Monday, May 27, 2013

South Block Watch .... The Sunday Standard/ May 26, 2013

Chinese Checkers in Japan
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s frequent visits abroad in the last few months have raised scary expectations about India’s diplomatic expertise. His forthcoming visit to Tokyo from May 27 to 29, and Bangkok from May 30 to 31, would provide welcome opportunities, not only to strengthen important bilateral relationships but also to boost India’s Look East Policy. As Manmohan’s overseas sojourn comes close on the heels of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India, he will have to play it safe while discussing China with his Japanese counterpart. The Japan visit assumes added strategic significance because both countries, along with Philippines and Vietnam, have been at the receiving end of China’s military assertiveness and muscle flexing. Sino-Japanese relations have traditionally been difficult. The Japanese expectation that strengthening economic relations with China would facilitate contentious political disputes was belied when China suddenly announced on April 27 that the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea have always been its territory. The Chinese, referring to Diaoyu Islands—their name for Senkaku—said the issue concerns the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and constitutes its “core interest”, taking the dispute to a new level. The Japanese, who have administered the islands for decades, were taken aback but decided to respond assertively. Our Prime Minister and Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe will have an additional issue on their agenda. The Japanese will be looking forward to hearing a first-hand assessment of Manmohan’s impressions of Li Keqiang’s visit.
Slice of the American Pie
The desire of the establishment to wrangle an invitation for Manmohan Singh to make a state visit to the US is well known. Santa Claus finally arrived in the form of US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. The invitation was accepted with alacrity. The PMO was so pleased that it could not resist the temptation of selectively leaking this godsend to the press even though a formal invitation was awaited and mutually convenient dates had to be decided upon. This raises a fundamental question. Since the visit—the last for Manmohan in his second term—is supposed to extract maximum mileage at home, bilateral dialogues must be held before July. But the Americans are in no hurry. The PMO has already scheduled the PM’s visit to correspond with the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in September. On this occasion, US President Barack Obama holds meetings with most visiting heads of governments. In that case, a separate meeting will have to be fixed for Manmohan in Washington. Moreover, there is talk of the general elections being advanced to be held along with the state Assembly polls towards the end of the year. Should that happen, a major foreign visit on the eve of elections would be neither feasible nor desirable. But the PMO is unable to reconcile to the idea of the Prime Minister losing an opportunity to break bread with the mightiest global power before completing his second, and perhaps last, term.
Musical Chairs at MEA
The search for a new foreign secretary remains shrouded in mystery. There is still some time left for a formal announcement, as the new candidate is always appointed a month before the current incumbent’s retirement. The Prime Minister has been considering various names, and would like to follow the seniority principle as was done while appointing Ranjan Mathai, cabinet secretary Ajit Kumar Seth, the new CVC, and CAG. According to insiders, the PM is under pressure to deviate from this well-tested policy. This became apparent when the government ignored seniority while appointing the new Home Secretary. Anil Goswami (1978 batch) was chosen to succeed R K Singh from the 1975 batch. Manmohan has been unable to firm up on the next foreign secretary because of the tug of war between various power centres. If seniority is to be the criterion, then our ambassador to Berlin, Sujatha Singh, should get the job. But going by the new home secretary’s appointment, an officer of the 1977 batch may well be considered. But there is a catch. Three officers of the 1977 batch are already serving as secretaries in the MEA—Sudhir Vyas, Pinak Chakravarty and Ashok Kantha, in that order of seniority. Two of them retire by September. If the choice falls on S Jaishankar, the ambassador to Beijing, the PM has to find an honourable exit for the three seniors. The only way would be to give a short extension to Mathai and let them retire before bringing in Jaishankar. In case he is appointed the next foreign secretary, the PM would have to find a credible explanation on why so many seniors, including Sujatha, have been superseded.
Learn it from Rio
The Congress is an expert at forging alliances abroad and breaking them at home. When it comes to the skill set of domestic agencies, it should learn from Brazil. Both India and Brazil have been partners in many global initiatives. The summit-level meeting of the three large democracies of Latin America, including Brazil, Africa and Asia meant to be held in New Delhi in the first week of June has been postponed because of scheduling difficulties from Brazil. As and when it is rescheduled, it would be appropriate for South Block mandarins to use the opportunity to ascertain from the Brazilians the secret of how they managed to register splendid victories in two prestigious elections in the multilateral system. Brazilian candidates won decisively in the elections to the top jobs in the Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome and the Geneva-based World Trade Organization. They have demonstrated without doubt that their foreign policy machine is second to none, and surely better than ours.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Teekhi Baat with Neeraj Kumar, Delhi Police Chief /The Sunday Standard/Mary 25, 2013/IBN7

Interview with Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar for Teekhi Baat on IBN 7 on Spot Fixing

