Monday, August 3, 2009

Snippets/ Mail Today, August 03, 2009

SHIV Shanker Menon, the draftsman who got it all wrong, finally retired last Friday. Going by the sharm at Sharm el Sheikh, he wouldn’t be touched with a bargepole, but if the diplomatic grapevine is any indication, he is likely to bounce back and be rewarded like many others before him who did nothing more than draft notes that left a lot many people red faced. The government’s fascination for retaining such retired hands is understandable. They have benefactors who are certain that if things go wrong, the blame can always be laid at someone else’s doorsteps. We saw that during the Ramsethu case when some lowly babus were made scapegoats for filing wrong affidavits.

Last week, the Petroleum Ministry amended its affidavit in the Supreme Court in the Ambani brothers fued and the accusing fingers pointed towards a junior level legal officer who allegedly was the culprit. The real one, a senior officer, got away. The moral of the story is this: if you have the right connections, never mind the occasional goof ups.
We can always find a scapegoat.

DEFEATED and discredited they may be but the shrill game of one- upmanship continues unabated in the BJP. At its 11 Ashoka Road headquarters, GenNext leaders are vying with each other to milk the BJP’s media cell to promote themselves. The evening tete- a- tete that party spokespersons had with the media so far has more or less given way to lengthy e- mails informing the hacks of what leaders were up to during the day. Journalists too love it since they don’t have to brave Delhi’s cruel weather and can instead sit in the comforts of their air- conditioned offices and get to know everything still. On some days, as many as a dozen of these mailers go out to a mailing list that has a few hundred e- mail addresses. In recent times I have got several mails which gave me details of what Messrs Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Ananth Kumar said or did that day in Parliament or outside.

I have no doubt that these worthies are all trying to do justice to their jobs as responsible members of the opposition. I have been covering Parliament for the last three decades and when the houses are in session and if I am in the city, I make it a point to drop by at the press galleries or in Central Hall. Last week, I was in the Rajya Sabha when Yashwant Sinha tore the government apart over the PMGilani joint declaration. In the last couple of weeks, I have seen Murli Manohar Joshi pinning down the government on the mat and Arun Shourie holding the House spellbound.

They were brilliant performances, yet they didn't make it to the “ sent- box” at the BJP’s media cell though the newspapers gave the speeches the importance they deserved.
The moral of the story: the medium is not always the message.

THERE is something about Delhi that makes union ministers from Tamil Nadu pine for home, sweet Chennai. With nine ministers, the state has the largest contingent in the ministerial council, but only home minister P Chidambaram, who is more Delhiite than many born- and- bred Delhiites that I know, has made this his city of residence. The others are as apart from each other as they could be: the suave Dayanidhi, the controversial A Raja, the quiet GK Vasan, the rustic Azhagiri, the filmy Napolean, Jagathrakshakan and others.
But what they share is an aversion to staying in the capital. Maybe it is the climate of extremes in the capital, their unfamiliarity or even antipathy for the Hindi speaking crowd or even the reluctance of their families to relocate to Delhi. Consequently, many ministers are spending more time in their state than in their offices. There was a time when ministers and MPs used free Indian Airlines coupons to visit their families on weekends, log frequent flyer miles and get back to work in Delhi during the week. But now even ministers are devoting less and less time to their jobs.

Some, like Dayanidhi can of course borrow brother Kalanidhi’s private jet to fly into Delhi on urgent summons; others show no such enthusiasm. The result is that the in- trays on ministerial tables are piling up and babus have no clue how or indeed when they will be dealt with. I have a suggestion. Instead of asking his ministers to draw up 100 day agendas for their ministries, Manmohan should tell them to attend office for at least a 100 days a year.

Omar needs to have a thick skin
THE non- resignation drama in Srinagar last week is one more warning to politicians that they should coat themselves with a thick skin before taking up responsibilities of high office.
Omar Abdullah is young, handsome, charming and honest. He is also emotional and very very naïve. Muzaffar Hussein Beig, the PDP leader, may have been trying to play to the gallery but he acted absolutely irresponsibly when he made tendentious and unsubstantiated charges about Omar's involvement in the Srinagar sex scandal. The discredited PDP has much to cover up but doff your cap to Beig for sizing up Omar right and laying a trap into which the young chief minister walked.

Omar should have known that politics of sleaze is something that comes with the hot seat that he occupies. He probably did not realise the implications of his resignation which was submitted amidst much emotion and theatrics, first in the state assembly and later in the Raj Bhavan. I understand dad Farooq sent an SMS to his son asking him to show the maturity that befits his office. But Omar was in no mood to yield and Farooq and the Congress leadership in Delhi worked overtime to find a face saver.

Omar’s resignation letter was redrafted to make it “ conditional”. Though CBI does not function under the home ministry, P Chidambaram made a statement that Omar’s name does not figure in the list of accused. This was followed by something unprecedented — a letter from the CBI Director which was effectively a clean chit. But when Omar held out and insisted that he would not return to office until he was cleared by the governor, NN Vohra who has neither the investigative machinery nor the judicial authority to decide, was more than helpful. That’s hardly surprising since the Congress High Command’s wish has always been a command for Governor Vohra. Omar meanwhile should put this sordid chapter behind him, be less emotional, more mature and acquire a thicker skin.

No comments: