|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Tuesday, September 8, 1998
& his Secretary
impact of US action against Harkat
The Pachmarhi Declaration
THE document, which the three-day brain-storming conclave of the Congress has evolved at Pachmarhi after several years of virtually unorganised existence marked by internal bickering and mud-slinging at high levels, is of immense significance to the polity and the people of India. The party has resolved to launch an ideological crusade against communalism and to meet unflinchingly the challenge of divisive forces, including short-sighted power brokers and strange bed-fellows coming together for power and pelf. The party is no longer a rudderless ship without a conscientious captain. Ms Sonia Gandhi, who has pulled herself out of self-imposed seclusion, spoke well and perceptively when she said on Sunday that the popular tide was turning in favour of the Congress and the party should consolidate itself and take full advantage of the changing situation. She has been expectedly critical of the past two years political disorientation. According to her, the nation is fed up with the state of current political and administrative affairs and "is waiting to give us another chance". There is an unavoidable element of rhetoric in what she has said. Such things ought to be said repeatedly because the leaders must give the feeling to the led that they are under the focus of attention. Ms Sonia Gandhi has assured the Dalits, women and youth of increased representation in the party at the national, state and district levels. She has been wise in not talking about a government because she is not sure if and when the Congress will be able to form the government at the Centre in the eventuality of the crumbling of the ruling edifice. The Congress needs to be rejuvenated. Top leaders, including Mr Sharad Pawar and Mr Rajesh Pilot, have rightly taken note of the need to recognise the necessity of having different viewpoints within the party. A clear perspective should not demand total unanimity on all issues. In the words of Sonia Gandhi, "differences are unavoidable and, indeed, desirable". The party will henceforth go to the people, nay, to the grassroots, and pay adequate attention to political, organisational, economic, foreign policy and agricultural issues. There will be no immediate alliance of convenience.
The Pachmarhi Declaration has come at a crucial point of time of financial and political crises. The Congress, living on an inheritance since the day of Independence, has been assigned the task of ensuring the deliverance of the nation through its policies which have worked effectively in the past to safeguard national unity, integrity and security in an atmosphere of hatred, violence and pervasive confusion. The country at the moment is like a laboratory. The leaders of the main political parties are like experimenting scientists. The biggest snag lies in the fact that where every passing moment raises the question of life and death, there is not enough time to be proved right or wrong. Here comes the providential placement of the Congress at the socio-political centrestage where it has been asked to do what many visionaries did as its representatives.
The party has often
repudiated its own reputation. If it fails in the present
litmus test, it would write itself off as a political
organisation of consequence. The time when it was viewed
as the "parliament of the nation" or the
"national platform" passed long ago. Today it
is a political party among other political parties. It
is, essentially, a parliamentary party and not a
mass-based organisation. Its roots appear to be deeper
and broader than those of other parties but these are
decaying and dying organic parts. Happily, the party has
talked of recognising contradictions and reconciling
differences instead of seeking to destroy discordant
elements. Its values of a prior century are cherished as
a saving grace. If the Congress is galvanised and the
Congressmen learn the difference between a people's
servant and a parasite in the light of the Pachmarhi
Declaration, this phoenix of the political world would
have a rebirth. Such Congressmen as are honest and
dedicated to the welfare of the people have a chance not
only of survival but also of durable success. Seen
collectively as the party, they should speak through
their work: this is the meaning of the Pachmarhi
Unending flood fury
INITIALLY came the reports that large areas of Punjab and Haryana were threatened by floods. Now a larger part of the country is in the grip of floods caused by swollen rivers. Entire eastern UP, Bihar, parts of West Bengal and the North-East is reeling under flood waters. With the onset of the rains this year, 32 districts of UP have received the heaviest rainfall in living memory. The result is that almost all the rivers in the eastern part of the state like the Ghaghra, the Ganga, the Rapti, the Gandak, the Rohin and the Ami are in spate, bringing undescribable misery to the people living along their course. The problem has worsened, especially in Gorakhpur and the neighbouring districts because of the discharge of excessive water from the Nepal side. Nearly 700 persons have lost their lives, besides the 200 killed in the Malpa landslides in Pithoragarh district. The loss of the standing crops runs into crores of rupees. How much the Kalyan Singh government gets from the Centre to provide relief to the affected people will be known in the days to come, but it has demanded at least Rs 1000 crore for the purpose immediately. The situation is equally bad in Bihar and the North-Eastern states. Bihar has suffered a loss of over Rs 300 crore in terms of the crops and other property destroyed, as its rivers have inundated over 7000 villages in 28 districts. The 12.5 million people who are crying for relief, which is not available in adequate measure because of the callousness of the administration, have lost around 290 of their near and dear ones. The flood waters have thrown life out of gear in the entire North-East. As it has been found every year, the administrative machinery is fighting an unequal battle to save the people and their property from the fury of the Brahmaputra and its major tributaries. In the absence of an anti-flood strategy, people have to suffer untold misery, taking it as nature-ordained. But is it really so?
