Sunday, February 24, 2013

Our cold showers for a..... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/ February 24, 2013

Our cold showers for a blood bath will invite many more Hyderabads

Blood from the bodies of innocents massacred by terrorist bombs over the years continues to ooze and inundate more geographical landmass. It has only one colour. But India’s vote-hungry political leaders don’t hesitate to give different hues to the perpetrators of heinous crimes against humanity. They condemn the act, but fight like cats and dogs when it comes to identifying the roots of terror and cutting them off forever. The Parliament debate on the Hyderabad blasts that killed 16 people and injured 119 reflected both the ideological and administrative division within the political establishment on fixing responsibility for preventing the explosions. Instead, they were involved in pinning down the other side for playing politics in the name of blood. But none were willing to name the source, which promotes, finances and even leads bloody attacks on the idea of a united and genuinely secular India.

On the evening after the blasts, the ever-smiling Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde was more worried about the words he would use while making his statement in Parliament the next day, rather than ponder on the failure of the state government in preventing the bombings, in spite of having received prior information. He spent all night watching live reports on TV, while his officers and that of the state government were busy finding excuses for the intelligence failure. The next morning, in both Houses, Shinde was the target of both his opponents and allies. They were hard on him, but were soft and ambivalent on the ways and means to tackle the rising menace of the murderous mercenaries of religious fundamentalism. None of the 40-odd speakers from various political parties suggested any feasible and foolproof action plan to deal with the Hydra-headed monster. For them, terror has become yet another tool to expand their share in the voter’s market. Not one leader questioned the government over its failure to bring to justice the villains who have caused such a huge loss of human lives.
The way the Hyderabad blasts were handled symbolise the mind of the Indian establishment. It seems to have reconciled to the idea of living with periodic terror attacks in various parts of the country. It is busy dreaming of the Indian growth story and ignoring the evil forces that are striking at the very roots of a stable economy and democracy. It wakes up only when a gang of fearless butchers strikes. After making the usual ritualistic speeches, it’s back to slumber after the blood has dried on the streets and political parties have agreed on a ceasefire. During the past two decades, over 500 people have been killed in terror attacks in India. Yet, the nation is nowhere near a consensus over the tone and content of strong anti-terror laws. Some lawmakers mention in private that when they sit at the table to formulate counter-terror mechanisms, they are told to keep religious sensitivities and the implications of the legal framework in mind before proposing any solution for consideration to the government. While the UPA seems unwilling to commit itself to any consensual legislation, it has once again revived its agenda of imposing Central agencies on state governments. Once again, it made a strong pitch to set up a National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) in all states, with the power to arrest any suspicious individual as a potential terrorist. In fact, an attempt was made to link the Hyderabad incident with the absence of an effective nationwide intelligence agency. India is already flooded with so many agencies that deal with intelligence gathering. Instead of making them stronger and accountable, the Centre is pushing for yet another elitist organisation, which may be managed by private agencies. Unfortunately, it didn’t bother to look at the various anti-terror bills sent by various non-Congress-ruled states for the President’s approval, and choose some of the best suggestions to be incorporated in a Central legislation against terror. Tragically, both the states and the Centre are dealing with terror as if the corpses of victims were like any property, which has to be equally inherited for the purposes of control and management. It is only in India where the secret hanging of a terrorist, who brutalised the symbol of democracy, becomes a subject of heated debate and protest. Even those who worship and blindly follow the American culture of getting rid of the “enemies” of the American people in secret bases like Guantanamo joined the chorus against Afzal Guru’s execution in Tihar Jail.
Shockingly, there is reluctance among the political class in naming the source of terror in the Hyderabad blasts. No one anywhere in the world is in doubt that Pakistan is the world’s terror capital and its military rulers are the promoters. But naming Pakistan has become an unpardonable sin for the Indian establishment. Even the BJP leaders who spoke in Parliament refrained from directly blaming India’s hostile neighbour. It was left to its octogenarian leader L K Advani to take Pakistan head on. For the past few weeks, various terror groups and their chieftains have been spewing venom and threatening violent attacks against India in their speeches in various Pakistani cities. Back home, solid evidence about the involvement of Pakistan-based organisations in the Hyderabad blasts have been underplayed by those who claim to influence opinions and policies. Those purveyors of glamorous peace marches and legislation with a human touch forget that terror knows only one weapon. An eye for an eye, bodies for a body, and not cold showers for a blood bath.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Teekhi Baat with Kamal Nath/February 23, 2013/IBN7

INTERVIEW with  Union urban development minister and parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath for Teekhi Baat on IBN7

PC: In the past session, you were appreciated, from the time Kamal has taken charge, the Congress party’s Kamal (lotus) has bloomed. This time, it seems there is a problem.

