Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Power & Politics / Mail Today, December 28, 2009

IT HAS been an extraordinary fortnight in politics. A fortnight of extraordinary U- turns and flip- flops that has brought the once comfortably placed Congress government in Andhra Pradesh to the brink. With 13 pro- ministers resigning, the future of the K. Rosaiah- led government appears bleak. Worse, 11 of the 31 Congress Lok Sabha MPs have also threatened to resign. Should they get serious, the fallout would shake the Centre. Rebellious regional leaders are holding the Centre to ransom and the heavy hand of the Congress high command doesn’t seem to carry much weight anymore.

The crisis was triggered by two contradictory statements that P. Chidambaram made within a fortnight. The first, on December 9, announced that a new state of Telangana will be carved out of Andhra Pradesh. Exactly two weeks later, the Centre flip- flopped. Surprised? No. Because the Congress knew, the opposition knew, you, me and everyone else knew that the first statement had nothing to do with any moral, administrative or political choice that the government had made about the new state. It was dragged out of the Centre by the campaign led by K. Chandrashekhara Rao of the Telangana

Rashtriya Samithi with the overwhelming support of the people of the Telangana region. The first statement was aimed just at getting Rao, who was on the 11th day of his fast- unto- death and dangerously slipping, to give up his protest and help douse the fire that had been raging throughout Telangana.
The Centre was never serious about Telangana, just as it has never been in favour of smaller states.

The rapid growth of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh since their breakup from large unwieldy states nine years ago is proof that smaller is better. Proposals for the creation of these states lay pending with successive Congress governments for years but it was the BJP- led NDA government that brought them into existence. In the 62 years since Independence, the Congress may have changed its economic philosophy from socialist to mixed, and then to market driven, but when it comes to administration, the Grand Old Party has always been wary of carving up big states for fear of losing control over large and prosperous parts of the country.

Such fears, I think, are unfounded. Though out of power in both states now, the Congress has had long government tenures in Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand, both states where along with the BJP, it remains a dominant player. Power has eluded the Congress in Jharkhand thus far but if last week’s assembly results are any indication, it may not remain so for- TRS chief Rao ever. Conceded, the small matter of Hyderabad is the biggest hurdle in the creation of Telangana but I believe that if the new state comes into being, the Congress has a better chance of coming to power than the TRS that has spearheaded the cause of the new state. Of the 294 members of the Andhra Pradesh assembly, 119 are from Telangana. Of them, the Congress contingent is the largest at 51, more than thrice as that of the TRS. If West Bengal were to be carved into smaller states, the loss would be that of the CPM and not the Congress. If a new Vidharba state were created out of Maharashtra, the Congress- NCP combine can be expected to steamroll the opposition.

Where it currently has one chief minister, the party will have two and I assume that in states where it has none, bifurcation will enable the Congress to grab at least one. Politically, it is desirable, administratively it is more viable, so why are they still hesitating? It has to do with Congress apprehensions of the longevity of the UPA government itself.

Though its ministers and party leaders strut around with the confidence of a regime that has a two- thirds majority, the UPA is still short of a simple majority and depends on support from outside, of parties like Mulayam Singh Yadav’s SP, which is opposed to breaking up large states into smaller ones. It’s a Catch- 22 situation for the UPA. There is no textbook formula that can please all the parties and whatever steps the government takes is bound to make one section happy and leave the other livid. This crisis is a test case for the high command and all evidence suggests the leadership is absolutely confused about its Telangana stand.

Sonia has kept a studied silence so far and let others decide. Wake up calls don’t come louder.
It is time she took charge and restored order. .

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Power & Politics / Mailtoday, December 21, 2009

IT HASN’T been a great year for the BJP and the leaders and cadre alike must be glad that 2009 is nearing its end amidst hopes that the new year will bring better tidings.

The leaders and the led, I am sure, are equally relieved that the much awaited reshuffle at the top has finally taken place. Not for the first time has LK Advani stepped down as the Leader of the Opposition, but there will be no room for withdrawal of his resignation this time.

That’s because, before he finally quit, the party amended the constitution, that he himself had penned at the founding of the BJP exactly 30 years ago, to create a new post— the chairman of the BJP Parliamentary Party— which he promptly occupied. 57 year old Sushma Swaraj took over from him as Leader of the Opposition. A couple of days after the dramatic developments, Nitin Gadkari, the 52 year old firebrand pracharak from Nagpur, took over from Rajnath Singh as the BJP’s youngest president.

So is it, as is being suggested, the end of an era and the beginning of another in the BJP? Far from it. It’s my hunch that ringing in the new, at least in this instance, does not automatically imply that the old have been phased out. The party’s short but tumultuous history has been a political rollercoaster. When down, it has always managed to bounce back. All that changed once the party tasted power for the first time at the Centre in 1998. It is not for nothing that the Congress has been referred to as the natural party of governance.

For despite having one leader who has a vice- like grip on the party and the government, there has forever been a clear demarcation of roles for those assigned to run the party’s organisational and its parliamentary wings. That has not been the case in the BJP where those in charge at 11 Ashoka Road also ran its Parliamentary wing and during its days in power, the government too. During the Vajpayee regime, it wasn’t uncommon to see a couple of ministers replying to question hour in the Lok Sabha in the morning, attending to the parliamentary party office in the afternoon and in the evening holding forth at its central office. It caused huge damage to the organisation as grassroots leaders were sidelined.

It was sometime late last year that the RSS had for the first time suggested corrective measures to delink the political from the legislative unit. But faced with the general elections which were then less than six months away, this was put on hold. Following the BJP’s humiliating defeat in May, Nitin Gadkari Advani resigned but his overnight decision to stay on in office, a decision forced on him by his coterie, meant that the clean up operation had to wait.

This suited the RSS fine, since its political affiliate had by then been riven by petty factionalism and Nagpur saw wisdom in letting the veteran clean up the mess that his protégés left behind.
That the RSS wholeheartedly supported the idea of creating a new post of Chairman of the Parliamentary Party to accommodate Advani is a clear sign that it now wants the former prime minister in waiting to keep a tight leash on his pupils. They expect him to play the role of a neutral umpire as his proteges continue to indulge in their dangerous game of fratricide.
If the plan is fully implemented then those who lead the parliamentary party will have a marginal role in running the affairs of the organisation.

One thing is clear: as the senior most leader of the BJP, he is on test once again. The RSS expects him to rein in the feuding leaders of the BJP’s bygone GenNext who made sure that its previous president Rajnath Singh’s hands were tied and therefore unable to perform.

