|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Tuesday, September 22, 1998
for third force
Now for third force
IT was once called the United Front but got badly disunited and disappeared without trace. Attempts are now on to resurrect the concept and call it the third force. This was in evidence in Chennai on Saturday when DMK supremo Karunanidhi took a meaningful step back from embracing the BJP and moved closer to rejoining the erstwhile UF. At present the other members of the third force are the two communist parties and a potential one is the badly split and truncated Janata Dal minus Mr Ram Vilas Paswan. At present the new idea seems to be relevant only to Tamil Nadu since other states have a strong presence of either the first force, the Congress, or the second, the BJP, or a local outfit muscular enough to take on either of the two major parties, like the Telugu Desam in Andhra Pradesh, the Akali Dal in Punjab, the Haryana Vikas Party in Haryana, the two Yadav-led formations in UP and Bihar. No, the third force does not owe its logic of existence only to the chaotic political situation in the southern state; it hopes to spread its wings in other regions by coopting ideologically compatible (read anti-BJP) parties. If that plan materialises, it would be a refined form of the UF which ruled the country for a brief spell and whose chief merit lies in making the idea of coalition government both acceptable and workable.
Tamil Nadu politics sways
to the Dravidian appeal, at least since 1967 when Rajaji
engineered an all-in coalition headed by the DMK to take
on and oust the Congress led by Kamaraj. The DMK base
split right through the middle in 1973 with the new
offshoot, the MGRs AIADMK, walking away with one
half. Since then political power has alternated between
the two, with the powerful Congress determining the
winner. This nearly stable formation has now been smashed
with the Dravidian votes further fracturing into those of
the MDMK of Mr Vaiko of the September 15 rally fame and
Dr Ramdosss PMK. Analysts feel that these new
entrants into the Lok Sabha have bitten off their share
from what was rightfully the AIADMK following. In other
words, Ms Jayalalitha has gifted away a chunk of her
partys strength while concluding a temporary,
one-election vote-sharing deal with the two. It would be
difficult for her to regain the entire lot and the
unfriendly noises the two leaders make have only
underlined this fact. The DMK has managed to keep its
flock intact even while joining hands with the Congress
faction named the Tamil Maanila Congress and the CPI. In
Tamil Nadu the real Congress is the one Mr Moopanar leads
and on that basis, the DMK seems to be on a firm wicket.
Anyway, the Sonia Gandhi-led Congress is not likely to
enter into an electoral alliance with the DMK. And the
BJP is not strong enough to make up for the loss of
popular vote if Mr Karunanidhi were to join hands with
it. What about Ms Jayalalitha? Everyone excepting Mr
Subramaniam Swamy is wary of her and that includes the
Indian National Congress. Going it alone in an election
is a risky thing. The third force idea is actually an
electoral pact, rather than a viable political
BJP govts one year in UP
WHEN the BJP government led by Mr Kalyan Singh was formed last year on September 21 very few people believed that it would last longer. Now that it has completed full one year, it is time to take credit for this achievement. The Chief Minister naturally deserves the maximum accolades. It is his dexterity as a political engineer that brought about what was unbelievable. But for a party from which people had great expectations, specially in view of the BJPs claim of being a cut above the rest, there is very little to cheer about. Survival alone may be encouraging for party managers, but what about the common mans socio-economic worries? There is little change in the situation so far as the ordinary people are concerned. Mr Kalyan Singh may make any claim with regard to what he calls the legacy from the Mayawati-led regime a jungle raj, social tensions, political instability, a demoralised bureaucracy, a seriously sick economy, etc his government has failed to create an atmosphere so that people could feel free from Bhai, bhookh aur bhrashtachar.
In fact, the way the government came into being, nothing better could be hoped for. How can a Chief Minister who inducts 19 mafia members into his Cabinet think of launching an effective campaign against corruption? Criminals have been roaming around like free birds. The police could do little in the face of the powerful nexus between criminals and politicians. The police role came to be limited to advising the public to do self-policing. Businessmen had no choice but to organise their own security forces. How could the state administration launch schemes for the much-needed economic development of the state when it had to spend as much as Rs 52 crore on providing security cover to the 94-odd ministers, and serving them with tea costing Rs 55 lakh? How could Mr Kalyan Singh give a convincing argument on the issue of fighting corruption as he developed cold feet when there was a call from the UP IAS Officers Association to punish the corrupt elements in the bureaucracy? All this is a serious reflection on the BJPs Chaal, charitra aur chintan. Those of the party who used to give sermons to others on this aspect of Indias political culture must have noted that the gamble in UP has not been worth indulging in when the BJPs assembly strength before Mr Kalyan Singh became hyper-active to cobble together a ministry of his party through questionable means was too inadequate for the purpose.