PC: For the first time one can see police commissioner batting sixer in a slog over
NK: (laughs) It is good.
PC: With few weeks remaining in active policing, you’ve hit a sixer, did you spot a loose ball
NK: (laughs) It is a loose ball, hence (I) hit a sixer.
PC: It wasn’t a no ball
NK: It wasn’t a no ball.
PC: You shook the whole country through this, and it seems you kept quiet thereafter.
NK: This is true and false. True because we didn’t take anybody’s name, about any team or player, till that extent it is true. And wrong because we are investigating, and very soon some names from teams would be revealed. But we were and are quiet because till we don’t get evidence, material, against them, we don’t want to tar anybody’s reputation or name.
PC: I understand. When you caught Sreesanth, you would have prepared for two- four months; you would have tapped phones, why did you only target Sreesanth.
NK: Not only Sreesanth, there are two more players, Chandila and Ankit Chauhan.
PC: Sreesanth is a big name
NK: Whether it is a small or a big name, we will reveal it, but we can only take names against whom we have evidence.
PC: You only focussed on Rajasthan Royals, it may be that Delhi police saved Delhi players due to soft corner.
NK: I am talking about the breakthrough we got, am not saying that nothing would not have happened before. May be it would have happened, even in Delhi matches, I do not deny that. But when we had chance discovery in our investigation that some players are speaking to bookies, and the books are speaking to cricketers, then we became alert.
PC: You got to know this via phone conversation
NK: Yes
PC: Or your people who keep moving about
NK: No, we got to know via phone conversations. After which we listened to those conversations carefully, and names of three players were revealed, and it also became clear that they were being compromised, and certain works are getting done through them. We followed it, and found that what was spoken in the phone intercepts is being delivered. We saw one player doing it first, but we didn’t do anything, we kept quiet. We allowed the second player and the third one to do it, when all three had delivered, then we swooped down.
PC: What was common among the trio? Were they working together?
NK: They were not working together. Whenever such compromise happens, it happens at an individual level, unless the whole team is compromised. The evidence that we have now is regarding one to one compromise.
PC: You would have had focussed attention on many players and bookies during investigation
NK: We are keeping a watch, but cannot name anybody now.
PC: How many teams names who surface you feel?
NK: One more team is on our radar and four more players.
PC: Are they of national, international or local level. I am not asking you their names.
NK: They are national level players.
PC: Which means you would hit more sixes
NK: We will do what is appropriate. We will go and front foot and hit a six, or play defensive if required.
PC: Hence four big players that are on your radar
NK: Not big ones, I said they are from our country. They have not played for national team.
PC: They are playing in IPL
NK: They are playing in IPL.
PC: You feel that the national team is very clean
NK: I do not say this. I will term anybody clean or unclean when I have material. Hence, we have to presume that all our players are clean. And if some evidence emerges against anybody, then that person is unclean.
PC: Do you feel that these few new players that are only playing in IPL, not in the national team are following others since they have more accessibility.
NK: When we follow somebody, we do that on basis of material evidence and proof. One may catch a big person too, but currently we have proof against players who have not played for the country.
PC: They would be players for some big franchise?
NK: I don’t have information status of franchisees as compared to each other, for us all franchisees are equal.
PC: A team of Delhi police officers, some have whom have formerly worked in CBI have done this operation; you would also have tracked many bookies and players and head names??
NK: Merely hearing names is not enough, and we don’t follow players just be hearing their names. The sportsperson who we caught, were not on basis of fact that their names were taken, but we caught them when they delivered their promises, gave indications which they promised.
PC: Now you would be watching the video’s of the players who are under your radar
NK: Certainly.
PC: Because you police team had gone to Chandigarh
NK: None of our team went to Chandigarh.
PC: Hence you are not doing anything in Chandigarh
NK: No
PC: Then in what state are you investigating
NK: If I name the state, everything would be revealed. It is a matter of one, two days before we reveal and name people against whom we have proof.
PC: You will arrest them
NK: Certainly, if there is evidence strong enough to arrest them.
PC: In today’s date you don’t have enough proof to arrest them
NK: No
PC: But you are progressing in that direction
NK: Yes
PC: You caught three players and are going after four now, but you are asking for evidence from Mumbai police now. Was your police in a hurry that it left the laptop, phones and other things belonging to the players.
NK: When we do an operation, some formalities have to be completed; we made an entry at Maine Drive police station, and got players from there. Some luggage would have been left, but our investigation has not got affected, If it would have, we would not have arrested the sportsman.
PC: You went to Mumbai, hence you would have had conversation details of players there, hence you would also have had details of people caught by Mumbai police
NK: Work is going on in different modules, the whole country’s police is cracking down on bookies now. You would have heard about Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and Mumbai. Before you ask me if there is any competition, I would like to tell you that police is a big fraternity, one big brotherhood and we don’t compete against each other. We don’t want to score brownie points over each other.
PC: But it is not co-ordinated
NK: Work is going on different modules, even in terror cases, there are different terror modules. It may be possible that Chennai police may catch one module, we catch second module, third module may be caught by Jammu and Kashmir. There is no interference and no work gets spoiled due to this. But if need be and if our paths cross each other, if there is any overlap, then we speak to each other.
PC: There may be an overlap between you and Mumbai
NK: There is an overlap, I am in touch with Commissioner of Police, Mumbai. He is in US, even then I have conversations with him.
PC: On some issues, Delhi and Mumbai police would have to work together?
NK: Mumbai and Delhi police would have to work together on some aspects
PC: In new cases or the same cases in which you caught three players
NK: If they material regarding Sreesanth which they have collected is relevant for our evidence, then we may request Mumbai police to hand it over
PC: During phone tracking, you would have got some leads which would be incomplete and you would complete them after getting together with Mumbai police, hence do you feel you would get something more from this case, or is the module over?