According to sources within the Sangh Parivar, it was Advani who had first suggested that Nitin Gadkari be made the next party chief. His argument: Gadkari wasn’t polluted by the factional fight that the central leaders were involved in. Now it is up to Advani to make sure that his many wards behave so that the portly Brahmin from Nagpur delivers. This is probably the BJP’s last chance.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Power & Politics / Mail Today, December 14, 2009

WE HAVE seen political somersaults before but what was on offer last week simply took the breath away. Late on Wednesday, Union home minister P. Chidambaram announces that steps would soon be initiated for the creation of the new state. When Andhra MLAs and MPs began to resign en masse and all hell broke loose, the prime minister tells a delegation of protesting MPs from his own party that “ nothing will be done in haste”. The midnight announcement of the creation of Telangana was, if anything, an act of haste. Andhra Pradesh today is among India’s fastest growing states and the triple cities of Hyderabad, Secunderabad and Cyberabad , a showcase capital. It has culture, history, wealth and now thanks to its software prowess, global presence. It has many rich and the mighty, tobacco tycoons and the builders mafia, the mining barons and the new cyber gurus. The tussle over Telangana boils down to costly real estate and huge investments. About 200- odd Reddys have investments worth a few hundred thousand crores and want nothing to do with the new state of Telangana.

That would perhaps explain why Home Secretary G. K. Pillai was forced to issue a clarification that the issue of the capital of Telangana would be settled by the central government. These well- entrenched rulers of Hyderabad cannot afford to lose it. For they see in K. Chandrasekhara Rao a southern version of Raj Thackeray who may hound them out. So they all ganged up and forced the PMO to retract.
Until about a fortnight ago, Rao, better known as KCR, was seen as a spent force in politics. The outright rejection of the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti ( TRS) in the Lok Sabha and assembly elections in May was proof that his future as a politician was behind him. All it took was one long huddle between Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, law minister Verappa Moily and Chidambaram to resurrect him. If only they had played by the book. Constitutionally, it is the prerogative of Parliament to bifurcate states, establish new states and redraw existing state boundaries. What this means is that the government could have simply moved a resolution in Parliament, which after passage, would have been referred by the President to the affected state for its opinion. If the UPA government was serious about statehood for Telangana — it was part of the Common Minimum Programme in 2004 when the Congress wooed the TRS into the UPA — it could have simply moved such a resolution.

With the BJP also backing statehood, the Bill would have sailed through comfortably. The President could then have referred the Bill to the Andhra Pradesh KCR is winner legislature and assigned it a specified period for reverting with its views. It’s up to the President to fix the time frame: a year, two even four. That’s called buying time, a tactic that’s more important in politics than in any other sphere of life.

When Rao began his fast- untodeath, the Centre took it lightly, assuming that a man who was overwhelmingly rejected by his people just seven months ago would be no threat at all. But as Rao’s health deteriorated, the Congress clearly panicked. Chidambaram’s announcement about the creation of Telangana indicates one of two things: ( 1) the Congress high command was unaware of the sentiments of the state unit; ( 2) the party was playing a double game aimed at deceiving Rao to break his fast.

It’s my hunch that having got Rao to break his fast, the Congress will now brazen it out, knowing that if he attempts another fast- unto- death, they will book him for attempted suicide and lock him in jail.

But such deceit can boomerang. The Union home ministry admits there are already demands before it for the creation of nine new states: Vidarbha, Bundelkhand, Telangana, Vindhya Pradesh, Mahakaushal, Purvanchal, Harit Pradesh and Mithilanchal.

There is nothing to stop agitations in Magadh, Seemanchal , Udayachal, Rohilkhand, Malwa, Mewar and Saurashtra. Strangely for a chief minister, Mayawati has already stated that she will be happier ruling a much smaller state.

Studies conducted by various organisations — including India Today magazine’s annual research on the State Of The States — have shown that smaller states are more viable and better governed. Whatever the outcome of the ongoing agitation, it would have done the country a lot of good if it leads to the creation of new and smaller states. Then power will be shared not by the few who hold on to it but by the many who have so far had no stake in it.

Snippets / Mail Today, December 14, 2009

Kamal Nath keeps a low profile now
QUITE a few of the high- fliers in the UPA government are conspicuous by their absence from the front pages. I don’t know if it is by design or default. One of them is the road transport and highways minister, Kamal Nath. In his earlier avatar as commerce and industry minister, be it New York or London, Berlin or Tokyo, he had been there and done that.
But the man seems to have gone AWOL after moving to Transport Bhavan. Though he was far from pleased with the transfer to transport ministry, he got down to work in right earnest and set ambitious targets for the ministry, which included the construction of an additional 21 km of highways each day. He used his clout to push the Prime Minister’s Office ( PMO) to restructure tender procedures and liberalise norms for funding these projects. He also aggressively pushed the state governments to remove bottlenecks in land acquisition — which has been the bane of the Golden Quadrilateral as well as the National Expressway projects — even as he travelled to world capitals to raise much needed funds for some of his mega schemes. But things just don’t seem to be moving at the pace that he would have wanted.

The sloth that is bureaucracy is not being able to keep up with the pace and style of the new minister. Though new projects covering over 2,000 km have been identified, not many bidders have shown interest due to low returns and long gestation periods. One reason could be that Kamal Nath has not been able to push the National Highways Authority of India because he is still clearing the debris and dirt left behind by his predecessor T. R. Balu.

Kamal’s priority is to put back on track the unfinished projects and then move on to new ones. We will wait and watch whether this long- distance runner will break the record of one of his predecessors, B. C. Khanduri, the retired Major General who was the roads minister during the Vajpayee government.

When official insiders are seen as outsiders
DESPITE the winter chill in Copenhagen, there is much heat being generated in the Indian camp in the Danish capital. Adding to that is the confusion which has more to do with a clash of egos of the many civil servants who were chosen as interlocutors. In keeping with the UPA government’s style of functioning, all of them were seen working as autonomous power centres.
But there was a clear division between those who were formally in the government and those outside that charmed list.

While Jairam Ramesh, the glib environment minister was indulging in letter writings and policy formulations, the prime minister’s special envoy in climate change, the former foreign secretary Shyam Saran, was taking direct orders from the PMO without keeping Ramesh in the loop. But both Ramesh and Saran realised soon that non official interlocutors like Chandrashekhar Dasgupta and Pradipto Ghosh, former environment secretary were no easy pushovers. The two first refused to go Copenhagen in protest against the government adopting a “ flexible” stand on the issue of equitable per capita emissions.

They later agreed to join the delegation after the minister “ cleared the air”. Yet in Copenhagen, they were not fully involved in the behind closed door discussions which Ramesh, Saran, environment secretary Vijay Sharma and Ajai Mathur, head of the bureau of energy efficiency, were conducting. Dasgupta and Ghosh, known for their impeccable credentials and long and credible track record on the issue of climate change, would not budge from the known and stated stand on the emission cuts. They not only refused to join the bandwagon but also have demanded debate and transparency.

And both of them are senior to the other civil servants who make up the Indian team.
Ultimately, it turned out to be a clash between those who were in the government and those who were outside.

THERE is much about Rahul Gandhi that is to be admired. For a couple of years now, we have seen his youthful zest, tenacity and doggedness as he pursues his dream of taking the Congress back to its commanding heights. But if there is one thing that makes me take my hats off, it is his determination to stamp out the culture of sycophancy which has engulfed the Congress since the days of Sanjay Gandhi. Even Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, powerful and charismatic as they were, loved to be surrounded by cronies.