KN: There is no problem. It has been two days, yesterday Lok Sabha functioning till 7 pm and Rajya Sabha till almost six pm. There was a blast in Hyderabad, everybody was worried and angry too.

PC: But there was some disruption too

KN: For some time, half an hour-fifteen minutes. But the big thing is that even after the incident, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha almost ran normally.

PC: But don’t you think the disruption to some extent after the home minister’s statement. People say that Kamal is the party’s asset in parliament, Shinde is liability.

KN: In Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha yesterday, it was not Congress versus anybody, their issue was with the speaker, chairman. Because they wanted the discussion outside the ambit of rules, it was not right to hold discussions ‘by the way’.  

PC: It was all on Shinde’s statement

KN: In Lok Sabha, there is a rule, after a statement has been read out, the discussion can happen after a notice is given, under a rule.

PC: In Rajya Sabha, discussion happens.

KN: There is a rule even in Rajya Sabha, once the statement is issued, clarifications and discussions can happen. BJP wanted that first they should be allowed to discuss and then he should read a statement.

PC: But such a big incident happened in the country, people lost lives.

KB: They could have said whatever they wanted to say after the statement, we never said no to a discussion. We said, let him read out the statement, then you can say what you want. What was the problem if they would have said whatever they wanted to speak, after four minutes?

PC: Some people in the opposition in party think Shinde has become a liability after the statement

KN: No, not at all, Shinde saab is not a liability.

PC: People say he is Hasmukh,  smiling face, when he took charge as CM of Maharashtra, people said Deshmukh will go and smiling face will take charge. Has he become a liability.

KN: Not at all, how can full investigation happen just within 11-18 hours of the incident. Many facts have to be kept secret, and everybody asks him what information he has. Now, poor fellow, what can he tell?

PC: Congress men also say that Shinde has turned around all the good work done by Chidambaram

KN: It’s been four months since Shindeji took charge. It is very wrong to say that he has spoilt everything. It’s been just four months.

PC: He told there is Hindu terrorism, BJP and RSS run training camps, for which he apologized. Kamal Nath has to intervene to get him to apologize so that the session can run.

KN: He said he regrets if anybody has felt hurt due to his statement.

PC: But he did not apologize

KN: He said he regrets. Now you can consider it apology or anything else.

PC: What do you say

KN: He expressed regret.

PC: He did not apologise

KN: Certainly not, because he stood by what he said. He said it was not his intention to make allegation against anybody.

PC: You tell he did not apologize, but it was a compromise.

KN: It is true, compromise happened.

PC: You arrived at a compromise because you want to run the session, there is no ideological conviction.

KN: It is not an issue of ideology. This was somebody’s statement, they felt bad, then we said on, we express regret. There is no question of ideology in this.

PC: It is a deal because one month ago Shinde saab issued statement,  but only one day before the session, Kamal Nath intervens and get an apology statement issued.

KN: BJP is satisfied with the statement, they said. Then what is the deal.

PC: This could have been done before, what was the need for them to stage dharna then?

KN: Everything has a time, he spoke at the right time.

PC: You had backdoor discussions with BJP

KN:I speak to everybody openly, what is backdoor in that. There is no issue which we need to keep secret. 
I speak to BJP leaders, Mulayam Singhji, Mayawatiji

PC: That will happen because Kamal Nath is a parliamentary affairs minister. You are the senior most MP. 
But don’t you think the whole Hindu terrorism statement was his fault.

KN:  Why, he spoke on basis of some information. He did not level any allegation on BJP

PC: He said that BJP and RSS are running training camps

KN: Many cases have been registered, but Shindeji has more information on this, not me.

PC: You do not think it was a fault

KN: He expressed regret, with which BJP is satisfied. After this there is no discussion on this issue.

PC: There is discussion, quarrel on the fact that on the issue of terrorism, your government talks about Hindu terrorism, saffron terrorism.  Like on the issue of evidence on Hindu terrorism, the day Shinde saab apologised, the home secretary changed his stance. Till a week back the same home secretary was saying that nine people linked to RSS and others are involved.

KN: These has happened a while ago

PC: But it raises issues for you

KN: No, these things happen and pass

PC: Kamal Nath sows a seed, somebody uproots the plant

KN: In parliamentary affairs, these things happen.