This annual devastation,
if we look at it closely, is mostly man-made. The country
has been mercilessly destroying its forest cover.
Hundreds of dams, reservoirs and embankments that we have
are not being maintained properly and, therefore, they
prove to be ineffective to prevent the recurring floods.
Over the years the flood-prone areas have doubled. This
is despite the fact that the country has a national flood
control policy, formulated as early as 1954. Experts
believe that engineering-backed plans alone may not be
sufficient. It is necessary to launch a country-wide
campaign to control soil erosion and reduce drainage
congestion wherever it is noticed, as also to further
strengthen the meteorological and flood forecasting
network. Flood prevention and control measures should be
taken on a war-footing as one expert has warned that if
the present callousness persists, the flood problem will
aggravate in the years to come. This year's experience
shows that India and Nepal will have to formulate a joint
plan to control floods.
THE Himachal Pradesh government has done well to extend the ban on the use of polythene bags to all its towns and hill stations, although it is doubtful if the order would be able to rid the Hill State of the menace. A similar ban has existed in Shimla and Manali for quite some time now but in the absence of proper segregation, collection and disposal of the non-biodegradable waste, it has ended up being a paper tiger. As we said earlier, this problem cannot be tackled in a piecemeal fashion and a multi-pronged, nationwide strategy is imperative. If neighbouring states and even rural areas of Himachal Pradesh continue to use polythene bags, it will be impractical to hope that there will be polythene-free "islands" in urban areas. For instance, how is the government going to ensure that these are not brought into the hill stations? And what will be done to deter the defaulters? The first mandatory requirement is self-discipline. People have to realise that they are risking their own lives and those of their children by patronising polythene bags. Most of these are recycled and turn the foodstuff kept in them into slow poison. Only when this fact is forcefully publicised, public revulsion over their use would grow. The Himachal Pradesh Non-Biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act, passed three years ago, prohibits throwing of non-biodegradable waste in public places, except in dustbins and receptacles. It also covers garbage generated from hospitals, including microbiological wastes. Although such irresponsibility has been made a cognisable offence, attracting imprisonment up to one month or a fine of Rs 5,000 or both, the law has been violated day in and day out, with the administration being a helpless spectator in most cases. Things cannot be any better in smaller urban towns now. Only when the public realises that it is in its own interest to shun polythene bags that things can change.
The Central Government is
not really in a position to impose a blanket ban on the
use of polythene bags throughout the country. In the face
of stiff opposition from the manufacturers' lobby, right
now it is only for a ban on the use of carrybags and
containers made of recycled plastics for carrying or
packaging edible food products. Meanwhile, certain other
measures need to be studied. The lure of the polythene
bags is on account of two factors. One, these are
sturdier than those made of paper and two, these are
inexpensive. As such, research has to be focused on
finding a worthy alternative. Some months back, there
were news reports that an Indian firm had made some
progress towards making degradable plastics. But nothing
more was heard after that. Nationwide research is called
for. Secondly, it will be worthwhile to explore the
possibility of imposing punitive duties on polythene
bags. If one has to pay extra for procuring them, perhaps
the consumers will start being careful while using them
or dumping them. After all, that is what has happened in
the case of liquor. A total ban has never worked. Excise
duty makes it fairly expensive. Those who just have to
drink do so nevertheless. But the price factor does
matter to many others. The consumption would have
certainly been more if a liquor bottle was available for
only, say, Rs 10. The same logic applies to polythene
bags as well.