NK: This module is over as far as the three players in this team is concerned. I don’t feel that laptop, ipad or other material that they have, we will get anything regarding this team. Yes but regarding Sreesanth, we may get some more evidence.
PC: There was talk of big don, mafia, behind Sreesanth or others, you did not get any such input in conversations intercepted?
NK: Sreenath has not spoken to any underworld don or any such element.
PC: Not even any big person
NK: He used to speak to his friend Jiju and contact bookies via Jiju. These bookies were in touch with some elements who seem to be from underworld.
PC: Even in Delhi there are big bookies, you would have investigated Delhi District and Cricket Association, and found members. Have you investigated it
NK: There is a need to investigate if there are any lead that points towards a direction, so far there is nothing that have come forward regarding Delhi team or DDCA
PC: When one is in DDCA, one gets access.
NK: Our investigation does not reveal anything as such
PC: No bookie is member of DDCA
NK: No
PC: You target was bookies or match fixing players
NK: There was no target. We got evidence regarding them. We can only arrest people against whom we have proof.
PC: From how many months was the investigation on
NK: From middle or March
PC: You got hint about the bookies and you identified them
NK: Yes, the bookies that we have caught are of big level
PC: It is said that Delhi police image was getting affected badly, hence you made a big revelation which shook the whole country. You started it, and Mumbai police is taking it forward, how true is it?
NK: I will take it as a big compliment, that we have such capability that we fixed bookies first, then fixed players via them, and made players make mistakes, and them made them agree that we will arrest them, Why? Because we want to improve image, (laughs)
PC:  I am telling that you had the case, you were waiting for the right time
NK: Not at all, like I told you, in middle of March, we intercepted some numbers, we got to know some things, it was followed up, which revealed three names, when all there delivered on their promises one by one, we made the arrests
PC: Now days even on tv debates there are allegations that players are being protected by big people, every match gets over in the last over, is it true that you saved somebody big or your vision did not go there?
NK: This is a hypothesis and theory, but no case is formed due to it, or investigation happens. You may have any hypothesis, but when we arrest somebody or reveal somebody’s name, if I have no material, then I would be ruining somebody’s career, reputation. So, I as a responsible police officer, will not say anything, against anybody, unless I am doubly sure, and unless I have enough material
PC: The charge against Mumbai police and you is that investigation is being diverted to small people? They caught a big one in the son in law or N. Srinivasan, there was evidence, but there is no name of any other big political people, or other big people, do you feel all are clean Because you have no news or information regarding them.
NK: We have no information or lead as such.
PC: Hence, no political person is involved
NK: In our investigation, no political person have been found involved uptill now
PC: No franchisee owner is involved
NK: No
PC: How big this scandal is according to you
NK: It is very difficult to estimate this because in big and small cities, in many gullies, betting happens. But betting come fixing is not constricted compared to overall betting rings
PC: You feel fixing is less betting is more
NK: Yes, because only those bookies who have access to players, who can compromise players, their numbers are comparatively less.
PC: New bookies would have access to players, not with the big players.
NK:  Even that cannot be said, it is unfair to say that they would not have connections with big players, maybe some big bookies has connection with big players.
PC: But they have not come under your radar
NK: They have not come under our radar
PC: There is as talk of legalizing betting, it is a big business, it is legal in many countries
NK: I don’t think the issue will be resolved by legalizing it. Because the people who do betting in our country, they don’t do it by cheque, it is done in cash, via black money, when you legalize it, betting would have to be done by cheque, you would have to bet by cheque and prize money would also be given by cheque. But people here have a lot of black money and they do betting by using black money.
PC: You are talking of feasibility or like a police officer
NK: I am talking like a police officer, even if it is legalized,  the betting in which black money, fixing, hawala, underworld, is involved, will continue as it is.
PC:Which means there is no benefit by legalizing betting
NK: The benefit would be that the genuine betters who engage in small bets as a hobby, and bet via white money, for them it is good. Like presume if there is any legalized lottery, then you make payment by cheque and you receive money by cheque,
PC: You have been serving in the police for 37 years and watching all these issues, do you feel that there is an underworld connection in all this. I am not taking anybody’s name.
NK: There talk of underworld connection has been going on for a long time,
PC: Even now it is on
NK: Even now it is on, it is true
PC: You are not able to reach that underworld
NK: We are not getting the evidence,
PC: Even if you have evidence, you would not be able to reach to those people
NK: There are some difficulties of that type also, but  we have no evidence against any particular underworld don or such network,
PC: You have doubt that they may be involved
NK: We do not work on basis of doubt
PC: You have an impression that they may be involved
NK: May be involved
PC: In the past six months, Delhi police commissioner has been in controversy, chief minister demanded resignation, don’t you think police should be accountable to the electoral chief minister.
NK: See, this is a decision of the government, the system in Delhi is a decision of the government that we will report to the Lieutenant Governor, under the Delhi Police Act, section 4, and we work under the supervision of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the LG has been appointed by an elected government, the home  secretary has been appointed by an elected government, and home minister is an elected government’s elected representative of people .Hence to say the one does not work under elected people, is not right.
PC: Meaning, directly elected, whom the people of Delhi have elected, made chief minister, after that CM does not even have to transfer chief minister, or she cannot even call Neeraj Kumar and give some advice, don’t you feel,
NK: It is wrong to say that she cannot advice, we have gathering and interactions every day, there is discussion regarding local issues, hence it is a wrong impression
PC: Which means you don’t report them, but meet the chief minister frequently
NK: We meet often, discuss if there are any issues,
PC: You don’t feel there is need for changing the system
NK: No, this is not my decision; this is the decision of the government. What the government wants
PC: In other states the system is different, but because Delhi is a union territory?
NK: Not only in Delhi, but the capital cities of other countries too works under the federal government,
PC: Hence it is federal structure.
NK: Yes.
PC: Thank you for coming to our studio
NK: Thank you, Prabhuji !

