|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Tuesday, December 8, 1998
in shariat web
allies protests become louder
Cong strategy baffles RLM
story from China
Sharif in shariat web
IF Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has an undeclared plan to rule his country like the military dictators of the past with the help of shariat laws, he is sure to suffer humiliation. There is no end to the opposition to his Shariat Bill. Besides human rights activists and the minorities, almost all political parties excepting his own Muslim League are voicing their criticism of the very idea in the strongest terms possible. Pakistan Peoples Party leader Benazir Bhutto has gone to the extent of writing to several international human rights groups as well as world leaders to use their influence on the Pakistan rulers to force them not to take to the path on which Afghanistan finds itself today. Her apprehension that the Nawaz Sharif government is bent upon imposing a Taliban-type system of justice in Pakistan appears genuine in view of the fact that only recently Mr Sharif lavished unalloyed praise on Afghanistans new rulers for their so-called success on the law and order front. One can only pity Mr Sharifs thinking faculties if he really feels that the system of governance in Afghanistan can serve as a model for Pakistan! Ms Bhutto has preferred to keep quiet on another angle to the Islamisation programme, but it is no less significant. If Mr Nawaz Sharif is successful in implementing his strategy, he will have finally turned Ms Bhutto into a burqa-clad woman, compelled to confine her activities to the four walls of her house. Here the reference is to the treatment that will be meted out to women after the Shariat Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. There is, therefore, a fit case for human rights activists of the world to come together to put pressure on the Pakistan government asking it to abandon the course that will deprive women of their basic rights as human beings.
Certain Pakistan watchers
are of the view that Mr Sharif had targeted two birds to
be killed with one Islamic stone. Besides Ms Bhutto, the
other target is the rightist political class, mainly the
Jamaat-e-Islami component of it. The Jamaat leadership
has been quick to realise this and hence its vehement
opposition to the Shariat Bill. The organisation has
achieved very little as a religio-political movement, yet
its clout among the Pakistani middle class has been
growing for some time. This has been possible mainly
because of its Islamic card. Its leaders are leaving
nothing to chance to neutralise the Sharif
governments strategy to snatch the card from the
Jamaat. On October 23 the Jamaat held a massive rally in
Islamabad to announce that it would take its fight to the
streets. It seems there are very few admirers of Mr
Sharifs shariat baby. His much-talked-about Bill
has been passed by the lower House of Pakistans
parliament, but there is every likelihood of its being
defeated in the Senate. If he is wiser, he should forget
about it at this stage, and concentrate his energy on his
countrys economic development. But, as it is in the
air, if the circumstances so demand, he will go in for a
referendum. Going by the atmosphere that prevails in
Pakistan, this will lead to a chaotic situation, and then
it will be difficult for Mr Sharif to come out of the web
he has created for himself.
Cotton seed scare
COTTON farmers are easy prey to scare-mongers. And understandably so. They do not get quality seed and genuine pesticide. Weather can wash out their hopes of a good crop as it happened this year. If the yield is good, textile mills and their agents depress the price and deny them their well-deserved reward. Add to this a calculated rumour that a US multinational is testing a deadly seed variety in their backyard to make them captive buyers of its product for the rest of their lives. In Karnataka, some farmers destroyed standing crop in one acre. In neighbouring Andhra Pradesh their target was a smaller farm. Funnily, the state government which is in globalisation overdrive, has indirectly supported the misguided farmers by ordering that the field trials should be immediately shifted to agriculture university premises. The Union Government woke up late to the danger of permanent scuttling of the tests and began its fire-fighting operations rather late and somewhat half-heartedly.