MINISTER & HIS SECRETARY
THE Urban Development Minister, Mr Ram Jethmalani, is to be complemented, rather than be criticised, for showing firmness with his Secretary, and as a punishment for insubordination and knit-picking, divesting Ms Kiran Agarwal of all key responsibilities. There is a limit to what a minister can take from his Secretary or other officers. If the IAS fraternity is upset about it, so be it.
The sad truth is that the IAS lobby is the strongest trade union, in fact, if not in name, in the country. Even Jayaprakash Narayan said something to this effect. It has the security of tenure (minus transfers). It has the power. And, as compared to the politicians, it has the expertise, especially to ensure how best a work is not done. Even Nehru had said in exasperation that he was interested in knowing how a work could be done; not in why a work could not be done.
At least in theory the role of civil servants is clear-cut: to advise the political executive objectively and fearlessly, but once a political decision has been taken, to implement it faithfully, safe in the knowledge that the bureaucrat has done his or her best. It certainly amounts to insubordination if despite the rejection of the bureaucrats advice, the ministers decision is not implemented.
If the ministers decision is wrong or motivated, there is Parliament to deal with the matter; then there are the courts to sit in judgment on the legality of the ministers action and the courts are merrily enlarging their powers. It ill-becomes a secretary to refuse to implement the ministers decision by showing the rule book. Perhaps the secretary would have been within her rights to go back to the minister and point out the necessity of getting clearance from the Finance Ministry, but, instead, it is Mr Jethmalanis suspicion that some officers leaked out some papers to Dr Subramanian Swamy. If true, this is deplorable. Mr Jethmalani has suggested an enquiry into the matter. This deserves serious consideration by Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Then comes the news of the indigenous air defence ship programme, cleared by Mr George Fernandes, getting stuck because reportedly a note of dissent has been appended to it by a secretary-level officer. The note virtually counters the logic of AD ship, as enunciated by the Defence Minister. This, in my view, is another act of insubordination. Policy is the prerogative of the political executive. For its policies, right or wrong, the political executive is answerable to Parliament and the people, not to bureaucrats.
These instances, bad enough, pale into insignificance, when one considers how the bureaucrats got passed a self-serving Ordinance on the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commission.
It will be recalled that, in the Vineet Narain case, the court had directed that the CVC be given a statutory status. Selection for the post of the Central Vigilance Commissioner shall be made by a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition from a panel of outstanding civil servants and others with impeccable integrity, to be furnished by the Cabinet Secretary. The appointment shall be made by the President on the basis of the recommendations made by the committee. This shall be done immediately.
The CVC shall be responsible for the efficient functioning of the CBI. While the government shall be responsible for the CBIs functioning, to introduce visible objectivity in the mechanism to be established for overviewing the CBIs working, the CVC shall be entrusted with the responsibility of superintendence over the CBIs functioning.
It will be noticed that the Supreme Court clearly said that a CVC could be selected from not only civil servants but others as well. It did not suggest a multi-member commission. And it needs to be borne in mind that the Vineet Narain case arose out of the fact that an executive order had made it incumbent on the IB to obtain the prior sanction of the government before it prosecuted officers of certain ranks. The court frowned on it.
Thanks to the ingenuity of our top civil servants, the Ordinance signed by the President still protects certain civil servants from prosecution without sanction. It provides for a multi-member CVC, thus ensuring jobs for two other senior civil servants, in office or retired, and makes the CVC the preserve of the IAS.
And be it noted that this miracle has been achieved by virtually ignoring the ministerial committee appointed by the Cabinet.
Mr Ram Jethmalani sent an angry letter to the Prime Minister accusing the bureaucrats, in particular, the Personnel Secretary, of insolence and insubordination.
