|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Sunday, October 4, 1998
rebuff ablessing in disguise
Fine Advocate !
martinet with a penchant for poetry
rebuff ablessing in disguise
URVASHI shaapam upkaaram runs a Sanskrit proverb Urvashis curse is actually a blessing. The Mahabharata says the gods manoeuvred the nymph Urvashi into trying to seduce Arjuna. He refused firmly, pointing out that she was his ancestress. Urvashi wasnt used to such rebuffs. If you are so unmanly that you spurn me, she cursed him, may you become a woman in body as in mind.
The distraught Arjuna was consoled by Indra. Everything that comes from heaven shall prove beneficial in the long run, the king of the gods said, You shall indeed become a woman but it shall be only for one year and at a time when you so choose.
A few years later the Pandavas were forced to live in disguise for 12 months (one of the conditions imposed upon them by the Kauravas after the famous game of dice). Arjuna then invoked Urvashis curse to pass himself off as a dance teacher called Brihannala.
The BJP might do well to remember the tale. President Narayanans decision to send back the Union Cabinets recommendation to impose Presidents rule in Bihar came as a bolt from the blue. Though a certain amount of trouble with Parliament possibly even the courts was anticipated, nobody thought the President would refuse assent, given the truly terrible law and order situation in the state.
But the demoralising rebuff from Rashtrapati Bhavan may be of some use. The BJP has been under constant pressure from its allies to dismiss unfriendly governments. Jayalalitha has been demanding Karunanidhis head ever since the Vajpayee Ministry was formed. But she wasnt the only ally to demand a pound of flesh, merely the most troublesome of the lot. The Trinamool Congress, for instance, wants the Left Front regime in West Bengal sent packing, and the Biju Janata Dal desires the end of the Congress Ministry in Orissa.
All that has ceased thanks to President Narayanan. Bihar, let it be understood, is a state teetering on the edge of utter chaos. Over 50,000 people were killed in the eight years of Laloo Prasad Yadavs rule. (The toll in Jammu and Kashmir after a decade of militancy is 19,000!) Almost 60 per cent of the state lives under the poverty line and more are going under every year. The states finances are in such a mess that some employees havent been paid in three years.
But that the magic word majority is a shield against any faults whatsoever. The fact that Bihars citizens are suffering is of less consequence, it seems, that Laloo Prasad Yadav whipping up a majority in the Bihar Assembly.
The folly of such an interpretation of Article 356 is something discussed in this column last week and I wont repeat those arguments. Right now, I am looking only at the fallout of Rashtrapati Bhavans perceived rebuff upon the BJPs allies.
Simply put, they are no longer in a position to blackmail the BJP. Bihar is a candidate for Presidents rule by any sane standard. Yet it appears the corrupt and demonstrably incompetent regime in the state cannot be dismissed. That being the case, there is no chance at all of dismissing reasonably decent ministries. Using Bihar as the benchmark, that means every other government!
In the long run, it is good news for the Vajpayee Ministry if the senior member of the alliance isnt under constant pressure from smaller parties. It gives ministers a little more time to attend to their duties without being constantly diverted.
The President himself was quick to realise the hidden benefits of his seeming rebuff. When Union Home Minister L.K. Advani told him the government wouldnt press the issue, the President responded with a single sentence: It will be good for your government.
govt bring down onion price?
LET me ask you one simple question, said a top-level bureaucrat. If it were in your hands, how would you bring down the price of onions? We were at a VIPs dinner table in Delhi and the light-hearted comments about the delicious food being served had centred on how the hostess had spared no expense in the use of onions. After a point, the senior bureaucrat doubtlessly found the wisecracks, if not the food, striking in his gullet.
A consensus was taken around the table. Although everyone agreed that unseasonal rains and crop damage had caused onion prices to soar to unprecedented levels, the real problem was political. And the real solution lay in punishing hoarders severely. If necessary, by carrying out a few hundred arrests throughout the country, said a businessman.
At the end of the discussion it was clear that the BJP government was likely to find any such swift, punitive measures politically damaging. Assembly elections, beginning with the politically sensitive national capital, were round the corner and if serious and far-reaching damage control measures to bring the supply and prices of onions were not put into effect soon, it would hurt the BJPs large urban constituency of traders first.