What then is the truth? The trials are being conducted by Monsantos Indian partner, Maharashtra High-yielding Seeds Corporation of Mumbai. Multinational Monsanto is a pesticide giant and familiar to farmers in this country. The irony is that if the seed is accepted by the Indian kisan, as his Chinese counterpart has done, the sale of its main product will take a beating. For the seed is genetically manipulated to become toxic to bollworm, the dreaded pest of cotton. An added claim is that the yield will go up by 30 per cent. What the scare-mongers are saying is that the seed contains the terminator gene, which will render the harvested crop sterile and unfit for use as seed the next year. The fact is that Monsanto is not on to terminator research, although it has plans to buy two small companies Delta and Pineland that do. The oddest feature of the present protest is the timing. The trials started in 1990 after clearance by agricultural scientists and approval by the Department of Biotechnology at the Centre. Why kick up a fuss now?
trials has come when the standing committee of
Parliament on agriculture has brought out several
disturbing failures of the government policy. For one
thing, quality seed production is far too short of the
demand and only about 55 per cent of the farmers get it.
The average production of cotton in India is about 30 per
cent less than in Pakistan and in the same agro-climatic
conditions. Indian farmers use far too many varieties of
seed 18 in all making it difficult for
scientists to evolve a quick counter to a sudden attack
of pests or bad weather. Over the years the quality of
the seed too has deteriorated. The Monsanto seed appears
to be a tailor-made answer to these problems. But that is
without reckoning with Prof Nanjundaswamy, the male
Mamata Banerjee in agriculture. He lives by agitations,
although always brief and violent. The question is
whether his is a routine angry act or at the behest of
some pesticide maker who stands to lose a lucrative
market? The government and prominent agriculture
scientists should counter the paranoia before it spreads.
Only they can.
AFTER YELTSIN WHO?
PRESIDENT Yeltsin has a long history of illness, including five heart attacks and a successful quintuple heart bypass surgery in 1996. But for the last few months he has been ailing quite often. Recently during his visit to Uzbekistan and Kazakhistan he had a severe attack of bronchitis and later, because of his health problems, his visits to Malaysia and Austria had to be cancelled. Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov represented him at both places. The same thing is going to happen with regard to his visit to India. According to ITAR-TASS, Mr Primakov will go to India on official visit from December 20 to 23. Mr Yeltsins continuously deteriorating health and his increasing inability to control and manage the affairs of the country effectively and efficiently have once again raised the question of the possibility of an early Duma and presidential elections. Therefore, the leading political parties and their leaders have started girding up their loins.
Besides President Yeltsins failing health, one more factor has activised the Russian political scene. It is the verdict of the Russian Constitutional Court, which announced on November 6 that Mr Yeltsin cannot seek another term as President. Earlier this question continued to hang in the balance because it was argued that Mr Yeltsin had served his first term in office under the Soviet constitution, but under the Russian constitution of 1993 he was elected President in 1996 for the first time and therefore, had the right to run for a second term of presidency in 2000. It may be pointed out that the current Russian constitution permits only two terms of presidency. Mr Yeltsins opponents and other candidate-hopefuls have suspected and feared all the time that if Mr Yeltsins health improves, then he can also be a candidate in the next elections. But his failing health and particularly the verdict of the Constitutional Court have put an end to all such fears, suspicions and speculations about Mr Yeltsins future plans and intentions. So, the Yeltsin era will be over in the middle of the year 2000, if not earlier due to unexpected and unforeseeable reasons or circumstances.
Who are the main possible players in the field? The Independent Television Station the 4th channel of Russian television in its prestigious weekly programme Itogi (Review) is regularly presenting the results of public opinion polls. According to these results, till recently four political leaders have been figuring prominently. They are Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, a former General and now Governor of the Krasnoyarsk region, Mr Alexander Lebed, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and liberal Yabloko party leader Grigory Yavlinsky. If presumably the presidential elections take place in the next few days, then Communist leader Zyuganov would probably get 18 to 20 per cent votes in the first round, Mr Alexander Lebed 13 to 14 per cent, Mr Yuri Luzhkov 12 to 13 per cent and Mr Yavlinsky about 10 per cent.
According to the surveys, Mr Zyuganov is likely to trail behind Mr Alexander Lebed and Mr Yuri Luzhkov in the second round of voting. Thus Mr Lebed and Mr Luzhkov are likely to have greater chances of success. It may be noted that former Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin and Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky are not included in the opinion polls because of their low rating, although both of them and some others will join the election race when the time comes.