The BJPs one year
that has gone by will be remembered for another
development which threatens to eliminate from the map of
India what the world knows as Uttar Pradesh. Its attitude
of ad-hocism on the question of giving the status of
state to the hilly areas (Uttaranchal) of UP has led to a
serious division among the people on regional lines. An
equally stronger, if not more, movement is getting shape
in the Poorvanchal and Bundelkhand regions for separate
statehood. Among those who have come out in support of
the case of these regions are experts associated with the
Lucknow-based Giri Institute of Development Studies.
Their argument is based on development indicators
literacy, power consumption, agricultural production, etc
which present a more backward picture, in absolute
terms, of the regions not on the present
governments agenda for being treated on a par with
the Uttaranchal region. One reason is that Uttaranchal
has favoured the BJP in the electoral battles in the
recent past. Political brinkmanship will, however, cost
dear not only UP but also the BJP. Can the ignored
regions spare it in a future election?
Neither gold nor glory
THE two editions of instant cricket which concluded in Kuala Lumpur and Toronto have important lessons to offer to those who believe that the game should be played the way it was before the sponsors arrived with the money-bags and re-wrote the rules. The result of the stranglehold of the sponsors on the one-day game was that the cricket tournament at the Commonwealth Games became a non-event even before a single ball was bowled. England, the mother of the Games, did not send a team for the cricket tournament. The Board of Control for Cricket in India after much dithering picked two teams for the Sahara Cup in Toronto and the Commonwealth Games boasting that we have enough talent to pick two equally strong teams. The upshot was that the team led by Ajay Jadeja lost out on the opportunity to pick up the first Commonwealth cricket gold for India. There were two reasons why India could not qualify for the semifinals at Kuala Lumpur. One, it was not strong enough to beat Australia, which had sent a full-strength team to the Games, in the qualifying round. Two, even Sachin Tendulkars heart was in Toronto. Indian cricket fans have a right to accuse him of not playing to his potential because the Commonwealth marks would not be included in his career record. How else does one explain that he had an average of less than 10 runs in the three games (two against lowly Canada and Antigua) at Kuala Lumpur and yet had the energy to overcome the jetlag and score 77 runs in the last game of the Sahara Cup against Pakistan? The BCCI too should explain why it had booked air tickets in advance to fly out Tendulkar, Jadeja, Anil Kumble and Robin Singh to Toronto even before the semi-final positions had been decided?
The policy of divide and
rule may have brought rich dividends to the British, but
it only earned disrepute for Indian cricket. By trying to
be at two places at the same time it lost the Kuala
Lumpur gold and the Toronto
glory, where a resurgent Pakistan beat the
daylights out of Mohammad Azharuddins boys. To add
to the discomfort of the BCCI the sponsors have
threatened not to release payment for the Sahara Cup
because the best Indian team was not sent to
Toronto. It must be understood that money only promotes
gamesmanship and not the game. It has reduced players
into performers who must wear the logos of the sponsors
and follow just about every unreasonable rule set by them
(the sponsors). Gone are the days when earning ones
countrys cap was a matter of pride for cricketers.
Those who played for the love of the game were called
Gentlemen and those who played for money were called
players. Any game which is not played by Gentlemen cannot
help promote the values enshrined in the Olympic charter.
The moral of the stories of the tournaments at Kuala
Lumpur and Toronto is that cricket at the Commonwealth
Games has no future and the proliferation of the Sharjahs
and the Sahara Cups has made the game of cricket
uninteresting for the old-fashioned purists. Eleven
players baying for the blood of the batsman at the crease
is certainly not the best advertisement for the game.
What is said under the breath by the fielders close to
the crease to the batsman is not printable. Those who
care for the game should launch a cricket for
fun movement. They should even urge the
International Cricket Council to promote a no-prize-money
tournament. After all boards like the BCCI, which has
earned Rs 16 crore this year through sponsorships, can
afford to promote such a tournament. Even after tennis
went professional the Davis Cup remains a zero-money
contest. The only problem is that the moment such a
proposal is made to the money-minded current President of
the ICC, Mr Jagmohan Dalmiya, he may start looking for a
POLITICS, LALOO STYLE
YEH ladai sadkon pe ladi jayegee. (This battle will be fought in the streets). Words of a Jayaprakash Narayan incarnate? Kaunsi naitikta aur bhrashtachar ki baat kar rahe hain? (Which morality or corruption are you talking about?). Mr V.P. Singhs old tirade against the Congress. Yeh amiron ki baghawat hai gharibon kay khilaph. (This is rich mens revolt against the poor). Utterances of a reborn Mandal? Hum parampara todain ge. Yaad hai, Mahabharat paanch gaon se shuru hui thi. Yeh ladai 1000 gaon ki hai. (Well break the tradition. Remember Mahabharat started over five villages, but this is a battle of 1000 villages). Of Duryodhanas 20th century ilk? Main apne jaan ki qurbani doonga. (Ill sacrifice my life). Or a Ram reborn?