Mr Jethmalani is believed to have accused a group of secretaries of having misled the Cabinet by telling it that the Law Commissions report on the CVC had not arrived whereas the fact is that it had already reached the Department of Personnel. Further, while Mr Jethmalani, on behalf of the ministerial committee, suggested a single-member commission, the Ordinance ultimately opted for a multi-member commission. He suggested that the Ordinance should contain the declaration that it sought to implement the Supreme Courts decision in the Vineet Narain case. The Ordinance omitted it because the bureaucrats knew that the Ordinance of their making simply did not do, that Mr Jethmalani, if he had his way might now get amended the Ordinance when it is presented to Parliament. But at present the bureaucrats have left the group of ministers in the doubt that if a push comes to a shove, it is they who are going to rule this country, by fair means or foul.
The politicians themselves
are to blame for such a state of affairs. They used
criminals and bureaucrats for their nefarious ends. The
criminals themselves have entered Parliament and the
state legislature in a big way and become partners in
power. The bureaucrats stooped only to conquer.
Little impact of US action
THE decision of the USA to classify Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant group Harkat-ul-Ansar along with 28 other such foreign organisations on October 1, 1997, as terrorist organisations had made little difference to the insurgency operations of the pro-Pakistan outfit in Jammu and Kashmir. As for the aftermath of the US missile strikes on Harkats training camps in the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan, the situation in J&K has to be watched in the coming days.
Contrary to the expectations of defence experts, the extremists associated with the organisation are still launching major offensives against the security forces. The members of the dreaded outfit, which comprises largely of foreigners, are still conducting regular attacks. The latest evidence in this direction came on April 1, 1998, when the security forces liquidated four militants of the terrorist group, two of whom were foreigners, after a daylong fierce encounter at Gagloosa village, near Kupwara. A week after the killing of militants in Kupwara, the police arrested a group of five commanders of Harkat-ul-Ansar from the summer capital and seized huge quantities of arms and ammunition from them.
Messages intercepted from across the border also suggest that Pakistans Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) had instructed militants to change the nomenclature in certain areas so as to avoid easy identification, and try to operate clandestinely with the aid of some fresh faces. In January this year, the Special Operation Group (SOG) of the Jammu and Kashmir Police claimed to have busted a new Harkat-ul-Ansar group, which planned to create disturbances on the occasion of Republic Day.
The newly floated outfit was identified as Tehreek-e-Jehad, which had also succeeded in establishing its cadres in Srinagar by recruiting fresh faces with a militant background under the very experienced hands of Harkat. A special team of the Special Operation Group was constituted to trace out the group before it could do any major harm.
Experts feel that the US ban on Harkat was more of a retaliatory act for the abduction of four hostages in July, 1995, including an American, than any serious concern for the threat from the rising Pakistan-based militancy.
The members of the outfit had also led the group of foreigners, who were responsible for the burning of the highly revered centuries old Charar-e-Sharief shrine on May 10, 1995. The terrorist force, which had been holed up in the shrine, comprised 150 mujahideen of Harkat-ul-Ansar, Hizbul Mujahideen and the Al-Fateh force, under the command of Major Mast Gul, an Afghan national. Most of them were Pakistani nationals, some not even Kashmiris.
The outfit also triggered two devastating blasts in the winter capital. On July 20, 1995, a major bomb blast left 17 dead and over 46 wounded in Purani Mandi, Jammu. It was a sophisticated bomb concealed in an auto-rickshaw that blew up in the middle of the crowded street. Then on July 26 a second bomb exploded in Jammu city, wounding 12 persons. Deadly RDX was used to trigger the explosion, and their mechanism was the same. A day later, Harkat claimed responsibility for the two explosions in Jammu.
Harkat, which advocates Kashmirs accession to Pakistan, came into existence in October, 1993, with the merger of two Pakistani political activist groups, Harkat-ul-Jihad Al-Islami and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. The terrorist organisation is based in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, and its members have participated in insurgency operations in Kashmir and several other places. A few Afghan and Arab veterans of Soviet anti-subversion in Afghanistan have also joined the group.