The Communist Party of the Russian Federation, with half a million active members and a widespread network of its units throughout the country, is the most well-organised political party. It has a stable following, primarily of pensioners who are facing the maximum possible hardships since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the fall of the old communist regime which provided dependable social security. Most of the 37 million pensioners voted for the Communist Party candidates in the general election of 1996, and thanks to their active participation the communists became the dominant factor in the Duma the Lower House of the Russian parliament. It may be expected that in the coming parliamentary elections in 1999 also the Communist Party will maintain or even improve its leading position. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov was next to Mr Yeltsin in the last presidential elections, followed by General Lebed, who is now the Governor of the Krasnoyarsk region. General Lebeds appeal to his voters to support Mr Yeltsin in the second round of voting guaranteed the latters success. In the next presidential elections also Mr Gennady Zyuganov is likely to be the Communist Party candidate, although during the last few months there were rumours of a change of party leadership. But recently he seems to have consolidated his position and the leftist block, in which the Communist Party is the dominating partner will most probably support him as its candidate for presidency. In the first round of voting, Mr Zyuganov will hopefully do well, but perhaps lose to some other candidate in the second round. The reason being that he is not quite popular among the common Russian electorate and, as generally pointed out by many analysts, is not able to fit in the imagination of a big leader and Head of State.
Former army General and now the Governor of the Krasnoyarsk region, Mr Alexander Lebed, will certainly be one of the top candidates in the next presidential elections. He has the image of a strong man capable of setting the Russian house in order by rooting out corruption, crime and many other such evils. Common Russians, who are used to a strong hand at the helm of affairs, are keen to see such a leader in the Kremlin. Mr Lebed has the experience of campaigning in elections. In the presidential elections in 1996 he secured the third position after Mr Yeltsin and Mr Zyuganov. He defeated his opponent in the Krasnoyarsk governorship election, in spite of the backing of the federal authorities to his rival. But experts continue to have serious doubts about his ability to understand economic, political and international problems deeply and react to them quickly and adequately an essential quality for a sharp politician and head of an important country like Russia. He is basically an army man, although he has undergone some grounding as a politician in the last few years.
Moreover, he does not have as yet a well-organised political party with its roots at the centre or in the regions. His success or failure as the Governor in the Krasnoyarsk region will also reflect on his chances to be elected as President. In spite of these shortcomings, he can count on the popularity he enjoys among the common Russians and the financial support of some oligarchs like Mr Boris Berezovsky, who is believed to have financed his election campaign for governorship. In any case, he will be an important political player in the next presidential elections.
Popular and powerful Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov is generally considered a heavy-weight candidate for the highest Russian state office, although he continues to repeat at times that he will join the election race only if he does not feel satisfied with the candidate who can have the chances of victory. But all the recent developments and moves indicate that he is quite seriously preparing himself for the coming presidential elections. Just one fact will substantiate this view. On November 19 he had an organisational conference of his political movement, Otechestvo (Fatherland), which was a great success beyond all expectations.
More than 20 regional Governors, some of whom consider themselves left-oriented, many eminent politicians and high officials attended it. Mr Luzhkov had to say that the number of willing participants in the movements organisational committee became so big that its size had to be increased from 50 to 100.
Former Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, who till recently was not on good terms with Mr Luzhkov and had exchanged harsh words with him publicly, has already announced that he is willing to cooperate with Mr Luzhkov and his centrist political movement. Earlier, there were indications of Mr Luzhkovs leaning towards the communists, but now it appears that he has finally chosen the safer and generally more acceptable middle path.
Mr Luzhkov has proved himself as an efficient and successful organiser and administrator. Moscows comparative prosperity is generally associated with his name, although the recent economic and financial crisis has hurt his reputation as a miracle administrator. However, with his good health, active life, patriotic stance, well-organised administrative machinery, financial and regional backing for his centrist organisation, Fatherland, and popularity in Moscow, which as capital of the country has its own role in the determination of the Russian destiny. Mr Luzhkov has many favourable factors on his side to push him ahead of his rivals. By the way, it will be interesting to mention that if in the earlier ratings Mr Lebed and Mr Luzhkov were generally close to each other with a marginal difference, then in the latest rating of November 29, Mr Luzhkov got 13 to 16 per cent support of the respondents as compared to Mr Lebeds 11 per cent.
