Can we afford unpredictable and erratic Mamata?
LIKE THE weather, the only predictable thing about Mamata Banerjee is her unpredictability. Examples are many, but recall just the latest in May last when she became the first ever minister to assume office, not at the ministry headquarters in New Delhi, but at the divisional office in Kolkata. And Ms Unpredictable is living up to her name once again. Among the hundreds of mails that I got last week was one which made nonsense of her claim of being the sole guardian angel of the poor and the underprivileged, a theme around which her entire political career has been built for nearly three and a half decades now. The mail was from an Odiya organisation that was protesting the Railway Ministry’s decision to withdraw the weekly Garib Rath express that currently runs between Puri and Bangalore.
Readers may recall that it was Mamata’s predecessor Lalu Prasad Yadav who introduced these “ poor man’s air conditioned chariots” in 2005. Over the last four years, 28 of these were rolled out to enable the poor to make long distance journeys in air- conditioned comfort.
The weekly Puri- Bangalore Garib Rath was introduced just a month ago and was used mostly by poor Odiya labourers working as cooks, carpenters, plumbers etc in Bangalore.
The decision to withdraw the train, less than a month after it started operation, flew in the face of Mamata’s famed concern for the poor, as did her bizarre behaviour last week, when more than 30 people died in a train accident near Agra.
Instead of rushing to commiserate with the poor, she stayed put in her Kolkata home for two days, only to land up in Agra and do the rounds of hospitals where the injured lay. A day later, she said she would settle for nothing less than a CBI inquiry to look into the cause of the accident.
Coming from a railway minister, this was astonishing because such matters are normally looked into by a departmental inquiry. In calling for a CBI inquiry, was Mamata suggesting that she had no faith in her officers? She should clarify.
MORE on the BJP. As I said earlier, the Parliament Board met last Friday but had no time to introspect on the latest round of defeats and why the party found itself in such a mess.
Probably the array of leaders without followers were scared that they would end up pointing fingers at each other. Instead, they acted with lightning speed to accept Vasundhara Raje Scindia’s resignation as leader of the opposition in the Rajasthan Assembly and to appoint a leader of opposition in Maharashtra where the party was soundly thrashed. This is further proof that they intend to target the few charismatic individuals who can still bring in the votes, not to speak of posing a threat to the so called GenNext who, like squatters, continue to occupy the party headquarters long after the lease has expired.
They have already silenced leaders like Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Jaswant Singh, and now Raje Scindia. Her resignation was sought in the wake of the BJP’s disastrous outing in the Lok Sabha elections in Rajasthan, which was supposed to have been one of the party’s strongholds. By that yardstick, the wise men at 11 Ashoka Road who have been collectively responsible for so many electoral debacles should have been asked to retire from politics. The party is so much a victim of internal dissension that my gut instincts tell me the BJP’s future is already behind it.
BJP is up a creek minus the paddle
THE BJP has in Rajnath Singh a president whose last known brave act was to take a flight in the dark from an airport without night flying equipment. The verdict from Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh is proof that its leaders are groping in the dark even as the party lurches from one crisis to another. But instead of switching on the panic signs, the BJP leaders seem to have disconnected the electricity and gone underground. The fact that the BJP National Executive, originally scheduled to be held later this month, was postponed, almost makes me think that the leadership had an inkling of the impending disaster. Normally, the members of the Parliament Board and office bearers meet after election results are declared to draft a political response to the verdict. The PB met briefly, not to conduct a postmortem but to ratify Vasundhara Raje’s resignation.
The normally TV savvy leaders suddenly became camera shy and fielded the likes of Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to face the media. He flitted from studio to TV studio and provided for much mirth.
When asked about the reasons for the disastrous performance of his party, Naqvi was clueless and came up with a very original alibi: it’s the damn Electronic Voting Machines( EVMs).
LK Advani, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar — the BJP’s A- team that planned and executed the entire campaign were exposed as B- grade strategists. Politics is the art of the possible, about seizing the right moment at the right place, but these people have let too many moments slip.
Take Haryana. They jettisoned Om Prakash Chautala who is of course chuckling now. Could they have won in alliance with the INLD? Couldn’t genuine efforts have been made to douse Raj Thackeray’s ire? The search for answers must be accompanied by the axing of a few heads. But will they?