There are several other
militant organisations also operating on the lines of
Harkat. The USA, if it is really sincere in eliminating
terrorism, will have to apply the same yardstick to other
militant outfits operating in Kashmir as it has done in
the case of Harkat. This will strengthen the hands of
India, which has been waging a long battle against
Pakistans proxy war. CNF
Victim of suspicion
A SILVER jubilee anniversary is an important event in ones life. It carries the status of the wedding day. On the wedding day you are yourself nervous but at the silver jubilee anniversary people make you nervous. You are not worried about the expense part on the wedding day as it is the duty of the parents while the silver jubilee is a strain on your own pocket.
One of my friends, dearest to my heart, was going to celebrate the silver jubilee. His wife, highly educated and talented, was in high spirits. She was in bridal dress and looking glamorous. My greetings, she countered with, Aaj main ooper aasmaan neechey; aaj main aage zamana hai peechhey.
My youngest daughter, who accompanied me, was also in a jovial mood. Though of a very tender age, she could understand the atmosphere of festivity. She said: Dad, let us take auntie and uncle to PTHHT.
What is that? I enquired.
Oh dad, dont you know this? It is just like DDLJ or HAHK.
It seemed Greek to me but my elder daughter came to my rescue. Dad, this is the way we pronounce the name of the pictures these days. PTHHT is Pyar To Hona Hi Tha.
The box was booked. We reached in time to enjoy the full movie. My friend and his wife sat side by side for a change. Usually the children occupy the seats in-between. The movie finished in time and after dinner we wished them a nice time. As we were departing, I found the glow missing. I could see his wifes expression which clearly said, Aasmaan ooper main neechey; zamana hai aage main peechhey.
The next morning at 6 the doorbell woke me up. Lo and behold! The silver jubilee couple was standing right in front of me no glow, rather swollen eyes. I was shocked that the silver jubilee had not shown them a silver lining in the cloud of life.
After a cup of tea, my friend said: The prediction of Nostradamus has come true one year early. The calamity has struck already. It was surprising to have such queer words from a couple known for sobriety and intelligence.
Bhai sahib, your friend has deceived me. He has already seen the movie with somebody else. I told her it was not possible.
She countered: How did he know that the plant pot contained a diamond necklace when everybody else thought there was a bomb. How did he know that they would go to a beautiful island and fall in love with each other. There were many other scenes in the movie which your dear friend knew by heart.
My friend laughed and said: This is not her fault. Satellite TV has spoilt the whole thing. I did not have an answer to her queries. However, I pacified her and asked her not to let her fancy run wild.
In the evening I went to one of my friends who is an encyclopaedia on movies. After listening to the problem, he laughed and said: Your friend must have seen some English movie. Nowadays most of the movies are remakes of either South Indian or English movies.
The idea struck me and I went to Video Box library which is famous for its collection of English movies. The problem was solved. He presented me a movie, French Kiss and explained that many scenes were similar. I scanned the movie and found it almost the same.
We called the estranged couple and screened the movie. The cat was out of the bag. When similar scenes came, we all laughed. The agony was over. She was full of smiles and her face had a glow.
I wondered why God put a thing called suspicion in the human mind. One cannot see or think beyond it. I remembered the words of the worthy Hosea-Ballou: Suspicion is far more apt to be wrong than right, oftener unjust than just. It is no friend to virtue, and always an enemy to happiness.
Before I could say
anything to her, she said: Aaj main ooper aasmaan
neechey. We took a pledge not to go for movies at
least on our wedding anniversary. We said goodbye to each
other with gratitude to God.
Congress turns tables on Shekhawat
THE paradox of the BJP government has been that while it has established its admirable ability for political management, its record of governance has been dismal. The government is into its sixth month, but it is yet to institutionalise an effective mechanism to conduct the affairs of the country in a smooth and cohesive manner. It is not Jayalalithas periodic bouts of blackmail but the inherent incapacity of the government that should worry the BJP.