Monday, May 20, 2013

For team Rahul, it's good politics..... Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard/ May 19, 2013

For team Rahul, it’s good politics that will yield rich dividends for poor Indians

The days of good economics are over. For the Congress and the Gandhis, the flavour of the season simply seems to be good politics. After enjoying power for nine years, the Congress High Command has come to the conclusion that the so-called good economics pursued vigorously by the world’s oldest Prime Minister, 81-year-old Manmohan Singh, and his extreme Right wing ministers has made Corporate India only richer and more powerful. Now is the time to devise good politics, which would yield handsome political dividends. After all, the very survival of the Gandhi scion Rahul is so linked to the number of seats the Congress wins in 2014. The party and the Family do not expect a majority. But it is the nation’s First Family which has a much higher stake in politics than most Central ministers in their late 70s. The nine-year-old Laxman Rekha between government and party is becoming blurred with the new Congress leadership dictating the colour and content of governance—directly and indirectly.
Ever since Rahul was anointed the party’s Vice-President and the chief of Congress election strategy, he and his four pillars of wisdom—general secretaries Digvijaya Singh, Janardan Dwivedi, Jairam Ramesh and Ahmed Patel—have been holding long meetings not only to shortlist potential Lok Sabha candidates but also to draft legislative and administrative measures which would bring votes and allies. They meet almost every Saturday sans aides, but with a gamut of gizmos and laptops at Rahul’s official residence at 12, Tughlak Lane. IIT-ian Ramesh, known more for his tech-savvy control over the keyboard than for handling key political issues, provides numerical and qualitative data on economic and social indicators. The troika of Patel, Diggy and Dwivedi add political value to information. Contrary to general perception that government policies and responses are being influenced by NGO-dominated National Advisory Council, it is Group Rahul that is calling the shots with the full knowledge and support of the Congress president. Though the group has left it to the PM to promote economic reforms and dispatch articulate ministers on global tours to promote the UPA’s market-friendly policies and environment, it has been left to the new combination of young ministers and old loyalists to sell Rahul as the messiah of social empowerment.
While over 100 bills are pending for discussion and approval in Parliament, Rahul and team are concerned only with those bills which will get them votes from Bharat, and not laudatory editorials from pink dailies and international rating agencies. There seems to be a clear mission in their method. They have devised legislative and political packages for every section of society encompassing the rural, poor, agricultural labour, minorities, women, widows, slum dwellers, artisans and even vendors. Bestowing legislative legitimacy to UID is primary for the Congress. Sonia and Rahul are pushing for the Food Security Bill; setting up fast-track courts to try cases involving Muslim youth; granting minority status to Jamia Milia University; making more Muslim families eligible for subsidised loan from banks by increasing the income criteria to define BPL levels. For example, the duo goaded Ajay Maken, Union Minister for Housing and Poverty Alleviation, to pilot a legislation to bring urban street vendors into a formal sector. International statistics reveal that about 2.5 per cent of the urban population earn its living as  vendors. India’s urban population is around 377 million. The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood) Bill, which was cleared recently by the Cabinet, makes it mandatory for all states to provide licences to about 10 million street vendors in all cities to do business without harassment from the police and authorities. In Delhi alone, four lakh vendors will get the advantage. With one stroke, the Congress will become the darling of five crore urban Indians, a section it feels is the most affected by corruption at the lower levels. Rahul is also pushing for another legislation, which will give interest-free loans to poor urban women through self-help groups. The women will use this amount to finance petty businesses run by their husbands.
Rahul is not depending on the government to win. His team has fixed a target of winning more than 175 seats so that it can attract more allies. Since it’s reconciled to the huge losses it could suffer in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Punjab, West Bengal and Rajasthan, Team Rahul has undertaken a vigorous check on all future candidates. Over 600 observers have visited all constituencies. Barring peer pressure and emotional compulsions, all those who lost the election twice will be denied tickets. Those whose margin of victory has been declining will also face the axe. Those who have been charge-sheeted will not be even considered. For Rahul, winnnability and not connectivity will be the essential qualification to get a Congress nomination. States like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have been chosen as hunting grounds to win more seats through this experiment with new social engineering. Rahul’s sleuths have already gathered data of over 1,000 potential candidates with the help of faithful aides and government agencies. The Congress hopes to finalise the names of over 300 candidates by August and will intimate each individually. The Rahul-led Congress is rearing to go, not with any coloured ideological weaponry but with a brigade of new faces, which will reflect the united colours of both Bharat and India. Having been let down by his own party in his much-hyped forays into Bihar, Gujarat and UP, Rahul’s new experiment with the heat and dust of India’s political sand dunes has just begun.; Follow me  on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Teekhi Baat with Lalit Modi /

