Thursday, June 4, 2009

Snippets / Mail Today, June 01, 2009

IT’S TIME they really gave a hard thought to renaming South Block as the Deep South Block.
For the Mallu Mafia is growing from strength to unrivalled strength. I have in the past written about its stranglehold on the bureaucracy. And now the tiny state has sent its biggest ever contingent to the council of ministers, two at the cabinet level and four ministers of state. Of the six, three have offices in Raisina Hill and with top officers, from the Cab- Sec, Foreign Secretary to the National Security Advisor reigning in South Block, I suspect the day is not far off when you peep into any room on the Hill and you would find a Mallu sitting there. The reunion of so many of them thousands of miles away from home caused so much excitement at the Rashtrapati Bhavan that when the ministers from Kerala posed for photographers, even the top bureaucrats joined in.

Wasting the promise of the young
IN THE age of youth power, a lot of us thought that at least some among the large contingent of young MPs, touted as symbols of the new and vibrant Congress, would be rewarded with crucial and meaningful posts in the new government. But such hopes have been quickly belied. The allocation of portfolios shows that the Congress views talented young ones like Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasad and others as no more than showpieces in the ministerial cupboard. All of them have either been put under heavyweight Congress ministers or under the Cabinet ministers from alliance partners who are not likely to part with any power or authority, thus depriving them of an opportunity to perform.

Particularly worried should be bright young men like Pilot who has been put under DMK’s A. Raja, in the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Raja, was the target of a smear campaign orchestrated by the Congress spin doctors whose sole aim was to scuttle his induction into the cabinet but got the job after M Karunanidhi dug his heels in. He is not likely to share power with someone as suave and dynamic as Sachin.

Ask Jyotiraditya Scindia. He worked under Raja in the last government and was given charge of the Department of Posts, and all that the young Scindia scion could do was to ensure that post offices across the country were given a fresh coat of paint. Srikant Jena, the firebrand socialist from Orissa and the only minister from the state stayed away from office on the first day, presumably in protest at being placed under MK Azhagiri in the Ministry of Fertilisers and Chemicals. His grouse must be genuine. Jena was a cabinet minister in the V. P Singh government when his senior minister was busy leading DMK cadres pull down Jayalalitha’s posters from the streets of Chennai.
AFTER suffering the likes of Murli Manohar Joshi and Arjun Singh for over a decade, it is heartening to note that the Human Resources Development Ministry will finally be headed by someone who carries with him no ideological baggage. There could not have been a better choice for the portfolio than Kapil Sibal, who last time did a commendable job as India’s Science and Technology minister.

The decay in the ministry actually set in nearly four decades ago when Indira Gandhi appointed Nurul Hasan as Education Minister and the ministry became the monopoly of Leftists. Much later, Joshi sought to undo Hasan’s doings and in the process impose the Sangh Parivar’s own ideology on the educational system.

For the last five years, the ministry was at the mercy of Arjun Singh who was ever busy endorsing history as seen by the Leftists and other pseudo secularists. Unlike them, Kapil is a forward looking man and a visionary and I am sure he will quickly get down to work on, among other things, the increasing involvement of private players in education and the need to curb the growth of both communism and communalism in the sector.

Like Kapil, Anand Sharma carries no baggage though unlike the HRD minister, he is ever ready to carry the baggage of the first family. Some say that, more than anything else, is the reason why he has landed up with the twin portfolios of Industry and Commerce, earlier the preserve of political heavyweights which Sharma is clearly not. There are crucial WTO negotiations coming up in the near future and where Kamal Nath held his own against the developed countries, sometimes even defying the orders from above, Sharma is not expected to do anything more than what he is best at: take orders from his masters.

Free rein to dynasticism
THE POWER of dynastic politics was in full display in both New Delhi and Chennai last week and the two events were linked. In the capital, the freshly sworn in mantrijis had the first meeting of the union council of ministers, while in Chennai, Tamil Nadu got its first ever deputy chief minister; MK Stalin now joins Punjab’s Sukhbir Badal as the second to serve as a deputy in a government led by the father. The DMK patriarch’s failing health does not allow him to work as he used to and the party’s spin masters, zeroed in on his son only after K Anbazhagan, the state finance minister and seniormost in the party hierarchy excused himself because of, well you guessed it, failing health.

The first meeting of the new Manmohan cabinet would have taken place without seven ministers being present. No, it wouldn’t have been the unpredictable Mamata Banerjee throwing early tantrums. It would have been the DMK ministers’ more pressing engagement in Chennai: the coronation of Stalin.

The DMK contingent was ordered by the party patriarch to shelve all official duties and be present. All seven ministers caught the morning flight out of Delhi but were back by Saturday and the first meeting of the new council of ministers mercifully saw no empty chairs.

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