The leader of the liberal Yabloko political faction, Mr Grigory Yavlinsky, will be another important candidate for the next presidential elections. In the opinion polls he generally trails behind Mr Zyuganov, Mr Lebed and Mr Luzhkov with about 10 per cent rating. Recently he suffered a heart attack, and some politicians like Mr Zhirinovsky are trying to marginalise his future political role. But objective observers do not agree with this view and feel that fully recovered Mr Yavlinsky is projecting an entirely new image as a more active, more bold and determined politician to participate in the countrys affairs and coming parliamentary and presidential elections. He is generally considered a man of principles, integrity, the consistency of views and a brilliant economist. But some others think that he has too high opinion about himself, is stubborn and lacks readiness to cooperate and compromise on certain issues of liberal and democratic interest. These negative features harm the unity and formation of a common liberal and democratic front.
Obviously, Mr Yavlinsky does not agree with such criticism and assessments, and explains his stand on the basis of a difference of approach to many economic and political problems and their possible solutions. For many objective reasons, such as the paucity of funds, lack of a big and widespread party base and the following of the common voters who often fail to understand highly intellectual views and explanations of Russias present troubles, he is not likely to be the next Russian President, but many analysts feel that he can be a good Prime Minister if given sufficient freedom of action and choice of team. He has a well-prepared economic programme and might succeed in putting the Russian economy on the rails.
One big surprise for the coming presidential contest is the emergence of Mr Yevgeny Primakov as a very serious contender, though he considers such talks as baseless. He has outrightly denied any such possibility or intention. But in many Russian political circles he is being accepted as a possible successor to Mr Yeltsin. In fact, he is acting as his substitute in many ways and doing full justice to many presidential duties and functions. Two weeks ago, when his name first appeared in the opinion polls, he immediately jumped over Mr Luzhkov and Mr Lebed with a 15 per cent rating only next to Mr Zyuganov with 18 per cent. But the latest poll on November 29 showed him behind Mr Luzhkov and Mr Lebed with a 10 per cent rating. This 5 per cent fall in his rating is difficult to explain because his performance in the last two months of premiership and Mr Yeltsins substitute has been commendable on the whole. Probably, the left orientation of his Cabinet is not to the liking of some liberal and democratic-minded respondents. But Mr Primakov is seasoned, highly experienced and sophisticated diplomat and politician, is fully capable of balancing the right and left forces and follow a more acceptable centrist path with greater social welfare leanings. At the age of 69, he is quite alert and active both mentally and physically. If he decides to run for the presidency, he has very good chances of success, provided he does not make any blunder in the interim period.
A peep into Indias glorious
RECENTLY I happened to re-read Jawaharlal Nehrus The Discovery of India, which gave me vistas in the sketches of Indias glorious past of which I have always had a vague feeling. Of course, there were periods of rise and fall, periods of high mental adventure, explosive thoughts, followed by periods of saturation, of decline when we made ourselves prisoners of the past or orthodoxy. We seemed to have lost inventiveness and revolutionary flights of ideas and sunk into our cell, losing the old light, so that we had no message for the pilgrims of the future.
When the writ of destiny made the British the supreme rulers of India, they, a handful of outsiders from an island 7000 miles away in the midst of Indias crores of people (then one-fifth of the human race) felt bamboozled or lost. They devised the strategy to brain-wash the Indian people and so ingrain inferiority complex in their brains that they would feel ashamed of their own (glorious) past and feel pride only in everything British. Their success was marvellous. As great an intellectual as Raja Rammohun Roy called British rule as a god-send, and many prayed for its perpetuation. For that they had to falsify history by giving it negative twists. Only our dark points and foibles were highlighted, and our world-shaking glories were blacked out or slurred over.