The bureaucrat fell silent in tacit agreement and the discussion ended. But it was a telling commentary on the failures, the confusion and the haphazard functioning of the BJP coalition.
Everyone understands the root of the problem but they also know that no solution is forthcoming because of a demonstrable lack of will on the part of those in power. The import of 10,000 kg of onions from Dubai is unlikely to lower prices much. Yet onion prices in the neighbouring state capital of Shimla are Rs 10 a kg, that is one-fourth of the rates prevailing in Delhi. So why not import onions from Shimla instead of Dubai?
Surely, a government in Delhi has the organisational ability to clear transportation and distribution bottlenecks between Shimla and Delhi? The reason no such thing is happening is because it would prevent Delhis onion hoarders from making a killing and they are the very people who will be financing as well as voting for the politicians in the forthcoming local polls.
Much the same mindset of governance is evident in a number of unsavoury controversies that have erupted in recent days from the President returning the request for the imposition of Article 356 in Bihar to the serial attacks on Christian missionaries in various parts of the country, particularly in a tribal belt of Madhya Pradesh.
It is not as if the BJP leadership is absolutely unacquainted with President K.R. Narayanans views on dismissing state governments without good enough reasons. Last year, when the United Front Government recommended the dismissal of the Kalyan Singh Government in Uttar Pradesh, the President reacted likewise. That was a moment of undisguised triumph and jubilation for L.K. Advani and the BJP; now that the boot is on the other foot, the piqued Home Minister is calling for a national debate on Article 356 and party president Kushabhau Thakre is giving us one of his rambling lectures. As a leading light of the coalition government, surely Mr Advani attends Cabinet meetings with his colleagues and confers with his allies regularly to know what their views on an agelessly controversial subject such as imposition of Presidents rule is. Or has he been waiting all this while to get his information on what Agriculture Minister Surjit Singh Barnala, for instance, had to say in unambiguous and vociferous terms to Star TV on the subject of Article 356 soon after the President had returned the proposal to the Cabinet for reconsideration.
Such serious communication gaps, however, can be overlooked for the basic reason that most of the public, with the exception of political leaders or political pundits, can hardly be bothered to remember how many parties make up this coalition government or, indeed, the last one. What is unpardonable is that the Sangh parivars own leaders are continuously at sixes and sevens, with views not only sharply at variance with each other but over the declared policies of the BJP Government. This is why the spate of assaults on Christian nuns and attacks on missionary schools and hospitals in various parts of the country cannot be overlooked. It is woefully inadequate that all that L.K. Advani can do is to express indignation at the VHP and Bajrang Dal-sponsored campaign of intimidation and terror against the minorities.
Some time ago hell broke loose in Delhi when the state Excise Minister banned the supply of sacramental wine to churches. The Prime Minister himself was forced to intervene and calm Christian sentiments.
One would have credited
the BJP leadership with a better memory as well as equal
measures of caution and common sense to ensure that such
actions would not be tolerated. But the reverse has
happened in subsequent weeks the humiliation of
Christians continues, with the most glaring incidents
taking place in states where elections are due. VHP
leaders, moreover, are fuelling the fires further through
incendiary anti-Christian remarks. If the BJP realises
that matters could get out of hand, its response is also
to believe that its hands are tied. Or is it a case of
one hand not knowing what the other is doing?
martinet with a penchant for poetry
BIHAR Governor Sunder Singh Bhandari, retains the rank of Pracharak even after assumption of the gubernatorial office. He is, in fact, among five surviving BJP leaders Kushabhau Thakre, J.P. Mathur, Kailashpati Mishra and Govindacharya to have achieved that exalted position. Bhandari is the senior most and Govindacharya was recently elevated to that position. Pracharak is a highly coveted position in the RSS hierarchy and the incumbent takes a vow of celibacy with a pledge to devote his life and time for the good of the society.
With the formation of the Jana Sangh way back in 1951, the RSS loaned the services of some of its top men to strengthen the political setup. Among the first batch, besides Bhandari, were Atal Behari Vajpayee, Deen Dayal Upadhaya, Thakre, Nanaji Deshmukh, Jagannath Rao Joshi and others like them. They formed the hard core of the political wing and did not give up their vow to remain bachelors. That was the reason why many top leaders of the BJP never married and these include the Prime Minister Vajpayee, party chief Thakre, Vice-President J.P. Mathur, and Bhandari, who now lives in Patnas sprawling Raj Bhavan.
