Modi not welcome in Bihar
THE BJP, which tried to score a point by holding its national executive ( NE) in Patna last weekend, seems to have ended up scoring a self- goal. The battle of political wits that began in Patna last weekend between chief minister Nitish Kumar and his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi triggered events that could end up in a messy divorce between the JD( U) and the BJP, who are in coalition in the state that is up for polls.
So far, Nitish has done a fine balancing act as a secularist who finds nothing wrong in sharing power with the BJP. It may be recalled that during the last Lok Sabha elections, he campaigned for BJP candidates but made sure the minorities weren’t lost by keeping Modi away from poll platforms.
With Modi arriving in Patna for the NE, the expected and much worse has happened.
A public rally scheduled under the NDA banner with senior leaders such as L. K. Advani, Nitin Gadkari, Narendra Modi along with the fiery Varun participating ultimately became a BJP rally after Nitish refused to share the stage with Modi.
A dinner that Nitish had planned at his residence for all NE members was cancelled after Nitish made known his distaste for supping with Modi.
But the unseemly row touched a new low when Nitish objected to ads that the Gujarat government had taken out in Patna papers which had pictures of Modi and Nitish together and extolled the generous grants the Gujarat government had provided to Bihar after the 2008 Kosi floods. So offended was Nitish that he called it “ uncivilised” and threatened legal action against those behind the ad. He also said Bihar would return the money the Modi government had given.
The JD( U)- BJP alliance has been under strain for long.
And my instinct tells me it will not last long. Sooner or later, the BJP will decide to go on its own, knowing that in a polarised polity, Nitish will have to vie with Lalu Prasad and the Congress for the minority and backward votes while hoping to cash in on the rest.
Congress ambiguity on the caste census
EVEN four weeks after the Prime Minister announced the decision to appoint an Empowered Group of Ministers to discuss and resolve the conflicts stemming from the decision to hold the controversial caste- based census, Manmohan Singh seems to be in no particular hurry to honour his pledge. Ever since he said in Parliament that his government will give the idea serious thought, he has been under immense pressure from civil society leaders as well as large numbers of young MPs to keep the decision on hold. Even during the past few cabinet meetings, the idea was opposed by few senior ministers.
The opposition within the council of ministers, however, came into the open only when minister of state for home affairs Ajay Maken wrote a letter to all young MPs cutting across party divisions, asking them to oppose the move. It was his contention that a caste- based headcount will trigger another aggressive and divisive agitation for enhancing reservations in government jobs and educational institutions, leaving the upper castes and even the meritorious among the poor with nothing but crumbs. The Prime Minister’s promise to take a serious look at the demand for a caste- based census was made merely to placate the powerful Yadav duo in return for their support to get cut motions moved by the BJP and the CPI( M) on the finance bill defeated.
Bizarrely, he did so just a few hours after home minister P. Chidambaram told Parliament about the inherent difficulties and dangers of holding such a census. It now appears that with the cut motion now out of the way, the government is having second thoughts and there are rumours that it was the party leadership that encouraged its Gen Next MPs to speak up. Now, with the massive divisions within the BJP also coming into the open, Gen Next seems to have won round one in dictating the political agenda.
GOPALKRISHNA Gandhi’s C. V. could make anyone turn green with envy. An IAS officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre, he served as secretary to the President, director of the Nehru Centre in London and as India’s envoy to Norway, Iceland, Sri Lanka, South Africa and other countries, and also had a five- year stint as governor. He is also the grandson of C. Rajagopalachari and Mahatma Gandhi.
At the age of 65, you’d expect him to look back in satisfaction at a long and distinguished innings and spend a quiet life in Chennai. But is the former governor — among the most activist that any Raj Bhavan has seen — missing the trappings of the gubernatorial mansion? His backers are doing the rounds in Delhi seeking another stint as governor for him, preferably in the Raj Bhavan in Panaji, Goa.
Gandhi has enough powerful backers in the government, yet there are hurdles.
The current incumbent in Goa is S. S. Sidhu, who is known to be close to the Gandhi family from the mid 1980s when he was the secretary in the civil aviation ministry and pilot- turnedpolitician Rajiv was the Prime Minister.