Monday, December 7, 2009

Snippets / Mail Today, December 07, 2009

Foes unite against Bellary duo
YOU couldn’t find three political parties or combinations as far removed from one another as the Congress, the BJP and the Third Front but the three are meeting in a lot of interesting ways of late. N Chandrababu Naidu, the former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam chief came to Delhi last week to petition prime minister Manmohan Singh to call an all party meeting to discuss the “ activities of the mining lobby which is looting the country’s wealth in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka”. He met CPM’s Prakash Karat, the CPI’s AB Bardhan, HD Deve Gowda, Sharad Yadav, Ajit Singh and enlisted their support.

According to capital grapevine, Naidu also met Karnataka’s BJP chief minister BS Yedyurappa over dinner at a 5- star hotel in the capital. Was it just a courtesy dinner or did it also have to do with mining politics? More likely the latter. Yeddy, as we know, had a pistol held to his head by the mining mafia which even forced him to drop his favourite minister from his cabinet. Naidu on the other hand had been carrying on a relentless campaign against the former AP chief minister YS Rajashekhara Reddy for allowing the Bellary brothers — as the mining mafia is called — to “ plunder” forests and use the money to influence politics in the two states.

I suspect K Rosiah, the Congress chief minister of AP has a private treaty with Naidu since he too is calling for a CBI probe into the activities of the mining mafia. Meanwhile, the rap on the knuckles from the High Command seems to have made Jaganmohan Reddy, YSR’s ambitious son, realise his own limitations.

Why, Jagan’s subsequent acquiescence suggests he thinks that his political career may be better served by staying on the straight and narrow path. The cross- party convergence of interests also proves one thing: when their interests are threatened, they sink their differences to fight the common foe.

What’s cooking for Sonia’s birthday bash?
ON WEDNESDAY, Sonia Gandhi will turn 63 and much as she abhors public displays of pomp and celebration, the Congress party is planning a big party. There will of course be the ubiquitous drumbeaters and dancers outside 10 Janpath and the adjacent 24 Akbar Road headquarters. Though there are no plans to call all Congress chief ministers to the capital to join the celebrations, most of them are likely to arrive on their own. Just another show of characteristic Congress sycophancy? Maybe not.

Some Congressmen expect a surprise gift. that could give this very social occasion immense political significance. I understand that a Tamilorigin minister and a caste mate of the AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa, has been trying to persuade the imperious lady of Poes Garden to join the party. You don’t need a long memory to know that the last time Jayalalithaa attended a similar party in Delhi, the Vajpayee government fell and most political parties were wooing new bedfellows.

Ordinarily, I would have credited such rumours to a hyperactive prankster, but what lends credence to these is the mysterious silence of the AIADMK’s 15 MPs in both houses on the many occasions in recent times when the opposition sought to pin the government down on the mat. The lie- low approach isn’t surprising. After losing two Lok Sabha and an assembly election in a row, the AIADMK’s morale is at its lowest.

JJ’s last chance for redemption isn’t far away. The state assembly elections are due in 2011. For the Congress, the DMK is proving to be an albatross. Most of its ministers are absentees in office and those that turn up are neck deep in sleaze. True, Rahul Gandhi’s mission to revive the Congress in Tamil Nadu is yielding results, but it will be a while before the Congress reaches the commanding heights where it can afford to go it alone as young Rahul wants. Until then, he will have to depend on one of the Kazhagams. The consensus in the Congress is that, as of now, a unipolar Kazhagam with a central authority is preferable to a multipolar one with competing power centres.

THE SUCCESS of a minister is intimately linked with the officials he gets to assist him in running the ministry. For the past two weeks, the department of Personnel has been desperately looking for replacements for three secretaries in the ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Official Languages and the Department of Drinking Water Supply. Two of the three — HRD and DDWS — are flagship departments of the UPA government. HRD secretary RP Aggarwal demitted office on November 30 and Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrashekhar stuck to routine and circulated a panel containing a few names but since the Prime Minister was abroad, no final decision could be taken. Both the Prime Minister and HRD minister Kapil Sibal prefer someone who can ensure speedy implementation of the process of education reforms, but as no final decision could be taken on the selection of fresh secretaries, the responsibilities of all three departments was passed on to other secretaries “ until further orders”. This in turn has led to heartburn among many senior bureaucrats who had been eyeing these jobs which would have also brought them promotions.

Their grouse is that if the leadership is really serious about effective implementation of its reform agenda, it must first reform its personnel policy which should place a premium on merit and not pliability as the primary consideration for filling top posts. No argument there.

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