, the Congress began to catch up and after the third round of voting, it had surpassed Advani’s and his party’s websites.
The Congress Web masters, not to speak of their spin doctors, are particularly pleased at the huge fall in the traffic in the direction of Advani’s website.

The money spent on the cyber wars by each of the parties is a humongous amount but if the turn- out of young voters at polling booths is any indication, the expensive e- wars have not paid enough dividends.

Pink slips for these pink panthers
AS an undertrial, Ajmal Qasab could not have hoped for a more helpful prosecution team. As the trial of the Pakistani accused in the Mumbai massacre began in the Arthur Road jail, his defence lawyers are finding it ever so easy to rip apart the investigation and the chargesheet and delay justice in a case in which over 180 people were killed.

The ministries of external affairs and the home affairs are seething with rage over the callousness on the part of Mumbai police while sending DNA reports of Qasab and Mohammed Ismail, the co- terrorist killed during the police encounter, to Pakistan. The Mumbai police sent two identical reports of DNA samples, which the Pakistani establishment gleefully lapped up to question the objectivity of the Indian investigations and eventually refuse to share any information. Home minister P. Chidambaram admitted, “ There could have been a minor clerical error”. It would have been laughable if the matter wasn't so serious and now questions are being asked about how lowly clerks were allowed to deal with such a sensitive case. More importantly, how could the report be sent to Pakistan without senior officials in Mumbai, the home and external affairs ministries and the National Security Adviser having a look at it? How did two copies of the same DNA report acquire two different names? Who made that cardinal and idiotic mistake? Even five months after the dreadful events, a committee headed by a former Congress MP to look into the systemic lapses is yet to give a report.

Rakesh Maria, the joint commissioner ( crime ) of Mumbai police admits “ we have a limb and not the brain of the organisation behind the attack”. Statements like these, besides trivialising the probe, have caused much embarrassment to the nation. Belatedly, the MEA has decided to scrutinise each and every word from the Mumbai police before forwarding reports to Pakistan.
Thus, while the probe drags on as inconclusively as before, Qasab buys time. As does the lowly bungling clerk.

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