Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Snippets /Mail Today, January 18, 2010

Gadkari’s wings could be clipped next month
NITIN Gadkari’s stint as the BJP president is less than a month old, but there are already indications that things are not going exactly to the plan. The new chief had promised that his priority was to bring the BJP to a stage where it would once again be seen as a threat to the ruling Congress, but from what’s going on within the party, it appears that Gadkari will, like his predecessor Rajnath Singh, be busy fobbing off enemies within leaving him little time to take on the Congress. Though settled in office, Gadkari still has not been able to name his team of office bearers.

And if amendments to the party constitution, recommended by the Bal Apte committee appointed by the outgoing chief Rajnath Singh are an indication, the prerogative to choose his team will no longer be his. If adopted, the amendments will drastically prune the president’s powers and ensure that Gadkari does not enjoy the undiluted powers that giants like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani did. The proposed amendments include handing over powers to the party’s central parliamentary board to overrule decisions made by the president and curb his powers to select his own team of office bearers and national executive.

And for the first time in its 28 year old history, the party has also proposed that procedures be put in place to remove the party chief midway through his term. The BJP national council meeting scheduled in Indore in February will discuss these and other amendments and if passed, Gadkari will come out of the council meeting a much sadder man than when he went in.

Needless to say, the cabal that has run the party for the last few years and dragged it down from its preeminent position will be very very relieved that their powers remain intact.

WE have seen politicians turned ministers pampering their constituencies. Long before Mamata Banerjee became Railway Minister and showered every possible gift on West Bengal, her many predecessors in Rail Bhavan located coach factories, sanctioned new lines and started new trains in their states and proved the adage that the heart is where the home is.
But SM Krishna and Prerneet Kaur, who also holds charge of passports, are taking pampering to new heights. Come February 1, those seeking passports from the regional offices in Bangalore and Chandigarh will no longer have to endure long waits to lay their hands on the document. They will get their passports within three days, thanks to the extra care that the minister for External Affairs and his deputy have for their own states. It’s a kind of super Tatkal scheme, except that you don’t have to pay the extra fee of Rs 1500 in addition to the passport charges of Rs 1000.

Which makes me wonder why Shashi Tharoor hasn’t joined the bandwagon. Despite having four offices, the queues outside passport centres in tiny Kerala are the longest. The minister should give it a thought. He is known to have his way and if he can assure Mallus who are forever queuing to go to Dubai— damn the recession— in 2014 he can ensure victory not only from cosmopolitan Trivandrum but even backward Malappuram.

M K Narayanan is the fall guy
AS National Security Advisor, MK Narayanan has been one of the most powerful persons in the UPA. So what is one to make of the sudden decision of the government to move him out to the Kolkata Raj Bhavan where Gopal Gandhi has put in his papers? The governor mansions across the country, as we well know, are exclusive retiring homes for the faithful and Narayanan, dependable and devoted as he was, had a lot left in him to serve the government in the demanding job as NSA.
Obviously, there are powerful lobbies who don’t share the prime minister’s views about Narayanan’s priorities as an officer. His drives for transparency in defence deals, seeking the sources of foreign investment have earned him the wrath of the powerful defence, corporate and foreign lobbies. Diplomats have never tried to hide their animosity towards him. And that’s what leads me to believe that his transfer is only the first in a series of shakeups that will take place in the next few months. Someone— and it’s not the prime minister— is chanting the mantra ‘ perform or perish’.
South Block is crammed with too many post- retirement appointees and a few who have been given service extensions. After more than seven months of UPA II, many of them are yet to justify their continued stay in office. Food prices are zooming upwards and we have one of the prime minister’s closest economic advisors comforting us every fortnight that everything will be fine within the next. The reality is different because by the next fortnight, prices have gone through the roof, yet with barefaced cheek, they assure us yet again that one more fortnight is all it will take for normalcy.

It’s the same set of people who wax eloquent from high tables in foreign capitals about 8 percent growth when the Right to Food Act and the Right to Education Act cannot be implemented because there is no money in the treasury. Yet, they are on the lookout for fall guys. They found one in Narayanan. I see a purge happening in the near future.

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