Decisions are announced by individual ministers without the minimum coordination and consultation with colleagues. At Cabinet meetings, the colleagues hardly bother about the proposals for disposal unless they affect the respective party or the state to which the person belonged. This is being taken to the heights of a misplaced notion that ministerial freedom is part of a coalitional setup. It is a misplaced notion because in a healthy coalition it is not the non-interference but broader discussions and consensus that would lead to cohesive functioning.
Sadly, neither the benign Prime Minister nor the party colleagues seem to bother about the disastrous consequences of such a drift on the governments image. Over the years, every new setup on Raisina Hill had evolved its own system of decision making and implementation. The shape and authority depended on factors like the numerical strength of the ruling party in Parliament, the control of the leadership over the party and the Prime Ministers style of functioning. Under the good old days of the one-party rule, Indira Gandhi has been the centrifugal power.
She had introduced the system of an omnipotent PMO. Concentration of absolute power in a single individual led to a sort of forced discipline and contrived coordination. Dawn of the coalition era marked the demise of the concept of an imperious Prime Minister. Yet the hangover of this notion had even initially made Deve Gowda to act as an all-powerful Prime Minister and some of our political commentators to lament over the losing aura of Prime Ministerial prerogatives. But I.K. Gujral has always been conscious about the limits of such powers under a multi-party arrangement.
The problem with the Vajpayee dispensation has been that he suffers from the absence of either a strong PMO with ample powers and authority to monitor and guide the other arms of the government or the assistance of a strong Cabinet. At one stage, it looked as if Vajpayee too wanted to give the much-needed political authority to his PMO by inducting such effective operators as Pramod Mahajan as his political secretary. But the system fell easy prey to intense intrigues. What is still disturbing, there is apparently something amiss in the functioning of the Vajpayee Cabinet itself.
His own senior party colleagues act more as individuals and as if keen on mainly perpetuating their own personal glory. L.K. Advani has publicly denied any such schism. It may essentially be true. But the kind of haphazard decisions landing up in controversies, tendency to go public with personal assessments and sheer contradictory signals from different ministers point to a disturbing void in the system. It cannot be dismissed as a coalitional malaise. All this looks very odd in a party like the BJP which is known for its meticulous planning and highly effective management.
No more can one ignore the increasing tendency on the part of the senior colleagues like Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, George Fernandes and Sikandar Bakht to carve out their own fiefdoms. Announcements are made without the least concern for the concept of joint responsibility. The whole emphasis is on the individual performance of ministers even at the cost of the Cabinet as a whole. This disturbing phenomenon of segmentation is a direct consequence of the absence of an institutional regulatory system for detailed deliberations among colleagues and allies.
Even the all-powerful Indira Gandhi had relied on the wisdom of Cabinet panels like the Political Affairs Committee which had senior colleagues as members and the Central Parliamentary Board. Such bodies met frequently and for long hours, indicating the importance she had attached to inputs from them. Often decisions were put off for further consultations. Even the much-maligned UF had its own built-in arrangement for taking decisions and resolving conflicts. Their steering committee and standing committee had wide powers and screened major policy decisions even to the extent of having described it as an extra-constitutional centre of power.
Still worse, preoccupation with the survival of the government at the Centre has led to the neglect of the party organisation in states. Such senior leaders as Kalyan Singh publicly allege that he was not consulted on the Centres decision to include Hardwar in Uttaranchal. A BJP Union Minister from Madhya Pradesh also makes a similar allegation about Chhatisgarh. BJP leaders from Hardwar also assert that neither the party bosses nor the PMO had taken them into confidence on such a vital decision. All such chaotic situations expose the vital chinks in the system of governance under Vajpayee.
Otherwise no Prime Minister might have allowed the open fights between Ram Jethmalani and senior officials of the ministry. The minister has levelled wild allegations like leaking of ministerial secrets to outsiders to tarnish his image. Sacked by the minister, the officials who include secretary to the ministry, rushes to the Cabinet Secretary and the Prime Ministers Principal Secretary. Despite this, no one in the government bothered even as mudslinging continued for well over a week with the minister and the officials charging each other with misconduct.