No, a big no. On all five counts. These pearls of wisdom have been uttered by the self-styled peoples messiah, Mr Laloo Yadav. Welcome to Laloo land, Bihar. A state which is bankrupt. The treasury has been looted. The political veterinarians, including Mr Yadav, if the CBI is to be believed, have made a killing of over Rs 1,000 crore in the chara ghotala. Salaries of government employees havent been paid for long. There is hardly any mobilisation of resources. And law and order has deteriorated sharply. Giving way to the law of the jungle. A state which today resembles a battlefield without end in normal times. Indeed, a far cry from JPs Bihar.
Mr Yadav continues to lord over this Andher Nagri as Chaupat Raja and refuses to give up his lordship. Fighting his battle from a charpai at wife Rabris Chief Ministerial residence in Patna, with his band of loyalists suffering from Laloo syndrome. Dismissing charges of his volte face on the creation of Vananchal and instant dissolution of the Jharkhand Autonomous Council with an aggressive wave of his hand. And from a paan masala stuffed mouth, he assertsToa kya hua? Yeh (controversy) ek madhu makhi ka chhatta hai: Isko cheda to maroge. Not for him the fact that propriety and morality demand that he sticks to his original decision of creating a new state. He argues: What has morality to do with politics?
The issue is not his volte face on Vananchal. Nor whether and when Presidents rule will be imposed on Bihar by the BJP government at the Centre. Neither is it a question of its fallout. Of whether Mr Laloo Yadav will actually translate his threats into action. Of his fanning caste and regional divide. Raising the sceptre of a raw deal. Whatever may be the aftermath or the consequences, what is important is the brand of politics that he symbolises and has successfully patented.
Of a leader whose USP is based on the postulate of parliamentary democracy: power from the people. Who has no qualms of issuing threats of violence. Who can somersault on decisions at the drop of a hat. Who feels no sense of shame or remorse for going to jail on corruption charges (Main jail se raj karoonga). A husband who converts his malai raj into Rabri raj and continues to rule the roost via remote control. A man who cares two hoots about political niceties and democratic norms. A neta who symbolises a brand of survival politics at its crudest. To use Mr Laloo Yadavs jargon, Jiski lathi uski bhains.
In fact, he has carved a niche for himself in Bihar. Not only has he made history as the first Chief Minister to win an overwhelming mandate for two successive five-year terms. He is even perceived as reflecting the dreams and aspirations of the sons of soil. Simplistically speaking, he charismatically questioned his compatriots: Kya ek chaprasi ka beta Mukhya Mantri ban sakta hai? Leaving the historians to interpret the answer to his ascendancy.
Indeed, the President of the Rashtriya Janata Dal has come a long way from Laloo the chaprasis son to Shri Prasad, the gentleman. Not to forget the Right Honourable Laloo Prime Minister, in the foreseeable future. Despite his outward protestation that Delhis water does not suit him. That apart, his rise marks a turning point in the Indian polity, all thanks to Mandalisation. Which has given the Yadavs a new sense of power and authority. They now see themselves as the new emerging elite. A new Made-in-India era of politics. Historically, the Yadavs have been the musclemen (lathaits) of upper caste landlords to keep the farm labour under control. Today, the lathi has been replaced by the gun, with them freely calling the shots in the countryside.
A shrewd politician that he is, Mr Laloo Yadav emerged victorious pushing his opponents to the fence. His volte face on the Vananchal Bill has an element of sneakiness in it. His supporters kept everyone guessing about their intentions till the last minute. But as subsequent events show, it was only a ploy to divert the Centres attention from dismissing the Rabri government, an indication of which was given by both the Prime Minister and the Home Minister.
Understandably, this brazen defiance and challenge to accepted democratic norms have stunned Mr Yadavs opponents both in Bihar and in New Delhi. Politicians of all hues, shapes and sizes are crying foul. More so because he as the Chief Minister had himself piloted last year the Bihar State Reorganisation Bill in the Legislative Assembly. Neither is he unfazed by the quagmire he has put the Vajpayee government in. Nor is he deterred by the backlash of his actions. How can a man who symbolises corruption and denigration of the political system be allowed to get away with it?
