Small men grapple with big leadership issues
BIG LEADERS are expected to fight the war, but in our political parties, they often end up fighting small battles. That is evident from the internal shenanigans in both the national parties in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP and the Congress together won just about a fourth of the 80 parliamentary seats from the state. Both of them have many things in common.
Both have Brahmin presidents, are remotecontrolled by the Thakurs at the Centre and are under the illusion that if you have trusted people with hard bargaining skills to run the campaign, everything else will fall in place. Digvijay Singh, AICC general- secretary in charge of UP makes life difficult for Amar Singh by staking claim to over 20 seats on the foolhardy belief that the Congress’ credibility is better than the SP's. Even Sonia Gandhi seems to be missing the larger picture by letting Diggy Raja bargain endlessly at the cost of alienating allies. In the BJP too, its top leadership including L. K. Advani and Rajnath Singh think that issues or candidates don’t win elections, it is the men in charge who do the job.
For the past few months its central leadership was locked in a tussle to replace BJP's state president Ramapati Ram Tripathi. Singh, who chose Tripathi only last year, put his foot down. While Tripathi could hang on to his post, Rajnath was forced to appoint Kalraj Mishra as election in charge replacing Kalyan Singh. If that wasn't enough, the state and the central leadership are now feuding over allying with Ajit Singh. State BJP leaders want nothing to do with the unpredictable Jat leader but 11 Ashoka Road has other ideas. While leaders in both parties continue to fight over such petty issues, the more crucial ones like selection of candidates and getting the organisation battle ready have gone into a spin.
COMMUNISTS, we have been taught, are atheists who believe that the only gods are Marx and Lenin. But sometimes they do turn believers. Now from God’s Own Country, where no communist is presumably godfearing, comes news that the CPI( M)- led government deputed a minister as head of an official delegation to the Vatican where Pope Benedict XVI yesterday canonised Sister Alphonsa, making her the first female saint from India. Sister Alphonsa who lived in the early part of the last century is said to have disfigured herself to avoid marriage and dedicate herself to Christ and is venerated by Christians who form a fifth of the state’s population. Could electoral arithmetics be the reason for the Marxist- led government to send a representative for the canonisation? With its fortunes at its lowest, the Left may be looking at divine help to keep it in power against the odds.
SKEPTICS who doubted the Indo- US nuclear deal will go through have had to eat their words but perhaps the real story behind the men and the way they went about their missions is waiting to be written. There are many claimants for the credit. I was in New York last week and it is my belief the credit belongs entirely to one person and a trusted aide. I don’t enjoy the most favoured journalist status with the American establishment either at home or in the US. Yet I did meet several movers and shakers, all of whom told me that we should doff our caps to Dr Manmohan Singh. He burned the midnight oil, calling up influential Congressmen and Senators to revive a deal that was in a comatose state. With even Republicans distancing themselves from president Bush and his elegant secretary of state Condi Rice, a handful of mega- rich NRIs who have liberally filled both Democratic and Republican coffers took upon themselves the task of spotting US lawmakers who could manage an early listing of the deal for legislative approval. So, a list of half a dozen lawmakers was drawn up. But there was a price.
The Americans would rather deal directly with the PM. At which point Manmohan appointed one of his key aides, who was never part of the negotiating team, to be his pointsman. Only he knew the names and telephone numbers of the lawmakers that the PM rang up even at odd hours.
So, it was only the PM's secret and persuasive involvement which finally saved the deal when Bush had almost failed to convince his own party. N- deal enthusiasts should closely scrutinise the telephone records of this low- key official. They will recommend that he be conferred the Bharat Ratna. Others were file pushers now basking in reflected glory.
Modi has the last laugh
FOR LONG the target of vile critics within and outside his party, Narendra Modi is having the last laugh. In bagging the Nano project, he outplayed three BJP chief ministers and cocked a snook at the secular brigade which would have liked everyone to believe that Modi’s Gujarat is a dangerous place. He moved with lightning speed and outwitted the PM who made a pitch for Congress- ruled Andhra. But Modi had been in touch with Ratan Tata for months even as he set up a small team of key officials to settle all issues relating to the 1,100 acres at Sanand. Modi was determined to stage this coup because he knew the tiny Nano is corporate India’s biggest stamp of approval. Unlike West Bengal, he gave the land at the prevailing market rates. To ensure that Ratan is not persuaded to move elsewhere, he ordered the state government to hand over the land to the Tatas without even waiting for the cheque to be dropped. So impressed was Ratan that he took to singing paeans in praise of the CM. With a badge of honour from Ratan Tata himself, Modi doesn’t have to look for certificates from any one else. “ I welcome Ratan and the House of Tatas to Gujarat. For me, the Nano project entails nationalistic spirit”, he said. Spoken just like a politician.