'Where were the anti-corruption units of ICC and BCCI?

Former Indian Premier League commissioner Lalit Modi tells that IPL, BCCI, ICC and world cricket are run from Chennai and nowhere else in Teekhi Baat on IBN7. Excerpts.
With international-level players like Sreesanth getting caught in spot fixing, don’t you thing that the IPL plant that you planted is drying up, almost to death?
This incident is very serious for cricket and a black spot on the game. When we used to run IPL, we were very careful of such things. We had a zero tolerance policy towards the fixing issue. I feel saddened after the revelations made by the Delhi Police in spot fixing scandal.
You were founder commissioner of IPL. One year ago, five players were under the scanner for fixing. When you set up the system of buying players in auction, didn’t you have a screening process to select the right ones?
We had thought that all players should have good income. Hence, we chose the auction method. The players are earning good money, but if somebody’s intentions are bad, how can that be known? That can only be known if you keep on investigating continuously. Create a situation where bookmakers can’t come in association with them and influence them.
The action was taken by the police. Where was IPL’s internal mechanism? Don’t you think that members and administrations should have kept check on such things? But they didn’t.
We had anticipated, and hence I was pressurised on this issue. There were life attempts on me because of my stance on the issue. Today, I cannot tell you what’s happening. But when I was there (as IPL commissioner), we had a zero tolerance policy and we used to check day and night that any match should not be fixed or any player should not be involved in such issues. We had made a foolproof system. It is saddening that the police had to do this operation. Where are the anti-corruption units of the ICC and BCCI? How didn’t they come to know when these things were going on for a month?
N Srinivasan has said that they have zero tolerance for such issues; everybody, including Rajiv Shukla said the same. To what extent has brand IPL been affected due to this incident?
It has been affected badly. Srinivasan saab said they have zero tolerance; then I want to ask him and the ICC, was he sleeping till now? For one month, police were investigating.
Mumbai Police had said that you had threats from Dawood Ibrahim’s gang. Did Dawood pressurise you to fix matches? Even today there is a talk that Dawood’s people are involved in match fixing.
They did not pressurise me; they wanted to gun me down. If they were able to pressurise me, why would they attempt to kill me?
Did you get support in curbing this (fixing) from BCCI?
Did others in IPL support you?
You are founder of IPL, who is responsible according to you and what should happen?
This is just a bubble; there is more to it than meets the eye. One should look into this seriously; the agencies have to look into this very seriously.
You were full-time IPL commissioner; you didn’t do any other work. Today we don’t have a full-time IPL commissioner, because the incumbent, Rajiv Shuklaji, is a minister. Do you think this has resulted in weak administration?
Today, IPL, BCCI, ICC and world cricket are run from Chennai and nowhere else. All people are associated with Chennai-based N Srinivasan and nobody else has a say. There is a big conflict here. I don’t want to keep harping on Mr Srinivasan, but that is a fact.
These days, media is blamed by politicians. Even you are doing the same, but tell me, what is the problem in IPL today—Srinivasan, politicians, Rajiv Shuklaji, or anybody else? Who is the villain in this whole thing today?
These days, Rajiv Shuklaji is only a puppet of Mr N Srinivasan. Whether you say yes or no, I am telling you clearly.