Why not? Unquestionably, Mr Laloo Yadav has brazenly and shamelessly manipulated the system and taken advantage of it. No doubt, he is at fault. But at the same time he has exposed the hypocrisy of the political tribe. In its wake throwing up striking constitutional, political and moral questions involved therein, which the nation cannot shy away from. Constitutionally, does this not smack of the states insurrection against the Centre? Politically, can the Union Government remain a mute spectator to the antics of the Bihar leader? Morally, does not propriety demand that he refrains from issuing inciting diktats and using intemperate language? And much more.
It is obvious, Mr Yadav has taken advantage of an unstable Centre. Arguably then, why blame him. If politics is a game of numbers and occupying the kursi the goal, all politicians stand accused. Mr Laloo Yadavs only crime is that he openly debunks probity as moral nonsense. Not only that. He dares the Centre and lays bare its similar outlook. Strangely emerging as a hero. Privately, ministers, ex-ministers and MPs confess: Ek hi to mard hai politics main. (He is the only man in politics!).
Undoubtedly, Mr Laloo Yadav has presented the Centre with a fait accompli. Making full use of the BJPs inherent contradictions and his supporters within, he has left an outraged but nonetheless weak Centre just a mute spectator today. Already, the saffron allies, the Akali Dal, Ms Mamata Banerjees Trinamool and Mr Naidus TDP, have impliedly supported Mr Laloo Yadav by opposing the dismissal of the Rabri government. Indeed, any political observer would not fail to concede to the peoples messiah copyrights on the latest political thriller: exposing the Centres hypocrisy, Laloo style!
There is no gainsaying that Mr Laloo Yadavs masterstroke has put the Union Government in a catch-22 situation. His bifurcation over my dead body line obviously is aimed at emerging as a champion of North and Central Bihar. He does not have to bother about the resentment in South Bihar, as he does not count for much there. By this astute move he hopes to get support even from those who would not have lamented the ouster of the Rabri government. Witness the way the CPM, the Janata Dal and the former Congress leader, Mr Jagannath Mishra, today are in cahoots with him.
The carving out of Vananchal out of the 14 rich tribal districts has always been an emotive issue with the rest of the people of the state. Nearly 70 per cent of its income is derived from this area, while the rest of the state is dependent on the vagaries of nature. The people of North and Central Bihar view the bifurcation as a loss of employment. The southerners feel that they are being used as a colony of the North. As North Bihar is the power house of the RJD, perhaps Mr Laloo Yadav feels that the more unpopular he gets in the South the greater will be his support in the remaining parts of the state. For he taking to the streets as a martyr to the cause of united Bihar will anyday be more profitable than campaigning as a husband angry with the dismissal of his better halfs government.
However, what must be much more gratifying for Mr Laloo Yadav is the indication that his gambit has created a piquant situation for arch foes, the Samata Party and the BJP. Should his risky gamble of polarising the state on North-South lines succeed as it is showing signs of doing, the Samata, whose strength too is primarily in North and Central Bihar, will in all likelihood have to pay a heavy political price for any stand taken which goes against the areas interest. Already, this had led to Laloo supporters accusing the Samata of being the handmaid of the BJPs underhand motive.
This apart, the RJD leaders strategy is not without risk, as many feel that his volte face is too brazen to carry conviction. Remember, in the last elections, Jharkhand neither added to nor subtracted from his vote bank. Likewise, he did not lose anything when he turned into a votary of a separate state. Remember, how Mr Laloo Yadav struck a political deal with the JMM (S) several months ago, and introduced the Vananchal Bill just to save his government in Patna. Understandably, the Vajpayee government is on the horns of a dilemma. If its move to impose Article 356 is viewed as half-baked, then it could lose out on the niche the BJP-Samata combine has created for themselves.
In sum, let not Nirad Chaudhris words in his book Three Horsemen Of The New Apocalypse ring true. Said he: The most striking aspect of the Government in India after the gift of Independence by the British people was its total falsity. Nothing was authentic, nothing sincere. There is no gainsaying that the Laloo saga brings home the famous saying, Politics is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Who will take up the cudgels against it?
Revival of Defence Committee
DEFENCE Minister George Fernandes has taken a right decision to revive the Defence Ministers Committee and hold high-powered weekly meetings on security. This step will give the three Services a greater say in strategic planning and policy making till the National Security Council (NSC) is established.
The broad-based inter-ministerial weekly meeting, meant to informally take stock of the security situation, includes the Cabinet Secretary, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, the Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Defence Secretary and the three Service Chiefs. At the first such meeting held after a gap of four months, the Defence Minister announced the revival of the Defence Ministers Committee.