Rita Bahuguna Joshi, the Uttar Pradesh Congress chief showed crony symptoms last week when she gushed to the media in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh about Rahul Gandhi’s commitment.
" It was so dark. The pilot was not ready to land but Rahul Gandhi forced him to land the helicopter. You should really admire his commitment". Just a day earlier, Beni Prasad Verma, the Samajwadi Party turncoat who is now a Congress MP did his bit of cronyism by calling Atal Bihari Vajpayee unprintable names during a row over the Liberhan Report in Parliament.
On both counts, Rahul set the record straight. He told Rita Joshi that she was neither a pilot nor a weather expert to talk about difficult landings. He brusquely reminded his much senior colleague Verma about parliamentary traditions and etiquette. If sycophants become a vanishing breed in the Congress, praise be to Rahul.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Seedhi Baat / Aajtak, December 13, 2009

Maulana Mahmood Madani of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind on the show Seedhi Baat syas that former prime minister Narasimha Rao was also responsible for the demolition of Babri Masjid.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Seedhi Baat/ Aajtak, December 06, 2009

'I am capable of being PM'

BJP leader and Bollywood actor Shatrughan Sinha on the show Seedhi Baat says that he is ready to take on any responsibility.

Part 2 ; Part 3 ; Part 4 ; Part 5

Power & Politics / Mail Today, December 07, 2009

THERE is no better way to lose one’s faith in parliamentary democracy than watching Lok Sabha TV. The chaos, bedlam, frayed tempers on display and the frequent fisticuffs would make the most conscientious of citizens skip his next date at the polling station. In the last fortnight, we saw our parliamentarians at their best and their worst. One day, the ruling and the opposition benches were going for each other’s throat over the Justice Liberhan report on the Babri Masjid demolition. A few days later, the Lok Sabha witnessed the dubious spectacle of Question Hour being suspended because most of the members who put up questions were not present in the house. I can’t remember the last time something like this happened and am not surprised that Sonia Gandhi sent a stinker to her partymen warning against such truancy.

In the midst of such delinquency, it was refreshing to see a very, very courteous, civil and meaningful session in which our MPs were seen living up to the word “ honourable” prefixed to their names. The debate on Climate Change and the impending Copenhagen Summit in the Lok Sabha last Thursday was a revelation in more ways than one.

But what really took me by complete surprise was something that I saw for the first time: tucked away in the back benches of that high domed hall, was a bundle of young talent. That’s something that augurs well for our political parties.

The 15th Lok Sabha has as many as 82 MPs who are under 40, the highest ever.

Jayant Chaudhary is one of them but you have probably never heard of him because he is not part of the “ official” babalog setup.

He is the grandson of the former Prime Minister Charan Singh, son of the Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh and holds a Masters in Accounting from the London School of Economics. 36- year- old Jyoti Mirdha, granddaughter of Congress veteran Ram Nivas Mirdha is a doctor by profession. The two were among the nearly 25 MPs who were listed to speak during the debate. It’s a different matter that nearly a dozen of them were content merely laying copies of their written speech on the table of the house. The debate was initiated by the BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi, but it was the younger lot — Chaudhary, Mirdha, the east Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit and Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, to name just a few, who stole the thunder.

While the senior MPs could not resist the occasional chance to score brownie points, the jun- Supriya Sule iors chose to be assertive, yet non- combative. Earlier too on the same day, there was an occasion when younger MPs showed a maturity that should make many of their senior colleagues sit up and think. Anyone who has watched zero hour will admit that it is a truly rambunctious moment when Parliament resembles an overcrowded railway station where all the trains are running late. But last Thursday, you could hear a pin drop on the green carpet as members sat in silence when Harsimrat Kaur, the first term MP from Bhatinda and wife of the Punjab Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal spoke on “ giving justice and dignity to the victims of the anti- Sikh 1984 riots”. So effective and so moving was her brief speech that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee who is the Leader of the House later responded to her saying “ all of us are ashamed of what happened.

While we can’t bring back those dear lost ones, we can take a vow that it doesn’t happen in the future”. It used to be said that there is so much sleaze in politics that the new generation abhors it and stays away. The very fact that there are 82 MPs, many of them first timers, aged under 40 implies that this notion now stands dispelled. Still the fact that many of these young MPs are not given their due makes me think that some see in them potential threats to their own ambitions. For far too long, our Parliament and legislatures have been exclusive clubs for geriatrics, sticking to their outdated dogmas and narrow partisan politics and refusing to hand the baton over to the next generation.

Chaudhary, Mirdha, Dikshit, Sule and so many others hold out so much hope. We can only hope their leaders — the old and the not so old — allow them to fulfill their promise.

Snippets / Mail Today, December 07, 2009

Foes unite against Bellary duo
YOU couldn’t find three political parties or combinations as far removed from one another as the Congress, the BJP and the Third Front but the three are meeting in a lot of interesting ways of late. N Chandrababu Naidu, the former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam chief came to Delhi last week to petition prime minister Manmohan Singh to call an all party meeting to discuss the “ activities of the mining lobby which is looting the country’s wealth in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka”. He met CPM’s Prakash Karat, the CPI’s AB Bardhan, HD Deve Gowda, Sharad Yadav, Ajit Singh and enlisted their support.

According to capital grapevine, Naidu also met Karnataka’s BJP chief minister BS Yedyurappa over dinner at a 5- star hotel in the capital. Was it just a courtesy dinner or did it also have to do with mining politics? More likely the latter. Yeddy, as we know, had a pistol held to his head by the mining mafia which even forced him to drop his favourite minister from his cabinet. Naidu on the other hand had been carrying on a relentless campaign against the former AP chief minister YS Rajashekhara Reddy for allowing the Bellary brothers — as the mining mafia is called — to “ plunder” forests and use the money to influence politics in the two states.

I suspect K Rosiah, the Congress chief minister of AP has a private treaty with Naidu since he too is calling for a CBI probe into the activities of the mining mafia. Meanwhile, the rap on the knuckles from the High Command seems to have made Jaganmohan Reddy, YSR’s ambitious son, realise his own limitations.

Why, Jagan’s subsequent acquiescence suggests he thinks that his political career may be better served by staying on the straight and narrow path. The cross- party convergence of interests also proves one thing: when their interests are threatened, they sink their differences to fight the common foe.

What’s cooking for Sonia’s birthday bash?
ON WEDNESDAY, Sonia Gandhi will turn 63 and much as she abhors public displays of pomp and celebration, the Congress party is planning a big party. There will of course be the ubiquitous drumbeaters and dancers outside 10 Janpath and the adjacent 24 Akbar Road headquarters. Though there are no plans to call all Congress chief ministers to the capital to join the celebrations, most of them are likely to arrive on their own. Just another show of characteristic Congress sycophancy? Maybe not.

