Monday, September 7, 2009

Snippets/ Mail Today, September 07, 2009

EVERYONE thought so far — this writer included — that President Pratibha Patil is the dullest personality ever to have moved into the Rashtrapati Bhavan. After hearing reports of her ongoing visit to Russia, I will admit to a readiness to eat my words. At a function hosted by the Indian Ambassador, she reportedly had the audience in splits. She acknowledged she was merely recalling what Valentina Tereshkova, the world’s first woman cosmonaut, had told her more than 30 years ago when she was an MLA in Maharashtra. Incidentally, Ms Tereshkova was among the evening’s audience. The Chinese have a knack of complicating things. The proverb that Ms Tereshkova quoted was Chinese: “ While man is the head of the family, the woman is the neck that turns the head”. In simple English, that translates to “ Behind every successful man there is a woman”. Woman power, in short. No quarrels on that.

Home ministry babus feel the heat

WHEREVER he goes, P Chidambaram is known to send a few shivers down lazy spines. Babus in North Block which houses the home ministry are filled with a feeling of dread after PC ordered the installation of new Biometric Attendance Control systems at the gates to monitor their comings and goings.

“ A working day consists of eight hours ( 9 am to 5.30 pm with half an hour for lunch) and all officers/ officials are expected to work for this minimum period; i. e. eight hours a day and 40 hours in a week… some persons may get delayed due to transport/ traffic problems and such late arrivals within a reasonable period of 15/ 25 minutes will be acceptable subject to their adjusting their working hours up to 8 hours by delayed departure,” said a ministry note.

Bureaucratic gobbledygook, you say. Not for this minister who looks at everything from a productivity angle. He himself reaches office at 9 and promptly places a finger on the machine before going to his chamber and does the same before leaving for the day.
Every day, officers have to give reports about files received, acted upon and disposed of and the work done by their staff. If files are kept pending, reasons have to be given.

Besides monitoring the work done on a daily basis, the new system is also aimed at taking a holistic look at staffing and related matters. I am sure there are several hundred babus working in the home ministry and I have a feeling that after sustained monitoring for a year, Chidambaram will have a clear idea of the number of staff that is redundant. Downsizing has been his mantra since 1996 when he became the finance minister for the first time. If he succeeds, I am sure that other ministries and wings of the government that urgently need to cut flab, will be quick to follow.

IF ONLY walls could talk. Last week, the RSS Sarsangchalak Mohanrao Bhagwat rounded off his highly publicised visit to Delhi by calling on Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The one- on- one meeting without aides or even family members present lasted a little over half hour, but that did not stop the breaking news brigade from churning out a stream of “ exclusives” that claimed Vajpayee was “ disgusted at the goings- on in the BJP”, Bhagwat was “ determined to set things right” and similar fanciful stories.

I drop by “ Bapji’s” house once in a while and I know that he doesn’t talk, watches TV, but mainly for the serials and the movies. Since the tumultuous events of these past few weeks, only party president Rajnath Singh had called on Vajpayee, while those who hold the party levers churned tales to suggest that LK Advani was the sole decision making authority.

Bhagwat’s visit was aimed at erasing that perception, to let the world know Vajpayee’s place in the party, that his word still mattered. In that sense, Bhagwat was the third umpire who played back the true picture. Vajpayee may have merely listened while Bhagwat did all the talking. But I am sure of one thing: the roadmap, if any for the BJP’s revival will have neither the concurrence nor the disapproval of the party’s Grand Old Man. He just wants to be left alone.

Yeddyurappa to occupy slot left vacant by YSR

HUMAN tragedies sometimes throw up unintended opportunities — even beneficiaries. In the tragic death of YS Rajasekhara Reddy, the South has lost its most powerful satrap. With M Karunanidhi ready for the sunset walk, it is his Karnataka counterpart BS Yeddyurappa who stands out South of the Vindhyas. He has been carving out a niche for himself and going on to acquire an image bigger than his party. Of late he has been working on a combination of political, social and economic strategies to ensure inclusive growth and politics. His first move to acquire a pan- South India image was to repair the bad ties between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. For over two decades, the chief ministers of the two states never shared a social platform because of dirty politics over a host of issues including the Cauvery Water dispute.

But Yeddi fell back on statue diplomacy, by inviting Karunanidhi to unveil a bust of Tamil saint poet Thiruvalluvar in Bangalore, and then going to Chennai to unveil one of Kannada poet Sarvajna. Later, when Yeddi visited Chennai for a medical check up, Karunanidhi expressed his desire to visit the hospital. But Yeddi sprang from his hospital bed and landed at Karunanidhi’s Gopalapuram residence. The DMK chief was so moved, he is now said to be ready to talk with Yeddi about all pending inter state disputes.

Yeddi is consolidating himself slowly but surely. He has already ensured massive victory for the BJP in the assembly, Lok Sabha and the recent by- elections, clinically divided the Janata Dal ( S) and made his government stable. By repairing ties with the neighbour, Yeddi will also be doing a favour to the DMK. If the bad blood between the two states is buried once and for all, the DMK will have a huge rain check waiting encashment. And the BJP would have finally found someone who can win it allies.

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