Our own one factor also contributed to this misrepresentation, blacking out of glories of our history. Karl Marx said that India had no sense of history. True. We traced our little history or genealogies of our kings in Mahabharat, which is half fact, half fiction or imagination. Our only history book is Kalhanas Raj Tarangini (12th century), the history of the kings of Kashmir. There was a vacuum in this sphere of history of ours, which vested interests and the British filled with the history that suited their empire and their interests.
This was their biggest conquest of the minds otherwise they conquered India only in the soldiers sense; in thought, philosophy and all other religious and intellectual pursuits, India was the conqueror. It is said that a nation may lose its independence, but should not lose its history, for history would inspire it to win back freedom. In India, our history made us ashamed of our (glorious) past, and it was designed to glorify the honour and pleasures of slavery.
It is a tragedy too deep for tears that even 51 years after Independence, we are taught practically the same history that prevailed in the colonial period. Our nearly 200 universities every year churn out thousands of Ph.Ds but as yet we have not corrected even in part the anti-India history that is taught in our schools and colleges. They claim to have introduced many improvements, though the advance is negligible. We still worship everything Western only England is replaced by America.
Grudging tributes to Indias great philosophy and thought were paid with the proviso that it teaches other-worldiness and world-worthlessness.
You name any great field and India has been on top of the world in each one of them as the worlds teacher, at one time or the other. As Nehru says, in our encyclopaedias and histories, one will search in vain for any mention of these glories. Only our defeats, humiliation and follies are highlighted, never our world-conquering glories.
The British floated the myth that India had always been a slave country, conquered or ruled by one foreign power or the other with such exceptions as the periods of Chandragupt Maurya, Ashoka, the Imperial Guptas, Harsh Vardhan, et al. Indias luckiest period, they said, was when the British came here as benevolent masters, who brought to this backward nation the blessings of science, technology and modernism, and fresh air to vivify it.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. As Nehru says, India came under foreign rule only once under the British, when the centre of the gravity of its government lay on a foreign soil, alien in origin and character. Otherwise India had never been conquered or enslaved before. During all other periods it had remained an independent country. The Moghuls settled in India and made it their permanent home. They had no other affiliations. They never went back to their original homeland. They were permanently Indianised. Their graves, topping with Taj Mahal, showed their complete Indianisation.
Nehru has drawn a long list of races and peoples who came here from outside and settled in India they were Iranians, Greeks, Parthians, Bactrians, Scythians, Huns, Turks (before Islam), early Christians, Jews, Zorostrians, et al.
But why did such a large
number of races choose to come and settle in India? The
typical answer is provided by a Muslim geographer,
Idrisi, The Indians are naturally inclined to
justice and never depart from it. Their good faith,
honesty and fidelity to pledged word unto death: these
qualities are well-known, hence people flock to their
country from every side. Tolerance of other
peoples ways and beliefs runs like a thread through
all its history. India always had a world mind-set
Vasudhaiva kutumbakam, the whole human race
is one family.
BJP allies protests become louder
THE political fallout of the election results has been more sweeping than expected. It has gripped all major players with the strong undercurrents reaching the far south and east. Pressures are building up even within the ranks of the two dozen region outfits which have tested power at the Centre in one coalition or other, for their own course corrections. Hence the wide gulf between the public posture of the political parties and their real intentions.
Every time an ally reasserts the continued support to the Vajpayee Government, they also pronounce their disagreements. Every party seeks to play safe and keep its options open. Those regional allies who had avoided comment on the widespread attacks on Christians by the BJP parivar before the assembly elections, are now condemning the VHP yatra to seize the Chikmagalur dargah. Even Ramakrishna Hegdes Lok Shakti has denounced the move. Chandrababu Naidu is slowly differentiating himself from the BJP Government even while asserting continued support.
Mamata Banerjee has tasted the bitter truth in her own backyard with stunning electoral setbacks at the hands of her sworn enemies like the Left and Congress. Apparently, her identification with the BJP has scared away the minority and liberal-minded voters to the Congress camp. Now she vociferously condemns the Christian bashing and imposition of Vandana, protests against inaction on prices, closures of public sector units and coal mines in West Bengal and the insurance Bill. In some places, the employees sought an assurance from her that she would not support the Vajpayee Government on the IRA Bill.