Some Congressmen expect a surprise gift. that could give this very social occasion immense political significance. I understand that a Tamilorigin minister and a caste mate of the AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa, has been trying to persuade the imperious lady of Poes Garden to join the party. You don’t need a long memory to know that the last time Jayalalithaa attended a similar party in Delhi, the Vajpayee government fell and most political parties were wooing new bedfellows.

Ordinarily, I would have credited such rumours to a hyperactive prankster, but what lends credence to these is the mysterious silence of the AIADMK’s 15 MPs in both houses on the many occasions in recent times when the opposition sought to pin the government down on the mat. The lie- low approach isn’t surprising. After losing two Lok Sabha and an assembly election in a row, the AIADMK’s morale is at its lowest.

JJ’s last chance for redemption isn’t far away. The state assembly elections are due in 2011. For the Congress, the DMK is proving to be an albatross. Most of its ministers are absentees in office and those that turn up are neck deep in sleaze. True, Rahul Gandhi’s mission to revive the Congress in Tamil Nadu is yielding results, but it will be a while before the Congress reaches the commanding heights where it can afford to go it alone as young Rahul wants. Until then, he will have to depend on one of the Kazhagams. The consensus in the Congress is that, as of now, a unipolar Kazhagam with a central authority is preferable to a multipolar one with competing power centres.

THE SUCCESS of a minister is intimately linked with the officials he gets to assist him in running the ministry. For the past two weeks, the department of Personnel has been desperately looking for replacements for three secretaries in the ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Official Languages and the Department of Drinking Water Supply. Two of the three — HRD and DDWS — are flagship departments of the UPA government. HRD secretary RP Aggarwal demitted office on November 30 and Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrashekhar stuck to routine and circulated a panel containing a few names but since the Prime Minister was abroad, no final decision could be taken. Both the Prime Minister and HRD minister Kapil Sibal prefer someone who can ensure speedy implementation of the process of education reforms, but as no final decision could be taken on the selection of fresh secretaries, the responsibilities of all three departments was passed on to other secretaries “ until further orders”. This in turn has led to heartburn among many senior bureaucrats who had been eyeing these jobs which would have also brought them promotions.

Their grouse is that if the leadership is really serious about effective implementation of its reform agenda, it must first reform its personnel policy which should place a premium on merit and not pliability as the primary consideration for filling top posts. No argument there.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Power & Politics / Mail Today, November 30, 2009

IT WAS an occasion when leaders, cutting across party barriers, should have stood shoulder to shoulder, heads bowed in dignified mourning. Instead what millions of TV viewers saw last Thursday on the first anniversary of the Mumbai attack was something that was totally at odds with the solemn occasion. Our politicians were busy trying to score brownie points. What else would explain the ugly, acrimonious scenes witnessed in the Lok Sabha that forced the seasoned Pranab Mukherjee to curtly tell the BJP’s Ananth Kumar, “ I did not come here to listen to you, I came to listen to your leader LK Advani”. What prompted the vicious response was Kumar’s allegation that even one year after 26/ 11, less than 1/ 4th of the victims or their families had been paid the promised compensation. Kumar’s charges were not without basis but by raking it up on the day when people across the country lit candles in remembrance of the dead and reached out to commiserate with one another, he only managed to prove that even on an issue that should have glued us all, our politicians stand divided. Sadly, this percolates down the line and it was appalling to see senior police officials indulging in a tu tu mein mein that would churn the stomach of most of us. What was most astounding was that it was Hassan Gafoor, then Mumbai Police Commissioner who has since won “ promotion” as DGP( Housing), who chose to launch the internecine war by levelling needless accusations against four senior Mumbai police officials of dereliction of duty.

I don’t know what the provocation was but Ghafoor has opened a can of worms and I won’t be surprised if even school children are now tempted to believe that the police establishment itself was responsible for the death of some of its finest officers.

Now the wives of some of those bravehearts have joined the battle and are openly alleging that their husbands died because of the effete top brass of the Mumbai police. Vinita Kamte, wife of Ashok Kamte, Additional Commissioner of Police who was killed along with anti- terrorism specialists Hemant Karkare and Vijay Salaskar has held the Mumbai police top brass responsible for their deaths, accusing them of giving inadequate information from the police control room about the attacks. Hers is no empty boast. A lawyer by training, Vinita’s conclusions are based on the telephone call logs of the Mumbai police that she accessed using the Right to Information Act. Kavita Karkare, widow of the slain ATS chief, too filed an RTI seeking information on her hus- Vinita Kamte band’s bulletproof jacket, only to be told that it is missing.

We would have laughed at such sloppiness if it weren’t for the deaths of so many brave men. I was in Mumbai on 26/ 11 and was dining with my colleagues at the Taj Land’send in Bandra when I heard about the shootings. We persuaded a reluctant taxi driver to drop us near the Trident Hotel where we stayed put till the early hours. Based just on what I saw that night, I had in these columns exactly a year ago written about the casual manner in which Hassan and Jt Commissioner Rakesh Maria seemed to be going about their jobs when they should have been leading from the front. I am not surprised that Vinita Kamte’s painstaking work has unearthed what had been suspected all along: that Mumbai police goofed up. And having done so badly, were desperately seeking to cover up. Faced with Vinita’s allegations, now published in a book, Maria has threatened to quit. Ironically, Maria who stands accused of laxity, is also in charge of the 26/ 11 investigations. Judge, jury, prosecution and defence, rolled into one. So much for accountability.

The uncivil war has spared none. Like the police, politicians too are busy pointing fingers at each other. The Congress, the senior partner in the ruling coalition, seeks to wash its hands of, because the home portfolio is held, then as now, by the NCP. In Delhi, Advani and Ananth Kumar must have taken leave of their senses to launch such a low- level attack on the government.
If the politicians who are supposed to lead and the police who are tasked with securing our safety are so divided, it may not be long before 26/ 11 comes visiting again.

Seedhi Baat/ Aajtak, November 29, 2009

Liberhan report is a big lie: Uma
Bharatiya Janashakti Party president Uma Bharti on the show Seedhi Baat says that the report on Babri demolition has nothing new and it is just a political document. watch:
Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Snippets/ Mail Today, November 30, 2009

WAJAHAT Habibullah’s reputation as an efficient and upright officer precedes him, as does his proximity to the current ruling dispensation. You wouldn’t expect a man like him to do anything that would leave the establishment squirming. But his decision to resign as the Chief Information Commissioner has put the UPA government in a quandary and in conflict with the main opposition party over the appointment of his successor. Though two months have gone by, the government has not zeroed in on a successor and the battle, initially political, has been joined by the likes of Aamir Khan, Anna Hazare, Arvind Khejriwal and other “ social activists” who are rooting for Kiran Bedi while the most powerful lobby, the bureaucracy is hyperactive. Currently, the nine member commission is stuffed with former bureaucrats, the exceptions being MM Ansari, an educationist and Annapurna Dixit, wife of the late National Security Advisor Mani Dixit.