PC: If a strong anti rape bill can be made in three weeks, why isn’t a strong anti terror law made

KN: Many states are not accepting NCTC. They have doubts, but NCTC is very necessary, if we want to deal with terrorism.

PC: But you have so many agencies already, NIA, IB

KN: National Grid and NCTC connects all agencies, it is a co-ordination point.

PC: What does IB do

KN: IB does its work, then we have state intelligence agencies.

PC: But in you government there are parallel systems, like NPR and Aadhar, on both Rs. 20,000 crore each would be spent. Like in America, there is one agency, they don’t have 10 of them.

KN: That is what we are saying, but even they have many subordinate agencies. Hence, we wanted one NCTC and all other subordinate agencies, and one national grid, which will have information about every police station in the country.

PC: But you want to take over state government’s power of arrest with NCTC

KN: There are many issues when information is shared with states, it spreads. In terrorism, the biggest thing is secrecy in investigation. If information spreads, how will this happen.

PC: You do not trust chief ministers

KN: It is not about chief ministers, it goes to many policemen.

PC: Even your police men can go wrong, the NCTC people

KN: In NCTC, very selected police professionals would be employed.

PC: In reference to blasts in Hyderabad, you shared information with Andhra Pradesh government, which has Congress government, but they did not take action. This was said by the home minister.

KN: The information is of general nature, nobody tells that blast will happen on tuglaq road this street.

PC: But specific information was given

KN: No, not at all. The names of cities were given.

PC: They had given the name of the area in Hyderabad which was prone

KN: No, they said in Hyderabad and other cities such incidents may happen. But it will happen at this place, this time, such information was not given.

PC: So, according to you NCTC is the solution?

KN: NCTC will benefit. I do not think that everything would improve due to this. But this will help us strengthen our efforts in combating terrorism.

PC: But you repealed POTA due to politics

KN: Any opposition party or BJP does not say that bring this particular law into force. Let them tell which law to bring which is effective.

PC: They say bring back POTA

KN: In these times, even POTA would be mild. POTA was brought into force when terrorism had not grown to its present proportions.

PC: You think that a law even more strong than POTA is needed at the moment

KN: Many things have to be added, it is not a question of what is strong.

PC: But you have to consult with opposition on terrorism, which is one of the biggest issues facing the country.

KN: Certainly. Today, it is not just one party who has government in states, there are many parties. Hence, just discussing with one party won’t suffice.

PC: When the government can hold consultations on rape law in three weeks, on the issue of terrorism, why don’t you act in the same manner?

KN: I feel consensus is very important on this issue. If not all encompassing, but general consensus is necessary.

PC: I know that parliamentary affairs ministry does not have responsibility of home ministry, but you can make efforts.

KN: We are making efforts

PC: For bringing an anti terror law

KN: Certainly.

PC: In this issue corruption issue, helicopter deal would be raised by opposition.

KN: I have given clear statement, whatever investigation necessary should be done, we accept it.

PC: You spoke about JPC

KN: We are ready for any kind of investigation; even we want investigation to happen. They may not be satisfied with investigation done by our government; hence I left it to them to tell what kind of investigation should happen.

PC: You disarmed them by saying that

KN: I said we together, because this is a issue which affects the name of the country.

PC: But even you know JPC, which are being made since 1989, Rajiv Gandhi’s times. JPC results in nothing.

KN: I did not say form JPC, I said we are ready for any kind of investigation. There should be consensus among political parties, and we are ready to do investigation on those lines.

PC: The president’s speech in which the issue of one million houses was talked, It seemed like an election manifesto. It seemed that we have done so much good work, hence vote for us.

KN: President’s speech happens in the first parliamentary session every year. He speaks about the government’s achievements to the people.

PC: But even as many achievements were cited, many villages are in darkness, while the cities are shining

KN: There were two statements, one regarding JNNURM

PC: For purchasing air conditioned buses

KN: Many Municipal Corporation and councils have benefitted from it.

PC: I visited 10 cities when JNNURM was implemented, at all places slums are visible, and roads are in the same condition, where do the thousands of crores go

KN: To improve the whole city is not our aim, the state government.

PC: May be a part it, but the money is your.

KN: Some money is from central government, in the end the state government should take benefit from it. Money is given project wise, not for the whole city.

KN: Slums are mushrooming in cities, you know it

KN: Because of rapid urbanisation, today 40 crore people live in cities. Ten years ago, only 30 crore people lived in cities.

PC: They come to cities because condition of villages, small towns is bad. Neither there is hospital, nor colleges.

KN: Economic activity is happening around cities. That is why people left gramin areas and migrated to Nagar panchayat, municipal corporation areas. In the next ten years, 60 crore people will live in cities.