In the deep south, the MDMK of Gopalaswami, otherwise a loyal supporter, has also begun making protests against the prices, insurance Bill and the attacks on minorities. While clash of ideology and incompatibility of the vote bank have been the main factor elsewhere, the BJPs UP allies are worried over the consequences of the Congress resurgence in their state. The Loktantrik Congress has sought the formation of a coordination panel by Kalyan Singh for prior discussions on important decisions and withdrawal of certain imposts. Obviously, this has been a post-poll awareness.
Siding with the winner has been the basic trait of centrist politicians both at the higher and middle levels. They have a highly sensitive antenna to pick up the minutest moves in the labyrinth of power. Apart from UP, there are clear signs of such upheavals elsewhere. The switching of sides by a few independent MLAs in Maharashtra reflects this changing mood. Even if the talk of some TDP legislators moving over to the Congress proves untrue, it indicates the disturbed politicians perception that the pro-Congress wind may be crossing the Vindhyas. It works in two ways pressures from the grass-roots workers to go along with the current and the leaders desire to fail for the ticket of the winning party.
Those in the Congress establishment gleefully confirm the soundings for an exodus towards it. Business houses have begun showing more respect and inclination for the Congress.
Those who are seen as part of Sonia Gandhis inner circle are getting sudden importance. The growing crowds of power-seekers at such places have to be seen to be believed. The establishment itself seems determined to conscientiously enhance this emerging political myth. The whole strategy is being built on the concept of the Sonia mystique. An inner circle man boasts that she has already outshone Atal Behari Vajpayee as a vote-catcher.
There should be no doubt about the intentions. Sonia Gandhi is being moulded into the role of an omnipotent boss and charismatic mass leader on whom the party would depend on for survival. A leading light in the inner circle claims that the experiments with coalition in India have established the indispensability of a ruling party led by a super boss. This has been the secret of some of the successful regional outfits. It is with this intention, he asserts, that the Congress high command demonstratively denied the democratic right of state leaders or the legislature parties to choose their leaders.
Under Indira Gandhi, the observers took a consensus and conveyed the results to the party chief, who, in turn would discreetly direct the MLAs through observers to elect the high commands nominee. This time, after talking to the local leaders the observers formally requested Sonia Gandhi on the telephone to name the nominee. In the first, there was the facade of consensus. Now the establishment deliberately seeks to pull down the facade to tell the world that Sonia Gandhi alone is the super boss and those with any obsession with internal democracy may get out. Advocates of this doctrine believe that a super boss alone could provide a united party and stable government, notwithstanding the charge of perpetrating a sort of neo-oriental despotism.
This obsession with the invincibility of Sonia Gandhi has been the main reason for the partys refusal to pull down the BJP government. It is not so much a case of turning the inability to topple the present regime into a democratic virtue. Three reasons are cited. First, some more time for the Vajpayee government will make it more and more unpopular. In the process, the Congress calculates that the BJP allies like the Trinamool Congress and TDP, which have emerged as formidable adversaries in the respective states, would also suffer loss of face. Second, the Congress does not find it desirable to depend on another disparate set of coalition partners. Then the new government will come under perpetual threats from different quarters.
More than this, it is bound to tarnish Sonia Gandhis image as a leader capable of running a government effectively. The party is bound to flop when it goes to the polls later with such a soiled image. On the other, a resurgent Congress sitting in the Opposition can approach the voters with a clean slate as against the BJP regimes failed image. Third, as of now, Sonia Gandhi does not seem to be fully equipped with to face the rigours of Opposition assaults on the floor of the House, even if she will be protected by a team of senior ministers. Though she has gained considerable self-confidence, she still heavily depends on the written speech. Some more exposures are expected to harden her.
Will the Congress in its sweep in the north also eliminate the third front? The Left bastions still remain impregnable. True, the Janata Dal has almost been eliminated except in Karnataka. But the RJD of Laloo Prasad Yadav has effortlessly withstood the Congress assault in Bihar. While the Samajwadi Partys dismal performance in Agra should cause considerable concern to Mulayam Singh Yadav, it is too hasty to conclude that his minority and backward base had already moved over to the Congress. Normally, Muslim voters in the BJP-dominated states go by two criteria constituencywise winnability of the non-BJP candidates and the ability of the party to protect them at the time of riots. The theory of Muslim desertion and the demise of the third front has to be viewed with this fact in mind.