The Indian defence services had been through a surgical operation after 1947. Lord Ismy, who had been the Secretary to the Chiefs of Staff Committee in the UK, suggested a series of committees in India for better coordination and functioning of the defence forces.
By and large, the committees set up on the basis of the recommendations of Lord Ismay have continued to this day with some modifications and with a few more committees. But over the years the spirit of providing direct interaction between the political executive and the defence services, and minimising bureaucratic control got subverted. The defence services have increasingly got isolated from the process of decision-making, and the bureaucratic stranglehold has become more dominant. The spirit behind Ismays idea has got undermined.
After the 1962 Chinese debacle the Defence Ministers Committee started getting replaced by the Defence Ministers morning meetings introduced in 1963. These morning meetings were held by the Defence Minister and attended by the Cabinet Secretary, the Service Chiefs, the Defence Secretary and the Financial Adviser as also all the Joint Secretaries present. The secretarial support to the Defence Ministers Committee was provided by the Military Wing, but in the case of the morning meetings it was provided by the MoD. By 1974 the Defence Ministers Committee went into suspended animation. The last occasion this committee met was in May, 1974.
The half-a-century-old Defence Ministers Committee was later christened as the Committee on Defence Planning in 1978 under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary. The Service Chiefs, the Secretary to the Prime Minister, the Defence Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, the Finance Secretary, the Secretary, Defence Production, and the Secretary, Planning Commission, were the members of this committee. The secretarial support was provided by the Cabinet Secretariat and not by the Military Wing. Its aim was to step up coordination and to harmonise the demands of the three Services after active interaction with them. This committee also became a defunct body because meetings were not held frequently and the weightage of the Army-versus-civilian factor was in the proportion of seven and three, resulting in a negative decision for the Services.
The revival of the Defence Ministers Committee could signal the revamping of the national security set-up in view of the threat perception from internal and external sources and also to ensure greater involvement of the three Service Chiefs in decision making on strategic issues. Defence services and strategicians have repeatedly been advocating the involvement of the Services in higher-level decision making.
Defence observers, however, feel that the firmly entrenched civilian bureaucracy in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) may not be inclined to a major overhaul in favour of the Services. The civilian chain in the MoD has already shown its reluctance to being pushed into a major restructuring exercise, which is a must for national security.
The MoD maintains that the Service Chiefs are invariably associated with the formulation of the policies of the government. The Defence Ministers weekly meeting is one forum for the purpose . The committee on Defence Planning is another which, however, does not meet because the Cabinet Secretary is never available for the purpose.
The Defence Ministers Committee meetings have raised the morale of the Services. They feel that there is a minister who listens to the views of the Service Chiefs on national security matters. It provides an opportunity for an independent indepth analysis and re-evaluation of a proposed policy before it is approved. The committee is already showing positive results and will give dividends till the formulation of the National Security Council.
Brittle sheet of water!
CAN you bring the dead alive? Well, I know someone who can shake hands with people who are no more but exist at least visually in the form of photograph or portrait. This friend of mine can initiate a dialogue with the deceased.
I really did not know all this till one day when we were chit-chatting in his study where there was a beautiful scenery adoring a wall. It presented a visual where a brook was gurgling past hard-to-move stones. In the backdrop were hills, trees, wild ferns and moss with a sprawling and silent lake making no ripples.
I boasted before my curious friend that I too had a capability (imagination?) to throw a stone in those waters shining like a mirror horizontally placed there, and cause small waves at the same time listening to the sound produced by a brittle and broken glass on that shining surface.
I added another angle to it. Well, I can perch myself on that tall deodars leafy tendrils and hang about them at the same time enjoying not only the swing but literally having a birds eyeview of the entire scene down below.
Even having noticed this challenge, I went on, You see that small wooden bridge on the rivulet (we are still talking about the picture itself). I can walk over it. And going a little further on that lagoon, with my pants pulled up to the knees, crossing the cold water, I can rest there for hours and hours basking in the sun with my back exposed to it, without being bound with time, space and action.
I continued, Well, I can do fishing with the anglers hat on my head in those shallow waters. This was a big boast from me.
Now, my friend looked at me smiling and thinking of my foolish reverie, enough being enough: Can you eat those fish and...? I stopped in my pictorial escapade and was grounded in my delightful fancy. He had something more interesting to tell and I looked agape at him.
You know the dead appearing in obituary columns of newspapers and in the photographs that they leave behind! I still remained bereft of speech when he began, I see those dead persons in pure flesh and blood appearing to me not like apparitions but as acquaintances.