PC: Because you are not developing villages

KN: We have had plans for building Infrastructure like roads, water, drains and other facilities in villages. Now six years, ago the government made a plan for cities.

PC: Congress party lost in 1996 elections because people thought that the government is for the rich. Even now it seems that the government is more worried about the stock market. You won from the rural constituency and have been winning from villages areas for long, don’t you think that in our country, Bharat and India are different. Even Rahul Gandhi said the same thing in a state.

KN: To partition cities and villages is not right. Today the aspirations and expectations of city and village youth are same. Today village youth has cell phone, internet and television. Hence, there is no difference.
PC: But there are no jobs. Unemployment has increased. Number of people below poverty line has increased.

KN: No, the number of avenues for employment that developed during UPA government’s tenure, have never happened in the history of the country.

PC: I am talking about total number of unemployed people and number of people living below poverty line over past nine years. These are your facts.

KN: No, numbers have not increased.

PC: Numbers have increased, percentage has come down. I know you don’t agree with Montek on many issues.

KN: This is not true

PC: What will you do over next two years

KN: We have aim to make one lakh houses every year in the national capital for people hailing from economically weaker section of society. I also made this statement in the Lok Sabha last year. This plan has started, not 20,00-25,000 houses have been made.

PC: It seems, when we see the last budget session and this, that the allies are leaving you. Akhilesh said that they do not have the requisite money for budget. It is a minority government, people are supporting you from outside.

KN: It was from the first day.

PC: When TMC left, it happened, it was not from first day. You had 255 seats, which did not increased, now even DMK is not happy. Do you think you are running a minority government?

KN: You do not get tensed by it, we have to get tensed by it.

PC: But you are not

KN: I am not at all tensed. Because I know the parties supporting us on issues, this is the condition n every parliamentary democracy, be it of Germany, France or Britain.

PC: But tell me, is there is likelihood of early elections.

KN: Certainly not. Why would they happen early?

PC: Because you don’t have majority, the government may fall anytime.

KN: I am saying we may not have.

PC: Because even if one withdraws support, writes letter to President

KN: There is no need for going into ifs and buts. Because today we have majority, it is clear how we have got this majority. That is why nobody is saying anything today.

PC: Which means elections will happen in May 2014, not before that

KN: Elections would happen in May 2014.

PC: If somebody withdraws it will happen

KN: If somebody does not withdraw. I have full confidence that nobody would withdraw

PC: Kamal Nath has done a deal with everybody

KN: There is no deal, everybody is in agreement with our policy and intentions.

PC: Rahulji said that his name should not be taken for the post of Prime Minister, but elections would be contested under his leadership?

KN: I want elections to be contested under his leadership. But he has to decide, it will not happen by me wishing for it.

PC: You will that the Congress may derive more benefit by contesting under his leadership

KN: Certainly, certainly, a new generation if coming forward. A new leadership is coming forward

PC: How many seats would you win, now you have 206, would you get majority.

KN: lagh bagh itni seatein ayeengi humaari

PC: If Rahulji leads

KN: Yes

PC: If he does not, then your tally would come down

KN: Why do you say that, I say if we get 250 seats, there is no end to such discussion?

PC: You do not fear anybody, that there would be a Modi versus Rahul contest. You are not in tension, you don’t get dreams about Modi

KN: We don’t get any dreams about Modi, he would be dreaming about Rahulji.

PC: Thank you for coming to our studio.

KN: Thank you, Prabhuji ! 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mr Chidambaram, can the... Power & Politics/ The Sunday Standard/ February 17, 2013

Mr Chidambaram, can the nation’s poor have more on their plates please?