The Chief Information Commissioner is chosen by a panel comprising the prime minister, the leader of the opposition and the Union Law Minister. The trio met twice in the recent past but were unable to break the deadlock simply because of the many lobbies at work. I understand that the government was inclined to promote Ansari, currently information commissioner, as the CIC, but LK Advani put his foot down and demanded a panel to choose from. The “ activists” say there is no candidate more suitable than Bedi who “ has demonstrated her sensitivity, commitment and passion for public service. But Bedi is also the kind who can tick off the government, so it is understandably wary. Babudom has a lot to gain if it can ensure that the post doesn’t slip out of its hands. After all it is in their interest to conceal what the CIC is otherwise obliged to reveal to public spirited citizens who invoke the Right to Information Act to seek accountability from the government.

Who will finally win- — the politicians, the bureaucracy or social activists — we will wait and see.

High command in control in Andhra
WHY DID it take the Congress high command three months to hold the meeting of the 199- member Andhra Pradesh legislature Party? To correct a constitutional impropriety that was committed when governor N. D. Tiwari used his discretionary powers to appoint K. Rosaiah as successor to late Y. S. Rajsekhara Reddy.

Under the Constitution, the governor can appoint someone only after he or she has been formally elected by the legislative party. In this case, this was not done and legal questions were being raised about the legitimacy of the government. The CLP was put off for three months because of the fear that Jaganmohan Reddy, YSR’s son, would ride the sympathy wave to get himself elected. All this while, Congress leaders from New Delhi worked quietly on him and other potential candidates.

Last week, the high command sent its two most powerful emissaries, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and law minister Veerappa Moily to Hyderabad to resolve the issue.
On Saturday, when the CLP met, it passed a resolution authorising Sonia Gandhi to choose its leader.

Curiously, Congress MPs were special invitees to the CLP and even more curiously, the resolution was moved not by an MLA but by Jagan who is an MP. Within 24 hours, chief minsiter Rosaiah’s name was formally announced. But the crisis will be fully resolved only when the Congress honours the second part of the deal with YSR’s son. After the party lost a few local civic elections recently, the Jagan group launched a fresh offensive to “ save the party” and demanded Rosaiah’s head on the ground that he doesn’t have a mass base and is not aggressive enough, as YSR was. So Rosaiah’s election doesn’t in anyway ensure that he will continue in office for long.

The majority of the Congress leaders in the state feel that unless the party has a firm and decisive leadership, the state will slowly slip away from its hand. Chandrababu Naidu, the Telugu Desam Party ( TDP) cheif, must surely be licking his chops in anticipation

FOR A bureaucrat, Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrashekhar is quite net savvy, even an ardent votary of e- governance. Recently, he sent memos to secretaries of all departments about the quality of the government websites that left a lot to be desired in terms of design, accessibility, quality and currency of content, all of which were compounded by the obsolete technology that was used. “ Today, websites are considered the virtual face of the Department in cyber space… and must accurately reflect the Department's activities and initiatives in the real world as well as offer more and more services online,” his note said. And so he asked all department Secretaries to nominate senior officers at Additional Secretary or Joint Secretary level who would take upon themselves the task of ensuring up- to- date and high quality content on the websites as well as ensure timely response on queries received through websites.

The secretaries were also asked to review the overall quality of the websites on a periodic basis. But of the 700 odd IAS officers of the rank of secretaries, additional secretaries, joint secretaries and other heads of departments, a majority still leave the job of logging on and off their computers to their personal staff. Last heard, the response from the departments has been disappointing as few officers have volunteered to take up the responsibility. Chandrashekhar’s dream of encouraging e- governance through citizen centric and visitor friendly government websites may remain just that — a dream.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Power & Politics/ Mail Today, November 23, 2009

IN the increasingly fragmented polity, the narrow line that divides the treasury and the opposition gets thinner by the day. As Congress leaders continue to strut around with an air of arrogance that is a perversion of their real strength — the party has after all 207 of the 542 Lok Sabha MPs — there is a real chance of the line disappearing altogether. Back to back victories in by- elections and the retention of crucial states like Maharashtra and Haryana have made Congressmen believe in their own invincibility.

The haughtiness of the Congress is forcing the disparate opposition and even some alliance partners to find common ground, as was witnessed when the winter session of Parliament opened last Thursday. UPA allies like the DMK joined the Left, BJP, RJD, TDP and Samajwadi Party in the massive farmers rally organised by Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal that disrupted life in the capital and brought Parliament to a standstill. It is an important moment.

Not since 1989 have parties across the political spectrum joined hands on a common anti- Congress platform. The issue being remunerative prices for farmers, it was perhaps foretold that the Congress led government would capitulate and revoke the ordinance on sugarcane pricing.

But that’s beside the point. My hunch is that the assorted non- Congress parties, whether allies or opposition, think the Congress has an attitude problem. A veteran opposition leader recently told me that he had not seen such arrogance even during the eighth Lok Sabha when Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress had occupied nearly four- fifth of the seats in the lower house. The arrogance is harder to digest because without the support from outside of parties like the SP and the BSP, the government is technically still in a minority.

Under sustained pressure from the opposition, the government backed down on the sugarcane issue. I suspect this is just the beginning and we will in the near future have plenty of opportunities to find the government with its back to the wall. This week, the prime minister is off to Washington. The Left parties, which opposed the Indo- US nuclear deal last year and the SP whose support bailed out the government in the confidence motion last year, will be keeping a close watch. Much hype was built around the visit which is the first state visit of the Obama administration. A lot of the hype was punctured last week during the course of Obama’s tour of China, Japan and South Korea; India wasn’t even a blip on President Obama’s radar. Worse, by asking his Chinese hosts to act as a middleman on Indo- Pak matters, Obama showed his priorities.

This has flummoxed even pro- US elements in the establishment. As Manmohan packs his Manmohan bags for the long journey, the news out of Washington is not encouraging either. PTI reports that the Obama administration has sought yet another “ assurance” from India on nuclear non- proliferation, in the absence of which, the US will not issue licences to US companies to enter into civilian nuclear trade with India. Though couched in diplomatese, in an interview with India Today magazine last week, the US Ambassador in Delhi, Timothy Roemer also made it clear that “ the Indian government has all along known about… our licensing procedures. These are not new demands”. The ambassador also spoke about the liability legislation that the US is pressing for, which, in the event of things going wrong due to faulty design or technology, would absolve American suppliers of all liability and put the onus of paying compensation on the Indian government.

Among the more than 80 bills that are to come up before Parliament during the ongoing winter session is the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill 2009.
The government will be very eager to push it through but the opposition parties, having tasted blood once, will not let the government have it easy.

The Manmohan visit was finalised months ago, but as it nears, it appears to be a case of bad timing. The warmth of the reception he is expected to get and the elaborate fare at the banquet inside heated tents on the White House lawns notwithstanding, it appears that Obama will have far more on his mind when Manmohan is around. The last time he went to the White House, George Bush was in office and Manmohan gushed “ MR President, Indians love you”. He won’t be saying that this time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Seedhi Baat / Aajtak, November 22, 2009

Home Minister'

Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil on the show Seedhi Baat says that he will take every step possible for the safety of the people of his state.
Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

Monday, November 16, 2009

Seedhi Baat / Aajtak, November 15, 2009

Watch Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor, as she talks on Seedhi Baat about her filmi journey and the forthcoming movie Kurbaan , relationship with boyfriend Saif Ali Khan, experiences of working with different actors and the kind of roles she would love to portray in her future projects.