Monday, May 13, 2013

South Block Watch .... /The Sunday Standard/May 12, 2013

Mind the Language
In the armoury of diplomacy, language and selection of words have pride of place. Over centuries, diplomatic engagement has come to mean delivery of messages couched in dignified courtesies—in a way the intended recipient understands its spirit and purpose. Diplomats over the world are taught to disarm counterparts with warm hugs and pleasant words. Moreover, the colour of the message is dictated by the level and venue of the dialogue to avoid damage to the relationship. Explanations, strong or frivolous, are handed out only in exceptional situations. Hence, South Block mandarins were left scratching their heads about the source who advised various MEA officials and even the PM to explain away the Chinese incursions as a “localised issue” and “acne” which could be cured by the ointment of dialogue. Foreign diplomats handed the briefing were aghast at India’s attempt to trivialise such a border violation. While the defence establishment favoured a strong rebuff, the invisible adviser counselled the government to show restraint and offer an apologetic justification for the amicable resolution to the standoff. Those who manage foreign policy made sure that pliable opinion-makers accepted their formulations that a solution could be found only after giving a face-saving exit route to the Chinese. The first briefing made it seem China had dismantled its five tents after India decided to remove its posts from the other side. Though a vague clarification followed, the damage was done. A five-decade-old convention of following the Line of Perception was broken and India accepted the revised border management mechanism it was opposing. India indirectly accepted that it was equally responsible for morning walk incursions as the Chinese. How and why India’s wise diplomats sorted out the standoff is another story.

Security Hazards

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s decision to set up a National Security Council (NSC) and National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) after the Kargil war was well thought out. The NDA government found that various defence establishments and foreign policy wonks were not on the same page on operational issues. The NSC was expected to offer the political leadership sound sectoral and strategic advice backed by professional and technical inputs. Vajpayee instructed his National Security Adviser to pick the best brains from defence, diplomacy and academia to collate information and provide a comprehensive assessment of the security scenario. But of late, the NSC has been packed with individuals who have personal interests to protect and have hardly made any contribution to formulating policies. After the China fiasco, the Congress leadership advised the Prime Minister to review the NSC’s composition and get rid of globetrotting members who are using the body to promote personal agendas. The leadership is particularly livid with some members writing signed articles in the media. Nothing is more comical than an NSAB member outlining options available on dealing with the recent border standoff with China in a newspaper article. While it is entirely the government’s prerogative to determine who should be appointed as a member of NSAB or its sub-committees, those concerned with the vanishing credibility and effectiveness of India’s strategic policies feel a review is needed to define the desired qualifications and work experience of NSAB members and, most importantly, safeguards to ensure that the system is insulated from undesirable elements.


The UPA government takes pride in hawking its tech-savvy image. Most of its departments are active on the official website, providing details about officials and decisions. But the NSAB is an exception. Even after spending hours, one is unable to locate or glean even basic information about the board’s composition, its sub-committees and such elementary information on how many times in a year do these bodies meet. Neither the PMO’s nor the NSAB’s website are of help. A telephone call to a senior functionary elicited sweet words but no information. The only explanation could be that it allows NSAB members to use their visiting cards to peddle themselves as spin doctors for the government in the media and at international forums. For instance, a recent incumbent who has just retired did not have even a nodding acquaintance with strategic issues, let alone any hardcore experience. Some credible officers like Vijay Nambiar were packed off prematurely to the UN. Another officer, Satish Chandra, was denied an extension. Yet another diplomat, Alok Prasad, who reportedly did not get along with the NSA, was dispatched as ambassador to Japan. Some ministers have already demanded full disclosures about the qualifications of various NSAB members and asked the PMO to direct all those who write for the media or appear on TV to either resign or disclose their relationship with the NSAB.

Retire Unhurt

The government’s decision to give yet another term in office to N N Vohra, Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, was widely viewed as appropriate and in the best interest of the state. The decision, however, dampened the hopes of several other aspirants—including a few in the PMO, along with the Deputy National Security Adviser. They were expecting any one of them to go to J&K so that others could move up the ladder. But they haven’t lost hope of extension. Deputy NSA Latha Reddy may move on to higher responsibilities, clearing the way for any of the other retiring Foreign Office mandarins. Among those in the running are serving secretary Sudhir Vyas, recently retired Ambassador to Paris, Rakesh Sood, and some others. Going by past experience, the primary qualification for the post would be—like the Foreign Secretary—a high level of ideological compatibility, functional comfort and acceptability to those who call the shots on security and diplomatic matters. Watch this space.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Teekhi Baat with Digvijay Singh /IBN7 May 11, 2013