In the midst of this churning process, the BJP has badly exposed its multiple fracture even in the first week after the electoral rout. The Vajpayee government has come under attack from all sides, including an influential section of his own MPs and the parivar. Vajpayees authority as Prime Minister suffered a jolt when he was forced to dilute the insurance Bill soon after having assured the World Economic Forum that despite the drama of democracy, his reforms would proceed. His Finance Minister had ridiculed the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Madan Lal Khurana, whom he called that chap in front of the forum.
An array of senior BJP leaders like Uma Bharti, K.R. Malkani and Sumitra Majahan had even threatened to block the Bill. Vajpayee, who had at the party MPs meeting even talked of quitting, began yielding when top RSS leader, Dattopant Thengdi, and Swadeshi activists like S Gurumurthy warned of taking the fight to every village. Even before this fiasco opposition to the Bill had come from the allies like the Trinamool Congress, MDMK and the Samata Party. By no means, was this the first humiliation for the Vajpayee Government.
Controversies have also bogged down the Bills for the formation of new states. Vajpayee is now left with the option of displeasing either the Akalis on the Udham Singh Nagar district issue or the Uttarakhandis. All this is due to the absence of a proper consultation machinery and coalition culture. Both Bills had been hurriedly approved by the Cabinet without seeking a consensus among the allies. There is also sharp criticism within the alliance about the way Vajpayee has been making crucial announcements at various business fora without taking the partners into confidence.
The Prime Ministers woes apart, the post-poll heartsearch among the political parties have highlighted two aspects. First, those who in their haste to enforce the reform, ignore peoples problems like prices, disruption in water and power supplies and seeking to cut subsidies, will have to pay a heavy price at the hustings. Narasimha Rao had been a victim of similar popular ire in the Karnataka and Andhra Assembly elections on the issue of the rice prices. Later he had tried to assuage the feelings through his own expanded distribution system.
Second, the Congress has
imposed an ethics agenda on other parties by denying the
ticket to tarnished leaders. It has extended this to
ministerial and other posts. If the Congress is really
able to continue with the process by keeping itself clear
off criminals and the corrupt, others like the BJP will
either have to follow the suit or face the voters
ire. It is too early to say how far the Congress can
really take this ethical cleansing. Meanwhile, the BJP is
heading for another Sariska-type discussion to sort out
the worsening relationship among the parivar members.
New Cong strategy baffles RLM
THE subdued posture adopted by Congressmen in Parliament has left other Opposition parties baffled. Contrary to expectations that after its good showing in the recent hustings, it will be a belligerent and boisterous Congress calling the shots in the Lok Sabha. Its members have virtually distanced themselves from other Opposition parties.
This came to the fore when the Samajwadi Party-Rashtriya Janata Dal combine launched a concerted attack against the BJP-led Government in the opening days of the winter session and demanded Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayees resignation. Surprisingly, the Congress members kept quiet and refused to come to the support of the Loktantrik Morcha. So much so that an irritated RJD leader remarked: Have the Congress and the BJP become one? The new strategy of the Congress has also left other Opposition parties wondering what it has up its sleeve.
The RLMs frustration at the Congress behaviour was reflected in the statement of the RLM spokesman, Mr Amar Singh, who said the Congress was behaving like a B team of the BJP. Does the Congress really have some plans or is it that its members are behaving under the guidance of their new leader, Mrs Sonia Gandhi?
Grape gone sour for Gowda
For former Prime Minister, Mr Deve Gowda, who was unceremoniously replaced in the erstwhile United Front, the pain still lingers on. Intervening in a debate on the controversy over a shrine in Karnataka in the Lok Sabha last week, the Janata Dal leader spewed venom against the BJP. He said the BJP was playing petty politics by stirring a controversy over a shrine in Karnataka, venerated by Hindus and Muslims. Mr Gowda said he failed to understand what the BJP could gain by driving a wedge between two communities, who coexisted peacefully.