Dear PC,
I have known you for over 30 years now. As a lawyer, you have brilliantly fought both good and lost cases and causes; as a politician-economist, you’ve been a forceful advocate of opening economic boundaries. I have been witness to your journey that started as a minister of state for internal security in the Rajiv Gandhi government and through all later governments, barring the NDA. Even when circumstances forced you to change parties, your faith in the economic ideology you initially embraced sustained. For the first time since Independence, we now have political parties of varying hues resorting to good economics even if meant bad politics at times. It is this glitter of economic reforms which makes for the cohabitation of confrontationist politics with consensual economics.
The past three decades have seen Indians becoming the most respectable economic identities globally. We may be having more poor people than the whole of Africa but we also have more billionaires than Britain. Every year at Davos, more Indians arrive in their private jets than people of most other countries. Scores of Indian companies have become multinational corporations. Where we once had to settle for either an Ambassador or a Premier, now we have the option of buying any car, any model. Last year’s list of $1 billion-plus High Net Worth Individuals (HNIs) has 68 Indians, third only behind the US and China.
This wealth, and the level of luxury it gives them, could not have come but for the fiscal policies of successive governments whose policies helped them expand their businesses and become globally competitive. Two decades of economic liberalisation has drastically changed the perception about India. Earlier, we were known as a rich nation inhabited by poor people. India is now a poor country in which few rich people live and who enjoy disproportionately higher control over capital market and natural wealth and resources. In the past two decades, India was perhaps the only developing economy in which more than 50 per cent of the GDP came from services sector. Share of both the manufacturing and agriculture sectors is shrinking.
On the eve of your last regular budget, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the expectations from you are so high , anyone else in your place would have run scared. It is your last regular budget before the next Lok Sabha elections. So far, the prime minister kept hoping that the positive effects of economic reforms would trickle down. They haven’t. And it’s easy to see why. The top is stone-hearted and is loathe to let some of the wealth roll down to the deserving. Worse, subsidies for the poor are being gradually withdrawn to make way for increased incentives for the rich. Both the prime minister and you have been talking about pruning subsidies on everything which the lower and middle class consumes. At the same time, the UPA government has been quite liberal with funding social schemes which dole out thousands of crores to the poor but not productive jobs. Fiscal policies have encouraged conspicuous consumption by the super-rich who jet around on private crafts, buy villas in exotic locales, hold birthdays and weddings in Venice, Paris and London while the lower middle classes struggle to buy even single-bedroom  flats in any city. While public authorities have abdicated their responsibility to provide affordable housing for the poor and the middle class, avaricious builders have been given liberal loans at low interest rates to construct condominiums for the rich.
The ordinary people can only hope that you will at least keep them somewhere in the back of your mind when you formulate your budget policies. They want quality education and healthcare, potable water and sanitation. You may argue that these are state subjects, but let us face it, it is the Central tax structure that determines how investors choose to put their monies. It has not gone unnoticed that while average price of middle segment cars haven’t risen for the past five years, fuel prices have gone up by almost 60 per cent during the same period. They are not able to understand why an ordinary investor who makes few thousand rupees on the stock market pays the same percentage of tax as a person who makes millions as dividend from his own company. A middle class family has to now pay service charge on almost all services, from a train ticket to getting the house repaired.
Your frustration with shrinking sources of additional resources mobilisation is quite understandable. The states aren’t willing to expand their tax net because they rightly or wrongly feel that the Centre has usurped most of their powers. Some of them, however, have a point. Rising income of the Centre is being spent on schemes which the states feel are meant to get more votes. The states expect that they should get a better share of the Central funds. Even your ministerial colleagues are mounting pressure on you to be liberal in allocating money.
I am aware that your job is such that you are constantly walking on the razor’s edge. Now the time has come for you to make a choice. Don’t forget that your own party admitted that it were the pro-rich economic policies that were responsible for its defeat during 1996. You have to prove that even good politics can deliver better economic results. You have to reduce the cost of governance, tax conspicuous consumption, and create more employment opportunities. The last three decades have seen successive government initiating policies that turned millionaires into billionaires. You have a chance now to convert the poor into middle class and the middle class into rich. And unlike the rich and mighty, they are not fair-weather friends. Give them something, they will reciprocate.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabwhuChawla

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Noose you can use..../Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/February 10, 2013

Noose you can use: Shinde takes on opposition, one hanging at a time

If it is the chair that makes the individual, then Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has finally justified his elevation. By dispatching Afzal Guru to the hangman on early Saturday morning, the spirit of the former cop in him triumphed over political conviction. For the past five years, on one pretext or the other, the UPA had been dithering over the issue of sending Afzal to the gallows. With one stroke of his pen, Shinde not only disarmed his most vociferous opponent, the Bharatiya Janata Party, but also regained his lost reputation as a politician who always spoke before thinking. In retrospect, his slips of tongue while speaking at the Jaipur Chintan Shivir weren’t acts of political indiscretion. For the first time, an Indian home minister defined terrorism in terms of religious colour. He accused the RSS of organising camps to train Hindu terrorists, on which he later backtracked saying, “There is no colour to any terrorism… My thought is the same as party’s line.” But now it seems that his action of sending Guru to the gibbet speedily is a calculated attempt to acquire neutrality and legitimacy. It was only after the return of the Congress establishment from Jaipur that the home ministry moved Guru’s fatal file. Shinde also ensured that all the stakeholders were taken on board, including Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who was apprehensive about the move. With the BJP mounting pressure on the government that Shinde should apologise for his remarks or else he should be dismissed from the Cabinet, the UPA leadership was forced to bite the bullet.