It did not end there. The senior minister added more fuel by reversing two earlier controversial decisions taken in the ministry. One relates to the reallotment of a prime complex to M.S. Shoes in Delhi. Subramanian Swamy has already threatened to sue the minister in this regard. The other concerns the MRTS contract for Delhi. In both cases, the ministers handling of the senior secretaries has been far from dignified. Even the NF-UF had tackled similar unpleasant situations with more tact and promptness. Watch the way in which the government handled the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commission chief and the alleged mischief by an official in tampering with the law panels report. No Prime Minister with a modicum of responsibility could have allowed such things to happen.
The strongest indictment of the Vajpayee Governments utter disregard for meaningful dialogue and coordinated action has come from the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an important arm of the RSS parivar. The SJM has levelled as many as eight allegations, including one directly against Vajpayee for filling his two economic advisory panels with the champions of the pro-liberalisation lobby. The SJM has fiercely resented the importance Vajpayee has accorded to liberalisers like Montek Singh Ahluwalia and N.K. Singh. Four Union Cabinet Ministers have also been targeted for attack for working against the interests of national economy.
The RSS outfit has decried the anti-people, anti-swadeshi economic policy being followed by the Vajpayee Government. The sell-out of Maruti to Suzuki, bypassing BHEL to award the Neyveli project to Italian firm Analdo and blanket permission for 100 per cent equity to foreign firms in tobacco and liquor are specially cited. Earlier the suggestion has been to allow only 50 per cent equity after a case-by-case study. An important reason for the SJMs ire has been pressures from the affected domestic companies. The latter allege that the FDI is not expected to bring in any substantial foreign capital or new technology.
The stress of the SJMs outbursts has been that the government had failed to take the RSS parivar into confidence on crucial issues and had drifted on pressure from foreign lobbies. Such RSS stalwarts like K.S. Sudarshan, BMS veteran Dattopant Thengdi and Madan Das were among those who were present at the meeting which drew up the charge sheet against the government. With the ailing Rajendra Singh expressing his desire to retire, Sudarshan is tipped as the next RSS boss. This gives added significance to the SJMs criticism.
Frantic moves are afoot in the ruling circles to persuade the RSS bosses to discipline the SJM which has been lying low ever since the BJP government came to power. Sudarshan had played a major role in thwarting Vajpayees efforts to make the pro-reform Jaswant Singh finance minister. To make things worse, the SJM has already announced a two-week national awakening campaign from September 17 on the issues it has raised. According to SJM leaders, it has been the lack of consultations that had brought the crisis to such a pass.
In the background of such ominous trends, comes the most disturbing warning to the BJP leadership in the form of a mass exodus from the Rajasthan unit. The desertion of 15 MLAs from its fold may or may not add to the Congress strength. But what is at stake for the BJP is the very concept of its new style political management. For long, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat has been hailed as a shrewd politician with wide contacts in many political parties which he could utilise both to bring about majority and keep the flock together. During the 13-day rule in 1996, the BJP circles had placed too much hope on his prowess in mopping up numbers.
During the UP crisis,
Shekhawat was sent to Lucknow as his ability to split
smaller outfits has been legend. The BJP had heavily
borrowed from the Shekhawat model to manage
its majority at the Centre. Sadly, now he has fallen
victim to the kind of realpolitik he himself had
championed. Another casualty of the Rajasthan episode is
the BJPs textbook strategy of creating
pre-poll waves of exodus. In Rajasthan, the
Congress is set to use the same trick against the BJP.
All this highlights the limits of manipulative politics.
New faces in Union Ministry: any guesses?
THE hiccups caused by Jayalalithas belligerency having been somewhat contained; the ruling coalition is now gearing itself for the much-awaited expansion of the Union Council of Ministers. The exercise was slated to have taken place just before the last session of Parliament. But inner-coalition contradictions came in the way. Thereafter the Jayalalitha bomb overshadowed the potency of the Pokhran explosions.
Now, at last, after having shelved the exercise at least twice, preparations are on for inducting new faces. The President is away on a foreign tour and the swearing-in ceremony can take place only after he is back on September 20.
The auspicious Navratras begin soon thereafter. Politicians like cats have nine lives, it is said. The ruling coalition politicians are now waiting for those nine auspicious days with much anticipation.
