Monday, January 25, 2010

Snippets/ Mail Today, January 25, 2010

Mulayam’s support base set to shrink

MORE and more, the Samajwadi Party is beginning to look like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland . The leadership’s grin remains intact, but everything else has fallen apart or disappeared. The last couple of years have been forgettable for Mulayam Singh Yadav electorally and as the party now begins to resemble a family run fiefdom, the downhill slide has picked up speed. The death last week of the affable Janeswar Mishra, the Brahmin face of the SP, comes close on the heels of the palace coup in Etawah that saw the departure of Amar Singh. With both the Brahmin and Thakur leaders out of the party, its impact is being assessed. Now Mulayam has the daunting task of wooing or retaining the few Rajputs and Brahmins left in the SP. Amar’s departure just three days before the council elections created enough confusion among the higher and middle level leaders of the SP. The party had fielded only five candidates in 36 seats and managed to win just one.

Rajputs are particularly angry because Amar Singh was not only one among them but also the only leader with nationwide visibility that the party had; the rest were at best, constituency- level leaders who had no say in the party affairs. With his cross party friends and vast business and other contacts, Amar Singh had given the one- state party a reach beyond the borders of Uttar Pradesh.

During the Mulayam regime in 2003- 07 period, there were violent Yadav- Thakur clashes in eastern UP and when the police seemed to be working in tandem with the Yadavs, it was he who raised the issue with Mulayam and restored order. The SP currently has 14 Rajput MLAs in the assembly, three in the council and four Rajput MPs. Insiders tell me many of them are beginning to feel “ uncomfortable” in the SP as they fear they will be targeted for being “ Amar Singh's men”. With the SP firmly in the grip of Mulayam, brothers Shivpal and Ram Gopal and son Akhilesh, its next poll slogan may well be “ I Me, Mine”.

FOR years, Sharad Pawar’s reputation as one of the country’s efficient administrators has preceded him. But with prices going through the roof despite robust agricultural growth and record procurement, they are all targeting one man: the Agriculture Minister. His reputation as an efficient Minister now lies in tatters . But Pawar’s counter is this: “ I have been in politics for 50 years. This is the first time I have seen that price rise is being linked only to the Agriculture Ministry”.

He is intrigued why nobody is pointing fingers at the railway ministry which, because of fog over north India, has put restrictions on movement of goods trains because of which prices of everyday goods as well as materials like steel and cement have risen sharply.

Pawar feels that he is a victim of internal politics of the Congress which incidentally has not defended the minister on this issue. He is even upset about rumours over his health allegedly being promoted from certain Congress quarters. Recently, he excused himself from a cabinet meeting after his agenda was gone because of a bad toothache. That was enough for the rumours to swirl again. His followers want him to hit back, but the man swears by collective responsibility. So I know he won’t.

Why did Mamata miss the funeral?
MAMATA Banerjee’s penchant for theatricals is legendary but I am sure even the most ardent of her Trinamool supporters have been left red faced by her antics at the funeral of the Marxist veteran Jyoti Basu last week. A funeral is an occasion when even sworn enemies gather in silence and maybe keep a safe and dignified distance. Everyone knows that Mamata views a communist in the same manner that a bull looks at a red rag.

But someone ought to tell the lady that her responsibilities as a minister in the union government far outweigh the irresponsibility that come with being leader of the Trinamool Congress. Reports have it that she boycotted the funeral because she believed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was cosying up to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the man she hopes to replace at Writers Building after the assembly elections next year.
It was nothing of the sort. Protocol dictates that when the prime minister visits a state, the local chief minister must be present at all public functions. The two may have done nothing more than exchange pleasantries, but conspiracy buffs in the Trinamool seem to have convinced Mamata that they were hatching something. It now appears that the real reason was something else.

Rumours doing the rounds suggest Mamata wanted to accompany Sonia Gandhi in her car for the funeral but the elite Special Protection Group would have nothing of it. Mamata is then said to have demanded that she be allowed to travel in one of the many cars that formed the SPG convoy but was politely told by an officer that the rulebook did not allow such free rides. She is then said to have had a running verbal feud with the leader of the commando group before finally walking away in a huff, but not before accusing the SPG of trying to keep her away from Sonia. In the months to come, Mamata can be expected to spin many such conspiracy theories that will fascinate Bengalis, at least until the assembly elections next year.

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