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Sketch by Rangaby Harihar Swarup
An apt choice for LS Secretary-General’s post
THE Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr G.M.C. Balayogi, has upheld a lofty principle by appointing an officer from his establishment to the prestigious post of the Secretary-General.

delhi durbar
Taking print media for a ride — Cong style
THE high profile media managers of the Congress embarked upon a major public relations exercise over the past four weeks — a one-to-one meeting of columnists and select correspondents covering the party with Mrs Sonia Gandhi.

75 Years Ago
Swarajist blunder in C.P.
BOMBAY: A fully packed house listened to Rt. Hon. V.S. Srinivasa Sastri and Mrs Besant on Wednesday evening at the Excelsior Theatre. It was a special meeting called to give a send-off to them on the eve of their departure to England.



by Harihar Swarup
An apt choice for LS Secretary-General’s post

THE Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr G.M.C. Balayogi, has upheld a lofty principle by appointing an officer from his establishment to the prestigious post of the Secretary-General.

Lately, the time-tested convention was, wittingly or unwittingly, sought to be diluted by two Speakers — Mr Shivraj Patil and Mr P.A. Sangma, who brought in their favourite officers from the IAS cadre to the Secretary-General’s post. The step was palpably in contravention with the precedent set by their distinguished predecessors. Bureaucratisation has destroyed many institutions and the Lok Sabha was rescued from such a disastrous course by the Speaker’s foresight.

The first Speaker, Mr G.V. Mavalankar, has aptly defined the role of the top officer in his set up. He had observed as far back as 1952: “The Speaker, as the representative and head of the legislature, must have the advice of the officer who does not feel suppressed because of the powers of the executive government”.

Mr Mavalankar further elaborated the concept: “If my Secretary were to advise me on the admissibility of a question or the admissibility of a motion keeping in view what the Prime Minister will think of his advice, I think the purpose of having an independent secretariat is lost. Our business is to uphold democracy”.

How true! It was in keeping with the ground rules laid down by Mr Mavalankar that the Secretary (the post was later renamed Secretary-General) was picked up from the cadre of the Lok Sabha. Normally, the senior most officer having long years of experience in parliamentary procedure and practice is selected for the top post, equal in hierarchy to the Cabinet Secretary. The Secretary-General, by the nature of his job, is not a bureaucrat but a specialist in legislative matters and reports only to the Speaker. The massive Parliament Secretariat, too, is an independent unit and does not come under the jurisdiction of the Central Government.

Before appointing, Mr G.C. Malhotra, Additional Secretary, to the key position of Secretary-General, the Speaker consulted leaders of all parties and groups in the Lok Sabha and everybody unanimously expressed the view that the convention of appointing the senior most officer of parliament’s secretary to the top post should be adhered to. Mr Malhotra’s predecessor, Mr S. Gopalan, an IAS officer, who has just completed his term, had been Mr Sangma’s nominee. Mr Patil brought as many as five IAS officers to the Lok Sabha secretariat amidst widespread resentment but could push only one, S.N. Mishra, to the level of officiating Secretary-General.

Having been associated with the Lok Sabha secretariat for over 30 years, Mr Malhotra knows every parliamentary practice and has sound knowledge of the Constitution. He has gone through the mill, seen the fluctuating moods of Parliament for years, can guess with twinkle of eye the situation in which a Speaker can advise him. Over the years he has helped Speakers to draft their rulings, some of which were momentous. More importantly, he has learnt over the years technique of dealing with members, cutting across party lines, and never allowed them to nurture the feeling of being discriminated. He is also known for his administrative ability — one of the functions of the Secretary-General is to look after the Lok Sabha Secretariat.

Mr Malhotra had last year published a well-researched book entitled — “Motions of Confidence and No-confidence” — and is currently revising monumental book on parliamentary practice by M.N. Kaul and S.L. Shakdhar, who were the First and Second Secretaries respectively of the Lok Sabha and their work has been most quoted after May’s book on the same subject. In both houses. Dr Subhash Kashyap had been yet another scholarly Secretary-General who was an expert on the Constitution. Differences with Rabi Ray, when he was Speaker, led to exit of Dr Kashyap from the prestigious post. Both have a socialist background.

The evolution of the office of the Secretary-General has a long and chequered history dating back to the early twenties.