Guru was an agent of the evil forces that assaulted the idea and institution of India by attacking Parliament on December 13, 2001. Had the terrorists and their plans succeeded, over half of the Union Cabinet and about 250 MPs would have been slaughtered by the bullets of the would-be assassins. It was the valiant sacrifice of seven security officers which saved the symbol of Indian democracy. Despite the due process of judicial scrutiny at the highest level, Guru had acquired the cult status of being the most powerful symbol of votebank politics, with various parties finding fault with the legal process or the intentions of the government in power. He must have been the only convict whose file for execution meandered up and down the decision route for over six years, covering two presidents, three home ministers and two chief ministers. At every juncture, questions of procedures and law and order were raised. While the government bought time to decide the time of Guru’s execution, the BJP and its allies made it their most potent weapon to attack the UPA for playing votebank politics.
But Shinde had decided to work according to his own mind. He chose his own manner and method to silence his most bitter critics. The home minister, who didn’t think twice while promising to shoot any person if ordered to do so by his political boss Sonia Gandhi, put the file rejecting Guru’s mercy petition on the super-fast track. Curiously, President Pranab Mukherjee accepted the home minister’s recommendations on January 26. Within the next couple of weeks, the file moved from Rashtrapati Bhawan to the home ministry and finally to the Lt Governor’s office in Delhi, clearing the decks for the execution of India’s most politicised terrorist.
Shinde may have been perceived as an embarrassment to the party for his soft and casual attitude, but he has been working according to plan after taking over as home minister on July 31, 2012. He understood that decisive action on terror files would make or mar his political career. As chief minister of Maharashtra, he had learnt the art of handling communally sensitive issues. Quite predictably, he decided to address the concerns of his home constituency. Within two weeks, he moved heaven and earth to get Ajmal Kasab hanged since it was on his watch that 166 Mumbaikars and foreigners were killed in one of the worst terror attacks on India. Once the deed was done, he embarked on the path of taking on the Sangh Parivar. Hardly a day passed when he did not make the RSS or BJP his preferred target. Despite having a cordial relationship with the BJP and RSS leadership, the wily politician didn’t deviate from his secret agenda of sending terrorists to the scaffold.
Shinde’s strategy has been crystal clear. Let the people judge him by his work and not just by his words spoken at political platforms for political expediency. Shinde’s conduct during the past four months is a clear indication that he wouldn’t take on the states, but would definitely take the wind out of the sails of his adversaries. If the sources in North Block are to be trusted, his next target is Balwant Singh Rajoana, who has been awarded the death sentence for the gruesome killing of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh. The state’s ruling Akali Dal has strongly opposed the move. But with Lok Sabha elections just over a year away, Shinde is quietly preparing the ground for Rajoana’s hanging, which may benefit the Congress at the BJP’s cost. In addition, he has also started building a political consensus for getting Rajiv Gandhi’s killers executed. If he succeeds in his mission, Shinde would only establish his credibility as a home minister who is willing to jump the queue by ignoring religion, caste or region when it comes to dealing with terrorists.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Teekhi Baat with Sukhbir Singh Badal/IBN7/February 09, 2013

‘Modi has done an excellent job, he’s proved himself’

Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal speaks on governance and issues concerning Punjab, Badal Senior, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and a host of other issues during Teekhi Baat on IBN7. Excerpts:
Congratulations for winning the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee elections.
Thank you.
Will it affect politics in Delhi?
It will, in the next Assembly and Parliament elections, due to the community vote.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) will become more powerful.
It will make no difference to our alliance with the BJP, because we are not into bargaining.
Won’t you ask for more seats?
We never do give-and-take politics.
Badal saab is slowly taking the backseat and you are coming forward.
This is an impression. Badal saab is in the full grip of the government. There are departments which I handle.
All important departments are with you.
No, not all of them. Only  Home and Reforms.
In Punjab, the impression is that you are the real chief minister.
This is a media-created. I am the president of the party.
But he is reporting to you.
No, he is not reporting to me. He is our patron-in-chief.
Like at the Centre, Sardar Manmohan Singh reports to Sonia Gandhi.
Not here. Here, everybody reports to him, I am a minister under him.
Your inclusion in the NDA is symbolic.
It is not symbolic. We are not in the prime ministerial race. We don’t have the numbers, so it is foolish to start thinking like that. Ours is a small state. As a small state, we are part of the NDA, because of our policies.
You will never go with the Congress. Hence, the current condition of the BJP will affect you.
We don’t interfere in any party’s internal matters.
The JD(U) interferes every day. They say the BJP should declare its prime ministerial candidate. Your view?
This is BJP’s internal matter. We will support the person who the BJP chooses.
You have no objection to any candidate?
No, we have no objection.
Even if it’s Modi, you will have no objection?
I said, let them choose anybody, we are with the BJP.
It means you feel that the prime minister should be from the BJP?
Should be, because that is the biggest party (in the NDA). Hence it is necessary for stability too.
But people say, the BJP’s candidate may not be acceptable to some.
We have no problem.
There is talk surrounding Modi. What do you think?
I think, he has done an excellent job as the chief minister. Not only me, but everybody is talking about his performance.
In the BJP, even Shivraj Singh Chauhan has also proved himself. But is Modi a prime minister material?
I cannot comment on who is prime minister material.
In the NDA, do you find Modi the most suitable?
I will not comment. What you want me to say, I won’t say it. Our party’s stand is very clear, let BJP choose any person.
But how would NDA government be formed?
Even in Uttar Pradesh the perception is that people want change. They know NDA is the best alternative. BJP will gain hugely there.
Where else?
Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra.
How many seats will the BJP win?
On their own, the BJP can win over 200 seats.
And after winning over 200 seats  they will make Modi the PM?
Let them make whoever they want to, we are with them.
You will see a BJP prime minister in 2014?
Hundred per cent.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Great Reckoning ../Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/February 03, 2013

The great reckoning is in 2014 but next Prime Minister will emerge this year

Numerically 2013 precedes 2014. Normally, the past casts its shadows over the future. But such is the nature of the frivolous discourse of new politics and our opinion-makers that the present is ignored to build castles on the sands of the future. From individuals to institutions, many are spending sleepless nights debating the name and nature of the knight who would save India. They conveniently forget that Number 13 is considered an inauspicious number. It can’t make fortunes. But it can definitely mar and demolish the dreams of many powerful leaders. It is 2013 that will decide the contours of Indian politics in 2014. It will also seal the fate of many chief ministers and aspirants for the prime ministership of India.

The parties or personalities that explode the negative myth of 13 will not only determine the rulers of 2014, but will also decide the colour of coalition politics. While the media and some self-appointed claimants for the post of the prime minister of India are indulging in shadow-boxing, their cadres and middle-level leaders are concerned about the fate of their respective parties and that of local leaders who face state elections that begin from Tripura next month. In addition, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh,  Rajasthan, Delhi, Jharkhand and Meghalaya will all elect new Assemblies before the end of the year. It is the verdict in these states that will decide the future politics of not only the national and regional parties but also of some prominent leaders who aspire or are in the race for the top job in South Block. These elections may even throw up new candidates for the prime ministership. In the cacophony of Rahul versus Modi is drowned the complex and explosive nature of the fight which will see regional leaders warring for a bigger national role. The BJP rules Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The Congress runs Rajasthan and Delhi. If Shivraj Singh Chouhan is able to win his state for the third time for the BJP, the party may add his name to the list of possible leaders to lead the BJP at the Centre. The fight may become messier if Vasundhara Raje also delivers in Rajasthan and becomes the BJP’s second secular female face besides Sushma Swaraj, the current Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Both Chouhan and Raje have never displayed their national ambitions but they have much more acceptability not only within the party but also with NDA’s allies. Leaders like Chouhan, Raje and Raman Singh will play a dominant role if they win their state elections—between them, they control the outcome of 80 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. The party won a little less than half the Lok Sabha seats in these states in 2009. Even in Jharkhand and Karnataka, where the party won 28 out of 42 LS seats, the local leadership will have a major say if they are able to retain the same number of seats in their Assemblies. If the BJP is able to retain its states and win Delhi, Rajnath Singh’s promoters are bound to project him as the natural choice for PM. During his earlier term, the BJP won most of the state elections but lost the Lok Sabha elections. A victory in 2013 will also make the BJP less untouchable with the fence-sitters jumping on to the saffron ship, which is currently sailing in rough waters.
If the future of the current BJP leadership is linked with its performance in 2013, such is the case for Rahul Gandhi as well. Since there is no other visible contender for the prime ministership in the Congress, the electoral verdict of 2013 will also decide whether the vice-president of a political party will be elevated to the post of the prime minister of a country of over 1.2 billion people. So far, Rahul hasn’t been able to deliver much in any Assembly election. His aggressive forays into caste-based north Indian politics failed to pay dividends. The Congress lost badly in Bihar, Gujarat, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. It was able to wrest power from the BJP in Himachal and Uttarakhand, and may do it Karnataka as well. But a loss in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh or even Chhattisgarh may raise many questions about Rahul’s ability win an election for his party. Some of his close aides are resigned to the idea of sitting in the Opposition for five years, and rebuilding the party from scratch. Rahul has not shown any hurry to demolish the old order in the 129-year-old party, and has refrained from any direct interference in the selection of either the state-level candidates or the chief ministers so far. But with his new responsibility, he cannot evade accountability. 2013 will mark the rise of the Rahul Congress and the eclipse of the traditional Congress—a tradition that started with the anointment of his grandmother Indira Gandhi in 1967, and followed by his father later on. Both created their own versions of the Congress by placing greater premium on loyalty than on merit. There is, however, a qualitative difference between the politics of the 1980s and that of the 21st century. Now in the battle between perception and performance, those who deliver more than what they promise will rule the heart of New India. The electoral aerobics of 2013 will decide the decibel level and political health of the prospective heartthrob.; Follow me  on Twitter @PrabwhuChawla