The induction of the Prime Ministers trusted party colleagues, Mr Jaswant Singh and Mr Pramod Mahajan into the ministry is being talked about. It remains to be seen if West Bengals Trinamool Congress would like to join the ministry. There is speculation about the BJP choosing Mrs Sushma Swaraj as its best bet for being projected as the Chief Minister of Delhi. In that case, too, some reshuffling will be called for.
In the present team, the BJP does not have a fair share and the number of aspirants for ministerial berths within the constituents of the ruling coalition itself is rather high. That makes the selection even tougher for Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Meanwhile, the guessing game is on. Besides Mr Vajpayee, there are 40 ministers, both of Cabinet and Minister of State rank, which made a wag comment that it is a repetition of the famous Alibaba fable.
Allahabad, which has contributed a large number of top politicians in the country, is all set to become famous on another account the countrys first Indian Institute of Information Technology is being set up there.
While the governments decision to constitute an exclusive national institute has been hailed by one and all, computer experts are surprised at the choice of the location. Information technology infrastructure needs a dust-free cool environment and dusty Allahabad is not suited for it.
A scribe from Orissa recently posed this question to a top BJP minister. The minister without mentioning the fact that the Human Resources Development Minister, Mr Murli Manohar Joshi, hailed from Allahabad quipped: Why you wanted to set it up in Bhubaneshwar? The minister went on to add that moving the institute to the eastern region had its disadvantage. He told the scribe that in all probability the Bihar strongman, Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav, would make a bid for the institute in his state. The choice was between Patna and Allahabad and the government naturally decided on the latter.
Minister prefers flat
While most of Prime Minister, Vajpayees ministerial colleagues were hunting for a suitable accommodation according to their rank and their spouses wishes, a minister of state turned out to be an exception when he refused to opt for a bungalow. The minister, Mr Santosh Kumar Gangwar, is entitled to bigger accommodation. Even otherwise, he would have been entitled to a small bungalow by virtue of being a Lok Sabha MP for four terms. But he preferred to stay in the flat he had been occupying for years.
Political observers wonder whether Mr Gangwars decision is prompted by personal reasons, astrological considerations or political factors.
September 5 is observed as Teachers Day from the very first decade of the Republic. Dr S. Radhakrishnan, Indias first Vice-President (he was Vice-President for two terms, totalling 10 years before he succeeded Dr Rajendra Prasad) had dedicated his birthday, September 5, to honour teachers of the country and the Presidents National Award for teachers was constituted by the Nehru Government to honour school teachers.
This year the awards function for school teachers at the prestigious Vigyan Bhavan almost ended in a pandemonium because the 300-odd teachers selected for awards who had assembled there did not know for a long time whether the President, Mr K.R. Narayanan, would come to the function to give away the awards.
If someone had advised the President that he should not go to the function in view of the countrywide strike by college and university teachers, then he was apparently giving the wrong advice because this function was only for school teachers who had no role whatsoever in the strike.
An ugly scene was avoided because the President finally turned up. This prompted the teachers to remark better late than never.
However the question remains, has the Rashtrapati Bhavan Secretariat decided to downgrade teachers in the list of priorities and that too on Teachers Day?
THE inauguration of the British Indian Union by the Duke of Connaught with the object, as he declared, of helping to bring the two nations closer together, would doubtless be welcomed by all. There is no Indian of any position in India who would not appreciate British friendship and understanding. But the first necessity is to restore peace and calm in the political situation by conceding popular demands.
With a policy and measures in existence which are perpetually breeding discontent and bitterness, the appeal for British-Indian Union would be fruitless.
The Maharaja of Alwar spoke of a United States of India and the people being able to work out their destiny in accordance with their own aims and environments.
Mr Sastry said that the
Duke of Connaught, whose speech at Delhi produced an
excellent effect, sought to complete the task he had
begun. We hope the Union, which is composed of some of
the most prominent men and women in England and India,
will first endeavour to secure liberty for India to
develop on her own lines when the promotion of
British-Indian Union would have better chances of
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