Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Snippets/Mail Today, March 15, 2010

Gadkari gives up on radical change in BJP
IT’S been nearly three months since Nitin Gadkari replaced Rajnath Singh as the BJP president and almost a month since his appointment was ratified by the party’s national executive that met in Indore, but there is still no sign of the new “ captain” putting in place his new team of office bearers which is meant to take the BJP back to its glory days. It appears that the BJP’s youngest ever president has taken very little time to realise that the party is full of old warhorses who simply refuse to fade away.

He has also learnt to his horror that there are more factions in the BJP than there are political parties represented in the Lok Sabha. I know him well enough to realise that he has little faith in numerology, astrology and such occult sciences, so what’s holding him up? Last I heard, he was advised by someone to let the Ides of March pass, and I gather from very reliable party sources that on Tuesday, March 16, he will announce the new team. Lest you think he was simply whiling away time, forget it.

I gather that he has held consultations with more than 120 former and current office bearers of the party, ranging from presidents and general secretaries to RSS bosses, state satraps and others. At the end of the long exercise, Gadkari seems to have realised that it would be an uphill task to shake off the old ghosts, making his plans to usher in a new team a virtual non- starter. If current indications are anything to go by, no more than 30 to 40 per cent of the incoming team will be new faces, which means that the majority will be the old guard.

They may not be able to remote control him the way his predecessor was, but it is evident that Gadkari’s wings will be clipped, while the powers of the cabal that runs 11 Ashoka Road continue undiluted.

Cabinet Secy warns babus on corruption
CORRUPTION in bureaucracy is as old as the hills. But the reports coming in from states in recent times about bureaucrats being caught with their hands in the till are enough to make the few good men and women among them contemplate voluntary retirement.

That perhaps explains why after newspapers carried reams and reams about a few bureaucrats, including an IAS couple in Madhya Pradesh, being caught with tens of crores in unaccounted money, Cabinet Secretary K. M. Chandrashekhar shot off a letter to the bureaucratic fraternity demanding “ zero tolerance on corruption”. Chandrashekhar is what I would call a proactive bureaucrat.

Earlier this year, I had in these pages written about his plans to bring babudom in tune with the government’s policies in these fast- changing times.

Last month, he had invited chief secretaries of all states for a two- day conference where many Union ministers were also present. It was a first of sorts in many respects, for apart from the mandatory speeches by the prime minister and the cabinet secretary, even chiefs of the army, navy and air force for the first time directly addressed bureaucrats from the states on the security environment.

His latest missive therefore comes as no surprise. “ Of late, there have been some disturbing incidents which call for serious introspection by civil servants. It is important that we ponder over the manner in which we discharge our duties and fulfil our responsibilities and what we need to do to refurbish our image,” he wrote while reminding them that though they were appointed on the basis of a fair and open competition, they must respond to the faith that citizens “ have reposed in us and meet their hopes and aspirations of good governance.

The government’s policy of zero tolerance on corruption must be implemented fully and effectively”. It is of course too much to hope that the bureaucrats will start putting the country above their own self- serving interests.

THE recent reconstitution of the various committees of the Union Cabinet gives an indication of the ministerial pecking order. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chairs eight of the 10 committees which were recast to “ lessen the workload burden of the Cabinet”. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P. Chidambaram figure in eight of them, followed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar who has a seat in seven, followed by Defence Minister A. K. Antony who sits on four committees. Manmohan predictably heads all the key committees including those on prices, economic affairs, infrastructure and matters related to the WTO. The Prime Minister has had to do a fine balancing act in dealing with the DMK ministers while recasting the committees.

M. K. Alagiri, DMK chief Karunanidhi's son and the Union minister for fertilisers and chemicals, finds a place in the committee on prices, while textile minister Dayanidhi Maran is in the committee on political affairs as well as in that of parliamentary affairs. The pride of place goes to A. Raja, who is in three important committees of infrastructure, economic affairs and Unique Identification Authority of India.

The placement of three DMK ministers in so many crucial committees leaves one with the feeling that the entire exercise was undertaken just to placate an ally.

No comments: