Monday, November 29, 2010

Snippets / Mail Today, November 29, 2010

Cong looks to star power to end southern discomfort

IF you can't beat them, at least join hands seems to be the new AICC motto, at least as far as two southern states are concerned. In Andhra, the Congress is in the midst of a fratricidal war and despite installing a new, young chief minister, it is trying to get all the help it can from anyone who is willing to help to stay afloat.

In Tamil nadu, its alliance with the DMK is uneasy at best and a search for a new partner will do no harm, senior leaders feel. In both states where filmdom dominates every sphere of public life, the Congress’s new game plan is to rope in political parties which are headed by cinema stars. With assembly elections due in Tamil Nadu next year, the party has now set its eyes on Vijayakant.

Efforts are now on from one section of the Tamil Nadu Congress to bring Vijayakant closer to 10 Janpath. Soon after the winter session of Parliament is over, there are plans to bring Vijayakant over to New Delhi to meet Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. The party has for sometime been actively wooing the Prajarajyam Chief and Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi and the AICC is encouraged by the response after a twohour meeting that Ahmed patel and Veerappa Moily had with the actor recently.

Obviously, Vijayakant has been acting pricey, because this is the fifth meeting that the Congress duo had with him in recent months.

Is the overt courting of the film star an indication that the Congress has decided to get rid of the baggage that is the DMK, particularly in the light of the 2G scam that has cost the party dearly? Vijayakant floated his party, the DMDK on the eve of the last assembly elections. It did not do as spectacularly as the film star expected but nevertheless with a 10 per cent vote share, has the potential to tilt the scales. Vijayakant recently said that his party was open to alliance with anyone except the DMK. Already, the AIADMK is actively wooing him. Having spurned the AIADMK’s offer of support, the Congress is also now actively wooing the actor. We will wait and see who gets the prize catch?

BJP must not undermine CMs in spite of Bihar result
I CAN understand Nitish Kumar wanting to flaunt his secular credentials by keeping all BJP chief ministers out of the campaign for the recent assembly elections. But I was surprised that none of them was invited for the swearing in of the first ever NDA government in a state to be reelected.
The BJP’s state icons such as Narendra Modi, P. K. Dhumal, Raman Singh, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, B. S. Yeddyurappa and Ramesh Pokhriyal were all conspicuous by their absence last Friday when Nitish and his deputy, the BJP’s Sushil Modi took oath of office in Patna.

This is a departure from the past when all BJP chief ministers made it a point to be present when one of their own was taking office. Instead, the spotlight this time was, deservedly so on Nitish, and quite undeservedly, on the handful of central leaders from 11 Ashoka Road though their contribution to Nitish’s victory can be a point of debate. L. K. Advani, Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and a handful of lesser leaders were all there. So is the new line- up making a pitch for a “ secular” BJP in the light of the fact that even Muslims who otherwise keep an arm’s length from the party chose to vote in large numbers for the NDA. One school of thought within the BJP has it that this is the party of the future. As the leader of the NDA, it could attract many regional parties into its fold, as was the case during the Vajpayee regime. Many allies of that period have since found better sanctuary elsewhere, leaving the BJP a bit out in the cold, but Bihar has shown that there is still hope.

The next round of elections will show whether this is a sound strategy. My own hunch is that the Bihar experiment cannot be replicated elsewhere and in the next Lok Sabha elections, the party will have to fall back on its tried and tested leaders in the states to deliver the numbers.

THE political turmoil in our neighbourhood is taking its toll on the establishment at home. Going by the diplomatic buzz, the abject failure of our mission in Kathmandu is triggering off a major reshuffle in the Foreign Office and many missions in strategically important capitals around the world such as Moscow, Tokyo, Tehran and Kathmandu will soon have new ambassadors. I understand that Rakesh Sood, an otherwise brilliant officer who has had a rather ineffective tenure in the Nepalese capital is being recalled for posting as one of the Secretaries in the ministry of external affairs.

He is likely to be replaced by Jayant Prasad, additional secretary at HQ. P. S. Raghavan, a Joint Secretary in the PMO during the Vajpayee regime will most likely be on his way soon as envoy to Moscow. The most significant of the many changes will be that of Alok Prasad, the former ambassador to Sri Lanka and current deputy national security adviser who was widely tipped to succeed Nirupama Rao as the next foreign secretary. His hopes were dashed once when last month the government gave Nirupama a seven- month extension. It now appears that Alok will be sent as envoy to Tokyo. In that case, a dark horse will emerge for the top foreign office job, or Nirupama will get yet another extension. That will be no surprise because, in the current dispensation, no Malayalee has ever retired or not got a sinecure.

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