Monday, March 8, 2010

Snippets/ Mail Today, March 08, 2010

Kerala and Bengal are poles apart
LAST WEEK, A. K. Antony flew off to Trivandrum. No surprise, considering that his family still lives in the Kerala capital. But what did come as a surprise was that he had gone to inaugurate the new headquarters of a local Malayalam TV channel which is owned by — now get ready for this — the CPM. The Congress and the Marxists may have tangoed in Delhi but in the two party system that exists in Kerala, the two have been at each other’s throats for more than 53 years.
Antony shared the dais with arch political rivals, the Marxist chief minister V. S. Achutanandan and the powerful state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, among others. I would think it’s as unthinkable as Mamata Banerjee lighting the lamp at a Marxist function in Kolkata or Buddhadeb Bhattacharya dropping by at Mamata’s place on her birthday.

But my Mallu friends say that despite their bitter, often bloody rivalries, the political class does not look at political opponents as people below respect. A friend tells me that when K. Karunakaran, then leader of the Congress- led opposition turned 70, the Marxist government organised a public felicitation programme attended by thousands of Congressmen and Marxists. More recently, when the state CPM secretary’s son got married, the entire top brass of the Congress was in attendance though Pinarayi Vijayan remains the Congress’s bitterest enemy.

Contrast this with the same stock in Bengal. Jyoti Babu used to address Mamata as “ that 420”, and she paid back recently by refusing to attend his funeral. Mamata says to hell with protocol and refuses to attend a function presided over by Manmohan Singh in Kolkata because Buddhadeb Bhattacharya is seen sharing the dais with the Prime Minister.

Such hysterical outbursts help none. Mamata should know that some amount of political decency will help remove the ordinary citizen’s disgust with politicians.

Absenteeism of ruling party MPs can be deadly
MINISTER of state for parliamentary affairs V. Narayanaswamy is a much harried man in Parliament on Friday afternoons. It’s at 3.30 pm on Friday that the Lok Sabha moves what are called Private Members Bills. As opposed to government bills that are moved by ministers after due deliberation in the cabinet, Private Members Bills are moved by individual members, often without even informing the party that he or she belongs to. Neither the government, nor the MPs take these bills seriously, and not one such bill has received the assent of the house in the last 40 years.

Most often, MPs remain absent when their turn comes to move the bill. Some of the more determined ones insist on a debate if only to prove a point, at the end of which they withdraw the bill. But a member can, if he wants, insist on a vote and there have been times when large scale absenteeism of MPs has brought the government close to embarrassment because in a thinly attended house, the opposition had more MPs than the treasury benches.

Most of the bills are innocuous but you can never rule out an MP, with nothing but mischief in mind, moving a bill, say, calling for the “ abolition of Article 370 in Kashmir” . Many MPs have moved such bills aimed at embarrassing the government.

Though Sonia Gandhi’s recent missive to her party men to take their work more seriously centred around Question Hour which kicks off the day’s proceedings, I am sure that the Congress high command is not unaware of the many times when the government came perilously close to a loss of parliamentary face due to the sheer laziness of its MPs during Private Members Bills.

That’s why Narayanaswamy has to be hyperactive on Friday afternoons. It’s no easy job to ensure members’ presence. With the house going into weekend recess, most MPs, particularly those from the south and the east, are in a hurry to get back to their homes and choose an early evening flight. Is it any wonder that absenteeism amongst MPs is higher than among students at university?

HELL HATH no fury like a woman scorned. It gets worse when a clutch of them are scorned — by other women. The dirty politicking of our major political parties pales in comparison with the kind of muckraking that goes on in what are known as “ Better Halves” associations of babudom. We have, for example the Indian Foreign Service Wives Association, the IAS WA and the IPS WA. Now if you think these are kitty party groups that meet up once in a while to admire each other’s perfect coiffure, perish the thought. Elections to the IPS WA were held recently. The wife of the IB director is the ex- officio chief of the IPA WA, so elections were held for other posts.
As expected, the wives of many senior officers were in the electoral fray and nearly 50 members were present for the voting.

With so many high profile wives throwing their hats into the ring, there were frayed tempers that stopped just short of fisticuffs, with a clear divide being evident between spouses from the north and others from the rest of the country. I wish the badshahs of TV sting were around to capture the scenes on hidden cameras. The fear was such that wives of junior level officers, exposed to this kind of thing for the first time, felt terrified.

Wonder why none of them thought of dialing 100, the police control room. Just like their husbands, even the wives are mastering the art of “ politricks” very fast.

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