In a direct attack on the BJP, he said national interest was paramount and they should stop playing politics just for the sake of the chair. Everybody knows my attitude towards the chair, the former Prime Minister thundered. Looking towards the Treasury benches, Mr Gowda said when his government was in trouble these chaps had approached him with an offer of support. I told them to get out, the former Prime Minister recalled.
A BJP member later quipped that grapes were sour for Mr Gowda and that was the reason he was reacting so violently.
An armoured youth, sporting a steel helmet, shield and a glittering sword has been doing the rounds of newspaper offices in the Capital recently. Surprisingly it was not a Shiv Sainik on the prowl but a soldier who represents the Mughal era. The purpose of his visit to deliver invitations for a show put out by Discovery Channel.
The youthful soldier, it is understood, was a model and he has been accompanying a beautiful lass decked up in finery reminiscent of the Mughal era. The approaches scribes in the tradition of yesteryear. Speaking chaste Urdu she has been telling scribes: Huzoor, hum Discovery Channel ki aur se aap ke liye pegam laye hain. Kabool pharmaiye. (Sir, I have come on behalf of Discovery Channel to extend you this invitation. Kindly accept it.)
The invitation is for the launch of a new series that recreates the grandeur of the Great Mughals and provides rare insights into their lives and times. Keeping with the times, the invitation is a replica of a Mughal painting but has in the background a luxury car, computer terminals, music systems and an airconditioner. A novel invitation indeed but then as a scribe remarked it was scary too.
November heat for PM?
November heralds the onset of winter. It is cool and pleasant. But ask the Prime Minister, he may beg to differ.
The other day during the inaugural ceremony of the World Economic Forum, the Prime Minister came scurrying into the cool environs of Vigyan Bhavan to spend about half an hour in company of industrialists.
Although he appeared unfazed by the political fluidity that existed at the time, with the ruling BJP routed in state assembly elections in as many as four states, the Prime Minister made an apparent attempt to assure foreign investors not to be particularly worried about what was happening outside. Actually, I prefer to be inside with you rather than outside now, he told the 300-member group of foreign delegates.
Perhaps, the Prime Minister found it more pleasant to spend a cool November afternoon amidst industrialists rather than bearing the heat and dust of a post-election debacle.
Much ado about Khurana
Trust the Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr Madan Lal Khurana, to end up with creating more problems for himself than anything else.
Recently mentioning about the Bills expected to come in the current session, the minister indicated that Bills pertaining to grant of full statehood to Delhi might have to be referred to the new Assembly and added helpfully: Even the Congress in its manifesto has not promised anything.
Later when the Leader of Opposition, Mr Sharad Pawar, came to know of this, he just picked up the telephone and asked Mr Khurana, Since when have you started reading Congress manifesto and also making efforts to implement it.
True story from China
WHAT is described as the true story of the Chinese Emperors death was published in Paris in the Revue. After the miserable existence he led after the betrayal by Yuan Shi-kai of his plot to intern the Dowager-Empress, a plot which led to his own captivity, came the illness of the Dowager-Empress, who formed a fixed resolve that her nephew should precede her to the tomb.
She summoned Yuan Shi-kai, the Emperors most deadly foe, together with Prince Tsing, the head of the Imperial family, and the chief of the eunuchs of the palace.
As a result of this sinister conclave, it was announced that Kuang-Su was dangerously ill from heart-disease.
Next morning the Chief Eunuch entered the palace where the Emperor was confined and declared that the Empress was dying and it was needful for him to predecease her. He deposited on a table pills of opium, a packet of gold leaf, and a yellow silkplaited cord, promising to return in three hours time.
If he found that neither the opium nor the gold leaf had been used, it would be his duty to call upon his two assistants to strangle him with the silken cord.
Meanwhile the two
executioners watched the door of the room. When the Chief
Eunuch returned, the opium had disappeared and Kuang-Su
was stretched lifeless on the couch. This story has its
clear moral: we cant suppress the truth for ever.
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