No question of early polls, says Digvijay Singh

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh says he will continue to defend the indefensible, in an interview on IBN7’s Teekhi Baat.
Two ministers have gone. Will this government run in the same manner that it has? Will ministers come and go.
The Congress has not spared anybody. Be it allies, our ministers, chief ministers, big officers or officers of big corporates.
But you remove them only when the public pressure mounts. For one week you defended Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Bansal.
Regarding Ashwani,  I’ve said the prosecution decides on the CBI’s lawyer.
But the CBI is not under the law ministry, it is answerable to the DoPT.
Has the law minister asked the CBI to implicate some falsely and spare somebody? Only if that is the case, can it be called an ‘intervention’.
Then why was he removed?
Though there is a provision (for the CBI to consult the law ministry), the leadership did not approve of what he did. I respect the Supreme Court very much, but the kind of off- the-cuff observations they make...are they right? If they want to write, issue an order, which we can appeal against.
But the director has endorsed the remarks. 
The CBI is also accountable to someone.
You’ll agree that the Supreme Court has more credibility than the political leadership.
I’m not talking about credibility. Who is the Supreme Court answerable to? To the constitution. Can Supreme Court make law? Didn’t Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan say on record that Supreme Court judges are corrupt.
He spoke about retired ones.
They have said about sitting judges. If this had been said by a politician, he would have been facing a contempt of court case.
Your two ministers were removed after SC comments. They could have been removed earlier.
Bansal’s case is not in the Supreme Court. Even today I say no quid-pro-quo on Bansal’s part has been proved.
He said he had offered to resign a week ago. Why didn’t you take the moral high ground?
This decision is taken by the High Command. Whom to keep and whom not is the Prime Minister’s call.
Is it Sonaiji’s right
No, it is not even Soniaji’s right.
I don’t want to go into the details. But when there is no prime facie CBI case against Bansal or Ashwani, couldn’t you have kept them?
It is clear. All these decisions are taken by the Prime Minister.
Doesn’t Soniaji have a say?
I don’t want to get into this discussion.
It has been written in newspapers that Soniaji didn’t want Bansal or Ashwani as ministers. Even then the PM made them ministers. She made a request, but the PM did not want to remove them. Finally she persisted, which means something is going on.
Your sources are better than mine.
Now with Ashwani’s resignation, the BJP will demand that the PM should resign.
Does the CBI has any evidence linking the PM or ministers to any quid pro quo?
But you are not answering why you removed him if he did not do anything.
His was a technical mistake. Maybe that is why he was removed.
But the presence of Joint Secretaries of the PMO was also a technical mistake. You say the PM had no knowledge of it.
Is there any written order by the PM that the Joint Secretaries should go.
The government is not functioning. Many bills are pending. No constitution amendment could be brought. Even the Food Bill could not get through.
Won’t you ask this question to Sushma Swaraj?
Certainly. The BJP had said if Bansal resigned, the House would function.
They had the condition that the PM should resign.
Don’t you feel the government should go for elections earlier when the House is not able to function.
Even when we had 450 members, the Opposition didn’t let the House function.
After which you lost.
The ruling party and the opposition party have equal responsibility to ensure that Parliament functions.
So you won’t call for early elections.
It’s clear when the term is till May 2014.
You are known as a political guru, but Rahul Gandhi said A K Antony is his political guru.
Antony became Chief Minister in 1977. I was then an MLA.
Age difference would be four or five years.
I have one-fourth experience of what Antonyji has. I will not contest Vidhan Sabha elections and will not be in state politics again.
You will always be defending the indefensible at the centre.
I will do what the party orders me to.
Thank you for coming to our studio.
   Thank you very much!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Teekhi Baat with Manish Tewari / IBN 7 May 04, 2013

"The Congress will get the people’s mandate in Karnataka", says Union minister and Congress leader Manish Tewari.

Don’t you think the government is in danger from all sides?
If you would have asked me this question after the Karnataka election results, then you would have got the answer yourself. From the past nine years, we have given a stable government to the country. And if you evaluate any government on political stability, communal harmony, internal security, economic development, foreign policy, our government has delivered.
Ashwani Kumar, Bansalji or Sajjan, Congress is in trouble due to Punjabis. Has Punjab become a liability?
The test of perception is when people take a decision. And it will be revealed on May 8, when Karnataka’s Assembly results are declared.
In Uttarakhand, you lost all local elections, which means the issue of perception is there.
The local municipality and zilla parishad elections are contested on different issues.
In Karnataka they are not voting to choose the Prime Minister.
When BJP loses an election, they say they lost due to local issues. If they win, they said it happened due to national issue.
There are so many people who come from Pakistan and make money here. Did anybody speak in favour of India when heads of Indian soldiers were chopped off?
I want to ask you, Sarabjit Singhji was arrested in 1990. In 1998 the NDA government was formed, when Vajpayeesaab started bus service to Lahore, was the issue of Sarabjit Singh on the agenda? In 2001when Musharaff saab came to Agra?
Vajpayee government took small steps like stopping their air lines and use of air space, stopped visa. You too did that for two days.
The same government provided guest-like treatment to terrorists and transported them to Kandahar.
He took some measures.
The whole defence forces of India were mobilised for operation Parakram, and then without making a noise, they were withdrawn. NDA has done a huge loss of India’s coercive diplomacy.
You want people to come 19 km inside out territory, people to behead our soldiers? How long shall you the parties politicise this issue?
On China, there is a Line of Actual Control, along with which there is a perception line, which we and China consider as the border. And many times, we go to our perception line and they come till their perception line.
You feel there is no need for military action for Pakistan and China?
It is not in any country’s interest that a war breaks out.
Elections are slated in 2014. Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Bansal have had a clean record. For the first time they have faced allegations. Don’t you feel somebody should sacrifice to save the party’s image?
As far as 2014 elections in Punjab are concerned, Congress seats would increase due to problem of Akali Dal and BJP.
Do you feel that your party will form government in Karnataka?
In Karnataka people will give us a stable mandate.
But where do you have leaders in Karnataka?
There is Moily saab, Krishna saab, Rammiah, Mallikarjun Kharge, Oscar Fernandes...
If you don’t get majority there, who would you hold responsible? In UP you lost under Rahulji
The Congress leadership and took responsibility in Uttar Pradesh for debacle. In Karnataka, Congress will get majority.