Teekhi Baat with Rajnath Singh/IBN7/February 02, 2013

‘The Home Minister has hurt national pride’

RSS is a large socio-cultural organisation and the BJP will defend its reputation, BJP President Rajnath 

Singh says during Teekhi Baat on IBN7. Excerpts:

Being president is not new for you
People say you are a compromise candidate
My elevation to the post of national president is based on a consensus.
You critics say the RSS chose Rajnath Singh
The RSS does not select BJP president.
What is the relation between RSS and BJP?
Many leaders among us are from the RSS.
Can BJP be imagined without RSS?
We all leaders are member of that family. But if a person wants to become a BJP members, then it is not necessary for him to be a RSS swayamsevak.
Sangh’s ideology is the birth place of BJP
See, Sangh’s ideology and BJP’s ideology are compatible to a great extent.
Will you consider it as mother?
You term it as mother or father that is your issue. The ideologies are closely related, because they too work for the country and even we work for nation building. And BJP is not into politics just for forming government, but for nation building.
Some former RSS members were  attacked in the past one year because they were caught for terror activities. The Home Ministry has provided evidence
There may be some people who may have been associated with Sangh earlier, but there are many Sangh swayamsevaks in Congress-led UPA government.
But they are not being caught for terror acts.
Were RSS people caught in some terror activity?
Four to five people
There may have been some people who would have been formerly associated with RSS. But I think, UPA is making attempts to defame the world’s biggest socio-cultural organisation. On what basis do they say that RSS is a terror organisation? FBI has said that the Samjhauta Express and Mecca Masjid blasts were misdeeds of Lashkar-e-Toiba and ISI.
Rajnath Singh now have to save or defend RSS from negative publicity that it is getting.
The RSS is the not only the country’s but the world socio-cultural organisation. And for vote-bank politics, if somebody attempts to malign it, then the BJP will stand by the RSS.
You have said that you will demand Shinde’s resignation for the comments he made about BJP and RSS, and protest outside Parliament
The Union Home Minister has hurt national pride. The only person who has endorsed his statement is Hafiz Sayeed. And because of Shinde's statement that terrorist got the opportunity to say that India is a terrorist state.
 Which means BJP is getting back to its Hindutva plank
In the history of independent India, for the first time, a minister sitting in the government has hurt the image of the country.
Even Chidambaram said this once when he was Home Minister. He first coined the term ‘saffron terror.’
But he did not make statement that training is given in training camps.
Your party has not won election and people are in the prime ministerial race already.
There is no rush. The Central Parliamentary Board will take a decision at the appropriate time.
JD (U) says Modi should not become Prime Ministerial candidate. Even Shiv Sena said that BJP should declare its PM candidate.
Our Central Parliamentary Board will take a decision.
It seems BJP leaders feel awkward taking Modi’s name because he has bigger than the party
I am happy that we have such a leader in the party.
Can any leader from the alliance be chosen as PM candidate
It is a tradition that the PM candidate comes from the single largest party.
What has BJP done for farmers?
In the history of India for the first time BJP gave relief to farmers by reducing the amount payable back to banks. This money was given to farmers for farming purposes. For the first time, BJP-led NDA government introduced Kisan Credit card. We had launched the project to provide pucca roads to all villages.
Can Rajnath be a prime ministerial candidate?
No, I have responsibility of the organisation.