January 10 is considered a momentous day in the history of Parliament. It was on this day 70 years ago that a separate secretariat, independent of the executive, named the Legislative Assembly Department — the earliest predecessor of the Lok Sabha Secretariat — was created under the direct control of the Speaker (then known as President) for the Central Legislative Assembly. This historic development was the culmination of the relentless efforts of Vithalbhai Patel, the first elected Indian Speaker, who zealously guarded, asserted and upheld the independence of the office of the Speaker, his Secretary and the legislature establishment.

Mr Vithalbhai Patel had then asserted that as an elected President (Speaker) he was responsible to the Assembly and no other authority and observed: “It goes without saying that if the business of the House is to be carried on to its satisfaction, the Secretary and the staff must, in some form, be responsible to the House and its President, and not be subordinate to any outside authority. The President must feel that he is getting independent and impartial advice from the Secretary. The Secretary and staff must also feel that they are there solely to serve and further the best interests of the Assembly”.

With the appointment of Mr Malhotra as Lok Sabha’s Secretary- General, the tradition propounded by Vithalbhai Patel has been reaffirmed.


delhi durbar
Taking print media for a ride — Congress style

THE high profile media managers of the Congress embarked upon a major public relations exercise over the past four weeks — a one-to-one meeting of columnists and select correspondents covering the party with Mrs Sonia Gandhi.

While the idea was fine, the unwritten agreement that the invitees had to adhere to was that not a word was to be reported. Many such meetings were gone through and barring one enterprising journalist, all stuck to the agreement albiet grudgingly.

Yet when the turn of people from the electronic media came, the Congress media managers threw all caution to the wind and went out of their way to specially carry a team of an elite television network all the way to Allahabad for what became the first-ever interview of the Congress President.

Apart from the fact that it cleared a lot of mist and pierced the halo around the resident of 10, Janpath, it was the same interview where Mrs Sonia Gandhi declared that her political rivals “do not know what stuff I am made of”, a statement that ruffled many a feather.

While the political implications of the interview will be known in the days to come, one contribution was discernible straightaway — scribes from the print media have ended up with a feeling that the Congress took them for a nice ride for the dual policy.

On the one hand the media managers pleaded with scribes not to report any conversation with the Congress President, but on the other they turned a blind eye to a favoured medium, and in the process forgot that a majority of those who patronise the network are people who seldom exercise their franchise.

BJP’s media blitz

Taking a cue from the Congress, which two weeks ago spruced up its regular media room to make it television friendly, the BJP has gone a step further. It has ensured that the television cameras not only film their leaders briefing the media but also convey the BJP’s message to the nation.

The backdrop of the briefing stage has a huge banner carrying a giant size photograph of BJP’s star campaigner and leader, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, in this typical pose — half eyes closed and arms raised during a speech —addressing the masses. The other walls of the air-conditioned room are dotted with Mr Vajpayee’s posters with the slogan “Jancha, Parkha, Khara” (Tried, Tested, Trusted). Mr Vajpayee’s trusted aide Pramod Mahajan has personally supervised the sprucing up of the hall. Being the Information and Broadcasting Minister, the party has entrusted him with this task in the hope that he catches the camera angles right.

Star wars and elections

Come election time, the best of Bollywood is being wooed by various political parties to do ‘their bit’ for the cause of the country, nay the politicians.

It is now common practice for stars from Bollywood and also their counterparts in the South to come out in strength and canvass for political parties. These stars not only attract crowds but also help swing the fence-sitters, so the politicians believe.

The Congress party this time is understood to have enrolled the services of Madhuri Dixit and Mahima Chaudhari to canvass for the party in the Hindi belt specially Uttar Pradesh.

Not to be outdone, the BJP too has drawn up a list of film stars whose services will be requisitioned for campaigning and if reports circulating in Delhi are true then the people of Gurdaspur have been specially targeted.

Former star Vinod Khanna who is seeking re-election from Gurdaspur as a BJP candidate is planning to rope in muscleman hero Sunil Shetty and petite Kajol to help his electoral fortune this time around.

Whether these ‘guest artists’ can turn the tide in favour of their friends or not or would their impression be ephemeral would only be known when the results are out.

Caught on the wrong foot

The Bharatiya Janata Party, in its enthusiasm to pin the Congress on corruption issues has been finding its moves boomeranging. Last week the party criticised the Congress for having a tie-up with former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalitha Jayaram, who was facing several charges of corruption. Party spokesman Arun Jaitley, however, was at a loss of words to explain the late realisation of the party.

Jaitley reacted by saying that the BJP had all along maintained that law would take its own course and it was only during the last 15 months that it realised that Ms Jayalalitha was using politics for personal reasons.

At this point a question was raised about BJP’s tie-up with Mr Sukh Ram in Himachal Pradesh. The former Communications Minister too is facing prosecution on corruption charges. To this the BJP maintained that this was the reason that Mr Sukh Ram had not been allowed to hold any official post in the government. What Mr Jaitley failed to explain was that Ms Jayalalitha too had not held any official post in the Government during her friendship with the BJP.

Party intelligence at its best

Election time brings forth another facet of politicians — the ability to gather and disseminate information about potential claimants for party tickets collected with precision of trained intelligence operatives.

This trend was evident when the Congress members thronged the party headquarters for seeking tickets from various constituencies.

The best part was that while pressing for their tickets these aspirants also carried a sheaf of paper showing the ‘negative’ points of their potential rivals.

While doing rounds of various central leaders, these claimants not only present their case as to why they are the best choice and have the brightest chance of winning from a particular constituency, they also take the opportunity of rubbing in the point why the opponents should not be considered.

For instance, these aspirants bring forth sleazy and little-known details of their rivals, the criminal cases they are supposed to be involved in and also the misappropriation etc conducted during public life. More than that, if possible, there is a bit of peep into the personal life of some contenders in case the details interest any.

It reminds one of an old story of how Indian crabs exported in open basket would also weigh the same at destination even after long journey with not a crab missing. The secret they say was the tendency ‘when one crab starts crawling up, two start pulling it down’. As a result all stay in the same basket.

Times change for Mulayam

Time seem to have really changed for the Samajwadi Party chief and the champion of minorities, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, in the past few months. Not only has there been a poor response to his rallies in Uttar Pradesh but he has apparently been going around seeking the blessings of his party Members of Parliament, specially those from the minority community, to improve the party’s performance.

As the grapewine has it, that after one of such rallies, which saw a handful of crowd, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav rushed to meet the sitting Samajwadi Party Member of Parliament from Moradabad, Mr Safiqur Rehman Bark.

Apparently upset over the small crowd in attendance, the Samajwadi Party chief during his meeting with Mr Bark even asked him to give his blessings for his (Mulayam Singh Yadav) election campaign. Being the leader of the Bark community, which has a sizeable presence in some of the Constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav apparently thought it wise to seek the blessings of Mr Safiqur Rehman Bark, which could in turn help the party in election results.

But seeing this, a senior Samajwadi Party leader commented, times have really changed for Netaji (as Mr Mulayam Singh is known to his party workers), the champion of minorities is now seeking the blessings of sitting minority MPs of his party for his election campaign.

Death of a party

At a time when regional and small parties are proliferating, a party with a history is on the verge of becoming one. Goa’s oldest regional party, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, which ruled the composite Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu from 1963 to 1973 (the state was liberated from Portuguese rule in December 1961) may lose its identity following its decision to embrace the Congress.

The MGP advocated merger of the state with Maharashtra (the prefix in its name is due to this) but then lost its case to a opinion poll taken in 1967. It has remained a party of the non-Saraswat Brahmin Hindus in Goa and the emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party has of late marginalised it.

One reason for its marginalisation was that the party depended on the Saffron cadres to do its political campaigning. But with the BJP coming to rule in Delhi, the spin-off effect was felt in Goa. The MGP has been on the wane in the State politics in the last few years and it won just four seats in the 40-member Assembly this June and lost its role as the main Opposition to the BJP.

(Contributed by SB, T.V. Lakshminarayan, K.V. Prasad, Girja Shankar Kaura and P.N. Andley)


Swarajist blunder in C.P.
Mr Sastri’s speech in Bombay

BOMBAY: A fully packed house listened to Rt. Hon. V.S. Srinivasa Sastri and Mrs Besant on Wednesday evening at the Excelsior Theatre. It was a special meeting called to give a send-off to them on the eve of their departure to England in connection with the deputation recently appointed by the National Convention at Allahabad.

Condemnation was voiced by Mr Sastri at the C.P. Swarajists action in the Legislative Council, which action the speaker characterised as a great blunder.

In his opinion, the Swarajists ought to have advanced the country’s cause by using the constitution with a view to disclosing what he called its impossible safeguards.

Referring to his deputation, Mr Sastri said that their work would mainly consist of putting India’s case before the British public and Parliament.

Concluding, Mr Sastri thought that a Royal Commission was inevitable in view of the present political deadlock in the Assembly and in some Provincial Legislatures.Top

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