Monday, July 27, 2009

Snippets / Mail Today, July 27,2009

IT’S BEEN a depressing two months for the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The less than expected performance in the Lok Sabha elections was compounded by the BJP’s humiliation in the municipal elections in Junagadh where he had fielded several heavyweights, including Muslim candidates, meant as a test run of his new avatar as a minority friendly CM. His misery was further compounded when the high court last week gave permission to the SIT to include Modi among the 62 persons to be interrogated for the 2002 riots.

The party’s central leadership hasn’t lent him a shoulder to cry on, busy as the leaders are fighting one another. No wonder the poster boy of the BJP is suddenly feeling isolated, let down by his fair- weather friends in Delhi and the constituents he tried to reach out to. The latter is proof that image makeovers don’t work in politics. Modi has always turned adversity into an opportunity. We will wait to see if once again he will pull something out of nothing.

How to become a people’s president
AS ANNIVERSARIES go, this was as quiet as it could get. Last Thursday, Pratibha Patil completed two years in office as the President of India and but for Rashtrapati Bhavan sending out a press release to commemorate the occasion, it was a low key event that went virtually unnoticed.

Two years ago, Patil came into office in a blaze of controversy, but since then has gone about her job in a businesslike manner, laying the odd foundation here, unveiling a statue there, giving a bhashan somewhere else and occasionally taking off on a foreign jaunt. Going by the coverage she gets, even the media doesn’t seem to have much of an idea of what she is up to.
But go through the Rashtrapati Bhavan website and you will get the picture of a president who keeps herself really busy. The press release issued last Thursday headlined “ President completes two years in office working towards building a compassionate and people centric society” gives an idea of the areas of her concern. From inclusive and balanced growth to people centric administration, efficient and affordable justice delivery to battling social evils, the country’s first citizen is pitching in everywhere with her bit. The more I went through the website, the more I was convinced about the excessive self praise and wondered if previous presidents also indulged in the same.

Unfortunately, while the website lists all previous presidents, it doesn’t provide links that would take the reader to their tenure on Raisina Hill. I don’t know if these existed in the past. If they did, were they removed and why? It is such a shame really because all rulers are judged in comparison with their predecessors and it would have been revealing to know how she fares relatively. Patil still has three more years to go and to be fair, presidents are best judged after they demit office. By that yardstick, Abdul Kalam’s crowded calendar would indicate he has been the most popular in recent times. That’s why he was called the People’s President.

THE Maharashtra Anti Terror Squad’s attempts to bounce back after being sidelined in the aftermath of 26/ 11 is finally bearing fruit. Warnings almost on a daily basis from the IB and other agencies about Mumbai being targeted once again has woken the Congress- NCP government in Maharashtra from its deep slumber. Stung by the serious criticism over the shoddy treatment of the crack outfit, the government has launched a massive plan to revamp the ATS, giving it additional powers, men, state of the art equipment and bulletproof interceptor jeeps.

The ATS was marginalised after 26/ 11 when it was taken off all cases relating to the Mumbai attacks. Internal politics and factionalism led its then chief and bravest officer Hemant Karkare to walk into a deathtrap. Since then senior police officers were hesitant on an ATS posting which was seen as a dumping ground. K. P. Raghuvanshi, who was an earlier chief, had demanded the restoration of the agency’s powers as soon as he was reinstated in the wake of Karkare’s death.
The government has yielded a lot of ground.

Under the revamp plan, young officers would be posted and given proper security cover and weapons. They will also have powers to deal with all terror related issues and will report to Director General of Police ( Ops), a post which has been created recently, and not, as was the practice until recently, to the state DGP. It is to be hoped that the ATS will get down to its primary task of pre- empting and preventing terror attacks rather than keep itself busy fighting internal saboteurs.

Those who hide behind the NSG
LEADERSHIP is something that cannot be left in the hands of cowards. The message that came out after all the noise in Parliament last week after the reported moves of the union home ministry to review the security cover for our “ VIPs” was that this nation is being led by a bunch of cowards. Home Minister P Chidambaram has shed the elaborate security detail meant for himself. We have a lot of VIPs who wouldn’t be seen in public unless surrounded by men in black wielding fearsome looking guns.

It was a good social and political symbol that Chidambaram wanted to take away from the undeserving, for which he laid out plans to downsize the security cover of many politicians.
That triggered a convergence of strange bedfellows. Politicians who wouldn’t even deign to attend each other’s funeral joined hands to oppose it.

Mulayam and Lalu Yadav said the government would be responsible if anything happened to them, while Mayawati’s BSP contingent brought Parliament to a standstill. Politics has always been a paying profession, but it is also a dangerous one and anyone in public life — even a low profile MP — is a soft target. When a CM insists that she will settle for nothing less than Z+ security which doesn’t tally with IB’s assessment, she is merely inflating her importance.
My mind goes back to 1993 when Jayalalithaa was Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and PV Narasimha Rao the prime minister.

There was no love lost between the two. The Tamil Tigers were having a free run in the state, yet the Rao regime withdrew the NSG cover to the lady. I am privy to the letters exchanged by the two and recall that in one of his letters, Rao had asked Jayalalithaa how she could be trusted with the security of the state when she feared so much for her own life. Jaya then set up the state’s own elite guard, the Greyhounds, and shamefully, other chief ministers followed suit.

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