'किसी चीज की प्‍लानिंग नहीं करती'

अभिनेत्री करीना कपूर का कहना है कि वो किसी चीज के लिए प्‍लानिंग नहीं करतीं बल्कि उन्‍होंने जो सोचा वही हुआ. करीना का कहना है कि फिल्‍म इंडस्‍ट्री में सफलता मिलने से कहीं ज्‍यादा महत्‍व अभिनय का है. करीना का यह भी मानना है कि बोल्‍ड रोल कुछ नहीं होता.
Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Power & Politics/Mail Today, November 16,2009

WINTER is almost here and in normal times, the woollens should be out. But wait. There is enough heat being generated in Delhi’s environmental circles to keep us warm at least until next month’s meeting on Climate Change in Copenhagen. While Manmohan Singh’s aides finalise India’s agenda for the summit, his environment minister is locked in a very public spat with the doyen among Indian environmentalists. As anyone who has watched him will now, when Jairam Ramesh speaks, he creates a flutter.
Quite recently, at a news conference on environmental issues that he jointly addressed with Hillary Clinton in New Delhi, he made no effort to hide his anger when he thought the US Secretary of State was trying to lecture India on cutting down emission levels. Now, just three weeks ahead of the climate change summit, Jairam has locked horns with R. K. Pachauri, the chairman of the UN sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change( IPCC), the organisation which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace prize with former US Vice President Al Gore. The sparring began after Jairam released a government report that questioned the IPCC’s findings of abnormal shrinking of the Himalayan glaciers. The IPCC warned that at the current rate of shrinkage, the glaciers could disappear altogether by 2035 if not earlier. Jairam rubbished the IPCC’s findings while releasing the government report prepared by a group of Indian geologists. He said there was no conclusive evidence to link global warming with receding of the Himalayan glaciers and said he was “ ready to take on the doomsday scenarios of the Nobel Prize winners”. The controversy has sparked off a war of words between the ministry and environmentalists.

Stung by the Jairam offensive, Pachauri accused the environment ministry of “ arrogance” while the credible Science magazine in its latest issue quotes a senior Fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi saying that the “ Indian government has an ostrich like attitude in the face of impending apocalypse”. To that, the minister’s retort was “ we don’t need to write the epitaph for the glaciers”. Alarmists at home and abroad have warned that the Gangetic river belts which feed much of North India could dry up if the glaciers disappear. But Jairam’s ministry scoffs at such predictions. The truth as usual lies somewhere in between and what you are likely to believe depends on whom you spoke to last. Jairam quotes various R. K. Pachauri studies to say that the rate at which the glaciers have been retreating during the last 30 years is much less than the previous 60 years. On the other hand, Pachauri says Indian findings have not been “ reviewed by peers” and accuses the ministry of practising “ schoolboy science”. Ordinary Indians will find it difficult to understand what the big fuss is all about since it has nothing to with their everyday lives that revolve around rising prices, safety and security, education, medical care etc. My instincts tell me that it is basically a battle between NGOs. Pachauri’s wields enormous clout and has impeccable credibility but Indian officialdom sees him as an internationalist who takes a global view. The IIT- Harvard educated Jairam sees most NGOs as gravy train riders and is determined to show them their place. Jairam is particularly miffed that the IIPC has given short shrift to genuine Indian scientists and wants India — and China with which we entered into an agreement last month on cooperation in the run up to the Copenhagen summit — to make concessions that the West wants.

Jairam wonders why the domestic and international NGOs are mounting collective pressure to enforce emission cuts when the real threat is from the West. Even the US Congress is yet to approve the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. US Secretary of Energy Steven Hun said in Delhi on Friday that “ the US government would have to go through the political process before committing itself to emission cuts”. It’s obvious that the US team will land in Copenhagen without any mandate while Jairam is being forced by powerful non- state and apolitical sections to toe the western line. As Jairam and Pachauri slug it out, it remains to be seen who gets the prime minister’s backing — the outspoken minister or the iconic environmentalist.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Power & Politics/ Mail Today, November 09, 2009

APART from the fact that both are governors, there is little that S.C. Jamir and H.R. Bhardwaj share in common. The former, despite being a popular leader of Nagaland, a four-time chief minister of the state and previously governor of Goa, has always remained on the periphery of Congress politics. Bhardwaj, on the other hand, has no mass base, has always opted for the safer route to Parliament through the Rajya Sabha, has been a minister at the Centre for nearly 15 years and is blessed with a sharp legal brain which has made him indispensable to the ruling establishment and particularly 10 Janpath.

Jamir presides over a state where a government took almost two weeks to take oath after the results gave the Congress-NCP coalition a simple majority; the other is in charge in Bangalore where inner party turmoil has brought the ruling BJP to the brink. This being the scenario, you would expect the 79-year old Jamir whom Jawaharlal Nehru had handpicked as his Parliamentary secretary in 1961, to play by the rules.
And we wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if Bhardwaj had lived up to his reputation and started fishing in Bangalore’s troubled waters on behalf of his benefactors in Delhi.

Quite the contrary is happening. Last week Jamir met the caretaker chief minister Ashok Chavan and the NCP’s Chagan Bhujbal and later in an unprecedented act of constitutional impropriety issued an appeal “to both the NCP and the Congress to respect the opinion of the people and form a government as soon as possible”. The statement came after it became clear that despite two weeks of haggling over portfolios, the leaders of the two parties were nowhere nearer to reaching an agreement on ministry allocations. Curiously, neither the Congress nor any of the opposition parties had staked claim for government formation. Also interesting is the fact that both Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar who were expected to step in to resolve the crisis did not intervene at all and instead left it to the old fire fighter A. K. Antony to resolve the issue. Jamir’s conduct continues to raise eyebrows. Normally, a newly elected assembly is constituted before the expiry of the previous House, but Jamir allowed the crisis to persist to the point when the life of the last assembly ended before the newly elected one could be constituted. Technically, this means that the government cannot continue and Chavan should have stepped down, but since the Congress leadership had full faith in Jamir, it chose to remain silent on the many allegations of impropriety that the opposition parties continued to make even as the Congress struggled for an early resolution of the niggling differences between the coalition partners.

In giving the sparring partners a space that has clearly breached convention, Jamir has clearly gone far beyond his call of duty. His defence was that an incumbent chief minister could continue if the time lapsed between the last date of meeting of the previous assembly and the first meeting of the next assembly was less than six months.

Cut to Bangalore where the BJP government of B. S. Yedyurappa has been in crisis for nearly a week now. The party leadership in Delhi has always viewed Bhardwaj with more than a tinge of suspicion which isn’t surprising considering his proximity to the Congress establishment. In Bhardwaj, the BJP sees a throwback to the bad old days when every occupant of every Raj Bhavan was seen as a hatchet man of the party in power at the Centre, whose brief is to destabilise and dethrone nonfriendly governments.