He continued, Smiling, they tell me about the life they lived; time how spent, enjoying or otherwise; their well-wishers, friends and foes, their investment in things humane; their being cheated or rewarded; their relationship with the family members who after their demise tried to immortalise them with sweet remembrances and memorials and so on.
I was amazed at this mans flights of imagination and tenacious ability to bring even the dead alive, giving me an inferiority complex. For, he had by then proved that he was a cut above me and innumerable other romanticists.
I asked my friend the silliest and the unthinkable, the ultimate, Do these dead conjure up from the pictures and inform you how they died?
No, by then they are
dead, informed he. My friend knows where the
fanciful flights face rock-like realities of life and get
broken into pieces like that brittle shining glass-sheet
which I had described as water in the picture.
Will BJP-backed new states be viable?
THE Politics and economics of the formation of new states have assumed a feverish pitch. It has thrown practically every political party in disarray. The ruling BJP, the chief proponent of the new states, finds itself caught in conflicting pulls and pressures both from its allies and within. What was designed as an impressive votebank has turned out to be a threat to the very survival of the government.
Some BJP allies have threatened to pull down the government on the question of inclusion of certain areas in the new states when the issue comes up before Parliament. Understandably, strong local pulls powered by interest groups have caused sharp divisions in the Congress, Samata Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal of Laloo Prasad Yadav. Now, the local leaders of every party find themselves in an identity crisis as the rival sides try to outsmart others by whipping up strong local sentiments. The governments may not fall but the parochial sentiments are bound to linger.
The BJP government had made an electoral commitment to form the four states of Delhi, Uttaranchal, Vananchal and Chhattisgarh. Ironically, the first to get the go-ahead by consensus was Pondicherry, which was not on the list. Direct action has been the minimum in the case of Chhattisgarh, and it had a smooth sailing in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly. Full statehood to Delhi has been a long-standing demand. But differences among the top BJP leaders over the jurisdiction and areas to be included in the state have been so sharp that the whole issue had to be put off.
While the controversy about Uttaranchal is over the inclusion of the Sikh-dominated Udham Singh Nagar district and Hardwar, in the case of Vananchal, Laloo Prasad Yadav has suddenly turned the tables on others by resorting to political brinkmanship. The main beneficiaries of the new state would be the BJP and various Jharkhand groups. The former has been doing fairly well in the region, and can expect to get a majority with the help of others. The RSS, the holding company of the BJP, has special interest in the region where it has been resisting the activities of the Christian organisations among tribesmen.
As for Laloo Prasad Yadav, Vananchal is a lost case. He had hardly any support base in the region. His only interest has been the JMMs continued support to his government. He has put every political party in Bihar on the defensive by making the breakup of the state a major emotional issue in central and north Bihar. The centre piece of his campaign is betrayal of the people of Bihar by his main opponents like the BJP and Samata Party. His supporters are going round the Bihar region appealing to the people to punish those who were pushing the state into financial chaos.
Laloo Prasad Yadav, adept in realpolitik, is creating panic among the people over the actions of the destroyers of Bihar. The economics of the new states provide much grit to his campaign. He warns the people that Bihar would lose 70 per cent of its revenue if Vananchal is formed. It would also lose Rs 1,000 crore royalty on coal and minerals and Rs 800 crore on taxes. Vananchal would have as much as 40 per cent of Indias revenue from minerals. In other words, Vananchal would take away Rs 1,200 crore out of the total of Bihars Rs 1,700 crore sales tax collection.
All this would bring about an inevitable financial collapse of the Bihar Government. As part of the bifurcation, the state has sought a compensation of Rs 10,000 crore from the Centre. On behalf of the state, the Samata Party, a BJP ally, has demanded a special plan for Bihar to improve its industry and infrastructure. Laloo Prasad Yadav argues that even this would fall far short. Even if the proposed Rs 10,000 crore compensation came, it would not make this sprawling backward state viable. Laloo Prasad Yadav calculates, and his rivals like the BJP and Samata Party fear, that such an onslaught can have a deadly political impact. The former thinks that even if he lost in the assembly or was dismissed under Article 356, he could use the betrayal plank to romp back to power.
The economics of Uttaranchal is just the reverse. With an estimated six million population, the new state would have to permanently depend on central aid for ways and means. Its total estimated annual tax revenue would be just Rs 174 crore. It does not have any industry worth the name. Its geography does not hold out any scope for a major breakthrough. Uttaranchals only industry is tourism which could be expanded only by improving infrastructure like mountain roads and better facilities like hotels. In the wake of the alarm caused by its crumbling mountains, this could be done only at the cost of natural disasters. The immediate problem of the new state is to find out a capital.