The 77-year-old Bhandari is, at present, senior-most leader of the BJP but was sidelined politically for years. He is a contemporary of the late Upadhaya and both studied at the DAV College in Kanpur. Bhandari was known to be the link between the RSS and the Jana Sangh after assassination of Upadhaya but could not succeed him because he lacked the public image of leaders like Vajpayee. Bhandari, however, held practically all other key positions in the organisation General Secretary, Organising Secretary, Treasurer, Vice-President and framer of the partys constitution. It is generally believed the BJPs constitution could not be discussed and amended without his participation.
Bhandari is known to be a leader of high morals, a stickler for discipline in private and public life and, as chairman of the partys disciplinary committee, demonstrated in ample measure that he is no nonsense man.
Years back Bhandari contested a byelection from Udaipur constituency knowing full well that he would be defeated, yet he bowed to the wishes of the party high command and jumped into the poll fray. This was only election he contested in his long public life, spread over half a century. He was, however, a member of the Rajya Sabha for three terms 1966, 1976 and 1992 from Rajasthan. He was appointed Governor of Bihar in April, three months before his Rajya Sabha term was to expire.
Call it a coincidence but weeks before he was despatched to Patnas Raj Bhavan, Bhandari sat on dharna in Delhi to press the BJPs demand for dismissal of the Rabri Devi Government. Bhandari went to Bihar with a prejudiced mind knowing well that the BJP leadership has made up its mind to throw out the state government which, it openly alleges, is run by proxy of Laloo Prasad Yadav. This is a stark reality also. There is also no denying the fact that the administration in Bihar has touched the nadir (it was never good) and complete lawlessness and anarchy prevails in some districts.
Since the day Bhandari landed in Patna, his relations with Chief Minister were strained and, on his part, the new Governor gave sleepless nights to the government. The matter came to a head when he rejected the names of nine of the 11 candidates recommended by the government for appointment to the posts of Vice-Chancellors and Pro-Vice-Chancellors. It was increasingly suspected that the ouster of the Rabri Devi Ministry was inevitable and Bhandari would give a very adverse report to pave the way for Presidents rule. The suspicion came literally true.
Avoiding self-projection throughout his long career, why did he commit the indiscretion of going on TV as a Governor and also told newsmen about the prevailing situation in Bihar even before he submitted his report to the President? He also appeared on a private TV channel and gave vent to his views.
A believer in self-righteousness, Bhandari conveniently forgot that a Governor is supposed to be a non-party man and act in that manner. Possibly, he could not overcome his long years of commitment to the RSS and the BJP and now he has been faced with an awkward situation. Bhandaris friends say he accepted the gubernatorial post reluctantly and would have preferred a Cabinet post at the Centre. They also say that he had not recommended Presidents rule out of political motive.
personality has a little known side also. He is well
versed in Persian and sometime recites couplets in that
language. The first language of his ancestors may have
been Urdu, though he follows Jainism and regularly
attends Jain rituals and religious functions.
IF the attitude of the Government of India in regard to the Kenya decision is one exactly befitting a subordinate branch of the British Government, that of the Secretary of State is one exactly befitting a member of the Cabinet. This gentleman was only three or four days ago represented to us both by the Viceroy in his reply to the Council of State and by the spokesman of the Government of India in the legislature as being in deep sympathy with the Indian cause, which he had done his best to advocate and to uphold.
Now listen to the language used by this warm advocate of the Indian cause! Nobody, he said during the recent debate in the House of Lords, could regard the communal system as a badge of inferiority. It was merely another method. He considered that when Indians and Indian opinion had carefully studied and weighed the declarations, it would be impossible to maintain what was the first impression of some Indian newspapers.
He hoped sincerely that
both races in Kenya would do their best to work under the
new Constitution, and that it would be recognised that
the Imperial Government had not unfairly dealt with a
most difficult question. What a fine representative and
advocate we have in Lord Peel! If after this we do not
overflow with gratitude to his Lordship, we must be a
very ungrateful people, indeed!
| Punjab | Haryana | Himachal Pradesh | Jammu & Kashmir |
| Chandigarh | Business | Stocks | Sport |
| Mailbag | Spotlight | World | 50 years of Independence | Weather |
| Search | Subscribe | Archive | Suggestion | Home | E-mail |