When the crisis in Bangalore showed no signs of resolution, the BJP appeared resigned to the ace backroom operator getting down to his tricks to bring down the Yeddyurappa government and install an alternate “ secular” government.
Strangely this hasn’t happened so far, and last Friday, when journalists in Bangalore asked the governor about the impasse, his response, uncharacteristically low key, was :” I am merely watching the developments.
It is for the MLAs to sort out the problem that they themselves have created”. Is it a sign of a new, less aggressive Bhardwaj or of a new strategy the Congress is slowly adopting? My hunch is it is the latter.

There was a time when at the mere hint of differences within a non- Congress government, Akbar Road would dispatch cloak and dagger specialists to cajole and threaten non- Congress MLAs into supporting an alternate Congress government. Indira Gandhi pursued with this tactic till her very end and so did Rajiv. Sonia seems to be following a different path from her husband and mother- in- law.

After engineering two back- toback victories at the Centre, she clearly believes it’s the people who put you in power, not those who sit in Raj Bhavans. All credit to her.

Snippets/ Mail Today, November 09, 2009

Politics and cricket canserve up a spicy dish

TO SAY don’t mix sports with politics is like asking the waiter to keep the masala out of the tikka . Last week, three cabinet ministers feuded over whether the two should mix or not. When Farooq Abdullah proposed, Sharad Pawar just disposed by allowing the BCCI to disqualify the Services cricket team from this year’s Ranji trophy championships for refusing to play its scheduled match against Jammu & Kashmir in Srinagar. Defence minister A. K. Antony could do nothing but sit back and suffer the ignominy of his men in uniform being humiliated and derided as weak. The damage caused to the reputation of our forces is immeasurable and could have been avoided.

Farooq, we all know is a leader of impeccable patriotic credentials, but in this instance he chose to play politics. The fault lies squarely with the BCCI. An office bearer tells me that the Services team did write to the secretary, BCCI about its inability to play in Srinagar citing security reasons and asked for alternative dates and a change of venue.

When the BCCI sat over it, the Services took it as approval. The Services Sports Control Board ( SSCB) could not have taken the decision to seek alternate venue without the concurrence of the ministry and I understand that inputs from various agencies including military intelligence had advised that the team not play in Srinagar. Pawar being a former defence minister should have known that the forces have their own reasons.

But instead of taking action against erring officials, the BCCI punished the team. Now questions are being raised about the failure of the J& K Cricket Association to construct a modern stadium with proper crowd control and security systems during the last decade. The JKCA has already received over Rs 25 crore from the BCCI and IPL as its share from TV rights. But nobody has a clue where the money has gone. If proper facilities were available at Srinagar or Jammu, this embarrassment could have been avoided. But in the BCCI, it is the vote of each state association that is precious. Security be damned.
MOST of us thought until now that caste labels are important only in politics. It now appears that it is equally important in government, particularly in post retirement sinecures for babus. There is much titter and some heartburn after some recent appointments saw retired babus belonging to the same caste monopolising the membership of a Central commission.

Last week’s appointment of M. L. Tayal, the former principal secretary to Haryana chief minister B. S. Hooda as a member of the Competition Commission ( the successor to the MRTPC) makes the panel virtually the exclusive preserve of the one caste( Vaishya). Most of its current members were chosen when Prem Chand Gupta, another caste mate, was minister for corporate affairs.

The commission is headed by Dhanendra Kumar,( again a Vaishya) who was earlier India’s executive director at the World Bank and has as members H. C. Gupta, former coal secretary and Ratneshwar Prasad, ex- chairman of CBDT and Anurag Goel, former secretary ministry of corporate affairs. All of them are from the same caste and belong to the Haryana or Uttar Pradesh cadres and take up five of the seven seats on the board, the odd ones out being Geeta Gauri and Prem Narayan Parashar.

Strange it is that even civil servants are raising questions on the selection of their colleagues even if they have been chosen by a powerful selection panel headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court.

Rosaiah has a game plan for Jagan
K. ROSAIAH is a soft spoken mild mannered man who swallowed much humiliation at the hands of supporters of the highly ambitious Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy. Not in the last 50 years has a regional leader held the Congress high command to ransom as Jagan did in the days following YSR’s death, openly defying New Delhi’s diktat and blatantly asking his supporter ministers to keep away from cabinet meetings. But as they say, even a worm will turn, and it appears that the 70- year- old has suddenly seized the initiative away from the young Reddy. With the mass hysteria that followed YSR’s death now ebbing, there are signs that Jagan may not be unassailable after all.

Last weekend, Rosaiah arrived in the Capital with half his cabinet in tow. The visit was ostensibly official, but that he chose to come on a weekend when government was on holiday was proof that everything about it had to do with intra- party politics.

Among those he called on were Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Pranab Mukherjee and P. Chidambaram. To each of them, he conveyed the same message: that he had sewed up an arrangement with filmstar Chiranjeevi’s Prajarajyam Party. With 151 of the 294 seats in the assembly, the Congress is just past the half way mark in the house, and though Jagan continues to claim that a majority of the MLAs are with him, it now appears that his numbers are vastly exaggerated. The fact that more half the cabinet accompanied him to New Delhi — many of them had earlier refused to attend cabinet meetings chaired by Rosaiah — is an indication that the ground is slipping from under Jagan’s feet. Congress circles reckon now that Jagan’s support among YSR’s hardcore followers is not expected to get into double digits which can easily be offset with the support of the 18 MLA’s of the Prajarajyam Party.
Sonset in the South?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Seedhi Baat/ Aajtak, November 08, 2009

'We believe in united India'

RSS chief Mohanrao Bhagwat talks about what ails the BJP, relations with neighours and reaffirms his commitment to Ram Temple. Also says that nationalism and Hindutva are same.
Part 2 ; Part 3 ; Part 4

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Power & Politics / Mail Today, November 03, 2009

EVERY year, millions of poor Indians migrate from the villages to the big cities in search of a better future but we are now witnessing a strange reverse migration. It’s not the poor and the underprivileged, disillusioned by life in the big bad city returning to their roots. It is the political class that is suddenly realising that home is where your heart — and fortunes — lies. There was a time when politicians chorused “ Dilli Chalo”; now they sing “ Vapas Chalo”. Having lost out on his bid to succeed his father the late YS Rajashekhara Reddy as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, you would expect YS Jaganmohan Reddy, the 36 year old first time MP, to take his job as the elected representative of the people of Cuddapah constituency seriously. Not quite. Jagan is giving serious thought to returning to state politics.

He now wants nomination from the Pulivendula assembly seat his father represented either for himself or his mother Vijayalakshmi. The issue is likely to be discussed later this week when the two meet Sonia Gandhi. Two weeks ago, Jagan had met Sonia, after which he asked his belligerent followers who would settle for nothing less than his installation as chief minister, to lie low. Jagan has more than once publicly stated that his actions will never be without the blessings of Soniaji.