Tripura has a total area of 10,500 sq km, Sikkim 7,100 sq km, Goa 3,700 sq km, and Delhi and Pondicherry 1,400 sq km and 492 sq km respectively. Irrespective of the size, all states need almost the same kind of basic paraphernalia of administration. This apparently means the smaller the state and lower its revenue collection, the higher its per capita expenditure on administration. By leaving states financially unviable, the Centre will ultimately have to bear a perpetual burden. It is this concern that has forced Uttaranchal supporters to include such areas as the prosperous Udham Singh Nagar and Hardwar districts in the proposed state.
The decision to include both districts in Uttaranchal has serious implications for the BJP governments both at the Centre and in UP. The BJP, which has swept the Uttaranchal region by wresting 17 of the 19 assembly seats, now cannot go back on its commitment. On the other, arithmetic of the UP Assembly is such that the loss of 17 MLAs would make it difficult, if not impossible, for Kalyan Singh to survive. This immediate threat apart, every BJP ally in UP is up in arms against Kalyan Singh over the inclusion of Hardwar in Uttaranchal.
Kalyan Singh himself had made the startling revelation that the Centre did not consult him on Hardwar. Most BJP leaders in the district are against this surprise decision by the Union Home Ministry. Even the Uttarakhand leaders say they had not made any such demand. Efforts to take leaders of Sadhus from Hardwar to Delhi for a meeting with L.K. Advani also did not produce any result. In UP, BJP allies like the Loktantrik Congress, Janatantrik BSP and the Janata Dal (R) have also decided to oppose the proposal. The BJP allies have also staged agitations, including rasta roko, in Hardwar against the move .
The threat from Udham Singh Nagar looks more real. Dominated by rich Punjab farmers, this highly prosperous district has little cultural, social or ethnic affinity with those in the UP hills. Most panchayats in the district had adopted resolutions opposing the move, which they fear, would affect their commercial relations with other neighbouring UP districts. Despite the BJPs persuasive skills, the Akalis have made it clear that they would be forced to take drastic action if the Centre went ahead with the decision. This issue will reach the flash-point when the final Bill comes up before Parliament for adoption, during its winter session.
It is likely that unrest among the middle-level politicians cutting across the party lines in many affected states may become unmanageable in the intervening period. This is what the gathering revolts in eastern UP for a Purvanchal suggests. Politicisation of the regional aspirations has been an old past-time in India. A weak government at the Centre will always be susceptible to unprincipled compromises. If the successive ruling parties begin conceding all such local demands with an eye on the votebank, which needs only a simple majority in Parliament, it would touch off a disastrous chain reaction.
Apart from eastern UP, serious demands have come in the past for separate states for Vidarbha, Telengana, Gorkhaland, Mithilarajya and Madhyanchal. After initially propping up Subhash Geishing as an antidote to the CPM like Bhindranwale in Punjab the Congress had corrected the course. The serious business of bifurcation or reorganisation of states should not be left to the exigencies of partisan politics. Such reorganisations should form part of a well-thought out plan based on sound parameters like economic viability, administrative convenience, homogeneity, etc.
Take the case of Vananchal. Unlike the original proposal for a Jharkhand state carved out of the contiguous regions spread over three other neighbouring states, Vananchal will still be dominated 70 per cent non-tribesmen. In many districts, the tribal population will be as low as 15 per cent. As for Uttarakhand, some have suggested studying the viability of a greater Uttaranchal comprising contiguous areas of Himachal Pradesh, etc. The present government had little time nor inclination for any such detailed consideration.
Even the argument that smaller states would lead to increased efficiency and quicker development calls for a closer look. In the case of Punjab and Haryana, what had contributed more to their farm-based economic growth better administrative attention or agricultural infrastructure like irrigation networks? Critics of smaller states argue that splitting did not bring about any dramatic change in the northeastern states.
Those who call for a
review of the powers under Article 3 of the Constitution
to change borders or cede territories of states, fear
that votebank politics under fractured verdicts may play
havoc with such provisions. Even if one ignores such
demand, there is need for a holistic view of the
reorganisation of states rather than conceding them
Cong ethics code may leave many out
NOW that the Congress party has decided to have a code of conduct for its members, a lot of questions are being raised about the yardsticks and parameters that will determine whether any violation has been committed or not.
For instance, one of the clauses is asking its members, particularly ministers and legislators, to abstain from vulgar display of wealth and no pomp and ostentation in marriages and other social functions in their families.
