Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Snippets/ Mail Today, June 15, 2009

HAPPENINGS in the BJP are becoming curiouser and curiouser. The top leaders, including its 60 plus Gen- NEXT, are going for each other’s jugular and I don’t see an early end to this very uncivil war. Last heard, the wellentrenched GenNext leaders were seeking action against Jaswant Singh for writing a letter criticising the leadership.

I find this a bit over the top, a little like the pot calling the kettle black. How ironic it would be if action is taken against Jaswant. After all, his only crime was indulging in the very democratic act of writing a letter meant for internal circulation only. On the other end, those who played very prominent roles in the policy and publicity formulations are inventing excuses for the two back- to- back defeats to cover up their ideological bankruptcy and redundancy, and continue to cling on to their posts, despite eroding public confidence in the BJP, through selective leaks to chosen journalists.

Modi’s quick response to poll result
OFFENCE, they say, is sometimes the best form of defence. After its less than spectacular showing in Gujarat where the BJP got just one more seat than it won in 2004, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is not about to let his aura of invincibility wane and has launched an aggressive political strategy to retain it. What better way then to try and recapture some of the lost glory than by launching an offensive. So while his party leaders in Delhi indulged in a fratricidal war where nobody is likely to end up a winner, Modi, who is now halfway through his third term as chief minister, has decided to take on the Congress by playing on Gujarati pride.

Soon after the short Parliament session ended, he invited all the 25 MPs from the state to brief them about taking up matters relating to Gujarat with New Delhi. His logic was that with the elections over, it was time everybody acted in the interest of Gujarat and not along narrow political lines. Only 13, all BJP MPs, attended, with the rest from the Congress staying away. He then took to the rostrums to remind people that while he was ready to sink political differences for the cause of the state, the Congress leaders were avoiding him.

As if to prove the point that not all Congress leaders considered him an untouchable, Modi sought an appointment with the Prime Minister. The meeting was all about bonhomie, with Modi presenting Manmohan Singh a shawl and wishing the new government the very best.

During the half- hour meeting, Modi raised matters ranging from the Sardar Sarovar dam to drinking water management, and even the attacks on Indian students in Australia. With just half his term left, I expect Modi to be the man for all causes and at his aggressive best, reserving all his energies to retain Gujarat, without which he will be as much a spent force as his party leaders in Delhi.

Rahul laying ground for coronation
RAHUL Gandhi’s tremendous contribution towards the UPA’s victory in the election cannot be overestimated. But for his brave decision to go it alone in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress may never have got anywhere near its current tally of 206 seats, the most that it has got in the last five Lok Sabha elections. But you would be mistaken if you think Rahul is sitting back and taking a well- deserved rest. Like his mother, Rahul has already launched Operation 2014 the aim of which is to take the Congress to a third consecutive term in office. As a first step, Rahul, who is also the general secretary in charge of the Youth Congress, is personally selecting state youth wing presidents and top office bearers. To make the grade, no amount of sifarish will work and appointments are made only after candidates pass the rigorous standards that he has set. Brushing aside strong lobbying from even a former chief minister, last month he appointed his own nominee as the Kerala Youth Congress chief.

More recently, half a dozen aspirants for the Bihar YC chief’s post were dispatched to Amethi where they were asked to work among the party workers in Rahul’s own constituency. The feedback he got from party field workers in Amethi, most of whom he knows by their first names, wasn’t particularly flattering to any of them and they were all asked to go back to their state and start afresh. He is now turning his attention to the BJP- ruled states like Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh etc, all of which will soon see new YC chiefs. Such tenacity and doggedness is easily explained. When the time comes for his coronation, Rahul would like the Congress to cross the 272 mark — on its own. Because no Gandhi would want to be the head of a coalition government.

Instead of being dictated, the Gandhis like to dictate.

TILL the other day, the buzz was all about Special Economic Zones. Then the skeletons began to tumble out and now many of them have been put on hold. The new buzzword in Delhi and many state capitals is SSS ( Special Status State). It was Nitish Kumar, the Bihar chief minister, who set the ball rolling by saying on May 15, a day before the election results were out, that his party, the JD( U), which is a partner in the Opposition NDA, will support whichever party or alliance that offered Bihar a special status.

“ We have a good opportunity at hand”, he had said, alluding to the chances for bargaining in a hung house that was then foreseen. The UPA may still need the JD( U) if some of the unpredictable allies behave, as they are frequently known to. Now Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot is demanding special status for his state. After showing the door to the Vasundhara Raje- led BJP government last November, Gehlot delivered 21 of the 26 Lok Sabha seats from the state to the Congress last month.

I foresee a rush of special status applications landing up in the in- tray at the PMO. The Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and the United Democratic Front in Kerala will demand special status. It will help them kick the commies out. Karunanidhi will demand it, so his heirs can keep Amma at bay, forever. The day may not be far off when India, a union of states, becomes a union of special states.

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