With the majority of the Congress MLAs and ministers still keeping up the clamour for his elevation, Jagan flew off last week to Bangalore. While the ostensible reason was that he wanted to spend time with his children who study in a private school there, the real reason was that he wanted a break from Andhra politics — to ponder over his future.

Jagan is a quick learner He is now convinced that his political future lies not in New Delhi but in Hyderabad. At the moment, with Andhraites still grieving YSR’s death, Jagan has got the benefit of a sympathy wave. But time is a great healer and a year down the line, memories of his father would have begun to fade and the overwhelming support that he currently has will begin to wane. At their last meeting, Sonia reportedly told him to wait for his chance. Jagan is keeping a low profile but many ministers who were in his father's cabinet are keeping up the pressure by threatening to resign every now and then. K Rosiah, the incumbent CM who succeeded YSR is over 70 and may not want to carry on for another term. People close to Jagan have reportedly told him that his continued stay in Delhi as an MP would leave the space open for alternative power centres to emerge in the Congress back home.

Jagan is not the only GenNext Jagan Reddy politician who feels that the future lies at home. Many young leaders across the political divide are beginning to realise that New Delhi’s power structure will not allow them to reach anywhere near the top of the political ladder.

The government has tried to give him a false sense of importance by allotting him a huge bungalow in Lutyens Delhi that’s normally reserved for senior ministers, but Jagan and others like him know they have no place in the establishment and no role to play. An established succession order is already in place. Rahul Gandhi has his friends, comprising technocrats and dynastic successors like him. They are all talented, but having no stakes in the states, their ambitions are limited to becoming a full- fledged Union minister one fine day. The recent assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana saw the largest collection of political sons and daughters becoming MLAs.

From President Pratibha Patil to Union ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Shinde, they have all made their children MLAs. Though part of Rahul’s A- team, Deepinder Hooda would rather take over from his father as Haryana chief minister rather than take up an assignment at the Centre. After nearly ten years as union minister, Kumari Shelja showed her heart was still in state politics by making a strong bid for chief ministership. Lalu has had enough of Delhi and now rarely steps out of Bihar. Mulayam keeps his options open and so has farmed his family across Parliament and the UP assembly. MK Azhagiri wants to go back to Chennai not because he doesn’t know Hindi or English as it is made out to be, but because he realises his limitations. For the sons and daughters of regional satraps, Delhi offers little chance for growth. Sooner or later, they realise that the political pinnacle is the exclusive preserve of a Closed User Group.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Snippets / Mail Today, November 02, 2009

BJP satraps foil RSS effort to organise succession DEATH and defeat brings the family together to commiserate. But in the badly bruised BJP parivar, yet another electoral rout has merely added fuel to the fire that is raging within the party — the battle to grab the leftover assets of that once promising party. Anywhere else, such a downward spiral would have resulted in a purge of the top leadership. In the BJP though, cleanup operations have been put on hold.

Last week Mohanrao Bhagwat had a two hour meeting with LK Advani over lunch. The RSS chief’s mission was to settle the issue of transfer of power in the party. An earlier schedule for the “ smooth transition” fed to the media by various factions had Advani quitting as leader of the opposition after he turns 82 on November 8, following which the process of replacing Rajnath Singh as party president was to be put on fast track. But it appears now that nothing of the sort will happen.

The RSS has already ruled out four Ashoka Road backroom operators who had eyes on these posts and I gather that the cabal that reigns at 11 Ashoka Road plans to hang on by hook or crook. They want the order of the changes reversed so that a new party chief is put in place first. Effectively, what this boils down to is that if the RSS puts its own man as party chief, they would persuade Advani to stay on as leader of opposition so that their rule by proxy continues. That's scandalous since the same set of leaders who brought the party to this sorry pass would continue to reign.

Ironically, many of these leaders owe their current standing in the party to the RSS and it is for the first time that they are waging an ideological war with their mentor.

It remains to be seen if the RSS which is suddenly on an reformative mode will let this set of leaders defy its diktat. Experience tells us that those who tried to derail the RSS from its course have themselves been derailed. We shall wait and watch.

IT MAY be just a coincidence but on the 25th anniversary of Indira Gandhi's assassination, are we witnessing a revival of Sikh extremism in Punjab? Of late, large numbers of youth were seen distributing posters of Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale across the state and the police also claimed to have busted a module whose aim was to kill deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. The Congress party is making all the right noises and taunting the BJP to force the police to order a crackdown on the so called extremist elements.

The Intelligence Bureau has of late sent several signals to the state government about the increasing role of the ISI to revive Sikh extremism through organisations operating from abroad. The Intelligence Bureau says the flow of funds from overseas has shown an alarming increase. By keeping up the pressure, the Congress hopes to kill two birds with one stone. It wants to widen the rift between the Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP while at the same time weaning away youth from the Akalis. The state government has so far been dismissive about the warnings and refused to order large scale arrests. But judging by the BJP's pathetic plight, the self styled champions of national security may fall in the trap laid by the Congress.

Cong rides roughshod over allies
WITH each new election victory, the arrogance of the ruling Congress grows, but now it seems to be spiraling out of control. Its latest victim is Mamata Banerjee who is livid after the Centre rejected her demand that the army be deployed in Lalgarh to tackle the Maoists. Those who have allied with her in the past know that hell hath no fury like a Mamata scorned. But the Congress has no such worries and there is clearly a design in the manner it treats her. That Mamata wants to become the next West Bengal chief minister is no secret and it now appears that the Congress will go to any extent to scuttle her plans.

This seems to be a rerun of its relations with other powerful allies like the NCP and the DMK in recent weeks. Far from accepting Sharad Pawar’s role in the Congress- NCP alliance’s remarkable victory, the Congress is still haggling over portfolios leaving the formation of the new government in a limbo. It now wants the home and finance portfolios held by the NCP in the last government, so that it can threaten the partner when the opportunity arises.

That’s precisely what it did last week when it ordered the CBI to raid the offices of the Telecom ministry headed by the DMK’s A Raja. The big partners in the UPA like the NCP, DMK and Trinamool want to know why the UPA coordination committee doesn’t meet at all though Sonia Gandhi continues to head it. If the Congress carries on with such brinkmanship, don’t be surprised if the big partners form a bloc within the alliance. More parties may then be prompted to join. Farooq Abdullah’s National Congress and Samajawadi Party, the latter not in the government but a party whose 23 MPs are crucial to the government’s survival.

Between them, these parties have about 75 MPs and should they begin to flex muscles, the UPA which technically is in a minority — it’s strength is 263, nine short of a simple majority — could be in trouble.

Seedhi Baat / Aajtak, November 01,2009

I am still relevant in Bihar: Lalu

Rashtriya Janata Dal ( RJD) president, Lalu Prasad Yadav talks about his party’s relationship with the Congress party; the upcoming polls in Jharkhand; and the Naxalite issue in Bihar and Jharkhand; and says that he will make a comeback in Bihar.