What would amount to vulgar display of wealth flaunting a fleet of imported cars or the latest cell-phones that are ubiquitous at the AICC headquarters? remarked a party observer.
Similarly some other clauses including the existing diktat prohibiting consumption of intoxicants and liquor is observed by many in default.
In fact, the recent appointment of a PCC chief in the north, known to be in the liquor trade, was referred to as a virtual snub to the ethics the party wants to impose on its members.
The chairman of the Ethics Committee, Mr A.K. Antony, had a tough time at the media briefing while releasing the code of conduct adopted by the Congress party.
However, the gentleman in Mr Antony remained unruffled as he ploughed on stating that the people must look at the code of conduct as an effort by the Congress to improve the image of the party.
Auction of Cong souvenirs
The Congress has hit upon a novel idea to clear a roomful of souvenirs which its leaders have received right from the days of Jawaharlal Nehru.
As the years progress the numbers just swelled and many of them gathered dust and piled up at the AICC headquarters at 24, Akbar Road. It decided to auction them.
Congress Presidents like Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, and now Sonia Gandhi, have been receiving gifts and souvenirs from various foreign dignitaries, political leaders, Congress workers and craftsmen as a gesture of regard, love and affection. Some of these invaluable gifts are common articles and some of them expensive masterpieces, the party Secretary, Mr Anil Shastri, said.
The party, he said, decided that these souvenirs should not just remain with the AICC and that sentiments and emotions associated with these items should be shared by fellow Indians.
An exhibition of these items will be held at the AICC on September 24 for people to see and bid for those they like to possess.
In one stroke, three tasks are performed. Cleaning the cupboards and creating more space, disposing such artefacts with finesse and raising funds for the party.
Or is it that the Congress is taking a cue from the BJP which collected Rs 5 lakh from an auction of shawls presented to its President, Mr Kushabhau Thakre.
No prying into VIPs privacy
Ever ask a Frenchman what he thinks of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair? Well this is what precisely an enterprising scribe posed to the visiting President of the French National Assembly, Mr Laurent Fabius, last week.
A surprised Fabius, who has the distinction of becoming the youngest Prime Minister, retorted whether the scribe wanted his reaction as a Frenchman or for that matter just a man. Both ways he said it was simply ridiculous. Reaching out to a wooden centretable, Mr Fabius said: Touch wood, I am French.
He said the French were not interested in the private life of politicians as it had no bearing on the high office they assumed.
He felt fundamentalism of any kind, even if it was in the form judicial fundamentalism, was dangerous. He enquired whether the Indian public was interested in the private life of their politicians. He was told no. Touch wood, Mr Fabius said again.
From DD to AIR
Munshi bhai ram ram, Laddo behen ram ram. Does this sentence remind you of the good old Krishi Darshan programme on Doordarshan?
Recently this diarist bumped into the Munshi. He is no modern-day VJ. Balbir Singh Sehrawat of Bawana village in Outer Delhi, who has been associated with agriculture programmes in the electronic media for the past 29 years, says he has never been referred to by his original name in all these years. He has now shifted from Doordarshan and anchors two similar programmes on All-India Radio Gram Sansar and Kirti Jagat. Starting his career when he was just 18, the man from Bawana speaks with a Haryanvi accent and strikes a chord with rural farmers of the northern region.
Scribes likened to MPs
Whether it is Parliament session or not, Cabinet Ministers have no respite from MPs. Recently at the Economic Editors Conference, Petroleum Minister, K. Ramamurthy, was confronted by a scribe who wanted to know if the minister would give an assurance that there would be no hike in the price of petrol.
A senior official seated near the minister remarked that the scribes demand reminded him of Parliament where MPs seek assurances. Mr Ramamurthy quipped he treated the press people like MPs. The official nodded in agreement saying the members of the Press, too, were MPs.
JUST consider. Why should colonials think too much of us? Have we got any real power? Our ancestors have lived here for millions and millions of years, and we are here. You are here by accident. You came here as traders and wish to quarrel with us. Give us some of the privileges that you enjoy and we are quite satisfied. Keep some for yourselves, because I say that is human nature.
I do not ask you to be altogether disinterested. Keep some of the best posts reserved for yourselves, but at the same time, show us by your conduct that you have some consideration for us also.
We Indians also have got flesh, muscle, nerve and everything and feel like you.
On one occasion Sir Edward Norman Baker sent for me at Darjeeling when there was that great golmal in Bengal and asked my advice as to what to do to meet the situation then. The situation was one of bomb firing and assassinating Englishmen. I said, Sir, you are an intelligent man. Dont you understand what is the reason of all this?
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