Political Pilgrims .... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/ May 5, 2013

Political pilgrims rarely understand the agony of those who actually vote

Elections don’t decide the fate of politicians alone.  Nowadays, electoral verdicts too define or demolish the image of many self-appointed political astrologers, number-crunchers, opinion-makers, spin doctors and even master strategists of various political parties. Such a fate awaits many of them as the Karnataka Assembly election results are expected on Wednesday.
Of course, the flavour of the month seems to be the Congress party. Since opinions are disseminated as news, and real news as mere speculation, Karnataka is going to be a real test case for the media and scores of byte smiths-turned-TVrattis of every colour and conviction. Karnataka will either explode or reinforce the general belief that now it is leaders, and not parties, who win elections in the states. Karnataka is perhaps the only state in which the battle is between individuals and a faceless national party. Unlike many other states which went to the polls recently, Karnataka’s voters will have to choose between two national and two regional parties. 
If we go by the opinion polls, the odds are heavily stacked against both the BJP and Janata Dal(S) led by former prime minister H D Deve Gowda and his son, former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy. The opinion that both are doomed has been further strengthened by anecdotes from political pilgrims on seasonal visits to the state. Such pilgrimages to election-bound states have always been aimed at finding space for a brahminical order dominated by the Congress culture. In UP last year, armed with opinion polls or ground reports, the soothsayers were pushing the idea of a Congress-supported SP-led government. In the end, Samajwadi Party won an absolute majority, with the Congress barely in fourth position. 
Since these political augurs hardly understand the local language or the agony of those who actually vote, they end up meeting only those who fall in the category of “me, mine and my type”. B S Yeddyurappa and Kumaraswamy are alien to their culture. It is only the likes of foreign-educated S M Krishna and his ilk who represent the voice and pulse of the people—they are the only ones who understand the idiom of communication and dictate the narrative of electoral politics.
There is no doubt that the BJP provided Karnataka with one of the most corrupt governments ever. It is also a fact that the Gowdas are shining examples of political opportunism. But both parties won or lost elections because of individuals and not ideology. On the contrary, the Congress has an ideology but doesn’t have a leader who can be trusted to provide a strong leadership to steer the state out of the mess. On the other hand, local voters know the three chief ministerial contenders—Kumaraswamy, Jagdish Shettar and Yeddyurappa. According to television reports, almost all local leaders have been drawing crowds bigger than most national leaders. Manmohan Singh’s Bangalore meeting was delayed for half an hour because there weren’t enough crowds. Barring Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, hardly any national leader made his presence felt in the state.
Since the Congress has been out of power for almost a decade now in Karnataka, it is finding it difficult to project any leader. All its honchos like Krishna, Veerappa Moily, Mallikarjun Kharge and others don’t enjoy pan-Karnataka acceptability and have been out of active state politics. But the pollsters parrot that Karnataka is turning out to be an exception and its people may vote for a national party, but not a regional leader. In more than half the states such as Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh and even Pudducherry, the electorate has always voted for a leader who was projected as future CM. Moreover, wherever the choice was between an incumbent national and a local party, the voters have always defeated the former and chosen the latter. For example, in 1989, the Congress decided to go it alone in Tamil Nadu under G K Moopanar’s leadership, but it was the DMK that came to power.
In Karnataka too, the undivided Janata Dal led by Deve Gowda defeated the Congress in 1995 to form the government. So, poll predictions in favour of the Congress not only indicate a trend that is witnessed in the rest of the country but also contradict opinion polls. Almost all opinion polls have confirmed that Kumaraswamy is the most popular candidate for the Karnataka chief ministership followed by Yeddyurappa. According to the prognosticators, however, the Congress would get the maximum votes. The BJP and JD(S) are solidly backed by two dominant communities—the Vokkaligas and Lingayats—while none of Karnataka’s major communities back the Congress. Even in 2008, it polled the highest percentage of votes, but it was BJP that won a near majority with fewer votes. For the Congress to win an absolute majority, it will have to break the caste and community coalition, which is heavily positioned against it at the moment.
There are many more flaws and inconsistencies in political astrology. For example, there appears to be a strong anti-incumbency wave against the BJP, but less against the chief minister. Similarly, there is hardly any negative outrage against Kumaraswamy, who is perceived as one of the most decisive chief ministers the state has seen in recent times. The Karnataka verdict has a bigger significance for national politics. Besides deciding the survival of the UPA in Delhi, it will also define the future contours of national politics. A Congress victory in Karnataka would mean the erosion of regional parties and the downfall of local satraps. A mutilated Hand would cripple a 120-year-old party and its ability to retain  authority.