Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Snippets / Mail Today, June 22, 2009

WOMEN have always been known to be more talkative than men but here is something that goes to show they are more reliable too. The UPA clearly believes that when it comes to transparency in government, women officers are more trustworthy than men. This is the picture that emerges after it appeared last week that the government was planning to appoint Deepak Sandhu, former media advisor to the prime minister, as the latest member of the eight member Central Information Commission, the body that oversees the ordinary citizen’s right to information. Omita Paul, a former Press Information Information Bureau officer and ex- advisor to Pranab Mukherjee and Anu Dixit, widow of former National Security Advisor Mani Dixit already function as commissioners, which means women occupy three out of the eight posts.

Since ICs are appointed by a committee that includes the prime minister and the leader of the Opposition, it can safely be assumed that the male dominated BJP shares the Congress view that women on the whole are more reliable.

STRANGER things may have happened in a coalition government, but the goings on in Maharashtra last week have truly bordered on the bizarre. The Mumbai Police Commissioner Hassan Gafoor and the Joint Commissioner Rakesh Maria, two Neros who sat in their police Gypsys and fiddled while Mumbai burnt last November are under the scanner; the former has been shunted out, the latter a likely target sooner or later. The tragedy is that it took the government so long. Now here comes the farce.

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan took the belated decision, though a much awaited report by a fact finding commission headed by RD Pradhan, a former union home secretary, has not been made public. Curiously, while the report was not tabled in the assembly, an Action taken Report based on the Pradhan report was tabled.

Though the exact contents of the inquiry report are not known, the commission is said to have indicted the police officers for their inept handling of the crisis. Now, this is where things take an even more bizarre turn. Having shown Gafoor the door, the state government later rallied around him by rejecting Pradhan’s observations about his leadership and even giving him a post- sack promotion as, mercifully, the chief of the Maharashtra Police Housing Department where it is hoped his duties will be limited to checking cracked roofs and leaking cisterns. Worse, D. Shivanandan, the state intelligence chief who had no clue about the impending attack, was promoted to replace the sacked Gafoor.

So, was Gafoor fit for the job or no? And if Shivanandan had failed in his job as intelligence chief, how is he suddenly good enough to head the city police? Mumbaikars want to know the answer to these questions but the nature of the Congress- NCP coalition and the fact that the two officers have benefactors in either party means that they will never get to know the truth.

Mysterious chance encounter
PRIME MINISTER Manmohan Singh appeared to have turned his back on diplomatic tradition last week when he met Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari at a multilateral summit in Russia. Normally, a meeting between heads of state or government is preceded by a photo- op where the two clasp hands and exchange pleasantries until the photographers can’t take it any more.
Political statements are scrupulously avoided. But our prime minister broke with convention when in full glare of TV cameras, he bluntly told Zardari “ I must tell you quite frankly that I have come with the limited mandate of telling you that the territory of Pakistan must not be allowed to be used for terrorist attacks on India”. The red faced Pakistani president is said to have pleaded with him to wait for the media crew to leave. But that’s besides the point.

Was the meeting just a chance encounter on the sidelines of the summit? Indeed, if it were so, do such “ chance” meetings between government heads go on for as long as 45 minutes behind closed doors? I have reason to believe that the “ ran into each other” meeting was just a cover up for a decision to start the dialogue process which was abandoned after 26/ 11.

For the last seven months, India has maintained that talks cannot resume until Pakistan acts against perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage. Though only Manmohan and Zardari were present, I am sure a RoD ( Record of Discussion) has been made which will show if the PM has already set the time frame for a composite dialogue. Don’t be surprised if that has been done and Manmohan and his Pak counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani meet up at the forthcoming NAM summit in Egypt.
The Americans have been after us to resume talks and if we don’t, Hillary who will be here in July, is going to be very angry. If a decision has been made to resume talks, Manmohan will have a lot of explaining to do when Parliament meets next month and the BJP revives the non- talks with Pakistan hysteria. But with a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, that should be the least of his worries.

A HUMILIATING defeat doesn't seem to have chastened Ram Vilas Paswan and once again he has got his feet firmly planted in the air. The giant- killer has several records to his credit, including winning an election to the Lok Sabha with the highest ever margin — 4.5 lakhs — way back in 1977, from Hajipur, Bihar. Much water has flowed down the Ganga that flows by the constituency and Paswan now has a record he wouldn’t want to own up: he lost to the JDU’s Ram Sunder Das, who at 88, was perhaps the oldest candidate to contest the 15th Lok Sabha elections, from the same constituency that elected Paswan seven times.

It's just a month since his defeat and he is already itching to get back to the Lok Sabha to mark his party's token presence in the house. He is eyeing the Firozabad constituency in Uttar Pradesh after Mulayam’s son Akhilesh Yadav resigned the seat, having also won from Kannauj.
Just three months ago, Mulayam had joined Lalu Yadav to project Paswan as a prime ministerial candidate. But last week when Paswan met Mulayam to seek his support for the Firozabad seat, the SP leader told him to first talk to the Congress.

Though the Congress President and Paswan are neighbours in Lutyens Delhi, he has not been able to arrange a meeting so far — before the elections when a minor fire broke out in Paswan's house, Sonia walked across to help him assess the damage. But much has changed in the last month and the feedback Paswan got from party minions is that the Congress plans to field its own candidate in Firozabad.

A month is indeed a long time in politics.

No comments: