THAT Union Home Minister P Chidambaram is a stern taskmaster is to state the obvious. He sets high standards and expects everyone else to keep up with these and anyone who produces results below expectations can look forward to an early dispatch to the recycle bin. Less than two months into the new government and some officers are already moving out or being moved out. As of now, there is little indication whether it is because of the pressure getting on to them or whether they are just not up to the job. But mystery surrounds the transfer of Raman Srivastava, a highly acclaimed former DGP of Kerala who was brought in Special Security ( Internal Security) a week after 26/ 11. Last week, the government appointed him as the Director General of the Border Security Force, which in bureaucratic parlance would be seen as a demotion. With the BSF’s fleet of airplanes that include the Brazilian built Embraer, Srivastava can draw some comfort from the fact that he has more flying machines at his disposal than India’s richest businessmen.
Hang together or we hang separately
AMONGST our current crop of politicians, there is no one quite like Sharad Pawar whose words and deeds are often mismatched. The occasions in the past when he flexed his muscles to eventually chicken out are far too numerous to list here but there he was last week up to his old tricks. Ten years ago, the affable, ever grinning PA Sangma had walked out of the Congress along with Pawar to form the Nationalist Congress Party, but after his daughter Agatha was made a minister in the UPA government in May, Sangma had called on Sonia Gandhi to rebuild bridges. This time, it was the slender shoulders of Sangma that Pawar chose to fire from when he got the former Lok Sabha Speaker to issue a July 15 deadline to the Congress to formalise the NCP- Congress coalition ahead of the Maharashtra assembly elections due later this year. But a day later, Pawar sprang a surprise when at the inauguration of the Bandra- Worli sea link in Mumbai, he suggested that the bridge be named after Rajiv Gandhi. Chief minister Ashok Chavan found nothing wrong in promptly accepting the suggestion without even referring the matter to his cabinet. If you think this was quick decision making at the highest levels in government, perish the thought. Pawar and Chavan are guided purely by narrow self interest.
The NCP will end up as an electoral wreck without the Congress which is currently on a roll; and with former chief minister and current Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh setting his eyes once again on Mantralaya, Chavan needs Pawar to checkmate his ambitions.
Deshmukh wants the Congress to go it alone and is confident the party will come up trumps, while Pawar and Chavan have recurring nightmares about a coalition break- up handing the state to the BJP- Shiv- Sena alliance on a platter. That is a distinct possibility, if talks of reconciliation in the Thackeray family turn out to have any truth.
HERE’S further proof that many men- only bastions are crumbling one by one.
Last week, the government appointed Nirupama Rao, currently our ambassador in Beijing, to succeed Shiv Shankar Menon as the next Foreign Secretary.
It is after nearly a decade that the foreign office will have a woman at the top and soon Ms Rao will be in good sisterly company. By the end of the year, the MEA would end up having three women secretaries, as current incumbents N. Ravi will retire and Nalin Surie, is likely to be posted to London as High Commissioner. Parbati Sen Vyas is already there as secretary and one of the vacancies is expected to be filled by Vijayalata Reddy, currently ambassador in Bangkok, leaving to Vivek Katju, Special Secretary ( Pol), the job of ensuring that the once male bastion doesn’t entirely crumble. Since the UPA government gave the country its first woman President, Pratibha Patil, in 2007, the glass ceiling has been repeatedly battered.
We now have a woman Speaker, Meira Kumar, presiding over the Lok Sabha; more women were elected to the Lok Sabha this time than at any time in the past; the president’s address to the opening session of the 15th Lok Sabha announced more womencentric programmes than any previous government has done. There is only one job that is left to be regained, which for the last 25 years has been a male preserve. It’s the big one. The decision is Sonia's and so is the job.
Babri report is too much and too late
A WHOLE lot of people are nervously chewing their fingernails over the contents of the Justice Liberhan Commission report on the demolition of the Babri Masjid but there’s equal mystery shrouding the timing of its submission. It took 17 years, 48 tenure extensions and a cost of over Rs 8 crore to the exchequer before the Honourable Justice ( Retd) MS Liberhan produced his tome.
That itself is a record that is unlikely to be bettered for a long time to come. But it is speculation over its timing that raises eyebrows. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are waiting for the report to be tabled in Parliament, but it is my firm belief that the government will keep it a closely guarded secret for some time, just to add grist to the rumour mill with an eye on putting the opposition BJP, already writhing in pain from self- inflicted injuries, in total disarray. Newspaper reports have quoted sources close to the horse’s mouth and indicted LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, among others, and as long as these remain in the realm of speculation, they will be under a cloud. They will not be able to launch a counteroffensive, a prerogative they would have if the report is made public.
The Samajwadi Party will also be squirming in embarrassment since speculation centres around its latest recruit, Kalyan Singh, who was chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1992 when the Masjid was brought down.
The few remaining allies of the NDA who swear by secularism, like the JD( U), will also have a rethink on supping with such friends.
Later this year, elections are due in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and possibly Haryana where chief minister BS Hooda wants to bring them forward. Don’t be surprised if within days after the poll dates are announced, the government tables the report. It can always claim that Liberhan took 17 years, and it just a few months.